Here are four of the biggest bucks killed in the Show-Me State last year. (September 2007)
Timmy Wallis and his first buck, an 11-point Boone and Crockett
qualifier. The smile says it all!
Photo courtesy of Tony Kalna Jr.
I often recall Tom Hanks delivering the famous line from Forrest Gump: "Life is like a box of chocolates -- you never know what you're gonna get." Why? Because that celebrated movie quote applies perfectly to deer hunting!
This year's big-buck roundup presents the accounts of four hunters, all from very different regions of Missouri. Last year, each went out into the deer woods hoping to kill that once-in-a-lifetime buck but knowing that the odds against that happening were stiff. Let's just say that each got a deluxe chocolate out of the box this past deer season.
Biehle's Greg Meyer, 24, has been chasing whitetails in southeast Missouri since he was 11, and in the intervening 13 years has taken a combined total of 22 deer by rifle or bow.
Greg and his father Frank spend a lot of time deer hunting the very remote Peck Ranch Conservation Area, which covers over 23,000 acres in Carter and Shannon counties. The area offers deer hunters a great opportunity for some of Missouri's most pristine deer hunting.
"My dad has been going to Peck Ranch for 25 years," Greg said, "and this past season was my fourth time getting drawn for the managed archery hunt there. You always hear about people killing some nice bucks there. A friend of Dad's killed an 8-pointer with a 25-inch spread there some 10-years ago."
The managed three-day archery hunt began on Oct. 20. Taking off work, Greg went down the day before the hunt to scout a little and get things set up for the next day. He decided to go down to the bottom of a big Ozark hill about 250 yards from where he normally hunted.
On Friday morning, the first day of the hunt, Greg hunted from his stand for about three hours and then came in for lunch. After lunch, Greg decided to turn his stand around to the opposite side of the tree so that it faced the draw where his friend was hunting and seeing deer. He saw a few does, but nothing worth shooting.
The next day, Greg moved his climber to the new tree, which was about 80 yards away from where he was hunting the previous day. He climbed to nearly 30 feet before stopping. It was daylight before he got situated in his new perch.
All morning long Greg saw nothing but one squirrel (which he seriously considered shooting). At 9 a.m., one of Greg's hunting buddies, Danny, got on the two-way radio and said that he hadn't seen anything either, and was going to get out of his stand and walk around. Greg informed his friend that he would stay on stand for about 15 more minutes and then climb down to meet up with his comrade.
Just 10 minutes after the radio conversation, Greg heard something running and stood up in his stand, readying himself. He spotted an antlered deer about 75 yards away. The buck running toward the stand had a tall, dark rack, and the hunter knew it to be something that he was going to try to shoot.
Greg, already at full draw with his bow when the buck entered the shooting lane, grunted at the buck. It stopped; the archer released the string. The carbon arrow pierced the buck's vitals, and the animal took off at a trot, trying to escape into the thicket, only to collapse just 40 yards away.
"When the buck fell, I hollered at Dad on the radio that I just shot a wallhanger," Greg recalled. "I tried sitting down, but that's when the nerves started getting to me. I knew he was a decent buck -- and I just started shaking."
When Greg finally got down, he found his arrow, and then went over to the dead buck. "It was awesome," he said. "It was the biggest high I've ever had."
Greg Meyer's Carter County buck had 18 points. Here's the tale of the tape.
€¢ Inside spread: 17 inches.
€¢ Main beams: right, 21 6/8 inches; left: 24 inches.
€¢ Total inches of abnormal points: 19 2/8 inches.
€¢ Total deductions: 7 2/8 inches.
€¢ Net scores: typical, 150 4/8 inches; non-typical, 169 6/8 inches.
"When Dad came down to see the buck, he saw my friend Danny and I standing there, and I grabbed the rack and lifted it up," Greg said. "I think he was as excited as I was to see it. Dad took all of my pictures around town and really bragged my buck up. My first deer I ever shot, I was with him -- and now, the biggest buck I've ever killed in my life was with him too. That makes it extra-special for me."
Shawn Hoerstkamp of New Haven is a Missouri State University student who loves to hunt whitetails. He's been deer hunting for the past 10 years, during which he's taken a total of six deer by rifle or bow.
Hoerstkamp's family owns 125 acres in Franklin County. About 80 acres of that is in fields, and 45 acres are covered in hardwoods, some of that logged about 10 years ago and now in regeneration. About 25 acres of the fields are in beans or corn; a half-acre food plot of clover/milo is also on the tract.
Franklin is one of the counties in Missouri's pilot antler-point restriction program. According to Hoerstkamp, the program has been paying big dividends for his family. "I really like the 4-points-or-better-on-one-side rule," he said. "Two years ago, the biggest buck I saw was a decent 6-pointer. Now, I shot a big buck this year and missed another. Dad shot a 120-inch 8-pointer, and my brother saw a good buck out of my stand too." He was quick to point out that he even passed up three different bucks that were in the 120 class this year.
Hoerstkamp hunted from a stand on a food plot on the neighbor's farm on the morning of Sept. 23, 2006, but saw nothing except two deer as he walked out of the woods. He went back for an afternoon hunt at about 3:45 p.m., this time hunting from his hang-on stand along the food plot on his own family's farm. A front was pushing through that afternoon; temperatures dropped from the 70s down into the 60s.
At first, Shawn heard some turkeys behind him, but he saw nothing -- until about 7 p.m., when he caught a glimpse of a deer moving through the field in front of him, which was just past the food plot he was hunting. Shawn sto
od up and grabbed his bow, just in case the deer approached closer.
