United Bowhunters Of Pennsylvania
Disabled Hunters Program


Chad Scanlon - 2006

Chad Scanlon

Thanks to a deer hunt donated by United Bowhunters of Pennsylvania, 12-year-old Chad Scanlon found himself in a ground blind sandwiched between his father, Jim, and guide Johnnie Dale, owner of Buffalo Creek Guide Service in Selma, North Carolina.

It is December 7, 2006, a date which will live in the young teen’s memory—and his father’s—though neither knows it yet. Although the sun is close to rising now, Jim took his time waking the lad for the hunt this morning. Other hunters in the Sampson County Lodge were up at 4:30, and have already been escorted to their stands by Johnnie.

However, Jim let Chad sleep until the last possible moment. The teen tires easily these days, through no fault of his own. Blame it on the aftereffects of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy following diagnosis of a brain tumor several months earlier. Hard to believe not long ago Chad jumped rope competitively, with a personal record of 298 revolutions per minute. Nevertheless, he’s rebounded from treatment better than even his doctors expected, and now has a chance to spend precious time hunting with his dad, while his mother Marie-Paule and younger sister Sasha root him on from the lodge.

On this day the guide has led his young hunter and father to a wooden ground blind, where they watch the first hints of daylight break over a soybean field. After an unusually warm early winter in Pennsylvania, the Scanlons have begun their hunt the same week a freakish cold front begins tightening its grip on North Carolina. Two mornings from now, the temperature will be 16 degrees.

Like most fathers, Jim is as excited or more so than his son, and he plans to catch every image on a video camera. There’s no use filming the first deer strolling through the field, however; although it acts like a buck, no one can tell for certain in the pre-dawn twilight. It drifts off. Not long afterward, when the second deer appears 150 yards away, Jim immediately fires up the camera—and its spotlight--inadvertently illuminating the blind’s interior. After fumbling to turn off the device, the would-be videographer worries his blindmates may be thinking: “This guy’s a moron,” and “My dad’s an idiot.”

Eventually, he figures out how to operate the camera, sans spotlight, and trains it on the approaching deer, a doe. When he loses sight of it, he lowers the camera and instead focuses his attention on Chad. To his chagrin, the still-running camera noisily begins autofocusing on the walls of the blind, causing him to blush again.

Although the approaching doe is edgy, she continues toward the blind. Chad, unfazed by his father’s shenanigans, puts a bullet through the deer’s boiler room. Now everyone is exchanging high fives, and Dad can finally breathe easier: His son is beaming. They retrieve the deer, and head back to Sampson Lodge, where Chad regales his mother and sister with his adventures--and his dad’s misadventures.

After a well-deserved nap, Chad, his dad and Johnnie head to a tent blind this time for an afternoon hunt. With little room to spare, Jim has to sit in the corner of the tent while Johnnie and Chad do the hunting. Shortly after getting settled, the hunter and guide spot a spike. Chad immediately settled his crosshairs on the young buck’s chest, and squeezes off his second shot of the day. Johnnie and he begin chuckling at what they see.

“What?” says Jim, who can’t see a thing.

They tell him the deer leaped six feet into the air after the shot, and hit the ground running. It didn’t run far.

For his cool under pressure, Chad has been dubbed “The Whackalizor” by Johnnie. They return to camp with the latest installment of a boy hunting with his father.

By the next morning, the cold front has begun to blow through. The trio has again set up in the tent blind, figuring the brisk weather will encourage big bucks to move. Sure enough, a large deer ghosts into view shortly after they arrive. Johnnie judges it to be a mature buck by the way it acts, but the light still isn’t good enough to be sure. Unfortunately, the lone deer slips back into the woods. After sitting a while longer, Chad has had enough of the cold, and they once again seek the comfort of the lodge.

In the afternoon session, Johnnie brings along a propane heater to warm up the blind, but the pressing cold is hard to ignore. Shortly before dark, and tired of shivering, the hunters leave the blind and begin glassing neighboring fields. Johnnie spies a deer chasing a doe and whispers, “It’s a nice buck, facing directly away from us.”

Ordinarily, he might not encourage a client to attempt such a shot, but the circumstances of this hunt are not ordinary, and Johnnie can always use his trailing beagle to track down a wounded animal, which is not the case in Pennsylvania. He tells Chad to take aim at the base of the standing buck’s tail and fire.

They wait expectantly while the teen concentrates through his scope. He does not shoot, however, ultimately concluding, “It’s a bad angle.”

Both guide and father really want Chad to bag the mature buck, so they urge him a second time to shoot.

They offer advice as he sights the buck again. Seconds tick by. Finally, he lowers the gun, his mind made up. “It’s a bad angle. I’m not shooting him.” The buck eventually moves off, and it was time to call it a day.

Saturday morning dawned brutally cold, and though Chad saw several several smallish bucks, none were as big as the previous night’s so he passes on them.

His hunt was over, and it was time to return home to western Pennsylvania, where rifle deer season was in full swing. He was grateful to UBP, and particularly Dale Hajas, for arranging the hunt in the first place. He not only learned about southern deer hunting, but how folks in North Carolina trap beaver and nutria.

His father learned something as well, the evening Chad declined to shoot the biggest buck he saw on the trip. “That was a good decision. Peer pressure doesn’t work on him,” says Jim. “Way to go, Chad.”

Chad Scanlon