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Another Amazing Testimony

August 12, 2013

It was nearly sunset when three does trotted out of the dense bedding area, giving life to the dead funnel I had guarded like a sentinel throughout the cold November afternoon. They glanced over their shoulders to tattle on the monster 10-point buck that was following close behind them.

I slowly arose to a shooting position and prayed that the swollen, wide-racked trophy would make the mistake of traveling into bow range. I held my bow steady but still released an arrow into the ground beside it. The magnificent buck bounded into the timber. I was disappointed, but I was free to pursue the trophy buck another day. I sank into my stand and began to reflect on times when I hadn’t been free.

I was raised in an upper-middle class family. My sister was a homecoming queen. My mother, an upstanding Christian woman, was employed as a secretary in a state office. My stepfather was a judge. My natural father was a railroad engineer. He was terminated from his job after 10 years of service due to his drug and alcohol addictions, and accidentally drowned in 1981.

At age 14, I began raiding my parents’ liquor cabinet late at night. I practiced to become a good drinker, embracing alcohol with open arms. In high school, it didn’t take long for me to figure out I wasn’t the smartest or best-looking kid in the class. I wasn’t a very good athlete. I wasn’t a good musician. I was, in a word, average. However, upon attending my first high school party, I quickly became “somebody”. My classmates gathered around to watch me drink. I was proud that I could drink a beer in four seconds and slam a bottle of bourbon in a night.

Over the next four years, I became popular because of my partying skills. My drinking ability awarded me many friends. I received invitations to socialize with the most popular kids. Drinking had turned me into what I perceived was important. At graduation, I received three awards from the school’s journalism staff. They were inclusive of craziest, funniest and best partier for the class of 1984.

Due to low grades and lower motivation, I stayed home while everyone went off to college. I tried my luck for a couple of years at the local junior college, but I flunked out.

On a hot July afternoon, a friend exposed me to marijuana for the first time at our favorite swimming
hole. I began practicing my new habit on a daily basis. I justified it by saying, “It’s not like I’m using hard drugs.” My circle of friends began to change. I wasn’t hanging out with hardened criminals, but I began to choose friends whom I knew smoked pot. As you might suspect, my habit progressed as I began walking a dead-end road.

It was the beginning of the end. I began to use a wide variety of narcotics and illegal drugs. I lost control. The blindness of drug addiction kept me from seeing that my life was decomposing. I couldn’t pay the bills, keep a job, maintain healthy relationships or stay out of jail. It wasn’t long before I became emotionally and financially destitute. I slept several times in cars, alleys or any other spots where I could rest my head.

One evening I was taken by gun point to the home of a resident in Northern Missouri by a stranger. I was introduced to a man I did not know. This man told me he had heard my name, and that from this point forward I would not have to pay for illegal drugs to sell them. He in a sense “hired” me in an effort to move large quantities of illegal drugs about Northern Missouri and Southern Iowa. I was informed if I was arrested he would provide me with an Attorney. He informed me if I had conflict that he would provide physical defense by his associates. As naïve as I was, I really wasn’t aware that I was being introduced and “hired” by mafia related associates, or at minimum some type of drug ring. All I knew was that I wouldn’t have to pay for illegal drugs any longer, which sounded like a great thing to me at the time, since I was indeed an addict.

On July 21, 1989 I was hiding out at a hotel in Northern Missouri on the run from law enforcement for minor charges working at a Chicken Factory. As I walked down to the local convenience store for an ice cream cone, a police car came to a screeching halt and arrested me for Sales of Drugs. The charges that were filed pursuant to Missouri Law at the time called for a 15 year prison sentence. I was transported to the County Jail where I spent 9 months awaiting a Judge’s decision regarding my case. I was unable to make bond as suddenly my drug affiliated associates disappeared, and my mother (god bless her) refused to bail me out of jail. She told me I was in the chronic stages of drug abuse and that I was safer in jail than out on the streets. Obviously I disagreed and even threatened her, but she stood her ground and I stayed in jail awaiting a plea bargain or trial while she spent a good amount of time on her knees in prayer. A plea bargain wasn’t looking too promising at the time as I refused to give any information regarding drug affiliated associates. Prison was looking more and more like a reality.

