Categorized | Opinion

Great Opening Weekend Deer Hunting

By Josh Gowanoutdoor pic 11-27

What an awesome opener to Missouri’s rifle season! The polar vortex and subsequent snowfall had the deer on their feet and running wide open in much of the state.
Our friends in Tennessee are enjoying the same conditions, and freezers across the heartland are being stocked with delicious, nutritious venison, mine included!
My hunt was as much fun as I’ve had in the woods in a long time. Completely the opposite of last year’s opening weekend when record high temps and strong winds kept the deer tightly bedded down, a massive cold front descended on the northern part of the state in the middle of last week, and the rituals of the rut began. By Thursday evening the deer were running all over the place, and with more cold weather forecasted ahead it looked like the weekend would be perfect.
We decided to hunt our Lewis County farm in Northeast Missouri, which is my favorite farm to hunt as it has produced my two biggest deer to date.
It was just breaking daylight Saturday morning and the silence in the woods was broken by leaves crunching under heavy steps. As I eased around to face the direction of the disturbance, I heard another prominent indicator of incoming deer, a grunt! The doe came bounding by me in no particular direction, just playing hard to get I suppose, and the buck was not far behind, bellowing out his guttural proposal with every step.
The young 8-point was not what I was looking for, but the encounter alone was amazing. I’ve seen bucks chasing does, and I’ve heard grunts in the woods, but watching “the rut” in its final stage at close proximity was wild. The doe was sashaying if you will, flicking her tail like a lounge singer’s boa, stopping and starting in her aimless zig-zag through the woods, putting on to appear uninterested in her zealous beau, but frequently checking over her shoulder to make sure he was still there. There was no need to worry about such things, as the young buck was hot on her tail and like most males in the animal kingdom (and beyond…), would stop at nothing to “seal the deal”. His neck was swollen and his hair stood on end, giving the impression of larger size and supposed interspecies dominance, and if he could have manipulated his rack in the same manner he would have, and it would have been him filling my freezer!
As they disappeared out of sight, I took a few minutes to reflect on what I just witnessed, but was interrupted mid-reflection by another “crunch, crunch” of the leaves, followed by more guttural propositions!
I can’t really say how many deer I saw Saturday, but I’d estimate it around 35. It sounded like a warzone with shots echoing through the woods all morning, and I couldn’t help but to smile thinking about my “outdoor columnist counterpart” from KC and his well-documented conclusion that all the deer in Missouri were gone!
The snow began up there Saturday afternoon, and after a near-death experience on the icy roads driving to the farm, we found ourselves in a picturesque, snow-laden landscape that countless paintings have tried to emulate, but that only the brush of God himself could create, and no less on a Sunday morning.
Once again the deer were on the move, and the first one I saw was followed by eight more and a few bucks!
They spent the better half of the morning running circles around me, down to the creek bottom, up the hillside, through the thicket and back. Knowing I’d have to leave by lunch on Sunday, I did as many do when time is fleeting, I lowered my standards! There has been 3 years since 2005 that I didn’t bring home a deer, (I know that because of the new “MO Hunting” app that lets you buy your license on your phone and shows you your telecheck history) and this would have been another, but while I looked through the scope at that same 8-point from opening morning that I let pass, I thought about my son who’s not killed a deer and asked me every night on the phone if I’d killed one, and of my loving wife whose last words before I left were “BRING ME SOME TENDERLOIN!!”, and I squeezed the trigger!
If you’ve been keeping up with my column and irritation over the allegations that our deer heard was drastically decreasing, we harvested 91,000+ deer over the weekend, 30,000 more than last year and 20,000 more than the year before when we set a new total harvest record! It all boils down to one thing, WEATHER!
Josh M. Gowan, Outdoors Writer, Crappie Angler Magazine,
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November 2014
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