Sacred Pursuit - Jonah's Dream

& the Hounds That Made it Happen

On December 4, 2023 just before daybreak, a team of bear hunters met at a country church in Buchanan County, West Virginia. It wasn’t unusual for the team to meet and make plans for the day, but this wasn’t just any day. And this wasn’t going to be just any bear hunt. This was a team of volunteers working with the Outdoor Dream Foundation to help a young man take a bear hunt.

The Outdoor Dream Foundation, based in Anderson, South Carolina, was founded in 2004. Its mission statement reads, “Outdoor Dream Foundation grants outdoor adventures to children and youth under 21 years of age who have been diagnosed with terminal or life-threatening illnesses”. The foundation is staffed entirely by volunteers and a whopping 98% of the funds donated have gone directly to support the adventures for the children involved.

Standing there in the darkness of the church parking lot, among others, were volunteers Charles Dunbar, Matt Whitt, and K.P. Cooper. These men and the rest of the team had pulled together the resources of trucks, ATVs, and hounds to assist Jonah Marcum in harvesting a black bear in the West Virginia mountains. Bear hunting in the mountains isn’t easy, and they knew everything would have to go just right to help Jonah get a bear.

The team members who shared this fantastic story with me said that Jonah, age nine, was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of two. With the help of his parents Sam and Nikki Marcum, he had battled this illness almost his entire life. As soon as I heard this, without even meeting him, I knew Jonah had to be tough as a pine knot. Jonah had taken other hunts where he had harvested deer and a gator. On one of those hunts, he developed a strong desire to kill a bear and was dead set on getting it done.

On the morning of the hunt, Matt Whitt was rigging for bears when the dogs struck, and they were in business. Dogs were put down and the race was on. It wasn’t long before the dogs brought the bear across a road and some more dogs were packed on it. The hunt was taking place on a reclaimed mining area with lots of scrub brush and very little timber. For some time, the bear tussled with the dogs throughout an area without a tree large enough for the bear to climb. At one point, the hunters thought they may have to kill the bear and find another one for Jonah. But as providence would have it, the bear headed to an area with one strip of pines and found a resting place on a limb.

One volunteer went to the tree and surmised everything was good to bring in Jonah. Jonah was so weak from chemo treatments the previous Thursday that the hunters offered to carry him to the tree. Jonah refused to be carried; this was his hunt, this was his bear, and he wasn’t going to let it happen on anyone else’s shoulders. Jonah, like a true champion, made his way to the tree. He laid his bolt action .243 into the fork of a bush crafted shooting stick and squeezed the trigger. His aim was dead on. Jonah’s dream of killing a bear had come true.

Bear hunters are notoriously rough and tough men, but I’m told that some tears followed under that tree. Jonah, his parents, and the team of volunteers were all filled with joy. I think it’s safe to say that those memories will last a lifetime for everyone involved.

The hounds that were a part of the hunt that day have no idea how happy they made Jonah and all those who participated. But it would just be wrong not to mention the critical role they played in such an inspiring hunt. Not everyone understands how much joy hounds can bring into the life of a houndsman, but I bet Jonah does. I hope they got a little extra feed that night.

Well done, Jonah! Every bear hunter reading this article is inspired by your toughness. God bless you!