Jay Jones didn't hear the gunshot that killed his 5-year-old daughter's best friend. He didn't know what had happened until he stepped into the sunlit field and saw buzzards circling overhead.

At noon on Oct. 12, Jones crested the hill behind his North Knox County home to find the 22-year-old quarter horse, Hawk, dead of a gunshot wound, the grass around him stained crimson.

The bullet had struck Hawk's right shoulder and punched through his gut. He might have been lying there since the night of Oct. 10, when Jones believes a poacher with dreams of bagging a buck fired on the first set of eyes to twinkle in the darkness. 

Jones — a self-described cowboy who's trained horses his entire life — went to tell his father, who advised him not to tell his daughter, Madeline. He retrieved a blue tarp and used it to cover Hawk's body.

Read more from our news partners at the Knoxville News Sentinel.