The 2018 Team Flatline Outdoors Muzzler Loader Whitetail and Early Ice Fishing Adventure was an amazing success.
Terry and Kris served this great country while serving in the United States Army. Terry served in Vietnam as a Cobra Helicopter pilot, in Desert Storm as an Apache pilot, flew missions into Central America fighting the drug cartel as a Apache Squadron Commander and so much more. Kris served with a Spec Ops Team/CIA and was Chief Interrogator of the Talaban forces in Afghanistan for 4 years. These 2 American Heroes had a very successful adventure.
In the words of our Warriors - id like to share their stories.
Dear Team Flatline Outdoors (from Terry Branham)
I will be forever grateful for the memorable outdoor adventure you gifted me. The surprising announcement created great anticipation, but the reality was simply over the top. It was the wonderful friendship and respect you demonstrated for our military service and the openness to hear our stories and let us share some of our deepest feelings about serving our nation. The meals and hospitality were to say ‘first class’ is not enough – they were superb and amazing in so many ways. The ice fishing and whitetail hunt experience were something I had missed for 25 years for want of a successful hunt and bagging a deer for the first time in 25 years. I never felt more like one with God’s creation than the experience of witnessing so much wildlife and beautiful creatures so perfectly made by our creator. Every aspect of preparing for the hunt, the deer stand experience, the incredible experience of a muzzleloader were something I wish all my hunting friends could experience with the Team Flatline Outdoors Adventure because you made it the best it could ever be. It was also exciting to hear of your stories of hunts and see your trophy mounts and hunting experiences. This time with Team Flatline was life changing and so God inspired from the 1st hour with your team. Your generosity was overwhelming and I can never thank you enough for all you gifted me with friendship, mementos, experiences and God’s love for we Veterans. I pray for your continued success and God’s blessings for all you do. Sincerely, Terry Branham.
Dear Team Flatline Outdoors (from Kris Hughes)
Today I am writing to reflect on my recent experience with Flatline Outdoors. My uncle Terry Branham and I were invited to dinner on a Tuesday evening in late October. I didn't know much leading up to dinner. Terry and I had talked briefly and he said that he would like me to meet for dinner and that there may be a great opportunity. Well, Terry is a man that I have looked up to for as many years as I can remember. Terry is a man of great faith and excellent character. A man that takes time to listen and give advice when needed. My uncle, Retired Colonel Terry Branham, a man I can trust. Little did I know I was about to have an experience of a lifetime.
With that said I didn't have any reason not to gladly accept the invitation to dinner. We met outside Rockwoods restaurant just after 6 pm. I greeted my aunt Barb and uncle Terry outside of the restaurant. We entered the building and Terry gave the name to the hostess of the party we were to join. Unbeknownst to me there was a whole party waiting to greet us. I only recognize one man, Steve Cruikshank from Fishin For Life but everyone else, I didn't know. The Team Flatline Outdoor's Crew welcomed me with hugs and hand shakes. Pete & Elissa Hein. Todd & Sheila Doege, Clay & Jenny Thompson with son Connor and Chad & Lisa Rasmussen. Jenny Thompson had made Terry and I each a box of wonderfully decorated cookies. We settled into our seats and it was if we had all known each other for years. The men's wives chatted on one end of the table while us guys told hunting and fishing stories on the other side. After some time, Pete Hein handed Terry and I each a letter in an envelope.
The letter was and invitation from Flatline Outdoors to take Terry and I on a hunting and fishing trip to Hill City, MN. This Must be the opportunity Terry had alluded to before. We ordered our meals and beverages and continued great conversation. Each man had a story to tell and I am a sucker for good stories. Id later be able to tell them parts of mine. We finished our meals and the night began to wind down. It was easy to see that we were in great company and it made the decision that much easier. I gladly accepted.
Departure day approached and I had collected and organized some of my equipment for ice fishing and hunting. I had never hunted with a muzzle loader before but I had rifle hunted in years past. I was coming off of a stressful week at work and was simply looking forward to getting out into the woods. For me getting into northern Minnesota brings an immediate sense of calm and relaxation. Terry and I would meet at Pete’s house and ride up to Hill City together. I checked and rechecked what I had packed trying to make sure I had everything. I remember calling Pete asking if I needed a sleeping bag. “Um, no. We will be staying at the bear den and each of us will have our own room.” Pete and the team had a great surprise waiting for us.
The ride up passed swiftly with each of us sharing different stories as we began to get to know one another better. We arrived at Todd and Sheila’s place after dark. Pete brought us to the main cabin and gave us a quick lay of the land. Let’s go over to the bear den where we will be having dinner and get settled in Pete said. Just down the road sat the bear den, a wonderful log cabin. I was just in awe by the terrific craftsmanship and I hadn’t even walked through the front door. We gathered our gear and proceed inside. Todd, Sheila and Chad welcomed us once we got inside. We settled our gear in our rooms and went into the dining room to get acquainted with the rest of our hosts. I looked around in awe at the mounts and knew each one carried a special memory. Inside the kitchen we were equipped with one of the finest displays of food, snacks and the majority favorite monster cookies. We had dinner and visited and Sheila gave Terry and I blankets she had taken the time to hand craft. The night wound down and we game planned the next day’s events. What a day we had in store.
