As I sit here on the eve of our 6th deer season with a to-do list a mile long, I can’t help but think about how far we have come since our inception in early 2018. When I first started B4 Outdoors, we were operating on a shoestring budget and even though we still have to stretch every single dollar, I look around and can’t help but feel blessed beyond measure. It’s easy to see how far we’ve come when you look at a shed full of equipment, a beautiful lodge that sits on 78 acres, acres and acres of leases, cellular trail cameras on every farm, and some of the hunting industry’s best equipment, however it’s the things you can’t actually see that are the biggest blessings.
The before mentioned mile long to-do list would be the length of a marathon if it wasn’t for the support that not only B4 has received but that I have personally received while trying to build this thing from the ground up. There are so many people who have helped along the way. People who have donated time, money, equipment, support, advice, blood, sweat, and tears. There are too many to list but know that none of you have gone unnoticed.
I’m so incredibly proud of all the successful hunts we’ve had, as well as the work weekends planting food plots, building atv bridges, and setting up farms with stands and cameras, however the thing I’m most proud of are the relationships and friendships that have come from all those shared experiences. The folks I have met through this journey have become some of my closest friends and allies, and that’s what drives me to continue down this path.
This path has not always been easy, and I have considered folding up shop on several occasions but something or someone always comes along and rejuvenates my spirit for doing this. That’s what excites me most about the upcoming season, who is going to walk through the lodge door next? Will it be the next board member, will it be someone who wants to host future hunts on their farm, will it be someone with a specialized skill that wants to donate their expertise to our cause, will it be someone who I can confide in and bounce my crazy ideas off of, will it be a future business partner, or will it be my next mentor?
This season is setup to be our most epic to date! Yes we have a plethora of deer, including some world class whitetails, and yes we have some of the best farms and best habitat we’ve ever had, but I also feel like we have our best group of hunters assembled that we’ve ever had. Don’t get me wrong, some of my past hunters mean the world to me however as an overall group this year’s may have more potential to move B4 to the next level than any other season.
Technically, we’ve already had one hunter in camp and he might be the one who brings more to the table than anyone, but officially our season gets started on Thursday with our 4th annual Veteran-1st Responder Hunt, which is our annual antlerless rifle hunt for 6 veterans and/or first responders. It’s kind of like our super bowl even though it’s at the beginning of our season. We are then set to host 2 veterans for a three-day archery hunt followed by a second three-day archery hunt with 2 first responders in mid to late October. Our final non-profit mission hunt of the year is set for the final weekend of October when our rifle youth hunter comes to camp for 2 days with his stepfather. All 12 of our non-profit hunters get to experience a fully guided hunt at no cost to them and I can’t wait to give back to them for their selfless service to our country and communities.
So many of the guys that come back to help us with projects come from this group. They are invited to come hunt with us at no cost to them so we can honor their service and sacrifice, however they end up giving more back to me than I can ever imagine by paying it forward to future B4 hunters. They sign on the dotted line in service to their country and/or community, and they continue to live a life of service even after they leave the military, police force, and fire departments. Their love of helping others, especially those that have had similar life experiences as them, is unmatched.
Following our non-profit mission hunts, we begin the paid hunt portion of our schedule. Hosting free hunts and sending our nation’s heroes on hunts all across the country is not cheap, so we are grateful for the opportunity to host several for-profit hunts, and we are thankful for those folks who trust us with their hard-earned money and vacation time. This year we have a combination of 14 archery and rifle hunters coming in over a 4-week span and again, you never know who may walk through the door.
In 2019, a hunter from Colorado trusted a fledgling outfitting business with a paid hunt and ever since she has been one of our biggest donors and supporters. When she left after her first hunt with us, I had no idea that she would come back the next year and harvest her biggest archery buck at that time with us, and then 2 years later open her home to me and my father as we traveled to Colorado on an elk hunt. She is one of those that you can pick up the phone and ask for a favor and she will deliver. And that’s what I mean by you never know who might be hunting with us.
So yes, the texts we receive from the stand saying someone harvested a buck of lifetime is certainly exhilarating, however, the relationships built over campfires, meals, and skinning racks, are what drives me to give my all
each fall. The calls, texts, and social media messages we get days, weeks, months, and years later are what this is all about. Sometimes they are of pics of deer or turkeys but when someone picks up the phone and calls me to say they are retiring from the fire department and they want to host a hunt at their farm in Alabama, then I know what I am doing is for the greater good.
To all those that have and will play a part in B4, know that I’m eternally grateful. I can’t wait to see what the 2023-24 hunting season has in store. Will a giant hit the dirt, will we kill our biggest buck ever, will someone harvest their dream buck? At this point no one knows, but one thing I do know is that God will send someone through that door that changes my life!