Skyler Jensen strains to lift the head of his trophy buck.
January has been a month of historic firsts for Skyler Jensen of Sunnyside: first time on an airplane, first time he shot a 12-point buck, first time he was stranded in an airport for 13 hours, first time he was ever taped for network TV broadcast and photographed for a handful of national sports magazines.
The 16-year-old Lighthouse student took part in the Buckmasters Hunt of a Lifetime at the Sedgefield Plantation outside Selma, Ala. "He was one of only ten disabled kids chosen out of 20,000," explained his dad, Steve Jensen.
Skyler's disability is a rare form of epilepsy. While the seizures are controllable, they are not curable. The renegade cells that touch off the electrical storms in his nervous system are in an inoperable part of his brain, his mother Cindy said.
"He'll never get a driver's license," said his father.
But the disability did not affect his aim. He put his bullet through the white-tail's heart from 200 yards out.
Skyler said that patience and a very good guide were the keys to success. "We walked to a blind they had set up, a tree stand," he recalled. "The first hour, all I saw was does and a little three point. So we waited and waited. Then I saw some more does and then an eight-point."
He thought this buck was going to be his, and he admitted to getting a case of buck fever - "I was shivering." - but his guide then saw something else coming into the clearing..
"The guide said, 'That's the twelve!' I had the scope to my eye and I just moved it to where it was pointed right behind the shoulder."
The buck fever was gone and the shot was true. Skyler had bagged the third-biggest buck ever harvested at Sedgefield and the biggest one ever videotaped.
The antlers measured 27.5 inches wide with a 24-inch main beam. "They were heavier than heck," Skyler declared. "When we brought the buck back to camp the first thing I saw was cameras in my face." TV and magazine photographers got wind of the trophy buck and were snapping away.
"It was probably the best moment of my life," Skyler smiled. "My guide got an award, too."
The young man was not the only one on the hunt. Steve Jensen explained that the Lifetime Hunt is reserved for disabled people and wounded warriors. "They have four-wheel-drive wheelchairs so people who need them can get into the woods," Steve said.
One youngster, lacking fully-formed arms and legs, was able to walk around on his stumps but had no fingers to operate a trigger. The hunt sponsors had a solution to that: he could chomp down on a rubber bulb in his mouth when the shot was right, and the air pressure from the bulb would actuate the trigger mechanism.
Aside from bagging the trophy, Skyler said the other highlight of the hunt was that he got to "meet new people and make new friends." One of those new friends was Jackie Bushman, CEO of Buckmasters, whose TV show and magazine will be featuring Skyler soon. (Steve will get advance notice of the broadcast.)
In addition to providing transportation, lodging, food, gun and ammo, the company will also be mounting and shipping the trophy to Sunnyside. Making space for a rack that size will require some rearranging in the living room, said Steve and Cindy.
According to them, the new addition will be more than a conversation piece. "It tells disabled kids that they can do anything they put their minds to," Steve declared.