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ozark trout fisher

One Last Outing

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As you all know,  next weekend is opening day of Firearms Deer season in Missouri. I've been hunting in the outside-the-fence portion of Peck Ranch Conservation area for a bit over a decade now. The hunting isn't especially good; it's always more of a surprise when a deer does end up in the back of the pick-up by the end of the weekend than if we go home empty. But it's beautiful. The smell of the shortleaf pine, the rocky glades on top of Stegall Mountain, the fog over the fields in Vermillion Bottoms on a November morning. If that place doesn't capture your heart it probably isn't beating. 

I am taking a natural-resources related position in Indiana, and start pretty soon. I've already got a new place, moved quite a bit of my stuff, the whole nine. It won't be all that different-it's still the midwest, after-all, there are still pretty, forested hills in the southern part of the state, there are still deer and turkey and smallmouth bass. It's a pretty comfortable transition. 

But it still is different, and given that I'll be an Indiana resident sooner than later (and who in their right mind chalks up the money for non-resident tags when there are big deer in your backyard?) this is probably the last time I hunt at Peck Ranch. And while you never know where life will take you, also probably the last time I'll be in the Ozarks, period, for quite awhile. You can say what you want about coming back, but there will be new streams, new hills, and bigger smallmouth bass. And Michigan and that steelhead and trout paradise just to the north. There are no guarantees I'll be back here for awhile, and honestly, I'm fine with that. 

But it's gonna be weird. Peck Ranch is always going to be the place where I shot my first deer, where I thought it was easy because it wandered right in front of me a few hours into the first day and stood stock-still, as if it were waiting for me. In the same watershed a few miles to the north, that is always going to be the place where I refined my fly-fishing technique, where I learned that even though glo-bugs and a strike indicator do work pretty well, there are actually other ways to catch trout. Eminence is always going to be the town where I stood under the bridge and happily caught smallmouth bass while my car with the hopelessly blown-out transmission was being worked on a few blocks over. These are things you don't forget. 

Anyway, I won't be thinking about any of that next weekend. I'll be enjoying the (hopefully) chilly morning, watching the sun rise, and then set, probably not causing the slightest bit of harm to any deer in the process. But when I drive away on Sunday afternoon, it's going to feel a bit different than it usually does. 

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OTF

I understand what you are going through. I still often reminisce about the hunts that I made when I first started hunting in Pennsylvania. I didn't grow up hunting and didn't start until I was 22 years old and didn't shoot my first deer until the next year, but I can remember that first successful hunt. I was up in a small tree overlooking a small creek coming our of a blueberry swamp. I didn't have on a safety harness (don't even know if at that time there really were many harnesses available) but I wanted to get above the blueberry bushes for a possible shot. Up to this point I had only shot small game and after nearly 5 days of hiking all over this public land and seeing does, but no bucks (was bucks only at that time) I was uncertain how I would do if and when a legal deer presented a shot. Sure enough an 8 point buck came down along that creek and the predator took over and the shot rang out. Even after 27 years I can picture that event. I hunted four more season in PA and then moved to Florida, where I have never hunted even after living there for 6 years. The thought of hunting on foot in 80+ degree weather in swamps with every know venomous critter and alligators never appealed to me. The first couple of years, my wife and I would return to PA to hunt. But that got more and more expensive and too much of a time commitment. Now the deer where never as large as the ones that I frequently see nor were any of the other game more abundant in PA as they are here in the Midwest. However, I still have thoughts of going back to that swamp to hunt deer or bear. I have the map of that state land on the wall of my office. If nothing more than to look over and think what if.

If I were to leave Missouri, I would reminisce about many hunts and fishing trips including those that I have posted about on this site. It is those experiences that makes who we are. I feel a richer person for experiencing them and I am sure that you do as well as you think on the those that you described in your post(s).

1 hour ago, ozark trout fisher said:

I'll be enjoying the (hopefully) chilly morning, watching the sun rise, and then set, probably not causing the slightest bit of harm to any deer in the process.

