Denver Cushman gets hunt of his lifetime

WEST LIBERTY – When Denver Cushman woke up a couple weekends ago, he didn’t know he’d be having one of the best days of his life.

Cushman, a freshman at West Liberty-Salem, has Williams Syndrome, a genetic condition that often causes developmental delays and learning disabilities. But with those drawbacks often come highly social personalities and an affinity for music.

At West Liberty-Salem’s homecoming football game, Cushman and his brother Cody led the team onto the field before the game. For the next day’s dance, he had five different offers for dates. And for the morning after, he received his favorite honor of all – a special hunt at X-Factor Whitetails of Ohio sponsored by Whitetails Unlimited.

X-Factor is a hunting ranch in West Liberty that offers premium guided hunts with lodging and meals. Several local farmers chipped in cash for the Cushman hunt, but the owner of X-Factor refused to accept the donations and allowed Denver to take a doe free of charge.

“Every one of those bucks that came in, he was like ‘is that the seven pointer?’” Denver’s father, Thad, said with a chuckle. “The neat thing is, we had eight of the monsters, everywhere around us. And there were four doe. The guide says ‘You can take one of those does if Denver wants to take one.’ I said ‘No! There’s too many of those big boys around.’ Because if he accidentally misses and hits something else, then I’m in trouble!”

After awhile, the herd cleared out and a lone doe wandered down to where the group lay in wait. Denver’s rifle was fitted with a scope camera to allow Thad to see what he was looking at and help aim.

Denver got excited at that point in the story, demonstrating how big the deer was and how happy he was to have the opportunity.

He didn’t wait to take it, either. As Thad was reaching to turn on the scope cam, the gun went off and Denver had fired a round near the heart of the deer from around 70 yards.

“They said they could hear you yelling all the way at the house,” Keith McNutt said. McNutt serves as the president of the Champaign County chapter of Whitetails Unlimited.

“It was a nice place to hunt. And the doe … dead,” Denver said, pantomiming the event. “Through the heart. Clean shot.”

The Cushman family is extremely grateful to the groups that made it all possible for their son.

“We really want to put a special thanks out to Whitetails of Champaign County,” Thad Cushman said. “We want to put a special thanks out to X-Factor and the guide, D Rea King.”

Whitetails Unlimited also provided Denver with a gun and a couple other small gifts, according to vice president Scott Workman.

“We put about $5,000-7,000 each year into the county in youth hunting and outdoors programs, behind all the schools in the county and Urbana University,” McNutt said. “That’s what it’s all about to us. Doing things like this – keeping kids in the outdoors and in the woods.

“And without the community support at the banquet every year … that’s how we’re able to do what we do.”

The 10th annual banquet is scheduled for February 25, 2017 at the Champaign County Fairgrounds. Last year’s banquet grossed $83,000, netted $32,000 and left the organization with roughly half of that.

Whitetails Unlimited originally thought to honor a local wounded veteran with the special hunt, but couldn’t find any, according to Workman.

“I don’t know why, but I thought of Denver,” Workman said. “And Keith thought that’d be cool. So that’s what we did.”

Denver Cushman poses with Keith McNutt and Scott Workman of Whitetails Unlimited. Cushman recently went on a guided hunt at X-Factor Whitetails of Ohio. Cushman poses with Keith McNutt and Scott Workman of Whitetails Unlimited. Cushman recently went on a guided hunt at X-Factor Whitetails of Ohio.

By Justin Miller

Reach Justin Miller at 652-1331 (ext. 1775) or on Twitter @UDC_Miller.