Written by Craig Nyhus, Lone Star Outdoor News
One might think that a Marine Force Recon veteran who commanded snipers in Afghanistan and other foreign lands would be calm and cool as can be when a buck steps out.
Colgan Norman hunted in northern Minnesota where he grew up, but the hunts on public lands in thick woods didn’t produce much action.
“I saw one buck and passed on one doe,” he said. “And that was all I saw in all of the hunts over several years.”
After seven years in the Marines, ending as a captain and sniper commander, he was again a civilian, and now lives with his wife in Connecticut.
He read about the opportunity for a deer hunt with the Lone Star Outdoor News Foundation through Operation Once in a Lifetime Soldier Initiative Program, supported by Odessa Pumps in Odessa.
“I wasn’t sure if the hunt was only for soldiers that had been wounded,” he said.
Operation Once in a Lifetime Founder Patrick Sowers said Norman was just what they were looking for.
“The way he asked, he said he would love to be part of program, but that he wasn’t wounded and didn’t want to take anything away from anyone,” Sowers said. “He never mentioned his Marine Force Recon experience or decorations.”
It was Norman’s humility that led to him being chosen for the hunt.
“He stood out,” Sowers said. “He was an example of true leadership and selfless service. It was an easy choice.”
On the first evening of Norman’s hunt, several young bucks stepped out, but that didn’t stop him from getting excited. He quickly developed the erratic and rapid breathing known to all deer hunters.
“This is more bucks than I saw in all my years of hunting,” he said.
“Relax, we’ll see an older one,” his guide Craig Nyhus told him.
The next morning, a buck that had been briefly seen at the lease only twice previously stepped out. The buck, likely from an injury, sported two main beams on the left side. After some time looking at the buck, it was determined he was mature.
Now used to seeing deer, Norman was more relaxed.
“Go ahead and slowly put the gun out the window,” the guide whispered to the hunter.
The buck turned broadside.
“Whenever you’re ready.”
Norman’s experience with firearms took over and it didn’t take him long to take the shot. The buck was down.
“I felt more calm looking at the deer this morning,” he said. “I’m glad we saw the bucks last night — I might have been too excited.”
The cape, head and antlers are now at Heads Above the Rest in Clifton for taxidermy work, the backstraps went to Cinnamon Creek Wild Game Processing for steaks and the rest of the meat was made into sausage and will be shipped to Norman back home.
Norman’s trip back to Connecticut was eventful, as the first of the blizzards in the area hit, causing him to spend two extra days in Virginia before getting home.
“It’s too bad I didn’t get stuck in San Antonio,” he said. “I could have gone back to the ranch.”
Sowers, a Dallas resident, started Operation Once in a Lifetime after growing up in and serving in the military.
“I was fortunate when I got out and worked in the corporate world with all the corporate perks,” he said. “I got the opportunity to experience a lot of different things, and I wanted to give others the chance.”
OOIL started out by taking soldiers to sporting events like NFL, NBA and NHL games, but realized that every soldier’s wish was different. Now, the charity has 18 different programs, providing everything from financial assistance to hunting and fishing trips.
“In seven years, we’ve helped more than 150,000 service members,” Sowers said. “The only requirement is that veterans must have served honorably and active soldiers must be in good standing. We evaluate each request from there — almost all of the requests are valid and are life-changing.”
Norman couldn’t agree more.
“I will never forget that hunt,” he said. “It was truly once in a lifetime.”