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The Hunt of a Lifetime

"Now I Know"
Story Written by Jason Say


This story began about 10 months ago during our annual fundraiser for Hunt Of A Lifetime. Every year the Sportsmen Portal and Wired Outdoors team is proud to raise all the money needed to send two kids suffering from life threatening illnesses on their “Hunt Of A Lifetime”. This past year we were assigned Arianna Evans of Clarion County and Matthew Ciarlone of Downingtown, PA.

Matthew Ciarlone’s photo who passed away from Leukemia this year during our Hunt of A Lifetime fundraiser. Michael didn’t go anywhere without that photo.

Arianna’s dream was a South Dakota Merriam Turkey hunt and I am happy to report that we were successful in making her dream come true and that hunt will appear this month on our tv show Wired Outdoors. While Arianna’s hunt ended with lots of smiles and great memories, unfortunately, Matthew Ciarlone, suffering from Leukemia, lost his battle before he had a chance to live his dream of a Midwest Elk hunt. Obviously in circumstances like this, the Hunt Of A Lifetime organization has no choice but to move on to the next child waiting to go on their hunt. So the money that we raised was put to good use and a little boy, Alex, was sent on his dream whitetail hunt in Alberta.

Typical Terrain on our hunt

Like all the kids we raise money for, I find myself getting emotionally attached to the children as well as their families. When I received the call from Matthew’s father, Michael, that he had passed away, my heart was broken. Being a father myself, I can’t imagine what Matthew’s family was going through. For me, it was impossible to just move on and I knew that I had to do something, and I knew immediately what I wanted to do.

Jason and Michael

Like I mentioned before, Matthew’s dream was a midwest elk hunt so I knew that I wanted to offer Matthew’s father the opportunity to live out Matthew’s dream and harvest an elk in remembrance of Matthew. I wasn’t going to be able to pull this off without some help. So after a visit with one of the most well established elk hunting operations in the world, United States Outfitters, they didn’t hesitate and said, “Lets make this happen!”.

Michael Ciarlone in New Mexico

Now was the hard part, as I knew it was going to be very difficult for Matthew’s father to go on this hunt. I put the call into Michael and asked him if he would like to go hunt and film with the goal of having a tv show that was dedicated to the memory of his son. I could immediately hear the hesitation in Michael’s voice. I told Michael “that it was entirely up to him and only he could decide if he wanted to do this, so think about it and give me a call in couple of weeks.” About two days passed and Michael called me and said, “Matthew would kick my butt if I didn’t do this, so yes, I would like to go on the elk hunt.”

Typical New Mexico Sunrise

So plans were made and this trip would be muzzleloader hunt on October 9-14th in New Mexico at the Floyd Lee Ranch with United States Outfitters. After arriving in New Mexico we would be staying at a very high elevation and hunting elk in some very rough terrain. Michael being 62 and not used to hunting in these conditions was an absolute trooper. Even though we knew he was really hurting, he got up every day and hunted hard walking and sometimes running after elk. There was something deep within driving him on this hunt. After hunting hard and having one miss, we found ourselves staring at the last few hours of the hunt.

Cameraman Fran and Michael Preparing for the evening hunt

That morning before the last hunt, Michael opened up to all the guests at camp and told them his story and all about his son Matthew. There wasn’t a dry eye in the camp and some of the guests even had to get up and leave. Michael explained to everyone how Matthew was his youngest son and his best friend. They did everything together and especially loved being in the outdoors. After hearing Michael open up and just how important this was, I found myself outside staring up at the clear blue sky in New Mexico, saying, “Dear lord, please make this happen for Michael.”

Our United States Outfitters Guide – Brian Dam

The last morning hunt we found ourselves walking in the woods and calling, but we didn’t hear a bugle all morning long. Things were looking more and more bleak. We were left with less that two hours to hunt when I spotted movement to our right about 150 yards in front of us. The first elk was a cow, but there was not doubt that the second one was a bull. Our guide Brian got Michael in place and confirmed that he was a shooter. Michael took careful aim and let the Thompson Center bark! We could tell the elk was hit, but couldn’t see where. So our guide, Brian took off like an Olympic sprinter after this elk. We could see the elk walking through the timber and Michael got in place for another shot. The shot was about 70 yards and it didn’t look like he hit him. Again, we were off after this elk and came upon him about 150 yards later laying down and unable to get up. Michael got in place for a finishing shot at about 40 yards, which ended up being a clean miss. We moved Michael to about 25 yards for his fourth and final shot.

Our sleeping facilities for the week

The elk was finally down and I can’t really describe the feeling that came over myself, our guide Brian, the cameraman Fran and Michael. Again, there wasn’t a dry eye in the woods as Michael did his tv interview over the elk with the photo of his son Matthew in hand and said very simply, “This is for you Matthew! I love you.” Michael accomplished what he came to do even when there was nothing left in the tank. He was emotionally and physically exhausted and had nothing left to give. I am so proud of you Michael, you were truly an inspiration.

Michael, Jason and Fran Rodenbaugh with Michael and Matthew’s Elk

You may be asking what the title of this article, “Now I Know” means. Last month I wrote an article, “Someone is Watching Out For Us” which is all about our success this year and how I feel there is someone watching out for the Wired Outdoors Team. After this hunt in New Mexico, “Now I Know” someone is watching out for us. After Michael fired his last shot, a revelation hit me in the face like a ton of bricks. I said to Michael, “You know, we never shot your gun after arriving at camp.” It was obvious that Michael’s gun was way off. I personally know better and felt horrible for forgetting to shoot Michael’s gun.

Now what one has to wonder is, how was Michael able to hit that elk from 150 yards away, but missed him from 40 yards. The gun was off that much and it just doesn’t make any sense other than “Someone was watching out for us”. It was perfectly clear to all those on the hunt, there was certainly some help from above. That elk was sent our way for a reason and that shot found it’s mark miraculously from 150 yards away. Sure it isn’t the biggest elk in the world, but that wasn’t what this hunt was all about. This was Michael and Matthew’s elk and a hunt that I will never forget. So many times people get wrapped up in the size of animals and that isn’t what we are all about. I live for the experiences and moments that we make in the outdoors. This is a memory that I will cherish the rest of my life, and hopefully will help the Ciarlone’s as they deal with the loss of their son Matthew. I know that Matthew is smiling down on Michael and one VERY PROUD SON!

For more information on Hunt of a Lifetime please vist Wired Outdoors!

Camo Cares 2011 from Jason Say on Vimeo.



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