With the help of God and a pheasant alarm!
A year ago, a friend of mine, Mark Oscar, purchased a hunt in Kansas. When he got there it was a mess. The guide was a man from Pennsylvania who had hunted there the year before. There were no stands up, no scouting done and no bait out.
While getting some coffee at the local gas station, Mark met several hunters who told him about Big Dog Outfitters. Big Dog had leased thousands of acres of land, scouted, baited and pre-hung stands along travel corridors between bedding and feeding areas. These hunters had been very successful.
Mark and several other hunters from Michigan struck a deal with Big Dog Outfitters to hunt. All were successful. Mark brought home a very nice 140 inch Pope and Young buck.
Although I had never been on a guided hunt, Mark’s results got my blood running. By February of 2004 I had sent my deposit in. We talked about when to hunt and, after some discussion, decided on Thanksgiving Week. I was lucky I had a very understanding wife.
When November 19th came, Mark, his son Troy and I loaded into Mark’s truck and headed for Kansas. I had brought several audio books to help pass the time, but they were not needed. We talked non-stop for 14 hours about hunting. When we got to Wichita, Bill Suenram (Owner of Big Dog Outfitters ) met us and we followed him to his lodge. Now I don't want to fool anyone. His lodging is pretty basic. You sleep in bunk beds, eat light in the morning, peanut butter sandwiches and ramen noodles at lunch and a pretty nice meal in the evening.
His wife and daughter cook and take care of the food at night. However, that was not why we came to Kingman, Kansas. We came for the whitetail deer.
That first night Bill laid down his rules:
* Do not shoot anything under 125 inches.
* Don’t wound my deer.
* Don’t shoot a deer with a half rack (from fighting); he will grow a new one next year.
If you do these things, you will not be invited back. This scared the heck out of me. I get excited when I see 100-inch deer and Bill was telling me I could not shoot one. Well, I had come to learn how a guide thought and see what a guided hunt was like. So I would do whatever I was told.
It had been raining in Kingman for some time. The roads were muddy and as slippery as icy roads back home. Bill really did not want to take us out the next day but, since we were all anxious, he relented and agreed to take us out.
The next morning we were up at 4:30 A.M., in Bill’s truck at 5:00 A.M., headed for the woods. There was a light rain. We had talked the night before and, based on what we had said and the wind, Bill picked out our first stands.
I waited to dress until I got dropped off. I stripped down to my long underwear, put on my scent lock clothing and rubber boots. Then I sprayed myself down with Hawgs’ Vanishing Hunter and put their BF-Rut scent on my boots. By 5:45 A.M., I was in a nice 15-foot ladder stand. The stand faced the wind, over looking a wooded hollow that ran between a creek and a bedding area. The area around me was very dry, but the hollow was filled with luscious green winter wheat and a feeder.
About 7:30 A.M., a small five point came out of the wooded area just behind me. He was looking at the feeder, but he was not hungry. The rut was on and he was scent checking for does. He was under me for about twenty minutes and never knew I was there. Then he just walked back into the woods and disappeared. My heart was pounding. Back home, any one of my four sons would have been dressing that deer out already.
It was starting to get cold. It was between 35 to 40 degrees, rainy with a 35- to 40-mile an hour wind. I had dressed for 35 to 40 degrees in Michigan and this was not Michigan. Then without a sound, a 115 inch buck started to cross behind me, or he would have been if he had not been missing half of his rack. He was scent checking the area and took about 10 minutes to cross. When he got down wind of me he stood and started smelling the air. At first, I assumed he was scent checking for does, but he knew something was not right and gave me his white flag and off he ran. Somehow he knew I was there. I work hard on scent control and this bothered me. He did not see me, but did he smell me?
