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October 3rd was an exciting day for Matthew Olson. On this particular Wednesday, he not only participated in the Reach for Resources Game Farm Gala, but also celebrated his 16th birthday and fulfilled a dream of being a hunting guide—something he hopes to call a career one day.

Hunting guides can help by offering general leadership skills to a group, as well as sharing their knowledge of hunting, a well trained dog, and other aspects for making the hunt enjoyable, safe, and successful. Matthew, who has an intellectual disability, knows he has some time before he can become a professional guide, saying that for now, he has to “learn a lot and stay in school.” He attends Apple Valley High School, where he is part of the Trap Team.

Matthew has been hunting since he was 10 years old. “My dad inspired me,” he said. It must have been some strong inspiration that Dad shared, because within the first 10 minutes of Matthew’s first time deer hunting, he shot his first doe. He took down another doe and an eight-point buck later on that debut day. Similar results came next year, when he dropped two does during the first day again.

Matthew’s hunting pursuits are varied, as are his methods. Deer, pheasants, grouse, turkeys, and black bears have all been part of his hunting experiences. He uses a rifle in the fields, and is in the process of perfecting his aim with a bow and arrow. Tracking bears is his favorite hunting endeavor. A bear pelt is displayed in his home’s lower level, while a deer skin hangs in Matthew’s bedroom.

Matthew initially began training his pet golden retriever, and now works with the family’s current dog, Kylo, a pudlepointer. When Matthew was asked if he is a better hunter than his dad, he responded, “Ya, kind of,” but then quickly and modestly amended his answer to “It depends.”

It’s difficult not to immediately like this positive, kind, and enthusiastic young man. That may be why when he was surprised at Reach’s Game Farm Gala with a birthday cake, the crowd heartily applauded. Soon afterward, Matthew had the chance to help lead a handful of men during a session of Reach’s charity pheasant hunt at Sand Pine Pheasants. He admitted he was “pretty excited” before going out with his first group as an official guide that October 3rd afternoon. Then, returning from that successful hunt, he shared a big thumbs up and an even bigger beaming smile.