I missed a buck the other evening. He was a long ways off, and he was walking and it was getting late, and I think my sights may be off a little on my rifle. Not only that, I was weak from walking so far that day and couldn't steady my rifle. And there may have been a stick or two that deflected the bullet. If anyone can think of another excuse I might use, send it to me. Those are the only ones I could come up with.
I am glad I missed him now. He would have been poor eating, and I might have had to be out there in the dark gutting a deer by moonlight, knowing it would take me two hours to drag him out of the woods.
He was a nice buck, but I have no idea how many points he had. Every time I see one in the wild, I think of that stupid four-point rule hunters have to live with in the northern two-thirds of Missouri. Thankfully we don't have to put up with that in most of the Ozark counties now, but it may be coming. The way I see it, if a landowner wants to manage his deer that way, that's fine. If some hunters organization wants its members to go by that, that's okay too.
If the Conservation Department wants to select public ground they own to be hunted under that four-point rule, great. But when you require all hunters and all landowners to adopt that rule or be illegal, just so you can satisfy a minority, namely the trophy hunters who they hope will come from out of state and pay big money for deer tags, you are making a bad, bad mistake. The outbreak of Chronic Wasting disease is about to throw a big wrench in the gears of those plans.
I expect the deer I missed would have been one where the trophy hunters would have been talking in terms of what his antlers "scored". We need ways to score everything we hunt; squirrels, rabbits, turkeys, etc. I myself am a trophy squirrel hunter and I believe that if a squirrel's tail isn't at least ten inches long, he should be passed up so that he can have a longer tail next year.
Same thing with rooster pheasants. When I was young, my Iowa cousins and I hunted pheasants with our dads. At the end of the day we pulled out tail feathers and measured them. It should be required of all pheasant hunters that they go only for trophy pheasants with tails 18 inches or longer, and let the ones with shorter tail-feathers fly away unharmed!
Page 2 of 3 - Of course there is already a scoring system for wild turkey gobblers, combining the length of the spurs, the length of the beard and the weight of the bird to come up with a "score" telling you if you have a trophy turkey or not. Can you imagine where I would be in the wild turkey record book with that seven-bearded, 21-pound gobbler I killed years ago which had one and a quarter inch spurs. I could have been a famous professional turkey hunter with just that one gobbler.
Honest to goodness folks, many years ago, here in Missouri, several officers from a local Wild Turkey Federation group were apprehended hunting wild gobblers over bait, and one of them told conservation agents he was trying to get a gobbler that would score in a world record category.
I read something written lately by the president of a Kansas hunting club. He told his trophy club members to pass up any buck which was not a 'trophy', saying that going without a deer this season would be worth it if the smaller bucks you pass up would be big antlered trophies next year.
Then I got this letter from a north-Missouri farmer. "You worry too much about that four point regulation." He wrote, "We don't here. We shoot a deer and if it is a fork-horn or a six pointer, we call it in and say it is a seven pointer, or we just take it to the barn and butcher it and put it in the freezer and that's it. I use to wouldn't do things that way, but they've made it silly now. Nobody is going to tell me my grandson or my nephew can't shoot a deer on my place that isn't big as they think it ought to be. Most of my neighbors do the same thing. That bunch who runs the conservation thinks the deer is theirs. They ain't. And they ain't coming on my place either. Most folks who live in the country respected them years back. Now they are a bunch of money-grubbers."
Not all the people involved are as he described. Some older agents make no attempt whatsoever to enforce the four-point rule, and they have told me so. The Conservation Department is full of good hardworking people who know what a farce that rule is. One employee who has been with the department for almost thirty years told me, "I don't think I could tell you the number of points on 80 percent of the bucks I see. We are making lawbreakers of good people, we are getting skewed numbers on the deer which are reported, and we are causing deer to be left in the woods because hunters thought they counted four points and they just weren't there."
Page 3 of 3 - The Missouri Department of Conservation reported that the number of deer harvested in Missouri on opening weekend was down. The wind and bad weather, and bright moonlight, caused much of that. Maybe the fear of that 'mad-deer disease' is having an effect too. But more and more, there are deer killed by landowners and their family members that are not reported.
I only wish the Missouri Department of Conservation would allow all the hunters of Missouri, including those holding landowner tags, to vote on that four-point regulation. It would be easy to do by sending out one of their famous questionnaires which I get several of each year, wanting to know what my opinion is on this or that, or wanting to know how many ducks I killed last year, as if I keep count.
Just do it. Send out a simple letter to everyone, and make the harvest of deer something decided by Missouri hunters rather than the out of state hunters they hope will soon pay five hundred dollars to kill a 'trophy' in Missouri.
Well, it is an historic time here on Lightnin' Ridge. We are mailing out the very first issues of the new magazine, 'Journal of the Ozarks'. I hope the premier issue becomes a collector's item someday. It is something we are trying to do to replace the very popular Ozarks Mountaineer magazine which had been published for sixty years, then dropped almost exactly one year ago. I am proud of the new magazine, and I hope everyone likes it. If you ordered one, you should receive it before the first of December.
As one of our listeners suggested, after the first of the year I will be trying to talk to fishing guides around the Ozarks who can tell people how to improve their fishing on various waters. My radio program airs on KWTO 560 AM each Sunday morning from 8 to 9. You can hear it anywhere on the computer at www.radiospringfield.com
To get a sample copy of that new Ozark magazine, or the outdoor magazine we have put out for 12 years now, just call our office at 417 777 5227. You can even get a sample sent to someone as a Christmas gift if you would like.
My website is www.larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613.