As we close out
another hunting season I hope everyone realizes how blessed and fortunate we
are to live in a country where we can enjoy all that the creator has given us.
I think so many of us take for granted the every day little things that make us
who we are like hunting and fishing.
I recently had
the opportunity to share some hunting memories while guiding a couple of
returning war vets. One was a four-tour Viet Nam vet from the navy Petty
Officer Jack Hodgkinson who was on a riverboat from 1967 through 1969. And the
other was a recently returning soldier from Iraq specialist Guy Kessler.
At a big outdoor
show in Fort Worth
earlier in the year my partner Craig Jacoby and I donated a couple of deer
hunts to a foundation called the ?Coalition for Returning War Heroes?. We
thought it was the least we could do to show our appreciation for the people
who are responsible for our rights as Americans. We really didn?t know what we
were getting into and were just looking to pay our respects in our own little
way. We were contacted by a couple of people representing some TV hunting shows
and asked if we would be interested in letting them film these guys to gain a
little more recognition for their cause. Of course we were interested in
helping in any way we could and thus, set forth the wheels in motion for
getting ?Double Bull Outdoors TV? and Ted Nugent?s ?Spirit of the
Wild? producers to set things up.
We were excited
at the advertising possibilities this could bring to our brand new business and
were looking forward to the day we could begin this production. I have to admit
I looked past our initial cause to the limelight that being on national
television holds for our hunting ranch. And even after the soldiers and the film
crew arrived the mission had changed from showing respect and gratitude to
getting good footage of some great bucks.
When we were
first introduced to our guests I met a couple of ordinary people who shared a
similar interest, hunting. Jack is working in an archery/outdoors shop in Oklahoma City and has
been bow hunting for quite some time. His memories of his time in Viet Nam have
been softened by years of time gone past while Guy?s memories are as painful as
if they happened yesterday. Guy Kessler of Kentucky was on a mission in Falujha
patrolling the town. He was on a roof with a couple of his team when a mortar
round blew up beside him. He took a lot of shrapnel and concrete throughout his
body and still has a bit inside him that couldn?t be removed. His demeanor was
quite different than Jacks. He answered questions with one word answers. He
almost never looked up at you but always to the ground in an almost submissive
posture. His experience in the deer hunting field was also very limited and had
never killed a deer before. Guy would have a little trouble using a compound
bow so he would be using a crossbow instead. And of course he had never shot a
It was clear that
our work was going to cut out for us if both these guys were going to be
successful but we were definitely up to the task.
Time was going to
be our biggest hurdle but we had everything in place leading up to this project
and all we would need is the cooperation of the weather. Double Bull blinds sent a few of their famous ground
blinds in to be set up ahead of time and all we needed to do was get into
position and have the deer come in for a shot.
As luck would
have it a major cold front would blow in on us the very first day dropping the
daytime highs from the 60s into the 30s and nighttime low on the first morning
of 20 degrees. The morning hunt went well with several different bucks showing
up to be filmed but not close enough for a shot. Jack was sitting in a blind
with the independent media coordinator Tony Dukes of Fort Worth and I would be filming and guiding
specialist Kessler until the regular cameraman could make it in from another
project. Sitting in a close quarters blind with someone for several hours you
can probably imagine that the awkwardness would begin wearing off just a little
bit. And it did, especially after the deer began coming in on us. Guy had never
been in this situation before and was overwhelmed by so many deer coming in at
such close range. We had a couple of axis does come in that offered a shot
opportunity that I was going to let him try for. He was very calm and collected
until I told him to get the bow up in position for a shot. He then proceeded to
go through the motion that I?m certain every hunter feels on first shot.
Pounding heart, heavy breathing and shaking to the point of making me nervous
for him. I adjusted the camera for the shot and gave him the OK. When he
finally shot his aim was off and the arrow went harmlessly into the grass. He
looked at me and said ?man?that was great?. Needless to say that this scared
away any chances for a further shot so we headed back to the cabins for lunch.
back to camp each hunter shared stories of the morning?s happenings and we
began to see a little change coming on in Guy. By the time we were to head out
for the evening hunt he was up and ready. After learning that the cameraman was
still going to be tied up on another project for the weekend I was once again
nominated for this position.
That evening we
had numerous encounters with mature bucks that just wouldn?t give us a decent
shot. There were over 20 deer in front of us at one point and we just couldn?t
get a clear chance at one of two bucks that Guy really wanted to take.
