Blackfoot 10-year-old gets buck on first hunting trip

Submitted Photo Wade Kotter, 10, of Blackfoot, poses with a four-point buck he shot on a hunting trip Oct. 14 near Malta.

Submitted Photo
Wade Kotter, 10, of Blackfoot, poses with a four-point buck he shot on a hunting trip Oct. 14 near Malta.

By Josh Friesen, For the Journal

It was a cold, blustery morning when 10-year-old Wade Kotter embarked on his first hunting expedition.

It was Oct. 14 at 3:30 a.m., and Wade and his dad, Kevin Kotter, had just left their home in Blackfoot. The temperatures were low. The snow was falling. When the pair arrived at their hunting spot nearly two hours later, the fierce, biting wind made it hard to maneuver.

But by noon, everything turned around. The wind had died down. The snow had ceased. The sun had come out.

And Wade — on his very first outing — had bagged his first buck.

“It started out to be the nastiest day you’d ever seen,” Kevin said. “And it turned out to be a beautiful day.”

Wade’s adventure began back in the summer when he went through an Idaho Fish and Game hunting education program that included a day course and two tests. On his own time, Wade practiced at the gun range and made sure to ask his dad, who has been hunting since he was 12 years old, plenty of questions.

By mid-October, Wade was ready. He and his dad were joined by his grandparents, Doug and Shelly Sayer, his uncle, Jim Warner, cousins Wyatt Warner and Kinley Wright, and his hunting guide and family friend, Toad.

Near Malta, the group traversed up a trail via four-wheelers into the backcountry. They initially were unsuccessful — stopping at a spot without seeing anything and stopping at another spot only to have a buck smell them and scurry away.

After hiking down a ridge, they spotted a group of aspen trees in the distance. It didn’t take long for a light brown, four-point buck to burst from the trees and come darting toward them.

“My dad yells, ‘Buck!’” Wade said. “And this buck just comes running out of the bottom.”

“He came straight toward us,” Kevin said. “He was pretty much on a full run. He turned and went broadside to us and ran for another 200 yards, and the whole time Wade was just very focused and determined. He was looking through his scope, never panicked. … The deer was just getting ready to crest the ridgeline, and he would’ve been gone, but he stopped for a split second. And Wade was just on him just like that. It really was pretty amazing.”

Wade took the shot, and the buck dropped.

After the group took photos, they gutted and skinned Wade’s kill, loaded it onto a four-wheeler and took it back down the mountain. The harvested meat is in the trusted hands of Del Monte Meats in Pocatello, and Wade already has a spot picked out on his bedroom wall to hang the mount.

“I had so many things going through my mind,” Wade said. “I’m like, ‘This is awesome. I got my first buck. I can’t wait to get my meat back.’”

With Wade’s kill, he achieved something that was tough to do this past hunting season. According to Jennifer Jackson, regional conservation educator for Idaho Fish and Game, data collected from check stations in the southeast region indicated a hunter success rate of about 12 percent in 2017. The last four years saw hunter success rates around 20 percent, with 2016 showing a 23 percent hunter success rate.

A harsh winter with more snowfall than past winters was a major factor in hunters being less successful this past hunting season.

“We’ve had four winters in a row that were mild,” Jackson said. “We had high fawn survival, and our adults did really well. Last year saw significant impact to our fawns.”

Whether this upcoming winter impacts hunting in 2018 or not, Wade is excited to get back out there next season.

“I’m really thankful for my grandma and grandpa, Doug and Shelly,” he said. “They’re the ones who bought my tag and got this hunt for me. … I wouldn’t be doing this right now if they hadn’t done that for me.”