We woke and got ready for breakfast and a morning session of ice fishing. Pete, Terry and I went over to the main cabin where we would eat our meals before each expedition. Sheila must have put on a clinic in that kitchen because breakfast was delicious. We had countless options muffins, breakfast burritos, fresh fruit, yogurt and even a Tupperware that contained those monster cookies. We shared a prayer and the feast commenced. After breakfast Terry and I were brought into the family room, we didn’t know it but Santa Clause was coming.
Everyone gathered around and Terry and I were given some awesome gear that we could put to good use ice fishing and hunting this weekend and beyond! I was in total awe and began thinking. What hard work had been done to be able to present us with such gifts? How much collective planning and attention had gone into making this such a great experience? What did I do to deserve this? How can I ever thank each and every one enough for this? I didn’t know all the answers but I was trying to find out. Let’s go fishin’!
Todd, Pete, Chad, Terry and I loaded up the trucks and headed out to one of the area lakes. Pete had a trick up his sleeve. We got to the lake and Pete called Clay. Clay couldn’t be there with us but he was happy to share where to go to find the crappies. Out we went and drilled some holes and got our vexilar’s graphing and lines in the water. Todd had a new auger attachment that hooked right up to a Milwaukee drill. Todd started putting that thing to the test. Ha, before you knew it we had about 25 holes to fish! Hoppin’ and poppin’! We got a good catch of crappies and packed up our gear to see what Sheila had up her sleeve.
Reinforcements had arrived and lunch was ready. Chad’s wife Lisa and Todd’s mother Donna had joined us. These ladies were all angels in disguise. They worked very hard in the preparations of every meal. Each time there were so many options of deliciousness. I never tried elk meat until this trip and let me tell you it is awesome. Chili, soup, fruits, deserts, sandwiches. It was all so good I probably over ate at every meal. Each different thing was like a little slice of heaven. After chow we had some time to converse and game plan for our afternoon evening hunt. I enjoyed each time we had opportunities to talk. Everyone had wonderful stories to tell and everyone wanted to hear a little bit of mine and Terry’s story. There was so much to say and even more to hear. We would have to wait until after dinner for more stories because we had to go huntin.
Chad, Pete and I drove down to Chad’s property and geared up for the whitetail hunt. Pete and I sat in one stand and Chad in another. Pete and I reviewed the sectors of fire and dialed in landmarks with the rangefinder. We sat quietly and were patiently awaiting a deer. Pete scanned one side and I scanned the other. After a while a doe approached and entered the field of fire. Pete and I dropped the curtain over the window and did a pretty stealthy switcheroo to get me in the proper spot to take the shot. Darkness would be approaching within an hour and I had a 110-yard shot to put meat on the table. I waited for my shot and squeezed the trigger gently. Boom, good hit. Pete and I waited and approached the scene. We found good blood she shouldn’t be far. We tracked the trail briefly and decided to wait for Chad. We tracked for some time with a good trail but darkness had fallen. We decided it would be best to let her lay and come back in the morning to find her.
We got in for dinner to find another wonderful display of food. Terry had gotten a shot on a buck while hunting with Todd but didn’t get the kill. We said a prayer and dug into the lasagna. We now had a little more time to share stories at the table and reflect on the day. We talked about a little bit of everything. Our times in the Army, we talked about past elk hunts, fishin expeditions and much more. Terry was fatigued and had to retire for the night but I had a little more story tellin and listening to do for the night. Our time for the night came to an end and Pete and I headed back to the bear den. After relaxing for a while we called it a night ourselves. We had a deer to find in the morning.
We headed back over to Todd and Sheila’s in the morning for breakfast. As we were getting settled into our seats another pleasant surprise. Tom and Steve from Fishin For Life as well as Tom’s son. Tom is a fellow Afghanistan veteran and Army brother. Tom and Steve each shared stories and conversation with all of us. It was great to see them again as I had an opportunity to spend a weekend fishing with their organization earlier in the year at Big Sandy. The group had to split up that morning some to find a deer the others to go ice fishing.
Terry, Chad, Pete and I went to track my deer at Chad’s property. We walked out and got back on the blood trail. After tracking her for a while we found her. The only problem was coyotes found her first and had made a bit of a mess. We decided to leave her to nature. I felt terrible as I didn’t get a clean kill but felt as if it were the right thing to do at this point to leave her. We said a prayer and hiked out of the woods. We had some time to kill before the other guys would be back from fishing so we decided to go see the war memorial outside of Hill City.
We arrived at the memorial and departed the trucks. Terry light up like a kid at Christmas. There it is, a Vietnam era Cobra helicopter similar to the one Terry flew in the war. This was such a special time for us as Terry shared some of his knowledge of the aircraft and then told his stories. We even got a good belly laugh as Terry shared about his experience about transporting the squads pet dog in his helicopter across his shoulders and the dog peed down his back when he engaged the enemy with rockets. We returned for lunch to get another afternoon-evening hunt. I didn’t get a deer but Terry was able to get himself a 5-point buck. We ended our final evening with great conversation.
I had one final opportunity on our last morning but didn’t get another opportunity for a shot. I was still very happily fulfilled. I consider myself very grateful to have had the chance to meet everyone involved with making this a great weekend for myself and my uncle Terry. I will be forever grateful to have done this with my uncle to whom I have looked up to my entire life. The genuine conversation shared amongst our group was exceptional. I know for me personally it was very healing to even share some of my experiences. I am forever grateful for everyone involved in making this such a special weekend for me. It has given me newfound encouragement in myself as I continue to make my footprint in life.