Nathan “Shags” McLeod with his 2018 Missouri Ozark Mountains firearms fork horn.
My favorite weekend of the year has come and gone. The 2018 firearms opener for deer is in the books and it was a blast. Driftwood Acres deer camp 2018 consisted of my dad, cousin Derek and Nathan “Shags” McLeod. We were deep in the Ozarks and enjoyed the bounty of Missouri public land.
My dad doesn’t hunt. He came to camp just to hang out and put his incredible carpentry skills to use at the cabin. I have to admit to feeling a little guilty about his plans to work on my place while I sat in a deer stand, so when the first buck rolled by my stand at 10:15 on opening morning, I took the opportunity and filled my tag with a nice nine-pointer. My freezer is again full of healthy, organic game meat, and I’ll forever have memory of a beautiful, frosty morning buck taken high upon an Ozark ridge.
With my deer hanging from the recently constructed buck pole made out of a sturdy cedar tree trunk harvested from my property, I was free to toil alongside my dad while Derek and Shags worked to fill their tags. Dad and I finished hanging the last of the cedar wall paneling and knocked out a bunch of other tasks. With the punch list completed, the interior of the cabin is really near completion. A lot of time and effort has gone into getting to this point, but with the construction all but buttoned up, I can now start tackling many of the habitat improvement tasks I have my heart set on. I can’t wait to have my food plots and bedding areas developed.
Shags hunted the same spot where he took a bruiser buck last year and had the same result. He was able to fill his tag on Sunday evening with a really unique five-point buck. The deer grew quite a bit of antler, they just didn’t branch. Coming from Oregon, Shags likes to still hunt like he did as a kid. The technique has paid off handsomely for him the past two seasons, proving one doesn’t need to sit in a treestand to be successful in the Midwest.
On our way to camp, Shags and I stopped at Scenic Rivers Taxidermy to pick up our bucks from last year. As always, Heath and Larry produced true works of art. Hanging two big bucks on the cabin wall the night before the opener was great motivation for the coming morning. Although we had hoped to repeat the scenario next season, which meant bagging big bucks, we ended up with smaller ones this year, but the memories and the meat we collected are certainly trophies we’ll forever cherish.
Derek hunted hard. He walked more miles in a few days than he likely has in the last few months. Not that he isn’t normally active, I’m just saying he pounded some dirt on this trip in search of a buck. He passed some smaller ones and had a whopper within 30 yards, but was facing the wrong way when the buck blew and bounded off. He didn’t have to time to shoot and ended up not killing a deer. He was nonetheless satisfied with his Missouri deer hunting experience. The Ozarks moved him, as the region has a way of surprising out of towners when they experience the grandeur of these middle of America mountains for the first time.
Bald Eagles were around the entire time we were in camp. Tuesday morning, I sat on my porch with binoculars for two hours and watched a pair of mature eagles and a juvenile flying up and down the creek. I drank an entire thermos of coffee. There wasn’t a single interruption. No phone calls, emails or texts. No sounds or signs of civilization. It was a deep sort of relaxation rarely experienced in today’s technological world. Only found in nature.