During the 2019 hunting season, we asked you to pass it on and take someone hunting with you. Justin Morrissey was already a step ahead of us and was working with his best friend, Joey Wakeen, who has Down syndrome, to get ready for the season.
The friends, who are really more like brothers, decided it was time for Joey to give hunting a try. They started, without success, with turkeys in the spring. After practicing shooting for safety and accuracy all summer and fall, they were ready for deer season. Days before Joey’s birthday they headed out into the stand and had success – Joey’s first buck!
On this episode of the Wild Wisconsin - Off The Record Podcast, we sat down with them to learn more about their friendship, what it was like for Joey to get his first buck (from both of their perspectives), and why mentoring is so important to the Wisconsin tradition of hunting and fishing.
Learn more about National Shooting Sports Foundation and the +One Movement at https://www.letsgoshooting.org/plusonemovement/
Learn more about mentored hunting in Wisconsin at https://dnr.wi.gov/education/outdoorskills/mentor.html
[00:00:00] Welcome to Wisconsin DNR's Wild Wisconsin - Off The Record podcast -- information straight from the source.
Katie Grant: [00:00:09] Welcome back to another episode of Wild Wisconsin - Off The Record. I'm your host DNR's digital media coordinator, Katie Grant. At Wisconsin DNR, we love sharing your stories, whether they're about how you fell in love at a state park, how you learned to fish, that one time you saw a rare bird on your backyard feeder or really anything else in between.
We're delighted when you tell these stories to your friends on social media and tag us in them, and we get even more excited when you allow us to share your stories with the world.
Leading up to the 2019 deer season, we started to get tagged in a series of posts from Justin Morrissey about his experience mentoring his friend Joey Wakeen -- who's really more like a brother -- to get ready for Joey's first time deer hunting. We silently followed along hopeful that Joey would have success.
Justin Morrissey: [00:01:01] All right, Joey and I are ready to go. What do you think Joey?
Joey Wakeen: [00:01:05] Ready to go.
Justin Morrissey: [00:01:08] That's right. We're ready to go. So yeah, we just got our stuff ready here at the truck. I got, I got the camera, I got the big gun here. Joey's got the .308 on him and uh, we're going to stay right by each other the whole way and get off to the blind.
[gun shot] Joey, you got him. You got it buddy. You got him. What do you think, buddy? Dude, look at that. Joey, it's your first buck buddy.
Joey Wakeen: [00:01:46] I got it. I got shot a buck. I just shot a buck. I got it, mom. It's just, this is good. This boy.
Justin Morrissey: [00:01:58] Tonight. What's the day today?
Joey Wakeen: [00:02:00] I shot a buck.
Justin Morrissey: [00:02:02] Joey shot a buck. The date doesn't even matter. Yeah, it is the day that Joey Wakeen got his first deer.
Joey Wakeen: [00:02:09] Yeah.
Justin Morrissey: [00:02:10] And it's a nice six pointer, isn't it?
Joey Wakeen: [00:02:12] Yeah!
Justin Morrissey: [00:02:13] Right on. Good job, buddy. So anyways, uh, and guess what? What, what, what day is Friday this week?
Joey Wakeen: [00:02:20] This is fun night. This is my birthday.
Justin Morrissey: [00:02:23] It is Joey's birthday. This is like your birthday buck. Huh? That's a good present, huh?
Joey Wakeen: [00:02:30] Yeah!
Justin Morrissey: [00:02:30] So what do you think?
Joey Wakeen: [00:02:32] This is good.
Justin Morrissey: [00:02:33] This is just plain old good, isn't it?
Joey Wakeen: [00:02:36] Yeah, it is pretty good.
Justin Morrissey: [00:02:37] Right on, buddy. All right.
Katie Grant: [00:02:40] I was able to chat with Justin and Joey to learn a bit more about what the experience was like for them. Why mentoring is important in the world of hunting and fishing and what their next big adventure will be. So sit back and listen in.
Justin Morrissey: [00:02:54] My name is Justin Morrissey. I am the manager of social media for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
I grew up in Baldwin, Wisconsin, which is in the west-central part of Wisconsin, uh, kind of close to the Minnesota border. And I grew up hunting. Uh, I'm very passionate about it. My dad got me introduced to it and my brother and I definitely, um, kind of built, built up each other over the years and helped each other gain new experience and we kind of motivated each other to, and challenged each other to get more involved in hunting and try new things.
