I was fortunate enough to hunt NE Missouri from November 7th - 13th. The 7th - 11th being archery and Missouri Firearm Opener on the 12th. This was an excellent hunt although I did not see the rutting action that I had hoped for when I originally planned the dates for this trip. I had encounters with 17 bucks during my time there, 8 of which were in my estimation 130" or better. Most the encounters involved these bucks moving through the timber at a laid-back pace, and totally unresponsive to calling and paying no mind to does that were in the area. The weather was unseasonably warm for the first few days with highs in the upper 60's and lows in the 50's. Towards the end of the week, a cold front moved through and dropped the overnight temperatures into the 30's which resulted in much better daytime movement.
The morning of the Firearm Opener I finally saw some hard chasing and other vocalizations from bucks that I had been hoping for. I was set up in the timber hoping to catch bucks cruising the multiple draws and ridges looking for does.
The evening of the 12th I set up over a 7-8-acre food plot of winter wheat and brassica that was on the edge of a large piece of timber. The food plot was surrounded on all sides by ridges and timber. I was on the North end of the plot in an elevated pop up blind with a SW wind in my face. My hope was that at any time the rutting activity had to break open and thought this food source would be just what I needed to get a concentration of does in front of me to lure in a love-struck buck.
This was my view overlooking the food plot. The longest visible point straight out is just over 500 yards, the food plot continues a few hundred yards further South and East out of sight.
As the evening progressed on the does began to materialize into the field. Just as I hoped they brought a couple bucks in tow that were aggressively pursuing these does around the field. As the night went on I was enjoying the show as a young 6-pt. tried his hardest to find love. Before long a nice looking 8-pt. showed up to look over his potential mates. After seeing the younger 6 pt. a showdown ensued with ears pinned bag and the stiff leg shuffle by both bucks. Soon the attention of the entire field was on these two bucks as they fought. It was, of course, no contest as the 8-pt. flexed his muscle and ran the young 6pt out of the plot. It seemed this victory seemed to fuel the desire of the 8pt as he now pushed the does even harder around the field.
Here are a couple pictures of the 8pt after his victory.
Shortly thereafter, the attention of the does turn back to the timber to the west. I waited patiently to see what was coming next. Could it be the Missouri giant I had been waiting for?
What seemed like minutes had gone by when a deer from behind the point you can see above behind the 8-pt. No second guessing was required to recognize not only the larger antler size but the body size of the buck that was entering the field. There was no comparison to any other deer in the field as he was much larger and darker bodied. As he emerged from behind that point he stopped, bristled up his fur almost like he was flexing his muscles and let out a long loud growl announcing his presence. It did not take long for this buck who clearly had an aggressive attitude to pick out the 8-pt. who was now on the other side of the field. Unfortunately for the 8-pt. I think he may have been somewhat overconfident in himself after beating up on the 6-pt. a short time prior.
The two bucks put on a show that I will never forget. They clashed three separate times, with the last being the most intense fight I have ever experience in the deer woods. The final blow resulted in the 8pt on his back, pinned against the ground with the larger buck’s antlers driving into his rib cage. The 8-pt. could finally escape and exit stage left. The larger buck again bristled his fur and let out a great roar as to flex his muscles and yell at the top of his lungs reminded everyone he was the ruler of this field.
As you can imagine the events that just unfolded in front of me had me on an adrenaline high as great as I had ever experienced in the deer hunting woods purely based on the excitement of the battle, and I hadn't yet even decided if this buck was indeed the trophy I wanted to take. As I put the scope on him to investigate I could taste the adrenaline in my mouth continuing to flow through my veins. I made short work of deciding that this deer would make my family and me more than happy as it would be my largest to date.
Now the buck was standing very near to where the 8-pt. is pictured above. The rangefinder read 225 yards; I settled into the scope, flipped the safety forward, exhaled a deep breath and squeezed the trigger. I could watch the bullet hit the buck through the scope 3/4 the way up his front shoulder. He dropped right where the bullet hit him, took 3 last breaths through the hole that now occupied his chest and never moved an inch. As the echo of the rifle faded in the background the now alert deer settled and went back to feeding in the field.
It was a wonderful few moments as I sat back and took in the events that had just unfolded; making it even more special I could harvest this magnificent trophy with a gun that was just recently left to me by my great uncle who had passed. I couldn't help but feel him smiling down over that field. It was certainly a very special moment for me.
Here is the buck, an 11 point, my best buck thus far.