The rut begins in October when the air turns crisp and leaves begin to fall. Occasionally, during a full moon on a windless night this time of year you can hear a flock of geese high in the dark sky taking advantage of the calm airs, their noisy gabble floating musical in the bright moonlight as they fly south. Now’s the time when bucks begin to stir and roam the fields, hillsides and river bottoms searching for does.
However, it’s not until the first and second week of November that the rut hits full swing and dedicated hunters spend all day in their stands, hoping the trophy of a lifetime will cruise by, for now the heavy beamed, long tined giants leave their core areas and move out of the heavy cover in search of the ladies. Some may roam as far as 10 miles during the rut, you never know when a magnificent trophy may appear.
The second week of November is even more meaningful and exciting to a group of friends and myself for its then we head to Missouri for our yearly Whitetail Trophy Hunt at Lake of the Ozarks.
Here 230 hunters meet, a few new, most of long standing. The hunt closely resembles a family gathering, old friends meeting once again, acquaintances renewed and new friends introduced.
Al Lingenfelter was joining us for the first time this year. Al and his wife Shelly own Bear Creek Wines at 11342 Rt. 948 near Highland, Pa. Jim Zirkle met Al testing his delicious wines and discovered both loved to hunt. The two men hit it off and Jim invited Al to join our group.
As the date for departure approached all were busy washing our clothing in scent free detergent, gathering grunt tubes, doe bleats, rattle bags, range finders, binoculars, heat packs and a hundred other items we felt were indispensable. My pack soon weighed a ton, but I couldn’t seem to part with any of it.
Jim Zirkle, Randy Shrader, Terry Claypool and I met for dinner at the Derrick City Diner at 6 PM on November 13.. Immediately after finishing our meal we began the long 15 hour drive, the late start allowing us to avoid any traffic congestion around Columbus, Indianapolis and Springfield. Al joined us at Clarion.
The long trip was uneventful and at noon on Thursday we pulled into the hotel parking lot, exhausted, but glad everything had gone so smoothly. We checked in, picked up our licenses, hauled our gear to our rooms and took a long nap. We had Thursday afternoon and all Friday to recuperate and were glad we did. Staying awake 30 hours is no fun.
Each year 230 hunters participate in the Whitetail Hunt. With thousands of acres leased and over 600 stands available your stand location is picked by a computer lottery to insure fairness. You had no idea where you’d be hunting until the list was printed each evening. The lucky top 20 hunters received a free hunt the following year including hotel fees, meals, license and transportation to and from your stand location. It’s a sweet deal.
We guided Al through all the proceedings that first evening and he met the land owner of his stand after dinner. His guide described the area, the bucks they’d seen in that location and what time he’d be picked up on the morning. Al’s stand was a good one as were Jim’s and mine. We were all keyed up, none of us slept well.
The buffet breakfast started at 3 a.m. Saturday morning. We ate, grabbed our box lunches and drinks, meeting our rides between 4:15 and 5. It takes great organization to get 230 hunters afield in less than an hour.
Al’s van took a narrow dirt road and dropped off several other hunters before it was Al’s turn. The guide showed him a narrow trail marked by bright eyes which Al followed for 200 yards, reaching his stand without problem. It was still pitch black.
Slowly dawn crept into the Missouri sky, the oak and cedar branches starkly silhouetted against the glowing, light pink skyline. His breath hung in tiny clouds in the icy air and all was still around him. It wasn’t until 8:45 that he heard a commotion in the frosted leaves to his right and a doe dashed into the opening only 30 yards away. She saw him immediately and jumped behind some cedars stomping her foot, but not snorting.
Al raised his .308 searching behind her. The leaves crashed even closer and a buck appeared, stopping at 20 yards with only his head visible. Al saw 3 impressive points and wanted to shoot, but only part of the bucks head was visible. Just then the buck stepped forward a single step staring at the doe. It was a huge 10-point and now his neck was clear of the brush. Shaking slightly, Al centered that thick neck and fired, dropping the big brute in his tracks.
Al rushed to his trophy, amazed at the size of its antlers. The big 10 was wide and heavy scoring 153 inches. What a beauty!
At the conclusion of the three day hunt Al’s impressive buck came in second, won a free hunt and free mount! Congratulations Al, what a hunt, what a magnificent trophy.