And then over the years we got other friends involved and had a lot of great experiences. And that kind of led to me having a career in the outdoor industry. And then when, let's see, it was bud 10 years ago. I was a sophomore in high school when my drama or speech teacher forensics coach, uh, Roxy Wakeen, and, uh, she approached me and asked me if I would be available to mentor her son Joey.
And so I became Joey's respite care provider for, uh, at that point. And I've been that for about 10 years, but there were some periods in between that, um, like when I moved to Connecticut for three and a half years that I wasn't really around as much to hang out with Joey. Um, but now I moved back to Wisconsin, still have my same job of work remotely, and it's kind of put me in a position where I can mentor Joey again and hang out with him.
Katie Grant: [00:04:36] Cool, Joey, why don't you tell us a little bit about who you are?
Joey Wakeen: [00:04:41] Oh, I'm Joey, I'm out. I go to work. My second cousin goes to middle school. Yeah. I working at clean and clean, clean, all busy. So it's like they got to go to them. This is his land. I shot in a deer about, I'm going to check his shoulder. This is, yes. Good, down.
Justin Morrissey: [00:05:13] So, so what do you, what do you like to do for fun, Joey? Like, what do you like to do for fun besides go hunting now? You like to play basketball, right?
Joey Wakeen: [00:05:24] Yeah.
Justin Morrissey: [00:05:25] You like to go bowling.
Joey Wakeen: [00:05:26] Yeah, basketball and bowling.
Justin Morrissey: [00:05:29] Is there a big one? Swimming in the summertime?
Joey Wakeen: [00:05:32] Yeah, swimming and this is last summer.
Justin Morrissey: [00:05:39] And you're probably about ready for summer again now, this point of the year? So, Joey, just what Joey said is that he works at St. Croix Central Middle School, and he cleans there, he has kind of like a janitorial role at the school, um, as part of the staff there. Um, so that's like his big, big job lately, right?
Joey Wakeen: [00:06:00] Yeah.
Justin Morrissey: [00:06:01] And, uh. And then besides that, and you just have a heck of a lot of fun all the time, don't you?
Joey Wakeen: [00:06:06] Yeah.
Katie Grant: [00:06:07] It sounds like it. We first met you, Justin, when you reached out on Facebook with kind of an exciting update. Joey, you got your first buck during gun deer season this year, didn't you?
Joey Wakeen: [00:06:19] Oh, yeah.
Katie Grant: [00:06:20] Yeah. What was that like for you, Joey?
Joey Wakeen: [00:06:23] This is, um. This in the woods. This is kind of my walk. It's just deep. This is the, it's for my, my boots.
Justin Morrissey: [00:06:39] OK Joey, she's not asking about...
There. There are odd little experiences that Joey has when walking like in the woods, like the ground is uneven. What he's talking about, the ground being uneven and it kind of being a little bit difficult for his feet.
But we're, we're talking about the deer though. Like, what was it like? I remember you kept saying that it was a really good experience in the videos. Right?
Joey Wakeen: [00:07:07] Oh, yeah, yeah.
Justin Morrissey: [00:07:07] So you want to explain more of that?
Joey Wakeen: [00:07:09] Yeah.
Justin Morrissey: [00:07:10] Explain.
Joey Wakeen: [00:07:11] Hmm. Um, it got shot in the eye.
Justin Morrissey: [00:07:17] So what about the deer, man? Mm. Like what about your, do you remember your buck that you got?
Joey Wakeen: [00:07:22] Yeah.
Justin Morrissey: [00:07:22] Remember? So you remember you pulled the trigger and, we went out there and you had a lot of fun. Remember, we were like dancing in the line and stuff like that? And have a lot of fun.
Joey Wakeen: [00:07:30] Yeah.
Justin Morrissey: [00:07:31] And we saw the deer on the food plot?
Joey Wakeen: [00:07:33] Yeah.
Justin Morrissey: [00:07:33] And then, and then remember you got your buck.
Joey Wakeen: [00:07:36] Yeah.
Justin Morrissey: [00:07:36] So how did you feel about that?
