Missouri Dream Hunt
January 2, 2019
Editorial Staff (286 articles)
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Missouri Dream Hunt

By L.G. “Buddy” Turner

I began my deer hunting at the age of nine. I hunted with my dad, grandma and grandpa until I was old enough to drive and hunt alone.

Most of my deer hunting in Arkansas has been on public lands. In the March/April 2007 issue of The Journal, I recollected a hunt that took place around 1971.

On that hunt I wounded a massive buck that we never found. The vision of the massive rack on that buck burned into my memory. The events of that day have haunted me for years. I didn’t think that I would ever have a chance to shoot another buck that size, but I always had hope.

Hunting takes a temporary back seat

In September 2009, my wife Rhonda was diagnosed with cancer. Surgery followed, and then chemotherapy for 7 years, along with tests, scans, radiation and hospital stays. In January 2017 Rhonda’s cancer-ravaged body could fight no more and we lost our battle with cancer. Rhonda and I were married for 35 wonderful years. Rhonda hunted with me numerous times, but she never would take the shot. She was too kind-hearted.

In spring 2017, I tried to turkey hunt, but my heart was just not into it. I began fall of 2017 with the hope I could focus enough to be successful deer hunting. Being outdoors in God’s creation was wonderful therapy. I proceeded to take deer with archery, muzzleloader, and modern firearm. I applied for and received the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission’s Triple Trophy Award.

Missouri awaits a hunter renewed

Running low on deer tags for Arkansas, I decided to call Donald Hill, owner of Oak Creek Whitetail Ranch in Missouri. The ranch is only about a 5-hour drive from my home, and Donald booked a hunt for me.

I arrived on Nov. 29th with many thoughts and emotions. Would I fulfill my dream of taking a monster whitetail and put an exclamation point on 54 years of deer hunting?

At the lodge, guides helped me carry in my gear. Next on the agenda was sighting-in my rifle. I shot two rifles and the 7mm-08 performed best at the range. My son Casey had given me the rifle about 10 years ago, and it’s a real tack driver.

I met my guide, Eric Senevey. I liked Eric immediately, feeling confident that with Eric’s help, I would get that buck of a lifetime. The other hunters at the lodge were good folks from various locations. The next few days would prove my first impression of my fellow hunters was correct.

The conversations were interesting and the camaraderie was like that of old friends gathered in the same location. We had an excellent meal that evening. I was probably first to retire for the night. But I tossed and turned all night in anticipation of the next morning’s hunt.

Scouting for trophy bucks

After breakfast, Eric an I were driving slowly when I saw the biggest buck of my life walking through the hardwoods. Continuing to drive, we headed for our deer stand. With a glimpse of another buck in the timber, we arrived at our destination for the morning hunt. Quietly closing the doors to Eric’s truck, we began to slowly make our way to the stand. From the direction we had driven, a massive buck crossed a field near a tower stand.

Eric was constantly checking ahead with binoculars. Arriving at our tower stand, a couple does and a buck left the green field on our right. The tower stand windows were opened and Eric and I settled in.

The temperature was turning colder and the wind had picked up. It felt plenty cool as Eric and I watched a 150-class 10-point and a 200-class non-typical spar in the corner of the field. After an hour, the non-typical slowly left the field and the 10-point bedded in tall grass in front of our stand.

We saw one small doe by the time the morning passed. On the way to the truck, another massive buck crossed the same field as before, passing very near the unoccupied tower stand. Later, while driving slowly through the timber, Eric spotted a nice buck bedded on a ridge, but he wasn’t the one I wanted.

Spotting the right buck

Arriving back at the lodge with the realization that I’d probably seen four of the biggest bucks of my life, and passed up a 200-inch buck, was amazing. We ate lunch and I was ready to hunt again. Eric had been out performing guide duties and found a bedded buck that I needed to see. I had indicated a preference for a mainframe typical, but any extra non-typical points would be OK with me. I would also adjust my standards as opportunities became available during the hunt.

Eric and I were soon driving back to park in the same location as the morning hunt. En route, we saw two bucks that I would probably shoot almost anywhere else on the planet, but not today. After exiting the truck we began a stalk toward where the buck was last seen bedded. Eric stopped often to search ahead. We continued to walk as quietly as possible on the crunchy soil and leaves.

Eric motioned me ahead to indicate he had spotted the buck’s antlers. We continued the slow stalk bent at the waist. Somehow we managed to walk quiet enough, but we had a crosswind. Eric slowly straightened up occasionally to make sure the buck was still in his bed. Unsure which way the buck faced for most of the stalk, we were relieved the buck faced away from our direction.

Preparing for the shot

The wind currents became more unpredictable by the minute. Looking through Eric’s binocular, I could also see the buck’s right eye, which meant he could possibly see us at any second. Eric and I made two more short advancements, attempting to close the distance to try for a shot. But the rounding of the hill made a kneeling shot impossible.

My shooting sticks also were not tall enough for a standing shot. I did not feel comfortable with the off-hand shot in this situation. Eric asked if I could take the shot if I used his shoulder for a rest. I replied, “Plug your ear,” and rested the heel of my right hand across Eric’s left shoulder. With the rifle barrel safely ahead, I took the shot.

The buck rolled over, with his massive rack fully visible. I saw no ground shrinkage, and I barely held back the tears. I took a second insurance shot. I’m sure I said a prayer of thanks.

One more time

On Nov. 30, 2017, I had finally achieved my 54-year dream of taking a massive trophy whitetail buck. I had exceeded my own expectations and the outcome was amazing. I couldn’t have accomplished this alone, beginning with the phone call to Donald, my guide Eric, and the shot that had to barely skim the ground.

The buck scored 269 SCI. I do not worship whitetails, but I do love to hunt them. I do feel that I have paid my whitetail hunting dues over the years, and now I am blessed with a buck that exceeded my wildest dreams. Now when I see or hear about another hunter with a trophy of a lifetime it will be possible to identify with their success and be happy for their accomplishment.

Missouri whitetail

The author’s second buck he took on his Missouri dream hunt.

The next morning, I hadn’t seriously considered taking a second buck, but decided I did want to continue hunting. Donald wasted no time in locating Eric, and we were on the hunt again. The hunt was short and the action fast. An off-hand shot in the timber with the quick handling little 7mm-08 and I had a second buck on the ground.

The old warrior scored 237 non-typical SCI, with a world-class typical frame. I exceeded all of my deer hunting expectations and killed two bucks of a lifetime. As of May 2018, these two bucks rank 88th and 111th in the SCI Midwestern non-typical white-tailed deer category.

My deer hunting dream came true at age 63, and yours can too. Be sure to take a kid hunting. Our children are the future of hunting. Also, keep those cancer patients and their caregivers in your prayers.

See this member story and others in the latest issue of The Journal, on newsstands now.

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