Local guide helps fulfill young hunter's dream
Just north of Jackman, Maine in Hunting Zone 4, Jeff Watts of Hanover and fellow Maine Guide Joe Kruse of Norridgewock recently fulfilled a young girl’s dream of a lifetime.
Twenty-year-old Jaime Lapole, of Maryland, who has battled life-threatening cystic fibrosis since she was born, waited 10 years for her first moose hunt. After five 16-hour days of hunting, with barely four to five hours’ sleep each night, Jamie got her wish and shot her first moose. It was an experience that both Jaime, and Watts, will never forget.
Since 2001 Watts, a Registered Maine Guide, has been a member of the Hunt of a Lifetime Foundation, a non-profit organization that grants hunting and fishing dreams to children and young adults with life-threatening illnesses. Watts owns Moose Look Outfitters, based in Hanover, and leads hunting and fishing trips in Maine for lovers of the outdoors.
The Pennsylvania-based organization, Hunt of a Lifetime, was founded by Tina Pattison, President and CEO, whose son Matthew was diagnosed with incurable cancer. When Make-a-Wish couldn’t grant Matthew’s dream of hunting a moose, Tina took action and founded the organization.
The selection process for participants is based on two major criteria – the person must be under age 21 and have a life threatening illness. A physician submits certification of the illness and then the application goes before a review board for approval and selection. Depending on the participant's health and availability of guides, there is often a wait, and trips may even be postponed until the person’s health improves.
Typically the participants come from families who enjoy hunting, fishing, and the outdoors. They are knowledgeable regarding the use of firearms and have been taught firearm safety. In Jamie’s case, she hunts deer with her dad at home.Last year the organization provided 108 children with hunting or fishing trips.
Last months’ trip with Jamie and her Dad was Watts’ first with the organization. When asked what inspires Watts to volunteer for Hunt of a Lifetime, he explained, “I want to be a part of providing a family, in a difficult situation, the opportunity of a lifetime. Jamie had her long-awaited lung transplant 11 months ago. She never thought she would make it to her 20th birthday, much less go on a moose hunt that she had waited 10 years for.
“She never complained once during the long days. When she saw her first bull moose she got 'Moose Fever' and the expression on her face was priceless. However, when she finally shot her moose after five days of waiting, she was in disbelief and so happy! My tear ducts are still dried out from the moments I cried. Jaime, her dad, Tony, and I, got to know each other intimately. It was a hunt of a lifetime for me as it was for them and I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
Maine grants two tags a year for these hunts, which are above and beyond those given out by the state’s lottery. There are 20 registered Maine guides who participate in the Hunt of a Lifetime trips. The second Maine hunt this year has been granted to Joe Reed, a 19-year-old, who is paralyzed from the neck down. He will use a rifle that is activated by blowing on a mechanism which fires the rifle.
When asked about the feedback Watts receives from the participants and their parents, he explained, “The families are so appreciative of the opportunity to fulfill their child’s dream, a dream they might not be able to afford on their own. To have a professional guide provide housing, food, and the experience, is in itself, a dream come true. For all of us involved, the time spent with the families is priceless and for those supporting the organization, they can be assured that the child is going to have a great experience in the outdoors with their parent. When you have a child with a life-threatening disease, this is a one time where everything is normal and they are living their dream.”
The Hunt of a Lifetime Foundation is supported by monetary contributions and donations of goods and services. For Watts’ recent hunt with Jamie, support was provided by Moose Look Outfitters of Hanover, Herring Brothers butchers of Guilford, Jim Gieb, taxidermist of Solon, Joe and Liz Kruse of Lake Parlin Lodge and Cabins of Parlin Pond Township, and Cabela’s, a national retail outfitter.
For more information or to apply for a hunting or fishing opportunity, visit www.huntofalifetime.org. For a complete account of Watts’ hunting trip with Jamie and her dad, visit www.MooseLookOutfitters.com.