By Kyle Schwabenbauer
-- Austin and Anthony Toler were two brothers growing up in the rural mountains of southern West Virginia. The vast wilderness surrounding their hometown of Sunhill was the perfect setting to foster their love of the outdoors. Their father, Cameron, introduced them to the shooting sports at an early age, and they honed their skills in preparation for their first hunt.
Being three years older than Anthony, Austin would get the first chance to accompany his father in the field. However, shortly after his hunting career began, Austin was diagnosed with epithelioid sarcoma. This disease is a rare, but aggressive form of cancer, and it became apparent to his family that his remaining time with them would be painfully short.
Buckmasters learned of Austin's condition after receiving a letter from his mother Sherry. Plans were immediately put in motion to send Austin on a hunt of his choice with Buckmasters staff. Unfortunately, Austin's health grew worse, and he was unable to participate in the hunt.
To lift Austin's spirits, Buckmasters sent him a gift package that contained a variety of hunting gear, including a Mathews Genesis youth bow.
"He was so excited when he saw that bow," Sherry recalled, "and I helped him draw it back as soon as he opened it." Sadly, Austin never got a chance to hunt with the bow. He passed away later that day.
Two years later, Anthony was given his brother's Genesis bow. "He practiced and practiced," his mother said. "It seemed like he had that bow in his hands 24 hours a day!"
Anthony quickly became a proficient archer, and when he reached the state's minimum hunting age of eight years old, he was ready for his first hunt.
On Saturday, Oct. 20, Anthony was hunting with his father in a ground blind on the family's property. "It was a pretty cold day," Anthony recalled. "I could see a deer coming my way, so I got ready to shoot." All of Anthony's practice paid off, and he made a great shot on the button buck. After tracking the deer himself, he ran home to tell the rest of the family.
Anthony's mother, grandfather, and cousin joined him and his father in retrieving the deer. "Everyone was really excited, and we were all glad to be there to celebrate," his mother said. Anthony later told his mom he was glad that he got the chance to harvest a deer for his brother Austin.
Buckmasters would like to congratulate Anthony on a job well done! We hope he has many more successful archery hunts in the future. Sherry tells us Anthony also loves turkey hunting. Good luck son, and may Austin's spirit always live in your heart!
Kyle Schwabenbauer is on the PA Sportsmen Portal Field Staff. Visit www.pasportsmenportal.com for more information.
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