When someone questions whether my favorite way to deer hunt is with a bow or gun, my answer is typically a bow unless it has been a rough season. In this case, I am ready to get a gun in my hands to have a better chance at harvesting a buck.
Although I am a bowhunter at heart and enjoy getting within close range of deer to make the harvest, I still have a special place in my heart for hunting with a firearm. Even though the hunt itself is excellent, for me, a gun hunt holds special meaning due to the traditions, memories, and passion I encounter from many other hunters during the firearms deer season.
As a kid, my fondest memories of firearms season come from my family. My father, brother, uncles, aunts, and I always had traditions that went along with the opening day of firearms season. We all practiced shooting our guns together, joked about who would shoot the biggest buck, and looked forward to the phone calls and visits to the check-in station midday of the season's opening.
Other traditions that I hold dear revolve around food. As a teenager, my grandmother began the tradition of making homemade apple cake and fried apple pies for my dad, brother, and me to take along with us while hunting. The night before the opening day, my grandmother would call me to come to pick up her tasty treats. She would often joke that her pies would bring us all good luck. I think she might have been right. The tradition of my grandmother's pies and other tasty baked goods lasted for nearly twenty years; until the past few years when her health failed, she could not continue to bake them.
I also enjoy the new traditions that my wife and son have implemented by making trail mix and other homemade tasty treats to send with me to the stand as well as writing good luck messages on my rifle cartridges the night before the season. Those traditions, my grandmother's annual pies, and, more importantly, their love of making them will forever hold a place in my heart.
Hunters Excitement Level
Besides the food and traditions, the excitement level many hunters gain before the season begins is something I look forward to every year. I have been blessed to live in a small rural area for the entire forty years of my life. One of the blessings of small towns is encountering the enthusiasm of other hunters and knowing how important hunting is to them. I have often teased about firearms season being like that of a holiday in my hometown. Two days before the season's opening, our local gas stations, grocery stores, and the entire town seem to come alive. Even around my workplace, the comradery and conversations revolve around deer season and recounting our memories over the years. The same old hunting stories are told yearly, and the recaps of everyone's past hunts are shared. Yet, that is what is unique about that time of year. The anticipation that comes from the lead-up to the hunt is exhilarating.
Finally, the excitement for the hunt itself. As I mentioned earlier, I have a strong passion for bowhunting. However, a special feeling surrounds the opening morning of the firearms deer season. Memories of past hunts race back on the opening morning of the season. As the sun rises and the light shines on your surroundings, a first shot is heard in the distance, and in your heart, you know that your time is coming. Knowing that the big buck of your dreams could appear at any moment is a feeling like no other. On a few occasions, I have harvested a buck within the first few minutes of legal shooting light. However, that excitement continues throughout the remainder of the season, fueling the desire to get back to the treestand or blind every chance available.
Southern Missouri is where I have spent every firearms season for the past thirty years of my life. The Missouri Department of Conservation does an excellent job determining when the firearms portion of Missouri’s deer season will occur each year. The well-planned timing allows most hunters to experience some of the year's best hunting during the week-and-a-half-long season.
Many hunters laugh at how bucks do the craziest things during the rut because of their built-up excitement for something that only happens a few weeks out of the year. I am sure if bucks joke amongst themselves, they too laugh at the excitement level that we, as hunters, have for something that only happens a short period, once a year.