The Hunter Story

The Hunter Story – A worthy read!

HUNTER WEAVER WITH LUCKY ROCK AND CHUCK RACKLEY

The hunting story that I am about to tell you is one filled with compassion, perseverance, determination, and love. It is about a father who is very devoted to his son and is not going to give up until he puts his son in a position to harvest his first whitetail buck. The father’s name is Blane Weaver and the son’s first name is Hunter. The father and son team are from Birmingham, Alabama. Named from birth to be his fathers hunting partner, Hunter’s enthusiasm and dogged determination to harvest his first buck was both humbling and awe inspiring. From missing a large buck, to sitting through a 4 hour rain storm without complaining, to a beautiful fall afternoon where Hunter finally harvested his first whitetail deer, this experience was one that everyone involved will remember for the rest of our lives.

The story starts six years ago when Hunter was diagnosed with a terminal illness called Duchene Muscular Dystrophy. DMD is a neuromuscular muscle wasting disease that causes muscle deterioration and weakness that leads to a premature death, with a life expectancy of early to late teens. Hunter’s last day to walk was on his ninth birthday but despite being confined to a wheel chair, Hunter has never lost his desire and determination to harvest a whitetail buck.

Blane started taking Hunter to the woods when he was nine but the property he had access to did not offer Hunter a shot at a deer. Blane started carrying Hunter deeper into the woods to try to put him in a better position to harvest an animal but it never happened.

Hunter’s story found it is way to a taxidermist out of Hueytown, Alabama by the name of Chuck Rackley. Chuck is one of the areas premier taxidermists and he is involved with helping children fulfillĀ  their dreams. Chuck contacted a friend of his, Richard Cribbs, who owned a high fenced area right outside of Camden, Alabama and Richard readily agreed to offer an animal that Hunter could harvest

After a lot of planning the trip was scheduled to take place on December 18 of 2003. It is a two-hour drive to Camden from Birmingham and the plan was to get the whole crew out to the stand by 1:00 pm in the afternoon. Chuck, Blane, and Hunter loaded up for the trip in their van. A man and wife hunting team that would hunt the ranch at the same time they were hunting followed along in their truck. Shortly after the trip started the couple phoned Blane and told them their truck quit running. Blane turned around, went to help the couple load all of their equipment into the van, and again started towards the hunting grounds. Everyone was getting really excited about the trip and before they knew it, they had passed the exit by mistake and driven an extra ten miles in the wrong direction. They turned around as soon as they could and laughed about the comedy of errors that was taking place. It was not over yet. When they were almost to the ranch, they heard a tire blow out. They pulled the van over but all of the tires were good. When they looked at Hunter’s wheelchair, they discovered that for no reason one of the tires had blown out. Now is this part of Alabama there are not a lot of places that can fix a wheelchair flat. As they drove closer to the ranch, they were blessed with a store that proclaimed “We Fix All Flats”. When Blane went inside the man said that he could indeed fix the tire and shortly they were on their way.

After arriving at the ranch and having Chuck introduce everyone, Richard was anxious to get the group out to the stand sight. Richard’s property consists of 850 acres of beautiful hardwoods with intermixed green fields to attract and feed the deer. The entire acreage is high fenced and contains both whitetail deer and several exotic species.

Richard had constructed a ground blind under one of his large box stands by nailing sheets of plywood around the support legs. He then added plywood on the ground for the wheelchair to enter and provide a stable hunting platform.

A camouflaged draping was installed behind the hunters so we would not be skylined by the animals when they come out onto the field. Richard had left this particular green field unhunted just for Hunter and had been spotting nice deer there every evening. Everyone was excited that this would be the day that Hunter would fulfill a life-long dream.

