A 911 operator took a call from James Lee Parker's distraught father just after 7:30 a.m.
"My son is dead," he said through tears.
It happened near Bent Road and Colombard Court in the Falls Lake Recreation Area.
Harrison said Parker - of Jeremy Lane in Tarboro - was hunting deer with three other people when it happened.
A picture of Parker provided by a relative showed a happy young blond-haired boy posing with a cousin.
North Carolina Wildlife officials said the uncle Jason Matthews Parker of Franklinton fired a single shot with a 12 gauge shotgun which hit 12- year-old James Lee Parker.
Officials said Parker improperly acquired a hunting license and had not taken the hunting education course as is required by the state of North Carolina.
Though the investigation is still ongoing, Parker could face criminal charges.
Sheriff Harrison said 12 year olds can hunt if they're accompanied by an adult. As they're out of school, the Christmas holidays are often a time when young people go out with their families to get their first deer.
The boy's grandfather told ABC11 Friday that his grandson died doing what he loved and took his first deer last year.