As he watched the distant deer, a small 4-point buck slipped into the food plot from behind his stand. The little buck, in full velvet, began eating the lush clover. Shawn gripped his bow a little tighter at the thought of something bigger entering the field.
As he looked up from the small 4-pointer, he spotted a 120-class 8-pointer in the clover plot just 20 yards away. Just as he was considering shooting him, a bigger buck stepped out of the cedars into the clover just 30 yards away and began feeding toward Shawn's stand. When it was within 20 yards, the trophy began quartering away -- and the archer loosed his shaft. The majestic buck spun around and ran right back into the cedar patch it had come out of.
After gathering his composure, Shawn climbed out of the stand and called his brother Jeff, who was about a half-hour away. After he got there, the brothers began looking for a blood trail. They scanned the ground for hints of blood but didn't find a trace for about 75 yards. However, they stayed on the faint crimson trail until the point at which the arrow had fallen out of the deer, and the blood trail became steady. After going another 75 yards, they found the slain 8-pointer.
Following: the stats on Shawn Hoerstkamp's buck.
€¢ Inside spread: 18 1/8 inches.
€¢ Main beams: right, 25 7/8 inches; left, 25 7/8 inches.
€¢ Gross score: 148 2/8 inches.
€¢ Net typical score: 143 1/8 inches.
"I really think the 4-point rule makes a difference," Hoerstkamp concluded. "We all saw more bucks than does this year. In fact, we saw 15 bucks and four does in rifle season alone."
They say it's a very small world that we live in -- and here's another example of just how small it is: A mere week after Shawn Hoerstkamp killed his biggest buck ever, his old college roommate, O'Fallon bowhunter Ryan Gibson, did the same.
Gibson, who's been hunting deer for seven years, uses a rifle for about two days in the year; the rest of his deer hunting is done with a compound bow in hand. He hunts on a 1,200-acre private lease in Camden County that he shares with his father-in-law, cousin, uncle, and two friends. The land is about 65 percent hardwoods, with the balance in bottomland fields and pasture.
With very little time to scout before the season, Ryan used the Internet to log into Google Earth; from there he scouted the lease through aerial photographs. It was on one of these photos that he found the funnel area in which he set up his climbing stand -- some 30 feet off the ground -- on Sept. 29, 2006.
Ryan left MSU early that day, arriving at the property late in the afternoon; by the time he got situated in his stand, it was 3:45 p.m. The day was overcast, and the wind was blowing from the southwest, a decent direction for the funnel area he was hunting.
At about 4 p.m., four does and two fawns passed right through the funnel and walked by Ryan's stand at just 15 yards. He considered arrowing one of the big does but decided to pass. Twenty minutes later, he spotted nothing but antlers 120 yards out in another field north of his stand. The big buck methodically walked and fed toward Ryan's stand; it was almost more than the archer could take.
"I had to watch that buck walk the entire 120 yards toward me," Gibson said. "It took almost 20 minutes for him to get within range, and all I could do was just sit there and shake."
At 27 yards, Gibson drew back his bow and sent his arrow deep into the deer's lungs. When the buck whirled around to escape, knocking down a barbed-wire fence. It continued just 40 yards before it collapsed.
Overwhelmed with excitement, Gibson immediately began climbing the stand down the tree. When he got within 10 feet of the ground, he was so filled with adrenaline that he just jumped down the rest of the way! "I wound up calling my college buddy Shawn," he recalled. "He called me after he killed his big buck, and I had to repay the favor. We both killed our biggest bucks to date just about one week apart."
At press time, Gibson didn't have the score sheet back from Pope & Young, but the big 16-pointer netted 163 4/8 inches as a non-typical.
You don't have to be a veteran deer hunter to kill a trophy-book buck in Missouri; New Bloomfield's Timmy Wallis II (a.k.a. "T.J.") is proof of that.
Timmy, 13, and his stepfather, Donnie Rice, were hunting on a 10-acre tract of private land in Callaway County, almost all of it a dense cedar thicket, during the two-day Youth Firearms Deer Season.
On Sunday afternoon, the dynamic duo got back out to the woods at about 2:30 in the afternoon. After they got their blind set up again, Donnie crawled out of the blind to break off a few limbs for a shooting lane. After he'd climbed back inside, five turkeys passed by the blind at 15 yards and never spooked. Their decision to hide the blind better apparently worked.
At about 5:20 p.m., Timmy nudged his stepdad to say that he'd seen a buck at the edge of the trees but couldn't tell how big it was inside the trees at 60 yards out. Donnie told him to go ahead and shoot it if he had a clear shot. Timmy brought the rifle up, placed the cross hairs on the deer's neck and pulled the trigger. The buck went down in a heap.
When they approached the fallen whitetail they couldn't believe their eyes: The buck was a genuine Boone and Crockett trophy! "I didn't know how huge it was, or how many points it had -- I just knew it was a deer, and that it was a buck," Wallis said. "If I'd have know how big it was, it probably would not be dead."
Here's how Timothy Wallis II's Callaway County 11-pointer measured up.
€¢ Inside spread: 24 inches.
€¢ Main beams: right, 27 inches; left, 27 3/8 inches.
€¢ Gross score: 178 4/8 inches.
€¢ Net typical score: 172 1/8 inches.
"Deer hunting is the fun of the sport, and getting out there and enjoying the outdoors," Wallis said. "I also really enjoy eating the meat -- especially jerky."
The young hunter hasn't let his good fortune go to his head; he remains very humble. Full of plans for the future, he dreams of one day owning his own feed store.
"My first buck was a record buck, and I hope I will kill another one," Wallis said. "I know I probably won't, but I've got a couple of years ahead of me, and if luck's on my side, I might.