Cancer Kid Downs Cactus Buck

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Marcus, who is 14, was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma on February 8, 2023. His treatments prevented him from enjoying hunting, a favorite pastime he shared with his family.

After hearing about the young man, news of him quickly spread and reached John Plowman of the United Special Sportsman Alliance (USSA). Plowman contacted Sam, the young man’s father, and arranged a hunt.

“As soon as we heard about Marcus, we knew we wanted to help grant his hunting wish,” said Mike Pompeo, the farm’s owner.

His father, Sam, shared, “When we figured out the days that would work around his treatment, they perfectly aligned with the days they could take him hunting.”

Marcus said, “I was very excited when my dad told me I was going on a deer hunt. Hunting with my dad is always fun, so I couldn’t wait to go.”

Marcus, his dad, and his uncle, Herman, arrived in southwestern New Mexico at 5:30 am. After meeting John and his father, Rodney, they followed them to the ranch, where they met Mike and his son, Troy.

Sam said, “We went outside when the sun came up and saw giant harvested cornfields. I picked up my binoculars and soon saw deer and javelinas feeding in the field. I thought to myself, ‘This is awesome.’

While driving in the UTV, they spotted an exceptional mule deer with a 3×4 rack. Marcus expressed his desire to shoot it. They tried maneuvering around the deer to get a good shot, but suddenly, a giant buck appeared in the field. Immediately, Marcus turned to his father and exclaimed, “That’s the one I want!” Marcus called him the “Cactus Buck” because his rack on the left resembled a cactus.

Marcus explained, “Initially, I was set on getting the 3 X 4 deer, but when we saw the Cactus Buck, I changed my mind instantly.”

The group quickly repositioned themselves and waited patiently for other deer to move out of the way so Marcus could have a clear shot at the buck. Marcus was nervous as he had never shot from a tripod while standing up, so John told him to relax and observe. However, the buck bedded down at 8:05 am, and they waited awhile, but the Cactus buck didn’t stand back up. John suggested having breakfast, going to the range, and practicing shooting with the rifle.

After successfully hitting a pumpkin from a distance of 440 yards, Marcus gained confidence and felt more comfortable with the rifle. Later, they returned to the hotel to rest as he was exhausted from the morning hunt. Standing for an hour while stalking and looking through the scope had taken a toll on the young man. While driving back to the ranch, Sam suggested to his son that if they did not spot the buck he was looking for, he might shoot the 3X4 deer if it presented a decent shot.

John said, “We returned to the field and resumed our glassing. We could see horns in the field, but the high grass obscured their tips. We circled back to where we were earlier that morning and set up the 6.5 Creemore rifle on a tripod. We scanned the area, watched for movement, and waited patiently for the deer to stand up. Eventually, a couple of does and bucks stood up to feed, and in time, so did the Cactus buck.”

Marcus said excitedly, “I could see him in the cornfield when he stood up, and I had it in my mind to take that deer out. But, my legs became tired after a while, so I kept sitting down.”

John said, “Then the buck saw us moving around and laid back down in the field. We got upset because they usually don’t get back up when they do that.”

John altered his initial plan and instructed Troy to move toward him and Marcus slowly. Suddenly, a doe popped up in the cornfield, and several other does and small bucks followed. They wandered around before leaving, except for one small buck who stayed behind. A massive buck emerged from behind the smaller buck, curious about what was happening. John then advised Marcus to wait until the larger buck moved away from the smaller one and stopped. The buck started walking to the right, and Marcus followed him until he stopped and took a perfect shot, dropping the Cactus buck right there.

Marcus said, “While looking through the scope, I was excited because I imagined him on my wall. I had never seen a deer that big before. It was a once-in-a-lifetime deer right there!”

John said, “The hunt atmosphere was exciting and emotional. Marcus and his dad and uncle were in tears. After waiting 20 to 30 minutes to confirm the deer was down, they went to the cornfield and found the massive mule deer. Marcus was excited when he saw the buck, and everyone was emotional. We had seen the deer earlier that morning and thought it was a 10 X 4, but it turned out to be an 11 X 5 with an extra point that we couldn’t see. Marcus and his sister had always competed to see who could kill the biggest buck, and he was excited that his sister would have difficulty beating him with this one, scoring 179 6/8”.

Mike said, “The hunt was a great success, thanks to excellent teamwork and planning. It was one of the most memorable experiences I have had in a long time. Marcus’s hunt will always hold a special place in my heart, even more so than any of my hunts. The whole experience is how it should be – kids deserve happiness.”

Sam expressed his gratitude with emotion, “Despite his health conditions, I am incredibly grateful for my son being allowed to hunt. John treated my son with kindness and patience and taught him how to shoot the gun. Seeing my son enjoying himself while being treated so well was truly impactful. Without caring people, my son wouldn’t have been able to experience this. The fact that he got to go on this hunting trip means the world to me; I urge other fathers in similar situations to take their kids hunting, as we never know how much time we have left.”

Marcus said, “When I saw Cactus, I was really happy, and the best part of the hunt was being with my dad and uncle. I would encourage other kids to try hunting because it’s really fun. All you need to do is give it a shot!”

We thank Mike Pompeo, Troy Pompeo, John Plowman, Rodney Plowman, Major Wildlife Studio, NMDGF, and USSA Donors for providing a once-in-a-lifetime hunt.

Congratulations to the young man for bagging his trophy Cactus buck and creating special memories with his father, uncle, and newly found hunting buddies. God bless!

If you would like your child to participate in a hunting or fishing trip, please complete an application on our website.