It was 3:00 pm before we reached the stand and Richard had been seeing the deer come onto the field around 4:00 pm. At 4:20 the first deer appeared on the field and starting eating about 100 yards away. There were several spike bucks and they slowing fed towards the rear of the field. At around 4:45 three rack bucks entered from the rear of the field, about 190 yards away, with the largest having seven points. Hunter was witnessing his first sight of mature whitetail bucks in the wild. While Hunter was calming looking at the deer Blane and Chuck’s hearts were about to burst from their chest. While the adults were discussing which buck they wanted to harvest the trio of rack bucks suddenly raised their heads from feeding and moved closer to the blind. We thought they were simply feeding to the middle of the field but they were actually making room for a very large eight-point buck to enter the field. Obviously, the dominant buck on the field Blane and Chuck’s decision was quickly made for them by the sheer size of the buck and his rack.

They had all dreamed about this buck. As the cameras came to life, everyone was scrambling to get into position to make the shot. As Blane moved behind Hunter it seemed no one in the blind was breathing. The big buck began feeding to our left and was about 190 yards away. Because of Hunter’s limitations, he has trouble seeing through his scope.

Blane had mounted a red-dot scope on Hunter’s rifle but this type of scope is limited to around 50 to 75 yards field of vision. With the deer so far away, Hunter and Blane were struggling to get a good sight picture. As the deer was feeding to the left, he was getting closer to disappearing over a rise in the field. Blane finally centered the red-dot onthe deer and Hunter pulled the trigger. The deer ran about ten yards and stopped. As the deer stood looking around, Blane realized the shot had gone high and the deer was in a perfect position for a follow-up shot. Hunter quickly centered the red-dot on the side of the deer and pulled the trigger for the second time. This time the deer jumped up and took off running. Everyone thought that Hunter had made a good shot because as the deer took off he slipped and stumbled several times before he was out of sight.

It was not meant to be. After several hours of intense search, no sign of a wounded animal was found. After hours of frame-by-frame review of the tape, Chuck determined that the first shot was high and the second shot was low. Chuck could actually see dirt fly up from under the deer and hit his body and the slipping evidently happened due to the wet soil conditions. The miss was confirmed two days later when Richard spotted the deer entering the field late in the evening. Everyone was disappointed about the miss but also relieved that the deer was not wounded to die in the field. Another hunt was offered by Richard and was readily agreed upon by the hunters. It was tentatively scheduled for after New Years.

David Sullivan, who heads the BuckMaster’s disabled hunting division, contacted Blane to see how the hunt went. When Blane told him how they had the opportunity but missed due to sighting issues, David told him to contact Ricky Hope with Wildlife Optics. Ricky has developed a sighting aid device called the TrophyShot which David was sure would correct the sighting problems that caused the miss. Blane contacted Ricky and a hunt was agreed on with Ricky providing a TrophyShot for Hunter to use. The hunt date was January 19 and everyone was looking forward to helping Hunter harvest his deer.

hunter w rick
Hunter Weaver, his lucky rock, his buck and Ricky Hope!

As Saturday morning of the 19th rolled around the forecast was for major rainstorms to happen all day long. As Ricky left Baton Rouge at around 5:00 am the moisture-laden clouds was just starting to unleash its payload. The front was moving from the east to the west, the direction Ricky was driving, and soon he was past the leading edge of the front and in clouding weather. The conditions remained the same for the five-hour trip and when Ricky arrived around 10:00 am everyone was waiting. After initial introductions Ricky set about installing the TrophyShot on the gun so

Hunter could test fire it before we all went to the blind. A target was set up at 100 yards and as everyone in the camp watched, Hunter slowly squeezed the trigger. As Richard retrieved the target and brought it to Hunter, the group was ecstatic that the shot was within two inches of dead center.We talked about how we wanted to set up the hunt and at 12:30 we left the lodge to get positioned in the stand. By 1:00 we were settled and it started a slow drizzling rain. The overhead stand offered a little protection but we were still getting wet. As the time slipped by, the rain increased and the temperature dropped. Blane continually told Hunter that the deer would come out at any minute but Hunter was not the least bit fazed by the inclement weather or the lack of deer. Finally, at 4:20 a whitetail doe entered the field and began feeding. Shortly thereafter, two more whitetail does enter the field and joined the first one feeding. After watching the three deer for a short time, it was obvious that there were other animals in the woods because all of the deer kept looking were they had entered the field.

