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Father and Son Share an Illinois Bow Hunt They'll Never Forget

The old saying "that the first time in the stand is your best" seems to have been written for Zeke Smith and his father.

Father and Son Share an Illinois Bow Hunt They'll Never Forget

Zeke and his father Jason were lucky enough to share the same stand the morning Zeke arrowed his biggest buck ever. (Photo courtesy of Zeke Snyder) 

The day prior to the Illinois bow season opener, Zeke Snyder and his dad, Jason, were discussing where to hunt opening morning. They finally thought, “Why don’t we both hunt the buddy stand and just see if we can get a doe?” The pair sharing a stand on the first morning of the 2020 season seemed like a great plan, regardless of what would happen.

The father and son duo hoped to catch the deer moving from the cornfield and into the timbered draws on their way to the bedding area. The area they were hunting had not been disturbed, except to periodically sneak in and change the trail camera’s SD cards. So, they knew the deer on this property were about as relaxed as possible. 

Zeke and his dad managed to sneak into the buddy stand well before daylight on October 1, 2020, without spooking any deer. About 20 minutes before legal shooting time, they both began to hear deer moving around in the standing corn. The sun had just made it above the horizon when Zeke heard movement close by in the cornfield. Suddenly, about 25 yards away, a buck stuck his head out of the corn and looked up and down the edge of the field. 

As soon as the deer poked his antlers out of the cornrows, Zeke knew that this was an amazing deer to take. He whispered to his dad “big buck,” and Dad quickly, but softly responded, “shoot it.”


The deer walked along the narrow field edge between the corn and the woods heading right for Zeke and his fully drawn Hoyt bow.  At 11 yards, the buck turned his head toward the timber and Zeke grunted, stopping the buck broadside. 


Father and Son Share an Illinois Bow Hunt They'll Never Forget
Trail camera images only showed a quick glimpse of this spectacular buck. (Photo courtesy of Zeke Snyder)

“Everything went on automatic, and the next thing I remembered was seeing the buck run into the woods with the fletching sticking out right behind his front leg,” said Zeke.

“I had to sit down and try and get my heart rate slowed down and stop shaking.” 

After calling his wife, Samantha, and a few of his good friends, Zeke said “nobody believed me, they thought I was just messing with them!” 

To prove his story, Zeke got his phone out and set up facetime with his wife so she could see the buck as he walked up to it. Then she believed him! 




After tagging and field dressing the buck, the duo borrowed the farmer’s Kawasaki Mule and loaded the beast into the bed. 

After the 60-day drying period, the giant non-typical gross-scored 231 ⅞, and net-scored 224 2/8. The buck has a gross typical frame of 193 4/8 inches, with 20 scorable points combined with over 40 inches in circumference measurements and 38 ⅛ inches of abnormal points.  

Father and Son Share an Illinois Bow Hunt They'll Never Forget
Zeke's morning started with a flash, but the memory of the hunt will live on forever. (Photo courtesy of Zeke Snyder)

It was Zeke’s first time in that stand, the first hour of the first morning of bow season, his first time taking a deer with his dad present, and his first giant buck ever taken. The old saying, “the first time in the stand is the best time” seems to have been written for Zeke and Jason Snyder. 


Stay tuned for the feature in-print article on Zeke Snyder’s opening day archery kill that will be running in our historical magazine. There you’ll find more of Zeke’s history with this deer, you’ll read more about the father and son duo along with more high-quality print images. 

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