I was talking to my hunting buddy Eric Henderson a few weeks ago, and he told me he was going to hunt deer in Missouri again. Heâ€™d hunted the year before on a farm property owned by airgunner and big bore airgun builder Brian Cook, and having no shame I asked if he could hook me up. A couple of days later I got a call back saying â €œcome on downâ€�. We scheduled to meet at the Cook familyâ€™s property on November 15th, the second day of the MO rifle season and the day after Ericâ€™s airgun event LASSO 2009. I had business that unfortunately kept me away from LASSO, but could get away to meet the guys in West Missouri, me driving from Indianapolis and they from Dallas.
Without going into the minutiae of the trip, I got on the road early and they got going late which resulted in my arrival at Brianâ€™s parents several hours before they did. Now mind you, I had never met Brian in person (we missed each other on a hunt in Texas when I had to pull out last minute) so I certainly had never met his family. But when I arrived I was warmly greeted by his parents Barbara and Dwayne, his wife, and son Nathan. They had made a room ready for me in their comfortable home, and after getting to know these good folks I settled in and arranged my gear. I was talking to Eric and Brian by cell phone as they drove, and when it looked like they were still hours away I decided to catch up on my sleep. I had originally planned to spend a few days, but had a business obligation pop up that required me to fly out of Indianapolis a couple days later, so Iâ€™d only get one full day to hunt. I needed to make sure of a proper nights rest as I planned to start well before day break. Some time before midnight I heard Eric arrive and being greeted and walked down to say hello. Weâ€™ve been hunting together for several years now, but hadnâ€™t seen each other since a deer hunt in Michigan the year before, so we spent a bit of time catching up. Brian had driven to Texas for LASSO with a friend, and had to drop him off and was a couple hours behind, so I said goodnight and tromped back to bed.
The next morning a little after 6:00 I met Dwayne downstairs and after grabbing my pack, rifle, and blind we headed off to a spot Brian had scouted for me to hunt. In the dark we hiked down the hill, across a small bridge and through the woods before reaching a bigger stream. We rock hopped across, and in the dark I just knew I was going to hit a wet slippery rock and take an early morning bath, but made it across without incident. The morning was pretty cold and a light rain was falling, but after walking a bit further we pushed a buck then a bit further still kicked up another deer but couldnâ€™t see what it was. Finally we reached the spot where I was to set up, and Dwayne walked out leaving me to set up. It was starting to snow and getting colder by the minute.
The spot they selected for me was along an old fence line bordered by a small cliff to my right that dropped 60-70 feet down to the creek below, and allowed me to scan the hillsides and creek bottom for quite some distance. Right ahead there was an open field sloping up to a tree covered hillside about 120 yards, with a view to a funnel leading to bean fields to left, with a few trees dotted here and there. I set my portable ground blind under a tree right next to the fence which allowed me to watch the approach from every direction but behind me.
I was using a one man blind of the type that has a folding camp chair with a pop up cover that encloses the chair. There was a large zip up shooting window in front and a couple of mesh covered windows on the sides. The blind was set up to face towards the open field with the creek bottom to my left. Getting comfortable, I spent the first hour glassing without seeing anything though I heard turkeys off in the distance. I thought I saw something move down in the creek bottom and was intently scanning the area when a branch cracked to my left. I turned quickly (as the blind covered my movement) and saw a massive buck not more than 40 yards in front and slightly to my left. I had my rifle lying on my lap pointed to the right, and was still holding my binoculars. Letting them slowly to the ground I had to push the barrel through the window to give me room to turn and cock it, by which time the buck had moved further to my left. Now with the gun ready to go the deer had moved too far to my left and I could not get any further than his gut before the window blocked me from moving the crosshairs on target. I unzipped the front window so I could lean further out to try for a shot, but he had continued to move slowly to the left. I may sound calm and collected as I relate this story, but my heart was pounding so hard I thought I was going to stroke! Sitting back down I reached into the pack resting at my feet and pulled out my knife, slowly cutting a gash through the mesh window on the left side so I could slip the gun out for a shot. By the time I was in a position to shoot, all I could see was a haunch as the buck stepped behind a tree and was gone! I just sat there shaking and shaking my head, this bruiser was one of the biggest deer Iâ€™d ever been in shooting range of, and I didnâ€™t have a chance to pull the trigger.
A little dejected, a little excited, I sat there for a few more minutes before another buck came drifting into view. He was respectable but only a 6 pointer, and the rules in MO this year mandated that there had to be one side with four or more points. I have to say that I donâ €™t fully agree with this philosophy as it allows an immature 8 pointer with a lot of potential to be taken before it can add to the gene pool, but a mature 6 point that is not improving the herd and should be removed has to be passed. Admittedly I am not a wildlife biologist and defer to their expertise, but it is not intuitive for me, however the law is the law so I let him walk. As I pondered this management policy, I watched a couple of beautiful gobblers walk by.
