Matt Foster made the most of his Missouri 2018 season after drawing a coveted WMA tag. Here’s his story:
Sometimes the best thing you can have going for you is to have an old man.
My father was born and raised on the Gulf of Mexico before moving to Colorado after I came along. Though he’d done his fair share of it, he didn’t care for killing things; he preferred growing them instead. He could fish, and fish well, but the only trout he’d ever caught were speckled. Rainbows, browns and cutthroats were way out of his league. So he found an old man named Frank who backpacked fingerlings to remote lakes in the Rockies. For the next couple of years Frank taught us the ins and outs of fly fishing. Dad always found an old man when he didn’t have the expertise he knew we needed. Don’t get me wrong, my dad knew and taught me a lot, but one of the most important lessons I learned from him was to find an old man to teach me what I didn’t know.
I picked up whitetail hunting after college, and I struggled through every mistake a guy could make, from too much movement to not minding the wind, all the way to forgetting my release in the truck. That’s when I remembered to find an old man. I felt even sillier making those mistakes in front of someone else, but the hunting sure got easier.
My latest old man is Stacy. He’s a barrel chested, salt-and-peppered mountain of a man, whose big hands are dwarfed only by his ear-wide smile. He cut his teeth hunting elk with his old man in Colorado, but when I met him he was chasing deer and turkey and squirrel in the southern Missouri Ozarks. Stacy has since called in turkeys for me to miss, taken me to secret whitetail honeyholes so deep I couldn’t find my way back out, and dropped me on top of walleyes during the run. He’s been a part of every significant outdoor story of mine for the past seven years, and countless insignificant stories as well. So when I was invited to put in with him on a managed hunt in northern Missouri, I jumped at the chance. Stacy had drawn the tag once before, and the hunt was spoken of in hushed and reverent tones. We put in for three years before our names were finally drawn.
There was already an army of orange dots marking the spots I’d planned to sit when we showed up, and a tough hunt was made tougher when we learned that the combine had broken down and the crops were still standing tall. Most hunters’ plans were ruined. Sadly for them, they didn’t have an old man. It took Stacy and I three days to figure out that the deer were moving through head high CRP and that they could only be seen from a tree. It took one more morning to find the right gap to shoot through. That morning I took a fat doe with a body bigger than any buck I’d shot. The marbled fat on her meat looked more like beef than venison. The Ozark Mountains bucks we’d been hunting survived on a diet of acorns and rocks and didn’t always offer the best table fare, but these WMA deer grew fat on corn and soybeans. Brunch and a midmorning nap were well earned, but we couldn’t lounge around camp too long; we each had another tag, and it was still the rut.
That afternoon felt different. I’d worked harder for that doe than any deer I’d killed before, and I was feeling accomplished. I was done climbing trees and picking deer out of tall grass, though. I posted up on the edge of a field on the northernmost point of the property, at an intersection of cut beans, rye grass, and CRP. I found some buck brush to lean against and settled in. It was going to be a long afternoon.
I’d just pulled the thermos from my backpack when I saw the buck standing there. I threw my gun across my backpack and squeezed off a shot before either of us knew what happened. He dropped immediately. I stood up to look for Stacy on the other end of the field, some 500 yards away, and tried to pantomime the buck’s antlers, but ended up putting my hands on my head and falling over backwards in disbelief. Stacy came running over, worried something was wrong. It was 2:08 PM. We’d been hunting for less than ten minutes.
I can pretend that I am a good woodsman and an accomplished hunter. I can lie and say that I was waiting for other hunters to bump those bedded deer my direction. But the truth of the matter is that it pays to be lucky. And it never hurts to have an old man.
Do you have a story to share? Type up the details of your hunt, and shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include a picture or two. I’ll make sure all your i’s are dotted and your t’s are crossed and publish on this website the story of your hunt for all the world to see. All I ask is that you then share a link to your story with your family and friends and maybe interact with those who might have questions or comments. Because stories are meant to be shared. And hunts are meant to be celebrated.