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November 27, 2007

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BuckTracker: A Boy's First Deer

OK, folks. Let's take a break from monster antlers and refocus on what's really important about deer hunting: That first buck--or doe--that got you started. Mine fell 35 years ago and it plays in my head like a live tape. And with two kids only four years away from getting their first chance, I hope I get to relive another huge First Deer experience when my twins take up hunting.

This story comes to us from F&S Executive Editor Mike Toth:

This may not be a trophy in terms of points and mass and inches, but to me it’s the absolute best whitetail buck of the year.


This is my son’s very first deer, a three-pointer that he got on November 17, New Jersey’s Youth Firearms Deer Day. The state created this one-day season to get more kids interested in hunting by giving them a crack at a deer before any other firearms hunters hit the woods. That means you can scout, pattern, and hunt whitetails with your son or daughter before heavy hunting pressure disrupts feeding and travel routines. But like any deer hunt, you have to do your homework, and Joe did.

You can say that Joe got this deer in two places: the squirrel woods and the living room. Hunting bushytails taught him how to stay quiet and hidden, move slowly, and watch and listen for game. It also gave us an opportunity to look for deer sign and figure out where we should hunt on the youth day.

Additionally, in the months before the hunt, we’d take advantage of any spare moments to get him comfortable with the slug gun (New Jersey is a shotgun-only state). He’d work the action, sight on various objects, and dry-fire while kneeling, squatting, and standing. The gun was sighted in, but he really gained confidence in it by handling it at home on Sunday afternoons.

So when youth day came, he was ready. We got to our brush blind in the dark, and a few hours later, the buck came up a ridge along his scrape line. Joe shot it in the lungs when it paused about 40 yards away. After a short and efficient tracking job, the deer was his.

It was an emotional moment for me. You only get your first deer once, and I consider myself lucky and fortunate to have witnessed his experience. I slapped his back hard a few times when we came up on that buck lying in the early morning sunlight, because I really couldn’t say anything for a few moments. His smile in the photo tells you all you need to know about his reaction.

Incidentally, we were hunting public land--the southern section of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, land that was originally earmarked to be flooded by a giant Army Corps of Engineers dam project (and the plan has never been officially killed). I’ve been hunting this land since I was a kid, and it was gratifying to see my son get a buck from my old grounds.

BuckTracker Details
Date: Nov. 17
Location: Warren County, NJ
Points: 3
Weapon: Ithaca DeerSlayer II 12 gauge with Lightfield slugs
Distance: 40 yards
Method: Ground blind


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Passin' it on. This is what hunting is all about. Connecting with family through the shared experiece of living the way God intended.


Its nice to hear such stories about father and son or father and daughter!! Congrats to your son for getting that buck!!He & you should be very proud for sure:-).I wished I saw more of this here in Maine.Way to go Joe!


I saw plenty of junior deer hunters in Maine this year shoot some very nice deer. So I'm not quite sure what you are talking about Wanda

Mike Toth

Thanks for your kind words, Wanda. We certainly are proud--and we're very much looking forward to those venison steaks this winter.

Dave R.

Congratulations, Joe. That's a great first buck. May it be the first of many.


This is something very special; especially in New Jersey. There are so many people here in New Jersey that think what you are doing is barbaric. I have no doubt that in a few years they will try to ban hunting deer just like they have banned bear hunting. There is nothing that would make me so proud as to see one of my daughters shoot a deer. Right now I hunt outside of New Jersey, not because there are not deer here; because of New Jersey State Law. Make sure public officials know how you feel about hunting. Many of my fellow hunters do not even know who their public officials are. Myspace.com/cliffy7595

in nj if we dont have atot of deer than why are we shooting them!!!??


that guy looks old he has to be at least 18teen how does he hunt in youth season

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