Bre'Anna Carey is a special young girl from Springfield, Illinois, who was diagnosed in June 2006, with an adenoma (tumor) on her pituitary gland. She's the youngest person to be diagnosed with this condition and was placed on medication that's normally used only to treat adults. She's suffered all kinds of side effects from the medication, some of which are headaches, sensitivity to light and noises and many others. But despite all of these problems, Bre'Anna continues to go to school, continues to be in her good spirits and continues to pursue her passion for hunting.
After her diagnosis, Bre'Anna decided that despite everything that was going on, she wanted to hunt wild turkeys with her bow. She hunted turkeys but had no luck. She then decided that she wanted to hunt white-tailed deer after she got so close to a deer that she could hear it breathing. So begins the story of Bre'Anna's deer hunting adventure … .
I was fortunate enough to take Bre'Anna hunting last November, one day before the opening of Illinois' deer season. She showed up at my house bright and early that morning—way before sunrise—ready to go hunting. We sat in a ground blind and saw a few does, but we were unable to get a shot at anything that first morning. Bre'Anna didn't give up and stuck it out until 10:30 that morning. And after lunch, she was right back in the field with even more enthusiasm than she had that morning. That evening also went by with no shot at a deer. Bre'Anna left that evening empty handed, but her spirit was still high. I left the field that evening with a renewed outlook on life, whitetail hunting and a special new friend.
Bre'Anna went in for surgery shortly after this hunt and had the tumor removed. Surgeons thought that they'd removed all of the tumor but the truth was they weren't sure. After starting the surgery they found the tumor had grown and attached itself to Bre'Anna's carotid artery and the optic nerve. They explained there was a chance that all of the tumor hadn't been removed due to these complications. A few days later, we were told that part of the tumor was still there and they would have to try something else.
Bre'Anna came back from the hospital around December 18, but she couldn't be out in the cold weather because she would be very susceptible to infections and colds. Her father called me and said that all Bre'Anna could talk about was getting back in the woods to hunt deer, and after talking for a while it was decided that she would be able to hunt out of the ground blind I'd built for my father. There she could stay warm with the help of a heater, so Bre'Anna once again showed up at my door with a big smile, only this time it was hidden behind a surgical mask. But her enthusiasm was still strong. She hunted hard and long, but again nothing showed.
As I began thinking of what I could do and who I could call to turn things around for her, I decided to ask some of the local farmers if she could hunt on their land. The first farm I stopped at was a place I'd always wanted to hunt but one that I just never had an opportunity to, and as I talked to the owners, they interrupted me in the middle of my speech and told me to “get that young lady into their woods and get her a deer!” When they told me that their property was hers and that she could go anywhere she wanted, a feeling of joy overcame me. I called her father and told him the great news. He then told me some bad news: Bre'Anna had to go back to the hospital on January 1 and wouldn't be back until the third, which would leave her only 8 days to hunt.
Bre'Anna was back from the hospital and ready to go hunting on January 3, and she hunted hard every morning and evening. The deer and the weather, however, just wouldn't cooperate—no deer would come into range and the rain simply refused to stop. I was unable to get Bre'Anna into the spots where I knew deer would be so I made some calls to the owners of the connecting property and they granted us permission to cross onto their land by four-wheeler so we could get Bre'Anna into a better spot. This plan worked and deer were seen every day from then on, but they still wouldn't come within shooting range.
On the morning of the next to last day of the season, we all sat and prayed that today would be the day that Bre'Anna would get her deer. And as darkness fell I made the call to her father and he said that they'd seen some deer but none within range. I walked down to Bre'Anna and her father with an empty heart and as we loaded up the truck that night you could see the disappointment in her eyes. That's when we told her the hardest thing I've ever had to tell her, and that was that we always have next year. She smiled a little, but you could tell she was disappointed—not from the act of not shooting a deer but from the thought that she wouldn't be able to hunt again until October.
The next morning Bre'Anna's father, Brian, called to say that Bre'Anna would be able to hunt that evening if I could arrange it, and excitement rose once again as I realized there was still a chance for Bre'Anna to kill a deer before the season ended. We changed her location once again that evening in an attempt to get her a little closer to the deer we'd seen.
Bre'Anna was hunting with her dad, and I remember sitting in a nearby treestand, waiting for something to happen. Then, around 5 p.m., it finally did. I was surprised by the sound of deer crashing through the woods and I stood and watched for several minutes as they ran away as quickly as they'd come in. I sat and waited for a call on my cell phone and after a few more seconds, my phone finally rang. It was Bre'Anna and when I answered, she said in a soft, excited voice, “I got one.” She then paused and said, “and it has horns.” I congratulated her and was quickly on a run to her location.
When I arrived at their location, Bre'Anna was smiling from ear-to-ear as she told me everything that had happened. We started the search for her arrow and after a short distance we found it. After inspecting the arrow it was determined that the shot was a little far back and we needed to back out and return later to recover the deer. As we explained to Bre'Anna what had happened, it didn't curb her enthusiasm. She knew that she had gotten her buck and her dream was coming true.
Everyone agreed to meet later that night at 10 p.m. to resume the search and as the meeting time neared, I was greeted at my door by a caravan of people with flashlights and lanterns. By 10 p.m., there were seven other hunters at my house, not including Bre'Anna and her father. It was a beautiful sight to see everyone coming together to help find this little lady's deer.
The search began shortly after 10 p.m. and shortly after it begun, someone found the blood trail, and excitement mounted as the trail became easier to find. Then as fast as the trail had started, it simply quit. There was a drop here and a drop there, and then nothing. One group stayed at the last drop of blood while others split up and began grid lining every possible area that the buck could have gone in hopes of finding the deer or some indication as to where it could have gone. At 2 a.m. we still hadn't found the deer and it was then decided that we should come back in the morning and resume the search. As we were about to end the search, Bre'Anna came out of the truck after warming up for a few moments and asked if we could look a little more, and at that point the search was quickly back on. We continued the search until 3 a.m. and it was then with a heavy heart that Bre'Anna agreed to head home and come back the next morning.
Bright and early the next morning, Bre'Anna was ready to start looking for her buck again. When we returned to the area, we searched every gully, brush pile and grass patch we could find. After no luck, we gathered on a small dirt path that separated the timber and decided to start the search in the other part of the timber because we believed the buck couldn't have gone any farther south. Everyone split up again and started searching, and 30 yards into the search someone in the group yelled out to Bre'Anna and asked her what her deer looked like. Everyone stopped and just looked at him. Then he asked, “Does it look like this one?" as he pointed down into the creek. At that point, Bre'Anna's face lit up and everyone was on a dead run to see her trophy, and sure enough, there was her buck floating approximately 3 feet off the creek bank. Bre'anna was smiling, but she was still concerned about how we'd get the deer out of the water. That question was quickly answered after one person in the group jumped into the creek and dragged the buck to the bank where Bre'Anna and the others then lifted it to shore.
The story ended with the recovery of Bre'Anna's trophy and a little girl, who after enduring month after month of tragedies, now had her trophy and the biggest smile on her face that I've ever seen. And the rest of us got an even sweeter reward: The chance to make a special little girl's dream come true. And being a part of that has touched the hearts of all the people who were with her on that special day.