Joey Wakeen: [00:07:38] It was better.
Justin Morrissey: [00:07:40] You felt much better after that didn't you?
Joey Wakeen: [00:07:42] Yeah.
Justin Morrissey: [00:07:43] Just your, it was a life-changing experience.
Katie Grant: [00:07:47] Was it very exciting for you, Joey?
Joey Wakeen: [00:07:49] Yeah.
Katie Grant: [00:07:50] Yeah. So Justin, you are Joey's friend, but you described that moment to us when we first talked to you as being like watching your own kid get their first buck.
What was that experience like for you and why was it so special?
Justin Morrissey: [00:08:04] Yeah, so, I think that experience when Joey got his buck was really special because, I mean, we've developed a relationship over all these years, and he is like a brother to me, uh, like a little brother to me. And so just to grow with somebody and not only mentor him, but him mentor me.
Um, when we both sort of experienced that success together -- I think it's just as just as good, if not better as me harvesting a deer of my own. Um, or just even experience any sort of, you know, big success in, in my life. I mean, it was a really cool moment. And for Joey to express his excitement like he did in the video, um, you can pretty much see that like that, that is what makes it awesome is just to see that big smile on Joey's face.
And, uh, that's, that's what it's all about. It's not about, actually killing the deer. I mean, it's, it's a, it's definitely good to, uh, you know, harvest a deer and have meat from it and to experience that ... that success, but it's also just being together with someone and to accomplish something like that. Um, after we went hunting like all year and, uh, worked on firearm safety and just, you know, it takes time to learn that stuff through the mentor process.
Um. And so it just was, you know, I guess it's really hard to describe really, but it's a definitely something that I want to continue doing. Let's just put it that way.
Katie Grant: [00:09:39] Yeah. Very cool. So as you kind of had mentioned, you guys were getting ready to go hunting for quite a long time this year. You spent, what was it? Did you start like last spring, early summer?
Justin Morrissey: [00:09:52] Yes. Yes. So we started with turkey hunting, uh, in the spring. And I first brought Joey out target shooting. Um, and we started with the .22 and he shot at a clay pigeon cause it's good to start with reactive targets because then you actually get some feedback, um, as soon as you shoot.
So he shot at a clay pigeon and the first shot he hit it right in the center of the clay pigeon, which that was the first shot he ever took with a firearm.
Katie Grant: [00:10:21] That's not easy to do at all.
Justin Morrissey: [00:10:23] Yeah, we were, we were like super pumped. And then he took two more shots and we thought the second shot that he missed, and we didn't walk up to the target at all.
Um, and we just couldn't see, uh, a different hole in the target. Um, because he shot at the same clay, like the first shot, it just left one hole in the clay, but it didn't break it or anything. So then the second shot, we're like, 'Oh, you missed.' Sure enough. Now, on the third shot, we saw that that whole grow a little bit bigger, um, in the clay and it never broke, and then when we walked up to it we realized that he hit in the same spot in his first three shots, like same hole.
Katie Grant: [00:11:05] Wow. That's awesome, Joey.
Joey Wakeen: [00:11:07] Oh, thank you.
Justin Morrissey: [00:11:08] So from that point, we stepped it up to the shotgun because then he, you know, you kinda got used to the sound of the gun going off and you know, the reaction, um, or, you know, cause and effect.
He pulled the trigger, the gun goes, bang. Um, so then we stepped up the shotgun. He, uh, blew up the first clay. We just put stationary clays out on, on some stands, and he busted, I think you got like 14 out of 15 or something like that, all the way out to like 50 yards. So he was definitely, that was like not a concern of mine like him being good shot was like, he's a natural.
So, um, so yeah. Then we went out turkey hunting though like a couple of days later. Right. And we went out, we brought the blind out. Right?
Joey Wakeen: [00:11:53] Yeah, right.
Justin Morrissey: [00:11:54] When was that? That was a good time, wasn't it?
Joey Wakeen: [00:11:55] Sure.
Justin Morrissey: [00:12:00] And so yeah, we went out, brought the blind out. The first morning we went out, we had a Tom come out in the field. I think it was like a hundred, and it was like a hundred yards away, but it just didn't quite close in. Um, and we just had challenges with that Tom that whole season that Joey had and ended up not getting a shot opportunity. But we saw hens like right up close to the blind. Right?
