Kansas Whitetails: Targeting the ‘Boone Buck’

Kansas is home to monster whitetails, but the author’s third trip to the Sunflower State looked like it would end with another bowl of tag soup.

Kansas Whitetails: Targeting the ‘Boone Buck’

I could hardly believe it — yet another morning and evening sit was negatively affected by the remnants of Hurricane Willa, which a few days ago had struck the Pacific Coast of Mexico before weakening and traveling northeast across Texas and into the central United States. East winds are not the norm in the Midwest, and when they appear, it typically means rain is imminent.

Such oddball winds usually last 24 hours or less, then life goes back to standard north, south or west winds. But here I was at Wicked Outfitters on the Sunflower State side of the Kansas/Missouri border, with 5 mph east winds in the forecast for the third consecutive day. The combination of less-than-ideal wind direction with unseasonably warm late-October temps, a full moon and an ocean of acorns made the deer hunting tough.

I’d seen a decent number of whitetails during each sit, but my post-hunt story, as well as those of my half-dozen fellow crossbow hunters in camp, was sounding like a broken record: Five to 10 antlerless deer spotted and one or two spikes and forkhorns. Absolutely NO rut activity.

It seemed like every buck 2.5 years old or more had vanished from Mother Earth. Of course, they hadn’t. My guess was mature bucks were traveling little during legal hunting hours and sticking to heavy cover in large blocks of timber. But as a former guide (fishing not hunting), I learned long ago to never guide the guide, so I did as I was told, stayed positive, knowing that things could change in an instant.

“Dave, screw it. You’re running out of time,” said my guide, Pat Boone, after another slow morning sit. “I know the wind isn’t great for the original ground blind spot, but now that rain has finally arrived, maybe you can get away with it. Button up every window of that sucker (pop-up blind) except for a small kill hole, and maybe the deer won’t bust you. It’s time to roll the dice.”

One week before the author’s arrival in Kansas, Wicked Outfitters guide Pat Boone (left) placed a scouting cam to capture pics of a particular heavy-racked buck. When it comes to brushing in a pop-up ground blind, Boone is the master. The right photo shows what the whitetails saw when looking toward the author’s ambush.
One week before the author’s arrival in Kansas, Wicked Outfitters guide Pat Boone (left) placed a scouting cam to capture pics of a particular heavy-racked buck. When it comes to brushing in a pop-up ground blind, Boone is the master. The right photo shows what the whitetails saw when looking toward the author’s ambush.

A week prior, Pat had placed a ground blind and brushed it in to conceal it as much as possible. During an earlier scouting mission, he saw a good number of whitetails and picked out a prime location for the blind. He suspected the property held at least one mature buck, and he was right. In fact, it was home to a particular massive-racked and big-bodied whitetail that had repeatedly — well before dark — stepped in front of Pat’s trail camera in the days before my arrival in Kansas.

Though Pat didn’t give the buck a clever name, after seeing trail cam pics on his phone, I figured the moniker “Boone Buck” was as good as any. The best part was that due to the buck’s character (incredible mass with a bunch of junk around his bases) I’d have no trouble identifying the Kansas stud immediately.

With ideal southwest winds, I sat in Pat’s blind during my first morning and afternoon (two separate sits), but I saw only does, fawns and 1.5-year-old bucks. That said, I liked the layout of the ambush, and Pat did a fantastic job hiding the pop-up blind in one of the pasture’s brushy cedar islands. Only 50 yards from the blind was a hardwood forest the big buck likely used for bedding. As is common (and legal) in Kansas, Pat dumped corn on the ground 30 yards from the blind to try luring deer within bow range.

The view from the author’s well-concealed ground blind. Feeding whitetails didn’t have a clue he was sitting 30 yards away. In fact, deer often circled his blind within 10 yards and never spooked, even when the wind wasn’t quite right.
The view from the author’s well-concealed ground blind. Feeding whitetails didn’t have a clue he was sitting 30 yards away. In fact, deer often circled his blind within 10 yards and never spooked, even when the wind wasn’t quite right.

