The biggest problem with the Saturday general deer season is it has so little time between it and bear season. One must also remember there is a Thanksgiving sandwiched in that week. Most avid hunters are married and must explain to their partner why they are gulping down their dinner to get going again. Me? I am single so I have little to worry about along these lines. Still, I rush around to get things ready for the season opener.

The reason for my rush has to do with the fact that the last couple of years have found me hunting deer in Missouri with the Macon County Outfitters. They are located in northern Missouri and the week before our Saturday opener finds me there. Now in my later years, it takes me 3-4 days to recover from the travel and the hunt.

Why Missouri? Well first of all, they put more bucks in the Boone and Crockett Record Book than Ohio. Then there’s the fact that Matt Shoemaker delivers what he promises. His hunting territory has plenty of bucks to choose from. With a lease of 6,000 acres, he can handle a large number of hunters and the facility offers great accommodations and food. I met Matt at the winter sports show in Monroeville. This is one of the only shows he attends, the other being the eastern sports show in Harrisburg. This year, of the 50 hunters, there were 44 bucks taken. Most of his clients come from Pennsylvania.

Three of us drove out to northern Missouri and all 3 drove back home days later with smiles on our faces. My son-in–law, Mike Ward, made a great shot on the first day, getting an 8-point buck. Monty Hunnel from Jefferson shot the biggest deer, which was a nice 8-point. I was happy to shoot a decent 10-pointer. This deer had the typical massive body that draws hunters to this state.

It just amazes me the size of the deer out there. Of course, they are a different sub species than our Northern Whitetail, being Kansas Whitetail. It is not unusual to see a big buck from Missouri tip the scales at 200 pounds.

Bear season was successful for the members of the R.C. Luce Bear Camp, but that is not unusual. Over the last 39 years, this dedicated group of bear hunters have taken 148 bears. That is phenomenal. Four of the group’s successful hunters also reside in the Scenery Hill–Bentleyville area.

Mike Weber bagged his bear and will be trying for his fourth triple trophy. This is getting your bear, buck and bearded turkey on the same license. The bear is the toughest to get. Also getting his bear were Kelly (Spanky) McIlvain, John Vickless and his son Matthew. The person who has not hunted for bear doesn’t appreciate the difficulty in hunting this rarely seen animal. There is little that is secret about bear hunting and it really isn’t that important which of the northern counties hunted. The secret is to find the thickest cover in the area and hunt there. I have hunted with this group and they are a bunch of hard hunters, spending little time gabbing but move from one spot to another driving the thickets.

When hunting this way, there is little need for long range rifles with high powered scopes for most shooting is close range at a moving target. Some of the hunters even go so far as to use a shotgun with slugs or even a handgun. Unfortunately, I met this group in my later years and have trouble keeping up with them. But if I were 30 years younger, bears beware.

About six months ago, I sold a Marlin .336 Sporting Carbine to John Vickless and he used it this season to bag his bear. The rifle is chambered for the .35 Remington and makes it a fast to the shoulder, up close range rifle, if one was ever made. His son Matt shot a standard .336 and Mike carried his faithful Remington 7600 in 30-06. I must say that Scenery Hill gang does know how to hunt bears.

  • n The Game Commission should be praised for proposing caliber restrictions for big game hunting. It is a no brainer that the semi-auto rifle is going to become legal in the near future and I am not opposed to the use of the semi. It is the commonly chambered .223 that I oppose. It just is not big enough for hunting deer or bear. If semis are made legal, the .223 will be brought along and with that about 80% of them are .223. Caliber restrictions will become necessary if we are to hunt humanely.

George Block writes a weekly outdoors column for the Observer-Reporter.

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