A Deer for Mike

By Andy Hunley

As a serious hunter, I have never ceased to be amazed how that part of me seems to permeate into other parts of my life. I find that I enjoy interacting with others in the hunting community. Along those lines, I find this story one that will be dear to me for the rest of my life. It's about my good friend Tammy and a very special uncle she had been close to all her life.

Tammy was sounding a bit low one day and confided that her favorite uncle had become very sick, bedridden actually, and was not expected to live much longer. She told that this just broke her heart, as she had cherished time with this man all her life and did not want to think about life without his presence. As we spoke quietly about this sad turn of events, she remembered something and suddenly seemed to cheer a bit, as she told me I would like him as well, because he was also a hunter. He had been an avid hunter for many years and owned quite a collection of firearms.

Of course, these facts were of interest to me, as they are also among my lifelong passions. I mentioned to my special friend that I had written a few articles about guns and hunting that had been published on Guns and Shooting Online. She asked if I might share some with her, so that she could share them with Mike. I was more than happy to do just that and was both surprised and pleased to hear how happy she sounded when she told me a few days later that she had printed the stories I'd sent to her and read them to Mike as he lay in bed.

She told me that Mike had been impressed with my work and would love to hear more. I knew that it wasn't my writing, but simply the fact they could share some time together and she could read to her beloved uncle. This was more than sufficient reason for me to share anything that I had ever written about guns and hunting. I proceeded over the next several weeks to provide all the stories I could find for my friend to share with her uncle. I truly enjoyed hearing her tell me how they had spent some special times together as she read them to him.

We never know what turns life might hold for us and it was a serious one that next befell Tammy. Her car was hit head-on by a drunk driver and she was very seriously injured. It took days to know the full extent of her injuries, but finally a friend of hers was able to call me and tell me she was going to be fine, although it would take a long time for her to heal. I was relieved to hear that, but my special friend was not as upbeat, as she had realized that Mike might well pass on before she was physically able to leave the hospital and visit him again. This was a blow to Tammy's recovery. More serious, I believe, to her than her actual injuries. I tried to console her with the idea that, whether she saw Mike again, as long as he knew her true feelings for him, that was all anyone could ask for.

Within a few weeks of her accident, something extraordinary took place. Mike was feeling good enough to leave his bed and visit Tammy in the hospital, although he himself was now in a wheelchair. It was a very heartwarming get together and made both feel closer than ever. After this visit, both seemed invigorated.

However, as we all know, life sometimes can rear its ugly side. Mike's health began to decline and soon he began to fade. Tammy was devastated by this turn of events and did something loving and quite brave. She set down her thoughts and love of Mike on paper so he might know all those things she would carry with her as she continued on her life's path.

When the end seemed very near and Mike was becoming weaker by the day, Tammy sent this loving letter to Mike so that he might read it before he died and they talked and cried on the phone together. Afterward, Tammy did something I never expected, but thought to be very genuine and full of meaning. After Mike mentioned seeing an old Model 70 rifle he had really liked not too long before, Tammy sent a family friend off with her credit card in hand to purchase that Model 70 and take it to Mike. They talked again and Mike spoke of going to Tammy's farm and shooting one last deer with that rifle.

Mike passed from this earth on 26 August 2007 and I know that he is already cleaning that Model 70, readying it for opening day, which I believe may well be every morning when a dedicated hunter passes. I had sent Mike an express copy of the last story I had written and he got to read it before anyone else. He said he enjoyed it a lot and I passed word back via Tammy that I would shoot a deer for him this season. His response was, "He won't have to worry about missing, as I will be there to help him aim." I am not ashamed to say that at that moment my eyes were wet.

I already know what I will do this fall. I am going to hunt whitetail deer with my single shot Ruger No. 1 in 7x57. When I see a deer, I will know that I'm not meant to miss, even with that mist in my eyes. After walking to it, I'll sit quietly for a few moments, as I do with all the deer that I am blessed to harvest. Then I'll rise, take a small picture of Mike from my shirt pocket and set it, along with my rifle, on the deer and quietly make my way back towards the truck, leaving them alone for a bit. I may stop, sit against a tree for a time and marvel at what God has given to me, thanking Him for my abundance. Perhaps I will think of a song that makes me smile, and then I'll continue my long journey.

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