Big bucks and broken dreams

Nothing like a good selfie to pass the time.

I just returned from my favorite hunt of the year.  This hunt brings me back to my roots when I first started hunting whitetail deer in the Vermont woods.  My father, brother, and I meet in Kansas every November to chase rutting bucks through the creek bottoms they call home.  I have been very fortunate to harvest 3 good bucks in the last 3 years in the sunflower state, but this year would prove to be different.  The conditions were good, or as good as needed, the moon phase was right and though the weather was a little warm it wasn’t that warm.  I always put this hunt in the books as easy compared to your typical mountain hunt but as you know sitting in a tree all day isn’t exactly the easiest thing one can do and this year would prove it.


My favorite stand to sit in Kansas. I shot a good buck out of this tree on the second day last year.

I set my sights on shooting a buck that would net score the Pope and Young minimum, 125 inches.  It’s not all about score but I wanted to shoot a deer that would make me happy and it just so happened that a buck of that caliber would do just that.  The first couple days were pretty slow for sightings.  I had a 9 pointer come through on the second morning that was borderline shooters, but I couldn’t bring myself pull the trigger as he fed 6 yards from my tree.  Day three brought a 100” 8 pointer and many doe sightings but again they weren’t anything I was interested in.


A shot of the harvest sky on the first night. The wind almost blew me out of the tree so i climbed down and sat on the ground.

Throughout the week I watched many deer, lots of small bucks and lots of does.  I was praying nightly that the deer gods would flip the switch and bring the chase to my front door, but as the week progressed it wasn’t looking good.  With only a couple days left to hunt I figured I would shoot a doe and put some meat in the freezer as I have done in years past.  For some reason I couldn’t bring myself to shoot a doe, don’t get me wrong, I wanted to, but the thought of possibly messing up one of my spots floated around in the back of my mind.  The next to last morning of my hunt I drew on a couple as they passed my stand at 10 yards which brought confidence to the game.  After my morning sit, I hopped in the truck and headed to pull a stand.  As I walked to the stand I looked ahead and watched a beautiful buck tend a couple does.  I backed out, threw my camo back on, grabbed my bow and headed to the tree.  I sat in that tree from 10:00AM to dark that day.  An hour before dark a unicorn spike came running through and I laughed as he tripped over himself.  I turned and looked to my right and watched as the monster 8 pointer I had seen that morning tried to skirt through the buck brush around me.  I reached for my grunt tube and let out a soft grunt.  The buck paused but then kept walked.  I snort wheezed and in an instant the deer had spun 180 degree, hooked the saplings around him, and made his way towards me.  I grabbed my bow and put my release on the string.  I turned sideways in my stand waiting for a shot to present itself.  The deer had come from 60 yards to 16 yards in about 1 minute but wouldn’t clear the branches I needed to get a shot.  I watched this 140” stud look for the buck that had challenged him for a good 5 minutes.  The deer finally realized something wasn’t right and made his way on.  My heart sank in my chest as I watched the buck cross the creek and make his way up the field edge 80 yards out of range.  I tried the snort wheeze one more time but it proved ineffective without a decoy.  Fool me once shame on me, were the words that echoed in my head.

I had one more sit left in the hunt and after the previous night’s encounter I was very hopeful I would get a chance.  As the morning sit progressed I had seen 9 deer, 3 small bucks and 6 does.  I chose to not take a deer on the last day, though I had many chances.  Do I wish I had taken one, sure, but I learned far more about myself on this hunt than any other hunts I have partaken in prior.  I left Kansas wishing I would have bagged a good one, but in the same sense was glad to know that I don’t need to kill to feel fulfilled from a hunt.  I had a great time with my family, got a week off work, and enjoyed nature in its purest form.  Sometimes it’s the memories made with family and close friends and not the sum of inches that counts.


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