To say Zak Avery had a tough summer would be an understatement. The 39-year-old financial advisor from Georgia had suffered extensive liver damage following surgery to repair a hernia. Then in June testing revealed that he was also suffering from a rare genetic disorder that can lead to liver failure.
According to Field & Stream, those two issues compounded together and on August 10th he was rushed to an Intensive Care Unit at a hospital in Atlanta. The situation deteriorated so quickly that a transplant was pretty much the only option and within just a few days of being admitted to the hospital he was put on a national waiting list to receive a new liver.
The duration of time people typically wait for organ transplants can be anywhere from a few days to several years depending on a variety of factors. Fortunately for Avery, he was able to find a match quickly and on August 17th he underwent surgery and received a new liver.
It would be easy for someone in that situation to get their spirits down, but Avery immediately turned his attention to focus on getting himself ready for the first day of the Georgia archery season. He said that the goal of being ready for hunting season motivated him to fight through the pain of his recovery.
“You’ve got to have a goal. My immediate goal was to get out of bed, to take a step. But then I needed another goal, something to work for, and I said, ‘I’m going to hunt opening day.’
That was the driver I had to get up and walk every single morning, every day at noon, and every evening, even when it hurt like hell.”
Hunting has always been a major part of his life and something he shared with family and friends. He grew up on a large farm and spent a lot of time hunting with his buddies. As a kid he initially started out hunting with a rifle before getting really into archery hunting, but after a summer spent battling health issues he knew he was too weak to pull back his bow. Not wanting to miss the early season archery action though, he bought a crossbow so he could still sling some arrows.
Avery was unable to do the amount of scouting and preparation he would normally put into deer season, but his friends picked up the slack and set up trail cams, patterned bucks, sent him scouting reports, and set up a ground blind for him in an area they thought would give him the best chance of success.
“Deer hunting, in general, is really important to us.
It’s not a just-during-the-season kinda deal—it’s a year-round deal. From feeding deer to running cameras and doing surveys in the summer, we’re pretty committed. And just being out in the woods is relaxing and peaceful.”
Thanks to the efforts of his friends, Avery felt confident he would be able to get a shot at a nice buck on the opening weekend of the season. One of the bucks that had seen on camera was a big 10-pointer he had been around the property before. He had even passed on previous shots at the buck because the deer often had broken tines off its rack by fighting with other bucks, but now Avery had a chance to potentially get a shot at the deer before his antlers were busted.
On the evening of September 11th, Avery and some friends and family set up for an evening hunt. The high-topped 10-pointer he was targeting came into the field early in the evening, but it was spooked by a younger buck before presenting a shot. The buck reappeared about an hour later but remained on the edge of the field and never provided a clear shot opportunity.
The third time was the charm though as the buck reappeared not long before the last light and meandered through the field before coming within 30-yards of Avery’s blind just before the last light. He readied his crossbow, took aim, and dropped the deer in its tracks.
“I was fired up and excited at first, and then it all kind of started sinking in.
It had been a lot to deal with. It was kind of emotional, sending everyone pictures and telling them I’d got him because a lot of people had put effort into getting the setup right and putting it all together.”
Avery said the sense of accomplishment he felt was extraordinary and that he was almost in disbelief that the plan he and his friends put together paid off so smoothly.
“Anybody who hunts knows you put these plans together and no matter how good you have it laid out, it almost never works.
To have a plan come together almost perfectly is really rare when you’re hunting, and this one did.”