One of the few drawbacks of my job are the limitations of the printed page. There’s only so much space so sometimes we run stories shorter than we’d like or use two or three photos when we have 10 to 12 good ones.
So it was with Sunday’s article about the Life Hunt for kids with life-threatening illnesses at Larned. Fortunately we have the wide-open world of online to help with that problem. Residents of Larned paid all the costs for Michael Santonastasso, left, to bring his son, Nicholas, on a special deer hunt in Kansas. this weekend. Nick was born with no legs, one arm and one finger. You can click here to read the story. Be sure to check the photo gallery attachment after you open the story, too.
And now as Paul Harvey often said, “Here’s the rest of the story.” *There are other Life Hunts in Kansas, though the one in Larned has the longest history, highest success on trophy bucks and most community involvement.
*Both boys – Nicholas Santonastasso and Matthew Billy – are from families of avid hunters. Both had taken a small buck and does before with the help of family and friends.That means they and the closest people in their lives can appreciate the size of the deer they took. Both boys love all aspects of the outdoors, including fishing.
*The boys are largely opposites in terms of personalities. Nick, 14 and from New Jersey, is vivacious, outwardly friendly and grabs life by large bites at a time. The dude can shoot a mean spit-wad out of a soda straw. Guide Mike Hauser may be wishing he wouldn’t have gone there when he started the duel across a Larned restaurant. (Bald heads make a pretty inviting target, huh, Nick?) Matthew, 11 and from eastern Oklahoma, is a classic case of still waters running deep. He didn’t say much after he shot the kind of buck none of his friends back home have ever seen. (Shoot, Matt, I’ve hunted Kansas all my life and I haven’t even had the chance to miss a buck like that big 12-pointer…and miss is what I would do because I’d be shaking so much!) Even though he was quiet and reserved after the shot, a look in his eyes and at the slight smile on his face showed he was moved deeply inside.
*The Larned Life Hunt faces a few challenges as it looks to the future. Tim Schaller, hunt co-founder, worries an outfitter might lease or buy the hunt’s 2,000 acres out from under the program. Schaller already leases the land but couldn’t compete with what an outfitter charging $5,000 per antler-crazed hunter could pay.
* (This is my favorite) Schaller said one of the biggest obstacles facing Life Hunts around the country is pressure from anti-hunting, anti-gun groups and many within the medical profession. Most medical organizations working with life-threatened kids refuse to release any names or allow Life Hunt organizers to advertise within their publications. Schaller had direct communications with one such administrator who refused to cooperate because he deemed hunting too dangerous. Schaller provided national studies that showed hunting is far safer than things like football, riding bikes and roller-blading. “He refused to accept the facts from those studies,” Schaller said. Employees within hospitals that work with life-threatened kids have been threatened with job termination if they recommend a child to Life Hunt organizers.
*Personally speaking, I’m always proud to be a sixth-generation Kansan but there are times when that pride climbs even higher than normal. Watching a small Kansas town – Larned – so open its arms to these kids is one of those times. Amazing, simply amazing.
My take on a motto for the hunt. Ad cervus per aspera (To the deer, through difficulty!)