A Deer for Ella: When Light Overcomes Darkness

A brave, courageous, super-powered 9-year old girl did not teach anyone how to hunt. Ella taught them how to live, and how to persevere.

A Deer for Ella: When Light Overcomes Darkness

A flurry of mud and scrape of metal. Horrified onlookers, and a shriek of terror. Ella Brown’s precious life had become a race to save, caught desperately between the tangled wreckage of metal beneath the sullen Tennessee sky.

The warm summer evening began as a fun family outing for the Brown family at the small dirt track outside of Fayetteville, Tennessee. Ella, her parents, and younger sister Mia arrived in anticipation of some good ol’ fashioned, down south mud bog racing. Then, the unimaginable happened. Away from the track where the spectators park, the steering column broke loose from a truck leaving the pits. That vehicle careened into another, and before the dust settled, two trucks lay crinkled in the children’s play area.

In the moment, the Brown family was living a nightmare. Before the night ended their lives would be forever changed.

Unable to evade the rolling mass of metal, 6-year old Ella had become pinned between the two unforgiving mud buggies. Her small body bore the brunt of a force that could have easily ended her life, but her life was not finished. A life flight helicopter happened to be in the area and was immediately dispatched to the track. Critical moments passed, and her life hung in the balance. Her loved ones were advised to say their final words before she was rushed to Vanderbilt Medical Center.

Ella miraculously survived the incident but not without complications. The lack of blood flow throughout her body immediately following the accident damaged her brain and caused her to lose most of her eyesight. Considering what could have been the outcome of such traumatic injury, medical professionals and all who were close to Ella were astounded at the superpowers she possessed.

Years later, Ella and the Brown family learned to adapt to her seeing impairment. Though legally blind, Ella could detect some light and had extremely limited peripheral vision. As a student at the Tennessee School for the Blind, sophisticated teaching equipment afforded Ella the opportunity to grow into a brilliant, vibrant young lady. Everyone just had to accept her limitations. Everyone, that is, except Ella.

In 2011, at the ripe old age of eight, Ella informed her dad of her deep desire to go deer hunting. She had always been daddy’s little girl and wanted to follow in his footsteps. Given her limitations, this broke his heart. She could not possibly see well enough to pull the trigger on a deer and would never be able to fulfill her dream of hunting alongside her dad. Or could she?

What happened next was divine intervention, mixed with the determination of family and friends, along with the determined soul of a beautiful young girl who just wouldn’t give up.

Limitations, Modifications

Looking through a rifle scope and seeing the target beyond was just not possible. Dark and somewhat indiscriminate shapes that are seen through a scope remained invisible to little Ella. She couldn’t even see the crosshairs within the scope. How could she possibly aim? Fortunately, it didn’t take long to realize that with a few simple modifications, Ella might just have a chance at fulfilling her deer hunting dream.

After much trial and error, a breakthrough occurred. It became apparent that Ella was able to see bright focused light so there was an outside chance she just might be able to use a red dot scope to take her first deer. The bright red dot used in place of crosshairs might be visible enough for her to see.

With fingers crossed, her dad and close family friend Roy set up her rifle with the red dot scope. Ella positioned herself behind the gun and peered through the lens. With great joy and excitement she exclaimed to her dad she could definitely see the red dot! All she had to do was place that dot on the target and slowly squeeze the trigger.

The stage was set. Ella was going on her first deer hunt.

Serendipity was shining brightly on Ella the first day. She was accompanied by her dad and Roy. Both were bound and determined to get Ella her long-awaited whitetail. Although they sat patiently in their southern Tennessee hunting blind the morning action was slow. Fortunately the action soon picked up and they observed all types of forest creatures going about their business. Listening to the birds was thrilling for Ella. She was in her glory. Unfortunately the deer weren’t as cooperative, there wasn’t a single deer moving by the blind where Ella sat.

They decided to make a move and check out a bottom that usually had some late-evening action. Ella’s Dad and Roy gathered Ella, the specially designed tripod, and Ella’s red dot gun and moved to a better vantage point.

As if scripted by the heavens, the deer of her dreams soon showed and slowly started feeding her way. Though she couldn’t see it from the distance, her dad and Roy described it to her. Its antlers were big and beautiful and were what many men only dream of, let alone a young 8-year-old girl.

