I spent a week last November 2014 bowhunting some wonderful land in north-central Kansas. The weather during the week of Nov. 9-15 was marked with unseasonable cold — low temps in the mornings bottomed out at 6 degrees, the highs never got above 30, and winds blew 10-20 most days, sometimes higher. That made it miserable to sit a treestand that faced north. The weather also kept most of the deer in the timbered creek bottoms, where they could take shelter and were difficult to find.
We had a large group, nine bowhunters in all, with varying degrees of experience — and varying degrees of patience. My colleague Derrick Nawrocki and I have hunted this same area with the same outfitter — Jeff Rader of Rader Lodge — for a few years running and are beginning to get a handle on where the deer move on a semi-regular basis, and we have some stands set accordingly. This year Rock and I arrived a day before the rest of the gang and set two stands, one in a funnel where a friend killed a 150ish 10-point last season and where we have always seen bucks pass through regularly. We set a guy there and another guy on the field in a stand where two guys missed huge bucks two years prior. But during the first few days of bad weather they didn’t see much and wanted to move — so we moved them. Neither ended up getting a shot at a good buck, though one passed a 130-something 8-pointer in the hopes of doing better.
You know the rest of the story. A few days later one of our team killed his first-ever bow buck from the funnel stand, and two days later another archer missed a 150ish 10-point from the same stand. And another guy had a big 8 up close in the field stand but never got a shot, thanks to a gaggle of jealous does.
I sat the other stand — set in a spot Derrick recommended based on prior experience on this farm — for five days. It’s also a funnel area, and you don’t see as many deer from it as you would from, say, a stand on a bustling ag field. During the foul weather it was slow as molasses, but I watched one really big 8-point with a single beam make a huge scrape 20 yards from me. When I freshened the scrape up with some doe estrous scent, two more giant scrapes magically appeared. So I was good to go, and on the evening of day five, the dandy buck pictured here came through. Getting him killed makes quite a story, and you can read all about it in the April 2015 issue of our sister publication, Bowhunting World.
The moral of the story is a simple one, one all serious deer hunters with some field time under their belts have learned over the years. That is, never, ever give up on the hunt and a good stand site.
I understand that the research tells us that the more you sit the same stand, the more the deer avoid the place — especially mature bucks and older does. Unless the stand in question was set by a total knucklehead, it is there because both experience on the property and scouting say that this is a high-odds location, one where, if a person puts in their time and takes great pains to control their scent and does not spook any deer by making undue noise or letting them see you, the odds are that at some point something good is going to happen. It’s possible that the stand might have to be moved a little bit, depending on how the deer are moving during a particular week, though while this has worked well for me through the years I try to disrupt the hunting location as little as possible.
Sitting the same stand for days on end and not seeing much is really hard to do. The longer the dry spell continues, the more a person tends to get ants in their pants. This is especially true on a guided hunt, where time is limited and you’ve spent some hard cash to be there. And there are times when you simply have to move due to conditions out of your control. During the rut, however, it is all about being in the right spot and putting in as many hours on stand as possible, regardless of the weather. Another example is a big 9-point I shot in southwestern Kansas a few years ago with temps hovering near zero in an absolute blizzard. He was trailing a gaggle of does as they moved to the area’s last open water source at midday. All my buddies were watching football with the heater cranked up, nice and toasty warm. None of them punched a tag that week.
If you are looking for some prime Kansas farmland to hunt, you can do much worse than the land Jeff Rader has leased. You have to apply for tags in Kansas during the month of April — information can be found here — and Jeff can give you the lowdown. I do know that Derrick, myself and our crew will be back there during the rut again this year, hoping to be on stand when one of the region’s pig bucks strolls by. Of course that means we’ll have to have patience and persistence — something that’s not that hard for me to exhibit when I just know that at any moment, Big Tobey could stroll past.