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DAN SIMMONS | Sportsman’s Quest: The biathlon elk

This is the story of an elk hunt, but not your typical story, if there is such a thing. Lanny Barnes is a three-time Olympic biathlon champion (skiing and shooting) and her identical twin sister, Tracy, is also a biathlon champion. This sets the stage for a very unusual story.

It was the last week of the Colorado elk season and they decided they wanted elk meat for Lanny’s wedding celebration, which was only a week away, so they grabbed their bows and gear. They set off for the mountains to see what they could find. After a six-mile hike from the trail head to an elevation of 9,500 feet, they heard a bugle off in the distance. These competitive twins decided to hunt separately with Lanny going further up the steep rocky mountain and Tracy dropping down, both hoping to zero in on the distant sound.

Lanny struck elk first among the pines at the top of a mountain rock-slide area and carefully closed the distance. A nice bull was in the center of fifteen cows and bugling. She closed the distance as the bull came forward to within thirty yards, and her adrenaline was pumping. Was the wind right? Would he spook and run? She remained covered, silent and motionless, then drew, steadied on the bull’s vital area and released a well-aimed arrow. The bull staggered, walked a few yards and dropped as the cows ran down the mountain. As Lanny paused to relieve the adrenaline rushes, she realized she was more emotionally thrilled and impacted than during an Olympic race.

Following a short break she went to tell her seven-months-pregnant sister of her success and as she approached Tracy she noticed her standing over another well-arrowed fine cow elk that had run down the mountain directly onto her path. It was two twin sisters and two elk on a mountain far from the road.

They paused and made a plan. Tracy headed down the mountain to the truck and to get some help packing. Lanny in the meantime field dressed, quartered and carried 90-pound packs of meat across two rocky, slippery avalanche slopes. Help arrived in the form of Tracy’s husband and Lanny’s bull was packed to the truck in one of those typical sudden September Colorado rainstorms. They went back the next morning for Tracy’s well-covered cow elk.

This story actually began years earlier with Lanny’s dad, who claimed his girls were the “best sons” he ever had, as he often took them hunting. Lanny was known as “the hunting hog” because she was always the first to be up and ready for the hunt.

The girls completed their hunter safety course at age seven, but couldn’t hunt big game until the age of 12. They honed their hunting skills by joining dad on his hunts serving as spotters, packers, bird dogs, pointers and retrievers. They did hunt rabbits and turkeys; Lanny’s first was a 20-pound Merriam’s turkey with a 12-inch beard. At the age of 12 both twins drew elk tags and each was successful. That was her first of 22 elk as well as black bear, deer and javelina in the U.S.; kudu and wildebeest fell to her skill in Africa.

Their Olympic training began at age seven when they saw the games on TV and had dreams of one day competing in the biathlon because of their love of skiing, shooting and hunting.

They both made the Olympic team at the age of 24, but that’s for another story of these unique Olympic champions, and of course, my champions too.

Lanny now works as the VP of Experiences at the Prairie Fire shooting complex in Pahrump, Nevada and continues her valuable work with terminally ill children and wounded veterans on their “Dream Hunts” Oh, did I not mention she is an accomplished professional artist and chef? Yes, she is also my friend and hero.

I next look forward to writing one of Tracy’s hunting/fishing stories; you will see it here first.

If you have a story or comment about this or other articles, please contact me at sportsmansquest.dan@gmail.com

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