Categorized | Opinion

Youth Deer Season

By Josh Gowan

Sara Scott, 8, poses with a 3-point buck killed during Missouri's Youth Deer Season.

Sara Scott, 8, poses with a 3-point buck killed during Missouri’s Youth Deer Season.

Youth season, man and child, father and son, veteran and rookie, wisdom and, well, you get the point. I spent what has become my favorite weekend of the year in the vast beauty that is Mark Twain National Forrest in the Ozarks of Missouri, with my favorite hunting partner, my 8 year old son Jameson.
We were joined by our Ozarks guide and resident “PaPa” Perry Jackson, with help from his longtime friend, Mike Hill. I initially wanted my son to have the same wonderful experiences I remember, having to “rough it” in a camp in the woods, no electricity, running water, or proper facilities, but that would mean I would have to put myself through the same “wonderful experience”, so as is the case with fathers and sons, he got it a lot easier than I did!
Since we were hunting within a few miles of Current River in Van Buren, Missouri, the only logical lodging for three rugged hunters was The Landing, a gorgeous resort that towers over that pristine, crystal clear river that cuts through the hills of the Ozarks. I’ve been there many times in the summer while floating the river, but it’s a completely different atmosphere in the fall. We had the gravel beach mostly to ourselves, outside of a wedding party making use of the postcard-worthy scenery and the River Centre, and we kept a fire roaring at night under a November moon. The “off-season” rates were significantly lower than during their busy months, the rooms were immaculate, and walking out the door on a balcony overlooking the river was worth every penny! The Landing offers the nicest lodging in the area, floating trips, houses The Blue Heron restaurant (the finest of fine dining along the river) with chef Bobby King at the helm, and has an incredible multi-purpose event center in The River Centre that you really have to see to believe. For a look at the layout go to or give them a call at 573-323-8156, you won’t be disappointed!
We call this area “the hills”, but for a web-footed flatlander like myself, it might as well be the Andes. The hills don’t so much roll as they careen. You know you’re on a steep hillside when you attach your safety harness to a tree root and pull your rifle 20 foot up the drop-rope to your ground blind!
I “shhh’d” more this weekend than a librarian rocking a baby to sleep during a middle school recess. My son’s stealth walking through the woods was unparalleled. Rather than a straight line, he followed behind me in ten foot zig-zags, kicking rocks, throwing sticks, mowing over any saplings he felt confident he could overpower, and occasionally tripping over logs and tumbling past me, making use of his multiple layers of clothing for cushion. It sounded as if I was pulling a rickety, wooden trailer loaded with trashbags of empty cans and marbles.
With all the preparation, discussions, and target practice, not to mention the monumental Q & A’s that are associated with most all 8 year olds, there are some things that are just impossible to plan for. We weren’t in the stand long Saturday morning and a spike buck appeared in the distance, heading directly for us. I managed to get him up and ready with his gun on the rest in plenty of time, and the young deer came directly to the bottom of our stand and stopped broadside. I was looking at the deer and whispering in his ear, “shoot, shoot!” He laughed. I looked at him and he said “the deer’s pooping”… The deer subsequently ran off.
We never got an opportunity quite like that again, but had plenty of action and have more trips planned this year. The best part of the weekend was being able to introduce my son to many of the marvels of the outdoors, like hearing a pack of coyotes while deep in the woods after dark, and he in turn taught me a few things, like how fast a short, but very determined set of legs can make a mile hike up a ridge back to the truck after hearing a pack of coyotes deep in the woods after dark!
Regardless of our lack of luck and the mistakes we made, we remain upbeat in our plight and have more trips planned this year, and as disappointed as I am that I couldn’t make it happen for my little buddy, he’s fairly indifferent and optimistic about our chances. I wouldn’t trade time in the outdoors with him for anything in the world, regardless of the harvest.
Josh M. Gowan, Outdoors Writer, Crappie Angler Magazine,

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November 2013
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