by Paul Moreland

It was a dark and stormy night when I decided that the front seat of a Volkswagen bug was not the best place to rest.  My buddy and I had driven into the Mark Twain National Forest on the North Fork of the White River the night before opening day of deer season.  There were storm warnings and tornado warnings all over the area so we didn't try to pitch the tent.  We just drew straws for the back seat (I lost) and bundled up the best we could.

Neither of us had scouted the area before, but we had a plan.  At 4:00 a.m. we got the canoe off the top of the Bug and after a breakfast of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches did one of the few smart things we did that day, we headed UP stream.  We were armed to the teeth with a Boito 12 gauge  shotgun my buddy had bought at a pawn shop for $50 and an ancient model 64 Winchester in 25-35.  After paddling for most of an hour we beached the canoe, hid the paddles and started moving inland, looking for a likely place to find a deer.  Green?  That was us.  Two college guys with a love of hunting, but little experience in Missouri's woods.

As the day moved on we scouted the land, looking for any place that appeared to hold a deer.  Our technique was simple, a two man drive. One of us would take the Winchester and move around to a predetermined spot and wait for a deer to come his way.  The other guy would take the shotgun and make as much noise tromping through the brush as possible. We'd crash zigzag through the timber, hoping to move any deer in the parcel towards the guy on stand.  It's not easy finding places small
enough for one man to drive effectively and large enough to attract a deer.

The morning wore on and we were happy to note that we'd picked a spot far from other hunters.  The lone hunter we DID spot was lost.  He'd wandered away from the road and had no idea on how to get back.  We were amused to note his outfit, expensive mesh safety orange vest, brand new Remington 700, high power scope and lost.  It did our egos good to note
that with our ninety nine cent wallyworld special disposable vests and old beat up guns, at least we knew which way camp was.

As the time since our meager breakfast got longer and longer I began to seriously look for ANYTHING that was in season, not just deer.  Rabbits, squirrels and other small game resolutely evaded us as did the wily whitetail.  Once I stepped out into a meadow and spotted about 40 wild turkeys scratching around.  I just stood there, amazed at the sight.  It was the first time I'd actually seen a flock of them in the wild.  Then they quickly spotted me and were gone.

About 1:00 in the afternoon we'd about had as much as we wanted of our two man drive tactics.  Dave told me to go on ahead and he'd kick out the last little piece of timber and brush.  It was just a little spit of land right on the river bank. There was a channel where water ran during the spring and fall floods that separated the patch from the mainland. As Dave kicked through the timber I stood with the rifle at port arms, waiting for any deer to make a break for it.  As Dave got closer and
closer hope faded until he was about 50 yards off and I lay the rifle over my shoulder, waiting for him to come up so we could discuss a change of plan.  As he was about 30 yards away a doe suddenly sprang out of the brush and down into the gully.  The old Winchester came down off my shoulder and lined up on the edge of the timber well away from Dave, waiting for her as she came up.  Suddenly I heard the dull BOOM of the 12 gauge and let the hammer down easily.  As close as he was to that doe, I knew I'd never get a shot myself.  As I came up to Dave I heard the doe give a last bleat before she expired.

We quickly gutted her out and tossed her in the North Fork to cool her off quickly.  Dave went back upstream to fetch the canoe as I gathered sticks for a fire to fix our dinner.  The old model 64 was leaned against a walnut tree as I gathered fuel.  It was a great day to be alive, we'd come into an unknown area and against the odds had managed to fill one of our tags. As I looked around the beauty of the area filled me with peace.  That small flock of birds flashing their wings as they circle around in flight.... THOSE AREN'T BIRDS'S WINGS, THEY'RE ANTLER TIPS!!!!  A beautiful 5 point buck was spooked by Dave as he returned in the canoe and my rifle was 15 yards away!  I'd never have gotten a shot through the brush anyway, but still felt foolish about being so far away from the rifle and my tag still unfilled.

We had a tasty lunch of fresh venison roasted over a hardwood fire and floated back downstream to camp, feeling much like Lewis and Clark discovering a beautiful new land.  I never did get a Missouri whitetail.  It was years before I got my first deer, a mule deer fork horn in Colorado.  But the memories of that hunt with my buddy Dave still brighten my life.  Two green kids in a borrowed canoe and beat up firearms in unfamiliar territory bringing home the venison.  It's not the equipment, it's the enjoyment of the whole outdoor experience that brings us closer to our Maker and His creation.

write Paul