BY: Leon Blew
January 14, 2011 will be a day that I will remember for the rest of my life. I was fortunate enough to be the hunt greeter for the first Moment of Peace Adventures hunt since our incorporation in July of 2010. The last 6 months of work, including fundraisers, meetings, going out and getting donations, paper interviews and television interviews finally got a chance to come together and send a young man, with a severe illness and physical handicap, on a hunting trip. Our first recipient for an adventure would be Doug Fickel Jr. Doug and his family live in the Carlisle area of Pennsylvania.
Doug's illness is A-T which is Ataxia-telangiectasia. A-T is a very devastating disease that is like having muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, cerebral palsy and cancer all rolled into one. There are only 600 children in the United States that have been diagnosed with this type of disease. A-T is a very progressive disease that causes loss of muscle control, weakness, and various types of cancer and immune system problems. Doug is 16 years old and has had A-T since he was 5 years old. Doug also was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on December 5, 2008 and has undergone extensive treatment to fight both diseases. Doug's dad told me that Doug spent over 200 days in the hospital in 2009 and was in very serious condition a number of times. Doug receives chemo medications every day, 365 days a year. With all of Doug's problems he still loves to hunt and he and his dad are a fantastic pair. The way the two of them work together is absolutely amazing. Doug is confined to a wheelchair but with his dad's help he becomes mobile. The love between father and son was so evident, the commitment and dedication, to see that his son gets to enjoy his passion for the outdoors and hunting is unbelievable. Doug's dad will actually carry him on his back to get him around if the wheel chair is not useable in a particular instance. Doug Sr. carried young Doug on his back through 16" of snow just so Doug could fullfill his dream of taking a whitetail buck. Greg Krick, one of our cameramen, summed it up the best, if he could vote for the father of the year it would definitely be Doug Sr.
I met Doug Jr. for the first time at the Microtel Inn & Suite in Hazelton W. VA. What a great young man. We talked a little bit and I explained how the adventure would take place and then all of us went for dinner. At dinner we talked about the Phillies baseball and the Steelers football teams. After dinner we went back to the hotel and I got to talk to Doug and his dad about Doug's disease, hobbies, his likes, and his favorite things he would like to do. His favorite thing to do is to hunt. He has taken a 10 point Whitetail deer about 5 years ago. He has also taken a Moose, last Oct. in Maine, Turkey, Ram, and a Red Stag. He told me he would like to work with wildlife and takes a special wildlife-nature course at Cumberland Valley High School where he is in 10th grade. He loves to read and also loves his mother's homemade pot pie. I mentioned that I heard him say his favorite pro-teams were the Phillies and the Eagles. He left me know right away that it was the Steelers. He knew I was joking with him and that really brought a smile to his face. We talked about his Whitetail hunt that was to take place the next day and his face just lit up. I explained to Doug and his dad that it would only be one day, no matter what the outcome would be. Doug's condition makes him very tired and it is hard for him to do a two day hunt. He was so excited to be able to go on this hunt.
At 5:30 A.M. Doug was up and ready to go. We left the motel and headed out for a 20 minute drive to Gibbon Glade Whitetail Ranch. Gibbon Glade is owned by Chris Harbert and is a 211 acre hunters paradise in Gibbon Glade, Pa. The ranch is still in its construction stages as far as the lodge is concerned, but they have some great deer and beautiful country to hunt in. The area is wild forest, steep hills, and very thick brush. After a short meeting with Chris and Doug's guide, Mike, we got all the gear and camera equipment loaded. Doug's dad got him settled into the front seat of the gator, and along with his guide Mike, our two video men (Greg Krick and Chad Miller) and Doug's dad off they went to the morning stand.
