Kevin Bittenbender

Sgt. Maj. Kevin Bittenbender collected a great bull elk – and an even greater collection of memories – last fall at Three Forks Ranch in Colorado. Alan Porter’s company, Wild Game Trophy Shipping, saw the meat and trophy safely to Bittenbender’s home in Pennsylvania, completing a circuit that was a lifetime in the making.

As a lifelong outdoorsman and hunter, Alan Porter, of New Castle, Colorado, knows the satisfaction of bringing meat ready for the freezer through the door, and of carrying a long-sought shoulder mount to its place of honor on the wall. It’s a step that completes the arc from field to table, and from live experience to tangible memory. For many years, his family has hosted elk hunters in the Rockies and he’s seen that arc begin countless times. When one of those arcs failed to end well, his response led to a business model that’s become a whole new and rewarding way of life.

“We have a big ranch in Colorado and run about 170 to 180 hunts per year,” Porter said. “About 27 years ago, we had a group of hunters from Florida who shipped their elk home. It cost around $1,800 per elk and it all thawed out on them.”

Shipping meat via common carrier is a bit of a gamble, and an expensive one. An average-sized bull elk is likely to render 250 to 325 pounds of meat for the freezer. When it’s shipped, it has to be frozen solid, travel in insulated boxes and go priority overnight. Depending on the origin and destination, any domestic shipment like this is all but guaranteed to run to four figures, and the carriers generally decline to be responsible for negative outcomes. It usually does work out fine, but when it doesn’t, it really doesn’t.

“That bothered me so much, the next year, after the season was over, I rented a refrigerated truck and spent two weeks driving everyone’s meat to them all around the country,” Porter said. “We got everyone’s meat to them without a hitch, we got to see their excitement in person each and every time, it was a more economical way to do it and it was a really enjoyable job to do.”

Today, Porter and his adult sons run Wild Game Trophy Shipping, delivering freezer-ready meat and display-ready taxidermy all across the country.

“Now we work with more than 900 taxidermists and more than 200 processors,” Porter said. “We have taxidermists from Maine to California and processors from Kentucky to Oregon, and we keep expanding every year. They find us. We deliver the end result of hunts that were often lifelong dreams and goals. It never has to be worried about thawing or getting lost. Often, we put it right into the freezer for them.

“We average delivering about 1,700 trophies a month. Meatwise, we delivered a little over 400,000 pounds last year. The taxidermy delivery service is year-round, and meat season basically runs from September through February.”

Hunting styles differ by game and location. A pheasant hunt in Nebraska is nothing like a mule deer hunt in Colorado of course, but, even within species, techniques and tactics vary a great deal. Elk hunting in Colorado and Oregon, turkey hunting in Mississippi and Kansas, in so many cases, terrain and local knowledge make so much difference, the quarry could just as well be differing species. What is the same, though, across all game and geography, is the motivation that lies at the heart of hunters. The connection to nature, the adrenaline, admiration, the connection to the joy of sharing and passing helping hands along are universal experiences, no matter who the hunter may be.

“We’ve had the fortunate circumstance of working with a number of well-known veterans and high-profile personalities,” Porter said. “In many cases, they’re people the world doesn’t know hunts a lot. When you come across someone from the entertainment industry or other high-profile profession, what they do may seem lofty, but the fact they hunt opens a connection that’s just the same as it would be for anyone.”

‘A beautiful thing’

By far, Porter’s favorite deliveries are those that lead to the door of wounded veterans or children whose hunts came about through charities for kids with critical health issues.

“We work with a lot of different organizations like Wounded Warriors and others,” Porter said. “Last year we donated about $40,000 worth of deliveries, and that’s the most rewarding thing I may ever get to do. I really look forward to it. We arrive at the front doors of kids and veterans who’ve looked forward all their lives to the event. We bring them their stuff and, so many times, we make the delivery, get a half mile down the road and pull over and cry. It’s a beautiful thing and sometimes it hits you hard.

“In the veterans’ case, they’ve given so much more than I ever can, it’s wonderful to be able to help out. These people gave so much, and it’s frustrating to see people out there who don’t appreciate it, the freedom we’ve got here in the United States. I wasn’t able to serve in the military because of my vision. I wish I could have, but this is my way of giving back, discounting it and donating it when I can.”

Porter’s company is working to form its own charitable foundation to raise and manage funds for worthy deliveries, with the goal of someday doing every delivery destined for a veteran or health-impaired child for free.

“We’re working toward supporting these deliveries from within the business,” Porter said, “because the last thing you want to do is ask these veterans or these kids’ parents for a little bit of money to cover the delivery. I don’t want them to worry about any part of it. We’re all jumping in to do our part to make that happen, and I’m sure, over time, we’ll get to that point.”

For more, or to get a quote for a meat or taxidermy shipment, email wildgametransport@yahoo.com.

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