GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Baseball has been Wes Rea's love since his early childhood growing up in Gulfport. Hunting is the passion of the former Harrison Central standout that helped Mississippi State reach the championship series last season at the College World Series against UCLA.
Rea was one of the most feared hitters in the SEC in 2013 when he collected 45 RBI and hit eight home runs while starting 60 games at first base as a redshirt sophomore.
With a number two preseason ranking intact for the Bulldogs and the quest to claim the national championship in 2014 set to begin next month, Rea recently took an edge off the excitement for the upcoming season with a trophy deer hunting trip.
Like he did against the top pitchers in the SEC last season, Rea used his sharp eye and steady hands to harvest a 12-point buck while hunting in Gonzales, TX with his brother Jake Rea.
''Killing a (trophy) and playing baseball are alike for me growing up as a kid,'' Rea said.
''I used to dream about killing a big deer as a kid while watching the Outdoor Channel. I also watched baseball on TV and wanted to play in the College World Series. It felt good this year to do both.''
The deer, which was harvested on the third day of the hunt, was taken with a 30.06 rifle and scored 154 on the Boone and Crockett scoring system.
''I really wanted to take the deer with my bow. I saw him on the first day but he was spooked by the wind. We changed up on the second day and adjusted the blind with the wind. Once again, he came out but he was too far.''
With the clock running out on the three-day hunt, Rea changed plans and climbed into a shooting house with his rifle on the third day.
Remarkably, the deer stepped out of the thicket in the same area for the third consecutive day. Instead of having to wait for the massive buck to move within 25 yards for an accurate shot with the bow, Rea slowly raised the rifle and pulled the trigger on a 100-yard shot.
''The deer had nothing to do with us on the second day so I had to change my plans. I had to get back to school and get ready for the season, so I used the rifle and took him on the last day. He was 100 yards when I shot and ran 20 yards before he hit the ground. I was nervous using the bow and saw the deer twice, but I was less nervous with the gun. It felt great and it came down to the last day.''
Now, Rea and his teammates are set to begin weight training on Monday and the Bulldogs hit the practice field on January 13 for the season-opener on February 14.
Rea said with a trophy buck on the ground, it's time to focus on his love for baseball.
''When playing college baseball, the only holidays you get off are Thanksgiving and Christmas. The rest of the year you're getting ready for the season. Last year was amazing and we're still living that dream. Every kid wants to play in Omaha (College World Series) and some want to kill a big deer. I was able to do both this year. Now, we're ranked number two in the preseason and it's time to get rolling.''