Growing up in the Midwest has been a blessing in so many ways. The things that my family and friends love to do in the outdoors are considered part of everyday life. We live in rural farm country in central Missouri where the opportunity to enjoy the outdoor experience is virtually unlimited. Hunting, fishing, archery and shooting sports are activities that we participate in on nearly a daily basis. I feel fortunate to live in a country where we have the constitutional right to keep and bear arms freely and can enjoy the activities that I hold close to my heart.
In some parts of the country, hunting and shooting sports are not always socially accepted. Their acceptance in our part of the world is something that we do not take for granted. As a family, we have been NRA members for many years and feel it is our responsibility to protect our rights. At age 15, I am not of legal voting age, but I am proud that my parents always vote for NRA-endorsed candidates and are pro-American freedom. I can’t wait until I am able to vote and defend our constitutional rights that are constantly under attack. If we lost our right to keep and bear arms, not only would we be losing part of our family heritage, but we would find ourselves in a weakened and vulnerable state. It’s my hope and prayer to pass on these traditions to my own family some day.
I would like to take this opportunity to share a very special hunt that my family and I were fortunate enough to experience and the important lessons I learned along the way.
Whitetail deer hunting is the most highly-anticipated time of year for my family. We pride ourselves in being conservationists as well as hunters. We take pride in the fact that we hunt not only for the possibility of taking a beautiful trophy, but as an opportunity to manage the herd and to supply our family with meat in the freezer. On the occasion I want to share with you, the Lord blessed me with a truly magnificent buck.
The day I killed my buck was Nov. 16, 2013, on the opening morning of the regular firearm season in Missouri. I was faced with a challenging shot that would down the buck my family had nicknamed “The 180.” The hunt did not last long, but my quest took place over a three-year period. My family’s first encounter with the buck was during the early bow season in September 2010. My dad first spotted him feeding toward him down the edge of a prairie-grass field. The buck was estimated to be about 3½ years old and to score in the mid 140s on the Boone-and-Crockett-Club (B&C) scale. Dad decided to let him pass since it was early in the season.
In 2011, my dad and brother, Matthew, saw the buck only twice before the bow season while he was still in velvet. He was estimated to be in the mid- to upper-150s. As the weeks passed, we wondered if he had been taken by another hunter or some other means because we did not see him again for the rest of the year.
In 2012 my family again saw the buck in velvet before bow season opened, then again he disappeared. Finally, during the third week of bow season, a week before the opening of gun season, my dad saw him. He had just dropped Matthew at a treestand and decided to scout for deer when he spotted the buck with does only 40 yards off a major black-top road. The buck was now a true giant in the mid-170s. When rifle season opened, he was spotted twice, but neither time presented a good shot opportunity.
In the spring of 2013, our neighbors found the buck’s sheds, which scored roughly 177 inches. We were concerned knowing that another drought year was causing EHD (epizootic hemorrhagic disease) and was wiping out part of the deer population. (My dad explained that droughts impact the spread of EHD because the water holes where deer must concentrate make for good breeding habitat for the tiny flies that carry it.) We were relieved to spot the buck twice before the 2013 archery season. We saw the difference that one year makes. The fact he now was mature made a major difference in his antler size and mass. We had never judged a buck of this caliber, but we guessed him to be in the 180s, which is how he earned the nickname “The 180.”
My brother was eager for archery season, confident he would have a shot at the deer. On Sept. 15 it almost happened. Matthew had set up on the edge of a bean field 100 yards from the buck’s bedding area. The buck approached from upwind as expected, but he was concealed by the thick brush. He got within 8 yards of Matthew’s stand—standing motionless and watching the field—until the wind swirled toward him and he spooked back into the brush.
The buck disappeared for the remainder of bow season and the youth rifle season. I had an opportunity at a 140-class whitetail, but I had taken a larger buck two years prior. I decided to pass, learning a lesson about patience with a little encouragement from my dad, who reminded me the big buck was still out there.
Now it was the opening morning of firearm season. Wind conditions were forecasted to reach 40 mph so Dad and I did not expect to see much. That morning seemed to be taking forever. Tired from the usual early-morning wakeup, I asked if I could go to sleep but Dad said that if anything came out he wouldn’t have time to wake me so I could shoot. I stayed on the lookout.
About 5 minutes later, out of nowhere “The 180” appeared, traveling south down the adjoining edge of a prairie-grass field at 300 yards. Dad said, “Dillon, don’t get excited, but here comes the 180.” It was the first time I had personally seen the buck. I started breathing frantically. Dad encouraged me to take some deep breaths and to place the gun on the sandbag we had set on the ledge of the blind window. The buck was heading in our direction. We waited to let it get as close as possible, considering the wind conditions. Dad said, “Get ready, I’m going to stop him,” as I watched the buck in the scope. “Aim a few inches left for drift and hold dead center.”
I was on him. When Dad yelled, “Hey,” the buck stopped broadside, looking directly at us. I said, “Oh my gosh.” My dad said, “I know Dillon, just make the shot.” I took my time, squeezing the trigger until the gun fired. The buck kicked hard, ran into the prairie grass and vanished. We sat in the stand for a few minutes, hoping and praying.
We followed the blood trail and were amazed by what we found. “The 180” was much more than that. Later we learned this 17-point buck’s gross score was 202 3/8 inches B&C and the net score was 175 1/4 inches. My 6½-year-old buck was an absolute giant. And though Matthew had hoped to get this buck himself, he could not have been happier for me as we all gave thanks for the opportunity to bond, once again, over our all-American hunting tradition. I got my buck mounted and Dad and I took it to the B&C’s 29thBig Game Awards banquet in Springfield, Mo., where I was presented with a B&C plaque. Being recognized alongside my dad only added to the amazing experience and the memories we made.
I feel it is important for people in our great country to be able to enjoy nature and God’s amazing creations. I am thankful for our constitutional right to keep and bear firearms for our protection and recreation. Our rights should never be infringed upon.
My name is Dillon Schumann, and my family and I are the NRA.
Editor’s Note: Established in 1887, the Boone and Crockett Club is one of America’s oldest wildlife conservation organizations. It maintains the records of native North American big game species as a vital conservation tool in assessing the success of state-by-state wildlife management programs and conservation policies. For more information, visit Boone-Crockett.org.