Most kids are still sound asleep, dreaming happy dreams at 3:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning. However, at Rock Fish Meadows group camp in Duplin County last Saturday, 14 kids were roused from comfortable beds, fed a hearty breakfast then spirited away across Duplin, Pender and Bladen counties by their guides. Headlamps and flashlights served as guiding lights in the darkness, illuminating pathways to elevated stands and blinds as the hunters headed into forests and fields to live their dreams of hunting white-tailed deer.
“These kids came from all over,” said Nancy Henderson, a 58-year-old nurse from Burgaw. “We have kids from Riegelwood, Wilmington, Winnabow and other places. Some of them live in housing projects, so they know nothing about the land and have not been exposed to hunting. We want children to understand that God has created a beautiful outdoors and given us a beautiful environment.”
The youth hunt was sponsored by the Gobbles and Grunts Chapter of Guiding Kids in God’s Creation. The evening before, the kids and their guides had socialized and fired at targets, using .17 HMR-caliber rimfire rifles because of their light recoil. Most of them had never fired a rifle, certainly not a centerfire rifle of capable of downing a deer. A traditional feast of barbecued pig and fixings followed. Saturday was the day of the hunt and, on Sunday morning, the group would gather in Christian fellowship at an amphitheater in front of a gorgeous lake sprinkled with brightly colored fallen leaves.
“We had 700 people attend our fundraiser last August,” Henderson said. “They raised and donated enough money for us to completely outfit 16 kids with everything needed for this hunt – backpacks, camo clothing, bibles, food - and for the turkey hunt we hold each spring. But, two of the kids whose applications were drawn could not make it to this hunt because of other commitments. Our first hunts were in 2011 and everything for the hunts has been donated by the local community.”
The group had raised the funds for 16 children to participate, with their names drawn through a lottery. Even the landowners were donors, having granted access to the private properties where the hunting took place. The limiting factor that kept the number of children at 16 was the number of volunteer guides.
“We always have two guides per child and if it is a girl, one guide must be a woman,” she said. “A parent can serve as a guide, if they want to go along. But many of the parents are not hunters. If we had more guides, we could have more kids hunting.”
The first young hunter to return to Rock Fish Meadows was Camden Christopher, a third-grader at Belville Elementary School. He was accompanied by his grandfather, Doyle Christopher, a retired N.C. Highway Patrolman from Winnabow. His guides were James Wolfe, a 52-year-old truck driver from Richlands and his wife, Leigh Wolfe, a 46-year-old technical IT assistant.
“We got up, ate breakfast and got in the stand,” Camden Christopher said. “A corn feeder went off at 8:21and the buck was running toward it at 8:22. When I shot it, I had the rifle rested on a windowsill with a jacket over it. I was shaking all over and the scope kept moving, until I finally just pulled the trigger. We got down 15 minutes later.”
“His mother filled out the application and I drove him up from Winnabow,” Doyle Christopher said. “He’s had better luck than I have. I have been hunting a couple times before and never shot a deer. I trout fish a lot around Cherokee and Waynesville, but he said he wanted to go hunting, so that’s what we did.”
Camden Christopher was using a .243 Win.-caliber Remington 700 bolt-action, youth model rifle. The Wolfe family bought the rifle specifically for the hunt.
“Camden made a great shot and had his ear muffs on,” James Wolfe said. “The deer was at least 45 yards away. It was the first time we had been to that stand, but the landowner gave us some great directions. It was an elevated stand that had plenty of room for all of us.”
“We have been involved with Gobbles and Grunts for 5 years,” Leigh Wolfe said. “Our family enjoys hunting and are happy we can help kids like Camden experience the joy of being outdoors in God’s creation.”
Applications for fall youth deer hunts and spring turkey hunts are available on the Gobbles and Grunts website (www.gobblesngrunts.com).