This was also the year Tyler collected his first deer, a beautiful six-point buck. Tyler was born with arthrogryposis, a congenital disorder characterized by muscle weakness and fibrosis.
“That was one of the most excited I have ever been,” Tyler told the crowd that had gathered around him after arriving back at camp with his trophy.
“I would rather do this than hunt myself,” his guide added with a look of pride as he hoisted his young hunter’s buck onto the game pole.
Hunt coordinator Brad Rozzi summed it up by saying, “I think many of us reach a point in our lives when we are not concerned about taking deer ourselves. It becomes more important to help children experience the wonderful world of ethical hunting, especially when they are special needs children.”
Unlike some other sporting activities where the emphasis is on aggressiveness, competitiveness, and that famous three letter word WIN, this activity is focused on having fun while enjoying the therapeutic benefits of being outdoors.
Too many times, we as adults dwell on the pressures and stress inherent in our everyday lives. Yet there are children, like Noah and Tyler, who deal with the utmost in challenges — every single day. They didn’t ask for it nor do they deserve it, still they welcome each and everyday as a gift. Their zest for life is infectious. If only everyone could witness it.
Although I have visited Freedom Hunt since the inaugural event, I continue to be humbled and find myself doing the same thing every year. Detached from the crowd I take a few moments to enjoy the cool breeze blowing through the autumn woods, soak in the picturesque beauty of the natural surroundings and revel in the distant laughter and sharing of stories. It is then I realize I am witnessing much more than a hunting camp for special needs children. What I am really taking in is the honor of being around a group of great people, doing great things for even greater children.
John Martino is an outdoors columnist. He may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.