Deer Hunt Brings Smiles To Terminally Ill And Handicapped Youth
By: Christian Goodpaster
In October of 2005 I received a call by a representative of the Hunt of a Lifetime Organization inviting me to go on a first class deer hunt in my home state held by a fire department. They wanted to take terminally ill youth hunting, and since I had Cystic Fibrosis (CF) and received a double lung transplant, I met the qualifications to participate.
Members of the Angola Indiana Fire Department (AFD), along with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and various other agencies in Steuben County Indiana, hosted a deer hunt for terminally ill or disabled youth from throughout the state on November 18-20, 2005, and on Nov. 24-26, 2006.
Everything for the weekend from the land that was used for the hunt to the gear the youth needed to the processing and taxidermy was donated by local businesses and individuals along with major sporting goods retailer Cabela’s.
For the hunt the youth stayed at the Pokagon State Park. All the hunters were lodged together at the group camp. “One of the good things about the kids staying together was they got a since of a real deer camp, and they could socialize with other terminally ill kids,” said Conservation Officer John Deem.
The first hunt held by the fire department was actually in 2004 (although I didn’t attend the first hunt). The group hosted 10 hunters through the non-profit United Special Sportsmen Alliance, which brought kids in from as far away as Alabama and Wisconsin.
In 2005, AFD went on their own because they wanted to get as many local kids within the state involved as possible. With the help of “Hunt of a Lifetime” they where able to find hunters for the second annual event.
With the help of Hunt of a Lifetime seven young people from Indiana with disabilities or terminal illnesses participated in the 2005 youth hunt by AFD.
After attending the 2005 and 2006 AFD hunts I was amazed at how well they were planned out and held. Furthermore, I was astonished by the sheer number and quality of deer the guides put my buddies and I on, including an 11 point I took my first year on the hunt! My guide and dear friend Derek Lipely (president of the Angola Chapter of Whitetails Unlimited) said “It was a great success, everybody took home a deer, and some of them were pretty big.”
I could tell how proud the volunteers of the hunt were of what they where doing and they had reason to be. They took terminally ill kids on a hunt that may very well be their last chance to make memories afield, memories they may never have the chance to make again. Having grew up with Cystic Fibrosis and being sick basically my whole life (although I am healthy today due to a double lung transplant) there have been times when it’s hard to even wake up in the mornings and take a step, let alone go on a hunt or even cast a line. Then with time, you begin the realization that you don’t know what tomorrow may hold for yourself. Those who are terminally ill face these facts everyday of their life’s.
When a group gets together to put on a hunt like this, it’s something really special to those of us who are sick. Captain Gary of AFD said it was one of the most fulfilling things he has ever done and makes you re-consider just how tough you think your real life problems really are.
The properties we hunted on where some of the best in the state. The properties were local, privately owned holding wild deer. A harvest was not a guarantee as would be on a managed game farm. Every kid took a deer by the end of the weekend none-the-less.
Parents of the hunters were encouraged to get away and enjoy the sites of Steuben County without worrying about their children, Gary said. Trained emergency medical technicians were at hand to accompany the hunters in the field at all times, and all area EMT’s had maps of the areas that were being hunted in case of an emergency.
“This gives the parents a break, and some time to relax on their own and not have to worry about their children,” said Gary.” We try to spend the majority of the weekend with the kids, whether we are hunting or doing other events that are planned throughout the weekend. These parents have a lot of love for their children – we had parents driving 16 to 18 hours our first so that their children could participate in the hunt.”
Spouses of the volunteers and family members pitched in by preparing all the food and meals for the hunters and their families. All of the food for the weekend was donated. In 2005, each night right after hunting everyone met at the Angola Fire Department where everyone had dinner each night. Saturday afternoon deer chili was served by Derek Lipley at his house where a photo session also took place each day, and where I was very proud to display my nice buck I took on the 2005 hunt! The final night hunters and guides gathered for a final photo session, dinner and a prayer.
Having fished in the Keys with some of the best captains and celebrities in the world, participating in celebrity sporting clays matches in New Jersey, and attending various activities due to my CF and transplant, the Angola hunt was one of the most exciting and rewarding events I’ve been invited to be a part of. I hope in the future other clubs, organizations and departments will follow in foot steps of the Angola youth hunt.
The Authors Buck
My buddy and I arrived at our guide’s house on November 16, 2005 after a long four hour drive from our home town in Elizabeth, Indiana. After talking to our guides Derek and Doug about the upcoming morning hunt, they told us we best get to bed early for our kickoff Friday morning hunt. Off to bed we went with dreams of what the next day might await for us at deer camp.
Around 6 a.m. Friday morning my guide and I climbed into our ground blind in the corner of a large patch of woods. Directly in front of me I watched a large cut corn field. It was cold this morning at a bone shivering 8 degrees. Around 9 a.m. my guide whispered, “Christian, there is a shooter buck right behind us”. I moved slowly and when I looked out the window he stood at no further than 10 yards. I guessed the buck to be around a 130 class buck (shooter in my book since I had only prior taken one 130 class buck in my life back during the 2000 season). I slowly maneuvered my T/C Encore for the shot. When I finally got to the window he was standing in, the wind shifted and he started a slow run for the open corn field in front of my blind. My guide Derek leaned over and I took a rest of his back out of the front window. My buck picked up our scent and was running fast now. I yelled and the buck stopped. I pulled my hammer back, centered my Nikon scope and fired. After the smoke cleared I watched as my buck ran over 250 yards into a thicket. Derek and I got out and looked for blood without success. I simply got buck fever! Never happens to me! Ever happened to you?
