The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
Over the Christmas season, we’ll sometimes read about a billionaire philanthropist who gave a couple million dollars to a certain organization, enriching the lives of many. We will see a televised report on an anonymous restaurant customer who made a $10 tip into a $1,000 tip, and rewarded a waitress with an unexpected holiday windfall.
Random acts of charity — they make us all feel better, and often reinforce our wavering faith in humanity. There is a fifth grader out at Maplewood Elementary in Sylvania who has done just that.
This is a young hunter who recently got his first deer — his only deer — and then gave it away to somebody who needed it more.
On a late November morning, Lance Boyers was in a ground blind with his dad, out in Defiance County, hunting on farmland that a couple of generations ago used to belong to the family. Lance’s two older brothers and his dad had all shot their first deer from that same blind, which over the years had been enhanced and upgraded to the point it was referred to somewhat humorously as “the motel.”
Lance had taken the hunter safety course and spent plenty of time on shooting practice and gun safety. Anxious, nervous, excited, apprehensive — a little bit of everything was coursing through Lance when he saw movement from the corner of the woods. Less than 10 minutes later, a whitetail buck was in the shooting lane, about 25 yards away.
“Don’t move” — those were the words Dean Boyers whispered to his son.
“It was kinda tough to just be so still, because my heart was beating really fast,” Lance said. After Lance fired, the deer kicked its back legs and took off. With some tracking help from his uncle and his brother, the group located Lance’s deer about 300 yards away. It had been a perfect shot.
What they had tracked down was a 12-point buck that would make most experienced hunters snap to attention. A real trophy.
“We didn’t have time to count antlers when Lance shot him, but when we got up to the deer, I was really surprised to see that many points,” Dean Boyers said.
“My dad was flipping out,” Lance recalled. “My brother — I think he was jealous.”
Father and youngest son hugged, and celebrated another very successful hunt on the old family homestead. That would be the end of a good story, but this is Christmas, so there is more.
A growth experience
Lance had struggled a bit at school, with nothing serious but just the somewhat awkward emotional progression of every kid that age.
“Like a lot of kids, he was just trying to figure out where he fit in,” said Alison Sherman, the student teacher in Jennifer Grafitti's classroom at Maplewood. “It’s a tough age for reading social cues, so there are a lot of challenges.”
Things were improving, but when Lance arrived at school one day, and started reliving the details of the hunt in a casual conversation around Ms. Sherman’s desk, his peers really took notice.
“Hunting was something unique to him, and something he had great knowledge about, so it was a tremendous moment to see him connect with all the other kids like that,” she said. “It was like he had been crossing over a bridge, and then we watched him make it to the other side. It was his time to shine.”
Lance shared pictures of his big buck with his fellow students, and seeing their classmate with that huge deer dazzled some of them.
“After they saw it, they were just in shock,” he said. “I don’t think a lot of them had ever seen a deer that close before.”
A few of the girls in the class were “kinda grossed out” by the whole concept of harvesting a deer in the woods, but Mrs. Grafitti, whose husband is an avid hunter, used the opportunity presented by Lance and his trophy buck to discuss the topic with the class.
“And it was a wonderful feeling, as a mom and as a teacher, to see the growth he’s had,” she said. “He’s feeling better about himself, and that’s so important. He’s proud, and the others are very proud of him.”
So a boy who might have been searching for his niche with his classmates finds it, and at the same time becomes a little bit of a folk hero at school for his hunting prowess. That would be the end of a good story, but this is Christmas, so there is more.
Helping out strangers
After harvesting that trophy buck, Lance found out from his dad that there was a family nearby that was going through a tough stretch and didn’t have a whole lot to eat. The Boyers already had venison in the freezer.
“You don’t ever want it to go to waste,” said Melissa Boyer, Lance’s mom.
The Boyers had regularly donated to other needy families, and to Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry, a nationwide outreach ministry that nurtures those in need with donated wild game, and this would be the third deer the family had given away this year. But this was different — this was the first deer for a young hunter, and no one would fault him for wanting to keep this one.
“I asked Lance if he wanted to give it to that family that needed it, and he said yes,” Dean Boyer recalled, “as long as he got to keep the antlers.”
Nobody eats antlers, so that 12-pointer’s rack will hang on the wall one day soon, while the needy family is likely enjoying that venison right now.
“It just seemed like the right thing to do,” Lance said. “Those people needed it.”
So father and son had a great day hunting together. The 11-year-old harvests a trophy buck and gains some precious notoriety at school, where he is the best hunter in the building. Then this kid promptly gives that deer away to people he’s never met, just a family running a little short on food around Christmas.
His dad no longer has the best trophy buck in the family, but seeing his youngest son succeed, and while he was learning to hunt also taking in a more valuable lesson in true charity, well . . .
“That pretty much completes my hunting season,” Dean Boyers said.
Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6068.