The rest of the M.O.P.A. crew and Chris's staff waited at the lodge. While at the lodge, we had time to talk to the staff, other guides, and Chris. I found it amazing that the full staff of Gibbon Glade Whitetails was at this hunt even though they did not have to be there. They just wanted to be a part of this young man's adventure. Chris generously donated a buck and a doe whitetail for this hunt. We all knew it would be a tough hunt for Doug, due to his lack of mobility. With 16" of snow and the temperatures in the low 20s, we knew this would put any hunter to the test, but with Doug's positive attitude we certainly knew he would give it his best shot. About 10:30 we got a call that the young hunter was coming back to the lodge to get a warm up and be able to stretch out his legs. The medication that Doug is on reduces the circulation in his legs and no one wanted to take any chance of frost bite. While we were waiting, Doug's guide Mike went out scouting for some other areas where they wanted to set up for the evening hunt. Next thing we know in comes a very excited Mike and tells Doug that he found a group of 10 deer just down the trail behind the lodge. They packed up and off they went. Unfortunately, until they got to the location the deer moved and they could not get Doug in to position for a shot.
Doug and his hunting companions came back to the Lodge and Chris and his staff supplied lunch for everyone. We sat around the heater while Doug got a little rest. The usual deer camp stories were told. We got Doug to talk about the moose hunt and he just loved to sit there and talk about hunting with the guys. We found that it takes him a little while to get acquainted, but then he will open up and start talking with you, especially about hunting. Mike said that they would head out at 1:30 for the evening hunt, which would be in a different area. The new area showed lots of promising signs. The game plan was discussed and off they went. They would be using a ground blind in and area that had lots of deer sign, and Greg and Chad would film from another blind set up near the hunting party. The time from then on just seemed to go really slow for us waiting at the lodge. Guys going in and out trying to hear a shot. Needless to say, there was a lot of anticipation on our part. Around 3:30 we got a call from Mike and he left us know that they were starting to see some deer, but they were moving along the top of the hill and were too far away for Doug to get a shot. Mike and Doug really connected with each other and talked about hunting all afternoon, and Doug just loved it. Mike kept telling Doug to be ready, that this is a very good area and a lot of deer would be bedded down in the surrounding thickets. He told Doug about some of the bucks that were seen in this area and one in particular was known as The Club Buck, due to his rack. They told us that this deer looked like he had a baseball bat with points on his head. He would score in the 140 class. The Club Buck was seen earlier in the afternoon bedded within 250 yards of Doug's blind. Chris would go out with the gator throughout the day and look for the deer. The staff at Gibbon Glade was doing everything they could to try to locate this deer for Doug's hunt. Mike kept in contact with us, by phone, and as the evening settled in we thought maybe this would not be the day for Doug to get his buck. About 5:00 Mike texted a message to Chris and told him that the young 7 point buck, which was off limits to every hunter this past year, was in the area of the blind, and he wanted to know what Chris wanted him to do. You could see the anguish in Chris's face about the decision he had to make about letting, or not letting, this deer to be taken. After a few short minutes Chris gave Mike the OK for Doug to take the 7 pointer if he got a shot at him. Chris told us that the 7 pointer was a special deer he wanted to keep for breeding but decided that Doug would be allowed to take a shot as this deer. A few of us were standing outside about 15 minutes before quitting time when we heard a shot ring out from the direction of the stand being used by Doug. Our hearts jumped and we waited, very anxiously, for the call. We finally got the call that Doug shot at the 7 pointer, but missed. We were all hoping so much that the call would be different. As the hunters came back we gathered around the gator to offer our support and let Doug know that we all missed a deer at some time in our lives. The excitement in his face and his commitment that he still had a great day was more than we could have imagined. Doug's dad got him out of the gator and carried him inside of the lodge. You could see how tired this young man was, but his attitude was the same way as it was at 7:00 A.M.
Doug and his dad thanked everyone for, as they stated, a truly wonderful day. We all commented about how tough this young man is. How many hunters, and especially young hunters, would have spent 8-9 hours sitting in a blind, in 16" of snow with the temperature in the 20s, a missed shot and still have a smile, from ear to ear, on their face. Doug and his dad are two people that I or any other person there that day will ever forget. Saturday January 15, 2011 will be instilled in my memory forever. A special THANK YOU Chris Harbert-owner Gibbon Glade Whitetail Ranch and his staff. Mike. Doug's guide at Gibbon Glade, Greg Krick and Chad Miller for the videography and all the members and sponsors of Moment of Peace Adventures.