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Thursday, October 1, 2015

Wisconsin RMEF Chapter Remembers, Honors One of Its Own

They gathered in the town of Janesville in south-central Wisconsin, like they do every year. Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation members, volunteers and friends alike came together for the annual Rock Prairie Chapter Big Game Banquet.

One man was noticeably absent. Long-time RMEF supporter, avid hunter and family man Peter Holte did not attend. At the age of 45, he passed away in 2014 from complications of a spinal cord injury from many years earlier.

To honor their fallen father, son, and brother, the family purchased a special rifle, a Henry Golden Boy .22 caliber rifle. It featured an RMEF plaque on one side and another under the lever labeled PETEHOLTE001. They donated it in a live auction dedicated to Peter.

Ken Holte took to the stage to talk about his brother.

Ken Holte
“Pete had a love of the outdoors and a determination to continue with our hunting trips long after his physical abilities had left him. Even after he lost the ability to walk, we would literally carry him with us. Pete had a fondness for verbally joisting and ribbing others, and he never lost that. Those are the things that most every hunting/fishing group has, so it is always hard to lose that spirited individual,” said Ken.

After Ken’s remarks the auction opened and the bidding began. What the average banquet attendee did not know is he or she had no prayer to win that rifle. Peter’s father, Alan, assured RMEF organizers beforehand that the Golden Boy would go home with one person and one person only—him! Alan lived up to his word.

As the bids rose in price, Alan remained an active participant. And when the bidding closed, Alan’s bid of $2,900 topped the pack. He happily accepted the rifle and placed it the hands of Peter’s daughter Kendra, his granddaughter.

Kendra Holte (left) and Alan Holte
In dedication to Peter and his life, the family plans to make the rifle available to be auctioned off every year.

The Rock Prairie Chapter asked Ken to write up a story about Pete (see below).

Peter Holte
It all started in 1984 with a simple tingling of the arms and a little dizziness. Perhaps nothing too alarming for a scrappy junior-high kid. But, symptoms persisted, and it turned out to be more severe than expected. A small bone which tied several vertebrae to the base of Peter’s skull had been broken. Likely an injury from his days on the wrestling team. Left undiagnosed it could be fatal.

The following two years involved a series of surgeries for Peter and a considerable amount of time in a halo brace with limited ability to move about. But, over time Peter began to regain his strength and he became more active again, and his admiration for the outdoors began to grow, including our family tradition of an annual hunting trip to the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming.

The Wyoming trips brought out the best in Pete. He established many friendships with the locals, and enjoyed accessing new hunting areas. He also hunted regularly in southern Wisconsin. He even dabbled with bow season for several years, but the gun season was his preference. Over the years, he collected a few “trophies,” but more importantly he built a library of stories and lasting friendships with all those who shared his desire to be outdoors.

In his mid-30s, something “broke loose” in Peter’s neck. The tingling and numbness returned, and he experienced some paralysis on his right side. He returned to the operating table – this time for an experimental procedure to stabilize his neck. He was in traction for a week to realign the vertebrae, followed again by months in a halo brace, and although some limited paralysis still remained and he had lost considerable muscle mass, the surgery was considered a success, and Peter did his best to resume his active lifestyle.

Peter continued his hunting escapades. Annual trips to Wyoming and the Wisconsin deer hunts were never far from his thoughts. However, the paralysis continued to expand and erode his physical abilities. Eventually he stopped hunting in Wisconsin as his limbs could no longer carry him, but the annual Wyoming trips were too important to give up. With the help of family and friends, Peter continued to go to Wyoming every October. Long after he gave up carrying a gun, he served as guide and companion to his young nephews, shepherding them into adulthood and the hunting tradition. A time came that the nephews had to lift their uncle in and out of the truck, but he still watched over them. He lived for the pleasure of sitting quietly, watching for the site of a mule deer during the day and the gentle banter around a meal (or dice game) at night.

Eventually paralysis overtook Peter’s body, and in August of 2014 Peter Holte breathed his last breath.

Antlers adorned the flowers placed upon his casket and family gathered once again to tell stories, mainly centered on annual hunting trips with Pete.

Hunting for Pete was more than sport; hunting was his connection with the outdoors and a thread woven deep into his family. In June 2015, family and friends gathered in the Big Horns to fulfill Pete’s final wish and release his ashes in the place he loved. His spirit will live on in the love of the hunt that he fostered and passed on to his nephews and his daughter.

The Holte Family sincerely appreciates the honor the RMEF has bestowed upon Peter with this Memorial Fundraiser. We wish all of you many safe and successful hunting seasons to come.

Ken Holte

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