“No one wants to see that kind of conflict and that kind of tragedy and the beautiful thing about it is we weren’t over there thinking we were killing the enemy because we hated those guys. Really we didn’t. We didn’t do it because we hated those guys in front of us. We were doing it because we loved those guys beside us and those people behind us. But it’s that price of freedom… that these guys gave up their last full measure of devotion so the rest of us could make it out. They held their positions till they had nothing left and that’s something you just can’t replicate and it’s an amazing thing to be a part of and it’s a humbling experience to be recognized.” said Medal of Honor recipient Clint “RO” Romesha as he fought back his tears. Clint had just wrapped up his interview with Jana about the battle of Kamdesh that took place in the Nuristan province in eastern Afghanistan on Oct 3rd 2009. This battle lasted 13 hours straight and cost eight men their lives. Clint faced over 300 Taliban fighters and insurmountable odds as he worked to keep the base from being overrun by the enemy. I had just wrapped up an interview that held a power so gripping it left us reliving the moments with Clint himself.
We met “ RO” at the 2014 SHOT Show (Shooting Hunting Outdoor Trade Show) on the last day while Jana was doing a “Live” interview with Cam Edwards. Cam hosts “Cam and Company” a popular show on the Sportsman Channel. Clint had proceeded Jana’s interview and while we were standing in line waiting to go “ LIVE”, Jana struck up a conversation about the AR-15 Clint was discussing on the show. Before long that conversation moved from a friendly introduction to a possible hunt in the badlands Montana for the Wiley coyote. Clint is only the 4th living recipient of the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War. I desperately wanted to hear his story and find out more about this modern day hero. I served four years in the Marines during the first Gulf War although I never saw combat. Instead I spent much of my time working on the aircraft with the 1ST Marine Expeditionary Brigade out of Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. Many of those ships flew during operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Levi Johnson, founder of the “Montana Doggers”, invited us to come out and hunt coyotes with the use of his mountain cur dogs. We made one phone call to Clint and set our hunt dates for the first week of June! Predator management is something we all should play a part in! Jana and I were excited to share a hunting method seldom seen on television with Clint. Late May and June are typically the best months to hunt coyotes with the use of decoy dogs. With property stretching as far as the eye can see, Levi’s neck of the woods is nothing short of breathtaking and we were eager to lay our eyes on that part of Montana once again.
The first week of June was here before we knew it. Jana and I loaded up our gear and headed to the small town of Winnett, Montana to catch up with an old friend and make new ones. Levi is one of the funniest people we know but make no mistake about it he takes predator control very seriously. After crossing the continental divide, multiple counties and a few cars or two we pulled in to small town USA. Clint wasn’t far behind and soon the three of us were reunited again and ready to carry out a mission on the open prairie.
Well before the sun came up we were throwing gravel down the road like the boys from the Dukes of Hazard. In the distance the sky began to shows signs of life. Grabbing their weapons, both Jana and Clint loaded their rifles excitedly in anticipation of the first sit. I prepared my weapon of choice; a SONY EX3 perched atop a Miller tripod. As we collected our gear Levi readied his dogs for battle. We slowly worked up a small ridge to get the best vantage point on the washed out coulees below.
Levi has been hunting with mountain cur dogs for years and his dogs; Copper, Dezi and Maggie May are the best in the business. When hunting coyotes with decoy dogs there are several things to remember. First coyotes are highly territorial animals and become even more aggressive as they gear up for raising their young. Levi has devised a formula that starts with a locator call. He uses the howler to get any nearby coyotes to respond and howl back. Then he follows the locator call by using by a rabbit in distress cry found on many electronic calls. The final series ends with a coyote pup in distress call. Do the mental math inside a coyote’s head and it sounds like this. “I’m in your area robbing your fridge and killing your young.” A coyote simply looses its mind this time of year and most likely will come running in to challenge the intruder. This is where the cur dogs come into play. Lev’s dogs are trained to scan the terrain for any “song dogs” that come to investigate. Once a coyote is spotted they b-line it straight to their adversary. As the cur dogs approach the coyote Levi whistles. He has trained his dogs to turn around at the sound of the whistle and take a submissive roll thus luring the coyote back into the lap of the hunters. You have to see it to believe it. Hands down this is the most effective way to control the coyote population outside of aerial gunning them from an aircraft.
