Returning home to Kansas from a successful Colorado archery elk hunt put me in high spirits. As I unpacked all of the hard earned meat that my 5×5 bull elk had yielded, my mind retraced every step of my adventure in the mountains. My thoughts then clouded over with new excitement of the upcoming season that would soon take place in my home state.Kansas archery season had arrived. September 14, 2015 was here with temperatures reaching into the lower 90’s for the high and 20 mph winds. These warmer conditions were far less than ideal. My obsession to hunt was eating at me, but I would not be battling the hot Kansas heat quite yet. I would hold back my temptation and wait on a cooler day to kick off my whitetail hunt. Besides, I still had a mule deer tag to fill. I took care of a few things at home then headed back to the same mountain in northern Colorado where I had shot my bull elk not long before.
With only a couple days to go in the season, I quickly set up camp and headed to the woods. The first day went by fast. I returned to camp with nothing but sore feet and a blue Colorado mule deer tag with no notches cut in it. After cooking supper, I dozed off then was awakened by a moose crashing through camp. That would be my only excitement for that hunt, as I was able to spot only a handful of mule deer does with no chance to come to full draw on a mule deer buck. Kansas here I come!
I hopped into the stand the next day after returning home. I wouldn’t see much of anything that day. As the season progressed, many Kansas giants were dropping. Stories of these Kansas monarchs were coming out of everyone’s mouths with excitement which only made me hunt harder. I had not yet connected on a trophy whitetail, but I was in high hopes.
Hunting hard for a solid month, rut finally peaked bringing with it unfamiliar large mature bucks. Typically, my hunting grounds tend to pull in many of the rutting bucks in the surrounding area, due to the high quantity of does that call it home year round. Another day came to an end, and I had fallen asleep dreaming of shooting a giant whitetail. Suddenly, I was awakened by my dad. I had slept in on the morning of Thanksgiving, but the morning would soon turn into a fond memory that I would never forget.
My dad was so excited that he was hardly able to speak. He had just seen a giant whitetail on the property where both he and I hunt. I wasted no time throwing on camo and grabbing my Hoyt bow, which hadn’t seen any action since I had made a bad shot on a nice eight point buck just two weeks prior. I didn’t have time to grab all of my gear as I was in a hurry to get to the spot where this buck was last spotted.I cautiously walked to the area where the buck was last seen. Stalking this impressive buck would be no easy feat, but I was in my element and weather conditions were just short of perfect. It was raining with a steady wind coming out of the north northwest. Although the wind was hitting my right shoulder carrying my scent downwind, I ruled it okay because of the heavy rain droplets driving my human odor into the wet earth below.
There he stood, munching on his very own Thanksgiving dinner! The tall racked buck sent my adrenaline into overdrive. I slowed my steps down then started crawling on my hands and knees, inching my bow ahead of me. Closing the distance, the one hundred fifty yard gap between the two of us was now just a mere sixty. With an arrow already nocked and my release on the d-loop, I waited patiently. My heart felt like it was going to beat its way out of my chest. I was making small adjustments to my body posture trying to create a shooting lane between the tall nine-point and myself. Becoming quick with his motions, he jerked his head up and down while he ate, indicating a nervousness that was sure to bust me if I was to attempt my luck at getting any closer. I pressed the power button on my rangefinder, and a bold 58 yards displayed on the screen. Consistently practicing at longer ranges, I was confident with this shot. He looked away. Now was my opportunity! I came to full draw and steadied my sight pin which I had dialed in at 60 yards just seconds after learning of my range between the deer and myself. As the pin floated down to its mark, I sent my arrow down range. Time came to a crawl. I watched as the shaft slowly drifted off of my mark from center mass to the rear of the animal’s body. The wind and rain had pushed my arrow away from my point of aim. My heart skipped a beat and sank. Would I be able to recover my trophy? Only time would tell.
Rain was coming down much harder now with no end in sight. The moisture would make spotting the fresh blood much more difficult, so I made the decision to start tracking. I didn’t want this deer to get away. Large prints in the mud and laid over grass were the only two indicators that revealed I was on the trail of the deer I had just shot. I tracked the deer for about 40 yards when blood started to show itself on the tall Kansas grasses. I took ten more steps, glanced up, and caught something that was out of place. Shiny wet antlers poked through the thickets just thirty steps ahead! I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had just recovered my Thanksgiving buck!
My dad, who was at my side the whole time of recovery, threw his open hand into the air and we high-fived. Mom was quickly notified and told to meet. She found us and took some pictures of the deer I had just harvested. What a day this had become! I field dressed the deer and found my way into my parent’s house which smelled of oven baked turkey, stuffing, and other delicious dishes.
We sat down at the dinner table and gave thanks for the food my mother had prepared, the good lord, family, friends, and my trophy harvested that morning. Not only did I get to spend quality time with my family on such a special day, but I was able to harvest an amazing trophy animal, making Thanksgiving 2015 one I will never forget.
I have been bow hunting whitetails since I was twelve, and have been fortunate enough to have grown up and lived in one of Americas’ top producing states for giant whitetail deer. As many of you know, they can be a very difficult animal to harvest. Tree stands and blinds are the two most common hunting methods for those of us who bow hunt. Spot and stalk is another approach and has quickly become my favorite method for harvesting a whitetail. Over several years I have become more proficient with this method and have closed the distance on many, tagging out on a handful of respectfully nice whitetails. 2015 would test my skills yet again as a hunter.