 

7 minutes ago, Haris122 said:

I got a feeling I too, will not be causing deer any harm when I do go next week.

I am living proof that I am currently not harming any animals with my bow thus far.

Good luck this weekend, on your move, and on those new experiences that you will soon encounter.

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A lot of people have a very strong sense of place, and I'm one of them.  I fell in love with Montana, enough in love (as did Mary) to buy a place there and live there part of the year, but my roots are in the Missouri Ozarks and it will always be home.  I can't really imagine totally leaving it, so I guess I'm fortunate in that in my career situation I don't ever HAVE to make that decision.

We just got back to our home in Missouri an hour ago, after two long days of driving.  And I'm already planning on how I'm going to spend the rest of the week...fishing or bowhunting?

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9 hours ago, Al Agnew said:

A lot of people have a very strong sense of place, and I'm one of them.  I fell in love with Montana, enough in love (as did Mary) to buy a place there and live there part of the year, but my roots are in the Missouri Ozarks and it will always be home.  I can't really imagine totally leaving it, so I guess I'm fortunate in that in my career situation I don't ever HAVE to make that decision.

We just got back to our home in Missouri an hour ago, after two long days of driving.  And I'm already planning on how I'm going to spend the rest of the week...fishing or bowhunting?

I hope you're going to be here for a while?

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I spent some time in Indiana back in the 1980's  4-wheelin' and fishing strip pits.  Had a great time and made a few friends that I still talk to from time to time.   There were lots of places to go goof-off in the woods, and tons of good fishing.  If it is still like that then you're gonna love it. 

Have fun and post up some reports here once you get settled.  

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I  made it down to Peck, and it was one of the better weekends I've spent down there in awhile. That area never stops getting me. If you haven't seen a sun rise or set from atop Stegall Mountain you are cheating yourself out of one of the region's great pleasures. I'm glad to say I got to do both this weekend.

As far as the hunting itself, by the standards of public land hunting in the deep Ozarks, it wasn't terrible. I got one shot on an unusually nice 8 point buck, though in retrospect it was ill-advised (it was on the run and in pretty thick brush, a bad recipe). It was one of those times when you are more glad that you got a clean miss than upset that you didn't bring the deer down. I still haven't ever shot a deer and spent more than an hour looking for it, and I wasn't wanting to break that trend. Thankfully it sailed over his head and no one was the worse off for the transaction.

Because it wasn't turkey season and I had a rifle in hand, of course I saw a bunch, including one gobbler that I could have hit with a rock. A pileated woodpecker decided to spend most of his afternoon pecking at the big white oak I was sitting under. That made it impossible to fall asleep, which, if I were a more serious deer hunter, wouldn't have pissed me off.

5 minutes before legal shooting hours came to a close, a fat doe came within about 90 yards, and silhouetted herself on a ridgeline. I raised my Marlin lever action, cocked the hammer back...but I just couldn't see her well enough. It may have been legal light but it was dark as hell, and i wasn't up for spending my night looking for little dots of blood on the ground. Before I could rethink what was pretty clearly the right decision, I emptied the shells out of my rifle, and stood up, scaring her away.

On the way back to camp, I noticed that there was a small fire burning in the woods along the main road. I don't know what caused that, but I suspect drunk/careless hunters and their attendant campfires, or possibly cigarettes, played a key role. I can confirm as of this morning that it was contained by a sturdy fireline and had done minimal damage.

There was no action to be had this morning, but I was tired, and not all that into the hunting. Before long I found myself sitting on a rock atop Stegall Mountain, admiring the view one last time. It's the best in this state, and one I'll miss dearly.

So that is about it, my friends.  I have no regrets, and I can only hope the hills of southern Indiana treat me half as well.

 

 

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Had similar luck as you this deer season. Had 6 days to get it done on public land in the ozarks during regular season. First 5 of those I didn't see a single deer, despite being there all day. Last day I saw 4, and almost got the kind of shot I felt would be clean and quick, and then the deer pulled a vanishing act on me. Hoping to give it another go during antlerless.

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