Save Our Sons: Lessons From The Outdoors

Hunter's Journal April 2011

Reader Contributed | April 2, 2011

Deonte’ Fulks, of Andersonville, smiles as he holds a beautiful Sumter County buck he killed in 2009. Pictured with him are members of the S.O.S., or Save Our Sons. From left: Juan Rogers (back row), 15, Chris Caldwell, 13, and Josh Rogers, 14.

By Eddie Hill

Three years ago I embarked on a mission to help a young man from my neighborhood that I saw was headed down the wrong road. This young man had plenty of potential and was a very smart young man, but he started hanging with the wrong crowd and was headed for self destruction.

So one day I met with the young man and asked if he would like to learn about the great outdoors. He said he would, but my stipulation was that he had to stop doing what he was doing in the streets, keep his grades up and stay out of trouble. The agreement was made, and a firm handshake sealed the deal. My grandfather taught me that a firm handshake and a man’s word were his bond. I was raised part of my life in Atlanta, but at an early age I moved to the country to live with my grandparents. My grandfather taught me all about hunting and fishing at a young age, and I can truly say it changed my life forever.

So the mission began with this young man, Deonte’ Fulks. The first order of business was to teach him safety in handling guns and how to operate them safely. To my surprise, he caught on quickly and had good shooting skills for someone who had never shot a gun.

Then I taught him how to look for deer sign. We also began to focus on preparation for the upcoming deer season. On many occasions, we were out at the hunting club working on stands or planting food plots with the other members of the club. The anticipation of the hunt was exciting. I felt like a kid again on our first hunt together.

The morning of the hunt was perfect, calm with temperatures in the mid 30s. We were hunting in Sumter County. That morning we hunted a powerline overlooking a food plot out of a tower stand. At about 7:15 a.m., a large doe stepped out to the right of the stand and started walking straight toward the stand. I told Deonte’ to get ready for a shot. She turned and started across the powerline, giving him no shot. I advised him the morning was still young, and the hunt wasn’t over.

At 8:15 a.m. I looked to the left and saw a group of does entering the food plot about 75 yards away. The disappointment from Deonte’s earlier missed shot caused him to fall asleep. I woke him and told him to get ready.

To his surprise, he couldn’t believe the food plot had eight does in it. I advised him to position his gun and take aim at the lead doe, which was a large, 5- or 6-year-old doe. She stopped broadside, and at the crack of the shot her front end fell, and she exited the plot. The other deer stood around and tried to figure out what was going on. We quickly loaded the single shot again and prepared for another shot. I picked out another large doe and advised him to settle the crosshairs on her shoulder. At the crack of the shot, the large doe jumped straight up in the air and exited the plot and expired just inside the wood line. The other deer exited immediately following the large doe.

We were in the stand high-fiving each other. I was congratulating him, and I looked up to see another group of does entering the food plot from the same area the others had come from. I told him that he had taken two, and it was my turn. I quickly took aim and settled the crosshairs on the lead doe and disposed of her. That was a perfect ending to a great hunt.

Deonte’s story was a success. In the summer of 2009, he was fixing to enter his senior year of high school, and he had a 3.0 grade point average and was star of the basketball team. With this kind of success, I discussed with the other hunt-club members about starting a mentoring program through the club. The rules would be the same as with Deonte’. Kids would have to keep their grades up, stay out of trouble and most importantly be drug and alcohol free. The mentoring program was named, “S.O.S.,” which stood for Save Our Sons.

By the middle of the summer, we had eight new kids we were working with. Deonte’ was the leader of the group. To my surprise, the kids were fast learners and their shooting skills were excellent, just like Deonte’. We introduced these kids to hunting the same way I did Deonte’.

By opening morning of 2009, we had a total of 11 kids. Opening morning temperatures were in the high 30s with a slight breeze. Each kid was accompanied by an adult. The morning hunt was slow, but the afternoon turned out good with two of the kids killing deer.

As the season went on, every weekend we had kids hunting. It was a textbook ending to the season when Deonte’ killed the biggest buck of the year, a 10-pointer with an 18 1/2-inch spread with a lot of mass. With the program starting with him, I couldn’t have asked for a better ending to the season.

By the summer of 2010, we had 15 kids in the program. On July 17 several adults and I took some of the boys on a fishing trip. This was the first time some of the kids had ever been fishing. I have to give thanks to Jeff Rix and his father-in-law Sammie Lee for allowing us to take the boys fishing in their pond. After we finished fishing, I went to take some of the boys home. Upon arriving at one of the boys’ house, my cell phone started ringing off the hook. To my surprise, the house I was renting was on fire. By the time I arrived to the house, it was completely engulfed in flames along with my 2000 F250, a 2005 Honda Rancher 4-wheeler and my entire collection of guns of 20 years. My guns meant more to me because I was allowing the kids to practice with my guns and use them during hunting season.

The following week we were scheduled to go to GON’s Outdoor Blast in Macon. On Friday, I called one of the members to say we were still going. He asked, “Are you still going?” I said, “I gave my word to the kids, and life must go on.” We still made our trip to the Outdoor Blast, and the kids enjoyed every minute of it, especially the Shoot-Out and the bow-shooting competition.

We stopped at one booth, where a gentleman was selling turkey calls, and he said our group was the most well-behaved group that he had seen all day. To that gentlemen, if you are reading this, you will never know how much that meant to me. I thank you.

To all parents, introduce a kid to the outdoors and see how they change. President Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” We say the kids are our future. But what are we doing to ensure that they are our future? I will cherish my experiences with the kids for the rest of my life.

Editor’s Note: Eddie is in the process of applying for non-profit status for S.O.S. Eddie wants to thank the Schley County school system, high-school Principal Rusty Tondee and Assistant Principal Lisa Hernandez for their support in this growing program.

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