Wheelin’ with Jamie can be life changing

Published 2:41 pm Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A couple of months ago Joe Woods, NWTF Regional Director, called me and ask if I would consider being a celebrity host to a young man or woman at a Wheelin’ Sportsman event at the Bass Pro Shops in Pearl, Ms.

It was the youth deer hunting weekend and I would just be coming back form a week of hunting and fishing in the Delta, but I accepted to be a guide, thank God I did.

Arriving at the Bass Pro Shop I was already tired and did not know what to expect. I was greeted by many other old and new friends from the outdoor media world and it was great to see them again. We were off to eat dinner and be paired with our hunting partner.

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At the dinner I met a young man named Jamie Mangum from Cleveland Ms. Jamie is 14 years old and has Cerebral Palsy and with his love for rodeo and outdoors, it gave us common ground to build on. Jamie and I talked during the dinner and just as if it was in a movie script, we were paired to hunt together, absolutely at random.

After the dinner and auction I was off to Noble Lee’s camp at Wildwood with one of my new friends Shaw Grisby. Shaw and I were both glad to get some shut-eye and luckily we were the only two guides sleeping in the camp. Just a footnote to this line, if you are looking for a great fishing role model for your children, you can not do any better than Shaw Grisby.

The next morning found us up and ready to go at 4:45, not knowing what was about to happen in our lives. As the young folks started coming to the camp, I wondered to myself how we were going to get this pulled off, I had already discounted what God could and would do. The hunting was tough and it took all weekend for Jamie and me to make a connection with his first deer. The story is to long and would be hard to understand the emotion unless you were there.

To sit in a ground blind with Jamie and tell jokes, talk about our families, likes and dislikes was a blessing in itself. To see what Jamie has to go through just to get to the blind, humbled me greatly and I truly became overwhelmed with a sense of guilt for feeling like I had problems.

Jamie did ultimately take his first deer on Sunday Morning at 10:05 with the help of another new friend, Mike Autry. Mike was our guide at Wildwood and his camp called Sherman Hill Hunting Club is where Jamie took his deer.

Mike made many personal sacrifices, as did many of the members of Sherman Hill and Wildwood, to ensure that the kids and guides were all comfortable and had a great hunt. With all the work and pressure of getting us on deer, it was fitting that Mike was with Jamie when he took the yearling buck.

After a lot of whooping, crying and photos, we were off to Bass Pro Shop for the Sunday devotional time.

Jamie was able to testify at what the weekend meant to him. There was not a dry eye in the house as Jamie and several of the 26 participants made their way to the front and told their story. Of the 26 participants, 15 took their first deer, it was truly moving.

I can say, for me, it was life changing and gave me a new perspective on everyday life. It deepened my love for family and friends and keeps my mind on what is really important in life, people. I have been able to work with organizations in the past, but not be able to spend the weekend with one of these special young folks.

Everyone hated to see it come to an end. For the first Wheelin” Sportsman’s Ultimate Celebrity Team-Up Youth Hunt, it was awesome. The logistics nightmare in doing one of theses events at a Bass Pro Shop was thought to be impossible, but Steve Thomas, Regional Director for Wheelin’ Sportsmen, is staff, volunteers and the Bass Pro Shop employees pulled it off.

I look forward to attending next year and seeing my buddy Jamie and hopefully getting to hunt with him.

The Wheelin Sportsman Program is under the umbrella of the National Wild Turkey Foundation.

For more information go to NWTF.org and click Wheelin’ Sportsman. Life is good and we are blessed so as always, get outdoors and enjoy what God has given us.