Rolling the Dice

The drizzle peppered the hood of my raincoat as I began the quarter-mile hike to the island blind. Halfway there, I realized I’d forgotten my tripod shooting stick in the bed of Pat’s pickup. I didn’t use the tripod the previous two days while hunting elsewhere from a hang-on treestand, so I simply forgot to grab it when exiting the truck.

Calling Pat to turn around and my time spent having to hike back to the road to grab the tripod would take too much time, and I wanted to get into the blind ASAP. The temps were cooler, it was raining, and although the wind direction would be dicey for the blind, I had a good feeling that deer would be on the move. It was time to improvise, and after 30 seconds of searching I found a stick I could fashion into a forked monopod.

I was happy to arrive at the blind without spooking any deer. Once inside, I closed every window in the blind except for a dinnerplate-sized opening overlooking the scattered corn. Wearing raingear and a face mask, and sitting in the back of the blind, I hoped the steady drizzle would keep my scent from drifting toward the corn and alerting deer.

Less than 20 minutes later, a doe and two fawns arrived from the southwest and started feeding on the corn. This would be the perfect test: Would the old, gray doe smell me? The winds, though light, were exactly wrong (east and northeast) for this ambush.

The old doe raised her nose a time or two, trying to pick apart the various smells drifting about, but she never snorted or walked away. Instead, the family unit fed and was soon joined by other does and fawns.

This just might work, I thought, hoping Boone Buck would pay me a visit.

A Grand Entrance

Two hours later, the doe and fawn stopped eating corn and stared southwest for 30 seconds. Suddenly, I saw the tell-tale massive main beams and crazy-cool brow tines of Boone Buck as he stepped from the hardwoods. Wicked Outfitters has a minimum size restriction of 135-inches to ensure hunters take their time evaluating bucks, but this deer screamed shooter the instant I saw him!

The massive Boone Buck approaches the bait site as the author prepares for a shot.
The massive Boone Buck approaches the bait site as the author prepares for a shot.

He walked — limped actually — toward the corn at a severe quartering-toward angle. No shot. Then he stopped, facing me, to eat. Again, no shot. For the next few minutes he fed, and I did my best to not hyperventilate in the blind. My heavy breathing briefly fogged my crossbow scope, so I had to look away from the glass to clear it. Every time Boone Buck lifted his head to look left or right, I leaned into the scope.

My mind raced: Should I risk a 30-yard shot into the chest of a head-on buck that probably weighs 250 pounds? In the rain? A no-pass-through shot on a big-bodied buck during a steady drizzle seemed like a recipe for a late-night rodeo with little to no blood to follow. I told myself to wait for a broadside or quartering-away opportunity. Be patient.

Boone Buck fed for a few minutes, and even though I was 100 percent ready, he left the corn too quickly for a shot. In fact, he charged to my right; why, I have no idea. Stopping quickly behind a cedar island, he raised his antlers into the branches and began the scraping ritual. While it was fun to watch from 25 yards, it was also frustrating because I didn’t have a clear shot. Then he was gone, moving too far to the right of my window.

I was disappointed, certainly, but with 30 minutes of daylight left, I was hopeful. Maybe he’d return for more food.

Does and fawns walked to the scattered corn, but exited, stage left, after five minutes. I could see tall antlers behind the cedars, moving right to left toward the corn. Yes, he’s back! I thought to myself, leaning yet again into the crossbow scope.

Picking a spot low on his chest and right over his near front leg, I waited for him to stop. When he did, I mentally went through my checklist: Second aiming circle, 30 yards. Path for the arrow is clear from the blind. Squeeze the trigger. As I ran through this ritual, I suddenly realized this buck, while certainly a decent one, wasn’t Boone Buck. As he turned his head, I counted nine total points, his rack was much thinner. He had an interesting kicker off his left G-2, but his antler bases and brows were clean. This buck looked like a kindergartner compared to Boone.

