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Johnny-Dream Hunt

Johnny is the 13th recipient of a dream hunt through Hunt of a Lifetime.

Hunt of a Lifetime

Johnny was Hunt of a Lifetimes 13th recipient of a trip.

 

Dear Hunt of a Lifetime,

          Thank you for all the things you did. My dad & me had a great time in Canada. On the first day I hunted. We saw a bear but I moved and it ran away. The second, third, and fourth day we did not see anything. Then on the fifth day a bear came in and took my crossbow case in the woods and ripped it up. Then she came in again and took it further into the woods and ripped it up some more. She came in again about 6:30 p.m. and ate for about ten minutes. I was sighted in at this point so then she sat down and I shot. It was a double lung shot and she went only about 40 yards. I was so excited. The next day then skinned it and I did my homework. Then we got packed up and the next day we left.

 

Sincerely,

 

Johnny

 

P.S. Thanks again so much!!

 

 

This is press coverage of Johnny's hunt.

 

          At a frail 4 feet tall, 57 pounds, Johnny doesn't have the power in his stick-thin arms to draw back a full-sized compound bow. He doesn't have the stamina to trek through the woods for a long stalk. To ready himself for a shot, he needs his dad's help cocking his crossbow.

          Johnny is a little boy with big problems. Born with cycstic fibrosis 12 years ago, every day of his life is a struggle, sometimes merely to breathe.

          But besides being blesses with an unquenchable spirit, he possesses an uncanny shooting eye. He shoots arrows with laser-like accuracy. In September, a year after bagging his first deer; the Woodstock youth hunted and killed a black bear in Manitoba.

          As dusk began settling on his tree stand, Johnny concentrated on a bear sitting between two bait drums and culminated his six-day adventure by placing a perfect shot through the narrow opening. The arrow pierced the bear's lungs, traveled through its body and stuck in the ground. The 180 pound bear fled 40 yards into the woods and collapsed as Johnny  pumped his fist in celebration.

          "I wanted to just jump down from the tree stand and go get it," he said.

          Such an energetic action is often beyond Johnny's capability. The genetic disease that typically kills half of those afflicted with it by age 30 is a persistent trial, characterized by coughing, pnuemonia, limited weight gain and abnormally high skin salt content.

          Johnny aspires to be an everyday 6th-grader but is much more familiar with doctors, hospitals and medical procedures than his classmates. He has tubes implanted in his chest for intravenous feeding and antibiotic intake, and he swallows eight pills in the morning and eight in the evening.

          But when able, he musters his strength to prowl the woods for big game with his father John. A real estate agent who has his own black bear hide hanging on the wall in his office home, John has supplied Johnny with bows, a shotgun and hunter safety courses since he was 7.

          When Johnny, who has light brown hair and brown eyes, talks about hunting he smiles with enough wattage to light Comiskey Park. His pride bursts through recounting how he took his 150-pound deer last fall on his grandmother's McHenry County farm.

          He rook one shot, early in the morning, so soon after going out that when Johnny phoned his mother Shari and his sister Cassie, they coubted him. Given all the jerky, steaks and ground venison produced by the the kill and the mounted head staring at them from a wall in the den, they're believers now.

          The main problem when Johnny hoped to graduate to a more distant bear hunt was the cost----$3500.

          Enter Hunt of a Lifetime of Harborcreek, Pa., a group that works to make wishes a reality for seriously ill children. Hunt of a Lifetime started in 1999 after other organizations that sponsor good times for ill children discontinued hunting and fishing trips.

          Founder Tina Pattison had difficulty fulfilling the wish of her dying stepson Matt to take a moose hunt. She vowed to prevent additional heartache for parents coping with a child's life-threatening illness.

          The bow to political correctness by those other groups infuriated outdoor enthusiasts and they have rallied to aid Hunt of a Lifetime by donating guided trips, lodging and travel costs. Hunting clubs have conducted fundraisers. By September the group was closing in on fulfilling 19 wishes since its inception.

          "We're filling a void," said Pattison, who is a school bus driver as well as coordinator of the non-profit group.

          Pattison said Hunt of a Lifetime has arranged hunts for bears, moose and elk for people 21 or younger. In one dismaying incident, she said, a family was harassed by calls from animal-rights sympathizers. That did not faze John, who said he will be happy to talk hunting with someone low enough to bother a seriously ill child.

          It took more than a year to set up Johnny's hunt, partly because he was not yet 12, the minimum age for some locations.

          Ultimately Chris Switzer of Bear Valley Outfitters in Swan River, Manitoba, Canada donated guide services, the Manitoba provincial government donated a permit and Hunt of a Lifetime paid for flights, a taxidermist mount and spending money for Johnny and his father for the trip that began Sept. 16.

          The hunting region was a woodsy area surrounded by wheatfields, and father and son were ferried in daily from a cabin lodge. In late afternoon, a short ride brought them close to tree stands 16 feet high that Johnny had to climb by ladder.

          Both wore full camouflage, although only Johnny hunted. Greased-down 55-gallon drums of grain reposed nearby to lure black bears into the neighborhood.

          On the first day a bear approached, but sudden movement by Johnny sent it scurrying into the brush.

          "I scared it," he said. "That was the first time I saw a bear." A good beginning. But no bears showed in ensuing days. They sat in the tree stand, Johnny reading a book. "I got mad because no bears were coming," Johnny said. Johnny has one obstacle for stealth hunting. He coughs a lot. He placed a plastic device known as a cough silencer over his lips to limit noise, but his father said it's possible some bears were spooked.

          Hunting until a half-hour after sunset each evening, they rode back to camp discouraged. Dad though, "Are we going to get skunked?" It didn't seem fair given all the planning and the likelihood of this being a one-time opportunity.

          On the hunt's fifth day they tried a new spot. It was a half mile walk to the tree stand, a challenge for Johnny. Toting his 7 pound 3 foot long crossbow, he paused for rest three times on a day when it was raining lightly and te temperature was in the 50s. About 45 minutes after they settled into the stand, a bear materialized. Only Johnny had left his camouflaged bow case at the base of the tree and the bear seized it.

          "I looked down to see if he was climbing the tree," Johnny said.

          Nope. Instead, the animal stole the case. Father and son watched somewhat awed as the bear shredded the case and the cap and vest that spilled out. "We were just glad it wasn't us," John said.

          An hour later the bear strode back into the clearing to investigate the barrels. It exposed its side, leaving Johnny room to place an arrow.

          Direct hit! The bear exploded into motion, darting into the trees, but it didn't go far. The pair heard moans, and after a while they approached warily. Johnny poked the bear to make sure it was dead.

          "It was the best vacation," Johnny said. "It was better than Disney World." The glow from the hunt hasn't worn off yet.