2017-11-23 / Front Page

Therapy capped by buck harvest

1st since accident
By Jay Bushen
Sports Editor


MARK ZIENTEK of Maple City shot a 9-point last Wednesday morning in Centerville Township. MARK ZIENTEK of Maple City shot a 9-point last Wednesday morning in Centerville Township. Mark Zientek was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Zientek, a second-generation co-owner of B&Z Well Drilling, was working on a rig in June 2015 when a wrench slipped and caused him to fall backward from about 10 feet off the ground. The accident resulted in traumatic brain injury, a three-week stay at a Grand Rapids hospital, and a long road to recovery at The Lighthouse Neurological Rehabilitation Center near Kingsley.

“When Mark got there, he was not able to walk, talk or eat,” said his wife, Pam Zientek, who made daily trips to Kingsley from their home in Kasson Township. “Through all of his therapy he able to do all of that again — and one of the things they offered was a Return to Hunting program.”

His return to hunting was made official in a rain-soaked Centerville Township blind last Wednesday, Nov. 15.


KASSON TOWNSHIP sportsman Mark Zientek is flanked by his two sons, Brandon Zientek (left) and Nathan Zientek, in a recent photo. Both sons were instrumental in their father’s recovery. KASSON TOWNSHIP sportsman Mark Zientek is flanked by his two sons, Brandon Zientek (left) and Nathan Zientek, in a recent photo. Both sons were instrumental in their father’s recovery. On what was an unsuccessful day for most county hunters, Mark Zientek harvested an opening-day 9-point. The buck was his first since the accident.

“This year, he was able to use his gun,” his wife said. “The therapist’s suggestion was to try to let Mark do things on his own because his accident hovered over him. They felt if someone walked in with him and got him to his stand, he would be fine. That’s what my youngest son, Nathan, did.”

The efforts of Nathan Zientek, older brother Brandon Zientek and Jessica Stark, a Lighthouse recreational therapist, were instrumental in Mark’s rehabilitation. Stark worked with Mark at simulated deer, duck and goose hunts in Cadillac and later at the Kingsley Sportsman Club, where he passed all required hunter safety testing.

With his wife by his side, Mark returned to the deer blind last year with a crossbow.

“We only saw one buck,” she said.

He said he spotted a “few bucks and a couple does” last Wednesday before pulling the trigger on a mature trophy.

The deer didn’t make it far, but rain flooded a nearby swamp and made tracking tricky. Nathan Zientek found the buck Wednesday evening.

Dad plans to get it mounted.

“I just can’t say enough about family, community, the Lighthouse — we are just so blessed,” Pam Zientek said. “And we couldn’t be more proud. He went through a lot, but he’s never given up. He was just determined.”

Mark Zientek, who retired in October, provided a more stoic account of his opening-day success.

“I was in the right place at the right time,” he said.

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