Joey Wakeen: [00:12:22] Oh yeah.
Justin Morrissey: [00:12:23] What what sound did the turkey make?
Joey Wakeen: [00:12:26] This is um. This is kind of... crocker.
Justin Morrissey: [00:12:32] OK. Sounds, yeah. It's got like a little bit of a crack to it on the slate, doesn't it? But what does it sound like? Can you do make the sound for us?
Yeah, exactly. That's a hen, right?
Joey Wakeen: [00:12:44] Yeah.
Justin Morrissey: [00:12:44] And then what did the males do? What do, what do the Toms do? A gobble, right?
Joey Wakeen: [00:12:49] Yeah. Oh, gobble.
Justin Morrissey: [00:12:54] Perfect. Yeah. Yeah. So, so anyways, from that point, turkey hunting, and we moved on to more target shooting in the summertime. And we continued working on his skills with the .22. And I got really involved in the rimfire challenge at the Colfax Sportsman's Club. So I just kind of, uh, got Joey into like clinking steel with the .22's and yeah, we got video of that and he's a rock star once again, like he just hasn't ever shown a dip in his shooting skills.
He's been like on. Um, so we're just kind of working on increasing the speed that he shoots, cause you likes to take his time a lot, which is important, you know, definitely accuracy over speed when you first start, right?
Joey Wakeen: [00:13:38] Yeah.
Justin Morrissey: [00:13:39] Um, and then we just got into the fall. We went, uh, bow hunting. Uh, Joey got a tag, um, an apprentice tag or a mentor, mentor tag.
Joey Wakeen: [00:13:50] Right.
Justin Morrissey: [00:13:51] And we went out bow hunting a few times. Uh, the first two times we had does come out in the food plot and we got really excited, but we were, let's just say that, that, uh, Joey learned to sit still in the blind, right? Yeah. What do you gotta do when you're in the blind? Sit still, right?
Joey Wakeen: [00:14:09] Yes. This is, yes. Yes. Shhhh. Yup.
Justin Morrissey: [00:14:14] And you gotta be...
Joey Wakeen: [00:14:16] Be quiet.
Justin Morrissey: [00:14:16] Yeah, exactly. We worked on a couple of those important things. You know, we, we definitely had, um, had to have a little patience out there, but we had eventually had some does come and close, right?
Joey Wakeen: [00:14:28] Oh yeah. Yup.
Justin Morrissey: [00:14:30] And he shot at, um, one doe and just barely missed, right?
Joey Wakeen: [00:14:34] Yeah.
Justin Morrissey: [00:14:35] And so we didn't get that. Um, and then things got really busy for me, so we didn't go out after that again until gun season. And so that led to the hunt where Joey um, got his first buck.
Joey Wakeen: [00:14:49] Yeah, squirrels.
Justin Morrissey: [00:14:50] Oh, okay.
Yeah. Yeah. We're going to, we're going to go hunt for rabbits and squirrels now, aren't we? Well, I think squirrel season season's done, so we gotta maybe try for rabbits.
Katie Grant: [00:15:03] So squirrels and rabbits are the next big thing you want to try hunting. Joey?
Joey Wakeen: [00:15:07] Yeah.
Justin Morrissey: [00:15:07] And we, we tried once already. Right? And we definitely learned that the reaction time, you know, with speed being a big factor with hunting rabbits. Um, Joey needs to work on his speed a little bit when it comes to, um, you know, acquiring the target and just pulling the trigger. But like I said, I think the important thing is accuracy, um, over speed, right? And so we're maybe going to try going out and sitting and waiting for rabbits in some spots that we know there are a lot of rabbits.That's what you've got to do, when you mentor though, you got to adapt to the, the hunter and you got to not expect too much.
You got to kind of, you know, patience is a huge part of it on any learning process, whether you're mentoring or learning on your own. And so we're just kind of, letting time do it's thing, aren't we Joey?
Joey Wakeen: [00:16:00] Yeah.
Katie Grant: [00:16:01] What are you doing with your deer now that you have it?
Joey Wakeen: [00:16:04] Mm. Oh!
