A World-Class Season

A World-Class Season

If he hangs in there long enough, even the most common guy can experience the most uncommon success.

It was November 5, and I couldn't wait to get to one of my favorite treestands, which was located in a saddle on a tall ridge where deer travel through from literally every direction.

I took this buck on November 5, my first morning on stand in Illinois. Little did I know he marked the start of a world-class bow season for me.

I'd taken two bucks and missed another from this stand in the last four years. After settling in an hour before first light, I began to focus on the sounds and smells of the surroundings, anticipating the sights that would soon materialize.

I love this time, in the dark, just before sunrise. The cool air, the smell of the autumn woods, the sounds of creation stirring in the predawn. I wonder if that is a monster buck trailing me to the stand, or just an opossum that is making my pulse quicken.

And in my mind, I imagine a huge Illinois buck a mile away. He has been out all night in the fertile Mississippi River bottoms, pestering does and challenging other bucks. Now, he's headed back. Cautiously he crosses the highway and makes his way up into the hill country for a brief rest. His cautious travel brings him right by my stand'¦

By trade I am an electrician, and I had been very busy. My most recent job had over 80 electricians on it, and the projected completion date was November 16.

That concerned me, because I had planned to take off the first two weeks of November to bowhunt. I had told my supervisors, but since I was pushing a crew, I was a little anxious that my responsibilities would outweigh my vacation plans. Thankfully, all went well and the job wrapped up two weeks ahead of schedule.

Since we were working a lot of overtime, I hadn't hunted as much as I normally do. On October 25, while scouting in my home state of Missouri, I was able to sneak within bow range of a Pope and Young-class 10-point, but he never gave me a broadside shot.

My son Matthew killed this Missouri nine-pointer on October 25.

However, on that same night, my 13-year-old son, Matthew, was in a stand and arrowed a real nice nine-point.

Those awesome events fueled my desire. I now had two weeks and nonresident archery tags for Illinois and Kansas, so I was pumped. As a working man, I don't have a lot of spare time to hunt and cannot afford to go just anywhere. I use vacation time and any extra money I can spare.

Fortunately, I do have access to some good areas. My spot in Missouri is only 10 miles from my house; the Illinois farm I could hunt on was only 30 minutes away; and the farm that my friends have in Kansas is about a seven-hour drive. I anticipated some great experiences, dreamed of big bucks, and expected some success. But how could I ever have predicted the actual outcome?

Within 10 minutes of first light, a buck appeared behind my stand. He wasn't the one I'd imagined coming by, but he got my heart rate warmed up for the day. While he hung around the base of my tree, a doe and her fawn ambled by and distracted him, giving me a shot. He was a nice two-year-old eight-point, but I decided to hold off.

By 10 a.m., scarcely 30 minutes had gone by all morning that I had not seen deer. While the sixth good buck I'd seen chased a doe in the draw to my right, another small buck joined in the fun. When I turned my head, I saw a high-racked eight-pointer at a scrape 40 yards north in a thicket. After a hard look, I decided he was not a shooter either. He walked out of the thicket on a logging road, passing by at 20 yards.

On November 6, this Missouri eight-pointer walked within 12 yards of my stand.

Forty-five minutes later, I noticed antlers moving through the brush at the scrape. This looked a lot like the buck I'd just seen there, but when he strolled out onto the logging road, I counted more points. With my bow already in hand, I quickly tried to size him up and noticed his huge swollen neck and stiff gait. His belly seemed to sag and his legs appeared too short for his body -- all telltale signs of a mature buck.

When he was at 25 yards, I decided to shoot, and when my arrow hit behind the shoulder, he exploded down a trail to his right, disappearing from my sight. In a millisecond I heard a crash in the thick tangle below.

Waiting 20 minutes for my heart to return to its home in my chest, I climbed down and walked to the trail. Immediately I spotted my blood-covered arrow and followed the obvious blood sign. The buck lay 60 yards down the trail.

I didn't realize how big he was until I lifted his head. His basic nine-point frame was heavy, with two nontypical points. He would later gross 1456⁄8 inches and net 133 inches Pope and Young.

After giving thanks and enjoying the moment, I field-dressed him and took some pictures. I managed to drag the buck 400 yards down through the bottom of the rocky draw to my truck. When I called my brother Mike to tell him the news, he scolded me for not calling him earlier to help.

On November 6, I decided to hunt a couple of days in Missouri before heading to Kansas.

