Sporting Classics’ Editor/Publisher Chuck Wechsler and “Ramblings” columnist, Senior Editor Mike Altizer, are off again on one of their famous (or should we say “infamous”) adventures—this time for big midwestern whitetails.
They will be in the highly-capable care of Donald Hill and the fine staff at Oak Creek Ranch in Bland, Missouri, home to some of the grandest whitetail deer in North America.
TRAVEL AND SCOUTING:
We are bearing west from Saint Louis, Chuck Wechsler and me, near the end of a two-day run from our respective homes in South Carolina and Tennessee, heading for Oak Creek Ranch near Bland, Missouri.
With no one present to pester us or tell us what to do, we are free to rattle on about anything we choose, such as writing and photography and big whitetail bucks and all the pretty girls we know and love, and we’re free to stop anywhere we please to photograph anything that strikes our fancy as we make our way west through the brilliant autumn countryside.
There are old train trestles and secluded little creeks and oddly configured barns, and even a couple of black-and-white pinto ponies that we know one of the aforementioned pretty girls would surely love to see.
By mid-afternoon, we are pulling into Oak Creek Ranch.
Donald Hill and his lovely wife Angi and their fine staff are eagerly awaiting us when we arrive. This is like a homecoming, and an hour later we are fed and our gear is unpacked and we’re heading out to do some late-afternoon scouting before starting our hunt tomorrow morning.
Some of the bucks we see make sleeping tonight a veritable impossibility . . .
We leave the lodge before dawn. Unlike yesterday evening with its clear blue skies, the morning is overcast and the temps have dropped into the low 40s—which means the deer should be moving.
Chuck heads out with James Smith and I with Shane Boyer, both of whom know these hills and hollows and fields like the backs of their hands. Shane and I climb to the eastern edge of a broad meadow and begin glassing as soon as the dim light permits.
I am carrying my Dad’s old Marlin lever action, chambered in .35 Remington—the one he first read about while he was still in Pearl Harbor and then bought the day he finally returned home. I want desperately to take one more big deer with the rifle before passing it along to the third generation.
Fifteen minutes after first light three does wander into the field from the east, and 20 minutes later one more comes tearing past us from the same direction. The rut is now going strong, and we are hoping there is a big buck close on her tail. Sure enough, four minutes later a good eight-pointer shows up, his nose to the ground as he trails her.
But he is far short of the big deer that we know haunt these woods, and we let him pass.
Then I get my first real test.
Hoping for an even grander buck to come, Altizer let this big ten-pointer pass on the first morning.
Two hundred yards to the north, a big ten-pointer steps from the corner of the woods and begins working his way down the far edge of the field. He is larger than any whitetail I have ever taken, his antlers tall and long and perfectly proportioned as I watch him through my binoculars. I look at Shane hopefully, but he shakes his head and says he thinks we can do better.
“Never guide the guide. . . ” That has been one of the rules I have always lived by, and so I let the deer walk, shooting him only with my camera.
It’s the best buck we see all morning.
Two hours later a hard, cold rain blows in from the north and everything shuts down . . . +++
Check out the hunting and accommodations at Oak Creek Ranch at oakcreekwhitetailranch.com. Or call them at 1-573-943-6644.
Note: Signed copies of Michael Altizer’s latest book, “Nineteen Years To Sunrise” can be ordered online from Sporting Classics here, or by calling 1-800-849-1004.
The author always welcomes and appreciates your comments, questions, and input. Please keep in touch at Mike@AltizerJournal.com.