Josh Crawford headshot

Josh Crawford

On Christmas day, I hopped in my truck, pointed it west and made the 15-hour trip to north-central Missouri where I spent 6 days camping in my truck and chasing Midwestern bucks on public land with a muzzleloader. 

I have been looking forward to this trip since I started planning it this past summer because I knew it would be extremely challenging to get a decent buck in front of me on heavily pressured public land after they had been hunted with bows and guns for 3 months. 

With that being said, I had high hopes and knew that I was going to grind until I either killed a buck, or time ran out.

I pulled into a public parking area on Dec. 26 around 2 a.m. and leaned the seat back to take a nap for a few hours before getting out to start hunting. 

That morning, I slipped onto a ridge above a private crop field and still hunted my way along the ridge after it got daylight. 

The goal was to go slow enough to catch deer moving without spooking them, as well as cover some ground to scout and find places to hunt throughout the week. 

It wasn’t long before I ran into a pair of small bucks, which I passed on because of their size, but also because it was the 1st morning and I did not feel like going home yet. 

As the 1st day progressed, I continued to scout, and find buck sign made during the rut, but only found fresh sign in pockets, which I figured would be the case. 

I bounced around a few different Conservation Areas and ended up hunting in the evening roughly an hour away from where I had started that morning. 

I spent the afternoon glassing a large CRP field that butted up to a private crop field, and just before dark, I caught a buck slipping into a ravine roughly 400 yards from me. 

Since I knew he could not see me while he was in the ravine, I made a mad dash in his direction hoping to get within muzzleloader range before he made it back into view. After closing the distance to 125 yards, the buck slipped back up into view and I put my binoculars up to look him over. 

He was a small 7-point, and even though my standards were not high, I decided to let him go simply because it was the 1st day, and I honestly didn’t feel any pressure to shoot one that I wasn’t going to be happy with. 

Over the next 2 days, I continued to hunt in the mornings and evenings, and still hunt/scout through midday. I was hunting from daylight until dark, trying to cover as much ground and decipher as much buck sign as I could. 

During my scouting, I saw quite a few does, and had a few other small buck encounters, but nothing that interested me enough to pull the trigger on. 

The 4th morning was cold and crisp, bottoming out at 14 degrees. I got fairly cold in my sleeping bag while snoozing in the front seat of my truck, and ended up having to throw a few extra blankets over me in the middle of the night to stay comfortable. 

Before daylight, I slid onto a gradual point that led up to a ridge above a private soybean field. As daylight broke, I was immediately in action, as deer consistently moved up the point throughout the morning. 

Although I saw a lot of deer, a spike was the only buck that came by, so I ended up driving to another piece to still hunt/scout through the mid-afternoon hours but returned for the afternoon hunt. 

This time, I moved toward a cut cornfield, and climbed a tree on the edge of the property line, trying to intercept deer coming from the thick bedding areas on the public, to feed on the dropped corn kernels in the field. 

I watched quite a few does follow the script, and just before dark, a large buck stepped out of the timber, but he was 100% on private land that I did not have access to, so I simply had to watch him, as the last thing I wanted to do was chance being caught trespassing in a place I had never been. 

I ended up bouncing around the next 2 days due to an influx of hunting pressure in my original area. It seemed as though overnight parking lots became filled with trucks from Michigan and Minnesota. 

Although I had been seeing deer, I had yet to see a shooter buck on land I could hunt, so I did not mind moving toward the eastern part of the state, where I hoped I would be around fewer hunters and find more bucks. 

On my last day, I logged 11 miles on the boots simply walking to find fresh buck sign to set upon. 

Although I did see a few does and found some old bucks sign, I simply did not find anything fresh and did not see a single buck in the last few days of my trip, which ended up with me eating my 1st non-resident buck tag since 2015. 

Although I did not fill a tag on this trip, I still had an absolute blast traveling and truck-camping for 6 days. I was a little cold, miserable, and uncomfortable at times, and yes, a warm bed and a shower would’ve been nice, which will simply make the experience more exciting to look back on. I gave it my best shot, hunting daylight until dark every day, but I still came up short. 

Now that I am done whitetail hunting, I am looking forward to pretty spring mornings and gobbling turkeys. ο

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