Modern media creates many heroes, stars, mentors, and role models. Unless you are a deer hunter you may not have noticed the late Charlie Alsheimer, but for us he was all that, and more.
As a young Air Force recruit in Vietnam, Charlie was introduced to photography. When he returned home he carried lasting personal marks from that terrible war, but he also had a camera in his hands, a tool he would use to expand the world of deer hunters. A few years later he met Dick Snavely, the driving force behind Family Life Ministries in Bath, NY near Charlie’s home. Dick gave Charlie the keys to the ministry’s indoor basketball court, and then introduced Charlie to Jesus Christ. Charlie’s life was forever changed.
When I first met Charlie in the mid-1980s, he was speaking at a sportsman’s dinner at the Church of the Nazarene in Warren, PA. By that time, he was already one of the top contributors for Deer & Deer Hunting magazine, America’s first whitetail-specific publication. He remained loyal to that brand for nearly 40 years, even offering on-air contributions for the early seasons of D&DH TV on Outdoor Channel and NBC Sports.
I was blessed in the times I spent with Charlie, and about 12 years ago he pushed me to begin speaking at church sportsman’s dinners. I also joined him occasionally in doing seminars at sport shows, and benefitted from his faithful friendship, earnest prayers, and wise counsel.
We would be hard-pressed to name anyone who has had as much influence on so many in the world of whitetails. In 1999 he was recognized as one of hunting’s top five inspirational leaders of the twentieth century, along with bowhunting legend Fred Bear, conservationist Aldo Leopold, President Theodore Roosevelt, and camouflage pioneer Bill Jordan.
Charlie wasn’t well known because he shot record book deer, although he learned what it took for a 200-acre parcel of land to grow big, mature bucks. He was arguably the best at photographing whitetails in every behavior, posture, and attitude a deer can have. He traveled the country speaking and teaching everyday hunters about the sport and the animal he loved, and telling about the One who gave us the majesties of creation for our enjoyment, and for His glory.
Since Charlie’s untimely death on Saturday, December 30 at age 70, I’ve had many conversations with others who knew him. One was with Tim Smith, of Smith’s Custom Guns in Warren, PA. About 15 years ago Tim built a custom left-handed .270 rifle for Charlie. Tim told me he has never met anyone whose words and life were more in sync. That’s what made Charlie a special man. It’s not always easy to match your life to your words, but Charlie would tell us it’s always worth it. It’s called integrity, and it’s the only thing that gives any of us a positive, lasting influence.
Charlie was a man for whom people mattered more than things. He had the best of photography equipment and skills. He had a wall of impressive whitetails. He had a vast knowledge of deer. He had seven outstanding books to his credit. But what was most important was beyond that. As a man of sterling character he was devoted to his wife Carla, his son Aaron, and his myriad friends and associates. And in everything he gave credit to Jesus Christ who transformed his life with meaning and a mission.
Charlie took more than a million photographs of deer. His insightful articles have served deer hunters for more than a generation, and will continue to serve us. But his legacy extends far beyond that. His mission was not just about whitetail deer. As important as they were to him, deer were only a way to advance his main mission—pointing to Jesus Christ as “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6).
These few paragraphs are a weak summation of the life of a great man. Better are the words Charlie has now heard, but they come too soon for those he leaves behind. “Well done, good and faithful servant…. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21).
When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, writing about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. Contact him at EverydayHunter@gmail.com, and read more of his thoughts about hunting at www.jamestowngazette.com.