While most of America was locked in a
battle to see who would lead our country for the next 4 years another
battle not many knew about played out in the woods in northern Michigan.
12-year old Justin Hermansen was out
matching wits with some of Michigans whitetail deer. He sat
quietly stroking the stock of the specially made .243 that just hours
before he had rechecked the scope on at a nearby range. Justin knew
the special gun would do the job if it were called upon, he only hoped
his nerves would hold out as well should his dream materialize from
the swamp below. Justins guide Bill Klein sat next to him and
smiled as he watched Justin and shared in his anticipation. Bill hoped
the big 8-point he had been watching would show up and give this special
boy a chance for a decent shot.
As time ticked by Justin was acutely
aware of every sound and movement outside the blind strategically
located to take advantage of the heavily used trails coming from the
swamp to the feeding area. Bill had seen the big eight several times
over the last few days and Justin wanted to be ready should he show
again. Squirrels chattered, blue jays squawked and chickadees flew
here and there as evening crept into the November woods. There was
a chill in the air but Justin barely noticed as the adrenaline of
being on his first hunt helped to keep him warm.
Suddenly there was some movement down
in the swamp and Justin focused on it hoping beyond hope the big buck
was coming out. As Justin watched with his heart pounding and ready
to burst from his jacket a nice doe slowly made her way toward the
feeding area. Justin was ready but the doe was safe for now, it was
the buck he was after. The doe fed near Justin for several minutes
and his heart rate finally slowed to a somewhat normal rate. He watched
her as she flicked her tail and occasionally looked around checking
her surroundings. Justin had never been this close to a deer in the
wild and he marveled at her beauty and the smoothness of her winter
All of a sudden the doe snapped her head
around and looked back into the swamp where she had come from. Bill
noticed movement on the trail and warned Justin to be ready there
may be another deer coming out. Soon the flickers of gray became the
body of a deer and a big one at that. Justin and Bill strained hard
to see if it was the big eight but the deer stood stock still with
its head hidden by a cedar tree. Bill was sure it was the 8-point
by the size of the deer and its coloring but he had to be sure
before Justin raised his gun. Justin noticed he was holding his breath
and slowly let it out. His heart pounded wildly as he wondered if
this was his buck. Still the deer stood still.
After what seemed like a lifetime to
Justin the deer started moving again and as it did he and Bill both
saw at the same time that yes this was the 8-point Bill had been scouting.
Justins excitement got the best of him and he started breathing
way to fast. Bill quietly whispered to him the instructions they had
gone over earlier. Deep breaths Justin, deep breaths, let them
out slowly. Justin closed his eyes and tried to slow his breathing
but it was hard. He focused harder knowing he had to calm down or
he wouldnt be able to make a good shot on the buck he wanted
so badly. The crunching leaves told him the buck was getting closer
and would soon be in position for a good shot. Justin slowly opened
his eyes and tried to remember everything Bill had told him. Wait
for the deer to turn broadside, Aim just behind the front shoulder,
dont look at the rack, take a deep breath and let it out slowly,
squeeze the trigger, dont jerk it Dang theres so
much for a 12-year old to remember!!!
As the buck cleared a small pine tree
Justin settled the crosshairs just behind the front shoulder as Bill
had told him. Bill whispered for Justin to shoot whenever he was ready
and as he did the .243 roared. The buck jumped and ran hard back into
the swamp from where he had come. Justin couldnt believe it.
He had missed. As the buck disappeared and he sat there wondering
what went wrong Bill started slapping him on the back and telling
him GREAT SHOT, GREAT SHOT but he had missed hadnt
he? The buck got away. What was Bill talking about? Why was he smiling
and so excited?
Bill laughed when he saw the puzzled
look on Justins face and assured him that he had in fact made
a good shot on the buck and he should be down just inside the swamp.
Justin trusted Bill but still he wondered how the buck could run so
hard if he had made a good shot. They gathered their gear and slowly
made their way to where the buck had been standing. Once there Bill
showed Justin some hair on the ground and just a few feet away was
a spray of bright red blood. Now Justins heart started pounding
again and his excitement grew, he had hit the deer, the deer of his
Bill let Justin take the lead as they
followed the blood trail down toward the swamp. It was a good steady
trail and as they easily followed it Justin could barely contain himself.
He knew his buck lay somewhere just ahead. After trailing about 70
yards Justin saw something lying in the brush just off the trail ahead.
It looked like an antler but he wasnt sure. Justin and Bill
slowly moved forward and there in front of them lay Justins
buck. He had indeed made a great shot and had taken the deer clean
through the heart. Justins dream had come true.
Like many 12-year olds this was to be
Justins first year hunting here in Michigan but it didnt
look like he would have the chance. Chemo, radiation treatments, doctor
appointments and surgeries had kept him from having that chance. The
tumor in his brain had been removed but God had other plans and it
came back. More chemo and radiation treatments kept it at bay for
a while but now Justin and his family just wait. All they have left
now is time as surgery cant be done again and his body wont
take another round of chemo.
Thanks to the help we get from people
like you and places like Deer Tracks Ranch, for a few days Justin
got to live his dream. He had the chance to feel the anticipation
and excitement of his first hunt and he felt that heart pounding rush
we all feel when we encounter nature up close on its terms.
He had the chance to trail his own deer and to kneel quietly next
to it and thank God for his graces. Its because of all of you
Justin and his family will have a cherished memory to help get them
through the tough times ahead. Its because of you Justin had
the chance for a few days to forget the battle he faces and just be
a 12-year old boy enjoying the out doors we all love so much.
Sleep well tonight for youve helped
to make a young boy smile.
May all of your quivers be full and the
winds in your face, God Bless.
Steve Pray, Benefit4Kids
B4K Notes: Justin's hunt was donated
in part by Deer Tracks Ranch
in Fife Lake, MI.
Justin's travel expenses were covered by Benefit4Kids and his taxidermy
was donated by Oakridge Taxidermy of Waterford, MI.