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Moosie: The Hunt Where Everything Went Right

It's funny that I didn't recognize a whitetail buck of this caliber at first glance.

Moosie: The Hunt Where Everything Went Right
I’ll never forget walking up on Moosie!

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It was forecast to be another warm and windy day on our family farm in northeast Missouri. My plan was to hunt from one of my favorite ladder stands on the edge of a draw leading to a big hollow on the north end of our place.

Due to a late start, I got in my stand a little after daylight but in time to see the sunrise, which illuminated my one-acre rye food plot about 50 yards to my right. The wind was supposed to be due south, which is usually pretty good for this stand, but I quickly noticed it was coming more out of the east-southeast that morning. I was cussing under my breath as it carried my scent directly down the draw and into the big hollow. I pulled a couple milkweed seeds from my pack and released them — confirming my fears. I sat another hour, hoping the wind would get better, but it didn’t, so I climbed down and made my way back to the house.

It was November 10, 2022, only two days before rifle season, and I needed to check the scope on my rifle, so I drove over to my buddy Tim’s house. We shot the bull for a while, and then I fired a few rounds to make sure my rifle was good to go Saturday morning.

Around 2 p.m., it was 80 degrees with 15 mph winds — not my kind of hunting weather — but I did notice the wind direction had changed to south-southwest, which was even better than due south for my ladder-stand spot, so I headed back to the farm for an evening sit.

I was in my stand by 3 p.m., and the wind was good. It was hot, so I was only wearing a short-sleeved camo shirt and lightweight pants. I had my camo pullover in my pack, in case it cooled off enough that evening that I needed another layer. I wasn’t really expecting to see much that evening, so I didn’t even bother to pull my grunt call out of my pack.

cottrell-moosie-sunrise
The sunrise showed promise, but a changing wind spoiled my morning.

Fifteen minutes later, I saw movement to my left. One deer came up out of the hollow just south of the draw, then another trailed behind it. The first deer silently ambled closer, and I saw it was a buck. He looked pretty good, but he was too far away and the brush was thick I wasn’t positive at that moment.

The deer trailing 10 yards behind the buck was a doe. They were silently moving in my direction, so I slowly stood up and pulled my bow off its hanger, without taking my eyes off the deer. I looked down to clip my release to my string, and when I looked up, I could see the buck closing ground. I glanced back at the doe, just in time to see her bed down, facing right at me, 50 yards away.

The buck kept coming. He was within 40 yards of me when he, too, suddenly decided to bed down. So, now I’m standing on the small platform of my ladder stand with bow in hand with two deer facing my direction. I forgot to mention that I’d been battling a hip problem, so standing for over 30 minutes on this platform was not an option.

The wind was still good, so I patiently waited for something to happen. Finally, the buck started moving his head around to rub his forehead on some nearby brush. I think a fly or bee must have been buzzing around the buck and was keeping his attention, so I took the opportunity to sit back down ever so slowly, sliding my back against the tree. I got away with it, as neither deer busted me.

I had a feeling that I was in for a long sit due to the time of day and the heat, so I started to relax a bit. There was a lot of brush and small trees between the buck and me, so I still didn’t know how good he was, but I had a gut feeling that he was one worth shooting.

Not even 10 minutes had passed when I saw the buck start to stir. Then I noticed that the doe had got up and was now browsing on the underbrush. To my dismay, she was also slowly moving away from me.

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The buck wandered over to her vacated bed, where he then started sniffing and pawing at the oak leaves. I now had a clear, straightaway view of him, which left me with no doubt my gut feeling was right. His rack was wider than his ears — as well as his body — and his mass was very noticeable, even from that distance. I took the opportunity to slowly stand and turn to my left, to get into shooting position.

I had just about convinced myself that the doe was going to lead him away from me, when she circled back around and started heading in my direction. There was a lot of thick brush between us, so I knew my shot opportunities would be limited until the deer got to within 15 yards.

The doe kept coming, and the buck followed her. There was a cedar tree 20 yards over my left shoulder that a well-used trail led past and out to my food plot. If they took that trail, I knew I’d have a nice shooting lane just this side of the cedar.

The doe stopped just before the cedar and turned to her left, bringing her path to a 45-degree angle past the front of my stand — at close range. The buck followed suit, and I adjusted my feet accordingly. Is this actually going to happen? I wondered, as my heart thumped wildly in my chest.

