MARYSVILLE — Justin Ristine, 11, might be the best one-armed hunter around.
If ability is judged by percentage of shots fired compared to deer taken, he’s as good a hunter as there is, one arm or two.
On his first hunting trip earlier this month, he fired one shot and bagged one deer. The buck died instantly.
The Marysville boy was born with only one arm, his left. He fired the shot from a rifle set on a tripod.
Justin went on his hunting trip near Colfax in Eastern Washington Oct. 16 courtesy of Youth Outdoors Unlimited, a Moses Lake-based organization.
The fledgling non-profit group’s mission is to help children with disabilities or life-threatening illnesses, who have an interest in outdoor sports, go on a hunting or fishing trip.
The trip was recorded by the Outdoor Channel and is scheduled to be aired in December or January, his parents said.
This is the first year for Youth Outdoors Unlimited, said Cindy Carpenter, who lives near Moses Lake and founded the organization. A couple of other boys started the program before Justin but he was the first to successfully complete a trip, Carpenter said.
“He may be missing an arm but Justin has the spirit of 10,000 men,” she said.
Youth Outdoors Unlimited runs on donations, Carpenter said. The group supplies everything — the hunting safety class, the equipment, the trip, the food. The group also carries liability insurance, she said.
“You’re not out anything,” said Jennifer Ristine, Justin’s mother. “It’s a wonderful program for these kids.”
Justin’s dad, Roy, 31, has been deer hunting for about three years, he said. Justin’s been wanting to go hunting for a long time, and last winter his parents enrolled him in a safety class in Arlington.
There, he met Mikey Williamson, 8, of Seattle, who has spina bifida and was enrolled in the program. The boy has only two fingers on one hand and three on the other, and uses a wheelchair and short-arm crutches. He’s planning on going hunting in November, courtesy of Youth Outdoors Unlimited soon, Roy Ristine said.
At first, Jennifer Ristine had reservations about Justin’s desire to hunt.
“I was scared to death,” she said. “I thought, ‘My kid with a gun?’ “
But after she spoke with Carpenter, they signed Justin up.
“I just felt very comfortable with her,” Justin’s mom said.
There’s no minimum age limit for hunting in Washington state, said Dave Ware, game division manager for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. The main requirement is that a hunting safety class be completed, which includes a “field day” that requires a student to demonstrate proficiency in handling a firearm safely, he said.
“It’s up to parents to decide what the kid is capable of doing,” Ware said.
Hunting seasons and limits vary between different parts of the state and according to type of weapon, Ware said. Generally, he said, the seasonal limit is one deer.
Youth Outdoors Unlimited paid for Justin to finish his hunting safety class, and arranged for several outdoor practice shoots over the summer. The class was four days a week, three hours a night for two weeks, including practice at an indoor gun range with a .22 caliber rifle. Justin’s test results were the best of the 35 people there, his parents said.
When Justin passed the class he received a special hunting license for people with disabilities, his mother said.
The gun he used in the hunt, a Remington 700, was donated to Youth Outdoors Unlimited. The $500 rifle then underwent a $6,500 renovation by Aaron Davidson of Gunwerks in Wyoming, also donated, to make it easier for Justin to operate.
“There was no kick,” his dad said. “It was like shooting a BB gun.”
The outdoor practice shoots involved firing at deer-size targets marked with the location of the heart, lungs and liver.
A large contingent accompanied Justin on the hunt — his parents, Carpenter, her husband, her brother-in-law, and the crew for the Outdoor Channel.
The land for the hunt was loaned to Youth Outdoors Unlimited for the day by a property owner near Colfax.
A blind was set up. After nearly two days of waiting, late the second afternoon, a three-point buck — its antlers had three points on each side — appeared up a hill about 120 yards away. That deer then moved out of sight and a four-pointer appeared.
Justin fired quickly and the four-point buck went down.
The bullet “went right through the liver and heart and out the other side,” Roy Ristine said.
“It was like, ‘boom,'” his dad said, describing how quickly everything happened.
Afterward, “I was very, very happy,” Justin said.
The buck was taken to a barn on the property to be dressed. Gutted, it weighed 163 pounds, Justin said.
The meat is being processed at a butcher shop in Ephrata. The Ristines are having the deer’s head mounted, called a shoulder mount. Both services are being donated.
Justin gets to keep the clothing while the rifle will stay with Youth Outdoors Unlimited for other kids to use.
Justin wants to keep hunting.
“I’ll take him out next year,” his dad said.
Justin also likes to fish and is good at it, Roy Ristine said. This summer he caught a trout weighing nearly 6 pounds near Coulee City and a humpie salmon in the Snohomish River.
“He puts the rod between his legs and reels and jigs,” his dad said.
Justin, in fifth grade at Sunnycrest Elementary School in Lake Stevens, has never let his disability get in his way, his family said. He does chores at his grandfather’s farm near Snohomish, rides his skateboard, plays Guitar Hero and throws a ball very well.
“I want to play football,” he said.
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on Youth Outdoors Unlimited, visit www.youthoudoorsu.org or call Cindy Carpenter at 509- 431-1604.