All right, What a way to start the new year. The doe had just run off with my arrow buried to the feathers behind her right shoulder. She was one of ten that had came out a few minutes ago. I would have waited to see if there was a buck or at least a bigger doe but the button buck that was in the lead had crossed my scent stream. When he started getting nervous I new my chances were dwindling, so I settled for a five yard shot at deer number two.
This was my second trip to southeast Missouri to hunt with my good friend Tommy Masterson. I had purchased a hunt to southern Illinois with Tommy at The United Bowhunters of Missouriís annual banquet in February of 1998. Tommy had donated his services for a three day tag along hunt, to be auctioned to the highest bidder. After seeing the trophy display Tommy brought with him of bucks he had taken over the years I decided this could be my chance to find a big whitetail.
I had determined long ago that if you were going to kill a big buck you had to go where the big bucks were. It stands to reason that southern Illinois would qualify since firearms are restricted to shotguns, unlike in Missouri where few mature bucks survive the onslaught of hunters in our gun season. This proved to be true with the nice deer we saw in the five days I hunted there with Tommy.
Tommy and I hit it off from the start and I feel Iíve made a good friend Iíd share a campfire with anytime and I hope he feels the same way about me. I started trying to wean him off the wheels he carried on his bow, and he was digging old recurves and longbows out of the closet before I headed home from my first trip.
The first trip was in the middle of November, the weather was very warm, and we didnít manage to kill anything, but like I said we chased some nice bucks and I got introduced to some exciting new territory. I definitely intend to pester Tommy till he takes me back next year.
My second trip to Tommyís the weather was a whole different story. I had been planning the trip for the last weekend of the season and wasnít going to miss out if there was any way to avoid it. The weather man made me very nervous when he started talking about the ice storm that was coming. I was planning to leave after work, Thursday evening, but with the forecast I talked my boss into letting me go early. It was just starting to spit a little freezing rain when I left and I stayed on the leading edge of it all the way to Sikeston. I had to stop several times to clean the ice buildup off the windshield. Each time the road would be a little slicker. After a five and a half hour, white knuckled drive that should have taken four hours I finally made it to Tommyís house.
We discussed our plan of attack for the next day and decided that with the ice covering everything we should stay in Missouri and chase the does that were overrunning a friend of Tommyís farm. The next morning proved our plan was the only sensible thing to do. Everything was covered with a thick layer of ice. We took our time getting around and drove very carefully to a nearby restaurant for breakfast. After having to practically crawl across the parking lot to the door it became obvious we werenít going to the woods till afternoon at the earliest.
After lunch the roads finally started breaking up a little so we headed for the woods to look around. After scouting around for a while, and seeing several deer and turkeys, we headed to the stands thru an icy drizzle. Tommy took me to a stand where he had killed a doe, (with his old Bear recurve), the week before. This spot looked great the only problem was I had forgotten my tree steps, and most of the trees, this one included, were straight and smooth with very few limbs. Tommy didnít think this was any problem, heíd just loan me his extra set of climbing hooks like he used all the time.
Ok, here I was strapping on a set of hooks which I hadnít worn in fifteen years, getting ready to climb a big hackberry tree that by the way was still covered with ice like everything around us. I looked around for soft places to land just in case this little experiment didnít work out. I could tell this was a great place, at least three trails converged within twenty yards of the tree, but I wasnít sure if it was worth chancing broken bones for a shot. With Tommy standing watching it boiled down to a macho thing, I had to climb that tree or crash trying.
Going up turned out to be a piece of cake, but as I would find out later coming down was a different ballgame. Tommy wasnít planning to sit, and headed off to check out some areas he hadnít scouted before. Heís primarily a stand hunter and with the crunchy conditions wasnít expecting to see anything. I had assured him he could still hunt effectively on the crunchy ice especially with the wind making plenty of normal noise. Just the weekend before I had stalked within twenty yards, (then missed), of a doe in unbelievably crunchy snow conditions. With the woods making so much natural noise the deer didnít seem to associate the slow crunching foot steps with danger.
