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The Greatest Gift of All

JohnsonBy Scott W. Johnson

-- I have been hunting for 40 years. I live in northeast Florida, and it is a tradition around here that we hunt with dogs. The woods are thick and the swamps seem to be endless. Once inside what I call a booger swamp you lose all sense of direction.

In 40 years of hunting at the family camp, I have had many opportunities to shoot deer. However, I never seemed to be able to close the deal.

You could wallpaper the lodge with my shirttails. As I grew from a boy into a young man, I became restless in the woods and didn't hunt as much. Shortly after graduation from high school, I went on the road as a professional musician where I traveled all over the world. Eventually, I married, had children and left the road.

In 1992, Hurricane Andrew devastated south Florida. I lived in North Carolina at the time and worked in the automotive glass industry so I traveled to Florida to work. That was when I met my good friend Steve Miner, from Michigan, and quickly discovered that we had a mutual interest in deer hunting. Over the years, he has invited me numerous times to come and hunt with him, but I never could make it. Then, about two years ago, I began feeling weak, and so I went to many doctors and found out I had Polycystic Kidney Disease. This led to end stage renal failure.

I was told I needed a kidney transplant soon as I was not doing well. I decided right then and there to stop putting off my dreams and go do the things I have always wanted to do, or at least those that I could afford.

I contacted Steve and a hunt was scheduled for October 2006 during archery season. I had to have a dialysis access port placed in my arm, so I could not shoot a compound bow. I applied for and was granted a crossbow permit. I bought an Excalibur ExoMax and flew to Michigan. We went out the next morning but saw no deer, so we went to a different location that evening.

There was a little less than an hour before black dark when a small doe crossed a drainage area behind me. I scoped her and decided to hold out. She came directly downwind and never smelled me. Twenty minutes passed and Steve caught some movement. He tapped my leg and said he saw a deer, so I slowly got up. When I did, I had a better view and saw it was headed toward me.

The doe came up the bank and moved into perfect shooting position. I decided this was the one - a big mature doe. The doe was about 19 yards out, so I settled the crosshairs low and took my shot, which passed straight through the heart. Neither of us could see the bolt hit so we got down and inspected the site. Steve called it right there. A heart shot that left a blood trail a blind man could follow. The doe went about 35-40 yards and piled up.

I had finally killed my first deer. I was so excited.

I have since had my kidney transplant, a gift from a friend at church.

Scott W. Johnson
Fernandina Beach, Florida

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