Bill picked us up around noon and took us back to what he called the crib. It was a small trailer with a DVD player, some hunting movies and a kerosene heater. I was glad I had taken off my clothes before heading in. We had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, ramen noodles and a Pepsi. After a few minutes the talked turned to where we would go in the afternoon. I had assumed I would go back to the same stand. Bill, on the other hand, had been scouting and had better ideas. He described the stands he had in mind and I told Mark and Troy to pick the stands they wanted. I would take what was left. I was just happy to be here.
I was happy with my morning. Mark and Troy had also seen bucks. Mark had a 140 to 150 class come in, but did not get close enough for a shot. Of the seven hunters with us, all had seen nice bucks and an ample number of does.
1 P.M. found us headed for the woods. We dropped Mark and Troy off first. Mark was hunting where he got his 140 inch buck the year before and Troy was walking back to an area that had several thousand areas around it that could not be hunted. Troy had to walk for a mile to get to his stand.
Around 2 P.M. Bill turned down a road that had about 6 inches of mud on top of it. It was still windy and raining lightly. After about a ¼ of a mile down the road, Bill pulled over. He had me walk crossways with the wind, across an 80-acre field to my stand. I am not sure if it was tactical or because of the mud. He told me that I could follow his mule tracks to the stand near where the creek bent. It seemed simple enough and off I went.
The field was grazing land grass about waist high. I stripped down to my long underwear, put on my scent lock clothing and rubber boots. However I did not spray myself down yet. That buck that might have scented me in the morning had me worried. I left my scent lock bag with camp clothing under a bush and headed for the stand. About half way back I scared up a cock pheasant. He flew off crowing. I did not want to mess up the area so I kneeled down and waited. At this point I started spraying myself down with Hawgs’ Vanishing Hunter. I sprayed my boots, scent lock clothing, bow, arrows and backpack. Then I drowned my boots with Hawgs’ BF-Rut scent. I know I was over doing it, but that morning buck had me worried.
After about 15 minutes, I started stalking toward the stand. As I got closer I could see the stand. I wondered if Bill might not like me much. The stand appeared to stand out. It was on a tree with about a 15-inch diameter with just one nice branch coming out to the left side of the stand. To be honest, at this point I was probably dreaming and not paying enough attention to what I was doing and I jumped another cock pheasant. This one had been eating on a corn pile behind the stand. Off he went, crowing and setting off the alarm. I slowly stalked into the stand and climbed up.
The stand was on the eastside of a tree line about 50 yards wide, facing a small creek. The bait pile was behind me. Bill had told me the buck would come from behind me and to watch the bait pile. In Michigan big bucks never come near the bait pile but, again, this was not Michigan and I would do whatever my guide told me to do. I had brought a couple of hooks, so I hung my backpack on the limb to my left. I hoped it would help hide some of my leg movement, if I had to turn and shoot. Once set, I unzipped my bag so I could get my range finder, Vanishing Hunter and BF-Rut scent out. No this is not an advertisement. Back in Michigan I use a sprayer with the BF-Rut and BF-FGland. I spray them in the air while I am in my stand. You would be surprised how often it has got a buck to come in.
Soon I was settled in and a couple of does sauntered in front of me about 28 yards out. I watched them walk past, cross the creek and disappear into the woods. I was looking to see if they were going to come to the bait pile. They did not. The wind was blowing from the creek to me and taking any scent I had right to the bait pile. So I got out the Vanishing Hunter and sprayed myself, my bow and my backpack again. I noticed a round nut about the size of a tennis ball with needles growing out of it. It looked like it would hold and disperse scent well. I drowned it with BF-Rut. About 15 minutes later some more does came walking along the creek, crossed and disappeared into the woods. Again I waited to see if they came to the bait pile. They did not. Again I sprayed everything down with Vanishing Hunter and put a little more BF-Rut on the tennis ball size nut.
