Traditions Never Die

The deer hunting tradition never dims in this family.

Reader Contributed | August 17, 2021

By Jason Simotes 

I never had the good fortune of meeting my father-in-law, Keith Hardy. Some of you may remember Keith. He was a GON fan, won a 4-wheeler in the 2003’s Truck-Buck Shoot-Out and had a passion for deer hunting. It was his year-round dedication to the sport and love for getting outdoors that sent Keith to the woods on the morning of Aug. 10, 2008. While using a climber to trim limbs, the bottom part of Keith’s climber somehow came loose from the tree. Keith fell an estimated 30 feet and was killed instantly.

Although Keith has passed, our family’s deer hunting tradition has not. Even though I never had the chance to shake Keith’s hand, last November I found myself hunting a piece of property owned by a friend of Keith’s. I successfully killed a buck worthy of GON’s Georgia Deer Records rankings. However, it wasn’t until much later, after the required B&C drying time and an official score was given to my buck, that I realized exactly how special this buck was to me and to my family.

It was a Tuesday in late November 2019, I rushed to the woods after work. I had been hunting this part of the woods where the deer were using an old roadbed as if it were I-285. I moved to where I had seen some deer crossing.

While in my climber, I saw some does feeding and some deer passing through. One doe started running, and a large-bodied deer was in tow. I saw the deer had antlers, but through the thicket I really couldn’t tell how big, he looked wide. Before I knew it, the doe and buck were gone.

Twenty minutes or so went by, and I was still watching the does feed in front of me. Then I heard a large commotion to my left. I looked over and the same buck and doe were running on my left going back into the thicket in front of me. Gone again. I got out of my tree stand after dark trying not to spook the deer out of the area.

Wednesday morning I called out of work in hopes of getting a shot at this buck. I got back in the same tree. The woods were slow that morning. I saw two does feeding and two does passing.

On Wednesday evening I got back in the stand around 4 o’clock. About an hour went by and I heard what I thought were squirrels to my left and paid them zero attention. Suddenly a doe popped up right in front of me coming from where the squirrel sounds came from. I heard the same noise coming from that direction, So I went ahead and got my hands on my rifle. I took an eager peak over, and I saw antlers poking out from the tree just beyond my vision. He took a couple more steps out, I was so excited that I wanted to pull the trigger before my shot was clear. I told myself to slow down and don’t mess up. I took a slow exhale and slowly squeezed the trigger. BANG! About 35 yards away the deer jumped what felt like was 100 feet high.

He bolted and passed under my tree. Behind me were a couple of trees with a lot of leaves remaining. When he got behind me, I immediately lost sight of him. I panned through the leaves, and then I finally heard him crash. Once I heard him crash, I spotted him laying there right at the river. What a relief. At that point I realized my legs were shaking. I hoped they weren’t shaking the whole time. I gave it 20 minutes, and then I climbed down. This deer taught me a lot about patience.

Keith Hardy was known to put a GON sticker on everything he owned, from hunting gear to his mom’s brand-new 4-runner. In addition to being a GON fan, Keith dedicated his life to family, friends and living in the great outdoors. Keith left behind his wife Susan, mother Dianne, father Larry and two daughters, Taylor and Georgie.

I married Keith’s first born, Taylor. Keith’s passion is what got me involved in hunting and keeping this tradition alive. As the years go by, I’ve been able to learn more about him and his hunting legacy. I take pride in carrying that on for the family. All of the hard work was rewarded when I had my buck officially scored in GON‘s Barrow County Georgia Deer Records rankings, my deer scored 124 2/8 inches (No. 44), scoring 1/8-inch lower than a buck that Keith killed in 2003 (No. 43) that came in at 124 3/8 inches. What are the odds!

I will continue to do my best to carry on Keith’s traditions, whether it’s slapping a GON sticker on everything or just spending as much time as possible being where he loved to be, the woods. Keith has had a big impact on my life. He is the type of man I hope to grow up to be one day. He is my inspiration to be a better man than I was yesterday, not just for my wife but for her family, as well. I’d like to give out a special thanks to GON because without GON I wouldn’t know some of these things about my father-in-law.

This buck is special to me, however the improbability of the deer scoring just 1/8 of an inch under Keith’s brings new sentimental emotions that are truly indescribable.

Keith Hardy with the 2003 buck that scores 1/8 inch higher than his son-in-law’s (below).

Jason Simotes with his Barrow County buck from 2019 that scored 124 2/8 inches, 1/8 inch lower than Keith Hardy’s, his father-in-law.

GON Publisher Steve Burch presents Keith Hardy with the keys to his Suzuki Vinson 4-wheeler after the 2003 Truck-Buck Shoot-Out. With Keith are his wife Susan, and his daughters, Georgie and Taylor.

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