Family to Family Mentoring
By Chad Dutton
Gary and I have been Kicking Bear mentor / mentee buddies for almost 4 years. We first met in July of 2019 at a Wisconsin KB adventure day while Tammy, my wife and I worked as volunteers on the water slide. Our first time volunteering at an adventure day event and we were hooked. Lisa, Gary’s mother brought her 4 children to KB adventure day looking to have a good time. Little did she know this simple act would be life changing for Tammy and I. Gary and his siblings made a big impression on us that day and we’ve been KB mentors / mentees ever since. The Lord has a unique way of bringing people together. Since that day, I’ve been mentoring Gary and Tammy mentors Gary’s younger sister Catherine. Gary has two younger sisters, Catherine and Victoria and one younger brother, Johnny.
Hunting from a ground blind near Cataract, WI, during KB bear hunt 2020, Gary killed a black bear at the age of 12. The hunt included many prayers, a perfect heart shot, PB&J sandwiches, a video of the hunt and KB brother Scott Perkins making us laugh the entire time. Gary says the bear bait is very tasty, especially the orange circus peanuts. We are forever grateful to experience bear baiting with KB brothers Sarge Symons, Darren Grefe and Mel Howe. A successful hunt isn’t judged just by pulling the trigger. Gary was involved with every aspect of the hunt. We contributed the success of his bear hunt to God, hard work and PB&J sandwiches.
Gary Mobley says, “My first time hunting I thought that it would be boring and I would have no fun! After I went hunting, I had the most fun I ever had! I was making a better bond with Chad after we went hunting more. When we went bear hunting we were there for three days the first two days were no bear but on the third day we were just having fun and being loud and I was eating a PB and J, then all of a sudden Chad says “There is a bear!” and I thought he was joking until I too saw the bear! I waited until I had the right shot and I got the bear right in the heart and I was super happy that I shot a bear!”
But let’s focus on our journey to Gary’s first deer kill in this article.
Our first deer hunt together was the 2019 WI KB youth hunt which was very memorable – not because of a deer kill, but because it was the catalyst for our growing relationship which started just 2 months prior. We had a great time at Living Waters Retreat and Cabin Getaways near Osseo, WI hosted by our Christian brother and sister Dennis and Melanie Simon. Thank you for offering such a beautiful place for KB mentors and mentees to bond. We experienced cold, torrential downpours during this 2 day youth hunt but it didn’t deter the mentees from getting into the woods. Somehow kids find terrible hunting conditions more exciting than us adults. Mud was not scarce as it showed up everywhere including in our new truck. From the floor mats, to the seats, to the windows and even on the ceiling. How does mud end up on the ceiling of the truck you ask? This remains an unanswered question. We still find mud in our truck to this day. If you have ever spent any time around a growing 12 year old boy you know they spend a lot of time sleeping when they aren’t eating. Waking up at 4:30 am and drudging into the wet, cold, dark, muddy woods makes the deer blind a perfect spot for a morning nap. Well, why stop napping in the morning if you can nap into the afternoon too? I woke Gary from his deep sleep on the second morning when a couple of deer came within range but we couldn’t clear his tired eyes in time to get a shot. Gary not killing a deer didn’t stop us from having a great time as many of the KB mentees filled their tags. God is good.
Our next deer hunt was 2020 KB WI youth hunt at Living Waters Retreat again. Did I mention how great Melanie and Dennis are at hosting KB events? I went into this year’s hunt expecting to teach but was taught a life lesson from a great friend instead. On this hunt Gary was given the option between two different hunting locations. One very good hunting blind with multiple deer trails and tons of deer sign or a second location with little deer sign. Gary questioned which was the better spot and might produce the best results. Gary asked if we could hunt the second spot and give another KB mentee the best chance at shooting a deer since Gary had killed a bear a month earlier. I teared up after Gary finished his questioning. Witnessing a 13 year old put others first was a very humbling experience for me. Our youth is our future foundation, with this, there is great hope. Gary’s decision to choose the least favorable location paid off for fellow KB mentee Danil and his KB mentor brother Tyler Tubbs. Gary was excited when we got the call that Danil killed his first deer, a seven point buck. Putting others first and giving it to God always provides great fruit. We both learned a lot during that youth hunt even though we did not kill a deer. We tried our luck hunting with a crossbow later that fall. God answered many prayers of seeing deer and even giving Gary the opportunity to pass on a smaller doe. Gary never gave up on the quest to kill his first deer.
