For the next few weeks, we’ll be introducing you to our Pro Staff through guest posts written by some of the pro staffers themselves. One requirement for each of our pro staff members is active involvement in local chapters of conservation organizations such as the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) and the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF). A few of our pro staff members recently volunteered with a NWTF Wheelin’ Sportsmen hunt in south Alabama. We were so proud to help sponsor this event and have some of our team members there representing us. To learn more about this great organization, click here.
The following is a story by our Pro Staff coordinator, Lance Howard, relating his experience guiding a hunt during this event. These are the experiences that make what we do worthwhile. So, grab a box of tissues and enjoy. This is what it’s all about.
By: Lance Howard
As part of my duties with the Nature’s Eye pro staff, I volunteer to help the local NWTF chapters with their banquets. Last year I attended a NWTF Wildlife Heritage banquet in Fairhope, Alabama. At this event I met a lady by the name of Darlene who mentioned that she was putting together a special needs youth hunt and needed some volunteers to help guide and assist the kids while they were hunting. Darlene and her husband Travis are members of a hunting club just northeast of Loxley, Alabama that volunteered to hold the event at their lease. So, I enlisted myself and a few other pro staff members to tag along and film the hunts for that weekend.
When we arrived Saturday morning, Travis assigned me and my good buddy T.J., fellow nature’s eye pro staffer, to hunt with a young girl named Madison. Even though I had not actually met Madison before, I’d known about her for a while. Her dad and I have worked together for over seven years. At first glance Madison appears to be like any other typical teenage girl, but Madison was born without the ability to hear. As we got to talking with Madison and her dad Dwight, Dwight informs us that Madison wants to take her crossbow instead of a rifle for the afternoon hunt. I have to say I was a bit skeptical over this. It’s difficult enough to take a deer with a gun, much less with a bow. Even using a crossbow is a whole new ball game. Madison had never even been hunting before this weekend, but she was as confident as if she’d had years of experience. We attempted to persuade her to try the rifle instead, considering that would most likely give her a better chance of success, but she didn’t waiver and insisted on the crossbow. So, we headed to the blind and got all set up. There were four of us in a 6’x6’ wooden box blind on the ground. T.J. with the camera and Madison with the crossbow were in front, and Dwight and I were in back. The blind is situated on a long narrow food plot that’s around a 150 yards from one end to the other. To the right is a stand of 5 year old planted pines, and to the left is a hardwood creek bottom. It’s about 2:30 by the time we get all settled and situated. At first we are cutting up, messing around, telling jokes, and applying hunter’s war paint to each other’s faces. A couple of hours into the hunt we have literally not seen a living creature. Around 4:30 I glance over at T.J. and he’s starting to nod off; I look at Madison and she is just staring down at the ground. There was a noticeable feeling of discouragement in the air, as if we knew the hunt wasn’t going to pan out as planned.
All of a sudden I look up at the far end of the plot and notice a group of does stepping out of the hardwood creek bottom into the plot. We had maybe 20 minutes of light left to shoot, so Madison goes ahead and gets her bow ready and T.J. gets the film rolling. After grazing for a couple of minutes, the does for some reason make a beeline right for the blind and are on top of us in a matter of seconds. I immediately start silently praying, “Please Lord let this happen”. You see, not only has Madison been faced with the challenges of being deaf, but just two and half months prior to this hunt Madison and Dwight lost their brother/son Logan in a tragic car accident. Madison not only lost an older brother, she lost her best friend, her role model, and her guardian. To say that this family has been through hell and back would be an understatement. As Madison was taking aim on this doe, which was now around 25 yards away, I found myself to be shaking like a leaf. I don’t think I was shaking from nervousness, but because I was built up with so much emotion knowing what this family had been put through the past two and half months. So I glance over at Madison thinking she is about to come unglued with nervousness and anxiety, but actually she was the exact opposite. She was cool, calm and collected. The doe that we wanted to take finally turned and presented her with a perfect broadside shot. All of sudden, this old doe throws her nose up (as mature does do from time to time) like she is picking up our scent. I knew then that it was only a matter of time before she winded us and bolted, ending the hunt, so I leaned in and touched Madison on the shoulder and she knew that was her green light. She squeezed the trigger on her crossbow and her bolt delivered a perfect shot. The blind erupted with so much noise and excitement it must have sounded like the New Year’s Eve ball dropping at Times Square. I felt confident that Madison had just taken her first deer ever, and with a bow at that. Madison was giving a fist pump to the camera, TJ was smiling like a kid waking up on Christmas morning, and Dwight and I were hugging and fist bumping like we were long lost friends reuniting for the first time. To put it bluntly we were partying down in that box blind! After a short tracking job we recovered Madison’s doe and she had in fact made a perfect shot. To see a young girl that has faced so many challenges and so much adversity in her life take them head on, I can’t help but get emotional, be inspired, and feel humbled. You can call it fate or luck, but I truly believe that Madison, Dwight, TJ, and I were not alone in that box blind that December afternoon.
Next week we’ll be posting another story from the event, so stay tuned!