Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

By Steve Moak

Oct. 18 dawned clear and cool. I was a few hundred yards from an Imperial Whitetail Clover food plot hoping to intercept either of the two great bucks we had seen frequenting the plots during the late summer months. Early that morning I saw a buck working an overhanging branch in a cedar tree about 80 yards away. When he backed out of the cedar my binoculars were fixed on him and I was momentarily stunned by the height of his tines and quickly realized this was one of the bucks I was looking for.

He turned and started plodding in my direction in that “Hereford Bull” style of a fully mature buck. The ivory rack towered over his head so I tried to concentrate on the scrape located under an Osage orange just 25 yards from my stand and not look at the antlers. Peeking under the brim of my hat I watched his methodical approach to the scrape. With no warning, no ears cupping forward, no lifted nose, no glance upward, he suddenly just turned into the cedar and oak thicket and out of my life.

My disappointment was multiplied by the five seasons that had passed since taking a buck from this property. I had passed many 160 — 170 class bucks in that time trying to surpass the 178-net non-typical I had been fortunate enough to take. As I sat there, still in stunned disbelief, but in awe of a mature buck’s “Sixth Sense,” I reflected on the years of effort that created that morning’s events.

The Midwest is well known for providing tremendous whitetail bucks, but having the area you hunt produce one of these trophies can be difficult anywhere. We are very fortunate to have 800 acres of hardwood ridges and creek bottoms, which we are managing for trophy bucks. An integral part of our management system is the use of Imperial Whitetail Clover. Both for its outstanding nutritional value as well as for holding deer in the core of our area.

I first tried Imperial Whitetail Clover about 17 or 18 years ago in upstate New York and it was awesome. We saw more deer on that land after planting than ever before. The guys I hunted with back then still use it because there is nothing better. I decided about 12 years ago to move to Missouri for one reason. I love to hunt big bucks and I knew the midwest had the biggest bucks. I convinced my “new” hunting partners to try Imperial Whitetail Clover and they, too, love it because it provides great nutrition and attracts deer unbelievably well.

At this time we have 15 clover plots covering approximately 45 acres. We have learned the hard way that it is imperative to follow the recommended planting instructions. Lime and fertilizer make all the difference. It is also very important to get enough clover established so it is able to “stay ahead” of the deer.

Parts of our management system may be too intensive for a lot of people. But it can be modified to whatever your objective might be. We are managing for trophy whitetails, whereas most hunters will proudly opt for Quality Management. We will not knowingly shoot a buck that is less than five years old. It has been proven by ourselves and many others that a buck just does not reach his genetic potential until at least age five. When we have young or first-time hunters on the property, we will allow carefully selected three-year-old bucks showing little potential to be taken. It is extremely difficult to get a buck to age five even with no hunting pressure, therefore it is important to keep as large a buck base as your carrying capacity will allow. We also shoot as many does as we legally can. We also keep our Imperial Clover plots centrally located and away from road view and we provide some security or sanctuary areas where no access or hunting is allowed so that deer are more likely to stay on our property. When you look out on one of your Imperial Whitetail Clover fields in mid-July and see a half dozen three to five-year-old majestic bucks, you will know it was all worthwhile.


The gun opener was met with the usual anticipation, but was tempered with the feeling that maybe I had  “dreamt” the big buck encounter because I had not had a sighting of him since that fateful morning. My chosen stand for this day overlooked a lot of ground as I hoped I might catch a buck sneaking in from adjoining properties or possibly chasing a doe, as the rut was still in full swing. At 10 a.m. I spotted a buck easing down an overgrown fence line over a quarter-mile away. Looking through the glasses I saw the unmistakable ivory tines.

It was him! He entered a small cedar thicket and 15 minutes later he still had not come out. A dry creek bed allowed me to get down and to cut the distance to 200 yards where I crawled up into another stand. I could see the tops of the trees he was bedded under but could no longer see the ground from my new vantage point. Four long hours had passed and I convinced myself he had probably snuck out without me seeing him.  

Then another buck approached down the same fence line and went out of sight into the cedars. I knew something had to happen if the big buck was still there. Moments later there he was, headed toward an intersecting fence line. When he reached the fence, he turned into the wind and headed my way. When he reached 125 yards I did my best to settle my uncontrollable shaking and squeezed the trigger.

The buck bolted through an old bar-gap but as I got the crosshairs back on him, he wheeled around and went down. To take a buck like this after a lifetime of pursuit, cannot be put into words, but can only be described as truly an honor. The buck gross-scored 217-3/8 inches. I can only hope that one day my sons are blessed with such a tremendous experience.