Whitetails — Western Style

As I pulled my truck and camper on to the ice-crusted highway, my mind wandered to the upcoming adventure, a Kansas bow hunt!

This was not only my first Kansas tag, but my first Eastern whitetail tag ever! In fact, I held a coveted "Any Deer" tag, allowing the harvest of either a whitetail OR a mule deer.

Being a lifelong resident of Arizona has not yielded much Eastern whitetail treestand experience, in fact, it has yielded none! While we do have plenty of Coues Whitetails and Mule Deer at home, but preferring to stalk, the treestand waiting game is not a tactic I employ. No, this would be a new type of hunting for me — or would it?

In Kansas, the author said he felt at home in the wide open countryside.

A 16-Hour Drive
The 16-hour drive lasted well into the night, allowing no sightseeing on the second half of my journey. Arriving at my buddy Matt’s house in the middle of the night, I quickly unhooked my trailer and climbed between my chilled blankets.

Four hours later, and two hours before daylight, the alarm shattered my bowhunting dreams. Over coffee, Matt suggested an area that needed a serious look, a huge expanse of land, recently enrolled into the “Walk-In-Hunting” program. It was exactly what I was looking for and I anxiously sped off alone into the predawn darkness.

Arriving at my destination, gray light appeared on the Eastern horizon. I noticed some hills that reached a bit higher than the surrounding topography.

"I’ll just take my binos, run up on that hilltop, and get the lay of the land," I thought to myself. Grabbing backpack and bow, I strode off across the prairie.

Once on the hill, I immediately began to see deer with my naked eye. I also noticed that my new vantage point allowed big views, some as far as two miles.

Familiar anticipation caused me to fumble as I hurriedly attached my glasses to my tripod. As the sun climbed a bit above the horizon and its rays illuminated the vastness of my hunting area, I was astonished at the deer numbers I was seeing. Rutting whitetail bucks seemed to be everywhere scent trailing does and rapidly moving across the landscape.

The familiar feeling of packing a buck over a mile back to the truck.

Spends Time Scouting
Because it was only my first day of 14 to hunt, I opted to scout around and see what else this deer Mecca called Kansas had to offer. Over the next several days, I saw a mind-numbing number of mature bucks, both mulies and whitetails. Several tempted me, but I couldn’t curb my desire to see what was over the next hill.

With the sun setting on my eighth day, I glassed up a mule deer buck that appeared huge in the approaching darkness. That night, sleep came in fits as I anxiously awaited dawn.

First light found me walking across a winter wheat field toward the general location of the last night’s ghost buck. On the far side of the crop fields, a deep, wide arroyo cut through the prairie. Both sides of this drainage held several side cuts, plenty large enough to hold concealed deer.

My plan was to cross the drainage and make a huge two-mile circle to get the wind right, and then hunt back toward my truck, peering into every niche large enough to hide a buck. As I neared the edge of the arroyo, I glassed up it as far as I could see, about 500 yards. A stark, white rack immediately caught my eye! In my home country of the Southwest, white antlers mean only one thing, and that is the sun bleached rack of a dead buck. I decided to detour over to it, as it looked to be a whitetail skull with great mass. As I slowly stalked my awaiting treasure, I cautiously nosed through several side cuts that lay between me and it. Half way to my prize, I raised my binoculars to take a look and I about choked when I noticed that my supposed dead head had changed position and was attached to a very large and very alive whitetail buck snoozing away the morning hours!

Sneaks Up On Big Buck
I instantly went into stealth mode, crawling cat-like out of the ditch and onto the prairie. Once on top of the high ground, I crawled rapidly toward the deer. Arriving at the edge of the bank above the giant, I carefully rose to my knees and lifted my head. I marveled at the long, thick beams on the bedded brute. My Leica Geovids rangefinder instantly read 42 yards. I quietly lowered myself and readied for the shot. Moving like molasses in January, I drew my Hoyt bow and eased up into a comfortable shooting form. Holding my red pin a hair over the buck’s heart, I waited for a brief lapse in the wind and triggered the shot. The hissing arrow was followed by an audible smack as the Goldtip shaft passed completely through the buck and came to rest in the offside weeds. The massive buck exploded from his bed and made a short run below me and down the draw. After 60 yards he came to skidding halt and simply tipped over.

The author’s 2008 Kansas whitetail.

As my accomplishment slowly sank in, I sat down with my legs dangling over the steep bank. I quietly thanked the Lord for my good fortune as I admired my fallen trophy.

My 2008 Kansas buck is a main frame 8-point with a couple of small cheaters. His 27-inch beams, 22-inch spread and webbed mass gave him a gross score of 158 inches even with 5 inches broken off of one brow tine.

As I started hiking back toward my truck to retrieve my backpack, I grinned. I never even hung the new treestands I purchased for my first whitetail hunt. All I had used was my western spot and stalk style, which I have come to love so much. 

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