Justin Bradford’s Outdoor Wish

Dreams can come true, even though sometimes they need a little help. Justin Bradford, an 8 year old from Lapeer, Michigan received just that. Benefit4Kids (B4K), along with support from Safari Club International-Detroit Chapter (SCI-Detroit), together helped put that ‘Dream’ in motion.

Just over four years ago, Justin was diagnosed with Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), a rare genetic disease effecting young boys. They generally have a history of learning disabilities and/or behavior issues such as attention deficit disorders. The disease worsens over several years, and usually in less than two years from diagnoses; the child will lose all cognitive, mental, and physical functions, and deteriorate into a vegetative state leading to death.

After receiving a bone marrow transplant 2 years ago, Justin was doing great. When they started to wean him off his immune suppression medication, his body started to reject the donor blood. After spending about one week in the hospital each month, and at one point for five weeks, he is up and mobile. However, the outlook is still not good.

A few years earlier, Justin had an older brother, Michael, who was taken from his family and friends by the same disease. Michael was provided the opportunity to go on a dream hunt of his own. He wanted to harvest a Corsican Ram. With his vision deteriorated so far, he was unable to accomplish this task so many of us take for granted. This is where Justin came up with his idea of a dream. He wanted to harvest a Corsican Ram for his older brother. This led him to B4K
Upon hearing about Justin, his condition, and his choice of a ‘Dream’, B4K decided that he was not only going to be able to fulfill the hunt for his brother, but also a ‘Dream’ of his own. This ‘Dream’ contained a Fallow Deer hunt in Texas.

The hunt was scheduled for November 2005, then in December, which again was cancelled due to hospital stays or doctors orders. Finally, January 16, 2006, after all the roller coaster rides of his health, Justin was feeling great, and with the doctor’s ok, he was going to Texas. This trip was not just for Justin, but it was to include his whole family: dad (Mike), mom (Denise), and his sister (Ashley). To be included, this meant that they would accompany Justin out in the field to enjoy this adventure as ‘a Hunter and his family’.

The plane ride was Justin’s first. He thought it was fun, sitting at a window watching the view. Once in the Great State of Texas, it was straight to More or Less Game Ranch outside of Abilene, Texas. Meeting the guides, staff, crew, and dropping off the gear, it was straight out to view the all the critters. As it being evening, they wanted to scout some Rams that would be great for Justin.

After scouting for half an hour, they spotted a group of Rams. When asked if he wanted to harvest one of these, Justin stated that he would rather hold off and look around for others. Being in the field for a couple of hours, they spotted a Fallow Buck, nice size, possibly a true albino. The guide said it would be a great selection if Justin would like to take that one. With no hesitation, Justin agreed, and they grabbed the gear.

Because of his size and health, Justin would not be able to absorb the recoil of the .243 he would be hunting with. So his gear consisted of a tripod stand his dad created to hold the rifle. This, with the help of sand bags would be able to hold the gun steady, but also help absorb the recoil.
Another item in his gear was extremely special for Justin. It was a bear paw pouch made into a necklace. This was Michael’s; it had been made for him to take on his hunt. Now it was Justin’s. I am sure, that if you ask him about it, he may not directly tell you how much it means, but that you can see in his eyes.

After stalking up to 80 yards, they setup and sat there waiting for the deer to provide a clean shot. The buck would come out of the thick brush, and just as quickly would turn and vanish back into the brush. Because of this action, they had to setup and move three times. On this third time, the Fallow deer came out, hesitated, turned as if heading back but stopped, turned back, providing the time for Justin to pick his spot, and gently squeeze the trigger.

The guide wanted Justin to get a shot at about 50-60 yards. But the way the Fallow was acting, he was not sure if they would get that chance of getting that close. When asked if Justin would be able to make the shot, dad stated “if he shoots this like the .22, there will be no problem”. Mom was almost sure there would be lots of misses before there would be one that even made contact. With a little hesitation and thought, the shot would be taken if provided.

At the crack of the rifle, all eyes watched as the Fallow Buck dropped, there on the spot. First shot, first harvest. Justin has his first animal, a nice Fallow Buck. After waiting a short while, as they walk up, nothing but smiles, a few with some tears. Justin standing next to HIS Fallow Buck, 17 points in all, and almost pure albino.

