Damn flies. There are few feelings more aggravating than being in a treestand and having an insatiable desire to smash a bug and not being able to do anything about it. So I sat there—motionless— allowing the buzzing critters to come and go as they pleased, swooping about my head as the sun stung my eyes and sweat depleted my face paint, one salty bead at a time.
I’m not sure whether it was the 85- degree temperatures or the pesky flies, but I had that sickening feeling that any other setup on the property would’ve been better than where I sat. And on top of the bugs and the heat and the illuminating sun, the negligent breeze that did whisper occasionally was trickling from left to right, wafting across my body and spewing onto the field over which I resided.
The fly landed on my nose again—I could tell it was the alpha fly by the way it looked at me—and began cleaning itself as I starred, cross-eyed, and cursed under my breath. There’s not a deer in northern Missouri that’s going to move in this weather until well after dark.
And then the dinner bell rang. I never heard a thing—except for the persistent buzzing of the flies—but something somewhere must’ve chimed because the parade began. Out came a young doe, and the look of annoyance on her face forced me to chuckle silently because I knew exactly what she was thinking: damn flies. Her ears waved and her tail flicked at the annoying critters as she made her way to the food plot .
And then came another deer, followed closely by another—and then two more—followed by a lone doe, and then another doe with her twin fawns. By the time the dust settled, 21 deer filed past me, in nose-to-tail fashion, and rushed eagerly to the food plot … not to mention the seemingly countless other deer that entered the field from various other directions.
The deer intermingled and fed until dark, and scattered only at the sound of the unlit golf cart making its way to retrieve me and carry me back to camp.
“Did you see any deer tonight?” questioned Dave Forbes, co-owner and operator of C and D Farms and Hunter’s Specialties.
“I saw a few,” I replied, “Including a dandy 2.5-year-old buck with a 3.5-year-old rack’ that will be absolutely gorgeous in a year or two. What’ve you been feeding these deer, anyway?”
Dave simply smiled. “Did you see any shooters?”
I had limited instructions from Dave while hunting his farm on the outskirts of Kirksville, Missouri, but there was one rule: Don’t harvest a deer unless he’s 3.5 years of age or older. He urged me to take any buck I liked, but that came second to giving bucks proper time to mature with ample forage and ideal habitat.
“If I were in Minnesota, that 2.5- year-old 8-point would’ve been in trouble,” I replied. “That’s the only antlered deer I saw this evening.”
“Did any of the deer catch your scent?” he questioned.
“Not one—despite being upwind from nearly all of them.”
Dave smiled again as we bumped along through the on-setting darkness.
Crankin’ Up The Heat
I was at full draw before I realized that I had, in the heat of the moment, clamped my release directly to my string rather than attaching it to the “D” loop as I’d intended. Good ol’ buck fever: I hope this feeling never goes away! Coming to full draw on a mature whitetail is difficult enough, and now I had to do it twice.
I eased-off the bowstring, un-nocked and then re-nocked the arrow (a nasty pet-peeve of mine), and brought the kisser button solidly to the corner of my mouth in one fluid motion as the buck chartered for the food plot—and then I cut the arrow loose.
I radioed Dave once I was back at our designated rendezvous point.
“He’s a good one Dave,” I stammered. “He’s a 135-class deer I’d say.”
“Sit tight and I’ll be right there with help, Luke. Don’t go wandering off.”
“I’m already sitting. My legs are too shaky for too much wandering around.”
Dave arrived shortly thereafter with Trenton Tallman, manager of C and D Farms, along with a few others in tow.
“So he’s a good one, huh?” Dave questioned with a firm handshake and a smile. “Grab a seat and give us the rundown before we head in after him”
“The evening’s hunt appeared as though it was going to be scene No. 2 of a one-act play: Sweat beaded on my forehead as I once again questioned the sanity of any whitetail willing to move in these desert-like conditions. The wind, however, was nowhere to be found, and the silence was so overwhelming I swear I could hear that doggone fly buzzing— anxiously awaiting my return—although I was hunting in a new location more than a half-mile away.
“And once again, despite the heat and tormenting sun, deer began filing out of the woodwork and migrating into the food plot as the shadows began to stretch across landscape. Deer of all sizes—with the exception of a mature buck, of course—fed noisily in front of me.
“I had a pile of does and fawns wander out of the grassy point past my stand—just like you said they would, Dave—and it was neat to hear them chomping on the Fall Mix more than 50 yards away in the silence.
“All the deer left the field as it got dark, but because it was ‘that time of day,’ I readied my bow and faced the trail. And then he was simply ‘there.’ He never made a sound like the other deer had—even through the tall grass—as he headed directly to the food plot. I had 8 seconds—maybe— from the time I saw him until I released an arrow.
“The shot felt good, but it was too dark to see the exact impact. He made a quick retreat back to where he came from, and then silence. He’s an 8-point and a definite shooter, that’s all I know … there simply wasn’t time.”
Dave readied the troops and had me stand at the point of impact which, as seems to be an uncomfortably growing trend in my hunting career, produced no blood.
I stood in the darkness, silently replaying the scene over and over in my head as I watched the flashlights of the trackers bob-and-weave into the timber like fireflies serenading the night.
The loneliness of my emotions was beginning to echo in my ears when Dave shouted from the darkness. “I’ve got it.” He was more than 60 yards form where I stood.
“You’ve got what?” I demanded, “Blood or deer?”
I raced toward Dave’s light, slipping and falling only twice in the dew-covered grass, before bumping into Dave and my buck. I learned then that I was wrong about two assumptions I had made during the past hour: The buck was not an 8-point—he had nine scorable points. And he was not a 135-class buck.
“Luke, look at the mass,” Dave offered as he palmed the bases of the antlers. “I believe he’ll go a bit more than 135 inches.”
“Let me hold him.” As I knelt beside the buck, I wiped the sweat from my brow and brushed a fly away from the blood-stained hole carved directly behind the front shoulder, and smiled.