CSF Special Youth Challenge events have been hosted in several states across the nation including Georgia, Arkansas, Montana, Texas, Michigan, etc. The article below is from an event hosted by Legends Ranch in Michigan.
Special Youth Challenge for Some Very Special Kids
The annual National Special Youth Challenge Deer Hunt was once again held at Legends Ranch in Bitely, Michigan by SCI member Skipper Bettis and his staff of highly energetic guides. According to Skipper, “Young sportsmen with physical limitations are only handicapped if we tell them that they are handicapped. When other sportsmen pitch in with their time, talent and resources great obstacles are overcome in the sport of hunting by each bright and talented teenager.”
Michigan’s largest managed whitetail hunting operation has almost five square miles of prime habitat where the weekend event produced exceptional whitetail trophies for eight special youngsters while their parents and guests looked on with great fanfare. The overwhelmingly “can do” atmosphere continued from Friday’s early arrival until Sunday’s teary eyed departure providing all the encouragement that was needed to help make a lifetime wish come true.
Conceived in 1998, following the SCI Sportsmen’s Prayer Breakfast hosted by Christian Sportsmen’s Fellowship, Int’l., candidates have been accepted for this special hunt from across the nation including Montana, Oklahoma, Texas, Georgia, Idaho, Florida, and Michigan. Many similar statewide events are being held annually by local chapters of Christian Sportsmen’s Fellowship with the much appreciated help of local SCI chapters who share the vision and desire to make a positive difference in the lives of young aspiring sportsmen.
Past SCI president, Vern Edewaard, from Holland Michigan invited thirteen year old Nick VanderWall to join us this year. Nick suffered a tragic hunting accident while woodcock hunting with his Dad and several friends. As the birds were flushing a fellow hunter accidentally discharged a round that struck Nick in the chest, neck and face. Several pellets caused him to lose 95% of his sight leaving him with only slight vision in his right eye. In spite of this occurrence, both Dianne and Curt VanderWall of Ludington, Michigan along with Nick’s younger brother and sister have not wavered in their deep Christian faith. According to Nick’s mother, Diane, “In all things God works together for the good of those who love the Lord and are called to His purposes.”
One early September morning Nick’s guide, Jim Angott, helped him to aim his .243 Remington rifle with red dot scope and external beam precisely on the targeted vitals to score his first trophy whitetail. The 110 yard shot dropped the 165 pound eight point whitetail in his tracks.
His Legends Ranch guide commented afterward while sitting around the breakfast table, “Nick sees more clearly than many other teenagers with 20/20 vision. He sees with his heart, mind and faith like no other hunter that I have ever guided. During our first stalk Nick very perceptively picked up the sound of a large buck approaching us from behind.” He added, “Nick is touching the lives of so many around him everyday.” Nick told us that his vision is very obscured. “I only see shadows along with slight lightness and darkness. But I am looking forward to taking a nice Ram next week in Kingsley, Michigan where I have been invited to join another outfitter and guide.”
Skipper Bettis stated, “I have come to the realization that many hunters who can see very clearly have lost their vision of the true hunting experience. Prior to launching this national forum I did not realize that I was blind in the past because my focus was on taking big game trophies rather than enjoying the great outdoors as intended by our creator. We intended for this weekend to be our gift to these young sportsmen, but the reality is that they have become a gift to our Legends staff, their sponsors and CSF.”
The Special Youth Challenge was video taped by Kevin Krueger of Outdoor Expeditions International for airing on the Outdoor Life Network to a potential audience of 55 million homes. Also, Jim Clinton of Wildheart Outdoors was on hand to produce a television show for airing on The Outdoor Channel. Such television exposure not only honors special aspiring young sportsmen but also promotes a very positive aspect of our sport to a sometimes very negative anti-hunting audience.