I sprang from bed an hour before the alarm. Opening morning of modern firearms deer season has that effect on hunters. A half-hour later, Brett walked downstairs.
“Good morning! Did you have pleasant dreams?” I asked while savoring a cup of coffee.
“I didn’t sleep well,” he answered with a growl. “A stupid dog barked most of the night.”
Shortly thereafter, my wife awakened.
“Are you excited about today?” Cheryl asked.
“Oh, somewhat,” I replied unenthusiastically. “It feels weird hunting at home on opening day.”
It doesn’t get much easier than hunting property where you live. Before hunting Nodaway County for 30 years, I chased whitetails for more than a decade in Ozark County.
This time, it was a short walk behind my home through the timber to the deer house, an elevated, enclosed structure overlooking a small pasture surrounded by woods on three sides.
Seven minutes before legal shooting time, a rifle boomed in the distance; Missouri’s legal shooting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset.
“It’s now legal shooting time,” I said to Brett later after checking my iPhone.
“Welcome to another opening morning of the firearms deer season,” Brett replied.
“I see three deer,” Brett whispered two minutes later.
“Where are they?”
“In our laps,” Brett responded, while slowly pointing toward the west window.
And there they were — three does skirting the timber at 30 yards. The wind had them skittish.
A minute later, another doe stepped from the north timber, walked east across the front of our stand and fed for a few minutes.
For whatever reason, one of the does started to stomp the ground repeatedly with her front leg. The deer couldn’t see us, but she knew something wasn’t right. She eventually snorted several times while hightailing it across the pasture to seek refuge in the south timber leading to Turkey Creek. The other does spooked and followed suit.
Because I’d already harvested three deer — two via crossbow on my place and the other with a muzzleloader on a Missouri Department of Conservation managed hunt at Caney Mountain — my goal was to take a trophy buck, one with a wide rack and skyscraper tines. On this set, I insisted that Brett bag the first deer.
“There’s a buck,” Brett said around 8 a.m. With unimpressive antlers, he walked out of the south timber. When Brett was deciding to shoot or pass, another buck, a four-pointer, walked behind a grove of cedar trees on the east side of the pasture and jumped the fence onto my neighbor’s property.
Less than two hours into the set, we saw several deer but no shooter bucks. That’s more deer than we spotted during the opening weekend of the previous season hunting three public properties in DeKalb, Worth and Ray counties.
At 9:20 a.m., a dandy buck commanded our attention, his eyes ablaze and antlers held low while chasing a doe that wasn’t in a lovemaking mood. What the unreceptive doe didn’t realize was that Brett was going to end the harassment with his rifle.
The rutting buck, with a swollen neck, chased the sweaty doe several times around a clump of brush some 30 yards in front of the deer house. He refused to take “no” for an answer.
“I’m going to stop him,” I said with total confidence.
Upon my “maah” vocalization, both deer slid broadside to a complete stop at 20 yards. Brett took his sweet time like he always does in taking careful aim.
“Shoot him,” I whispered assertively.
Two or three seconds expired and still no shot.
Repeating the command more forcefully, I feared the buck would bolt.
Brett pulled the trigger. Striking paydirt behind the left shoulder, the animal shivered and hobbled a few steps.
“Shoot again. We don’t want him to run off,” I said.
Brett wasted no time following my instructions. The buck took two steps and dropped in a crumpled heap.
Sharing a couple of high-fives, we were elated. The hunt had come together. Brett shot an impressive seven-point buck, and I had a seat on the front row.
“Wow, everything happened so fast,” Brett said with eyes gleaming and a wide smile.
“Sometimes that’s how it works,” I replied. “Aren’t you glad you passed on the other bucks?”
I’ll let you know how the rest of the opening weekend went in my next column.
Keith Costley lives in Baxter Springs, Kan., and is an avid fisherman and hunter.