GREENFIELD — On a cool, clear-skied evening, Mason Burks and his father patiently waited in the woods of Montgomery. A family friend had been eager to let them hunt in a certain spot on his property.
“Wait here,” their friend had told them, and you’ll get a deer.
Mason prayed he was right; that day marked his first deer hunting trip, and his legs were still wobbling with anticipation.
On his first deer hunting trip Sept. 23, the 12-year-old Greenfield native killed a 12-point buck. The animal was field dressed for 186 pounds, an impressive prize for even a seasoned hunter, said Craig Burks, Mason’s father.
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“I was pretty proud of him, the way he listened,” Burks said. “All of his practice with his rifle paid off. He made his shot right where he was supposed to.”
“It’s probably one of the most exciting hunts I’ve ever been a part of,” he added.
The Burks boys sat concealed behind a fallen tree at the top of a hill overlooking a valley. The terrain formed a natural funnel through a dried-up riverbed, a pinch point that deer were sure to pass through.
Dusk was creeping up on them at 7:30 p.m., but the sky still gave off enough light to illuminate the valley, revealing two deer — each with four points — that moseyed into view from their left side. A six-pointer followed shortly behind them. As quietly as he could, Mason urgently nudged his father, who held a Marlin .44 Magnum lever action rifle.
“Dad, give me the gun,” Mason remembers whispering. “Please just give me the gun!”
But his father shook his head. Decades of hunting experience had taught him oftentimes, smaller deer move into a clearing first in order to make way for the bigger ones. Their patience was rewarded.
Suddenly, a massive, 12-point buck emerged from the brush no more than 11 yards away and sauntered in front of the two hunters. Mason held his breath as his father slowly nodded and handed him the weapon. Mason repositioned his body and breathed. He leveled the rifle, lined up his shot and squeezed the trigger.
The buck flipped, bolted about 30 feet away and then collapsed in the brush.
And the young hunter was quiet no more.
“I was like, ‘I’m so happy! Thank you, Jesus!’” Mason said. Tears were streaming down his face.
Mason’s shot placement was right on target, piercing both of the deer’s lungs. Burks said it was exciting to watch his son make the shot, remembering the surge of adrenaline that came with killing his first deer.
“He was like ‘I’m not sad. I’m crying because I’m happy,’” Burks said. “It’s definitely a flood of emotions, and it was neat to watch him experience that as a dad.”
A Proud Family
Tracy Burks, Mason’s mother, said they’ve frozen the animal’s meat. The family considers any successful hunting trip as a blessing, making sure to eat everything that they kill.
“I stayed here in the kitchen while they butchered it and took it apart,” she said with a giggle.
She remembers celebrating after receiving an excited phone call from her son shortly after his father showed him how to clean and field dress the animal.
“We had us a big ball of emotions that night,” she said.
Mason began showing interest in hunting and shooting early on, receiving his first .22 rifle when he was 8 years old. Mason competes in 4H marksmanship competitions, training in both archery and rifle shooting.
Burks said he could tell from the moment his son fired a weapon that he was a naturally gifted marksman.
“He picked up that rifle, and three shots at 100 yards were probably a 2-inch group,” Burks said. “He listens well, he shoots well and he takes his time.”
After a trip to Greenfield’s Trophy Wildlife Taxidermy, Mason hopes to mount the prize he earned that weekend in his bedroom, which he is planning on redecorating to look like a hunting lodge.