ARTICLE: MY SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE HUNTS – THE YEAR OF THE BUCK? – The Missouri Phase
Back in 2019 my buddy Steve Niefert invited me to come out to his place in central Missouri for the archery deer season. I saw a lot of deer those two trips but never got a shot at a Missouri deer.
I was real excited for the 2020 season and prepared by buying a new heater for my pop-up camper, a de-cocking arrow for the crossbow along with a couple of new gadgets but at the last minute some family business came up and I was not able to go hunting the weekends I had open. Needless to say I was bound and determined to make it in 2021!
Everything came together for me late summer and early fall and I showed up at Steve’s place the afternoon of October 1st ready for some hunting action!
The next morning we awoke to a steady rain so we sat under the camper awning drinking coffee well past day break. Light rain fell on and off all day and finally quit mid-afternoon so we readied ourselves for an afternoon hunt.
Instead of walking the entire way to my hunting area which consisted of going down (then back up) two hills the longest and biggest I call Heart Break Hill or Heart Attack Hill depending on your mood, I drove the truck down past my spot, turned around and parked. By the time I walked in, found a tree, climbed it and called myself hunting, a light rain had begun. It didn’t last long but the wind kept blowing causing tree pee.
It was real cloudy so about a quarter past six it was getting kind of dark so I texted Steve that I was getting down at 6:30 and heading in. No sooner had I put the phone away the wind started blowing harder causing more tree pee. I quickly realized that it was rain coming and decided it was time to leave. I stood up to start the climbing down process, turned around and saw basically a wall of water coming toward me.
It was on me in flash! I was quickly soaked from head to toe, my rain jacket offering me little protection. I had to keep telling myself to stay calm and take my time working the climbing stand going down. I did not want to slip, slide or fall down the wet tree.
I made it back to camp looking like a drowned rat as did Steve.
The next morning the weather was perfect and the deer were moving. I saw a couple of deer along the fencerow out of range. They went straight to a couple of white oak trees and feasted on acorns. A little time later a big old doe came up the hill over my right shoulder headed to the oak trees. She was a little out of range and also on my weak side so I didn’t try any stupid shots. I was kind of surprised she didn’t have a fawn with her. I figured she had had a little buck and had already run him off as momma does do in the fall.
Back at camp I packed up and was headed for home around noon full of excitement for the next weekend.
The weather forecast looked great for the next weekend and I anxiously waited for Friday to come.
I arrived back at Steve’s Friday afternoon and since I had left the camper there it didn’t take me too long to get camp setup. Around 2:30 I drove down to the top of Heart Break Hill, grabbed my stuff and headed down to Doe Hill loaded up like a pack mule.
About 4:30 something caught my eye across the fence. It was four of the biggest raccoons I’d ever seen. They went straight to the white oaks where it seemed every critter was going to feast on the acorns. They fed around a little and then came straight toward me. It was fun to watch them go about their business. To me, a big part of “hunting” is about being out in nature watching the different animals live their daily lives. Like I like to say, “I’d rather be in the woods thinking about God than being in church thinking about the woods”.
So about 6:00 that same big doe I had seen the previous Sunday morning came up behind me again. She followed the exact path past me to the oak trees where she ate awhile then jumped the fence and headed on over the hill. Seeing this I devised a plan to ambush her.
I picked out a tree about 30 yards out to my right at about the 2 o’clock position from my current spot. (I was facing the fence and 20 yards from it.) I decided get down a few minutes early and move my stand over there. This spot put me about 10 yards off the fence with my view parallel to it. I would be able to see down the hill to my left and only 10 yards from the path the doe had been taking. With this move she would be on my strong side offering me a good shot. The ambush was set! I only needed to arrive early the next morning and cut down a small sapling directly in front of me.
Getting to my stand early I made short work of the sapling and was up the tree and set with plenty of time to spare. I only needed the doe to play the game by the new rules.
Shortly before eight I heard the sound of something running in the field behind me over my right shoulder. Turning to see if the sound was cows running in the pasture I was surprised to see 2 bucks coming down the hill parallel to fence. They trotted up to the fence by the oak trees. I was even more surprised to see them walk past the acorns and jump the fence. The lead buck was the bigger of the two. He walked right out in front of me and stopped in front of a big oak tree about 17 yards away. He stood there chewing his cud.
The other buck was a nice 6 pointer. He followed his buddy over the fence and turned in toward me stopping out to my right. He sensed something wasn’t right and looked pretty antsy. I could tell he was looking at me without directly turning his head toward me. He stomped his front leg a few times before moving around to my left where he repeated the motion. The other buck just stood there chewing away.
The 6 came around to my left some more and then must have caught my scent. He trotted back the way he had come, right past the his buddy and stopped momentarily before heading up and over the fence and across the field.
I turned my attention back to the other buck that was still standing in the same spot watching his pal leave. All this time I had not moved nothing but my eyes and my head slightly and was now focused on two things.
One was this buck legal to take? There is an antler restriction in that county. Bucks have to have at least 4 points on one side. The second thing was not spooking him.
The buck turned his head around enough for me to see that he had at least 4 points on the left side and that many on the other. I just needed to get in position for a shot. For some reason and lucky for me he turned his head around to look behind him and that instant I shifted around to my right getting into a perfect shooting position on the seat and brought the crossbow up to my shoulder aligning the scope onto him just as he turned back around.
Through the scope I could see he was a nice buck and placed the crosshairs on him. Since he hadn’t moved his body this entire time there was just enough of his “sweet” spot that wasn’t blocked by a small tree. I aimed the best I could thinking I’d either hit him or the tree and released the safety. Steading best I could, I pulled the trigger.
The sound of the crossbow releasing was followed by that distinct “thud” sound of the arrow hitting home.
He jumped slightly and walked forward about 15 feet then turned to his right and kind of trotted about 30 yards. It had been awhile since I had shot a deer with an arrow and wasn’t sure how far he might go so I was determined to watch him the best I could so tracking him would be as easy as possible.
To my surprise he turned to his right again, took a couple of steps and fell over! His legs kicked up once and then all was still. He was down! Keeping an eye on him, I excitedly texted Steve, “Buck down!”
I filled the next 15 minutes locating my arrow in the leaves with my binoculars, eating a quick snack and making sure he didn’t get up.
Twenty five minutes after pulling the trigger I was admiring my first deer taken in Missouri and my first ever crossbow kill! It was the first deer I had taken with archery equipment since 2003 a couple of months before my dad passed away. It was kind of a fitting tribute to him because it was his crossbow I was hunting with. He had bought the Horton the summer before he died but never got to use it.
It was all Steve and I could do to load the buck into my truck and haul him back to camp. The buck weighed 190 pounds on the hoof. He was a big boy for sure.
My hunting season was off to a great start. The question that lingered in my mind was would it continue as I was headed off to Oklahoma in two weeks for some muzzleloader hunting. That tale will be the next chapter in My Series of Unfortunate Hunts. Until then, Jim Bob.