My Prince Valiant
I have been most fortunate. Through a lot of hard work, and being in the right place at the right time, I was able to purchase a little corner of Wisconsin’s famed Buffalo County which has led the Boone & Crockett and Pope & Young record books as the whitetail deer capitol of the United States. I then chose to share it with others, especially those less fortunate than I, the disabled hunters. I turned to the United Foundation for Disabled Archers (UFFDA) for assistance. I quickly found that UFFDA was capably led by Dan Hendricks, and with his assistance I now host an annual hunt for those bound to wheelchairs most often using their crossbows.
As a result, along the way I have been further blessed to have met a man that stood head and shoulders above those of us who are mere mortals. His name was Delmar Bentz, an avid supporter of UFFDA who served as a guide and assistant to the disabled hunters at UFFDA’s gatherings for close to two decades as one of Dan’s right hands. To quote Dan, “Delmar was UFFDA!”
To explain the article’s title, and this scribbler’s feelings about Del, I wish to share with the reader’s just a few of his experience’s with Del. He was an exceptional man who always put others before himself. He, clearly, also displayed a courage that very few men have or ever will possess. Unfortunately, it was therefore this author’s misfortune to have known Del for “way too short of a time.”
In 2010, I met Del for the first time when he came to one of my sponsored hunts to serve as a guide and assistant to one of UFFDA’s disabled hunters. I was informed by Dan at the time that Del was already suffering from cancer that was quite painful, and was not given too much time before the end was to come. Yet, here he was, volunteering to help others, while his time was short?
Taking that into consideration, I purposely put Del and his hunter into opposite ends of one of my farm’s fields where I had seen several large bucks on several occasions. Del perched in a ladder stand, in full view of his hunter who was sitting in a ground blind. Wouldn’t you know it, a trophy buck that Del estimated would have scored in the 150 inch range, “passed” Del’s stand, easily in range of his bow. The reason it “passed” was the fact that it was headed in the direction of his disabled hunter! Del was letting it go, and it would have been bigger than any buck Del, an absolutely passionate hunter, had ever shot! The disabled hunter chose to hold out for an even bigger buck which Buffalo County is aptly known for. That, my dear readers, was my introduction to my Prince Valiant! Despite the strong possibility that he may have been hunting his “last” season, Del let the buck pass so his disabled hunter could have a chance to bag a trophy.
When the hunt ended, even though a disabled hunter by the name of Chad Waligura from El Campo, Texas, another disabled hunter, shot a dandy double beamed trophy (shown and written about in both an earlier issue of the UFFDA Chronicles and the Horizontal Bowhunter Magazine), Del and his hunter left without scoring on a buck.
The following year, 2011, Del returned, the ever-present smile on his face, willing to assist others, despite the fact that I knew he was in great pain despite medication, actually needing some help just to get out into the woods himself.
I wished that I could report that Del was successful and that he shot the buck of his dreams. But it was not to be. He struggled to get out to the stands, continuing to insist on getting into one of my elevated stands while using a good safety belt from my open ladder stands, and using my quad pods which had rails and skirts around them to prevent hunters from falling out. Despite seeing two dandies that didn’t permit a good shot, he still was overjoyed to experience the hunt, and thanked me over and over.
I remained in touch with Del through the late fall and early winter. I visited with him around the holidays at his home in the small town of Lester Prairie, MN, which just happened to be situated along a wooded creek corridor with deer trails that he said he was going to hunt until the end. Speaking to him after my holiday visit by phone, his voice weakened to the point of barely being audible while under heavy sedation, he still talked about getting out behind the house for one more attempt at his beloved deer hunting. It was not to happen, for Del left us this February. He had fought a valiant battle and never lost his zeal for the hunt and his love for his friends.
Clearly, I had had the privilege of meeting a special man. My only loss was to have known the man for way too short of a time. Yet, his picture hangs above my head in my bedroom, with a poem alongside that was given to me by Del entitled, “Take Care Of Yer’ Friends!” Despite knowing hundreds, probably thousands of “friends” in my life, Del’s picture is the only one hanging above my head each night as I go to sleep, one day to join him again, way too soon I am afraid. . I hope Del saves me a seat next to him along his favorite deer trail.