Kansas: a whitetail mecca — part 2

March 27, 2012

In Part 1, the author’s companions tagged out while he was left buck-less. Read on to find out how he finally nailed his archery buck in gun season.

Gun Season 2009

Mike headed back home just before gun season opened the first week of December, and this year it was cold and windy. Yet Louderback was able to put a pair of Kentucky brothers, Tim and Jaime Ellison, on two top-end bucks with whopper antlers. After a couple of miscues — including muffing a “gimme” shot on a dandy buck opening morning — Tim killed a 9½-year-old downhill buck with 26-inch main beams gross-scoring 172 Boone-and-Crockett (B&C) points. Jamie killed his buck the last morning after having several encounters with “shooters” that didn’t pan out. His big 9-pointer grossed 167 2/8 B&C points. Those are monster deer! The other rifle hunter shot the wrong buck — a dink scoring in the 120s — after admittedly blowing an opportunity at a monster opening morning. And Gary “Goose” Howell, an Arizona outfitter and guide and old guiding buddy of Jeff’s, used a muzzleloader to kill a very nice buck in the low 140s. Four for four for the gun guys. Does it get any better than this?

Now It’s My Turn

With everyone else tagged out, I was the only hunter left. It had been a superb hunt for me, even though I hadn’t even nocked an arrow. I’d seen a total of 13 bucks so far that would gross-score over 140 P&Y, six of which I believe would have grossed in the low 150s, but I still have visions of Big Toby dancing in my head.

As I go to bed, my spirits are high. The Weather Channel says the wind will be light out of the northwest — perfect for my best stand — and the mercury is expected to drop to single digits in Liberal, Kansas in the morning. That means it will be much colder in the bottoms, something that always spikes daytime deer movement. After supper I wash all my clothes in scent-free detergent, check my bow closely, and re-pack the daypack. My spider sense is tingling as I wonder, will tomorrow be the day?

I awaken early to bitter cold and a light wind from the north. The truck thermometer reads -4 degrees as I head out for the morning hunt. Yesterday the winds had gusted to 30 mph, sending ice, rain and snow like a million frozen needles into the landscape, forcing me from my tree an hour early. This morning the winds are calm and the snow has stopped, yet the morning hunt produces lots of deer but nothing exciting. So I get down, make sure the stand is right, and head back to the trailer where I shoot a few arrows, doing some typing, and try to relax. Afternoon hunting is always best here in December, and conditions are perfect today.

I climb into my stand at 2 pm, a full three hours before dark. It has warmed up to a “balmy” 8 degrees, but thankfully the north wind is light. There’s not much going on when, suddenly about 4 p.m., I look to my left and see seven does racing down a big deer trail. Trailing along with them is a very nice buck! Instead of coming in front of my tree, they head up a small hill and run to a big water tank 200 yards to the east, where they lick the ice trying to get water. As four of the does trot off to the north into the cottonwoods, I think, “Wow, that was cool,” when one of the deer at the tank turns and heads for my little food plot at a trot. It’s the buck! As I glass him coming, several thoughts roll through my head. He’s a good one, but not Big Toby. I’ve been here 12 days, it’s the Christmas season, and The Woman Who Lets Me Live With Her has shown incredible patience by not giving me any grief for being gone so long during the holidays. And, at some point, the game has to end and I have to get back to work. So…

The buck comes to the edge of a small hill 40 yards out, hesitates, then comes down the trail to the plot. There are no other deer around. My rangefinder says it’s 25 yards. He turns broadside, and I come to full draw. The shaft disappears in the crease behind the front shoulder, the broadhead slicing through everything with ease. The buck sprints back up the trail no more than 30 yards before he stops, wobbles and goes down. Yes!

He’s an old buck with an 8-point frame with one small extra point on the right (the same point had been broken off on the left) that we later aged at 6½ years old and measured at a gross 154 P&Y points. He isn’t Big Toby, but as I told Jeff, where the heck else can a guy come bowhunting and shoot a 150-something buck as a consolation prize? To say that I was ecstatic is like saying Drew Brees can throw the football, Marines are tough guys — an understatement of epic proportions.

Before I headed home, I made sure Jeff had my name down on the hunt list for 2010. This place is just too good to not hunt again.

In Part 1, the author’s companions tagged out while he was left buck-less.