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For the first time since 2019, it was time to return. We had not done the Ozark Whitetail hunt for the last 2 seasons, mainly due to issues with Covid but also since the Texas hunt is an easier flight and less time away. But having neglected the home of my ancestors for so long, we decided it was time to return. Until we saw ticket prices. For my wife, hunting season is generally a labor of love. But the trip to the Ozarks is more a labor. There are at least two flights, then a two-hour drive. She gets motion sick ~every time, and has passed this trait onto our son. More on this in a moment. But for the time being, we decided that the best move would be for me to take both kids, meet up with Grandma and the rest of the Ozarks crew, and give mom a break at home. So off we went, Dad and both kids on our first long distance travel without mom. My father-in-law Rich, a frequent character in these write ups would thankfully still be joining us, so I would have another person on the stand that could take a kid. Off we went. We made it to Chicago without incident, but from here things went south (literally and figuratively) pretty quickly. Bubba nearly got sick on the plane, but we made it off the plane and got him settled down and avoided a mess. Here we are enjoying McDonalds waiting on one more flight, then to meet up with Papa and Grandma and then the long drive over the twisting Ozark roads until we finally arrive.

Human Beard Sharing Toddler Happy

The next flight was a mess. Bubba got sick, twice. On those little regional planes there is just nothing to do and no where to go but sit there and pray for it to be over. We got off the plane just a filthy mess and needless to say we were not quite as enthusiastic as I would normally be to see grandma. Papa was there too and we got Bubba cleaned up and changed clothes. It didn’t matter too much as he got sick again on the car ride. But we did finally make it. Exhausted beyond words, I got the kids to bed.

I had prayed for mercy on the first day of this trip, and now we had Friday to take a break and check the stands and get things set up for opening morning. We drove the ranch and climbed into the stands and checked things out. In all the years I’ve been hunting our ranch, I had never once seen so many scrapes and rubs as we saw on this Friday drive. Sign everywhere. Enthusiasm for opening morning was very high. This scrape was almost immediately below “Dad’s stand” and now Bubba and I had a plan for opening morning. Big Sister and Papa would hunt in the Pop up blind down the draw below a set of scrapes we also found there.

People in nature Plant Wood Tree Grass

We did have one other issue of note that Friday. We hit the little public range in the conservation area nearby. I brought cast bullets for the 35 Remington and the old 30-30. It is very satisfying to make the alloy and cast these and this is really the perfect hunt for them. You’re not going to get a shot over 60 yards in almost any case and want a big slow bullet.
Hand Finger Gesture Thumb Wood

At the range Papa got on the 35, which was bit short for him and usually the gun mama uses. He gets a few shots off and we promise big sister she can fire the 30-30. But we made a critical error and Papa went first and promptly gave himself a hard scope-kiss with his third shot. He comes back from the rifle, blood coming down his forehead and dripping off his nose and said he needed a minute. Big sister, seeing Papa’s bleeding face, seemed to lose some enthusiasm for shooting. After a talk about procedure and set-up she did get a decent pattern from the old 30-30

Tableware Dishware Plate Table Serveware

The kids relaxed a bit in the afternoon and I walked to the tiny little grocery store in town just off the old town square. I was ready for a break, and some of that mercy I had been praying for. Imagine my surprise in this county seat of 700 people that somehow this store has a Makers Mark limited release at $30 below MSRP. How is this even possible? I can’t imagine how the store is making anything off this. I am amazed that they have it at all, let alone at a steal of a price. Was it sent for me? A prayer that was answered? I do not think it is my place to question the methods of the Holy Spirit, but rather only to walk in gratitude.

Bottle Liquid Product Solution Bottle cap

And so that night we sat around the hearth and Grandma told the old stories. The children slept warm in their beds and Papa and I leaned in around the table and Grandma talked of the land and her grandpa’s farm and how her granddad added to it and how he left it. The wind howled while the kids slept and Papa and I listened warm throughout with the stories and the bourbon as Grandma spoke before the hearth. She spoke of the old photo of the wolf hunt, and her Grandpa standing there with his son before the splayed carcass of the wolf and our kin standing posed in the old black and white photo on the land and the farm. There her Grandpa with the single barrel break-action 12 gauge that he bought from a mail-order catalog and took on the wolf hunt and set against the door jam in the farmhouse for all the decades after. The wind howled and it snowed that night and was very cold. Now with gear for Papa, myself and both kids to hunt sitting still with temperatures in the 20s the gear pile nearly over-ran the mud room. But we were ready.