Justin Morrissey: [00:16:06] What are you doing with your deer?
Joey Wakeen: [00:16:07] Oh my deer.
Yeah, this is like 150 pounds.
Justin Morrissey: [00:16:14] Yup. It's 150 pounds. Yeah. Are you going to get it mounted?
Joey Wakeen: [00:16:18] What?
Justin Morrissey: [00:16:18] You're going to get the deer mounted, right? Shoulder mount, right?
Joey Wakeen: [00:16:21] Oh yeah.
Justin Morrissey: [00:16:22] And, and his mom said that... So they don't have any taxidermy at their house, but his mom said that she's definitely going to hang it right in the living room so that it can be a good conversation piece when people come over.
Katie Grant: [00:16:34] That's very cool. So getting outdoors is kind of a way of life for both of you. Joey, I hear that you're not a huge fan of ice fishing, but what else do you guys like to do outside together?
Joey Wakeen: [00:16:47] This is what to too cold it is. Oh, ice, icy. This is, this is just cold, like my right foot.
Justin Morrissey: [00:17:02] Your foot fell on hole that one time, right?
Joey Wakeen: [00:17:03] Yeah right in the hole.
Justin Morrissey: [00:17:04] Yeah. We, uh. There was a rogue hole that just flew out and came out of nowhere, right?
Joey Wakeen: [00:17:10] Yeah.
Justin Morrissey: [00:17:11] And you, uh, your foot just hit it just right. And it went right in the hole, didn't it?
Joey Wakeen: [00:17:15] Yeah.
Justin Morrissey: [00:17:16] And that, uh, but your foot's okay, right? Yeah. I think your foot's just fine. You just, it was just a traumatic experience. So, so, but what else besides, you like fishing in the boat, right?
Joey Wakeen: [00:17:29] Yeah.
Justin Morrissey: [00:17:29] Yeah. why don't you tell, why don't you tell about some fish... fishing that you've done in the boat?
Joey Wakeen: [00:17:33] Oh, about, um, about, um, bass, about guppies. And is it more that fish?
Justin Morrissey: [00:17:44] So what's that one right there, right? That one.
Joey Wakeen: [00:17:47] This is, um, lot of ice.
Justin Morrissey: [00:17:51] Yes. Yup. Walleyes and northerns, right? Yeah. So we, we fish for, for all of them. Right? You can take what we can get around fishing in the boat. Right. So, yeah. So we do that. And you went out, uh, you go out hiking with me sometimes, right?
Joey Wakeen: [00:18:06] Yeah.
Justin Morrissey: [00:18:07] Like this time of year we go look for deer antlers, right?
Joey Wakeen: [00:18:09] Yes, sir.
Justin Morrissey: [00:18:10] Yeah. And you haven't found any yet, right? Yeah. Yeah. But we're going to keep trying, right?
Joey Wakeen: [00:18:15] Yeah. I kept trying.
Justin Morrissey: [00:18:16] Persistence pays off. Correct. All right. What else do we do out there?
Joey Wakeen: [00:18:23] Well, this is kind of cold nights.
Justin Morrissey: [00:18:27] It's, well, it's cold right now this time of year, but we like, we like sitting by the bonfire, right?
Joey Wakeen: [00:18:31] Oh yeah. Like fire.
Justin Morrissey: [00:18:32] Bonfires at night. That's all good.
Joey Wakeen: [00:18:34] Yeah. This is good.
Justin Morrissey: [00:18:35] Yup. And you like helping me cut wood and stuff at my land, right?
Joey Wakeen: [00:18:40] Yeah.
Justin Morrissey: [00:18:40] That's all important stuff. Yeah. You gotta stay active outside, right?
Joey Wakeen: [00:18:44] Sure.
Katie Grant: [00:18:44] I love it. You've kind of talked about this a little bit, but can you tell me a little bit more about what it's like to be a hunting mentor and a little bit about the plus one movement and why people should get involved?
Justin Morrissey: [00:18:58] Yes, absolutely. So I think that mentorship in general these days, um, is a really important thing, uh, because I think there's ... there's a lot of disconnection between people, um, and communities because of... I'm going to go back to social media, even though it's my job, uh, to manage social media for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
I manage it because I know that I can make a difference on there and I can educate. So I think that like social media just creates a disconnection between people, and community is where a lot of people go on social media and use that as kind of an outlet or use it as a distraction. Oh, uh, a way from like the important things, which are community, which are friends, which is the outdoors, which is stepping outside.
