The Epic "Youth Hunt" Journey

Dec 02, 2014
Tony Jacques with his 18-point buck from Dunklin County, Missouri

Tony Jacques with his 18-point buck from Dunklin County, Missouri

After hearing my woeful stories of past youth-hunt failures, my son and I were invited to a farm just outside of Poplar Bluff.

My 10-year-old son and I arrived at the beautiful farm in the hills and every deer in the county began either burrowing in the ground or submerging themselves in the creek and using reeds to breathe, and the only thing we saw was a set of ears as a doe tunneled past us at 250-yards.

We were taken in via ATV across a large pasture filled with cows, down a trail in the woods, across a knee-deep creek, back up a longer trail in the woods, across an even larger pasture, and down two trails in the woods to a ground blind. We were to walk out of the woods at dark and would be picked up and taken back.

So there we were, in the dark in the middle of a flowing creek, me holding a gun in one hand and a 10-year-old in the other, attempting to yell directions through the flashlight in my mouth while he desperately scrambled to get traction.
As it became dark enough to pack up, we gathered our things and began walking out of the woods. It was not yet dark enough to necessitate a flashlight, and as we arrived at the first pasture it had a very eerie look to it. In the dim light of dusk, it looked like a ghostly, aqua-green sea. Very “Scooby-doo-ish,” if you will. It began to rain, and we decided rather than to stand still and wait for the ATV which I heard or saw no sign of, that we should start making our way across the pasture, less we drown.

Walking across the pasture became increasingly creepy as the light faded. Our feet were barely visible, although the treetops were still in plain view. We crossed the pasture and arrived at the top of the long, descending trail in the woods, and with no sign of our taxi, I turned on my flashlight and we began walking.

A bonus photo sent in by Joe Rendon from East Prairie: a big albino catfish.

A bonus photo: Joe Rendon from East Prairie with a big albino catfish.

I am no stranger to dark woods, and as long as I am not worried, my young companion is not worried. So without worry, about two-thirds of the way down, we jumped something very large in the woods, probably a deer, but possibly a Sasquatch. I was already trying to convince my son there was nothing to be afraid of as we were coming back down from record vertical leaps, which was especially impressive for me since I was carrying his gun and a massive backpack. I told him to stay behind me for the rest of the walk, as the single-shot .243 was our only means of protection, and if it was a bBigfoot I would have to make that shot count…

He stayed tight to my hip, and we arrived at the creek without further incident, and without sight or sound of a four-wheeler. I surveyed the 20-foot-wide creek and found a suitable place to cross. My boots are much higher than his, but a large rock seemed as though it could assist him across the deepest part. I waded out into the water wearing my massive backpack, holding his gun in one hand, flashlight in my mouth, and reached out so he could take my hand and jump to the rock. He did so, and upon landing both of his boots went sliding off in either direction, unable to grab any traction from the slime-covered rock. So there we were, in the dark in the middle of the creek, me holding a gun in one hand and a 10-year-old in the other, attempting to yell directions through the flashlight in my mouth while he desperately scrambled to get traction.

It will surprise many of you to know that I am not extremely tall, and my son is quickly gaining on me, so to keep him out of the water with the death grip I had on his hand, I had to hold my hand quite high above my head. Realizing that the rock was getting less and less likely to catch a boot, let alone an entire 10-year-old, I quickly turned to an impromptu plan B, and swung him 180 degrees between myself and our intended escape. I felt confident the noise we made would run off any yetis in the vicinity, or bring them closer out of curiosity, one or the other.  Once he was firmly settled in a foot of water, I was able to extract the slobber-covered flashlight from my mouth and give him further instructions, something like, “my dear son, please make your way out of this delightful creek and up on that lovely bank” I believe were the words, more of less…

Still without rescue, we came to the last leg of our trek, and sticking to the plot of all epic journeys, it was the most worrisome. I am a country boy, having spent a lot of time on farms, but farms of row crop and not cows. I know nothing of cows, except how to properly grill them. We walked up to the gate and I expressed my concern to my companion, and he informed me that through his vast 4th grade research into farm animals he’d learned that cows can be very territorial, and I had no reason to doubt him.

I shined my light into the pasture, and figured out why we were unable to see our feet before. A thick fog had been rising, and was now surrounding us. About halfway across the field, my intent scanning found a dark blog in the mist, and our greatest fear was upon us. My partner was walking step for step with me, with his upper body between me and my backpack, so I saw no need to alert him of the looming danger. As we walked within 15-feet of the savory beast, he turned his head towards us, which through the fog appeared as an alien-like triangle with glowing orbs on either side. I pondered if there were standard rancher rules about flashlights and cows, either “shine your light in a cows eyes and it will stand still” or “shine your light in a cows eyes and it will charge you,” I couldn’t be sure so I settled on a strobe effect that seemed to hold the monster at bay. Just as we were passing him, my light discovered more triangles affixed with glowing orbs that appeared to be closing in on us. While frantically scanning all sides, keeping a brisk pace, and trying to decide which cow to shoot first, I caught sight of another set of glowing objects, taillights!

We arrived at the truck, and no sooner had I opened the door and taken the backpack and 10-year-old off than I saw the lights of the ATV heading towards us!