With everyone situated Levi began his series of calls. A few short minutes had passed when a single coyote made an appearance. “Clint out front”, Jana said excitedly while the two steadied their rifles on homemade shooting sticks. This coyote literally darted in like an Olympic sprinter. I was trying my best to film the action on my telephoto lens but they came in so close at one point I remember seeing a mass of fur . The big male coyote dropped his head to nip at Dezi’s hamstring on the fly by. Both of Levi’s cur dogs hustled to turn the coyote at less than 20 yards. By now the big male had our wind and was high tailing it out of there. Clint ripped off a shot as he slowed to a trot but it went just over its back. “You just missed him.”, Jana said while turning to look back out front. “Clint there’s another one coming”. Eventually four different coyotes came and went on that set with multiple shots being fired. Each one being a miss! “ We’re just getting started. That right there is the power of using the decoy dog!” Levi said as he reached down to feel the warmth being emitted from both shooters’s barrels.” Warm up sessions don’t get any more western than that. Jana and Clint were both ready for a little payback.
We quickly changed locations and were back to calling after guzzling down a Huntndurace energy shot. Within two minutes we had another coyote spotted 300 yards out and coming fast. As the coyote moved closer the dog went to work. Clint and Jana watched the old female circle the dogs and try and get our wind at 50 yards. At that exact moment the coyote figured out it had made a grave mistake. The .223 cracked before she could move a muscle and folding the onlooker in her tracks. “Well you got your first Montana coyote! The antelope thank you and the deer thank you. You’ve just saved a ton of fawns”, Jana explained while reaching over for a congratulation hug. “It’s great to draw first blood. Let’s get another one.”, Clint said while walking over to inspect his prairie prize. With the cobwebs wiped away from the previous set we moved off to our next location. Although we spotted a few more coyotes that day for some reason they decided to hang up off in the distance. Levi explained, “Some days are better than others. Just like fishing you just got to keep going and when the bite is on… it’s on!”
The next morning we moved out to an area that had less cover making it a little more difficult to hide my large video camera. Setting in both Clint and Jana hid side by side near a tiny juniper bush. Levi had scouted this area prior to our arrival and counted several coyotes in the area. Levi dropped a howl that echoed for miles. We sat motionless listening and watching in all directions. A coyote hammered back yipping not far from our position. Both dogs’ stubby tails wagged with anticipation of what was to come next. These dogs live for this hunt much like a Brittany does for jumping pheasants or a lab for fetching ducks. Soon both dogs’ eyes caught movement to the left of our position. I swung the camera in that direction and began to record a sequence you can’t make up. Clint and Jana did something I’d never witnessed in all my years of hunting. Both lined up their crosshairs on the coyote as it moved closer and closer to their position. I worked hard to follow him on my camera’s viewfinder as he bounced through the broken terrain. Both rifles sounded off followed by a double thud. Some how Jana and Clint had unknowingly fired simultaneously. “A double tap”, Levi shouted out, as we all just enjoyed the moment. Months later Jana painted a silhouette of the eight men that lost their lives in the battle of Kamdesh on Oct 3, 2009 on the coyote skull that Jana and Clint double tapped. That skull is being donated to one of Clint’s Veteran organizations.
Clint’s story is selfless and timeless. Hearing it first hand underneath that old shade tree in rural America made me think deep about the freedoms I’ve enjoyed all these years and about those service men and women that have fought hard to protect them. The freedom to purse my passion for the great outdoors, film, write and even the freedom of religion. I don’t take it lightly. To the men of “RED PLATOON” who so gallantly fought and gave their lives so we could all continue to do what we love… I salute each and every one of you. To Clint “RO” Romesha, it’s an honor to call you my friend and I’d follow you to hell and back!
CPL Kinsey James M.
In memory of: