Every whitetail hunter sighs with desire at the mention of those big corn-fed bucks found in Iowa and Kansas. But just over the state line, a line the deer don’t know exists, is Missouri, offering over-the-counter licenses and hunting during the rut. And we’ve discovered an operator there who has created a whitetail hunting haven and still has openings for gun and archery hunts this season.
Deer hunting is popular in Missouri, and like many places, local hunting pressure is high. Finding a place to hunt, much less a place with big bucks, is a challenge. But partners Ray Andreu and John Donahue of R&J Outfitters are producing some dandy trophies on 6,500 acres of prime deer habitat they have locked up in the northwest corner of the Show Me State.
R&J operates in Harrison County. The properties they hunt are not contiguous but are large parcels with the right kind of habitat. That means lots of agriculture and timber with river and creek bottoms, rolling hills, CRP ground, corn and soybean fields and just a bit of pastureland. All of it is private property, and R&J has the exclusive hunting rights. One of the properties includes 1,400 acres along the Iowa state line. Next door to that is an 8,000-acre, no-hunting, prairie chicken preserve. Another property has 170 acres set aside for prairie chicken as well. Both of these preserves serve as sanctuaries for deer.
Andreu says he and his partner originally started hunting there six years ago, leasing 500 acres for their own personal use. At that time, Missouri implemented a harvest restriction requiring that bucks have at least four points on one side. Andreu says the biggest buck you could expect to find then was perhaps a 140-class. After the new rule took effect, he says they began seeing larger bucks each season. At that point, he and his partner convinced neighboring landowners to participate in a voluntary management program, planting food plots and refusing to harvest bucks under 130 class. The program has worked. Last year, Andreu says one of their clients killed a huge buck that gross-scored 198 B&C. The final score was 196-6/8 B&C. Another buck killed on a neighboring property by a bowhunter rough-scored an amazing 238 P&Y. And this year, Andreu expects to produce at least a couple of bucks in that range and has the photos of live deer to prove it.....