During this period in my life I was young and fearless thinking I was quite the “thug”. On a Friday evening, I heard the cold iron cell door open of the jail pod. A Sheriff’s Deputy escorted a grubby looking one legged man into the crowd of inmates awaiting his placement. Under the arm of this man was a Bible. As soon as the Deputy closed the door and walked away, I walked over and shoved the one legged man to the floor, and watched his Bible fly across the room. I stood over the man and shouted, “What are you doing bringing a Bible in this jail. Are you trying to look good for the Sheriff or what? The man crawled over to his Bible, picked it up, rose to one natural leg and one prosthetic leg, and placed himself within 12 inches of my face squarely, without fear. He simply stated, “I was arrested a year ago. When I was arrested the Judge mandated that I was to return to do one weekend in jail as punishment. Since I was arrested a year ago I have gotten saved at Church.”

Further he boldly stated, “I always wondered why God would make me come back to jail for a weekend, but now I know why.” This man began telling me about this guy named “Jesus”. Of course I”d heard of Jesus before, but not the “Jesus” he was talking about. The “Jesus” he referred to was alive and working in the spirit unlike the almost animated “Jesus” that I was taught about during my youth.

The bold one legged man took me into my personal cell where I prayed a prayer of salvation accepting Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. When I opened my eyes after the prayer I was IMMEDIATELY changed. Thoughts rushed through my mind of joy, only to be silenced by the reality of, “I’m a drug addict in a jail cell going to prison.” In a panic although I was excited about my new found “Jesus”, I felt as if it was just too late. My soul was saved, my butt was still heading for a prison cell without a doubt. I spent 2 days studying the Bible with this man and mourned when he left. He visited me often. My grandparents provided a Bible for me. Rather than hanging with the other inmates I would sleep all day, and stay up all night reading and praying on the floor of the jail cell for mercy, grace, and deliverance. I’m telling you I was literally conducting a “one person church” alone at nights in the cell. One night while reading the Book of Daniel from the jail cell, I read across words that became almost illuminated. They read, “I will deliver you from the lion’s mouth.” I took the message as a word from the Lord that I would not be going to prison.

When my sentencing date came before the Judge, God delivered upon his promise and I received Probation for a Period of 5 years, along with a Suspended Imposition of Sentence. (This means the charges would never show on a criminal record if I successfully completed probation.)

Along the way, I met a man who shared the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, along with a host of individuals who would serve as mentors in my Christianity. I became determined to remain sober and be a good citizen by using my newfound tools. Jesus was the only chance I needed to become successful.

“When I opened my eyes
after the prayer

Early in my sobriety, I found myself pacing the floors. I had no friend or hobbies. I often craved alcohol and drugs. I needed to eliminate the idle time that haunted me like a demon. I returned to college during the first year of sobriety and obtained a job at a local factory. I became an honor-roll student and discovered I was a pretty good worker.

Although college was a challenge, I needed some recreation. That time I spent getting high, stood idle as if it were truly the devil’s workshop. Prior to using alcohol, I had tinkered with archery and even harvested a couple of whitetail does. I had been quite fond of archery hunting. Now money was scarce, but I bought an old Bear bow from a secondhand shop. I vowed to replace it with the best bow on the market. I would simply have to wait until I could afford it someday.

Throughout college, when everyone else went to drink beer on evenings and weekends, I took to the timber. I was too poor to afford a car, so I would take a taxi or walk to my hunting spot.

I always found a way to go hunting trophy whitetails. I applied the same fiery passion to bowhunting that I had once applied to drug usage. I kept a detailed game diary, despite all the workers at the factory making fun of me for it. I upgraded my archery equipment the best I could. I sought out bigger hunting tracts. I spent more and more time in the timber. I lived there. It was the place where I could discover myself and find peace. God was there in all majesty in those lonely tracts of woods. Most seasons, I would bowhunt more than 100 times. I kept my mouth shut and listened closely to hunters who had more experience than I did. I also read my Bible from cover to cover many times, and listened to my Christian mentors even when I did not want to sometimes.

