Tuesday morning Ryan slept in while I went to scout an area on the edge of a bean field near our campsite. Both of us had uneventful starts to the day, so after a late morning photo session on the edge of an old cemetery we decided to go on a scouting walk on the bluffs north of us and along the river. We located some deer sign, and saw some turkeys, but nothing overly interesting. While we both were trying to maximize our time by hunting separately, we thoroughly enjoyed this hike together laughing the whole way. After lunch it was back to serious game on.
I hiked back toward the top of the ridge southeast of us where I had spotted a pond on my way out the previous evening, while Ryan went to hunt the area we scouted that morning. My hope was that maybe I could ambush a deer coming to that secluded water source. The long walk, uphill this time coupled with the warm temperatures left me soaked with sweat by the time I reached the spot I was looking for. As I slowly eased off the wide path into the woods at least one deer spooked and ran from near the pond. I never did get a look at it, but it was clearly a deer. As I investigated the area around the pond I found it was covered with scrapes, rubs, tracks, beds and other deer sign. It was the most concentrated sign I had found since coming to Missouri I hadn’t brought a tree stand with me and couldn’t find a good way to setup on this spot from the ground so I continued up the mountain toward the pinch point that I had hunted previously. I knew I could hunt it effectively from the ground and not risk ruining this spot. The evening passed without event.
Early the next morning I was on my way up the mountain path with a tree stand on my back. I heard something coming behind me I didn’t recognize and was soon passed by an individual on a mountain bike. He was wearing a head lamp and had his gear on his back. An interesting, but effective way to get in the woods so long as there was a nice path. I continued walking and soon passed bicycle man about another half mile down the trail. I couldn’t see him but I could hear him crashing through the brush in an area far from where I planned to hunt. Not sure if he was still on his bike or not, I assume he abandon it near the trail. I was again sweating profusely as I made my way up to the pond far up the ridge. As I approached from the downwind side I heard a large group of deer splash out of the water and leave the area. This was a heartbreaking sound. I quickly went to the tree I had chosen and setup my stand. A storm front was rolling through that I hoped would cause the deer to move only succeeded in causing the wind to swirl and make me second guess my location. The only wildlife I saw was a few squirrels and a raccoon playing on a gigantic hollow Oak tree.
As midday drew closer so did the storm front. Soon I was driven from my stand by rain and moved down the ridge to get away from the lightening. What I had anticipated being a light shower turned into a downpour and I hid under my raincoat as best I could, waiting out the storm. When it cleared, I climbed back into my stand cold hungry and weary. Not being used to putting on the miles we were covering and carrying in the tree stand had me worn down. The cold rain put the final damper on things. I was trying to hold out for the evening hunt, but finally decided I was too cold and that I should head in. I expected that as I walked I would warm up, but unfortunately, I didn’t and was still shivering when I got to camp. All I can figure is this was because I was wet. While walking out I was thinking about the scarcity of deer sightings and how I could probably do better back in Iowa. While Ryan wouldn’t have a tag and thus not be able to hunt, he could come along and probably see more deer than we were seeing here. I tried to think of a diplomatic way to steer the conversation and see if that was something he was interested in doing.
Sitting around the camper eating soup trying to warm up and dry out we discussed our options. I tried to gingerly float the idea of going back to Iowa. While this would mean he would be done hunting, it would afford us a greater opportunity to spend time together and no doubt allow him to see more wildlife.
I didn’t have to twist his arm. He had been thinking the same thing.
He also wanted to see his three nieces in Iowa and with that a decision was made. Please don’t infer that we didn’t enjoy our time in Missouri.
We enjoyed it immensely, but the long walks, sore muscles, increased number of other hunters and lack of game sightings (in comparison to what we could see in Iowa, the deer hunting capitol of the universe) triggered this move. It seemed like the decision for this change of scenery breathed new life into us. Tiredness forgotten I immediately set off to retrieve the stand I left high on the ridge while Ryan packed up camp. In little more than an hour we were on our way to Knoxville. As we made our way out of the public land area we passed several campers on their way in. It was a good time for a change of scenery.
Thus, ended my first out of state hunt. I love hunting the areas close to home and am blessed to live in some of the greatest deer habitat on earth. Yet there was something tremendously freeing to just be away. In my Iowa tree stand I’m not all that far from my Iowa office and all of my responsibilities. It’s easy if I’m not careful to sit in a stand and think about all the other things I should be doing. Driving a couple of hours and crossing a state line took all of that away and I could relax and enjoy six days of camping out and doing nothing but my personal daily devotions and hunting. It was an experience I’ll never forget and hope to replicate this coming fall. I still have two days with Ryan in Iowa and while he will just be tagging along while I hunt (carrying no weapon, not participating in the hunt in anyway, completely observing and nothing more), I know it will be an adventure. I’ll share it here with you next time we meet around “Another Log on the Fire.”