Of course, unlike Boone this 5x4 presented me with multiple shot opportunities. For several minutes he chased away does and fawns that wanted to share in the food. However, he fell below Wicked Outfitters’ minimum of 135-inches, and even if he’d met that criteria, I doubt I would have shot knowing there was a chance the bigger buck could return.

The Curtain Call

The 9-pointer finally had his fill of corn and decided to dog a few does. Light was beginning to fade due to the setting sun, which was nowhere to be seen through the heavy cloud cover and constant drizzle.

As soon as the 9-pointer vacated the corn, several antlerless deer began feeding in front of me. While it was difficult to see them clearly with the naked eye, I still had good visibility through my scope. All I could do was sit tight and hope.

One mature doe in the group suddenly stopped feeding and stared just to the left of my blind. Her statue-like behavior caused me to lean forward in my chair as far as possible to look left out my one small window. I could see a big-bodied deer at 15 yards, but in the failing light wasn’t sure if it was Boone Buck, the 9-pointer or some new arrival.

The big deer walked away from the blind, toward the corn, and the antlerless deer scattered. But the big deer didn’t walk smoothly like the 9-pointer; he limped badly. Boone Buck was back!

Through my scope, I watched him hobble toward the corn. Of course, when he stopped to feed, now he was facing directly away from me. All I could see was his tail and massive rack extending on both sides of his body. Thankfully, I could still clearly see the scope’s reticle, but I needed him to change positions — fast. I had two minutes until the end of legal hunting time.

A hungry fawn approached the corn from the right. Evidently not wanting to share, Boone took two fast strides toward the youngster, scaring it away. I could hardly believe my good fortune: He was finally positioned perfectly — quartering-away and stopped.

I didn’t delay. My safety was off; I aimed and squeezed the trigger faster than it takes to write it. I heard a solid “thwack” of arrow striking flesh, then the buck charged away, heading for the forest. Two seconds later, I heard a loud crash as he entered the thicket. I wasn’t sure if he crashed into the barbed-wire fence or simply smashed through brush while entering the woods, but in either case, I took the sound to be a positive sign he was struck well.

I waited 30 seconds but didn’t hear a thing. I reached for my phone. Pat had sent a text a half-hour earlier, “Get the card if you will.” Which meant at the end of your hunt tonight, please grab the SD card from the trail cam so we can figure out if the big buck is still in the area.

My reply, “I just hit him 30 seconds ago!”

Tough Tracking Conditions

Thankfully, Pat was already on the gravel road and nearing my location. He arrived in his pickup to my blind 15 minutes later.

Under a steady drizzle, we walked to where the buck had been standing and quickly found blood. The rain was washing it away, so we tried to move as fast as possible in the darkness. Pat is an accomplished dog trainer and avid raccoon hunter, so he had his coon-huntin’ lights stashed in his pickup. My measly headlamp did little to aid in the search for blood, so I stayed close to my guide.

“He’s bleeding good, Dave. Looks like you hammered him.”

As we approached the barbed-wire fence and wood’s edge, I explained the crashing sound I heard from my blind. “There’s the fletching part of your arrow,” Pat said, picking up the 9-inch piece. “Covered in blood. Another good sign.”

Not far into the woods we spotted where the buck crashed into a tree, but soon thereafter we lost his blood trail. Boone Buck had been traveling in a straight line for 30 yards after entering the woods, but now we hit a dead end. Walking back to the point of last blood, I finally found where the whitetail took a hard left turn, walking back up a slight incline.

“Pat, I’ve got blood. He’s heading south instead of west. Hopefully he’s looking for a place to bed.”

And that’s exactly what happened. Not 15 yards from where he made the hard left, we found the buck laying as if he was ready for someone to come along and take photos. Total distance covered during his death run was only 70 yards. Boone Buck was probably dead before I texted Pat only 30 seconds after my shot.