That afternoon I shot my Encore a few more shots and everything was on. Wither it was the wind, my unsteady rest, or just good ol’ buck fever I missed none the less and my gun wasn’t too blame. Friday evening another guide named Doug asked if I wanted to hunt in a spot he had sole rights to over the last few years. He had seen some nice bucks in the area earlier in the season and I agreed to take him up on the new spot. Friday afternoon he took me into the new area. I set my Summit Viper up on a fencerow overlooking an airport run- way strip and an alfalfa field. To my back was a large thicket. That evening as the light drew thin, we saw a silhouette of a large buck probably pushing 150 class standing on the edge of the run-way. Dark slowly came upon us as watched the monster buck fade off into the darkness.
Going into Saturday morning I knew I had a great spot and most of all, confidence again in my hunting area and gun. Sitting in my stand the next morning a few bucks came through before light grunting and chasing does. As light came, a heavy fog dominated my area. The whole morning I watched does and small bucks pass by at a mere 10 yards from my stand grunting. Doug was sitting in a ladder stand we had hung just behind me the night before. Around 9 a.m. I decided I would go ahead and harvest a doe so that I could take some meet home and so I could say at least I got a deer on the hunt. The doe stood in a clear opening at 30 yards. I eased the T/C hammer back once more, centered my scope and squesed the trigger. BAM! As the smoke cleared I looked to Doug. Doug didn’t look to happy. He had a big grin on his face and couldn’t help but to laugh quietly amongst himself. I missed again! Derek Lipley called and said he heard the shot and asked if I had got the big buck I had seen the night before. Doug had to give him the bad news I had missed a doe! By this point I was almost in tears and ready to throw my Encore on the ground and scream. Doug though, didn’t feel the same. He whispered to me that the morning wasn’t completely ruined yet and to regain my focus, reload, and just kick back and see what the rest of the morning would hold.
At about 9:30 a.m. Doug whispered to get my attention. When I turned he started to point down the fencerow to my left. As I turned all I could see is rack and lots of it! I knew immediately this buck was what I was looking for. A shooter!
My second chance at a huge buck was upon me. This time I made sure given the chance to shoot again, I was going to squeeze the trigger. The buck walked down my fence row and walked to a small swamp at about 90 yards from my stand. I pulled my hammer back and as he came to a stop. I took a slow breath, centered my Nikon again, and shot. Immediately my buck hit the ground and never moved an inch from that point forward. I was charged! After the miss the prior morning, I thought my chances at another shooter buck were over. When Doug and I turned to look at one another, our emotions couldn’t hold any longer. We started screaming and yelling at the top of our lungs. I think every hunter within five miles new someone had got lucky that morning, and that lucky guy was me! Never in my life have I been so happy to harvest a deer. The moment was simply, priceless.
Prior to going on this hunt I had literally shot my gun over one hundred times out to 200 yards making sure I was ready. My setup consisted of 150 grains of powder, and a Barnes Spit-Fire Expander MZ 250 grain bullet. My clothes had been kept in a bag of leaves for weeks, my scents, tracking light, and every imaginable piece of gear was ready for the hunt. I was simply ready as I was ever going to be. After all my preparation and having missed that nice buck on Friday morning then having a second chance at even a bigger buck, and going on to harvest that buck, this hunt will last forever in my memory.
Evolution of Hunt of a Lifetime
Many of you by this time have probably heard of Hunt of a Lifetime and if you haven’t, as a sportsman you’ll probably like the mission of these great folks.
It's what 18-year-old Matthew Pattison wanted to do more than anything else before he died. Hunt a moose in Canada.
Tina and Chester Pattison, parents of the youth who had Hodgkin's disease, vowed to get him that hunt. After Make-A-Wish turned Matt’s “wish” away because of an anti-hunting fuss, his mother Tina went in search of an organization that would take him hunting. No such organization existed at that time.
Matt finally got his hunt when the tiny town of Nordegg, Alberta, Canada donated a free hunt by a local outfitter; all expenses paid trip. When the town got word of a sick boy wanting to go on a hunt, practically the whole town of 68 started pulling for Matt. In the end Matt’s dream came true, only two weeks prior to his death.
Matt’s mother Tina created her own organization “Hunt of a Lifetime” in Matt’s memory after donations pored in after his death. She realized there must be an organization to take terminally ill children hunting. The day before Christmas in 1999, Hunt of a Lifetime got its first request; a 14-year-old Wisconsin youth with a brain tumor who had missed the last two seasons of deer hunting. Everyone involved in the three-day weekend went home with a smile on their face wither they were a hunter, guide, or volunteer. After the Angola hunt and the story of Matthew Pattison and Hunt of a Lifetime, it’s hard not to be upset with animal-rights activists who can't think of a child's needs before their own beliefs. Not every child wants to go to Disney World.