While at a Safari Club banquet, I was checking out the live auction flyer. One particular hunt caught my eye. It was a bowhunt for two, hunting whitetails in Missouri. What I like about Missouri is the non-resident license is very affordable and you can shoot one buck, one doe and two turkeys with your tag. When the hunt came up I jumped in and the bidding started. When the auctioneer yelled sold, I was the winning bidder. I received the packet for the hunt and checked out the contents. The hunt was in New Bloomfield, Mo and we would be hunting in the 25 square mile Mark Twain National Forest. The hunt included a five day-five night, semi guided with trophy fees and gourmet food. This was starting to look like a very special hunt.
The next day I started planning for the hunt. Who was going with me, when to go and how to get there. Who to hunt with was an easy choice. I called my son Justin, a bowhunting nut and asked if he would like to go. I knew what his response would be, “You bet, lets go”. I made a deal with him that if he drove, bought the gas, and paid for my license I would pay for the hunt. I called the owner, operator Drake Dawson of Safaris Unlimited and we kicked around some dates. I picked September 19th to begin our hunt. Safaris Unlimited does hunts and fishing trips all over the world. There is a Belize fishing and hunting adventure, Louisiana gator hunt, Mexican jungle hunt, Missouri duck and deer hunt, a Serbian roe deer hunt and an African hunt. Drake has been guiding for 32 years and was the SCI Hunter of the Year in 2014. After talking to him and seeing all his credentials I just knew I was going to be very well taken care of.
September 19th came and we were packed, loaded and ready to go. We needed to be there by noon so with a eight and half hour drive we left at 3:00 in the morning. It was foggy all the way through Mn, Iowa and into Mo that slowed our speed but we still made it in time. The GPS took us to the turn off on but it was unmarked and looked like a field road. Trusting the GPS, we took it anyway just to see where it would go. Two miles in we went around a lake and came to the lodge. It was Drake’s house sitting on the shore of the lake. As we pulled into the driveway we were met by our guide Kory.
We unloaded our gear and Kory took us to the rooms we would be in for the next five days. We met two other hunters from Pennsylvania Arron and Joe and we all went out and shot our bows and got ready for the afternoon hunt. The temperature was hovering around 100 degrees, not great for hunting but at least there were no bugs We loaded up and went out for the afternoon hunt but with the warm weather I didn’t expect much.
As suspected, we saw nothing. Kory picked us up at dark and we went back to the lodge for dinner and made plans for the next day. Wednesday morning was the same, very hot and no breeze. I didn’t see anything but Justin had better luck and harvested a doe. Now at least we had camp meat. It was pretty much the same each day, hunt for 4 hours in the morning go in for lunch, go out till dark and then back in. It was brutal in the ground blind with the sun beating on the canvas top but with plenty of water and a strong mental attitude I manage to survive. I did see a few deer but they were never close enough for a shot. I also saw some turkeys but they were in some tall grass and I could only see their heads pop out.
I did have two strange encounters that had never happened to me before. The first was I was in a make shift ground blind on the edge of huge meadow. It was early morning and still very dark. I heard some leaves crunching to my left. It was too dark to see what was coming but I kept staring toward the noise hoping something would show. The noise got closer until I caught a flash of something going under my chair. Needless to say, that scared the crap out of me. It went under my chair and out over my feet, I jumped back in my chair wondering if I was going to be breakfast for some critter and watched a big, fat opossum head out of sight. As it moved away I thought I heard it snickering for having pulled a fast one on me. It was hard to tell as all I could hear was the thumping of my own heart.
The other strange encounter was seeing box turtles. I have bowhunted many years and never saw one while hunting. They were everywhere. One time I looked out the window and saw two turtles squared off, head to head staring at each other when all of a sudden they charged into each other. They did this several times and you could hear the sound of the shells hitting. They must have thought they were bighorn sheep. On the last crash the loser walked away and the victor stuck his head out high looking for the next challenger.
I have been to other hunting camps but never had food like I had here. Nightly meals were prepared by Drake’s personal chef, a man from Argentina. Dinner was served at Drake’s table with his family and friends and was as good as any five star restaurant. We had alligator appetizers, homemade ice-cream and one night we had marinated backstrapes from Justin’s deer cooked over an open fire. What a delightful treat. One of the hunters from Pennsylvania didn’t hunt one afternoon so he and Drake went fishing and came back with a mess of crappies. They were cleaned, breaded and fried up for an evening meal and were delicious. Fresh fish just doesn’t get much better than that. As we sat around the campfire we got to talking about the different foods we had tried and Drake brought up frog legs. Justin said he had never tried them. Drake said give me 30 minutes and with that he jumped in his boat and went off into the inky darkness. Twenty minutes later he was back with two big frogs.
He pulled out his knife, cut the legs off, peeled off the skin and took them into the house where he fried them in butter and garlic. He gave one to Justin and he was surprised at how good it tasted.
The next morning it was time to leave and all the way home we talked about what a great trip we had. Drake and his guides were great hosts and went out of their way to make my hunt possible. Our hunt in September was just bad timing. We just ran into a streak of hot weather that slowed the deer movement. We gave it our best but I’m thinking the next time I will go the end of October when it should be cooler. I can’t wait to give Missouri another try.
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