Seven-year-old experiences agony and ecstasy with first deer
By Mike Handley
Photos by Sonja Crozier/Image Matters & Teresa Snider
“Jake, wait,” Greg Fredericks told the 7-year-old who was about to shoot his first deer. “There’s something else coming.”Telling the boy not to shoot was akin to stopping a ravenous person from biting into a double cheeseburger already in his mouth. Jake Snider could taste it.
Patience was not the kid’s strong suit, which explains why he hadn’t already shot a deer in the two seasons prior to that November 2009 opener. Like his brother, Gage, before him, Jake’s introduction to deer hunting came when he was only 4 years old.
Gage was 4 when he shot his first. But Jake was a bit more fidgety than his older brother.
Nine-year-old Gage was hunting with their father, Scott, on the other side of the farm that morning. Jake was hunting with Greg — they call him Fred — probably wishing he was somewhere else or, after the admonishment to wait, with someone else.
The doe was right there in the wide open. He had his gun on her, and then the dreaded words came.
Jake wanted so very badly to shoot his first whitetail, even if it was more keeping up with Gage than actually getting a deer. He couldn’t understand why Fred had told him to wait. But Fred was convinced the does they were looking at were being followed.
Fred and Jake weren’t hunting from a stand. They’d parked at an old abandoned farmhouse on a rise and walked to a spot where they could watch a nearby pasture, cornfield and creek. After half an hour of seeing nothing, Jake became antsy and they walked back to the truck.
“While Jake was messing around, I looked over there and saw two does come out of the woods,” Fred said. “I called him over to look at them.
“They went on, and three more came out. They were looking at us as we were walking to the fence separating the pasture from the cornfield. But they were also looking behind them, like something else was back there,” Fred said.
When the guys reached and knelt behind the fence, Jake rested his rifle on the barbed wire, which was the perfect height. From the moment he saw those deer, Jake was itching to shoot.
A few seconds later, Fred’s hunch proved correct as a buck stepped out, its mind only on the does. It never looked at the strange pair of bushes that had sprung up beside the fence.
“I saw those antlers and thought it was a pretty good one, but I had no idea the buck was as big as it was,” Fred said.
Since the buck was walking, Fred grunted to either slow or stop it, and the tactic worked. The animal somehow heard him and put on the brakes at 130 yards.
“There’s your chance,” Fred told Jake.
As soon as Jake squeezed the trigger, the buck hit the dirt. Fred figured the kid had spined the deer. He was right, but it was more of a nick.
“Jake was so excited, he was going berserk,” he added.
They walked across the cornfield, and Jake shot again.
Scott says the boy shot at the deer three more times in all (hitting it once) before it plowed off a 12-foot bank into a creek. Fred had to call Scott because they’d run out of bullets.
When Scott and Gage arrived, Jake used his brother’s .223 to administer the coup de grace while everyone watched.
“Several of his friends are jealous,” says Teresa, the boy’s mother.
“Even Gage is jealous, though he tries to be excited for his little brother.”
The deer is destined to hang alongside five others (including Gage’s 143-inch 10-pointer from 2008). “Deer central … That’s my living room,” Teresa laughs.
Scott, who mostly bowhunts, is proud of his sons.
“I’ve never been able to close the deal on a big deer with my bow,” he said. “I have a couple in the 160s I’ve shot with a gun, including a 165-incher from last year. But nothing even close to the one Jake shot.”
Hunter: Jake Snider
Official Score: 178 4/8
Composite Score: 196 4/8
-- Reprinted from the September 2010 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.