Um, and so I think that mentorship through social media and educating and using social media as a education platform versus like a platform to create controversy. And you know, I think entertainment is an important part to help education become more attractive. But I also think that the education component is really, really important.
And that's where mentorship comes in with anything in life. Um, I think that education is critical for the understanding of everything around you. It gives people perspective. And so the plus one movement and what that is, is a peer-to-peer campaign that pretty much encourages people, um, hunters, outdoorsmen, um, outdoorswomen, um, and just people in general who maybe even have gone out and tried target shooting or hunting before to just give it a try.
Um, because it does give you unique perspective. And a lot of people just don't know what it's all about. So if we just help each other get involved in it, um, and sort of see and gain that new perspective, that's really what it's all about. And so really the statistic is with the hunting side of things anyways, is if one in three hunters introduced someone new to hunting, it would create a strong future for hunting and conservation.
And so that's one in three, and we're trying to just encourage everybody to get out and do it, but one in three and that would create a very strong future for wildlife through conservation dollars and all of that. It would help the, uh, outdoor industry. So that's really what it's all about is, uh, you know, kind of creating more awareness around the positives that hunting can provide in people's lives.
Katie Grant: [00:21:52] Very cool. I think you guys are a great example of how easy it is to make this happen. You know, being a mentor is something that anyone with hunting experience can do and really even fishing experience, you know, you, you can mentor someone to become a fisher as well.
So I don't want to focus just on the hunting aspect of it, cause I think there's definitely both sides, but, and anyone with the experience can do it and just bring someone with you.
Justin Morrissey: [00:22:20] Yeah, absolutely. I, like I said, I think it kind of crosses over into any element of life. Um, you know, when, as a parent teaches their kids and their kids develop, um, I think that mentorship and parenting go hand in hand.
It's just that mentorship kind of extends beyond parenting. Like Joey isn't my kid. Um, and I have a lot of friends who, you know, they're not my relatives. We're not family, but mentor ... mentoring them, um, it kind of creates that connection of like a really strong friendship connection. And so that's really like what the plus one idea is all about is like creating community, which is critical these days.
So, so, yeah. And then with the mentoring, like. You know, Joey hasn't taken Hunter's Education. Um, and then through the mentorship program that Wisconsin offers, um, you know, I, I definitely am there with him the whole time right next to him and making sure that, you know, the firearm that he is holding is, is really my responsibility.
And so we pretty much set that um, understanding right from the beginning. And so Joey is really careful. He's really safe, and I'm really proud of him for being as safe as he is. And I think that, you know, it's all, it's all in the approach.
Katie Grant: [00:23:45] Absolutely. If there was one thing that you guys wanted listeners to walk away with after listening to this episode, what would you want that to be?
Justin Morrissey: [00:23:54] I think the most important message is to be inclusive and to keep an open mind when it comes to what somebody thinks about hunting and the outdoors to begin with. And because that open-mindedness and that inclusiveness and that willingness to reach out, that is what creates a respect from the other, from maybe different perspectives also.
Like once you offer that extend, you know, extend your hand, I guess, out and, and create an opportunity and create an understanding that you're willing to connect in some way, whether it's through hunting or any activity. I think that just creates an opportunity for people to respect each other more, try new things, and also just have a lot more fun.
Katie Grant: [00:24:46] I love it. Well, Joey, we are so proud of you that, that you got your first deer this year and that you're doing so great in giving hunting a try. If I could give you a high five through the computer right now, I totally would. So Justin, give him a high five for me.
Justin Morrissey: [00:25:01] I just did.
Katie Grant: [00:25:03] When you're thinking about your next hunting or fishing trip, think about who you can pass the experience onto and then make it happen.
Mentoring is a rewarding experience and a great way to get more people involved in the outdoors. You can learn more about becoming at dnr.wi.gov.
What do you want to hear on future episodes? Email us your questions and ideas at dnr.wi.gov and if you like what you're hearing, be sure to leave us a review.
Thanks for listening.