I concentrated on my breathing, while telling myself to focus on the doe and not the buck’s antlers. I plotted her path and started looking for holes in the cover that I could get an arrow through, assuming he would follow the exact same path.

The doe moved through a triangular opening big enough for me to get an arrow through, where she then stopped to squat and urinate. The buck paused to watch her, and when she continued, he lowered his massive head and stealthily approached.

I drew my bow just seconds before he got to the triangular opening and then hurriedly found my pin through my peep sight. Don’t look at his rack, breathe, pick a spot, smooth release, follow through, echoed in my head.

There was too small of a shooting window, not enough time, and he was too close to stop him, so I let my arrow fly as soon as his shoulder entered my triangle window. The shot felt good, but I was unable to follow my arrow’s flight due to the close distance.

cottrell-moosie-arrow
This photo shows my arrow stuck in the ground after passing through the buck. You can also see my ladder stand in the background.

Both deer bolted for about 20 yards, at which point the buck slowed to a walk. I frantically looked for blood or signs of distress, but did not see anything. The buck then slowed further and stopped behind a large white oak. I quickly nocked another arrow, as he was only about 30 yards away, thinking he might give me another shot.

The doe had already crossed the draw below me and was headed up the steep bank on the other side of the draw. The buck then took off in her direction. At this point I noticed his tail was tucked, which gave me some hope.

As he made his way upslope, he paused to look back over his shoulder…and I saw a large stream of blood pumping out behind his shoulder. He turned back uphill, took one more step, wobbled, and then fell on his side and rolled back down the slope toward the draw.

It was hard to contain myself. My heart was racing, my body shaking, and I wanted to jump off the ladder and run across the draw to put my hands on this buck.

I checked the time and then texted my buddy, Tim, to tell him what had happened. I couldn’t see the buck’s location very well through the brush, so I found a tree to use as a landmark to recover him after giving him sufficient time to expire.

I told myself I’d wait 20 more minutes before climbing down, but the best I could do was 15. I quietly descended from my stand and then went to look for my arrow. I did not immediately see it, so I had to search for my shooting window from below and lined that up with my stand, and there it was — half-buried in the soft dirt.

I pulled my bloody arrow from the ground, and then slowly made my way over to the white oak where I had watched the buck stop. There I found a pool of blood, which gave me further relief as to the outcome of my shot.

From there, I made my way down into the draw and up the other side, where I found my buck lying dead in a thick bed of oak leaves. I took a minute to catch my breath and have that thankful moment that respectful hunters have after taking an animal. I’m sure my mouth was wide open as I looked at his heavy, wide rack, which seemed to minimize the size of his body.

cottrell-moosie-hero
Here’s a photo of Moosie and me taken just before getting him out of the woods.

When I looked at him from the front, I immediately recognized him as a buck I’d named “Moosie.” I only had one video clip of Moosie — taken by a camera I’d placed in a travel corridor on the south end of our farm back in early October.

When I field-dressed him, I found that one of my broadhead’s three blades had sliced the buck’s heart down the side about three inches in length. I have never seen or put my hands on a buck with such mass from the bases all the way through his main beams and his points. One base measured 6 1/8 inches, the other 5¾, and the spread was over 20 inches. He was a heavy eight-point with two kickers.

Fortunately, Tim called me back and offered to come help me get the buck out of the woods. I’m not sure how I would have got him out otherwise — with my bad hip and all.

Tim and I hung Moosie in a machine shed, just a little after dark. The weather decided to switch back to winter that night, and the temperature dropped to the lower 40s. It stayed below 45 for the next seven days, allowing me to let the buck hang in a machine shed to age a bit.

This was one of those rare hunts where everything that could have gone wrong went right. And it’s one that I won’t soon forget.

The author lives in St. Louis, Missouri, with his wife, Angie. He is a retired IT infrastructure engineer who enjoys the outdoors, RV travel, hunting, and fishing.

Author’s Note

My equipment on this hunt included a Bear Mauler bow, Easton Axis arrows, 100-grain Muzzy fixed-blade broadheads, TruFire release, Primos grunt call (not used on this adventure), and a Polaris Ranger XP UTV.




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