Pennsylvania's highly anticipated two-week rifle deer season was fast approaching, and the lifelong hunter from Dover Township, about 30 miles south of Harrisburg, wanted to take to the woods one last time.
"He just assumed he would be going. We decided we were going to play along with it: 'Yeah, we can't wait for hunting season, Dad,'" recalled Warner's son, Brian.
Brian and his brother Scott were skeptical. But when their father started to rally—gaining strength with the help of a physical therapist—they decided they had better accommodate him, said Brian, 51.
So Brian lugged an old recliner up the side of Broadtop Mountain, near his Huntingdon County dairy farm, to the small hut the family had built for Les Warner years ago. His father would hunt in comfort.
It was 19 degrees as the sun rose on opening day last week, the valley floor white with frost. Warner eased his old man's frame into the recliner, sipped his coffee, and waited, armed with the .243 Winchester that Brian had selected for its mild recoil.
It wasn't long before a huge 8-point buck emerged from the woods, the biggest that Warner or his son had ever had the opportunity to take. They marveled at their good fortune.A hunter can go days without seeing a buck.
"Well, shoot it," Warner told Brian.
"No, you're gonna shoot it," his son replied.
Warner stood up from the recliner and took aim. The buck bolted. He followed it for 80 or 90 yards. Then, as it slowed down, he pulled the trigger.
A perfect shot.
Lowering the gun, Warner turned to his son and said: "Never give up."
"That's right, Dad."
Brian called his mother. Shirley Warner could scarcely believe it.
"Knowing what he's been through in the last six months, in and out of the hospital, radiation and chemo and physical therapy and really sick at times, I was shocked. In my wildest dreams I didn't think he would get a buck this year," said Shirley, who's been married to Les for 53 years. "My son and I cried because it was a miracle ... there's no other explanation."
A week later, the retired pretzel baker remains thankful.
"I know I've had many blessings through this situation," said Les Warner, whose story was first reported by the York Daily Record. "Everything seems to be turning out well for me, and I know the Lord's been with us."