By Charles Chandler
How popular is deer hunting and how passionate are hunters about bagging a trophy deer?
According to the U.S. Fishing and Wildlife Service deer hunting has dominated the nation’s hunting scene for decades and from their most recent survey of the nation’s 11.6 million big-game hunters, 94 percent were deer hunters. Where does Michigan rank in all this? According to Outdoor Life Magazine in 2016 – 17 Michigan had the nation's second-largest deer harvest. How passionate are deer hunters about their sport? Well you would probably have to ask the individual hunter. This N3 Correspondent recently had an opportunity to meet some young hunters who are very passionate about deer hunting.
On August 17th, a group of very proud parents and guests attended the annual Youth Challenge Hunt Ceremony at Legends Ranch. This spectacular 2000 acre hunting Ranch is located at 2022 West 14 Mile Road in Bitely. The Ranch is operated to allow guest hunters the opportunity to bag a once in a lifetime trophy whitetail deer. Those familiar with the Legends Ranch know that this is where whitetail deer hunters’ dreams come true and this was certainly true for the four young hunters Brady Sprik, age 15 from Platte, SD, Jordynn Bibbs age 9 from Newport, MI, Noah Williams, age 19 from Strasburg CO, and Mason Woods age 13 from Fairborn, NE that were chosen to participate in the 2018 Legends Youth Challenge hunt. Each of these deserving hunters has some significant physical challenge caused by an unfortunate illness or accident.
Each year Kelly Wawsczyk the Director's Assistant and Ranch Manager Robert Sergi solicit and select four young hunters from across the country to participate in the annual hunt. The applicants submit a personal bio and a narrative describing why they want to participate in the famous Legends Ranch hunt. The submittal is important because this is an inclusive weeklong hunt. All travel, lodging, meals,trophy deer processing and taxidermy are covered for the young hunters and their family.
Once a hunter is selected and notified, the Ranch staff addresses every detail to make this the hunting experience of their lifetime. In an interview with Kelly and Robert, I learned that they review the applicant’s bio and then pair them with a Ranch Guide they believe will ensure a successful hunt and be a match for the personality and challenges of the young hunter.
The closing ceremony for 2018 Challenge Hunt began with an excellent breakfast specially prepared by the Ranch Chief and kitchen staff. The breakfast and following ceremony was attended by about 50 participants, which included the hunters and their families, members of the River Country Chamber of Commerce, Ranch Staff and some hunt sponsors. This year sponsors were the Safari Club International, Ravenna Conservation Club, Holland and Carolyn Powell, SCI Lakeshore Sportsman Chapter, Kelly and Judy Conley, D and J Asphalt, SCI-New England Chapter, Westwind Taxidermy, Southwest MI Bowhunters Chapter, Bitely.
After the breakfast, everyone gathered outside on the Lodge lawn for some inspirational music and thankful words for a safe hunt. Next, there were introductions of the young hunters and their guides with a recap of their hunting experience at the Ranch. Additionally, and as a very thoughtful touch, each hunter received a Legends Ranch Trophy in recognition of bagging a trophy deer.
When asked about this tradition Kelly said “I order a trophy for all of them with their name on it. Sometimes it may be the only trophy they have received in their childhood since sports may be hard for them to participate in. They deserve a trophy for the trophy they harvested.”
After the awarding of the individual hardware, it was photo op time for the young hunters with their trophy deer.
If you are a whitetail deer hunter you know this is the big moment. All the work, the practice, and the waiting are over. It is just you, your trophy and at this event a few proud parents, smiling hunting guides and attending Ranch Staff.
Soon it was time to say goodbye and the participants all loaded on the camo colored Ranch bus and headed back their real life.
In the words of Mr. Arthur Gutierrez the Patriarch of Legends Ranch, “as you know, it is not just the trophy, but it is also all of the details that when done right translate into a special memory, a new friendship, and a return trip.”
Legends Ranch “done right” by these four young hunters and they now know that whitetail hunting dreams do come true.
If you would like more information on how to sponsor one of these hunts, please contact Director's Assistant-Kelly Wawsczyk at 231-745-8000 or
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