At 5:15, all of the deer looked up at the same time and then left the field. With the light fading fast and the rain increasing, we thought the hunt was over. Just as we decided to end the hunt Hunter caught movement from the side of the field so we all froze. Out walked a large red stag deer that had a six by six rack. Other red stag followed the big buck and within five minutes, the field held seven red stag bucks, with large racks, and two red deer does. We filmed all of these beautiful animals until it was too dark to hunt and then had to run them off the field when we starting leaving the blind.

As Richard picked us up at the blind and drove back to the camp, one thing kept sticking out in my mind about the hunt that I had just witnessed. It was Hunter’s quiet enthusiasm and determination to harvest his first buck. Never once did he complain about either the horrible weather or the lack of deer activity. Of the three adults in blind, we all would have gladly given up much earlier. This unrestrained commitment to the successful completion of his goal inspires everyone around him to do what is necessary to make it happen. While we relived the hunt in the warm and dry comfort of Richard’s camp we all starting planning the next attempt. There were only two weekends left to hunt so Richard and Blane decided that the next Friday would be a good day to make another effort. I quickly agreed and Chuck said he would do all he could to get free from work.

As I loaded the truck for the drive back to Alabama, I was excited about the crystal clear skies and temperature that was close to the 50-degree mark. I knew that if these conditions held, Hunter would realize his dream today. Upon arriving at the ranch and talking with Richard, the rest of the hunting party drove up. We could not wait to get in the stand and Richard had us setup by 2:00 pm. Chuck decided that he would hunt in the upper portion of the stand so he could see over the slight rise on the left side of the field. With the weather cooperating we knew the deer would move and at 4:00 our efforts starting paying off. We kept in touch by walkie-talkies and Chuck told us that a nice six-point buck was in the field to our left. We could not see him because he was behind the rise but we went on high alert.

After ten long minutes of waiting for the deer to feed over the rise, Hunter suddenly told his Dad that another deer was entering the rear of the field. It was a five-point that had a well-formed left side but an underdeveloped right side. As we watched this young deer slowly walk towards us, Chuck radioed us and said that the six-point had spotted the smaller deer and left the field. After some quick discussion, it was decided that, if given the opportunity, Hunter should harvest the deer that was feeding towards us.

As the deer fed towards us, it picked up the scent that Blane had put in the middle of the field and started walking towards us. As the deer walked within 80 yards of the stand, he turned broadside to the stand and walked directly to the scent pad. Right before he reached the scent, he quickly lifted his head and looked right at us. We all held our breath and finally he moved his head down to smell the scent pad. Blane gripped Hunter’s hand and helped him steady the crosshairs right behind the shoulders. Hunter and Blane slowly pulled the trigger and the 7mm-08 rifle roared. The deer jumped straight up in the air, landed on his hind feet, took another long jump, and ran at light speed out of the field. Blane, Hunter, and I held our breath until Chuck radioed us from above excitedly exclaiming, “He’s down, He’s down”.

Without a doubt, Blane, Chuck and myself where happier than Hunter that he had harvested his first buck. Hunter was beaming with a grin that could melt your heart. It was clear to all of the adults that it did not matter to Hunter that his first buck was a small 5pt. What mattered most to Hunter was the fact that he had achieved a goal in his life regardless of situation. While we took pictures and video to memorialize the moment, you could not have found a happier group of people anywhere on earth. The satisfaction of being involved in a lifetime quest of this nature cannot be measured in dollar values. I came away realizing that no one could invest money or time in one of these adventures without coming away feeling that the investment was miniscule compared to the return.

The entire experience hit me like a ton of bricks when we arrived at camp to show off Hunter’s trophy. Everyone was coming out of the camp to congratulate Hunter and Blane was lifting Hunter out of the cab of the truck. I was filming the event and just as Hunter was picked up, he whispered in his father’s ear, “I’m a deer hunter”. I can find no words that express the true feelings that runs through a father, with a son the same age as Hunter, witnesses such an event. I could feel the love that Hunter has for his father and Blane has for his son. This experience was a blessing to me and I am very glad that I was a part of it.

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