During the fourth year of my sobriety, I graduated from college, accepted a job from the Missouri Department of Corrections as a parole office and arrowed my first record-book whitetail buck. I had begun to taste the fruits of my labor. Two years later, I harvested another record-book buck. I began to make a trophy harvest almost annually. During the 1998-99 archery season, I harvested three trophies whitetail bucks. One grossed 158 inches. To date I have harvested 15 record book whitetails, and a host of other species which all meet the standards for the National Record Books.

As my skills advanced, the game diary grew larger. Definite whitetail patterns began to emerge from it. I felt a real desire to submit a freelance article for publication. I doubted it would be published, but one magazine did feature it as a cover story. That magazine was North American Whitetail. I continued to submit articles surrounding whitetail deer behavior and tactics. Blessed be the name of Jesus, as these articles have been published in almost any whitetail specialty magazine you can name.

After working as a Probation Officer for 9 years I was jogging down the road one day. Now my relationship with God is not as fancy as many of you. In fact it was 9 long years before I heard the voice of the Lord. While I was jogging down an old gravel road in Illinois, God spoke to me and simply said, “Ask me for something.” I stopped immediately and stood in the hot sun wondering if I had lost my mind. After all I had just heard a voice. I literally shook my head and stated aloud, “What?” God then said, “Ask me for something boy.” I believe to this day that God used the word “boy” because it’s a slang word I often used and was something I saw as confirmation. Kinda like God speaking to me like I speak. I dropped to my knees and prayed aloud, “God give me a business I can fund foreign missions with, sponsor orphanages, build churches, feed the hungry, fund prison ministries, clothe the naked, and Spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” God replied with 3 words, “I ALREADY HAVE.” I ran back home and sat with my face in my hands on my couch, in my rental house by myself and thought. What does God mean when he says, “I ALREADY HAVE.”

I thought to myself, “God I have nothing. I am nobody. My car is barely running. I am in debt. I have no money. I have nothing to give to God. I have no tools to accomplish the task. I was distraught as I was certain I had no way to accomplish these types of things. After several hours, I remembered that I had been running some hunters on a farm for a percentage, on behalf of a local farmer so I would have somewhere to hunt when they weren’t hunting. Then it hit me.

God was calling me to become a Whitetail Deer Outfitter. I quit work at the Probation Office and began the outdoor venture over 10 years ago. I was scared.

As a result of God and only God, I have 22 years of sobriety. I own IMB Outfitters which is the largest whitetail outfitting service in the Midwest located with 7 Four Starr Lodges in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska. I don’t have to drive a old beat up car anymore. God has blessed me with the most righteous wife on Planet Earth. I am blessed with three sons who I love very much. God’s even placed me in a very beautiful home. Today IMB Outfitters via God’s Blessing continues down the path of completing all the promises God made unto me on that old gravel road in the heat of the day. Although its 22 years after the jail cell, EVERY SINGLE DAY I “pinch myself” as I am simply in awe of the grace of Jesus Christ, and how he could ever use somebody like me to help others. While others may see me as some successful businessman, an outdoor writer, a Pro Staffer of 36 Companies in the Hunt Industry, or the harvester of 15 record book whitetail bucks, I do not see myself in any of those roles. I’m the redeemed drug addict, from the jail cell, that was just “dumb or wise” enough to follow the voice of God. I have accomplished nothing. Be all praise to Christ. Through Jesus I can do all things.

IMB Outfitters is probably the most qualitative whitetail outfitting service in the Midwest. The business has won many awards, and is supported by 36 huge hunt companies in the Hunt Industry. It is not my intention to promote IMB Outfitters with this article but rather God. In whatever state of mind or being you find yourself, you simply can’t ever believe God can’t use you.

Bow hunting was about a second chance at life for me. It is in the timber I that I have been able to find release from the chains of my addiction. All Glory to God.


For comment of arrangement of speaking engagement
contact Darrin Bradley at or call 866-855-7063

From → Testimonies

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