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A Hunter's Bond

Jason Engemann

The first time I met David was 20 years ago. We were both fresh out of college and now shared the same job title. He was very shy at first and it took a few days just to get a few sentences out of him. As it turned out, we had a lot in common, both of us avid outdoorsman. It wasn't long that we became close friends, sharing hunting stories and strategies when we probably should have been working! Before long, David got engaged to his college sweetheart and was looking for a bigger place to eventually start a family. I just so happened to have an old brick house on my family's farm, and he happily agreed to rent it from us.

Now being close neighbors, we would spend countless hours over the next few years bowhunting whitetails in the fall and chasing turkeys in the spring. Like all best friends do, we were there for each other to help through "life" issues. When both of my parents had passed away within a few years, David was always there to lend an ear and offer support.

Eventually, David and his wife wanted to buy a house of their own, so they moved 30 minutes away to a small town and had two beautiful kids: a boy, then a girl.

He would still come out to the farm and hunt, maybe not as much as before, but we would never miss an opening day of turkey season or a couple of bow hunts in the first week of November. There was no doubt his priorities had changed; he was a dedicated family man now.

On a September day in 2016, everything changed.

A drunk driver had collided into the back of David's car. Both of his kids had passed away in the accident, and David was paralyzed from the chest down. A helpless feeling of anger and sadness washed over me as I drove to the hospital. Having two kids of my own, I couldn't help but put myself in his situation and could not fathom how difficult it must be for David and his wife to cope with this.

What I wasn't prepared for was how strong he and his wife were in the weeks and months after. David's faith in God and his refusal to give up will always have a lasting effect on me. After a few months of acclimating to his new life in a wheelchair, it wasn't long until he was already planning on how he would adapt to continue doing the things he loved, including hunting.

David then informed me that he and his wife would be moving a thousand miles away, to upstate New York, to be closer to her family. I understood the reasons they moved away, but I had also hoped that someday he and I would be able to hunt together again. A year went by and after talking with him several times, I realized how much stronger he was getting physically. Early this spring, I got a text from David who nonchalantly stated he would be driving back to Missouri for turkey season! On the Monday after Easter, David showed up at my house with his slightly modified SUV after driving the entire way, by himself! The next few days were just like the old times, telling hunting stories in the evenings, and getting up before dawn to get in our hunting blind. We didn't end up killing a turkey during his visit, but I can't remember a more successful season!