(MCT) — EL DORADO SPRINGS, Mo. — Adi Wilson, 11, started off the Missouri firearms deer opener on Saturday as just another face at her family’s hunting camp.
But midway through the morning, she was the center of attention.
Cousins, uncles, friends — they all wanted to see the 10-point buck she had shot and hear the story about how it was taken.
“I was sitting in a tree stand with my dad, and I saw something out of the corner of my eye,” she told her audience. “At first, the buck’s antlers blended into the brush, so I couldn’t tell how big he was.
“But when he walked out into the open, I could tell he was a good one. I was shaking when I went to shoot.
“But luckily, I hit it.”
For little Adi, who lives near Nevada, Mo., that capped a perfect day. She’s no newcomer at this deer hunting. She took an antlerless deer in the recent youth hunt and shot a smaller 10-point buck in the regular deer season two years ago.
But that couldn’t come close to what happened Saturday at her great uncle’s farm near El Dorado Springs.
“I just love being up here for deer camp,” she said. “I have been counting down the days until the opener.
“It’s just so much fun to be here with my family, camping out and hunting. I always feel sad when we have to go back.”
Spoken like a true Wilson. This is a family that truly loves to hunt deer.
If you have any doubts, visit the family’s deer camp on any opener. The place looks like a small village.
Fathers, son, grandpas, uncles, cousins, brothers — they all show up at the rickety old trailer in the woods on Huleigh Wilson’s land far off the beaten track.
To draw it into perspective, Huleigh counted the number of hunters at camp Saturday — 20 — and said with a straight face, “Kind of a small turnout this year.”
Deer season is treated like a holiday in this family. That’s the way it’s always been.
It started in 1977 when Huleigh bought the land to raise cattle. Even though he didn’t hunt at the time, he recognized its potential as deer property.
“It had a lot of brush and timber,” he said. “There weren’t as many deer in Missouri back then, but we’d see them on our land.”
His family started hunting the land immediately, though Huleigh often stayed behind to keep his family’s tire business in Nevada open.
But as the years wore on, Huleigh caught the bug and joined the family. Today, he is as passionate about the deer opener as any of his family.
“This is what it’s all about,” he said as he watched his great niece, Adi, bask in the spotlight. “We’ve had a lot of kids take their first deer up here.
“It’s a great family tradition.”
Lee Wilson, Adi’s father, was once one of those young hunters.
“I told Adi that I took my first deer 30 years ago on this same farm,” he said “Our family has a lot of good memories at this place.”
The hunters arrived at deer camp Friday. Some stayed in the trailer, others slept in tents.
“I had trouble sleeping last night because I could hear mice running around in the ceiling,” Huleigh said with a laugh. “We’re kind of roughing it when we go to deer camp.”
Saturday morning, the hunters scattered in the darkness to their hunting stands, all dreaming of taking one of the bucks that roam the large tract of land.
Cattle no longer graze the 945 acres and it has become overgrown with brush. But Huleigh’s sons, Kurt, Kenny and Mark, cut lanes in the thick brush and cleared sections to make it more attractive to the deer and easier for the hunters to negotiate.
The family stresses safety, ethics and managing the deer herd on their property. “We have an eight-point rule,” Kurt Wilson said. “We don’t want adults to shoot bucks that have less than eight points.”
Huleigh saw one of those eight-point bucks not long after he settled into his favorite tree stand. He saw the deer pause in a lane where the hunter had just walked into the field.
But he passed on the shot.
“That’s a small eight-pointer,” he said. “We’ll let that one grow up.”
With the weather unseasonably warm and a hard wind blowing, hunting was more difficult than normal on the large farm. Hunters guessed that the deer had bedded down in the poor conditions and were less active than usual.
But hunters such as Brandon Wilson, who was with his uncle Chris, still found success.
Leaning against a tree, he heard a deer walk in behind him. When he turned, he found a buck staring at him. “I was waiting for him to look away for a second so I could lift my gun without spooking hm,” Brandon said.
Finally, Brandon decided to break the standoff and reached for his gun. Seconds later, he had a 9-point buck.
“For me, it’s a lot more than just the hunting,” said Brandon, 23, who lives in Kansas City North . “I get to see people that I only see a couple times a year. Deer season is always a big deal for our family.”