I found myself watching the creek and expecting to see some more does. Every once in a while I would slowly lower my body and peek between the tree and my backpack at the bait pile. Then I could see 2 deer about 300 yards straight in front of me. I could not tell if either was a buck. They were just there. They totally had my attention, when another cock pheasant flew off the bait pile behind me, crowing at the world. I dropped my head and took a peek at the bait pile. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 points, lots of mass and I had not seen the brow tines yet. A buck had come in and spooked the pheasant off the bait pile. He was definitely a shooter. I slowly stood up and turned. The tree stand was set up so I had to lean away from the tree to draw my bow and aim over the limb. As I brought my bow down on the buck my arrow fell off the rest. The rest was covered with moleskin, but the buck looked up. I stood there at full draw and the arrow off the rest. The buck waited what seemed like forever, but probably was not that long, then put his head back down into the pile of corn. He was beautiful. I slowly turned behind the tree, let the bow down, took a deep breath and drew again. Again I leaned away from the tree and brought the bow down to aim at the buck. Again the arrow fell off the rest, the buck looked up and I stood there at full draw. Again the buck put his head down and I slowly turned behind the tree and let the bow down. It was time for a prayer, "OK God you and me, are you and I going to shoot this buck or what?" I swear that is what I thought, in a very gracious reverent manner. I took a deep breath and drew again, leaned back around the tree and pulled down on this very cooperative buck. A deep breath, good aim and I don’t even remember letting the arrow go. I actually saw the arrow enter the deer. He gave me a death kick like I usually get with a rifle, ran straight head for about 10 yards, turned right up a small hill for 5 yards, turned right again to run along the hill for 10 yards, then turned around in a small circle twice and dropped dead. I can remember saying stay down, stay down. Then I began to shake. This was definitely the biggest deer I had ever shot. I called my wife, from my tree stand on the cell phone, "Kathy, you are not going to believe what I just shot!" Then I called the outfitter. "Bill", I said, "I got one down. He is between 135 and 145 inches." Bill told me he would come right out. I told him I thought we should give him some time. I did not want to spook him and have him run off. Let’s wait until just before dark, he was not far away. Then I sat down and had a diet Coke and it tasted better than you could imagine.
Not long after this, I was taking a compass reading for where the buck had fallen when a very large doe came into the bait pile, but she was not eating. She had her nose in the air and was looking for the buck. She followed his scent to the bait pile, up the hill, but turned and came back down, before she got to him. She just kept walking around looking for him. An hour and a half later when Bill’s truck started down the road, she was still there pacing. I called Bill and asked him to come in and scare the doe away. I did not want to mess up the stand for anyone else.
Soon Bill and I were shaking hands and talking fast. I walked up the hill using my compass heading, but the buck was not there. The cold sweats. No, I saw him fall. We started make circles and looking. Then Bill got this big grin on his face and started walking toward me. He gave me a big bear hug and said, "You just shot a monster!" We went over and started counting. I had only seen 6 points and assumed a couple of brow tines. He was a main frame 10 point with 2 identical kickers coming off the G2s. They would be deductions, but they gave him character. Soon the landowners showed up with a four-wheeler to help drag him out. They were almost as excited as Bill and I. It was getting dark but, with help from headlights, cameras started popping and Bill kept saying I thought you said he was 135 to 145.
Later that night, back at the lodge after a lot of pictures and videos, Bill put the tape to the buck. I measure whitetails, back in Michigan, for Commemorative Bucks of Michigan. They keep the record books for deer, bear, elk and turkey in Michigan. I am their treasurer and web master (www.buckfax.com ) but I did not want to measure this one, or at least not right now. My head was spinning, my hands were still a little shaky and all I wanted to do was look at him. Bill came up with a green score of 168 1/8 inches gross and 164 3/8 inches net. That would be good enough for 1 year in Boone & Crockett, Pope & Young and Buckmasters.
After the 60 day drying period John Ohmer scored it for me. He came up with 165 1/8 gross inches and 159 4/8 net inches. That was 1/2 inch short of Boone & Crocket for 1 year. Oh darn, I will have to go back and try again!!!
Thanks for the help God! I needed it!