No one was more familiar with the surroundings than I. For a decade, I sat in the deer house, an elevated box blind, on hundreds of hunts. But this time, it felt strange because my wife and I no longer owned the property that was so near and dear to our hearts.

It was the middle of October, and my crossbow was loaded for action. Following a week of hot weather, the temperature dipped to a nippy 54 degrees for an evening hunt, which was conducive to getting deer moving during daylight hours. Before the archery season started, I decided to hunt from the deer house on days that I felt deer would be active. We had relocated to Baxter Springs, Kansas, and hunting on the property that used to be a short walk behind the house was no longer an option.

After opening the windows and being seated for a few minutes, I used a laser rangefinder to mentally mark several shot possibilities in yards. My movement spooked a small flock of turkeys. Ten yards to the east in the open pasture, the birds — all hens — ran into the woods and started to feed. Although legal to take during the fall archery season, I wouldn’t have shot any of them because their eggs were needed for a spring hatch.

With the weather cooling, it was surprising to not see any deer during the opening two hours of the hunt. The turkeys were feeding; why weren’t the deer? They most likely were but not in my field of vision. I kept telling myself if the turkeys are here, the deer are in the area as well. Seeing one would be just a matter of time.

As the sun dipped well below the treetops, it got so chilly that I buttoned my jacket. It was prime time to see deer, and I was on full alert.

Looking southwest across the pasture, I saw the silhouette of a deer walking at a steady clip. I couldn’t tell if it was a doe or buck. It didn’t matter; I had tags for both.

The deer was on a mission to make its way to a small food plot that Mike, the new owner who was gracious in giving me permission to hunt, planted in front of the deer house. I had already measured the yardage where the deer was standing. No need to take another measurement; I did my homework. It may have been too dark to take a reading anyway.

The adult buck, with four points of deformed antlers, presented a stationary quartering shot at 41 yards.

After three or four deep breaths to calm my jittery nerves, I squeezed the trigger.

The 100-grain Muzzy fixed broadhead, consisting of four razor-sharp blades, hit hard; the bolt was a total pass-through — one of the reasons I shoot the Muzzy brand.

Upon impact, the buck ran northwest behind some clumps of brush and out of sight. How far did the deer run before falling to the ground? I hadn’t a clue.

The shot was taken eight minutes before the end of legal shooting light. Shooting hours during the archery and firearms deer seasons are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset.

Knowing the new owner wanted to help me track what we hoped to be a fatally wounded deer, I gave him a call after my breathing returned to normal.

“Hello, sir!” Mike answered after the third ring. “What’s going on?”

“I shot a deer in the food plot a few minutes ago,” I replied. “I think it’s a good hit.”

I turned on my iPhone’s flashlight and searched for blood; none was found. About 30 minutes later, Mike arrived on the scene. In very little time, we found the buck, expiring 60 yards from the point of impact.

Three days later, I hunted from the same stand. With two hours of daylight left, I spotted a doe walking to the food plot like it was on a string. The deer paused and fed alongside the turkeys. Albeit a much larger target, I exercised self-restraint by waiting for a closer shot. I didn’t have to be patient for long.

Five minutes later, the deer walked to the food plot, which consisted mostly of lush rye grass. Oddly enough, also at 41 yards and standing broadside, I was confident an ethical harvest could be made.

Upon the bolt’s loud impact, the deer collapsed where she stood and succumbed literally within seconds.

Season forecast

The first portion of the 2019-20 Missouri white-tail deer and turkey archery season begins today and runs through Nov. 15; the second portion is Nov. 27-Jan. 15.

With increased deer numbers throughout most of the state, this season should be a good one, according to Jason Isabelle, cervid program supervisor for the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Isabelle said deer numbers in southern Missouri have been on a steady rise over the years with regulations permitting the population to grow to desirable levels. However, the northern portion of the state is slowly rebounding from the hemorrhagic disease outbreak from 2012.

Deer numbers in extreme northwest Missouri (Andrew, Atchison, Holt and Nodaway counties) are low.

All seasons combined, the 2018-19 Missouri deer harvest was 290,224. The archery season total was 52,923.

Keith Costley lives in Baxter Springs, Kan., and is an avid fisherman and hunter.

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