For the last few years I have been fortunate enough to be a part of taking disabled youth hunting during the spring youth turkey hunt in Missouri.
With the help of the Rogersville Strutters National Wild Turkey Federation chapter in Rogersville, Mo., we have been successful at taking multiple kids — including a boy who was blind — on their first turkey hunt.
These types of hunts have lead us into other opportunities with helping kids who normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to go hunting.
This past fall my boss came to me a couple of months before the youth portion of firearms deer season. He asked if I would be interested in taking a young boy who has suffered from cancer for several years on the two-day youth hunt. Christian Berkshire, of Mountain View, Mo., has unfortunately lost most of his eyesight because of the many cancer treatments he has had to take while suffering from this horrible disease.
My boss had heard how the Rogersville Strutters and I had taken a young boy earlier that spring who was blind, and wanted to know if there was any way we could get the help of the Rogersville Strutters, who have a shooting device that allows hunters with disabilities to still hunt.
This device has a camera attached to the scope of the gun, which has an LCD screen on top that allows us to see what the gun is aiming at. The device is equipped with two remote controls, one that the hunter uses to work the gun up and down, as well as side to side.
When the crosshairs of the scope are on the desired target, the hunter then pushes a button on the remote. However, the gun will not fire until the other remote is pushed at the same time. So, when both buttons are pushed, it makes the gun fire.
The Rogersville Strutters, as well as myself, didn’t give it a second thought. We were determined to help young Christian to get his first deer.
The night before the two-day youth hunt my boss and his wife, Steve and Betty Hockman, also of Mountain View, hosted Christian, his mom, grandpa, two volunteers from the Rogersville Strutters and myself for dinner. After enjoying some great food, we then gave Christian some gifts from Hunters Specialties and Mossy Oak, as well as an embroidered camouflage blanket with Christian’s name and the date of our hunt, that was made from a member of the Rogersville Strutters.
The next morning we greeted the day inside of our blind that was nestled on the edge of a green food plot. A mere hour into the hunt, we had a good buck come into the edge of the plot. Unfortunately, because of some commotion trying to run the shooting device as well as a camera trying to capture Christian’s hunt, we shot over the buck.
We took Christian by the hand and lead him out to where the deer was standing. I wanted to make sure we did not connect on the buck. Now, this is where my eyes were opened on the meaning of this type of hunt.
While looking for blood on the leaves with Christian, I was down in the dumps and I will admit kind of aggravated that we had missed this buck.
Just as these thoughts went through my head, Christian said: “Heath, I’m glad we didn’t hit that buck.”
In shock, I replied, “Why, Christian?”
He then answered, “I don’t want to quit hunting, I want to hunt the rest of the day with you.”
Almost bringing tears to my eyes, I agreed. Christian was right. It is not about the harvest, it’s about being in the outdoors and making memories with each other. I try to remember those words all of my hunts now.
After not finding any sign of hitting the deer, we continued to hunt the rest of the morning. Around 11:30 a.m. we decided to go in and have a bite for lunch. About 1 p.m. we returned to the blind to hunt the rest of the evening. Around 2:30 p.m. Christian asked if he could use his grunt call that he had received the night before.
Christian grunted 3 or 4 times on his call, then followed it up by bleating like a doe on a can-type deer call that he also had in his arsenal of deer hunting gear.
Just a minute after Christian’s calling regime a young button buck walked out into the food plot to see what those sounds were. I quickly asked Christian if he wanted to harvest this deer, and without hesitating he answered “yes, yes, yes.”