Utah Volunteers Host Hunt for Officers Injured in Line of Duty
By Jen Chavez, Chairman, Golden Spike Chapter
January 4, 2012, will forever be a day remembered by the people of Ogden, Utah. Twelve members of the Weber Morgan Narcotics Strike Force were attempting to serve a search warrant at a residence when they were greeted by gunfire. Officer Jared Francom was killed, and five other officers were wounded.
The citizens of Ogden came together, as often happens when tragedy strikes a community, supporting the officers and their families through prayer, sending cards and letters, and holding fundraising drives.
“Since that January incident, it’s just been amazing how much community support has come out. It’s overwhelming, really,” says officer Shawn Grogan.
The RMEF’s Golden Spike Chapter was no exception. We brainstormed on what we could do to provide the wounded officers with an opportunity to do something together that would create a lifetime of good memories, and we decided to host a hunt.
Not long after, committee member Shannon McGraw, who manages the Les Schwab store in Riverdale, was approached in his store for a donation from a hunting group called Swift Creek Outfitters (SWO). He turned the tables, asking them if they would donate to the Officer’s Hunt instead. They leapt at the opportunity to help, offering to take all five officers on an early-season, guided goose hunt near Afton, Wyoming.
Over the next several months, SWO guides and RMEF volunteers collaborated on the hunt, which would be held over Labor Day weekend. They were able to secure a donated, custom-made 12-gauge shotgun from Cross Canyon Arms. The winner of the gun would be determined by a game of rock-paper-scissors between the officers. Ed Kenley Ford donated $500 to secure licenses, Heavy Shot provided steel shot, and Sportsmen’s Warehouse offered up gun cleaning kits, sweatshirts and hats.
September finally arrived, and the hunt began early Saturday morning. As the guides and officers settled into their ground blinds, they were treated to a spectacular sunrise. Everyone had time to reflect and take in Wyoming’s beauty. After a few hours of not seeing much, the guides were able to call in a small flock of geese. Two birds came in to explore the decoys poised in a field while several others soared overhead, never to touch down. A few more birds came in during the evening hunt, but it wasn’t until the next day when two hunters were each able to take a goose.
A slow hunt didn’t deter anyone’s spirits. “To hear and see the geese flying around while the guys worked the calls to bring them in was just incredible,” says officer Jason Vanderwarf.
The hunt may have been slow, but the camaraderie, good conversation and tasty dutch oven cooking served up by committee member Mike Chavez and myself was worth more than a trophy. These guys are a tight-knit group of not just coworkers, but friends, and will be talking about this hunt for years to come. For the Gold Spike Chapter, it was just a way for us to honor a fallen officer and give back to the community, which has supported the RMEF for many years.