DUNBAR, Pa. — When the 2019 deer season rolled around, Tighe Martin was anxious. At age 12, the Dunbar, Pennsylvania youngster had never killed a buck, but it was something he had always wanted to do. He had hunted for several years with his dad and mom, Brian and Kristin Martin, but they hadn’t had any luck. This season promised to be vastly different.
“We always hunted as a family,” said Kristin who was also anxious as the hunting season approached.
To understand the anxiety Kristin and her son felt, you would have to rewind back to the 2018 hunting season. On a miserable day, Brian Martin was hunting a steep piece of ground he owned in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. The terrain was rugged, nearly straight up and down, and the footing on that day wasn’t the best amid the rain and snow.. Brian lost his balance as he attempted to ascend thte hill and fell, causing his death.
“I was really concerned it would hold Tighe back and he maybe would not want to get back into the outdoors because it traumatized our family losing Brian like we did,” Kristin said.
But Kristin delicately approached the subject with her son. Although admittedly apprehensive, he still wanted to get back into the field. Kristin and Tighe decided they would hunt together and continue the tradition the three of them had started in past years.
“I talked to him and we discussed archery hunting, since we’d never done that. We both got compound bows and hunted the whole season. He shot at a buck, but he missed it and he was bummed,” she explained.
Tighe was understandably downhearted, but he wasn’t deterred. Still, Kristin continued to worry her son’s confidence in the outdoors was going to be forever shaken. There was a real concern any kind of hunting would be a haunting reminder of what happened to her son’s dad, particularly the coming gun season–which would mark the anniversary of her husband’s untimely death.
“My son just associated hunting and that piece of property and that season with losing his daddy,” she said.
During the second week of Pennsylvania’s rifle season, a friend offered Kristin and Tighe an opportunity to hunt his property. The plot was large, deer were plentiful, and had several fixed tree stands in place for the two of them to comfortably hunt the edge of farm fields together.
It was the second to last day of the hunting season as the mother and son climbed into the stand. But they weren’t’ alone. Kristin recalled an omen that morning.
“I saw a red cardinal come in and land, I told my son, ‘There’s your dad. You’re going to get your buck,” she remembered.
Less than 20 minutes after the cardinal appeared abnormally close to the two of them, a buck stepped into view. Young Tighe, although nervous, put the cross-hairs on his prize, squeezed the trigger, and touched off a shot which had his dad smiling somewhere.
“It was a pretty impressive shot. It was almost 300 yards. He was thrilled, he was excited and it was a great day,” said Kristin.
Kristin dedicated herself to keeping up a hunting tradition she and her late husband began with their son. She also dedicated herself to keeping the memory of Brian alive. She now channels the anguish of their loss into a positive and uses his memory to advance two of the causes of which he was passionate, outdoors and youth wrestling. Brian was the coach of a wrestling club in the community. Kristin formed the Brian K. Martin Foundation and now routinely conducts fundraisers and events which benefit the community.
“Originally, people were sending donations when he first passed and I wanted it to all go into a scholarship fund and the foundation came from there. Now we do a whole lot more than just give out scholarships. Our wrestlers take precedent and we look for scholar athletes first. We gave out three scholarships this past year,” she said.
The Foundation also conducts community picnics, a kid’s fishing derby, and other events during the year for the youth in their local community of Dunbar, Pennsylvania.
“There’s so much to say in honor of him and how strong our little boy is. This experience was so important and it meant so much to the both of us.”
You can learn more about the Brian K. Martin Foundation on their Facebook page.