A young man from North Carolina had to overcome a lot of obstacles to do it, but he achieved a life-long goal last week in West Virginia, when he hunted and killed a black bear. Twelve year old John Dean, of Landis, North Carolina, knows a lot about overcoming obstacles.
When he was just six years old, John had a bad stomach ache, which turned out to be a much larger problem. John was diagnosed with lymphoma – a cancer of the blood – and endured the fear for his life that no young person should have to experience. The youngster withstood the withering effects of daily chemotherapy for four months and miraculously rebounded from the deadly disease.
Even more challenges lay ahead for the young man. After he suffered from sinus infections and bouts of pneumonia, doctors told John he had an immune system disorder, which required weekly intravenous immunoglobulin injections. He had to have surgery on his tonsils, adenoids and sinuses, and will need the immune therapy for the rest of his life.
Talking to John, you don’t get a clue what he’s been through. He’s a happy kid. Back in North Carolina, his dad taught him how to hunt small game in their backyard.
“I hunt rabbits and squirrels and doves in my backyard,” said John. “I’ve been hunting for about two years. We live, kind of, in the city, so I use this high-powered air rifle.”
John always dreamed of traveling to the mountains and bagging a black bear. So father Matt contacted United Special Sportmen’s Alliance (USSA), an organization that helps outdoor-loving kids like John achieve their goals. All the group had to do was contact a local hunter to make John’s dream come true.
USSA volunteer Bridget O’Donohue contacted Kish Justice, a member of the Clear Creek Rod and Gun Club, in Rupert. Justice contacted fellow club member Tom Provesis, of Marlinton, who spearheaded the effort to set up a bear hunt for John. Provesis had no trouble getting support from local businesses.
Appalachian Sport provided a hunting lodge at Stamping Creek. Mitchell Chevrolet provided a vehicle. Buckeye Country Mart donated groceries and Dairy Queen gave John and Matt free meals while they were in town. Liar’s Corner provided supplies and a guide – Ernie Cobb.
Several Clear Creek members – including Brandon Hamons, Lloyd Anderson, Justin Rhea, Dewayne Harrah, Justin Stintum, Porter Stanley, Wayne Hickman, Cory Dauwal and Jason Yates – rallied on a stormy, cold December morning to support the hunt. The group convoyed to the club’s 80,000-acre expanse in western Greenbrier County.
“They let the dogs go with the GPS on their collars, and the dogs would go all around and look for the bear and run the bear up the tree,” said John. “We had to walk up a hill. It was really exciting. I was a little nervous, that I might mess up the shot. But when I shot it, I was happy when it fell out of the tree.”
Now that John is a successful bear hunter, he’s making plans for the future.
“I want to buy a house in West Virginia and get a lot of property and go bear hunting all the time,” he said.
Matt talked about the experience with his son in West Virginia.
“This whole trip is memories,” he said. “Sometimes, you have memories that you don’t want to remember, because they’re not good memories. He’s been through a lot. These are memories that we’re going to want to bring back, over and over again.
“The opportunity to do these kind of outings, that Clear Creek hunt club and USSA gave him, allow him to forget all the issues that he has to deal with on a daily basis, for a few days, and for that, I am immensely grateful.”
Matt teaches John to be a respectful hunter.
“It has nothing, really, to do with killing – it all has to do with learning how to hunt,” he said. “He loves just to shoot guns. I set it in his mind that if he shoots it, he eats it. So, whatever he takes, whatever he harvests, he eats.”
John and Matt already love Pocahontas County.
“This is an awesome place with awesome people,” said Matt. “The community seems to be a tight-knit community, where everybody knows each other. Very pleasant and a great group of people.”
“I want to thank the USSA and I just want to thank you for letting me come up here and go bear hunting,” said John.