The love of hunting and fishing flashes brilliantly in Sawyer Joachim’s big brown eyes, his ever-present smile and his creative mind.
Joachim is a 15-year-old who is going to be a sophomore at New Richmond High School this fall. He’s so involved in hunting that he’s created his own company and a brand of deer feed, which he named Buck Rub Ridge.
The fact that Joachim has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair doesn’t hinder his passion. He’s an avid hunter and fisherman. He’s got a trophy 10-point buck mount hanging on his family’s living room wall that proves he knows the subject.
Specifically, Joachim was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy when he was 4 years old. According to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, “DMD is caused by an absence of dystrophin, a protein that helps keep muscle cells intact. Symptom onset is in early childhood, usually between ages 3 and 5. The disease primarily affects boys, but in rare cases it can affect girls.”
While DMD causes physical challenges, it can’t stop Joachim’s active and creative mind. In addition to starting a business, he is also working on several inventions. Late in June he passed his written driver’s education test and he hopes to begin his behind-the-wheel training soon.
Three years ago, Sawyer’s parents, Wes and Brenna, purchased 140 acres in Alden Township where they built a home. Wes said this remote, heavily wooded parcel was purchased largely because of its hunting possibilities. Sawyer said they immediately began using Quality Deer Management practices, where hunters pass up shooting young bucks, hoping they will eventually grow into trophy racks.
It was that November when Sawyer got his buck. His grandfather pushed him out to their blind on their property. They used a call to see if a buck would come near the blind.
“Then I heard footsteps in the leaves. Over the ridge came a deer,” Sawyer said. “He came to a tree we had some scent on. I shot him with my crossbow.”
Sawyer said he wasn’t nervous at all in the moments before shooting the deer. That changed when he knew he’d downed the trophy buck.
“I shot him and my body started shaking like crazy, I was so overwhelmed with excitement,” he said.
Helping develop trophy racks is the thought behind Sawyer’s business. He said it was when he shot his buck that he decided to create a feed that might other hunters experience that thrill. During Sawyer’s first gun hunt, he and Wes walked their grounds when they came to the top of a ridge where there were 15-20 rubs. It was there they decided on the name for the business.
They first started creating their mixture by mixing it in a concrete mixer. As the business has grown they’ve hired the Cushing Feed Mill to blend their ingredients.
They started with a base mixture, then found mineral was the ingredient they wanted to add in. Most feeds supply minerals separately and it was their opinion that the minerals don’t get consumed as readily as the feed. Sawyer said that in his research, when minerals were added directly into the feed, it resulted in 30 percent healthier bone growth.
“In genetics, bone health and deer health are key factors” in larger racks, Wes said.
They said they are looking at retail outlets to sell their product. Sawyer said his hope is to get Tractor Supply Co. to carry their product. Anyone interested in purchasing the feed, which is sold in 50-pound bags, can do so through the Buck Rub Ridge page on Facebook. Sawyer said they have sold nearly 3 tons of the feed in the past few months. He said he thinks there’s a market for his product because he hasn’t found anyone else that mixes mineral directly into its feed.
They said secret ingredients they’ve added to the feed also make it highly tasty to deer, and getting deer to eat the product is the main objective.
“They come right up to the back side of our house and eat it,” Sawyer said with a grin.
Sawyer maintains school and his business while remaining watchful of his health. He receives a weekly intravenous infusion. After his diagnosis, he was one of 12 boys in the world chosen to receive an experimental new drug. He and his parents flew him weekly to Columbus, Ohio, for two years to receive the drug, which is designed to produce to the similar protein.
“It slows the progression of the decline,” Wes explained.
Sawyer broke a leg a couple years ago. Since then he’s been limited to his wheelchair. When he’s home, he can frequently be found in the family’s swimming pool, because he can walk in water, which helps his circulation and muscle tone.
In his spare time, when Sawyer’s not thinking about hunting or his inventions, he’s thinking about fishing.
“I love to fish. I love to eat fish, too. I like bass the most because of how they fight,” he said.
Sawyer has excellent mobility because of a chair designed with bulldozer-like tread that can get him to most places in the wooded land. The chair was designed by Action Track Chairs and was created in Marshall, Minn., specifically to Sawyer’s needs.