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When Only Kids Could Hunt

By Gene Butts

Mason Hancock
If only school were half as much fun as deer hunting, 9-year-old Mason Hancock of Morganfield, Ky., would never need an alarm clock. Here are 22 reasons to get out of bed on a Saturday morning! Photo by Gene Butts

Justin Hancock has an easier time rousing his 9-year-old son, Mason, than his wife does. But then Nikki Hancock offers only the promise of school, whereas Justin's "Come on, sleepyhead, it's time to get moving" promises a day in the deer woods. As soon as those words tumble out of his dad's mouth, Mason jumps out of bed like his sheets are on fire.

Such was the case on Dec. 29, 2007, the first day of Kentucky's "Free Youth Weekend," when only young guns - 15 or younger - may hunt, as long as they're accompanied by an unarmed adult. Not that Mason needed help in the deer-shooting department, mind you. He took his first doe at age 5; his first buck came two years later.

That Saturday might've been the 9-year-old's last chance to get his buck in '07. The October and November youth hunts had been unproductive. In between, time is limited by school and baseball and football games, not to mention Justin's working swing shifts. Plus, Sundays are limited to church.

Father and son didn't have far to go that day. The stand was barely 200 yards from the house, and they were in it before dawn, braving the nip of the freezing wind. Justin had already told Mason that he'd better take the first deer they saw.

Fifteen minutes after dawn broke, they spotted a doe and a buck step out of some thick brush.

Mason Hancock"Mason, that looks like a pretty good-sized buck," Justin whispered. "Get your gun ready."

Mason put his dad's .243 Remington to his shoulder and looked through the scope.

"Try to shoot it right in the neck, and make a clean shot so the buck will drop," his dad advised.

"Okay, Dad. I'm ready," Mason said nervously.

The kid was trying not to shake. He could barely breathe. Yet Mason then placed a shot exactly where his dad had instructed. The giant buck ran about 20 yards, staggered and then fell.

After exchanging high-fives, a giddy father and son waited another 15 minutes before going to the deer.

As they got closer, they realized that it was not an average rack. Mason ran to his huge buck and started counting points.

Subscribe Today!"Dad, it's a monster with two drop tines and 22 points!" he yelled.

Justin couldn't believe his eyes. The deer not only had two drop tines, but sticker points also were everywhere. And the fact that the buck might've weighed a paltry 150 pounds made his antlers seem all that much bigger!
Mason started dancing right there in the woods. Justin calls it the "I-shot-a-deer-bigger-than-yours-Dad" dance!

Mason, smiling from ear to ear, was breathless when he made his first call to his Pop-Pop, Jimmy Hancock (the man who Mason believes hung the moon). Many more friends and family were called afterward. It was a proud day for three generations of Hancock hunters.

A couple of days later, Mason and Justin learned that the man who owns ground behind the Hancocks' 52 acres had a photograph of the buck in velvet, taken by a trail camera on July 19. Other than that, nobody had seen this buck.

Hunter: Mason Hancock
Official Score: 209 7/8"
Composite Score: 229 3/8"
Centerfire Rifle

-- Reprinted from the September 2008 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine

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