After what seemed like an eternity the deer finally presented itself about 50 yards away, well within the range of Ella’s red dot scope. Her dad finally gave her the go-ahead to take aim. Her dream was coming true. 

She positioned herself behind the gun and rested her little cheek on the stock, eager to take aim. She had dreamt about this moment countless times. As she had envisioned, she could see the dot perfectly, but where was the deer?

She couldn’t see the deer!

In all the excitement of finding a scope she could see through and visibly see the crosshairs, it never occurred to Ella nor her dad that a deer in fading light would be completely lost in the shadows. She just simply could not see her target, and no one knew where exactly she was aiming. There was no way she could safely or ethically take the shot.

Ella began to cry. And the two grown men sitting by her side wept along with her.

They went home, not only empty handed but broken-hearted.

More Thinking, Planning

After the heartbreak of her first deer hunt most adults would finally admit defeat. But this was Ella, the young girl with super powers. Not long after the disappointment she experienced, Ella was once again dreaming of killing her first deer. If she wasn’t going to give up, neither were her dad and Roy.

The “experiments” continued throughout the off-season. There had to be a way to figure out how Ella could kill a deer by her own doing. They kept thinking back to the missed opportunity from the year before. They were oh so close. The deer was there, Ella could see the red dot, but she just couldn’t line up the two through the scope. Then it dawned on them! The problem was the red dot remained within the confines of the scope. Neither her father, nor Roy could see where Ella was aiming but what if they could? What if that red dot was somehow projected onto the deer so they could assist her in lining up the shot? That was it! They needed a laser sighting system!

If they could equip Ella’s rifle with a laser sighting system that projected the red dot onto the deer THEY could be her eyes! They could then simply whisper instructions on where to adjust her aim.

Their first step was to check into the legalities of such a system. They consulted with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Law Enforcement Division. Since they weren’t using the light to locate deer, not only did it fit into their description of legal devices, but also the entire Division was rooting and praying for Ella.

Next was to ensure Ella could safely and efficiently use the new setup as they intended. Although they knew she could pull the trigger, unless she could shoot accurately in all lighting conditions and make a quick, clean kill they weren’t going to risk wounding an animal, not even for Ella. Their worries were quickly allayed. Before long Ella was hitting every target at the range as if she had been shooting her whole life. After all, she was still Daddy’s little girl so the marksmanship came easy.

The next deer season finally rolled around and the Brown family anxiously awaited the youth hunt. This time, Ella’s younger sister Mia wanted to hunt as well, and there was no stopping the demanding spit-fire of a little sister. This meant Dad had to take Mia while Roy and Uncle Chunky took Ella. That was fine by her, as she loved and trusted both.

Once again the heavens were shining on Ella. This time the action occurred while they were sitting in the blind. Before long a magnificent 8-point buck presented itself and walked well within range. Roy and Uncle Chunky seemed more nervous than Ella since the pressure was on them to be her eyes. Resting on Roy’s lap, young Ella took position behind the gun and slowly began maneuvering it to get the laser pointer on the deer’s chest. Beads of sweat were beginning to form on Roy’s brow as he whispered into her ear. This was actually going to happen!

“Little higher, a little higher, you’re on the deer’s leg,” he whispered.

Ella slowly adjusted her aim.

“You’re almost there,” whispered Roy.

There was a slight pause.

Ella’s young mind must have been racing in anticipation.

“NOW?!?” she exclaimed, not realizing how loud she was talking.

Within an instant the startled deer bounded away. Could fate be so cruel?

Heck no. This was Ella’s day.

Behind that 8-point came another buck, a buck that was to be Ella’s. This time, using Roy’s eyes, her dad’s prayers, and Ella’s gigantic heart, Ella made it happen.

Tears flowed again that day but not tears of disappointment. They were tears of triumph.

A brave, courageous, super-powered, 9-year old girl did not teach anyone how to hunt that day. She taught them how to live, how to persevere. How to take what is given to you and how to turn it into your dream come true. Ella is not just a blessing to her family and friends, she is a blessing to us all. Thank you Ella for being an inspiration, and letting us see the light as well.

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