A couple years back I met Justin Brasington when we hunted together in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It was a late-season bow hunt, and it didn’t take long for me to figure out “Braze” is the real deal. Despite deep snow, cold temps and strong winds he hunted long and hard. He was rewarded with a nice fat doe on New Years Eve morning. In our enthusiasm, I made the poor decision to follow up the deer too soon. The result was a long trailing job. Braze never gave up, and when he recovered the deer he was faced with a 1/3 of a mile, uphill drag, through hip deep snow to where we could load it on the UTV. He did it by himself; never asked for help.
Since then we’ve become frequent email and Facebook correspondents sharing successes and commiserating about hunts that didn’t go right. Well, a recent note from Braze once again confirmed with no doubt he’s the real deal! More than a year ago, he took a young hunter in Pennsylvania under his wing and that young man – Lucian – took his first buck this fall.
Here’s Braze’s report in his own words and photos:
The Pennsylvania game Commission mentoring youth program has created many hunters. Lucian Cuzzola is one of the many young men taking part in this program. I met Lucian’s father, Jeff, a few years back. He is a great guy with high values and a love for his family. Due to health problems Jeff is not able to take his son hunting. We spoke of the many lessons learned from hunting, respect for others and for the land, as well as, honor, responsibility, and self worth. I asked Jeff if I could take Lucian out shooting with me. What I found was a new hunting buddy.
I enjoyed watching Lucian develop the needed skills to become a Pennsylvania. hunter. The first year we didn’t see any deer. I was afraid that he might become discouraged and give up, but like his Dad, giving up is not an option for Lucian. Instead, it just gave him a stronger desire to hunt.
This year Lucian’s parents bought him a new gun for an early Christmas gift. While watching him sight in his rifle I could see the excitement, I could feel the jitters in his belly, and see the desire in his eyes! It was easy to spot because it still happens to me!
On the first day he was up and ready before the alarm went off! We spotted more than 20 deer by noon, however none within range. Finally a buck came toward us. As I handed the rifle to him, I could see the slight shake in his hands, he could barely speak, and the excitement at that moment was beyond words! I tried to calm him by reminding him to focus on the deer, when you find the shoulders shoot! The first shot missed! Before we knew it the deer turned … Lucian took a breath, aimed and shot. This time he hit the deer, we followed the blood trail until we found Lucian’s 1st Pennsylvania whitetail buck. When Lucian smiled for the picture he wrapped his hands around those antlers and his smile said it all! We have another responsible, proud Pennsylvania hunter among us.
I know this hunt is forever in this heart -- you never forget your 1st deer. I will never find the words of gratitude needed to thank Jeff for allowing me the honor of mentoring his son.”
Braze, you and all those other mentors out there are the ones who deserve the thanks of the hunting world. So on their behalf – “THANK YOU!” There’s a special place in the happy hunting ground reserved for real deal hunters like you.