BY TYLER FRANTZ
It’s a common saying that one good deed deserves another.
Call it fate, karma or divine intervention, what goes around really does seem to come back around more often than not. For more than a decade, my parents, Steve and Doris Frantz, have done a tremendous job of passing on the hunting tradition to others by generously holding “adversity” hunts on their 120-acre farm in Rock during the early inline muzzleloader deer season.
Scores of hunters have taken antlerless deer from our handicap-accessible hunting blinds located over prime food plot locations. These hunters have ranged from young kids with diverse medical conditions to adult hunters with physical disabilities impeding their mobility.
A few years ago, my parents decided to do something for our veterans and began holding the “Vet’s Trout Fest” in early summer — a day where a handful of veterans are invited out to the farm to enjoy a few hours of fishing, followed by a steak dinner with all the fixings. Seeing these folks smiling, reeling in trout and having a blast is simply amazing, but a mere token of gratitude for their service to our country.
Expanding upon this idea of giving back to veterans, my parents partnered with Schuylkill County-based nonprofit “Just4Vets” two years ago to hold a special military-only drawing at its annual squirrel hunt. All active and former military servicemen were eligible to enter free of charge, and one lucky hunter was drawn live for an antlerless deer hunt on the family farm.
Last year’s winner was Army National Guardsman John Laczkowski of Pine Grove, and my older brother Travis graciously volunteered to serve as his guide. When the inline muzzleloader opener rolled around Oct. 19, I knew the guys would be staking out a food plot on the lower end of the property, so I was sure to steer clear of them, choosing to bow hunt high ground as to not interfere in any way with John’s hunt.
It was a perfect fall morning — one of those you dream about as a hunter. There was frost on the ground, a nice 8-point had recently showed up on the trail cam I checked on my way to the stand, and deer were moving just after first light.
While I had no way of knowing it at the time, Travis and John were experiencing plenty of action from the muzzleloader blind. Around 8 o’clock, the nice buck captured on my trail camera appeared in the field they were watching, chasing a doe back and forth, and while she would’ve been a really good doe for John to shoot, they decided to pass on her when she angled uphill in my direction with the buck on her heels.
Travis told me later that he whispered to John as the deer disappeared over the ridge, “Thanks for passing on her. I’ll bet my brother is going to shoot that buck.” Meanwhile, I had no inkling to their encounter, but I sure snapped to attention several minutes later when I spotted a doe trotting toward me along the lower woods line with a bobbing 8-point rack not far behind.
With seconds to prepare, I stood, grabbed my bow from the tree and turned on the small video camera I take with me on every hunt. By the time I hit the record button, the doe had already passed me, and the buck was about 30 yards and closing.
He walked by my tree at 6 yards, I waited for him to clear some brush and made a perfect heart shot at 10 yards, watching him fall within sight. It was one of the quickest, most exciting harvests of my life, and I could barely believe it happened the way it did.
When I texted Travis that I just shot a great buck, he and John went crazy — so much so that John insisted they walk back to the barn to see it after I recovered the deer. John was genuinely happy I shot this buck so much that he took pictures to show his family and even grabbed a towel from his truck to clean my knife after field dressing. What a great guy.
Here we had a military veteran on our farm trying to get him a deer, and he passed up his only shot of the day on the odd chance it just might bring a buck past another hunter on the property. That is the ultimate example of selflessness, and I couldn’t be more grateful for his decision.
In an effort to repay John’s kindness, Travis invited him back for another try two days later. Just before dark Monday evening, John harvested a big doe, and his good deed was rightfully rewarded, and for good measure, my brother — who sacrificed two hunts of his own to help John succeed — also got his due, for in the month that followed, he successfully harvested a fall turkey, then a 9-point buck and finally black bear, earning his Pennsylvania triple trophy.
It just goes to show that good things happen to those who pay it forward. I’m so thankful to have a family who does what they can to make a difference, a country that’s free thanks to good guys like John, and crisp fall hunting days when anything can happen if you’re feeling lucky.
Sometimes things happen exactly the way they should, and all good deeds remain in balance.
Tyler Frantz is board chairman of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association.