Austin Whitmoyer's Story
My Name is Michelle Huey and I am the Secretary of Moment of Peace Adventures. I was blessed to meet and interview Austin Whitmoyer, as he was the next youth we would be granting a hunt. Austin is 15 years old and has Muscular Dystrophy. He has lost almost all of his muscle functions and is confined to a wheelchair. Austin is blessed to have an extraordinary supportive family. His Parents, Perry and Sherry Whitmoyer assist him with any tasks he may need help in doing. His Brother, Tyler, whom Austin is very close with, is 13 years old and stands by his side every day. Austin and Tyler both enjoy trains and planes. With the amount of knowledge these two boys have, they could probably construct their own train.
Austin Whitmoyer’s Himalayan Yak Hunt
April 20-21 2012
Hello, my name is Bruce Lambert the host for Austin’s Yak hunt.
The wild yak has a dense undercoat of soft, close-matted hair which is covered by generally dark brown to black outer hair. Its long, shaggy coat reaches almost to the ground. The wild yak can weigh up to 1000 kg (2200 lb) with a shoulder height of over 2 m (6.5'). It lives in treeless uplands, including plains, hills, and mountains, from as low as 3200 m (10,500') up to the limit of vegetation at about 5400 m (18,000'). It stays in high areas with permanent snow during the warmer months of August and September, and spends the rest of the year at lower elevations. The wild yak grazes on grasses, herbs and lichens. Ordinarily it gathers in groups of 10 - 30 or more, but it may occasionally be observed in large groups of 100 - 200.
The wild yak was once numerous and widespread on the entire Tibetan plateau north of the Himalayas. Currently it is found in remote areas of the Tibetan plateau and adjacent highlands, including Gansu Province, China, with a few having been observed in the Chang Chenmo Valley of Ladakh (eastern Kashmir, India). Wild yak distribution is highly clumped, with most animals in widely scattered herds, concentrated in the areas with little disturbance by humans. A survey conducted in 2003 found increasing populations of wild yak compared to previous surveys taken 10 years earlier.
It is Friday morning April 20th 2012 about 8 am when Mike Huey and I arrived in front of Austin’s house to start his adventure. After a meet and greet with Austin’s parents and his brother Tyler we were on our way to High Ridge Hunting Preserve located in central PA. Austin and his brother Tyler are both home taught and are very close and each other’s best friend. Because of their close relationship, we decided that Tyler also would take part in the hunt and try to shoot a ram. After a 4-hour drive on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, we arrived at Hooversville and met up with Fred Kaminsky, the owner of High Ridge Preserve.
We unloaded our gear and picked the bunk we wanted to sleep in. The guides informed us that the blinds were setup earlier in the week and the Yak had teamed up with some Buffalo as grazing partners, which was good and bad. He said that we would have to be very careful not to shoot the Buffalo because they stayed that close to the Yak. They said the weather would be favorable for the morning hunt. Now it is about 4PM. and the boys are getting a little hungry. After a little discussion, they decided they wanted to eat at Applebee’s so I checked the GPS and we found there was an Applebee’s in Johnstown, which was about 25 minutes away. I can’t begin to tell you everything we had on our table but I can tell you these two young hunters had a great meal the night before the hunt. As we were getting ready to leave, I said to Mike I can see some excitement starting to build up on the faces of these two young hunters and tomorrow was going to be something special.
It was still daylight when we returned to the lodge so I went to do a little scouting before it was dark. I walked out from the lodge to the area where the blinds were set up and leaned against a tree about 50 yards from the blinds. After about 30 minutes I saw movement to my left. In the thick sapling trees walked 5 Fallow deer quietly by me. About 20 minutes later, a number of sheep and rams ran across the open field in front of me. I waited a little longer and right before dark the Yak and two buffalo moved out into the open field. Now I am saying to myself if this happens tomorrow, it’s going to be a real special day for two young hunters.
The rest of the evening we sat together in the lodge talking about the morning hunt. I noticed Austin and Tyler looking at the mounted animals on the walls of the lodge and wondering what the hunt might have in store for them. At about 9:30 I said let’s call it a day and hit the bunks. We’ll be getting up about 6AM, have a great breakfast, and then head to the blinds.
At 6AM sharp the call went out “everyone up it’s time to eat.” After breakfast we headed to the blinds and after some maneuvering around a little bit, “the blinds were a little tight” we were setup ready to go by 8AM. Ok now the waiting game begins. About 8:30 we see a couple of rams and goats come out to graze next to a water hole. We told Austin and his dad Perry they were about 125 yards away. They milled around a little bit and moved out of sight only to be replace by two buffalo and the Yak. Ok its game on. We reminded Austin and Perry that we have to get separation between the Yak and the buffalo before we can shoot. Now everybody is excited. All three moved off to our right side into some thick woods. This gave us a little time to calm down after the first sighting of the Yak. After a few minutes we spotted some movement in the thick brush and we could see them heading right toward us. Mike and I reminded them we needed separation from the buffalo before we could take the shot.
The next 45 minutes felt like 45 days. The animals continued to graze toward us at a slow pace and Austin and his Dad had to make numerous adjustments in order to keep the cross hairs on the Yak. The time was now. The Yak moved away from the buffalo into an opening to give Austin the shot he needed. “Bang”, Austin made a perfect shot; the Yak turned, took one step, and headed for the ground. After some hoots and yells and high fives we walked down to see Austin’s trophy Yak. The adventure was not over yet. After lunch we headed back to the blind and Austin’s brother Tyler would shoot a beautiful ram. On the way home we had the opportunity to stop at the Flight 93 Memorial at Shanksville to visit the memorial site and pay our respects to our nation’s heroes.
After we arrived home safely, Mike and I thanked Austin and family for letting us share this moment of peace adventure with them......and there is one thing I learned about my friend Austin ……. the word handicapped doses not exist in his vocabulary.
Bruce LambertVice PresidentMoments of Peace Adventures