Working It Through: Young Hunter Takes His First Buck
September 18, 2017
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Working It Through: Young Hunter Takes His First Buck


I have a desire to teach my two sons the joys and responsibility of hunting that my father taught me as a child. My son Jaret has been learning to shoot with me for the past couple years at our family farm. He has learned to handle firearms safely and his confidence, while working his way to higher calibers, continues to grow. I decided this year that he was ready to shoot his first deer. This was Jaret’s first time to receive a hunting license, and to say he was excited would be a vast understatement. We gathered all our gear, including his younger brother Jake, and headed to the lease on a cold, late December afternoon.

My goal for this hunt was to place Jaret on a mature doe that he could attempt to take on his own. We began working a wheat field that held several different deer herds. Unfortunately, the wind was not in our favor. After several long and failed stalking attempts, I could not get him closer than 165 yards.

As the day progressed, so did the wind. The temperature continued to drop, but we were determined not to throw in the towel. After a couple hours, I finally spotted a herd in the field that we could approach with the wind in our face. We crawled and stalked our way to about 130 yards.

We saw a mature doe in this group, and we decided this would be the one for Jaret. We watched her for a few minutes and I would quiz Jaret on what she was doing, so I would be confident he and I were looking at the same deer. She finally cleared herself from the others and Jaret got in position. After one last reminder from Dad—“Take a deep breath; let it out; and squeeze the trigger”—he took the shot.

As I watched through my binocular, my heart sank. He missed. Thankfully, it was a clean miss right over her shoulder. As I dropped my binocular and looked at my son, I could see the disappointment in his eyes.

All I could do was put my arm around him and tell him that it happens to the best and most prepared hunters. As I hurt with him, we discussed what he thought he could do better. He immediately said he rushed the shot and didn’t calm himself enough. I agreed.

Thankfully, the day was not over and the opportunities to fill that doe tag were still strong. Tired from crawling and digging mesquite thorns out of our pants, I decided to retrieve my pop-up blind from the truck. We set it up in the corner of the wheat field that has two different trails leading to it from various portions of the ranch. All three of us got in the blind and sat down in our chairs.

It wasn’t long until we had another small herd feeding their way in front of us. As we watched them for about 30 minutes, we determined there was a mature doe for Jaret to take. As she continued to feed, we waited for what seemed like another 30 minutes for her to move away from the others. I would continue to quiz Jaret on what she was doing to have him prove we were looking at the same deer.

Finally, she fed in a location where the other deer didn’t follow. We had a broadside look at her 110 yards away. Jaret placed his shooting stick near the window and mounted his rifle. This was the moment we had been working so hard for.

As he looked through the scope, I could tell this was a much more controlled attempt on his part. I got set with my binocular, ready to watch him take his first deer. As I heard the safety click off, I immediately noticed a mature 10-point coming from the mesquites on the other side of the fence behind where we looked. I quickly told Jaret to stop! 

He put his rifle back on safety and lowered it into the blind. Disappointed, he asked what happened, and I pointed to this mature buck that showed up to the party. I told him this was a shooter buck and I would watch him for a few minutes to get a better look.

After about 10 minutes, I decided this was a buck I would shoot. I leaned over and told Jaret, and he was excited for me. I watched this buck feed closer to us over the next 5-7 minutes and couldn’t shake from my head how my 9-year-old son, who was there to fill his own tag, quickly let that desire go so I could have a chance at this mature buck 116 yards in front of us. He coached me with things to do: calm my breathing, wait for the deer to clear from the herd, and not rush the shot.

As I prepared myself in my chair, and lifted my rifle into position, my heart shouted at my head, “Let Jaret take this buck!” I knew he could make this shot. I’d seen him do it time and time again during our practice sessions. He was calm and focused, and I knew this moment could present a memory we would carry for a lifetime.

I sat my rifle back down, leaned over to Jaret, and told him to get his rifle ready. The expression on his face was priceless. He quickly exclaimed, “Are you serious?” I didn’t have to coach him this time.

I asked if he was comfortable, and he said yes. I situated myself in my chair with my binocular and focused on this buck for what seemed like an eternity. In reality it was probably 10-15 seconds. The nerves and the desire I had for Jaret to make a successful shot were almost more than I could handle.

I finally heard him click the safety off and held my breath. He pulled the trigger on his .243 and as the shot rang out in the cold air, I watched from my binocular as this mature whitetail immediately dropped to the ground. Jaret got him! 

Stockstill 3

All the energy, anticipation and excitement of the moment came out at once as we yelled at the top of our lungs while his little brother laughed with enjoyment. The disappointed eyes I witnessed earlier in the afternoon were replaced with eyes full of extreme joy. I threw my arms around my son and we embraced. As only an excited 9-year-old can properly articulate, said, “That was awesome!” We took lots of pictures, offered a word of thanks to our Creator, and made a call to Mom to share in the fun together.

Stockstill 4

As fathers, we want what is best for our children. We desperately want to make their lives easy and free of hurt. But it’s in our disappointments we find the strength and the desire to try again. That cold December day in Sterling County provided life lessons we both will never forget.

It provided Jaret an opportunity, outside of his sports and our parenting, to work through his own disappointment and failure to work for what he wanted. He could have easily asked to go home and give up, but instead he decided to pursue his goal. That perseverance has now created an obsession for the outdoors and hunting in my sons.

My father passed away two years ago after a short battle with ALS. His legacy for the outdoors has now been passed to another generation of young hunters. I can only hope the legacy continues to be shared for generations to come. The memories that we made together, while taking a mature 10-point on a free-range ranch in West Texas, will be enjoyed for the rest of our lives.






  1. Prentice
    Prentice September 21, 00:19
    This is a heart touching story. For all responsible hunters with young kids, story's like this touch our hearts. I have two boys and one coming October 1st! I can't wait for the moment my boys take their first buck. I was raised on a farm and my family has been hunting on it for over 95 years. The feeling for my boys to take their first buck on family land will be a history mark in my family's and boys' lives.

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