All of the rutting stars were aligned when my friends and I arrived at Twin Chimneys Outfitters in western Missouri last week. Or so we thought. Problem was, amidst those stars was a full moon … and an awful blend of weather conditions. The result: a 3-day hunt that left us all scratching our heads. Where were the bucks?
The team of dedicated guides at Twin Chimneys anticipated a banner hunt, complete with a meat pole full of mature bucks with swollen necks. Their expectations were legit, considering they’d seen all sorts of activity on their game cameras in the days leading up to our arrival. But it just wasn’t meant to be. Driving rain, wind, warmth and a bright night sky spelled certain doom for the promise of daylight buck activity.
With thousands of premium, untouched private acres at our disposal, you’d think at least one ol’ boy would’ve made a mistake. My hunting partner, John Vaca, and I were so sure of it that we spent an entire day—from dark to dark—in a Double Bull ground blind on the edge of a cut soybean field bordering a CRP sanctuary. We were in the core area of several fine bucks. We witnessed some does and fawns on their feet throughout our hunt, but the only bucks on their heels were adolescent up-and-comers. Perhaps the “lockdown phase” of the rut was working against us, and the dominant bucks were busy with receptive does? We thought so, even though a recent study might say otherwise. If the bucks in our neighborhood had moved on to greener pastures seeking new hot does, why weren’t any out-of-towner bucks sniffing around for action on our block?
Food plots and wide-open spaces simply weren’t producing for our six-man crew—a dire situation the Twin Chimneys guys had never faced before during rifle season. So, during the final afternoon of the hunt, I requested to set up in some timber. The deer had to be hiding somewhere. It’s not often that a “plan” comes together for a whitetail hunter, but I was granted a pardon.
I had an either-sex tag in my pocket, so my plan was to wait until the last bit of legal shooting light before ditching the glorified goal of killing a buck and change my take-home trophy target to pure venison. As the evening played out in the timber, low and behold, I was covered up in deer. Had more time been spent under the cover of the forest canopy, perhaps our biggest dreams would’ve come true. Maybe.
A fork-horn buck and several other does and fawns filtered well within range of my Ruger American rifle. I passed on all opportunities, still holding onto hope that a Missouri bruiser would step onto the scene before the coyotes started howling.
Damn it. Did I blow my chance? I questioned my strategy as the final half-hour of my hunt quickly melted into history. Suddenly, a last-minute blessing was ushered into an open shooting lane, just 20 yards from my ladder stand. My numb, rain-soaked fingers worked together to ease my rifle’s safety off. In an instant, I settled the crosshairs of a brightly lit Bushnell Legend Ultra HD behind the shoulder of a mature doe as she cautiously eased her way through the timber. The smooth delivery of a 130-grain Ballistic Silvertip offered the noble beast a swift death. Meat was made.