Cancer Kid Bags Mountain Bear

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Early in 2020, six-year-old Boone developed stiffness, swelling, and what his parents believed to be growing pains. Then, he also became highly sore and found it challenging to move around. Boone underwent multiple doctor visits and tests before receiving a diagnosis of Ewing’s Sarcoma. He underwent a 12-month chemotherapy cycle, stem cell harvest, and significant surgery on his lung. After treatment, Boone went into remission for three years but recently had a relapse in a couple of spots in his spine and legs and is currently receiving low-dose chemotherapy.

Boone’s father, Chris, applied for a hunting trip with the United Special Sportsman Alliance (USSA) in October 2023, as Boone responded well to treatment. A few weeks later, Derek Brinkley contacted Chris to arrange the details of the upcoming hunting trip for the nine-year-old.

Boone exclaimed, “My dad told me I was going on a bear hunt, and I was so excited and surprised.”

As the hunting trip drew near, they faced a few hurdles. Boone ran a fever for a few days, and Chris had to undergo an unexpected surgery. Although the doctor advised him not to go, Chris didn’t want to disappoint his son, so he had his brother Matt drive them instead.

Boone shared, “We drove for six hours, and I slept part of the way. Then we drove up a big mountain to reach their camp. They had a large cabin with deer antlers and skulls hanging on the walls. The back room had bunk beds where we slept.”

After enjoying a delicious dinner and fellowship, Derek gave them a rundown of the following morning hunt, and they retired for the night. The next day, after an early breakfast, they loaded the dogs and headed out. While riding in Derek’s truck, Boone became fascinated with the GPS that tracked the hounds, displaying their location and distance from the group.

After reaching the George Washington National Forest, Derek and the group let loose the bear hounds, and they immediately went out of sight, sniffing for bear tracks. Finding a fresh bear track is sometimes unpredictable, so Derek went ahead with the dogs while Boone and the others waited anxiously by the truck for a word from their guide that they had struck a good bear track. They didn’t have to wait long before Derek’s message reached Boone, Matt, and Deb that a bear track was up and going. The track splits in two directions, indicating the hunters are running two bears. Boone, Matt, and Deb followed Daniel, Derek and his pup, and a few cut-in dogs, while Mitchell and Keith followed the rest of their pack. Dean, Toni, and Dennis watched both packs of dogs to ensure their safety from the road. Soon, Mitchell and Keith’s dogs started barking, and they treed a sow bear weighing about 200 lbs. Shortly after, Derek and his group treed a sow bear around 150 lbs. Derek told Boone they could find a bigger one and hopefully a boar bear. They watched the bear climb down from the tree and run away, which Boone enjoyed and was ready to try again.

Later that afternoon, Mitchell had a bear up and running, so Derek, Boone, and the group headed towards his direction. They eventually managed to tree the bear, but when Mitchell arrived, the bear jumped out and ran into a dense area circling in thick terrain, putting the dogs in danger. Despite several attempts to get Boone into a shooting position, they decided to harvest the 228 lbs. bear as it posed a clear risk to the dogs. Although Boone didn’t get to harvest the bear, he was thrilled to be in the midst of the action and enjoyed every minute of it.

Early the following morning, Derek ventured into a dense area of thick underbrush with four dogs. After a few minutes, the dogs jumped a bear, which did not run far before being treed about 300 yards away. However, since the bear weighed only 75 to 100 lbs, he left it and continued on. He didn’t go a hundred yards from the small bear, and the dogs started pulling him, and he could tell they were on the trail of a different bear. He turned the dogs loose, and although they didn’t bark much, they were moving the track very well. When he returned to the truck, the GPS showed a bear treed about 250 yards off the road. Derrick and a few other hunters walked in to see the perfect-sized bear for Boone 40 feet up in a pine tree. They walked back out towards the trucks, clearing a path because it was very thick, and then everyone at camp headed back towards the tree.

“As we got closer, I knew they had a bear treed,” Boone remarked, “because several dogs were barking, and they all sounded like one big loud dog.”

Chris took Boone close to the tree, pushing back some limbs to help his son get in a good position to make a safe shot. Boone was feeling nervous, and his heart was racing. After Keith and his dad helped him relax a little, Boone removed the safety of his Savage rifle and looked through the scope. He saw the bear in his sights and aimed for its head. Keith instructed him to wait until the bear turned its head at a particular angle before firing. Boone waited patiently for the right moment and then made a perfect shot. His gigantic bear fell from the pine tree and rolled down the hill.

Chris recounted, “Boone was extremely thrilled when he got it. His eyes grew wide with excitement; it was a lot for him to take in. He couldn’t believe what he had just achieved. I was also pleasantly surprised, feeling an adrenaline rush and extremely happy for my son.”

“My dad was really emotional. He high-fived and hugged me, saying, “Good job!” Derrick and Keith also gave me a high-five. When we arrived at my bear, my uncle was already there, and I hugged him too. I felt great, and then I jumped on top of my bear. It was awesome!!”

Derrick added, “Boone made a great shot on his bear, and a young man, though tired from hunting the previous day and walking to the tree, was jumping for joy at his 263-pound black bear. It was a pleasure to have Boone and family down for a hunt, and it’s certainly one we will never forget.”

Thanks to Derek Brinkley, Mitchell Caldwell, Keith Riley, Dennis Brinkley, Toni Cassidy, Dean Turner, Wilber Stephenson, Daniel Grimm, and their families. Also, Ron and Deb Koch for their beautiful pictures, filming the hunt, and the financial support from the community. Congratulations to Boone on his trophy bear and the incredible memories he shared with his dad, uncle, and new hunting buddies! God bless!

If you are interested in getting involved or know of a deserving child or veteran, don’t hesitate to contact us at [email protected].