Youth Deer Season, Again

Nov 06, 2014

PHOTO: Sara Scott Stafford with her brother Case and Dad Scott, with her 7-point buck killed in Missouri’s youth deer season

Youth deer season, that time honored tradition when precarious adolescences are escorted into the wild by the seasoned outdoorsman in their life, in hopes of encountering the majestic whitetail deer, and subsequently assassinating your majesty by means of a lead projectile through the lungs. A challenging adventure for both; the youth, thrust into the woods in the dark, surrounded by sights and sounds that are quite foreign, and the instructor, tasked with both protection and patience, in a constant attempt to muffle the young hunter while holding their fickle interest and answering their relentless questions. That is the essence of the “easy part”, then there’s the small matter of actually shooting a deer!

I spent the weekend back in one of my favorite places on Earth, Mark Twain National Forrest in the Ozarks of Missouri, with my favorite hunting partner, my 9-year-old son Jameson. We were joined by our Ozarks guide and resident “PaPa” Perry Jackson, with help from his longtime friend, Mike Hill. I initially wanted my son to have the same wonderful experiences I remember, having to “rough it” in a camp in the woods, no electricity, running water, or proper facilities, but that would mean I would have to put myself through the same “wonderful experience”, so as is the case with fathers and sons, he got it a lot easier than I did!

What has now become a staple in our youth season tradition, our accommodations for the third year running were at The Landing, a gorgeous resort that towers over Current River, a pristine, crystal clear river that cuts through the hills of the Ozarks. Every room is waterfront, and waking up to a bright November moon glistening off the spring-fed current is worth the trip in itself. The river is void of partying tourists this time of year, and our only company was the increasing number of father and son hunters taking advantage of the comfort, convenience, and scenery, as well as the off-season rates. The Landing offers the nicest lodging in the area, floating trips, houses The Blue Heron restaurant (the finest of fine dining along the river) with chef Bobby King at the helm, and has an incredible multi-purpose event center in The River Centre that you really have to see to believe. For a look at the layout go to or give them a call at 573-323-8156, you won’t be disappointed!

Now back to the hunt and my young apprentice, who eases through the woods like a crashing zeppelin, his stealth only bested by his vast knowledge of botany, with his primary emphasis on sticks. He can spot a prized specimen in a pile of otherwise common branches from 20-feet away, and in a matter of a few seconds examine and categorize said stick, either deeming it worthy of his collection or discarding it back to the forest floor. By the time we reached the deer stand, had it not already been equipped with its’ own 15-foot ladder, we’d have had the material on hand to construct one, along with a lean-to shed and a few rocking chairs.

We saw deer on every hunt, but were still unable to get the shot we were looking for. This is the closest we’ve come to harvesting his first deer, with us in perfect position on two occasions, only lacking cooperation from our would-be prey, but that is the nature of hunting. We’re not even close to being finished for the year, and come hell or high water, this will be the year he takes his first deer.

The conversations we shared over the weekend, many had with our foreheads nearly touching and in the quietest of whispers, are priceless memories. After an hour of him playing a game on my phone while I methodically scanned the woods, he grabbed my leg and said “DAD!” in a whisper-yell. I leaned in slowly with wide eyes thinking he’d seen a deer, only for him to ask what tactic I would use to defend myself from a cheetah attack…

As we were leaving I pulled up the roadmap app on my phone to make sure I was going the right way, and in the search box the last destination that was entered was still there: Atlantis!