One week prior to our 3rd KB WI Youth deer hunt in 2021, Gary’s father, Russell, passed away from his battle with cancer. As you would expect, Gary chose not to hunt during that KB youth hunt. I love you Gary and your heart for others. Our hearts were broken for Gary, Catherine, Victoria, Johnny and Lisa. May God continue to look over your entire family. Once again, Danil had the opportunity to hunt in Gary’s blind. KB brother Tyler Tubbs invited me to hunt with him and Danil. Not long after our morning prayer and within 5 minutes after the season opened, Danil killed a monster eight point buck. You could hear me yelling with excitement from 2 miles away. Danil dropped the deer in its tracks at less than 15 yards. I get pretty excited watching others have success.
In 2022, prior to the KB WI Youth deer hunt, Gary was given an opportunity to attend Camp Hope, a Christian camp for grieving children in central WI. This was the same time as the youth hunt. Understandably, Gary took the opportunity to enjoy a week away and focus on healing from the loss of his father. Another big step in our journey together. While Gary attended the healing camp, I hunted with KB brother Bobby Frydenlund and KB mentee, Riley. Riley killed his first deer on his first ever hunt. Congrats Riley. Riley is a prayer warrior with an awesome heart for the Lord. This was another great opportunity for me to learn from our youth. During conversation, Riley asked what my favorite bible verse was. I told him Philippians 1:21: “For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” We talked for a while about why this was my favorite verse. During our last day wrap up, to my surprise, Riley gave a beautiful sermon around my life verse. Again, more tears. Another example why we should have great hope in our youth.
December 2022 I asked Lisa if Gary and I could deer hunt after Christmas. She was elated and said yes. It snowed about 12 inches prior to our hunt, got extremely cold and windy. This didn’t deter Gary from wanting to hunt. We asked our Christian brother and sister, Brett and Tina Flick if we could hunt their property near Melrose, WI. I asked Gary what he wanted for lunch before we went to sleep the night before our hunt. He asked “can I make PB&J sandwiches”? “Yes, yes you can” I said. [Remember from our bear hunt that PB&J equals a successful hunt.] Early the morning of the hunt we walked what seemed like miles through the deep, cold, snowy landscape. Drenched in sweat after drudging through the snow, we arrived at the perfect hunting spot, a dry blind. After our prayer, Gary settled in for his expected morning nap. About 90 minutes after light I spotted a dark figure in the bright white background. It was a deer and time to wake Gary. He slowly came too as we opened the blind window. It sounded like loud bass drums as we carefully and quietly tried to get into the perfect position for a shot. Gary spotted a deer closer than the original and we changed focus to the second deer. This seemed to take 5 minutes as the deer just watched. Gary steadied for a shot, BOOM, the deer dropped. Gary’s first deer kill after a 4 year journey. High fives and hugs all around. Gary looked at me and asked “Can we have the PB&J now”? “Yes, yes we can” I said. After our victory PB&J sandwich and as we stood over the deer, Gary prayed to God thanking Him for a successful and safe hunt. More tears.
Here is what Lisa Mobley, Gray and Catherine’s mother had to say about the awesome relationship between families,
“In 2019 my son and daughter were connected with hunting mentors through the Kicking Bear program. I met with Chad and Tammy Dutton at an archery shop, and the connection was made. They took the kids deer hunting and the bond between them was formed. They have gone on several trips hunting turkey, deer, bow fishing, and bear hunting.
In 2018 my husband was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer and when I found out about the Kicking Bear program I knew that I wanted to have the kids develop relationships with a male role model during this transitional period in our lives. Chad and Tammy have been a faithful, consistent and stable outlet for the children to lean on. When my husband passed away October 2021 Chad and Tammy were sitting right there at the funeral with my children to support them. Many times I have called Tammy for advice about the children and they have brought light to me through the Word of God, and have been such a blessing to my life!
I have seen my young son Gary grow into a young man, excited about hunting and excited about the things of God! The children have gotten to experience so many amazing things that I alone would never have been able to do and show them, all thanks to this program and the integrity of our mentors through the kicking Bear program.
There was a time where they invited me to check out the hunting blinds before a deer hunt and they were driving around in these four wheelers, the kids were having a blast! Another time, they let me go bow fishing with them, it was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!
Chad and Tammy have become like family and we absolutely love them! I completely trust them with my kids and I know that their faith lines up with our own. They encourage my children in the Lord, and I am so completely grateful that my children have had this opportunity. I am Grateful that they and have made lifelong friends with their kicking bear mentors.”
A simple “Yes” to becoming a mentee or mentor WILL change lives. God is good.