For Bull of the Woods.
Among the absolutes in life — death, taxes and Joan Rivers’ loyalty to her plastic surgeon — is Justin Moenkhoff’s whereabouts on opening day of Missouri’s firearms deer season. The 30-year-old from Oak Grove isn’t above striking a Faustian deal to ensure he sees the sunrise from a deer stand.
Last season, he had to find two coworkers at the John Deere dealership willing to trade weekends in order to make it happen. And to boot, he had to smoke each a Boston butt for Thanksgiving.
Two days before the Saturday opener, Justin hauled a load of barn wood to a berm on 80 acres his dad farms in Lafayette County, an hour east of Kansas City. He built a 6-by-6 hut and put a lawn chair in it, not expecting to sit there until the 11-day season was well under way.
He usually kicks off the season at the deer camp he shares with his childhood friend, Jonny Stockman. They have 280 acres, complete with headquarters: an old, 8-by-24-foot construction site trailer they bought for $100 and a case of beer.
Jonny usually waits to hunt the last half of the season, giving Justin first pick of the stands. But when he claimed dibs for the tripod Justin had planned to use, Justin decided the perfect shelter from a biting wind would be his new shooting house about a mile from their man-trailer.
Twenty degrees is cold enough, even without Old Man Winter’s 30-mph breath.
When Nov. 13 finally arrived, Justin sat in his lawn chair and surveyed the bottom below him. The morning was eventful. He saw a small 8-pointer chasing a doe, 30 turkeys and a forkhorn.
At 9:00, he saw an enormous buck jump the neighbor’s fence at 250 yards. He’d never seen such a whitetail, there or anywhere else he hunts. Its mug certainly wasn’t on the hundreds of photographs taken by Justin’s trail camera.
The slack-jawed hunter squeezed the trigger with barely a second thought, but he saw no reaction from the deer. When he fired again, the buck mule-kicked. But instead of running, it simply lowered its head and started walking.
On the verge of panicking, Justin ran out of the hut and to the nearest line of trees to get a better angle before shooting twice more.
When Justin shot the second time, he saw a young buck crossing the same field. It stopped, stared, and then ran back the way it had come. It saw the big buck coming and wanted no part of it.
Justin’s .300 WSM barked twice more before the animal disappeared in a distant line of trees.
“It was frustrating,” he said. “I kept waiting for it to fall, but that buck never stopped walking away from me.
“I was out of cartridges, and it looked like the deer was heading off the property. So I laid the gun down and ran a quarter-mile uphill to the truck and got six more bullets.”
Justin “speed-walked” to the spot where the second shot elicited the kick, not so much looking for blood as to follow the exact route the deer had taken. He was moving too fast to study the ground.
He never expected to walk within 10 feet of the bedded buck, which jumped to its feet. A final shot anchored it.
Three of the seven bullets struck the deer. Another hit the bottom of the left antler, which has earned Justin eternal ribbing.
“He was a man among men, I’ll say that much,” Justin said of his best buck to date.
Chris Capps, a conservation officer, lives next to the property Justin was hunting, and he knew the buck was moving through there because he found a 10-point shed the previous spring, about 300 yards from where Justin shot its former wearer. And he wasn’t the only person who knew.
The 17-pointer was also seen a mile away by a man who took his son hunting on opening day of youth season. It was sort of a trial run for the duo, though.
“They didn’t even have a gun when the deer walked right in front of them,” Justin said ... “for which I’m thankful.”
Hunter: Justin Moenkhoff
Official Score: 190 3/8
Composite Score: 207 4/8
— Photos Courtesy of Justin Moenkhoff
This article was published in the July 2011 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.