Patrick McAllister’s MO Ghost Buck
Pat McAllister’s 21 Point Missouri “Ghost” Buck!
B&C Score 165 1/8
Haunted by the “Ghost Deer”
By Patrick McAllisterFriday night, November 12, 1999 at 6:30 p.m. my younger brother (Mike) and I pull into deer camp. (A name adopted by my older brother and his hunting partners over the past 12 years.) Section 7, Lewis County, Missouri. Near the Northern Missouri-Iowa border.
The campfire was already burning strong, we were accompanied by a handful of regular deer hunters who arrived 2 days earlier to prepare for the “Big Hunt”. This winters November night welcomed us with friends, anticipation and unseasonably cool (not cold) weather.
Mike and I unloaded our weekend sleeping gear, food and hunting supplies immediately into the 2 cabins at camp, only to join the “fireside talk” about the next mornings big kill strategies and the myth of the “Ghost Deer”.
After a few hours of strategic deer hunting tactics, 14 logs, chicken wings, and deer sausage from the previous year comes a distant light up the country road. Beams shining through the farms fields and then through the trees of his 140 acres of country farm land, we knew it was Joe, my older Brother and owner of the land of the “Ghost Deer”.
Joe did not hold back his welcome to his camp side buddies and 4 wheeled his new 4×4 Expedition right up to the camp-site. He gets a kick out of shining his bright lights on us when we are enjoying the campfire every time he pulls up. Joe unloads his gear immediately so he can get into the “Nitto gritty” of our hunting conversation.
Now that we are all together, the party begins. It’s tradition we all give our strategic plan for the next day’s big hunt over a beer or two around the campfire. It’s important we know who’s going to be where and when. A few games of washers are then played tournament style to prove “temporary manhood” among the competitive, yet manly hunters. We have adopted washers as a means of “poor mans Horse Shoes ” because it is much more fun and can be played under the 30′ covered deck in ALL elements of nature.
Then the moment of truth before an early night to rest. Who’s going to kill the big buck? Better yet, who’s going to kill, or even see the “Ghost Deer”? Now a smoldering fire, the last camp light is turned off and the next morning’s hunting dreams begin.
Joe’s 140 acres is surrounded by thousands of acres of farm land, abundant with corn, soybeans, milo, and other crops that deer especially like. Many farmers have spoken of a deer they call the “Ghost Deer” over the years. The supposed legend is that many farmers bordering Joe’s land see a deer that is described as “enormous” and “so big, it can hardly run anymore”. The farmers have described the rack as being monstrous. “This deer” (they say) “can be seen year round in the fields and woods, until deer season comes. About a week before deer season, he disappears, then returns about a week after deer season”. This has been traditional for 6 or 7 years with this particular buck.
4:15 a.m. comes early as the alarm rings in the dark, 85 degree snoring campers. We all rise with sleepy, red eyes. A little cranky at first and then the smell of Folgers fills the kitchen. We’re waking up slowly and dressing in long underwear and coveralls. It’s 29 degrees outside! Coffee, do-nuts and more hunting conversation fills the air.
Joe opens the door to see the first sign of eastern light cascade over the country side. “Boy’s, it’s time” he relays to us as we swallow our last gulp of coffee. A high five and good luck – our departing words to each other as we set out to our tree stands in the woods.
I guess I was one of the last to head to my stand, at 5: 25. am. Still dark I headed off to my tree stand. Across the creek and a hard right I arrived at the top of the hill that met Joe’s 140 acre divider of thick woods and cow pasture.
I climbed up into my tree stand , though still dark, I had perfect view to my right of thick, rolling hills of trees and forest. Straight ahead a field and to the left , more fields surrounded by hills , trees and a small pond.
Minutes seemed like hours but finally, light covered the field ahead of me. The woods of course were still dark as the shadows covered the forest floor. Crunch, crunch seems to be the morning dance of squirrels as they too must have had early morning coffee. The birds must prefer hot tea with lemon and honey, as their voices can be heard in song 3 ridges away.