I looked around at the crystal wonderland surrounding me and wondered if anything would be moving besides Tommy. I sat for a couple hours watching and listening as tree limbs crashed to the ground around me. Every few minutes I would have to scrape ice off my bow and arrow. With the icy fog/drizzle combination it was on the verge of getting dangerous just being in the woods, every twig and limb was three or four times itís normal size from the ice build up. The combination of weight and gusting wind kept a steady stream of ice and limbs falling. With only a couple days left in the season I was determined to stay till the last minute of shooting light, crashing trees or not.
Thirty minutes before dark I heard the crunching steps of the herd of deer mentioned at the beginning of this story. They came from behind me heading for the winter wheat a hundred yards through the timber ahead of me. At least ten head were strung out in single file behind me cautiously working their way along the trail that would take them almost under my tree. The big bodied button buck in the lead was far too bold for his own good, but if he survived another year or two that would change considerably. I expected him to bolt when he got downwind, but he just stopped and looked around when he hit my scent stream. The whole line stopped, so I took the best shot I had, which turned out to be the unlucky yearling doe nearest me.
I was confident of a good hit so after fifteen minutes I decided to climb down and look for blood. I lowered my stuff to the ground and made a couple of false starts then decided going down with hooks was a whole different story than going up. With the size of the tree and all the ice I couldnít get a grip with my hands. I finally decided the only way to get down was to step over to a smaller tree four feet away and slide down it to the ground. This tree was leaning slightly and when I stepped over to it I couldnít hold tight enough and immediately slid to the lower side and twenty feet down very quickly. Theyíre right when they say the sudden stop at the bottom is what hurts.
After determining everything still worked and gathering my gear I started looking for blood. I began to get worried when I couldnít find anything. It was the half light of dusk, the time when you canít see very well with a light or without one, and the glistening ice sure didnít help. I followed for a while by tracking the crunched ice trail left by the herd, but couldnít find anything indicating my deer had been with them. I finally gave up and went to meet Tommy. He was on cloud nine when I came out of the woods, he had seen several deer and put the sneak on a group of four does.
He had stalked and killed the biggest one of the bunch. It had been years since he had hunted from the ground, and he was as excited as if he had killed a big buck. I expect Tommy will be doing more ground hunting in the future. We were both pretty pumped by our double, I knew my deer was laying out there it was just a matter of finding her. We went back to my tree but had both forgotten our big lights and my small pack light was about to play out. With the combination of glistening ice and dull flashlights we gave up and decided to try again the next morning. I was really hoping the ice would keep the coyotes holed up for the night.
We retrieved Tommyís deer and headed back to town. It was a long restless night and I was up early the next morning anxious to get after my deer. I found the fletched end of my arrow thirty yards from the tree but there was a light dusting of snow on the ground eliminating any chance of finding the blood trail. We trailed along the path the main herd had taken but found nothing. Tommy finally suggested we check the direction his deer from the week before had gone, which was almost the opposite way I thought mine would be.
A hundred and fifty yards from the tree Tommy saw the white belly shining, we went up to her expecting to find nothing but hair and hide left but she hadnít been touched. What a relief, the shot was just where I thought and it had been a quick, clean kill, but the arrow had buried into the far fore leg explaining the poor blood trail.
We hunted hard the rest of the weekend including a trip to southern Illinois the last evening and saw literally hundreds of deer between us. We had some close calls and probably should have killed a couple more deer but it wasnít to be. Even though I didnít kill a big buck I had a great time hunting with Tommy and canít wait till next year. The trip turned out to be worth every penny, if you can even put a dollar value to something as priceless as making good friends and spending time in the woods. I want to thank The United Bowhunters of Missouri, since becoming involved with them Iíve met many great people and had experiences Iím sure I would have missed out on without them. I especially want to thank Tommy for donating the hunt and showing me such a great time.
Posts: 24772 | From: GA | Registered: Mar 2003
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