Firearms Deer Season is a Different Animal


Archery season is one thing, but gun season changes everything.

In pitch darkness, I pull to a stop and park my old truck. It’s hours before daylight and I’m miles from my destination. It is Missouri’s firearm deer season. And after extensive scouting, my destination is two to three miles up this holler and over a couple of ridges. My stand is at a juncture were three ridges come together in a saddle and four types of habitat come together. My setup is on a high creek bank overlooking a creek bottom, cedar thicket, an old field and hardwoods.

I am very excited for this morning’s hunt, as there’s a lot of buck sign, plenty of deer activity and the fact that this is the home of a huge Ozarks chocolate rack buck.

From this overhead vantage point, you can see the logic behind Eye’s setup. Surrounded by the public land, with multiple ridges funneling down to the stand site, Eye and his hunting partners take advantage of deer moving away from hunting pressure on the public lands.

My original plan was to drive in on an old logging road from above my setup, park about a mile out and make an easy walk down the road to my location. However, with a change in wind direction, there’s no way I can approach my hunting area from the above side. I decided to come in from below so as not to blow deer out of my hunting area.

Huffing and puffing and two hours later, I finally arrive to my setup and settle in to wait for daylight and the buck of my dreams. As first light begins to filter into the valley, I hear the first of many vehicles driving in on the logging roads. All the time I’ve put in, all the work, planning, scouting, making my setup, making a change in plans for walking in—all went out the window as there was one Jeep with five hunters parked less than 50 yards from me.

By full daylight, it looks like a pumpkin patch with all the blaze orange around me. I pick up my gear and start the long walk back out.

This hunt was back in 1972 on public grounds, and I learned a valuable lesson that morning: firearm deer season is a different animal. On opening weekend, you can throw away scouting, deer patterning, wind direction, deer scent—none of this matters because the orange army changes everything when they invade every nook and cranny of the whitetail’s home.

You can be among the first to get the latest info on where to go, what to use and how to use it!

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Today, deer hunters have a ton of equipment, deer scents, guns, deer stands, blinds and information to choose from. Any major sporting goods store has aisles of equipment, and with all the outdoor TV shows telling you that you have to have everything to take a deer, it’s quite confusing.

However, I have taken many nice bucks through the years during firearm deer season simply by taking advantage of the other hunter’s movement. How I hunt and where I set up during Missouri’s gun season depends on the actions of others. I have had great success in northern Missouri and other states using other hunters, but it has really paid off in the Missouri Ozarks’ public grounds.

During a recent Missouri gun season, Eye set up for the hunt, taking full advantage of deer hunters going into public ground for their evening hunt.

During a recent Missouri gun season, I set up for an afternoon and evening hunt, taking full advantage of deer hunters going into public ground for their evening search. With public grounds on three sides, I made my setup in an old tower stand in a pinch point at the edge of a steep ridge where several ridges meet and run out to larger tracks of cover; behind me was an open pasture. As hunters moved into the Ozarks’ scenic river areas—Mark Twain National Forest and Missouri State grounds—deer were escaping and funneling into my setup.

You too can improve your odds of taking a big, fat, delicious deer during firearms deer season, but not necessarily with all the traditional ways of scouting using trail cameras and patterning deer. These methods may not be as effective once the shooting and mass human movement starts. But by simply studying other hunter movement and habits, you too will take a buck for a ride in your truck when others are seeing nothing and shooting nothing while using traditional hunting methods.


Ray Eye is a MidWest Outdoors hunting instructor. He was raised in the turkey-rich hills of the Missouri Ozarks, and is considered the dean of America’s professional turkey hunters. It’s less widely known that he is an expert hunter for many other species. Eye has produced an online course, “Calling is Everything,” that details how to call turkeys at any season of the year. Find it at