Luggage and bags Bag Backpack Personal protective equipment Sneakers

Breakfast on opening morning is a big deal. The guys all gather and we pulled in at a quarter to 5 and were the last ones there. Miss Marilyn hates photos so I try to be sly. It’s time to fill plates and then we pile into the trucks and are off.

Food Tableware Countertop Table Kitchen appliance

We drop off Cousin Jay and his son, then drop off Mark, then circle around to the pop-up and drop Papa and big Sister. And finally, in the way back corner, Bubba and I will sit over the scrape, newly covered in the snow from last night. I'm sitting on the chair set up in the old platform stand. Bubba is on a boat cushion on the platform and sitting lodged between me and the beams of the platform ladder. He is still and calm but I know he's as excited as I am. We watch the sun rise. It’s opening morning.

Sky Snow Water Wood Boats and boating--Equipment and supplies

Continued in Part 2

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
<Thank you kindly for the feedback>

Part 2:

It didn’t take too long. As we sat for a while, a smaller buck came through, and then down in the brush just on the edge of visibility there were several does milling around. Since we had two doe tags to fill, I gave Bubba a tap on the head to get his attention and then we waited. And waited. Nothing. They were not coming towards us but not moving away either—just stuck in one spot. I thought I might grunt and get the lead doe to come check out who was in the neighborhood. So I gave a soft grunt. Then we waited some more. Nothing. I gave a series of louder grunts, a bit more aggressive. The one doe clearly picked up her head and glanced my way but then went right back to feeding. I figured they would either wind us, or see us, or wander off sometime soon, so I really grunted in a loud series of grunts, louder than I normally would. Still nothing. But then a stick cracked back behind me. Directly behind us a buck was coming in on a dead run, looking around. Woops. He was clearly looking for the trespasser. He came into 25 yards, then 15. I tried to swing around on my favored side to get the rifle up and behind me but the angle was awful. He started down the hill and I fired. He did give a little hop but otherwise seemed mostly unconcerned. I grunted again and again he spun and came back towards my left where I had a lot better angle. I glanced down at Bubba who was fully engaged at this point. I swung and fired again and that one hit home. He took off on a run but was clearly hit. I never heard a crash but the woods were wet and heavy with the fresh snow so that didn’t bother me too much.

“Did we get him?”

--I think so, let’s give him just a minute then go check.

Bubba loves to track deer. Loves it. So I was actually kind of relieved that neither he nor I could see the deer fall. I was pretty confident in the second shot but the angle was hard quartering towards. We got off the stand and I let the boy sort it out. Here he’s showing me a good blood spot and we are tracking through the new snow. You can see in the photo the leaves past the blood are clearly disturbed and angling back and towards the top right of the photo. Not exactly challenging tracking but it was perfect for this morning’s lesson.

Snow Plant People in nature Twig Freezing

And it didn’t take us long and we had our nice opening morning buck. Here the exit wound is visible and that second shot passed through the animal diagonally. The first shot is (barely) visible above the shoulder. Too high to break the shoulder but somehow it also didn't break the spine. Thankfully we had the second shot opportunity. It was not my best shooting, but we got him.

Vertebrate Branch Mammal Organism Snow

Then it was all smiles:

Plant Hunting Deer hunting Trophy hunting Vertebrate

We got him back towards the stand and had heard some other shots but mostly waited through the rest of the morning

We had another good buck come in. He clearly knew something was up and never came right in to my grunts like the other guy did. We had plenty of shot opportunity but we had punched our antlered tag and it sounded like our crew had a few more deer down so we sat tight and I tried to take a photo of the buck we let walk:

Plant Natural landscape Twig Trunk Wood

I called it about 09:30 when the boy was a bit restless and Papa texted that big Sister was also getting wiggly. We rounded up our crew and found that Jay and his son had tagged a great buck. Yes, this is the same young man who tagged a big buck in 2019 last time I posted a report from this ranch. Jay said they shot at 07:30 that morning and had been watching the deer walk by since then. Another proud Dad-Son hunting moment this morning
Trophy hunting Hunting Deer hunting Plant Smile

There was also a third spike that Uncle Jerry tagged. That one was also taken with a cast bullet and (similar to Bubba’s buck) the shot passed diagonally through the animal and then re-entered the back right leg. But all in all we had quite a truck load to head into the CWD station in town.

Vehicle Car Hood Motor vehicle Automotive exterior

After our check-in we got everything hung up and left to cool while we re-grouped.