Viet Nam Vet Jack Hodgkinson with nice buck
We returned back
to camp to find out that Jack and Tony had shot a very nice buck in their
stand. As soon as we got the news we headed up to their location to help in
locating the deer. By the time we arrived Craig, Tony and Jack had already
found him and were in the process of filming a nighttime recovery. Jack was
just elated. This was his biggest buck ever with a bow and a very powerful
moment for everyone there. The joy and appreciation on Jacks face was
priceless. This seasoned veteran of war was just about in tears with accomplishment.
Neither Craig nor I realized what an impact this had on him and therefore, us.
spread to Guy as well. He began to see and feel what this deer hunting was
really all about. He didn?t say a lot that night but he didn?t have to. He knew
it was just a matter of time before it was his turn at bat.
The next morning
we were back in the blind watching deer after deer coming through and once
again nothing presented itself. His patience was admirable. Not once did he
complain or ask why or want to do something different. He just sat quietly and
took it all in. After taking a lunch break we were back in the blind early. He
just couldn?t wait to get back in the game and felt like we were going to miss
something. Finally, right before dark, I could see a dandy buck approaching
with the help of my Nikon binoculars. Right
away I told Guy it was a shooter and to get his bow up and ready.
The wind had
changed direction on us with another front approaching and we had already discussed
that we were going to get one chance at a deer before he get downwind.
As the buck
approached I had already turned the camera on and was in perfect position for a
full shoulder shot of him. Guy was to my left and some brush blocked his view.
With his bow in position and ready I was surprised at how calm and collected he
seemed. The deer had come across us at 28 yards away and was beginning to walk
again. I made a soft grunt noise to stop the deer just before he stepped out of
the cameras view. The big 10 point just stopped, looked in our direction and
posed for a beautiful broadside shot. Everything was perfect as I waited and
waited and waited for Guy to pull the trigger. Just then the buck dropped his
head and began to take a step when I heard the pop of the string and the
unmistakable sound of a broadhead cutting through flesh.The big buck jumped and took off with a tell
tale gait of a hard hit deer. I turned to Guy and he just sat there with his mouth
open as if he didn?t know what had just happened. Then the first thing out of
his mouth was ?Did I get him?? I looked at him in reassurance and told him he
just nailed good one.
After getting out
of the blind and finding the blood soaked arrow in the grass right behind the
deer, we decided to review the tape to see just where the arrow went in. On the
small view screen of the camcorder we couldn?t tell so we thought we would go
back to camp to pull it up on the big screen. When we arrived everyone else was
already there and we all reviewed the tape together. When the impact shot was
seen on the screen and you could see the Magnus
Broadhead disappear behind the deer?s shoulder everyone erupted in a
victory scream. They just couldn?t believe this could be taking place.
With the temperature
already around 20 degrees and the forecast low of around 10 degrees we decided
to wait until morning for the recovery. That night we went to a local steak
house to celebrate. The atmosphere was as positive as I?ve ever seen. The
camaraderie that we had was as close as if we?d known each other a lifetime and
the memories of their troubled past were as distant as if they?d never
Iraqi Vet Guy Kessler with his super 10 point
The next morning
revealed a cold, crisp bite outside that hurt uncovered skin. We began our
search just after daybreak and immediately picked up a blood trail. After
following blood for a lot farther than we expected Craig spotted the big
10-point on a grassy flat. Craig and I were first to the deer followed closely
by Tony and Guy. The look on Guys face told the story. Stunned and amazed at
his trophy he was almost reluctant to come up to it. Wrapping his hands around
the antlers of his first whitetail buck will be a memory he?ll take to his
several different recovery scenes we finally loaded the buck up and headed in
to the headquarters.
Back at camp came
the caping, quartering and packing up the meat. Guy was eager to jump in and
help. He was joking and cutting up along with everyone there. It was hard to
believe that just two days earlier we couldn?t get a word out of him much less
a smile. Jack too was on a high that couldn?t be grounded. It was a special
moment for all of us.
Tony Dukes uses his BowTech to Double Bulls another buck
Later that day we
had a camp full of other hunters arriving and the returning war heros were packed
up and headed for home. Tony was to return a couple of weeks later and get a
magnificent trophy himself on film. The big 11 point put the topping on what is
sure to be a very successful show for ?Double Bull Outdoors? and possibly ?The
Spirit of the Wild? TV programs. But much more important than that is the fact
that we played a little part in helping a couple of our nations finest people
forget about the past and indulge in the freedoms that they helped create.
I?ll never forget
the proud feeling Craig and I both share for being a part of something this great sport has given us.And never again will I take it for granted
the freedoms and luxuries we have because of men like Jack Hodgkinson and Guy