Jackie Bartels Memorial Youth Pathfinder Hunt

2019 Youth Pathfinder Award Winner – Nate Wagner

By Kathy Butler, SCIF Education Department


This year’s Youth Pathfinder hunt was awarded to sixteen-year old, native New Yorker, Nathan “Nate” Wagner.  Born in November 2003, Nate grew up the youngest of three boys and was active in sports playing basketball and lacrosse.  He developed an interest in hunting with friends who hunt that later turned into a passion he and his father, Rich, now share.  Nate harvested his first whitetail deer this past season and he regularly hunts pheasant and upland game with his father and friends.  Two years ago, his life changed when he was diagnosed with a form of cancer called Neuroblastoma, which affects approximately 800 children annually and is rare for kids over 10 years old, but Nate does not let his illness stand in the way of his connection with nature and love of hunting.


Nate was over-the-top excited when he learned that he had been chosen for this once in a life time New Mexico elk hunt and counted the hours until it was time to finally go.  New Mexico offers some of the best fair chase elk hunts in North America and the special youth elk tag awarded by New Mexico State Game Commission makes it possible for this hunt to be taken anytime during the season, anywhere in New Mexico.  Nates hunt was scheduled at the end of September 2019 and took place in the Datil Mountain range of Cibola National Forest, which is home to diverse animal species and know for its great elk herds.


Hailing from Magdalena, Eric Kern, volunteered to guide Nate on this special hunt.  With twenty years of experience guiding hunts in New Mexico, Eric knew right where to take Nate to call and stalk elk.  The first day proved to be challenging climbing hills while trying not to make noise on the loosely bedded rock found in the area.


Not having much luck that morning, they headed out in the afternoon following a tip from another scout in the area where elk had been seen.


Patience is a hunter’s virtue and it proved to be true after Nate waited several hours before elk were finally heard bugling in the distance.  As the sun started to creep toward the skyline, they headed down to a position where the elk were expected to pass on their way to feed in the flat grasslands.  Eric called a couple of times and they could hear a bull running toward them.  Exhilarated by the sound, Nate situated himself into position, but couldn’t get in the right position, so he didn’t take the shot.  A good day of hunting ended with dinner and stories at Eric’s home joined by his wife, Kelly, and their five children.


Charged up from a good night’s sleep, they headed out to a different area the next morning and tracked elk through a wooded ravine.  The elk were bugling as they made their way up the mountain and Nate positioned himself for what he thought was a sure shot, but some cows came by instead and “ratted him out” to the bull he was stocking.  It was close, but the bull eluded him.


Not giving up, they headed to another area where Nate was able to see a bull at 260 yards and had a perfect shot.  He aimed the custom, 280 Ackley, named by Eric as “Bad to the Bone,” with precision and took the shot.  The shot was true and a fine bull was taken by Nate.  The elk was a beauty, measuring roughly 340-points and weighed around 800-pounds.  Nate beamed with continued excitement as he engaged in field dressing and into the evening as he relived the details of his amazing experience.


Nate thanks New Mexico Game and Fish for the elk tag and Eric Kern and his family for hosting he and his dad on the hunt.  And he gives a special thanks to SCI Foundation and the Pathfinder Committee for making this hunt-of-a-lifetime possible.  Nate hopes these hunting opportunities will continue as it was such a remarkable experience and he hopes other youth get to do this, too.

Past Recipients

2018 Youth Pathfinder Award Winner – Jena Bartenhagen

SCIF Pathfinder Committee Awards Elk Hunt for Terminally Ill Child 


Jena Bartenhagen, a special young lady suffering from brain cancer, realized her dream of hunting elk when she became the recipient of the Jackie Bartels Memorial Youth Hunt. Jena wanted to hunt elk for a long time but couldn’t because of debilitating hearing loss, physical instability, fatigue and severe pain caused by her illness. Jena had been scheduled to go on an elk hunt prior to this opportunity but, after recovering from one of her many surgeries, she learned that the hunt was no longer available. For Jena, the hope of hunting elk seemed to be impossible due in part to her need for medical treatment.  But, the impossible became possible through a chance encounter with Brigid O’Donoghue, founder of United Special Sportsmen Alliance, Inc., while Jena was in the hospital. Brigid fell in love with Jena and recommended her to Randall Bush, SCIF Humanitarian Committee Co-Chair, knowing the great work he and the Pathfinder program does to make disabled youth hunts possible. Thanks to the SCIF Pathfinder
Committee, Jena’s elk hunt of a lifetime came true when Rulon Jones, owner of Broadmouth Canyon Ranch donated a special elk hunt.

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2017 Youth Pathfinder Award Winner – Tanner Sprague

Tanner Sprague, an 11-year-old that is an avid hunter, was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma (Bone Cancer) in his right arm last year. He was awarded the first ever Jackie Bartels Memorial Youth Pathfinder Hunt. This hunt was awarded by the SCIF Pathfinder Committee after much deliberation and some stiff competition from nine other deserving youths with life-threatening conditions.


In Tanner’s case, he has undergone several surgeries and numerous chemotherapy treatments, all of which have helped him to be a cancer survivor.


When told Tanner’s story, Carlton Armstrong of Armstrong Outdoor Adventures, LLC., located in Quemado, NM jumped at the chance to take young Tanner on an elk hunt. This was a special hunt, designated by New Mexico Game and Fish where only 2 licenses are awarded each year and Tanner had one of them. The arrangements were made and Tanner accompanied by his dad Shane were set to hunt elk in the Gila the last week in September, a great time to hunt and stalk big bulls.

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Apply for the Jackie Bartels Memorial Youth Hunts Today!

3 Pathfinder Youth Hunts Available:

2 Deer Hunts and 1 Premiere Elk Hunt

Available – Fall 2019


It’s Easy To Apply!

Apply Now


For more information or to submit application by email contact Kathy Butler at  KButler@safariclub.org. 

Deadline for submission is June 30, 2019



Jackie Bartels Memorial Youth Pathfinder Hunt

This hunt is being established by the SCIF Pathfinder Committer to honor Jackie Bartels who passed away March 25, 2017.   Jackie devoted enormous time and support to wildlife conservation, outdoor education and humanitarian services projects. She was a Life Member of Safari Club International and financial supporter of SCI Foundation’s Humanitarian Services Programs. Jackie and her husband Ron received conservation awards including the prestigious Beretta and SCI Foundation Conservation Leadership Award, Louisiana Ambassador to Conservation Award, SCI’s Diana Award, the Arthur Van Pelt Award, and was honored by Ducks Unlimited. Over a span of 22 years, Jackie dedicated time to SCI Foundation’s Sensory Safari Program, enabling sight impaired, disabled and under-privileged children and adults the opportunity to learn about animal species through touch and hearing. It is estimated that Jackie and her husband Ron provided this valuable learning experience to over 76,000 individuals.