Wood Art Beam Natural material Fashion design

At this point in the trip I found what I would describe as my one disappointment of the trip. We finally, after I don’t know how many years, recovered one of the 35 caliber cast bullets from the spike buck mentioned above. It did not look like what I wanted it to look like. I read an entire book on solid state lead alloy mixes to try and get this mix right, and scavenged wheel weights and linotype and really thought I had a mix that was hard enough to not lead the barrels but that would expand in game. Apparently not. I don’t know how many deer we have taken with these cast bullets. A dozen anyway. 4 this trip alone. But clearly the alloy is just too hard. Anyway, back to the drawing board on this one.

Body jewelry Gesture Finger Wedding ring Thumb

Once we had all eaten a big lunch then Big sister and I sat for an evening hunt, Papa took Bubba and back out we went. This hunt was mostly uneventful. Papa did take a swing at a big doe but we did not connect.

The morning came with another hard freeze. The ice freezes out of the little stems that are still green from the fall and Sister thought it was hilarious that the woods had made a whole batch of little popsicles

Plant People in nature Natural landscape Grass Tree

We sat on our stand and a little doe came in. We have two doe tags, and sister had not gotten a deer yet this year, and no real reason to pass, so I took the shot and dropped the doe. Like Bubba the day before, I tried to talk her into sitting with me for a few more minutes and see if anything else came by before we went charging down. I turned to mention to her to stay put and she is already halfway down the ladder

“Daddy we got one! We got one!”

Not one to dampen the enthusiasm of a child, off we went to collect our doe

Smile Hunting Plant Sunglasses People in nature

Now with our tags filled and considerable butchering to do, pressure was off and some time to relax. We had a giant steak dinner with the family Sunday night so we came off the stands a bit early so I could help grill. We got ready for Monday as Papa still had an antlered tag to fill

Continued in one last part.

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
<Again I really appreciate the feedback. Harvey @DogZilla15 if I have time to run out to the shop today I will show a photo of the "before" on that cast slug. Believe it or not it had a gas check on it initially>

Final Update:

With most of the tags filled and a great round up from the first day the pressure is off. Papa still has one antlered tag to fill. We get started butchering. Usually butchering is Daddy alone in the barn working on the deer. This time Papa is here, so that’s a huge help. Then the most blessed words

“Daddy Can I help?”

--Sure! I love help

“If I help do I get a knife?”

--Well, since your mom is no… Errr... Well honey I don’t know of another way to do it!
Food Butcher Table Retail Pork

She did a great job and seemed to like working on the shoulders the best. Just cut it all off, nothing gets steaked, just work it all off the bone. In one afternoon we were done with our butchering and packaging and then ready to head back out. I had one more doe tag—not really in a hurry to fill it but this will be the last chance to hunt on the ranch for a while so off we go.

As it turned out -- we began on a high note on opening morning and we ended on one too. A buck came in for Papa to hang a tag on, with Bubba right there for the whole thing. This was on “Granddad’s stand” The buck made an awful racket coming through the woods and had to get across the property line but eventually did his part. Bubba was explaining to the group later that he had a funny walk and made all kinds of noise but was moving slow. In retrospect it was a good thing we got to tag this one. I am not sure what the issue was but the front left shoulder was broken (not due to the shot) and the hoof was cut to the bone and already sour and rotting. Tangled in a fence? I’m not sure. I posted on a hunt report from this same ranch years ago of a buck that had a similar injury, but I’m not sure what is causing it. But this hoof was pretty rank and with the broken front shoulder the buck would have had a long winter to starve to death. But anyway the shot was good (hard cast bullets or not) and he didn’t (couldn’t?) go far and so we ended our last night right at last light with a buck for Papa to tag and Bubba with another deer story to tell.

Trophy hunting Plant Hunting Deer hunting Smile

The injured hoof. Looks almost like a fence wire got in there and cut it up the leg. There was a clear smell to it. The shoulder was broken -- I presume from twisting it lose of whatever it got caught in.

Bat Fish Snout Little red flying fox Mouse eared bat

One last grip-and-grin on the last evening. Papa’s scope kiss is just visible. We thankfully ended on a better note than we started on at the range and no more war wounds from the time we took the kids to a white tail rodeo.

Smile Trophy hunting Outerwear Hunting Plant

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Awesome story!! This brought back a lot of memories for me. I am originally from the Ozark area (Arkansas side) and reading this/seeing all of these pictures makes me want to go back next fall. There's something special about whitetail hunting in the Ozark woods where there is light frost in the morning, no wind whistling through the white oak tree's, and sitting in a tree stand with family listening to a buck slowly walk on the fallen oak leaves.

Thank you for sharing this! Definitely a great trip for the family and great hunting success!
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