In June of 2015 I was in the hospital for 3 weeks due to my pancreas failing. Unbeknownst to me a weak pancreas runs in my family and my enjoyment of adult beverages was something my body could not handle. During my time in the hospital I was in the ICU for 11 days on life support and in an induced semi-comatose state. There were many nights the doctors were only giving me a 50/50 chance to make it. Thanks to Lord, and prayers from family and friends, I recovered in a way my doctors described as a miracle. When I got out of the hospital I had lost 32 pounds and looked like shriveled version of my former self. My recovery was both physical and mental. The drugs they had me on during my stay greatly affected my memory. It is a very strange feeling to go to sleep in pain only wake up and not recognize your wife’s face, remember you in-law’s name, or recognize your own face in the mirror. Till this day there is still a blank spot in my mind of that whole ordeal and have trouble remembering things that happened the weeks following. Due to my lack of physical movement and great internal struggle I was also very weak. I couldn’t walk or stand for the first several days without help. I am, however, stubborn and strong and was determined to not only recover but to do so as quickly as possible and on my own terms. Which meant I wanted to go home and challenge myself.
For a man that once weighed over 200 pounds and full of strength, it was hard to fathom working out with 5 and 10-pound weights, let alone struggle with them. But my goal was clear. Come September I was going to be back in those woods. My main permanent consequence of my stay was my diet. As a result of my ailment I became type 1 diabetic and due to my scarred pancreas, I could no longer eat fatty foods. No more sweet tea, biscuits and gravy, ribeye’s, fried chicken, none of it. One type of red meat I could eat was venison, and I could eat as much as I wanted. This was considered “super food” for diabetics and gave me an even stronger drive and reason to hunt.
With the help and patience of my friends and wonderful family (especially my wife) I was fit enough to make it out opening day of deer season. That season was pretty rough on me. It took all summer to get up enough strength to even draw my 55 lb bow. I didn’t get to do my normal practice routine during the summer resulting in a flat out miss at 20 yards. I also was still struggling with strength and had to rely on my friends to help me, at times, carrying gear and the like. Of course, my hunting buddies were happy to help and were a great encouragement to me. Trying to help me get a good deer.
Everything came together on November 24th with only 15 minutes of light left. I was feeling particularly down that evening and was praying harder than normal for a buck to come by. Up to now my success in deer hunting was 1 spike buck I had shot the year before, nothing else in 18 years of trying. But after all the work I had put into just making it out there and the hardships of that year, my confidence was down to absolute zero and my self-pity at an all-time high. I remember feeling defeated and tired and almost to the point of giving up. Then with the light fading, like a ghost this deer appeared in the oat field I was watching. Instant anxiety hit and I couldn’t stop shaking. It was a buck and he had an actual rack instead of just 2 points. With my gun at the ready, I took very little time to put my crosshairs on him. As soon as he moved broadside I shot and he ran. He went leaping off a hill and I heard him crashing as he went down. Every shooter and hunter knows that feeling you get when you know your shot was bad. I had that feeling. My buddy was down the hill a few hundred yards away and heard shot. He instantly texted me. I still couldn’t stop shaking as I tried to relay what just happened. He responds with, “I see your deer. He’s still alive and his leg is broke. You want me to shoot him.” Being an ethical hunter, I instantly said “Yes. Don’t make him suffer.” It took 2 or 3 more shots before I finally got the text “He’s dead.”
There was no real tracking job and that buck was back at the house to skin out soon after sunset. He wasn’t huge and probably doesn’t score over 100 inches but he was an 8 pointer and the biggest I had ever shot. Turned out he was tough too. Not only did we shoot him multiple times but he had a previous injury. That injury left half of 1 of his backstraps gone and a backbone sticking out past his skin that had begun healing. My buddy (who’s property I was hunting) is a horror movie fanatic and is obsessed with zombies. Because of that and all that it took to finally kill this deer we called him the “zombie” deer and still get a good laugh from it.
The next several years have been good to me. My health is much better now and I’ve learned a lot about dealing with diabetes. I’ve also had some good successes hunting and I’ve learned a lot. I firmly believe had it not been for the support of family and friends and the challenge of hunting I would not have ever made it this far in my recovery. The exercise and comradery of hunting built my physical strength, and the peace and tranquility of the woods built my emotional and mental strength. A sport and a pastime became much more than that for me, and I will always have that drive and passion I had after my brush with death. It healed me on so many levels few will understand and I owe it to that sport to keep working and pushing myself every day and every year to stay with it. I hope to have many more stories to tell for many more years to come and can’t wait till I can teach my daughter this passion that I’ve learned. I’ve always loved the outdoors but now I can say that it has given back to me more than I could ever repay. For anyone who thinks that hunting is just a way to kill something or time, you are missing out on so much more. I hope someday you will discover just how healing God creation can truly be.