Justin says that he was the most excited after the taking of the Fallow, but the consensus was that mom was more vocal and physical, jumping with tears of joy. After the pictures, and the joys of the hunt told over and over, it was time to go back to the ranch house. There, more pictures and stories were told. Before hitting the sack, still all excited, Justin had to call Grandpa about the good news. It spread quickly across Michigan, as if hearing play by play.

The next morning mom and dad thought they could sleep in a little, but Justin still all excited, woke them up. The early morning and evenings were pleasant, but the midday was hot. All the hunting would be in the late afternoons. To pass the time, instead of sitting watching television, they would ride ATV’s and explore the grounds.

That evening, they went out to setup on the edge of a field that was known for rams to visit. After a short time, they noticed some entering the field on the far side. Unfortunately, the rams had moved away even farther. Because of this, they had to relocate and set up a second time. Using the binoculars, they counted about twenty rams. The guide mentioned there was a nice Corsican Ram out of three of the largest ones that Justin could harvest. The guide mentioned that it was 160 yards, but after seeing Justin handle the Fallow, he was sure he could handle the shot.

Being setup, and viewing through the scope, Justin sighted on the one that was to be his. This was easy, for it had a broken tip on one of the horns. All that was stopping Justin now was that the three rams were still grouped too close together to just hit the one. Justin mentions to his dad “if I shoot now, I will shot two of them”. A few times the rams would separate, but as Justin sighted in, they would bunch up again. Being all excited, it was patience that must have seemed like hours, waiting. Then suddenly the rams parted, as if it were meant to be.

Again, Justin made sure of the spot he picked, and squeezed the trigger. A split second after the crack of the rifle, the mighty ram fell. Again, one shot, one harvest. This time after the nervousness in himself of hunting had subsided, Justin was sure that he was the most excited of them all. Dad and Mom were proud of Justin, but most of all the time spent together doing this as a family

After pictures and more stories, it was off to the ranch house to clean the game and get ready for dinner. Again when dinner was over, no television here, too much to do and see. During the course of viewing the ranch, some of the other animals they saw were Red Stag, Elk, Buffalo, Aoudad, Black Hawaiians, lots of turkey, and Armadillos. Justin thought they were pretty cool looking critters.

The next day started again with riding the ATV’s, then scouting for boar. They were out so long that the staff had to call them on the radios to come in for lunch. Soon afterwards, they were back out scouting. The guide decided to take them to another ranch that was leased by Wildlife Images. Here again they scouted. A short while later they spotted some boar. Because the guide and ranch were proud of the way Justin handled his sportsmanship, they surprised him by telling him he would be able to take one.

Quickly they set up, viewing their choices. Here now were the true Texas Wild Boar, at 200 yards. The guide picked one out for Justin, counting out which one was his. Justin sighted in, found the one that was his, and wow …. this was a big one. Being sure of his spot and squeezing of the trigger, there was the crack of the rifle everyone was waiting for. The boar rolled over onto its side. There was a moment of hesitation. Nothing. The boar stayed right where it fell. More pictures and stories, everyone was proud. They started calling him ‘One Shot Bradford’.

Once back at the ranch house, the guide introduced Justin to his son. He had been dropped off because they were going to go back to the other ranch to cull some whitetail doe. Excited is not close to the words from the expression on Justin when he was asked if he wanted to go. Off they went. Here again, he did his magic. Another one shot, one animal.

I don’t know, but if you ask me, I would say that the bear paw necklace carried a little magic inside if there is such a thing. Or could it be that there really are people out there that truly care. Whatever it was, it’s good for the heart. Here, an eight-year-old boy gets his choice of a Dream, but wants to fulfill someone else’s. In turn, he not only gets that, but also a Dream of his own way beyond of what he would have imagined, and as a family. Things happen that way sometimes, this was truly Justin’s time.

Benefit4Kids is a 501c3 organization thats primary mission is to grant outdoor wishes of children with life threatening and life limiting illnesses. They also work to involve today’s children in the outdoors and many of the activities it offers them. Find out more about B4K at www.b4k.org or call 810-441-2579

Safari Club International-Detroit Chapter is proud to have helped supply that Dream. If you know of others that might benefit from the Humanitarian Projects of SCI-Detroit, please contact me via email at huntmi@hotmail.com, or call 586-792-1145. To see more about SCI-Detroit on the web, go to www.scidetroit.com.

John Gornyecz
SCI-Detroit Director
B4K Michigan Director