That afternoon, I would hunt the southeast corner of a block of timber we call The Funnel. The deer come out of this corner and travel either south down to a fence line or east along a narrow timbered hillside where my son had shot his buck.

I usually hunt on the hillside, but after thinking about past deer movement, I decided to place my portable stand farther south in the fence line and below the hillside. Here I would see any deer that came from the timber and hopefully get a shot into one of the open soybean fields on either side of the fence.

I had just trimmed the last branch and was putting away my saw when a very good eight-point came in

from the southeast. He hit a scrape 100 yards east of me and then turned my way. He paused before jumping the fence, and when he passed by at 12 yards my arrow sliced through his vitals. He swung around my stand tree and into the timber, where I watched him fall.

Still feeling guilty about not calling my brother yesterday, I left to get Matthew and call Mike for help. Just after dark we recovered the eight-pointer just inside the woods. Two bucks in two days. Now that's pretty sweet!

The next day, Matthew and I hunted for a while. Then I packed for the drive to south-central Kansas and pulled into the feedlot on the farm where I have permission to hunt at 1 a.m. on Saturday, November 8. After four hours of sleep in the truck, I was once again off to another special tree.

A couple of years earlier I had taken a good buck from the tree I was now climbing, just 50 yards from the east bank of the Arkansas River. The area north of the stand is dotted with large cottonwoods and two dry riverbeds the deer like to travel. One passes under my stand, while the other is out of range to the east.

Just after first light, a good buck chased a doe by and the fun started. Twenty minutes later, after buck number three of the early morning passed by and out of sight, I picked up my rattling antlers.

This eight-point, my fourth buck of 2003, also marked the first time in 22 years in which I killed two Missouri bucks in the same season.

Since deer were already moving, I rattled lightly at first. When nothing showed right away, I crashed them together loudly and quickly put them back. As I was grabbing my bow, a borderline P&Y eight-point came in cautiously. Shortly, he snapped his head to the south, where another buck appeared from behind a large cedar tree and glared at the other buck. When the first buck tucked his tail to leave, the newcomer looked my way.

My jaw dropped! His rack had to be close to 24 inches wide. However, as he walked toward me I could see that a couple of points were broken off his left side and the right brow tine was missing. If not for the damage, he was easily a 150-class buck. He came within 10 yards to run off another buck that I hadn't seen before. As he walked away, I only hoped that we would cross paths another year.

As the morning progressed, I rattled in two more bucks and continued to see other deer.

Just as I was thinking, This can't go on! I saw another buck walking down the farther sandy bed. After stopping to work a scrape 80 yards away, he continued into the timber. I grabbed my grunt call and gave two short grunts. He stopped and looked my way, but then he walked on. I pulled a can-style call from my pocket and turned it over two or three times. He paused again and then turned my way.

When he was at 30 yards I saw that he was a very solid 10-pointer with decent mass, so I drew and waited for the right shot. At 12 yards, I released. The arrow deflected off a sapling and struck him too far back. I'd rushed the shot.

The buck leaped high into the air and then paused just long enough for me to nock another arrow, and as he walked into an opening at 20 yards I released a second arrow.

This one I was sure would finish the job.

When I started tracking three hours later, the trail took me down and back through cover bordering the river for nearly a mile. The buck circled and crossed his own trail four times. Twice, the trail led right up to the river and then turned back. Finally, at dark, I backed off.

Returning early the next morning, I found him right away, near the river on a sandbar, not far from where I'd last seen him. As I admired his 10-point antlers, I was flooded with the emotion of relief at recovering him.

Right then I called home to my family to share the good news. Then the farmer, his wife, and a daughter helped me retrieve the deer, which made for another great experience -- a truck, a stock trailer, and a four-wheeler loaded with my third buck in only four days of hunting. What a season!

Needing the money more than the time off, I returned to work the next week and did not bowhunt again until December 12. With fresh snow on the ground, I hurried out after work and was in the tree for less than an hour when an eight-pointer came in and gave me a seven-yard shot. He went down in less than 30 yards.

That was the first time in 22 years I had tagged two Missouri bucks in the same season.

My son likes to remind me that he accomplished the same feat in only his fourth year.

That same year, Matthew tagged an antlerless deer first, followed by the nine-point mentioned earlier. Then he arrowed a six-pointer during a deer drive in January. He also harvested an eight-point during the Missouri firearms season. He'd learned well, and he had helped me top off a remarkable year. I may never know the thrill of taking a world-class animal, but for a working stiff, I can say I have experienced at least one world-class season!

The author resides with his family in New London, Missouri.

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