It was 6:00 am and directly ahead of me, I saw it. “It can’t be a deer” was my first thought. It’s too big! It must be a cow! I was using my normal eyesight to make this determination. When I saw this cow lift its head up, staring directly at me I realized it wasn’t in fact a cow..It was a deer….a big deer…a real big deer…..
I had to confirm my illusion and sighted in the buck 60 yards away, directly in front of me. With my 30-06 Savage – Bushnell Sportsview high powered scope I was sighted in and ready to fire. At that time, he threw his head up and looked directly at me. It was then I saw the true size of the enormous rack and size of the buck’s body.
My stomach dropped and I started the fever…Buck Fever. My anxiety was building every millimeter is took for me to pull the trigger.
I had him in my sights, a huge Buck. I pulled the trigger and down he went. Now time to be still and watch to make sure he stays down, right? 10 seconds go by and directly in front of me runs a big buck. Was it the buck I just shot? Do I get down from the tree stand now to see, or wait?
20 more seconds go by and another deer runs by, in the same path of the buck. This time it was a doe. Now my heart is racing and anxiety is peaking. I had to wait….
When I finally got down from the tree stand, I have to admit I was shaking tremendously. Did I kill a big buck? Did it drop where I shot it? Was it the “Ghost Deer”? No Way, Not Me.
I walked ahead where I shot the deer. No deer. I then walked another 50 feet knowing I missed the deer of a lifetime, and there he lay, a buck,, a big buck,,,,,, a real big buck.
I tried to drag the deer to my 4-wheeler ATV by myself. It was too heavy. I had no choice but to ask for help with this one. I drove my ATV back to camp and asked a camp buddy, Bob LePage to help me. He gladly offered a hand and we set off to load up the deer onto the ATV for easy transport back to camp.
When we arrived, we had to drag the deer 20 yards to the ATV first. This is when I started to realize the weight of the deer. It was a very strenuous 20 yards. We then tried to pick the deer up collectively to load on the back rack of my ATV. It was too heavy for Bob and I to lift. (Note I am 6’2″ 220 lbs. And Bob is stronger than I am) By this time, reality is starting to set in. This deer is big, and seemed to be getting bigger. I ultimately had to drag the deer back to deer camp, 1/4 mile or so.
We loaded up , took the deer into town and had it tagged. The conservation team at the check-in station couldn’t give me a true scoring. They commented, though it was one of the biggest kills so far that Saturday opening morning of November 13, 1999.
There is a definite benefit to killing a deer at Joe’s land / deer camp on Saturday. You can stay up late Saturday night and sleep in late Sunday. I did exactly that. I awoke at 11:55 am, greeted the guys at camp in my robe and left by 2pm that Sunday. Mike and I headed out with a 9 ft trailer, ATV and 2 bucks. (Mike got a 6 pointer) We had to leave early because it was 46 by this time.
Little did I know I had killed the “Ghost Deer” until we arrived at the meat locker in St. Paul, MO. The deer was weighed at 220 lbs. with the back legs and hide cut off. “Add the field dressing” the butcher stated “your deer weighed a minimum of 300 lbs. We counted 21 points, a span of 18″ from tine to tine and a 32″ neck.”
Now, 3 months later I have just recently picked up the trophy deer head, professionally mounted in O’fallon, Missouri. “It was the biggest head and rack in 1999 at my shop” said Henry J. Irvine of IRVINE TAXIDERMIST & TANNER. He went on to show me the deer rack would not lay balanced on the floor while rested on the wooden plaque it was mounted to. Because the rack was so big and top-heavy, it tilted backwards causing the antlers to rest against the floor.
I am 32 years old and just may have achieved my life-long challenge of a Lifetime Buck. I am grateful for this opportunity of a lifetime. I only hope my deer-camp comrades will meet or beat the record of the 1999 “Ghost Deer.”