The gun I had selected for the hunt was the Shinsung Big Bore 909s, a 45 caliber pcp air rifle that had been tuned by Long Island Bob to generate about 325 fpe. I have taken a couple bucks and a few does with the double air reservoir version of this gun over the last few years, but this was my first big game hunt with the single reservoir version. I like the handling, looks, and performance of this gun a lot better; these production Korean guns are a very good value for money, and there are more tuners out there working on them for shooters desiring to hotrod their guns. I had a Hawke 3-9 x40mm scope mounted on top, and had opted to use Hornaday roundball ammunition as this was the same combo that would be used in muzzle loading season (with appropriate modification to convert the rifle). At the range the week before the hunt Iâ€™d sighted in the gun so that it was consistently printing clover leafs at 40 yards
An opportunity came up to hunt west Missouri on the Cook family’s farms. Getting to hunt with people that know their land and know the game ups the fun and ups the succces.
After an hour of waiting a doe walked up from the creek bed and started feeding 50 yards in front of me, then another â€¦â€¦ and then another. One of them stood broadside offering a shot at 45 yards, and I took it. Nothing! The deer jumped then settled right back in to feeding mode. I lined up again and shot â€¦. again nothing! I sat there for ten minutes until they wandered away, just shaking my head. I packed up and hiked back to the house for some lunch and a quick range session with my gun. Shooting off a rest the gun was still printing clover leafs, but a foot and a half to the right. The gun must have taken a hard hit somewhere along the way, shame on me for using a soft case and shame for not checking my gun on arrival. So I quickly re-zeroed the gun and went to refill before going back to the blind, only to have the probe leak when the pressure reached 1000 psi. Checked the o rings on the probe, the filling port for dirt or damage, tried another probe, but each time it leaked. As this was my last chance to hunt before departing the following morning I decided to borrow a gun from Eric, who true to form had a selection of guns with him. I took his tuned 909 with some 200 grain cast lead bullets made by Sethâ€�blackhogdownâ€�, that Eric said were dead accurate with this gun. Heâ€™d sighted in so that it was dead on at 25 and 50 yards. Packed up and ready to go, I hiked back out to my little patch of whitetail heaven
The Missouri laws allow the use of airguns for deer hunting. Guns must be at least .40 caliber and must be filled from an external airsource. Ken Cox lead the effort to change the laws, and those in the MO books are the best!
Iâ€™d been in the blind for about a half hour when a doe came marching down the hillside and stopped about 35 yards to browse. A second deer walked in behind and I saw a flash of antler, but he was behind the doe and I could get a good look. Then the doe drifted away and I brought the gun to shoulder and lined up the scope â€¦â€¦ crap, only three points to a side! The doe had moved out to my left and was reaching up to nibble from a small tree at about 60 yards, and I sat with the gun poking through the recently vented mesh window and the crosshairs resting right where I imagined the heart. I was having a mental debate whether to take the shot or not, then reasoned I wanted something for the freezer. I squeezed off the shot and the doe flinched, walked 10 yards and dropped down dead.
Since I had two hours of shooting light left, I sat the blind rather than walking up on the downed deer. Sitting out the rest of the day I saw more bucks (no shooters) and a couple more does. One doe actually almost stepped over her fallen sister, they walked by and I could have taken the shot Got up early to see but decided since there was one for the freezer already Iâ€™d hold out for a last chance for a buck. But it didnâ€™t come. Not to worry though, I was more than happy with the results and couldnâ€™t have wanted or expected more out of a one day hunt! I dragged the doe to the road and tagged her, then hiked back to the house where I met up with Eric, Brian, and Dwayne. We went back and collected the doe; field dressed and hung her, then went in for a great dinner of goulash that Barbara had laid out for us.
The next morning I got up early to see Brian and Eric off as they got a pre daylight start to their blind, loaded up my deer, and said goodbye to Barbara and Dwayne. Driving home I called in my deer, you can check a deer over the phone in MO which was very convenient. It took me about 9 hours to drive home, I dropped off my deer, returned my rented SUV, and visited my family for a couple hours. The next morning I was at the airport well before daybreak, leaving for a conference being held in South Carolina. Iâ€™d driven 18 hours to hunt one day, but getting to see Eric again, finally meeting Brian in person, and the unexpected pleasure of meeting this really nice family made it all worthwhile. And oh yea; seeing all those deer, having a monster buck walking right by me, and getting in a perfect shot with a rifle /bullet combination wasnâ€™t bad either.