Oct 21, 2019

Passing the Torch to a Youth Hunter

I truly believe that a hunter’s first bow will always be special and hold the most meaning. When I made the decision to give my first compound bow away, I knew it was meant to go to someone who truly needs it. Because of this decision, I had the privilege of meeting Jeann and her family. I want to share the story behind giving this bow away, and I hope to encourage others to pass the torch on too. 

From the Beginning

Growing up in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, I learned how to bow hunt, fish, and enjoy being outdoors at a young age. My father purchased a toy bow for my brother and I with hopes to slowly introduce us to the sport. As I grew older, my passion for hunting grew as well. Nearly eight years ago I was surprised with a bow that my dad had gotten from a family friend. It was an older Mathews model that had hardly been used. I did not care what brand or year it was, because I was excited to finally have one that I could call my own. 

The first few years I was not able to hunt as much as I wanted therefore, no tags were filled. Then, in 2016 my hunting success began! A lot of time, effort, practice, and patience went into that season, and because of that I was rewarded with my first filled tag. Fast forward to the current season and I now have many memories and hunts with that bow. Aside from the success it has brought me, there is one memory that is engraved in my brain – the moment my dad opened the case and told me it was mine. 

Oconto River Kids

After this past hunting season, I knew I wanted a bigger bow and to increase my draw weight. Once I was set up and dialed in with a new compound, I made the decision to give my Mathews to a youth hunter rather than selling it. However, I did not want it to go to just anyone. My hope was the youth hunter that would receive the bow would cherish it and put it to great use like I did. In order to reach more people, I decided to hold the giveaway on my social media pages with a few simple rules. The amount of nominations that came into my inbox was incredible, and I felt honored to read each and every story that was shared. The one email that stood out was from an old coworker – Donna. She talked about an organization that her nephew was connected with and did a bear hunt through.

The organization is called Oconto River Kids (ORK), which was started in 2012 by a landowner who had the idea to provide hunting, fishing, and outdoor opportunities for children with life threating illnesses. Now, the organization is run by a group of volunteers and established its non-profit status in 2014.

I did some research on the organization and immediately knew this is where I wanted my bow to end up. I contacted Joe Paul, Vice President of ORK, and told him my story and shared why I wanted to give the bow away. Through our conversations he brought up Jeann and her family. I was told that Jeann had been diagnosed with Leukemia when she was younger but is now doing well. He also shared that Jeann had high interest in hunting and that her dad talked about her wanting her own bow. However, purchasing a bow was financially not an option for the time being. Then, I was connected with Jeann’s father, Chris. He was thrilled that she would be able to have her own bow and said she was very excited as well. 

The Meet Up

The day had come to deliver the bow and I could not wait to hand it off to Jeann. Jeann was the first to greet me outside and I could tell how excited she was. When I opened the bow case, her excitement and smile grew. She said, “It is the prefect size for me!” Aside from the draw weight needing to be adjusted, Jeann was given everything that she would need in order to start practicing. Her reaction to receiving the bow was priceless. I knew it was going to the right person and that she would cherish and appreciate it as much as I had.

Then, we began talking about Oconto River Kids and the hunting and fishing experiences she had because of them. We talked for a while about the family’s trip to Alaska that ORK had sent them on. Jeann was able to harvest a bear while they were there and do some salmon fishing as well. She was eager to show me her bear rug, which is on the wall in the families living room. Above the rug is the bear’s skull, which is on a shelf that she had made herself. The family also talked about her first deer harvest through ORK, which was during a youth gun hunt. Before leaving we talked about mentor hunting with Jeann during next bow season, which we are all looking forward to!

Checking In

A few days ago, I asked Chris how Jeann was doing and how she was liking the bow. He said after the poundage was adjusted, they began working on target practice. He mentioned she is improving and will work her way towards higher poundage. He would like to see her out in the woods with her bow next season and they will continue to practice until she is comfortable. 

Giving Over Receiving

You have likely heard the saying, “Giving is better than receiving.” I believe this saying to be incredibly true, especially when you give something away that is so special to you. The meaning of this story is much more than just giving a bow away to a youth hunter. It is about passing on a tradition to the next generation so they can do the same in years to come. I want to thank and recognize Donna, Joe, Jeann, Chris, their family, and the Oconto River Kids organization for allowing this opportunity to happen. I also want to acknowledge ORK for their dedication, hard work, kindness, and for being a bright light in a child’s life that is battling something they do not have control over. Organizations like ORK make a world of difference in the outdoor industry and provide opportunities that might not have been given otherwise. ORK is always looking for volunteers to help. Additionally, bear tags can be donated as well as the opportunity to provide hunting and fishing adventures to the youth participants. To learn more visit http://www.ocontoriverkids.com/. 

Alicia Thompson is a freelance outdoor writer based in Wisconsin. You can follow her on Instagram at @alicia_joy_outdoors, on the Alicia Joy Outdoors Facebook page, and by visiting www.aliciajoyoutdoors.com