Sometimes God introduces you to people who will have a huge impact and will likely change your life, or at least your understanding, of God’s grace. Braedan Henegar and his parents, Scott and Tammy, are three of those people who have positively impacted many lives, including mine.
During the 2023 NWTF National Convention and Sport Show in Nashville, Tennessee, I was listening to a friend, Dr. Jimmy Sites, who was having a friendly conversation with young Braedan. Jimmy introduced us, and we began discussing a turkey hunt in Maryland or Virginia.
Braedan is a remarkable young man, and standing at 4-foot-4, I leaned down to chat with him. My heart was so warmed by his wide-glowing smile that we connected immediately. Without him asking, I told him a hunting trip could be easily arranged, as our Maryland youth turkey season was approaching quickly.
At that time, I had no idea of his life story other than that he loved to hunt, but now I’m sure his story is worthy of sharing. I later learned doctors diagnosed him with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy at age 4.
Duchenne is a life-threatening disease that attacks the muscles, including the heart and lungs. His family is doing everything they can for his health, awareness of the disease, funding for trials, and giving him the life he deserves. As mentioned, he loves hunting and is well-known by many as the “Critter Getter.” His goal is simple: enjoy his precious gift of life to the fullest, doing what he loves at every opportunity.
Myself and a few NWTF friends were all blessed to share one of those opportunities this past spring with him and his parents. The following is a short story of the hunt.
The hunt occurred during the last few days of the 2023 Maryland spring turkey season. The volunteer support was outstanding, with a heartfelt goal to make this hunt not only successful, but a memory Braedan could share with others. Our volunteer guides were Bobby Boarman, Fred Richards and Steve Berry, who lined up several private property farms for Braedan’s hunt. Bobby, a past Maryland State NWTF Chapter president, guided Braedan and his dad, Scott, on Friday morning. Bobby’s wife, Susan, spent long hours ensuring the area was not hunted, and she even photographed a nice group of mature toms ahead of the hunt.
The weather and setup were perfect. Bobby called in a longbeard to around 40 yards, and the game was on. Unfortunately, the custom TriStar .410 with TSS shot was off target, and the bird lived to strut another day.
We all had a valuable hunting lesson. Even the “Critter Getter” is human. That morning will never be forgotten, though. We all grinned, joked around and prepared for another nearby location.
As soon as we arrived, a another gobbler was working the long open field several hundred yards away. Our hearts were warmed watching Braedan’s dad carry him to a new hunting spot. Braedan cannot walk long distances, and the walk across farmland at a fast pace can be challenging even for the average person, so the sight of watching his dad carry him to the ground blind was etched in my heart forever. It makes me think about how God carries each of us in our journey, especially at times we need His help.
After lunch, we chose a location in another county, orchestrated by Steve Berry. He had set up a few ground blinds on a private farm that was known to have many birds. Although we did not harvest a gobbler that day, we closed the evening with lots of stories, fellowship and inspiration as Braedan blessed the food with a wonderful prayer.
We feasted on elk burgers, steamed shrimp, BBQ pulled pork and lots of sweet treats after enjoying God’s creation throughout the day.
Saturday morning, we were up and at ‘em bright and early, excited and ready to roll with new hope and prayer for a successful hunt. Off to a new spot in the pitch-black dark, a local farm preserved by owners' Bruce Culver and his son, Braedan prepared for his last day of hunting in Maryland.
Fred Richards, another NWTF past Maryland State Chapter president, was excited to share his calling skills to lure in a longbeard for Braedan. Tammy and I were sitting in my old Ford F-250, watching the action from a distance, hoping and praying the birds to respond.
"Lord, please bless him by notching another success story in his life memory," I prayed to myself.
The sky began to lighten up and the echo of distant gobbling could be heard, a sound that stirs our hearts and makes turkey hunting so special. At least two longbeards were battling for dominance, accompanied by a lonely hen. That lone hen can be challenging for the best callers; drawing an old, leery tom from his gal is not easy.
As Tammy and I were deep in discussion about their life journey and how the Lord is guiding them each day, we heard a loud BOOM! Tammy said, “He got him; he’s down.”
Yep, Braedan had harvested his Maryland longbeard. Fred was undoubtedly grinning ear to ear with a guide’s pride.
There is nothing like an early sunrise, with the sounds of God’s creation coming to life, followed by the stories of a successful hunt: Hearing how the old tom was lured away from his hen, waiting for that perfect opportunity and then success.
We have all been there, and those memories of the hunt, successful or not, will be shared for years.
This two-day Maryland hunt is very special to all of us. This young man's miss, followed by harvesting his Maryland turkey on the second day, is an example of patience and dedication, which he continuously shares as he forever impacts others. His love of hunting is only second to his love for Jesus Christ, a model for all of us to follow and live by.
I have heard from each person who met Braedan that he is an extraordinary, intelligent and mature young man who models faith in Christ. We are all blessed by just meeting him. I discovered his love for our country and the military. As an Army veteran, I found a handful of military souvenirs from my stash to share with him. Seeing his smile and hearing the words, “These are for me?,” was and will always be priceless.
God brings people into our lives that will have a massive impact on us. Meeting Braedan and his parents is one of those times, and I thank God He allowed this brief meeting. As believers in Jesus Christ, we are blessed and unified when we invest time together. Braedan shared his faith and gave me a pocket cross made by Sandy Brady in North Carolina, a dear friend of the Henegars who makes these crosses to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is precious to me and a reminder of Braedan’s visit, his faith and our hunt together.
The many thanks for making this hunt a success started with Dr. Jimmy Sites for introducing me to the Henegar family at the 2023 NWTF Convention and Sport Show. The Maryland NWTF family —Bobby and Susan Boarman, Fred Richards, Steve Berry and their families — ensured this hunt was a memory to reflect on what the NWTF mission is all about.
A special thanks to the landowners who graciously offered their farms for us to hunt and for Braedan to harvest his beautiful Maryland gobbler. Lastly, a huge thanks to you, Braedan, and your parents, Scott and Tammy, for sharing your life with us; we all have been blessed with our brief time together.
Most of all, in our brief life journey, we thank Jesus Christ, who gave His life for us to have a personal relationship with Him. We are so blessed to share our limited time on Earth enjoying His creation and look forward to an eternity with Him in Heaven.
If you are interested and would like to learn more of Braedan’s story, and even support research about his disease, you can go to: Braedan’s Bridge, a 501C3 nonprofit organization started by his parents, Scott and Tammy, to raise awareness and support research for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
James 1:12 reads, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”