Written by Craig Nyhus, Lone Star Outdoor News
The shot was perfect and the South Texas white-tailed buck was down — but it took awhile for the guide and father to gather their composure and leave the blind to see and touch the deer.
Young Matt Watts’ wish had been granted during his hunt with the Lone Star Outdoor News Foundation.
“It was emotional,” guide Jim Wheeler said, “we were thinking about all this young man had been through.”
Matt, though, after a long trip from his Bracketville, Pennsylvania home on New Years’ Day, wanted to go and see his deer.
His father, Jim Watts, described Matt’s journey with cancer.
“At age seven, a brain tumor (medullablastoma) was discovered and surgery was performed,” he said. “It returned later, though. He loves to hunt, we’ve hunted near home and he has shot a 6-pointer and a doe. He watches all the TV shows, and his favorites are Wade Middleton’s shows, Americana Outdoors and Yamaha’s Outdoor Diaries. What he really wanted is to shoot a Texas buck.”
Make-A-Wish refused that wish, as dreams that involve hunting are not granted by the popular charity.
“They did send us to Disney World,” his father said.
At the South Texas ranch, Jim explained that the cancer and drugs used to treat it affected Matt’s growth, leaving the guides wondering about chair height in the blind. At 12 years old and in the 7th grade, Matt stands 4 feet, 3 inches tall.
Once Matt stepped out of the truck, it was obvious he could shoot in the blind while standing.
“You’re the perfect height for a deer blind,” he was told.
Matt described his afternoon hunt.
“We saw the buck twice,” he said. “As soon as we got there, we saw a doe. Then the buck walked fast by the feeder and got behind the brush. When the feeder went off, he came out.”
The window to the blind was opened, and Matt got the rifle out.
“I looked at it and started shaking,” he said. “Two does were watching us. Jim (Wheeler) said “”be patient, be patient, he’ll step out and turn.””
After about 10 minutes, the 10-pointer did.
“Then I shot him,” the matter-of-fact youngster said. “I did what I was told, put it on the shoulder and let the gun surprise me. I was still shaking, though. He dropped in his tracks.”
After some fist pumps in the blind, he called his mother while the two adults were dead silent and wiping their cheeks.
Then it was time to see his deer.
“This is the best New Year’s ever,” Matt said.
“For me, too,” his father replied.
Matt spent the afternoon watching the dressing of his deer and posing for more photographs. It was time to take the guts to their destination.
“Have you ever driven an ATV,” he was asked.
“No,” Matt said.
Another wish was granted, as Matt drove the vehicle around the ranch on the rainy afternoon.
The evening hunt sent Matt and his dad to another blind on the ranch, where corn-loving javelinas had been spotted. Several deer, though, showed up on Matt’s evening hunt.
“Do you see that doe,” Matt was asked as the rifle was positioned out the window.
“Yes,” Matt said.
“She turned — whenever you’re ready.”
Another true shot, another deer for the young hunter.
“That was cool,” Matt said. “This is awesome.”
While his guide went to retrieve the truck, Matt and his father waited by the deer, and Matt told his father how much he liked the trip.
“Texas is a great place,” he said.
The next day, Matt got another wish. Having taken two deer, he got to sleep in. When it was almost time for the father-son to head back to the airport for their trip home, he got a choice.
“We still have 30 minutes,” he was told. “We could go shoot the .22 or you could drive the Polaris some more.”
The young man smiled.
“Let’s go for another ride,” Matt said.
After the gate was opened and the rental car headed back to San Antonio, several grown men stood in total silence, none daring to try to speak.
More than just one young man’s wish had been granted.