“My God, he looks way bigger in person than he did in the trail cam pics,” I said, reaching to raise his rack off the rain-soaked leaves.

“You ain’t a kiddin’,” Pat chuckled. “He’s an old warrior, probably 6 or 7. Just look at those bases and burrs. His body is big, too. No other way to say it — he’s a stud.”

In addition to carrying a big rack, the author's Kansas buck also had a huge body.
In addition to carrying a big rack, the author's Kansas buck also had a huge body.

Chances are good I’ll never tag a more massive deer than Boone Buck. And the best part of this Kansas adventure was seeing such a magnificent animal on the hoof at close range. Even if he hadn’t returned and given me a shot, this bowhunt still would have been tremendous.

Sidebar: Real-World Field Test: Barnett Whitetail Pro STR Crossbow Package

During my 5-day Kansas bowhunt, I used a Barnett Whitetail Pro STR. I’ve shot a decent number of crossbows through the years, including a couple that carried the Barnett brand, but this Whitetail Pro STR package is truly an amazing value. (STR stands for Step Through Riser.)

The author was impressed with the accuracy and especially the trigger on the Barnett Whitetail Pro STR. Shown here is the author's DIY shooting stick.
The author was impressed with the accuracy and especially the trigger on the Barnett Whitetail Pro STR. Shown here is the author's DIY shooting stick.

The MSRP for the crossbow package (bow, scope, quiver, arrows, cocking rope) is $600, but I’ve seen street prices closer to $500. This bow performs as well as models costing twice as much, and the TriggerTech trigger must be squeezed to be believed. This is not an exaggeration: It feels like a good trigger on a good bolt-action rifle. Forget about trigger creep and wondering when the arrow will be fired, as is the case with far too many crossbows. The Whitetail Pro STR’s trigger is superb in every way, which certainly contributed to the outstanding accuracy I experienced while sighting in the bow/scope/arrow package.

The bow is lightweight (6.8 pounds) and balances well in the hand. In fact, I chose not to carry a shooting stick while hunting from hang-on-style treestands in Kansas because I was confident I could make the required 20- to 25-yard shots offhand by simply resting an elbow on my knee. I did use a shooting rest in ground blinds, and the wide, flat foregrip of the Whitetail Pro STR will work beautifully in the yoke of most any shooting aid. And if you read my story here carefully, you’ll know it also worked well with my DIY Y-stick monopod (shown in this photo).

The crossbow’s draw weight is 187 pounds, and it’s easy to pull back with the included cocking rope. The bow is fast, too: 400 fps. Using the included 4X32 scope, I sighted in the center aiming circle for 20 yards, then the lower two aiming circles for 30 yards and 40 yards, respectively.

I killed my heavyweight Kansas buck with a 100-grain Bloodsport GraveDigger hybrid broadhead attached to 22-inch HeadHunter carbon arrow (two arrows are included in the package; you’ll want to purchase at least another half dozen). Boone Buck was quartering-away at 30 yards, and I aimed low on his chest, over his opposite front leg. My arrow pierced the buck’s heart and then broke his opposite leg. This affordable package delivers in spades.

Sidebar: Wicked Outfitters

Wicked Outfitters isn't the biggest outfitting operation in Kansas, but in my opinion they are one of the best. They outfit for bow, rifle or muzzleloader. The lodge is magnificent, the food is good and the guides are topnotch.

The great room in the lodge at Wicked Outfitters.
The great room in the lodge at Wicked Outfitters.

Keep in mind this is southeast Kansas. It’s not vast prairie like the western or central part of the state. If you like to pursue monster whitetails in a mix of hardwoods and ag land, then Wicked Outfitters should be on your radar.

Confession: I’m sort of a snob when it comes to proper treestand and ground blind placement, but Wicked Outfitters does it right. Visit www.wickedoutfitters.com, call Clint Walker (816-918-4325) or Whitney Fouts (913-710-1293) for more information.

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