From the beginning of November to the end of December we held a hunting and outdoor contest on my SHS Hunting Chat Forum. The members where asked to submit a story related to their outdoor experiences. The prizes for this contest where graciously donated by Heirloom Custom Turkey Calls.
Our members have voted the article below as the best story and the winner of our contest. As you read “The last Hunt” you will be touched by the deep friendship two hunters shared and the memories they made that will last a lifetime. Enjoy.
By Anthony Santamarina
In the beginning of September 1971, I came was home after serving my time in the Marines. From the first day back I started to plan some small game hunting with my Father and two Brothers. This was going to be my first season back for hunting in four years. We wind up picking an area where we all had been and had a good chance of filling our bag limits. On the day of the hunt we all felted we were going to have good day due to the weather and the positive energy we all had that morning. Later in the day of some good small game hunting, I met a guy coming back to our vehicles. His name was Joe Lopez. After visiting for about an hour, I found we had many of things in common. This was also his first year hunting after serving in the Army. He had come home in the early spring of 1971. I never expected this relationship would last almost 20 years together as fishing and hunting partners. We went out on a few outer state trips, sometimes we both were successful and sometimes we were not. It also got to a point that our families were very close with our kids growing up together.
In the spring of 1990, I got a call from Joe’s wife, taking panicky and telling me that Joe was rushed to the hospital, having hard time breathing with chest pain. Thinking it was being caused by a pulled rib muscle he had from moving his dining room closet a few days before and being in the medical field (Paramedic), I was not really worried. After calming down his wife and meeting him at the hospital, we sat in the ER for over 5 hours before finding out they found a small mass about the size if a pea on the outside of his left lower lung. Here is a guy, 40 years old, never smoked and healthy as a horse, having this kind of episode. After about an hour of taking to the doctor, Joe and his wife decided to take the doctor advice and have surgery to remove the mass from the lung. Later that day, after 7 hours of surgery, the doctor informed Joe’s wife and me that the mass was being tested for cancer and he was doing well after the surgery and should recover quickly. On the third day in the hospital Joe and his wife were informed that the mass was not cancer and it was some kind mass that sometimes develops from a virus. All was happy and after 9 days in the hospital Joe came home.
In August of 1990, as it been for the last 19 years, we started to plan our hunting trip dates and what we would need to stock up my upstate house for the season. Being it was so soon after his surgery, we decided not to do any planning for early small game that year. So all the plans were for Whitetail Deer in November and December gun season.
On the morning of October 30 1990, while at work, I get a call from Joe’s wife; He was rush in to hospital again for the same breathing and pain problems. While at the hospital Joe tells me, he dose not feel that it’s going to be good and he wants to go home. I talk him into staying and finish the testing at lease. After the testing, they found another mass in the left lung again and the Doctor wanted to go back in. Joe refused and just wanted to go home. After getting home Joe tells me, He wanted to go hunting the following day. I told him it was not a good idea at first, but went along with it. I called my two kid brothers and told them about what was going on and they also took off work and we went hunting. The next day we get to one of our closer spots to home and setup for the day. Neither of us saw any deer that day, But Joe stated it felt good to be out there and it was his last hunt. That kind of stunted me and I just ignored the statement. The following morning Joe was rush in to hospital. He allowed them to do the surgery again. After the surgery, Doctor stated he had to close him up that there was nothing that be done, that it was Cancer and it when too far.
On November 5 1990, My brother passed away. And I will never forget his Last Hunt.