To most young men who have an inherent zest for life, being born with Down syndrome would be considered a huge handicap. To 22-year-old David Saville, of Norcross, it’s been almost a blessing. Instead of slowing him down and restricting his life, it has opened doors and made him more determined than ever to seize the day and live his life to the fullest. His many achievements, both in hunting and in other aspects of his life, are nothing short of amazing.
Down syndrome is a genetic condition that causes delays in physical and intellectual development. It’s estimated that this condition occurs in one out of every 691 live births in America today.
Among his many other interests and pursuits, deer hunting has played an important role in David’s life for many years. David has been hunting with his dad, Bob, his mom, Diane, and two brothers, Carson and Brandon, 26 and 20, on their Madison County farm since he was 12. David is the middle brother. Over the past few years he has developed into a seasoned deer hunter. The camaraderie of hunting with his family and several close family friends has been very special. But beyond that, David simply loves to be in the woods and hunt.
When David was 12, Bob started teaching him gun safety and how to shoot. Over the next few years, David practiced quite a bit with his rifle and shot several does on farm. Then, on Nov. 12, 2011, while he was out with his dad planning to target another doe, a large set of antlers suddenly appeared. The father-and-son team were hunting out of a double ladder stand in a bottomland food plot within sight of the Broad River. It was a warm Saturday afternoon. Around 4:30 p.m., several does appeared on the far side of the field.
As Bob and David waited for them to get within range, two small bucks showed up and started pursuing the does. Since David had not yet taken his first buck, he was tempted to try for one of these younger deer. But something told him to be patient and wait. It was prime time. The rut was in full swing. He and his dad both knew that something big could show up at any moment.
Moments later, it happened. A beautiful 9-pointer eased into the far side of the field about 100 yards away. As the buck slowly worked his way toward the does and David’s position, David rested his single-shot, New England Firearms .243 on the railing of the ladder stand and prepared for a shot. As soon as the buck turned broadside at 50 yards, David aimed carefully and squeezed the trigger. The buck immediately dropped as if fatally hit. As David and his dad waited a few minutes—quietly celebrating in their stand—the buck suddenly stood up. Before David could react, the deer quickly ran back toward some thick brush near the river and disappeared.
The two hunters were in shock. Later they found very little blood sign. Since it was beginning to get dark, they decided to back out of the area and search for the buck the next morning. After an exhaustive search the next day where no sign of the deer could be found, they were forced to give up. The area along the river is thick with heavy cover, and the deer could have gone anywhere.
A Stunning Discovery
Six months later in the spring of 2012, Georgia Congressman Paul Broun was turkey hunting on the farm next door with Bob’s good friend and neighbor Mark Wiggins. A former MD practicing in the Athens area, Dr. Broun was elected to congress for Georgia’s 10th District in 2007. An avid bird hunter, he and Mark frequently hunt woodcocks along the river. (Note: Dr. Paul Broun is a staunchly conservative republican who supports gun rights and is currently running for the Senate seat of retiring republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss).
As the congressman crossed the ridge above the bottom field, several hundred yards from where David’s buck had been shot, he came upon the intact skull from an outstanding 9-point buck. Although the skull had been out in the woods for six months, the squirrels had not yet found it. It was in pristine condition.
Several months later in the summer of 2012, Bob happened to stop by Mark’s cabin for a visit. There, lying on the mantle, was the beautiful 9-point rack.
“That looks like the deer David shot,” Bob told Mark.
After piecing the story together, Bob, Mark and another neighbor, Jeff Meehan, who was also visiting Mark, concluded that the deer was, in fact, the buck that David had shot and lost. The rack had been found on the long, thick ridge just above the Broad River almost within sight of David’s ladder stand. After getting up, the buck had run in that direction. It was impossible to determine where David’s bullet had hit the deer, but it certainly had been a fatal shot.
David had been very upset about losing his deer. He hated the thought of possibly having wounded such a beautiful animal. Because this was David’s first buck, Mark and Jeff decided to get the rack mounted for David and surprise him. In November 2012, they presented David with his lost trophy. At first David was confused when they handed him the beautiful shoulder mount. But after hearing the story about how the deer had been found, and realizing this was indeed his deer, David could hardly contain himself. Typical of David’s special feelings for all of his friends, Mark and Jeff each got a bear hug and a thank you they would not soon forget.
