An 11-year-old St. Michael boy hasn't stopped smiling since Saturday.
Josh Hill, on his first deer hunt, bagged an 11-point buck on opening day of deer hunting season. He was hunting with relatives in a ground blind near Northome.
Hill had been preparing for the day since spring.
He went scouting with his father, Jeff Hill, and worked to set up a ground blind to hunt from. In the summer, he attended ForkHorn Camp to obtain his gun certification.
Earlier this year, he saved up money to buy half of his new Tikka 270 rifle.
"Mom and dad picked up the other half of the tab," Jeff said.
The father and son went hunting with seven other relatives and friends on opening weekend.
"After seeing no deer opening morning, we went in for lunch and then he wanted to get right back out to his stand," said Jeff. "(Josh) said, 'I'm going to shoot an 8-pointer today.' Well, he was wrong."
Josh spotted the buck and leaned over and whispered, "Dad, there's a big buck right behind me."
"I thought he was seeing deer in the shadows of the afternoon light," Jeff said. "I looked away for a minute, but Josh remained frozen, looking at the buck."
Jeff looked back over his son's shoulder and watched the buck step out from behind a tree that was blocking his view. The buck was about 30 yards away and "staring at us," Jeff said.
Slowly, the buck started to walk away.
"With every step, Josh eased his gun up to his shoulder," Jeff recalled. "Just as he got the gun up, the tree in the back of our blind was in his way, he couldn't swing far enough to get a shot off."
When the buck was about 50 yards away, Jeff told his son to stand up.
"He leaned against the tree, steadied his gun, and made a great shot," Jeff said. "The buck only ran a few yards before dropping."
Jeff took a 10-point buck the next day — those were the only two bucks the group got that weekend. Josh left with the biggest bag, and a long-lasting smile.
"When we walked up on the deer, I said, 'Congratulations son, I've been hunting deer for 31 years, and in one day you've shot a bigger buck than anything I've ever taken," Jeff said. "I don't think he's stopped smiling yet."