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Hunting on Borrowed Time

BennettBy Michael Bennett

-- The 2005 Missouri deer season turned out to be the most memorable time for me and my family, so I find it only right to take the time to share it with you. Before I start the story, I need to give some background information on all events leading up to the final hunt.

For starters, I was assigned as a U.S. Army Drill Sergeant, and getting quality time to spend in the woods prior to the season was hard to come by. Finding a place to hunt was a second obstacle combined with another factor of restricted time. Pre-season scouting was limited to areas that could be checked out with little to no time in the wood line. Last, we were expecting to have our son born late October or early November.

On the Nov. 3, my son was born at 7:20 a.m., so now Daddy had a new hunting buddy. He came two weeks prior to the first day of the Missouri gun season, and at the end of his first week, I thought that the hunting season would not be possible due to the amount of time required to assist both my wife and newborn son. As luck would have it though, the in-laws decided to come and visit the new addition to the family on the first day of the season. Now normally I am a very loyal archery hunter, but after recent events, I decided to take my break strapped to the side of a tree if possible.

Opening morning was a typical November Missouri morning - cold and windy. As I arrived at what I thought was a somewhat remote spot to hunt, someone else was already there. So after a brief discussion about what each of us wanted to get out of hunting that morning, we agreed on a course of action that would be beneficial to the both of us.

I even went as far as to show him a picture of a mature 8-point buck that I had harvested during archery season from the area he wanted to hunt. So off into the darkness in the opposite direction I went. I was looking to find a mature doe that I had seen traveling in a group of about five deer in the area.

Unknowingly, I was about to be introduced to the dominate buck of the area. I actually thought that I had taken that animal earlier, and based upon the size of the 8-pointer and his battle scars, I was sure that this was his turf.

After a brief walk in the dark, I found a natural funnel of multiple ridges coming together with a very tall oak tree right at the bottom. I settled in at about 18 feet and waited for the sun to come up to see exactly what the terrain looked like. I had never been to this particular spot and I did not know what it looked like.

When the sun did come up, it was a scene just like that found it your favorite hunting magazine on where to put up your treestand. The sun came up at about 6:45, and around 7:20, it was light enough to legally shoot.

I used my bleat can about three times followed by about 20 seconds of tending grunts. The sound of a deer coming off one of the ridges immediately pierced the silent morning air. I located the deer to my front right and moving at a moderate walk. Missouri has a regulation that in certain counties deer must have four 1-inch points on one side to make them legal to shot, and this deer was big enough that I did not have to spend any time counting. With the decision made, I waited briefly to attempt to stop the deer because it was already within range the moment I saw it. When the buck moved into an open area, the attempt to stop it was made. Nothing worked - not bleats, grunts nor even the old whistle. I could not change the pace of this deer. The buck was on a mission.

So I choose an open area that I thought would give me the best chance at making an accurate shot, and when the deer stepped into the opening, I placed one right behind the front shoulder. Now the T/C Encore puts a little bit of smoke in the air, and when it finally did clear, the deer was no where to be seen.

Minutes seemed like hours as I waited for the 30-minute mark. However, at 5 minutes, the ridge behind me erupted in gunfire and the thoughts of closing a rifle season early started to flash before my eyes. I thank God for my safety harness at this point in time because I was trying to come out of that tree so fast that I almost fell out.

I finally made it to the ground safely and took a moment to regain my composure before heading out into the woods in search of the deer. After only a 50-yard walk, I came upon the buck. Its antlers were actually all covered up with leaves from the forest floor. At this point, I did not realize that I had just harvested a very mature 10-point.

So when I did finally pick its head up and saw what the buck was packing for head gear, it left me so out of breath that I had to sit down for about 20 minutes. During this time I reflected on all the years of hunting with my father and all the lessons that he taught me about the pleasure of spending time in the woods.

So now I was filled with so much excitement that I was able to drag the deer all the way out by myself. The reason for the excitement was two-fold - one was the fact that I had just taken such a magnificent animal and second was that I was going to get to teach my son everything that my father had taught me.

Knowing that I have a son to pass the hunting tradition down to and harvesting such magnificent whitetail on semi-public land when I did not have a lot of time to scout and few options for hunting turned my 2005 season into the best one ever.

Michael Bennett
Dixon, Missouri

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