Its all about smiles

Ambers Last Minute Deer  

Caldwell Hunt, November 2008



On the map, the community of Caldwell shows up as a crossroads in northern Orange County.  The rural farming country; is made up of gentle hills, lots of deer and some of the most hospitable folks you will ever meet.  This was the second year that the Caldwell Hunting Club and the North Carolina Handicapped Sportsmen Inc. have hosted this special three-day deer hunt for disabled sportsmen. 

At age fourteen, Amber Carter’s mom calls her the miracle girl.  The miracle is because the slender young lady survived a massive stroke that nearly took her life before she had turned three.  The medical malady did leave its mark though.  The young teenager’s right arm and hand was left mostly paralyzed.  As the hands of time clicked slowly by, Amber recovers and adjusts to her impairment.   

Like many kids in rural North Carolina, Amber’s dad Keith loved to hunt.  Amber discovered early on that having a partially paralyzed arm didn’t mean not being able to have fun.  Amber’s handicap only intensified her spirit.  She soon began accompanying her dad on his hunting trips.  At age twelve she had bagged her first deer, a big four-point buck.  Amber had now falling in love with the sport.

Recognizing her daughter’s new love, mom follows in her tracks and becomes not only one of her biggest supporters but her hunting companion as well.  The two become a hunting team.  Already this fall, Amber bagged a bear in Wisconsin and a nice buck in Virginia.  She had high hopes for this trip.

It is now a week before Thanksgiving.  Amber along with mom Pam and several other special hunters were invited guests to the second annual Caldwell Hunt.  With a truck packed with gear, Amber says goodbye to her dad a Baptist Minister.  With an all expense paid trip courtesy of NCHS, the Caldwell Hunting Club and Van Products Inc., the duo head to Orange County.  After lunch and a hunt orientation, the pair head to their evening hunting blind with guide Richard McGhee.  I would be accompanying them.

The two enter their camouflaged popup ground blind a couple hours before dusk.  It overlooks a well-groomed power line.  Richard knows from experience that the deer here like to come through a little before dusk.  With a slight wind and lower than normal temperatures, mom helps Amber position her 270 caliber rifle on a shooting stick.  From the comfort of a couple of foldout chairs the pair wait. 

Throughout the evening, far off shots from fellow hunters can be heard.  In the waning light just before dark, an unmistakable figure appears in the distance reach of the power line.  As quickly as it appears, a lone buck with a sizeable rack disappears back into the woods.  Minutes later, darkness brings an end to the first days hunt.

Arriving back at the clubhouse, everyone is eager to see what the others may have.  With the aroma of two hundred pound of pork on the grill, club members begin the chore of cleaning the evening’s harvest of several deer.  Many of the twenty special hunters had connected.  Amber takes it with stride and knows she has two more days.

The next morning greets everyone to a one-inch layer of snow.  Amber and mom are once again snug in their blind as the morning sun dazzles the eye as it reflects on the icy surface.  By lunch the snow is gone and only a lone distant doe was spotted.  The prospect of a better evening hunt puts a smile back on Ambers face.  By dusk, a missed shot at a long-range doe is the only reward she is brings back to camp.
                The next morning finds the anxious hunters embraced by an artic freeze of seventeen degrees.  Amber finds herself about the only one left that hadn’t bagged a deer.  Her spirit never dwindles as she heads from the breakfast table to the hunting blind.  A special heater accompanies her and mom.  But by 8:30 the bitter cold is starting to take its toll on the little hunters feet.  Mom whispers to me that she is cold and is probably ready to go.  Realizing from years of experience a field that we really need to say a little longer, I merely reply with a lets stay a little longer look.  Mom responds with “I guess we could wait ten more minutes”.  At the end of ten, nature suddenly shouted to me all her signals that we needed to wait at least one more minute.  I looked at the chilling hunters and excitedly proclaimed, “We need to wait just one more minute, something is about to happen, and I feel it”. 
                Seconds later, as if part of a magical premonition, a large six-point buck stepped into the clearing before us.  The young hunter goes into action.  In a quick and fluid motion she shoulders, aims and fires her rifle with only one arm.  The big buck exhibits evidence of a direct hit.  Minutes later and two hundred and eighteen yards away, mom spots the positive proof.  A few yards later Amber is rewarded with her last minute trophy.  The six-pointer wins the top award for the event.  She will get her buck mounted for free.

   Tony Robinson - Outdoor Writer / retired NC Wildlife Officer

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