Thrill of a Lifetime


The Way Outfitters helps youth harvest trophy buck

By Patricia Strutz

Alex Schultz, AJ and Laura HawkLast December, 17-year-old Alex Schultz of Manawa had a near-death experience. His friend was speeding and lost control of the Jeep he was driving. They rolled over several times before hitting a telephone pole. Alex fractured most of his lower back and sustained severe damage to his right leg. He was lucky to be alive. Told he would never walk again, Alex endured several major surgeries and is still undergoing physical rehabilitation. But he has surprised everyone. With the aid of braces, Alex is now walking.

Always an active kid, Alex loved playing football, fishing, hunting and watching the Packers play. With the support of his family and a wonderful network of caring folks, he is still able to enjoy many of those things. His mother, Bonnie Schultz, said that was how last week's hunting trip to Three Lakes came about. "After the accident, I received a phone call from John Gillespie, founder of Rawhide Boys Ranch in New London," she explained. "He is connected to both the Packer organization and serves on the board of The Way Outfitters. He asked Alex if he'd like to continue hunting and perhaps have a chance to shoot a trophy buck. We didn't think it would be possible, but it may have been just the motivation he needed to maintain his positive attitude and to work hard at rehabilitation.

His efforts were rewarded this past Sunday when Alex shot a large buck in Three Lakes." The Schultz family brought him "up north" to participate in the hunt through a nonprofit organization called The Way Outfitters. Founded by Three Lakes couple Roger and Sue Devenport, the venture allows terminally ill, disadvantaged and disabled youths — along with disabled vets — a chance at an exciting outdoor adventure.

"We are a faith-driven charity whose mission is to provide wholesome outdoor experiences," said Sue Devenport. "Our goal is to take 200 kids on trips each year in all 50 states. We are linked together with other outfitters, such as a ski lodge in Colorado and a fishing charter in Florida, to offer a variety of activities." Roger Devenport said they couldn't undertake this endeavor without the help of many people. "Sue and I previously owned the Three Lakes Preserve. Many folks offer us their help, either by financial donations, fundraising or providing their services," he said. "For instance, Three Lakes resident and pilot Brent Westfall flew his Beechcraft Baron down to Green Bay to pick up Packer linebacker A.J. Hawk and his wife, Laura. The Hawks have come on board as spokesmen for us. It's all of these folks who make this idea work."

Alex Schultz has heard from several of the Packers players during his recovery process. "It is so awesome how those players and their families take time out of their busy lives to get involved," said Bonnie Schultz. "It means so much to all of us."

Laura Hawk is a spokeswoman for The Way Outfitters. "When we heard about this organization, we thought it was really different and very worthwhile. It is thrilling to be involved and it was great to meet Alex and share in the excitement of his hunt. He has an amazing soul, he's so upbeat," said Laura Hawk. "To be a small part of helping him and others enjoy their trip of a lifetime, it is a great honor."

"I've only hunted for birds and rabbits, as deer season coincides with football season," said A.J. Hawk, who wears the Green and Gold on Sunday afternoons. "it's really neat to share Alex's excitement."

Alex took great pride in showing his trophy buck to the Hawk's, his family and friends. "After I arrived on Sunday (Oct. 12), Roger and Tom Sampson, the manager of the preserve, brought me out to practice shooting a Browning .270. Then I changed into my camouflage clothing and headed out into the field," he said. "I put my wheelchair in four-wheel drive — by using my arms — and we positioned ourselves about 75 yards away from where Roger scattered some corn. the first deer to arrive was a massive buck, but he was out of range. Then some does came in. I was shaking with excitement and needed this time to try to calm down. Finally, my buck entered the scene. He was a beautiful 13-pointer, an incredible deer. Up until now, I had only harvested a doe. This was the thrill of my lifetime."

About The Way Outfitters

Roger Devenport said he decided to start The Way Outfitters with the help of people like Gillespie. "I spent some time at Rawhide during the 1970s," remarked Roger Devenport. "I can't say enough about John Gillespie. He has been my mentor and moral compass in life. He's like a father to me. He and his wife, Jan, have touched so many lives throughout the years. Then, while hunting in Utah about 10 years ago, I met Camron Tribolet. He had a group of disabled youths with him. Cam is also disabled. He lost both of his legs when he was shot during an attempted car hijacking. But his disability has not slowed him down. He is such an inspiration. In the past 15 years, while we still owned the Three Lakes Preserve, we worked closely with Cam to provide hunts for around 25 disabled youths. Now that we've formally organized as The Way, Cam serves as our activities director." To find out more about The Way Outfitters, visit its Web site at www.thewayoutfitters.com.