I firmly believe that to really enjoy life it’s wise to plan activities you love to do for the upcoming year. The anticipation of a vacation, visit or hunting trip fills one with excitement and vindicates the often exhausting everyday efforts in life.
It’s no surprise to my readers, I suppose, that planning yearly hunting and fishing trips adds spice to life and lifts my spirits. In fact, hunting and fishing have always blessed my life throughout the calendar year. But November’s rut is perhaps the most anticipated of all my activities, for then I head to Missouri for the Whitetail Trophy Hunt.
However, preparing for such hunts can be labor intensive.
In the old days you simply dressed in your Woolrich, grabbed your rifle and hit the woods. Nowadays we have scent-blocking clothing, odor-destroying sprays, body wash and even scent-free deodorant. The most time-consuming chore involves washing all this paraphernalia in odor-eliminating detergents and drying them with a scent-destroying dryer sheet. Of course, once this 20-pound pile of clothing is washed you must keep it scent-free and stored in an airproof container. What a huge pain! With all the logistics involved a man might become so distracted he forgets his rifle and ammunition. It’s happened!
But time flies and chores accomplished the night of our departure soon arrived. Jim Zirkle, Terry Claypool, Randy Shrader and I met on a Wednesday evening at the Derrick City Diner for dinner. Meal finished, the truck packed, we were on our way a little after 7 p.m. We met Al Lingenfelter at Clarion and headed west — we were on our way at last.
It’s a 15- to 16-hour drive to Lake of the Ozarks, but traveling at night eliminated any possible traffic problems in Columbus, Indianapolis or Springfield, Ill. We switched drivers as we went, arriving at our destination safely at noon Thursday.
We now had Thursday afternoon and Friday to rest up. As I grow older this seems to be more and more necessary.
Saturday morning, the first day of the hunt, I ate a big buffet breakfast at 3 a.m. then grabbed my box lunch. Back to my room to shower and change.
At 4:15 a.m. 10 other hunters and I crammed ourselves, our packs and rifles into a van and set off into the predawn blackness. The van was designed for skinny teenagers, not hefty adults with heavy clothing and large packs. We were squished in like sardines.
After a 20-minute ride the hunters were dropped off at the various trails leading to their stands. I was the seventh out. The guide told me to cross the fence and follow the reflective markers for 400 yards to the stand.
I immediately donned shirt and jacket; it was 27 degrees and bitter cold. The trail was easy to follow, but when I arrived at the stand my jacket was missing. Back I went, almost to the dropoff point before I found where it’d slipped off the pack. Good grief.
Hurrying back I climbed up into the stand, arranged my gear and stood quietly, cooling off. After just a few minutes I heard footsteps in the leaves. It was just light enough to see 25 or 30 yards. Staring in the sound’s direction I was amazed to see a doe feeding on acorns. She must have thought my footsteps were those of another deer and came to investigate. Incredible!
The light increased and with the aid of my binoculars I picked out another doe to my left. She looked back several times and my optimism increased. A heavy acorn crop was attracting does to the stand. Cruising, rutting bucks should be checking this area out for sure.
It was now shooting light. Suddenly I caught motion to my left. A heavy-bodied deer filtered quietly through the cedar and oak. A buck? I grabbed my rifle, swung to my left, ready to fire. Then, from behind a fallen tree, a deer appeared, high antlers clearly visible above its head, a shooter without question. The buck stopped, his neck and shoulders hidden by trees, but through the scope I saw the back line of the shoulder blade. Quickly aiming the .06 I discovered I hadn’t flipped the top half of my wool mittens back. Oh, no!
Wool is a wonderful fabric; it’s very flexible, unlike stiff synthetics, and to my relief I was able to easily feel the trigger guard and then, cautiously, the trigger through the glove. I aimed carefully, increased the trigger pressure and wham! The rifle’s sharp blast split the morning air.
Instantly, the buck ran, disappearing over the edge of the ridge. From the time I saw the buck until I fired was barely 5 or 6 seconds. Things happen fast.
I was shaking now and waited a bit to calm myself. Down out of the stand, over to the edge and there lay a beautiful buck, a big 9-point with tall, curving tines.
Kneeling, I thanked the giver of all good gifts. I was overflowing with happiness and excitement, deeply thankful for the success I’d enjoyed. At the end of the three-day hunt my buck scored in the top 20, winning me a free hunt next year.
Now, it just doesn’t get any better than that, does it?
(Wade Robertson is an award-winning outdoor writer whose articles have been published in Pennsylvania Outdoor News, Pennsylvania Game News, Fur, Fish & Game and other publications. His email is email@example.com.)