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Some folks refer to people like me as an outdoorsman and my wife Joyce, although not a hunter herself, an outdoorslady. Melana, our nine year old granddaughter was a chip off the old block. She loved all animals and was infatuated with nature. She was an outdoor little girl.Every chance Joyce and I had to take her along with us to our cabin in Jefferson County, Melana was always anxious to go. At the cabin, Melana was in her glory, hiking, deer watching, 4 - wheeler riding, star gazing, roasting marshmallows over the campfire, and practicing her archery with her recurve bow and my TenPoint crossbow. Her goal was to be an accomplished archer so she could go turkey and deer hunting with my son, Ben, and me this year.

This past January, 2009, my family was dealt a devastating blow. Melana was diagnosed with a rare and incurable cancerous brain tumor called a pontine glioma. Our family focus was dramatically changed. We wanted to pack as many fond memories as we could into whatever time we had left with her.

During March and early April Melana practiced diligently with the crossbow. Using the Steddy Eddy monopod, she was shooting a tennis ball size group at 25 yards. She was so excited when I told her that she was ready for Ohio’s youth turkey season.

Melana sharpening her shooting eye - Spring 2009  Melana -  bushed after chancing turkeys all morning - Spring 2009 Melana and Papa hunting The skull of Melana’s buck after being dipped in  pink camo

So Joyce, Ben, Melana and I headed for our cabin for that April weekend youth hunt. That opening Saturday brought us perfect turkey hunting weather. The temperature was in the 50’s with a slight breeze from the west. Melana, Ben, and I headed for a stand of pines about ½ mile from the cabin where we had roosted a gobbler the evening before. Our plan was to post Melana and me side-by-side against a large cherry tree about 100 yards from the pines while Ben set up as her caller about 50 yards behind us. Daybreak came with the sound of two gobblers greeting the sunrise. They were only 75 yards directly in front of us roosted in those pines. A few soft yelps from Ben brought several birds down from the trees. We didn’t realize, however, that those toms were already in the company of several hens. Ben tried his best to coax the gobblers in so Melana could get an opportunity for a shot, but to no avail. Those toms were obviously very happy with the hens they were already with.

The rest of the morning we walked and called the remainder of our 100 acre property, hoping to get another opportunity. We located and set up on two more gobblers, but only to have the same result. When those toms are with hens, it is really tough to call them in. Before we headed for home from that weekend hunt, Melana posted a note in our cabin journal. It read, “Well, we were in a good spot and we didn’t get a turkey today - but we had fun trying.”

Melana and I did not do much archery shooting this past summer. With her frequent trips to the Cleveland Clinic for treatment and other summer activities, our time for practice was very limited. But in August, with deer archery season approaching, we needed to do some serious practicing with the crossbow to get her ready for her first deer hunting season. That’s when Melana and I realized that she could no longer shoot. Her cancer had progressed to the point that she had lost muscular control on her right side, especially in her right arm and hand. Melana then said to me, “Papa, you can get a buck for me this year and it will be mine. Ok?” I looked at her and didn’t quite know what to say, except, “Well, I will try!!”

Melana’s condition continued to deteriorate throughout the early fall. She passed away in late October with our family at her bedside. She never got to deer hunt.

Two weeks after the funeral, I did resume hunting. I hadn’t taken a buck yet since my main priority this fall was to help take care of Melana. The time I spent with her was precious.

On November 14th, the “chase” was on. I was sitting in my tree stand on the Shortcreek Sportsman Club property across from our cabin. The first hour in the stand, I saw nothing. There were rabbit hunters in the area. Dogs were barking and hunters were calling for their dogs. I was beginning to think about moving to another stand. Just then, the woods began to settle down since the rabbit hunters had apparently moved to another area. Seconds later, I saw my first deer of the day - a yearling doe. I thought of Melana and what she had asked me to do, so I began to say a little prayer. “Lord, could you please send me a buck I can tag for Melana - kind of - in memory of her?”

For the next two hours I saw fourteen more deer, does and small bucks, some within shooting range - but nothing I wanted to shoot. A short time later, I saw a nice buck, doe searching, across the ravine, about 90 yards out. The deer looked like a buck I would permit Melana to take if she had been with me (we always try to let the smaller bucks walk). I waited until he stopped walking, and then gave him a grunt with my call. That got his attention, so I gave him another grunt. He began to make a b-line for me. It was like I was reeling in a fish. I knew this was “the one” that was sent for Melana. I muttered to myself, “Thank you Lord." The buck stopped behind some thick brush about 20 yards in front of my stand. He was looking for the source of the grunting. The tall-tined 8 point then began to walk slowly to my right, still searching for the source of the grunting. As he came into a shooting lane, I let an arrow fly from my Pro Slider crossbow. The deer jumped, then scampered off for about 20 yards and then began to walk away. I was puzzled. I thought that I had made a good shot. I scrambled to recock my bow - thinking that I had somehow missed that deer, and that I still may be able to get another shot at him. While I was reaching for another arrow from my quiver, he stood motionless with his head down as if he was grazing. He was now about 70 yards out. I thought that maybe I could grunt him back in again. Just then, he fell over onto his left side and laid there motionless. I watched him for the next 15 minutes or so, and then climbed down to go check him out. From my experience, he looked like a 3 ½ year old and a nice, large bodied deer. I think he was dead before he fell. The 2 - blade Rage broadhead I was using had cut through some main arteries of the heart. The entrance wound looked like he had been hit with an ax. A buddy of mine who used to raise horses told me that sometimes horses have been known to sleep or even die on their feet. I wonder if this is what happened to this buck.

Well, I decided to make a European-style skull mount from this deer. I shared my story with Marty Crosley, Sales Manager for Tarjac, Inc., a company located in Waterloo, New York. Tarjac specializes in a camo dipping process that is used on various types of sporting equipment, such as my TenPoint Pro Slider crossbow. Marty shared my experience with the others in his office, and they all decided to have me ship Melana’s skull mount to them for dipping in Melana’s favorite color. They wanted to do this as a gift to my family and me in remembrance of Melana. The Pink Blaze camo I chose was a perfect match for Melana’s hunting hat. WHAT A GREAT GIFT, and I can’t thank the Tarjac folks enough for their generosity. The mount now hangs on our den wall along with Melana’s hunting hat as a trophy of my best hunt ever. He was not the biggest buck, but one that Melana would have been very proud of. And I too, am an extremely proud grandfather to have honored her request.

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