Courtesy Krebs Family
Annual Krebs youth hunt passes on extraordinary young man's legacy.
Will Krebs paces heavily around the empty parking lot outside the Harper Community Center. He’s focused and busy. He has no choice; to stop long enough to think about why he’s here is just too painful.
Will, a tall man with an even bigger presence, is impossible to miss in his hunter orange vest and cap. But soon, he’ll disappear in a sea of that same hue, surrounded by youthful hunters, their parents and a brigade of volunteers.
For yet another year, Will has shown up to organize an event that means as much to him now as the day he lost his son, Jacob, some seven years ago.
The boy’s death at 18 was sudden, shocking the small community of Harper. You couldn’t script a more likable young man. An Eagle Scout and high school mascot, Jacob was an athlete, a band member, a big brother, a best friend, a community volunteer, a hunter, an angler and a patriot.
Volunteering as a re-enactor at a historical museum in nearby Fredericksburg, Jacob portrayed a World War II Marine in the Pacific combat theater. He wore Army fatigues from the moment he was able to dress himself and thanked every service member who crossed his path.
“Jacob died chasing his dream as a Navy Seal,” his mother, Mary, says as she describes how he accidentally lost his life practicing holding his breath underwater.
The Krebs family are pillars of the Harper community. Will is a volunteer hunt master and hunter education instructor for youth hunts sponsored by the Texas Wildlife Association and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Jacob was always right beside him, helping out.
Joyce Moore is a TPWD wildlife biologist and close friend to the Krebs family. Her son, Josh, was also in Boy Scout Troop 139 and served as one of Jacob’s pallbearers. Will Krebs reached out to her after Jacob died and told her he wanted to do something meaningful to honor his son’s memory — a youth hunt.
All photos from 2020 Event koy coffman & karen loke
Joyce enlisted the help of the Harper Wildlife Management Association, whose members thought that a youth hunt would help control the area’s excessive does and exotic deer. Six landowners signed up to participate in the very first youth hunt in memory of Jacob Krebs.
What makes this youth hunt even more special? Every participant has some connection with law enforcement or the military. Will and Mary Krebs wanted to take their son’s memorial one step further by offering this hunt to those who shared Jacob’s passion to serve others.
It’s a long name, but one filled with honor: The Harper Wildlife Management Association Youth Hunt for Wounded Warriors in Memory of Jacob Krebs.
“My brother meant a lot because he’s basically a role model,” says Julie, Jacob’s younger sister, who now plays the school mascot. “He showed me a lot about doing your best at all times and doing whatever you can for others.”
In the event’s seven years, nearly 200 boys and girls have had the opportunity to take a deer, learn about wildlife conservation and feed their family.
“I didn’t grow up hunting,” says David Garcia, a retired Army medic. “My son showed an interest in hunting, so I Googled youth hunting and found this.”
“Hanging out with my dad is very nice. It’s really good for our relationship — father-son time,” David Garcia Jr. says.
For three days every January, the Harper community joins together to help put on the youth hunt. Retired wildlife biologist Mike Krueger says he brings his whole family out to teach the old German way of making venison sausage.
“Between the skinning and the eating, there’s a whole lot that’s got to happen in between there,” he says while a young hunter turns the sausage grinder that forms the links.
Like all Texas youth hunt programs, kids learn about shooting sports, hunting ethics and wildlife identification in a safe environment. Texas game wardens come out on the first night to teach the laws of hunting. Joyce Moore teaches how to age deer and choose the right ones to harvest. Her son, Josh, is on hand to help, too.
Volunteers gather inside the Harper Community Center along with veterans, their families and landowners for a steak dinner and a speech by retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Michael Hagee.
“When you’re on the battlefield, you don’t want to let your buddy down,” he told them. “They believe in something larger than themselves, like the Krebs family is doing here tonight.”
The Krebses instinctively think of helping others, no matter what they’re going through. When Will and Mary learned that Jacob’s brain was dead, they kept him alive to help others. The youngest organ recipient is an 18-year-old girl in New Jersey; the oldest, an 83-year-old woman in Florida. The Krebs family have visited some of the beneficiaries.
Jacob was buried on the family ranch. His father built the casket and engraved these words: “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” Youth hunters and their parents visit the gravesite each year to pay their respects.
“I’m just giving back until the Lord tells me to do something different,” says Will, a man of few words.
On the last morning of the seventh annual youth hunt in memory of her son, Mary is up way before dawn, making biscuits to feed a hundred hungry hunters.
“We put 7-Up in the biscuits because it’s the seventh year of the hunt,” Mary says, smiling.
The final day of the event has come to an end. Will stands alone in the parking lot, exhausted yet fulfilled. He hopes that Jacob would be proud of what they’ve done.
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