Born with spina bifida, Mark Brown has faced adversity in just about everything he has ever done, but he’s had the determination and faith to face and overcome the obstacles.
Bound to a wheelchair, rarely have challenges been easy for the Starkville native, especially those that involved hunting, which is a big thing in his family.
“My uncles hunt, my grandfather hunts and even my mom hunts, and I’ve been deer hunting since I was in the sixth grade, and I’m 31 now,” Brown said. “I’ve killed a lot of does, and I’ve killed seven bucks. I’ve got a big 8-point, two 9s and a 10 all on the wall, and I’ve got a skull mount of a 6-pointer, too.”
Four years ago, Brown started thinking about turkey hunting.
That’s when Brown met Corey Ellis at a deer hunt sponsored by Passion Pursuit Ministries, a West Point-based organization that holds hunts for the physically challenged. Through Ellis, Brown met Alex Crook.
“Corey made turkey calls and he started talking to me about turkey hunting,” Brown said. “I got interested in turkey hunting when Corey and Alex Crook came into my life. We became like brothers.”
But, wow … turkey hunting?
“Yeah, that’s a challenge for anyone and a lot of people said I’d never be able to kill a gobbler because of my wheelchair,” Brown said. “I wanted to prove them wrong. I wanted to prove to them as long as you have the will power and God in your life, you can do anything.
“Corey and Alex, they set a goal of getting me a gobbler.”
This spring, after four years of trying and 10 trips to the woods, Brown succeeded. There had been close calls — once when hunting with an uncle, Brown said they had one bird gobbling at them for four hours — but never had a gobbler come into gun range.
Finally, though, hunting with Crook on April 28, it all came together. They were hunting near Smithville, near the Tenn-Tom Waterway in northeast Mississippi.
“We arrived at our location and got set up by 11:45 that morning,” said Brown, who was concealed in an Ameristep Bone Collector pop-up blind. “We sat there probably five minutes and Alex hit his call. The old tom sounded off, and it was on.
“Alex kept keeping the gobbler interested, but the bird tried to be slick and pull a good one on us by coming from a different direction than we were facing. However, with a little aggressive calling from Alex, the tom couldn’t handle it and came right in to the decoy at 30 yards.”
Crook gave Brown the nod to shoot.
“I let the Mossberg 20-gauage bark and I sealed the deal with Winchester No. 5s,” Brown said.
The gobbler had inch-long spurs and a 6½-inch beard.
“I can use my hands and arms, and I can shoot,” Brown said. “I just need a little assistance in getting there. Once I’m there and in position, I can get it done. I use some trigger sticks to prop the gun.”
The goal had been reached, but the bond between Brown, Crook and Ellis continues to grow, not only spiritually and as friends, but also as partners.
“Corey is a call maker, and he got interested in building custom calls for those with disabilities, like myself, and he called me and asked if I’d be interested in getting involved,” Brown said. “We changed the name of his company from Redemption Game Calls to Conviction Game Calls. It’s based in Strong, Miss., and I help with the decals for the calls and for vehicles. I am so happy to be involved.”