It’s been 17 hours since I’ve heard the news that Charles Alsheimer left this world to be his Creator, and I’m struggling to breathe, much less type these words.
Charlie, as he preferred to be called, was more than an expert on white-tailed deer behavior. He was more than the world’s most renowned deer photographer. He was more than an expert deer hunter. Charlie Alsheimer was a man of impeccable character, resolve and most importantly, faith.
I first met him in person in September 1995 when he traveled here to Wisconsin to take part in a brief bowhunt with fellow Deer & Deer Hunting’s field editors and staff members. In fact, one of my most vivid hunting memories came on Day 2 of that event when I burst through the front door of then D&DH-Editor Pat Durkin’s house and excitedly proclaimed I bagged a buck — my first with bow and arrow. I had been hunting within a long-distance sprint of Durkin’s home, and he and Alsheimer had decided to take the morning off so they could go over some magazine assignments. Upon seeing the excitement on my face, Alsheimer set down his cup of coffee and sprang from his chair to go grab his camera.
There’s no telling how many times I’ve talked to Charlie on the phone. Thousands, at least. And with every one of those conversations, I greeted him the same way, “Hello, sir!”
You see, Charlie Alsheimer was that kind of man. He was a man who didn’t command respect; he was a man who you automatically showed respect. Perhaps it was because of the professionalism he exuded. Or perhaps it was because you just knew you were dealing with a super-special human being. Whatever it was, I will miss it and him dearly, because I don’t know how to pick up the pieces and move on from this blow.
Over these years, he was more than just a freelancer who pitched me article ideas, photo packages and TV/video topics. He was always there for me talk to about all of the milestones in my life — like when I was about to marry my best friend in 2000; when both of my daughters were born; when my dad was diagnosed with cancer in 1999 (he’s still going strong); and when my mom passed away in 2008. In those instances, he actually did more listening than talking. When I needed advice, he provided it. And it was always spot-on.
I last talked to Charlie on Dec. 20, and he said he was doing just fine despite recently being diagnosed with a mild form of leukemia. We talked for at least an hour until he had to cut me off because he was late for an appointment. I never did get a chance to hear the first-person account of his latest hunt, which occurred six day prior. “Call me back when things settle down,” he told me. “And, most important, go home and hug those girls.”
Hug those girls. That was his patented sign-off to every one of our calls ever since I became a dad 15 years ago. I didn’t always need the reminder, but those words, coming out of his mouth, were always a cold wake-up call that you just never know what tomorrow will bring. For that reason not a day goes by that I don’t hug those girls — all three of them — Tracy, Taylor and Emily.
I never did get to call Charlie back and hear his story about how he bagged that buck. I’ll regret that forever, because I knew it was a special moment for him.
I do have this email, however, which provides even more insight into Charlie Alsheimer – the deer hunter.
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Charles Alsheimer
Date: Thu, Dec 14, 2017 at 2:51 PM
Subject: The second time was a charm
Having trouble finding time during bow season to hunt due to a medical problem I decided to see if I could hunt portions of each day in rifle and muzzleloader season. So, my journey began on our rifle opener November 18th. Yesterday was the 26th straight day of my pursuit…..with a little over 10 minutes of legal shooting left the pursuit came to a very happy ending (all be it temporary as I still have a couple doe tags to fill).
Throughout yesterday morning wind and sub-zero temps kept me wondering if I should even attempt to hunt the end of the day. At 3:15pm, with the wind howling and the wind chill at an even zero I climbed into one of my favorite API Grandstands (totally exposed to the elements) overlooking a prime Imperial Whitetail Oats Plus plot our farm’s whitetails have been hammering. For the first hour nothing showed, not even the red squirrel that’s been keeping me company over the last month. At 4:20pm this guy stepped into the plot, 90 yards away and began feeding. I recognized him as a buck I’d actually passed up on the 10th day of rifle season. Why pass such a buck? Because I didn’t want my buck season to come to an end so fast. I vowed at the time if I ever got another crack at him late in the season I would not pass him up a second time. Five minutes after he stepped into the plot I fired and it was over, adding to the myriad of memories whitetails have given me over the course of my 40+ year career in the outdoor industry.
Rest peacefully in Heaven, sir. I will miss you dearly, my friend and mentor.