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Kelli Sylvester
24 October 2019
Big Hearts Under the Big Sky

Kelli’s Cat

Lion hunting in Montana is not for the faint of heart. It can be mentally and physically demanding on the hunter, the guide and the dogs. When Kelli, who is 4 feet and change and maybe 105 lbs in her full camo and boots, said she wanted to come to Montana to chase mountain lions we were a little skeptical. But then again, we did not know Kelli.

Kelli, a 19 year-old native of Mobile, Alabama, is living proof that big things do come in small packages. She has been blessed with the tenacity, strength of character, and the heart to tackle the most challenging things life can toss at her. As a high-level soccer player, she played as a left outside defender and enjoyed crushing optimistic forwards and wingers who thought they could play in her sandbox. It is that same mental toughness and focused optimism that has allowed her to also deal with the challenge of cancer starting in the fall of 2008. For the past two years, Kelli and her family have endured the physical and mental rollercoaster ride experienced by too many others. Although a kid at heart, it does not take long to understand that Kelli also possesses a courage and wisdom beyond her years.

It has been her dream to come to Montana and hunt the big cats. When asked why choose to hunt mountain lion she replied “people look at me and think I am not too tough because of my size but inside I am a Ninja warrior”. After her short time in Montana, all who had the pleasure of being with Kelli agree her presence is defined far more by the strength of her character and her tenacious determination than her physical size.

The Montana Outfitters and Guides Association operates the Big Hearts under the Big Sky program as a service to children who face the challenge of a life threatening illness, veterans who have provided extraordinary service to our country, and for women who are challenged by breast cancer. We provide fully guided and outfitted trips at not charge to these special people and their families. Our partner on Kelli’s trip was our national affiliate Catch-a-Dream Foundation. The partnership between MOGA outfitters and C-a-D foundation has provided the basis for serving dozens of people in the past and we are honored to be supporting such a great organization and it beautiful mission.

After completing a hunter education course Kelli and her mom and dad joined the John, Sherry, and Scott Cargill at the Iron Wheel Guest Ranch for her Montana mountain lion hunt. Scott Cargill, and many other highly experienced local lion hunters and their dogs, committed themselves fully to her pursuit. Lion hunting can start in the wee hours of the morning, go all day, and end only after the sun goes down. Some of these folks would help in the mornings before work and then hit the mountains again in the evening. Throughout the entire hunt Kelli remained committed and enjoyed the full measure provided. To be in the company of Scott and John Cargill in the mountains of Montana is a opportunity for discovery of the areas natural resources and rich cultural history.

While she was not able to connect with the cat, Kelli and her loving family did connect with all of those they came in contact with. I believe Catch a Dream host Mike Adilum said best when he said that he does not have a daughter of his own, but if he did he would like her to have Kelli’s qualities of strength, exceptional spirit and great sense of humor. Blessings, like dynamite, can come is small packages.


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