At one time, I belonged to a 1700-acre lease in northern Missouri. I had hunted that property for 12 years, but I had to hunt it for seven years to really understand what the bucks were doing, and when and where was the best time to hunt it.
I’d gone to my favorite spot late in the afternoon for an evening hunt. The sun was about to set. There was a CRP field behind me. I was hunting lower in the tree than I normally would hunt. There was no wind that afternoon, and you could have heard a pin drop. Generally, I like to hunt about 20 feet off the ground. Then, if the wind is whirling, my scent will be above the deer. But because there was no wind, and the woods were almost dead silent, I decided to hunt lower than I usually would.
I looked over my shoulder. As the sun was starting to set, that field turned golden. The sun made it appear to be on fire. While I was admiring the beauty of the terrain, I spotted the biggest buck I’d ever seen in my life at that time, about 200 yards away. Immediately, I pulled out my grunt call. When I grunted, the buck stopped and looked straight at me. However, I was in my Mossy Oak camouflage, and he couldn’t see me in the tree. When he looked away, I lightly grunted again. The second time I grunted to that buck, he took off running straight to me. I started thinking to myself, “Oh, my gosh, I don’t have my bow in my hand. I'm not sure I can pick up my bow, nock an arrow and get ready to shoot before that buck runs past me.”
As the buck kept coming, he had to cross a ditch about 20 yards from me. When he got to that ditch, he stopped and went to war with every tree and bush around him. He was pawing the ground, leaves were coming up, and he was breaking branches. He was totally mad at the world. He was ripping up everything in sight. Finally, he stopped, but I wasn’t sure why he stopped. He just stopped. He looked in my direction again but not right at me. So, I grunted as softly as I could, and he started running toward my tree. He went to the right side of my tree and looked. When he didn’t see the deer he had heard, he went around the right side of my tree. He was only 20 steps away from the tree where I was. I had to pull my bow from the right side of the tree to the left side and try not to make any noise. When I got my bow to the left side of the tree, the buck was still moving, looking for the deer he had heard.
So, I made a noise and stopped him, but I had a new problem I hadn’t anticipated. I was so shook-up and nervous that I couldn’t make my pin sight stop still on the spot I wanted to hit. I was shaking like a leaf and thinking, “Oh, my gosh, this deer is so close, and he's so big. I've got to settle that pin down.”
The first time I saw that pin pass by the point of his shoulder, I punched the trigger. Now, I know you're not supposed to punch the trigger. You need a slow steady squeeze, so you don’t know when the bow is going to fire. However, if you’ve ever had a big buck standing in front of you at a very close range, all the stuff you're supposed to know and do are hard to remember.
Once my broadhead entered the buck’s front shoulders, I think it cut some tendons. He went down in his front end. Since he couldn’t run with his front legs, he pushed himself forward with his back legs. I had enough presence of mind to grab and nock a second arrow. When he had gone about 60 yards, he stood up, and I released the second arrow. He went down for the second time. Next I saw him lift his head, his horns came up, and then he laid his head down. I knew I had him.
When I picked up my gear, I was still shaking and was so upset that I dropped two or three things out of the tree where I was. I realized I was in trouble, so I hugged the tree. I wasn’t going to turn loose of the tree, until I felt like I could come down out of my ladder stand without falling.
That buck scored 165-1/2 inches, had 14-1/2-inch G2s that had been broken off from fighting and was 23 inches inside his main beams. This hunt was when Missouri went on my list of states to bowhunt every year.