It was about a month ago that longtime Rim Country resident and avid outdoorsman, Pat Willis passed away after a courageous battle with cancer.
He happened to draw an early muzzleloader elk permit, but his failing health diminished his chances of going into the field.
Willis saw the opportunity to donate this elk tag to a young person who would enjoy this special hunt. Jordan Buzultciu was selected.
Buzultciu had also faced a battle with cancer, and after a series of chemotherapy treatments three years ago, has been cancer free since then.
The program, which created these outdoor opportunities for youth with life threatening diseases, is called Outdoor Experience For All, and has been active within the state of Arizona.
Two of its key members, Amanda Moors and Keith Newby, participated in planning the event. They arranged this elk hunt for Jordan with a host of local residents that donated their expertise in making it a very special three-day weekend.
The camp was created south of town with every detail made complete, including an outdoor kitchen headed by local resident and camp chef, Bob DePugh.
Camping with family and friends seems to generate that extra hunger and Bob certainly met the challenge with the gourmet meals prepared for the group of 30.
The Mogollon Sporting Association came through again by furnishing the food for the campers.
The actual hunt for a trophy bull elk was planned by Dean Pedersen, who was asked for his help by his friend, Pat Willis, before he passed away.
Pedersen, a noted Arizona big-game hunter, gladly accepted and volunteered his valuable expertise in making this an extremely memorable weekend for a very special young lady.
Pedersen and his friend, Mark Kile, spent countless hours locating and glassing a number of six point bulls prior to the opening day.
While the campfire burned, the talk turned to the next morning’s hunt as Dean presented the strategy for Jordan who was anticipating her first Arizona elk hunt.
She had been practicing shooting her black powder rifle with her father, Ron, and a shooting instructor from the Ben Avery gun range in Phoenix. Jordan was confident that she could shoot up to a distance of 150 yards and be accurate for a killing shot.
On opening day, Jordan was with Dean and Mark when they spotted three bulls at a mile distance and decided to make the lengthy stalk.
After more than an hour, they closed to within a 100 yards for the precise spot which provided a solid rest.
Two perfectly placed shots and Jordan had her first trophy bull elk.
Her mentor, Dean, was showing that famous warm Pedersen grin remarking, “Jordan was a joy to be around and ready for every challenge in the field.”
As all elk hunters know, once the animal is on the ground, the real work begins. Her brother, Mathew, along with her dad were watching from a spotting scope more than two miles away and quickly closed the distance to congratulate Jordan and share in the excitement of the hunt.
She was presented with a new handcrafted knife that was made by Norm Langeliers, a Payson resident for her next big-game challenge.
Gary Isles, also of Payson, donated his expertise by mounting the elk with a European mount.
What a memorable weekend for a special 15-year-old girl, all made possible by the generosity of a group of hunting enthusiasts who wanted to remember their friend, Pat Willis.
Thank you Dean Pedersen, Keith Newby, Amanda Moors, Bob DePugh, Gary Isles, Norm Langeliers and Mark Kile for sharing your gifts and talents while fulfilling Jordan Buzultciu’s wish for a successful hunt of a lifetime.
This weekend, share an outdoor experience with a friend in the Arizona wilderness, God’s creation.