The Rest of the Story…
A month later, on Dec. 12, 2012, David raced home from Clemson University to join his dad again in the hunting stand, with less than an hour of hunting light left. This time they were hunting from a ladder stand overlooking a clover field several hundred yards from the field where David had shot the 9-pointer. Around 5:30 p.m. several does came out into the field and started feeding. Moments later, a massive 10-point buck strutted out into the field as if he were the bull of the woods. David wasted little time in zeroing in on the buck as his dad released the safety. The buck was quartering toward David’s position about 80 yards away. Just as Bob started whispering to David to wait for the buck to turn broadside, David squeezed the trigger. The buck dropped in his tracks, stone dead from a well-placed neck shot.
After sitting for a few minutes and making sure this buck was not going to get up, David and his dad approached the fallen giant. They could hardly believe the size of the deer’s rack. It was definitely the largest buck ever taken on the Saville farm. By now it was getting dark. After some serious back slapping and high fiving, and after thoroughly examining David’s trophy of a lifetime from head to toe, Bob said, “Let’s walk back up to the cabin and get the 4-wheeler.”
With a determined look on his face, David sat down on his trophy buck and rested his rifle across his arms.
“No, you go get the 4-wheeler, Dad,” he said. “I’m not leaving this deer.”
And he didn’t! David sat in the dark guarding his trophy until his dad returned.
With long brow tines and nearly 6-inch bases, David’s buck was later scored at 143 inches. The deer was believed to have been 5 1/2 years old. While the meat was being processed, two additional bullet slugs were found in the meaty portion of the deer’s chest area. Even though Bob had never seen the buck on his farm, apparently it had not gone unnoticed in the neighborhood.
“We do have a lot of neighbors passing up younger bucks and practicing quality deer management now,” Bob said. “I think that’s definitely the reason this deer grew to be 5 1/2.”
An Impressive List of Accomplishments
In addition to his successful deer hunting, David has accumulated a truckload of honors and awards in the past few years. He is currently a student in the ClemsonLIFE post-secondary program at Clemson University where he is enjoying his third year as an equipment manager for the Clemson football team. He seems to have brought the team quite a bit of luck and the team members love him. (Note: During our one-on one interview in early August, 2013, David insisted that Clemson was going to beat Georgia in the first game of the season. Being a serious Georgia fan, I scoffed at his prediction, but he was right on the money!)
David graduated form Norcross High School in 2008. Among his many other school activities such as Drama Club, being named Homecoming King in 2008 and participating in Special Olympics basketball, track and bowling during his high school years, he also served as Varsity football manager for five years, a job that he truly loved. He was named “Football Manager of the Year” twice.
Having been a Boy Scout since he was 11, David became an Eagle Scout in 2007 at age 17 after working long and hard to complete all of the requirements. In 2008, he was a recipient of the Atlanta Alliance on Developmental Disabilities Outstanding Achievement Award. David was also featured in a TV episode of “Aarons Outdoors” where he went wild boar hunting in south Georgia and harvested a 350-lb. hog with a Marlin lever-action .450.
David’s parents, Bob and Diane, believe his accomplishments have been a result of his environment, family and his amazing personality.
“We’ve tried to present David with every opportunity possible to grow socially through activities, friendships and independence,” they said in unison. “We don’t think he’s any smarter than any other kid with Down syndrome, and he has struggled with math and other academic skills over the years. But he can read well, he interacts well with others, and he’s certainly willing to work hard at whatever he does.
“Most importantly, David has a genuine concern for others, regardless of their position in life,” his parents add. “To him, everyone is equal in the world. He’d just as soon hug the janitor at Norcross High as he would the governor of the state!”
It’s plain to see that Bob and Diane have been terrific parents. They’ve left no stone unturned in working to assure that David has always had the kind of love and support he needs to be successful in life. And sharing so many special memories together on the farm has been icing on the cake.
In 2013, David began his third year on the ClemsonLIFE program, where for the first time he made the transition from the dorm and classroom to independent living in an apartment. When he’s not working with the Clemson Football team, he keeps busy working at Ingles Markets, a job he’s had for five years.
Between Clemson football and work, one of David’s foremost goals in 2013 is to put another trophy buck on the wall. Somehow I think he’ll make it happen!