Highs and Lows of a Kansas Bowhunt Part #1

Kneeling down, I fought to regain my breath and composure. Through the smallest of openings I searched for any sign of movement in the chest-high grass (CRP) and thick briars that surrounded us. Panic started to take over as realization set in that I had just blown my opportunity to take a 170 class buck on my Kansas hunt.

If you’ve ever hunted Kansas you would know the unique challenges that present themselves while hunting over CRP fields, thick fence rows, and the scattered plum thickets. With that type of terrain and cover, it’s no surprise that bucks have the ability to not only reach maturity, but to achieve their full potential ending at record-book size. One only needs to look to the Internet and do a little research to see what kind of deer Kansas has produced in the last few years; in fact, the Kansas state record was just broken in 2013 with a buck breaking 312” with 50+ points.

Rightfully so, Kansas has gained the reputation of being a big buck haven, drawing in hunters from hundreds, if not thousands of miles away. Every one of these hunters arrive with dreams and hopes of bringing home their “once in a lifetime” buck. In 2012 roughly 45,000 bucks were taken by an approximate 123,000 hunters. I’m not a mathematician, but I would say 37% of hunters going home with a buck in the bed of their truck is pretty good odds. Knowing these types of statistics certainly helped in motivating me to book my mid-November rut hunt for the 2014-15 archery season.

As a hunter, I find the most satisfaction in taking a mature buck on my own properties where I’ve put in the many hours of work in the freezing cold late winter months, and the boiling summer heat. However, like most hunters, I’m limited to the bag limits of my state. Ohio regulations call for only 1 buck per season so to widen my window of opportunities I try to book a couple of hunts each year. Money is always a concern, but when I make the decision to book a hunt I will spend countless hours researching the outfitters in the area of interest and then make a decision largely based on my gut feeling after talking to them over the phone. When I booked this past season’s hunt it was with a relatively new-to-the-scene outfitter in South Central Kansas. During my conversations with Macklin (Mack) Nusz, owner and guide of Hang’Em Outfitters, I quickly realized that even though there are never any guarantees when it comes to deer hunting, I knew I would be in good hands. Passion for his hunter’s success was evident so I booked my hunt and the countdown began.

With the rut heating up in the Midwest I knew that I had timed my trip as perfectly as I could have hoped. With an eye to the 10 day forecast I was elated to see that a cold front was moving into Kansas on November 11th, which was supposed to be my first day on stand. Cold fronts to the rut are like “all you can eat” rib night to me. I just knew the cold temps would have the bucks on their feet chasing and I was sitting on the best seat in house for the show. In preparation I made sure to pack both my ScentBlocker Apex suit, my Alpha suit (for the really cold days) as well as ScentBlocker Expedition and Artic base layers. Once packed I knew that I was prepared and would be able to stay on stand through the hard winds and frigid temps I would be facing. I was ready, truck was packed, and I hit the road with 18 hours of windshield time ahead of me.

I arrived in Pratt, KS at almost 9:00 pm after being on the road since 2:00 am. Absolutely exhausted, I climbed into bed that night ready for the coming week. The next morning, Mack and I jumped into the truck to head out for a quick tour of the property and to scout the area for bucks on the move. His description of the properties during our many conversations certainly didn’t do justice to all that I saw that morning. It was a deer hunter’s paradise and to top it off, I was able to enjoy it while sipping on a hot cup of coffee. We sat that morning glassing a 180” buck chasing does around on a distant hillside for several minutes. Not bad when the first buck you see on the hoof is that monster class buck you came hoping for.

Aaron's view for his first evening in Kansas. Aaron's view for his first evening in Kansas.


Returning to the lodge, we suited up and headed to the field for my first sit. Noon that afternoon found us slipping into a ground blind located down in a bowl overlooking two heavily used food plots with a water trough. CRP surrounded the area, limiting my field of view to just several hundred yards. Deer activity that first evening was pretty slow with just a couple of does coming in for a quick dinner and a drink and then, like the ghosts, they drifted back into the cover of the CRP. Night fell around us so we headed back to the lodge for a warm dinner while we strategized the next day’s hunt. During the day the wind had really picked up bringing with it the cold temperatures that I had been expecting. They were calling for 20+ mph winds and temps down into the teens the next day so our plans were largely dictated by where we could set-up out of full-on winds. I would find out the next morning what a challenge that would be.

Sitting 20’ feet up in a ladder stand the next morning, I was tucked back into the corner of a fence row that shot out at a right angle into the middle of wheat field. Winds were picking up and blowing the sandy soil around with the occasional tumbleweed whipping past the stand. Had I not had a bow in my hand, I would have thought I was witnessing a remake of a John Wayne film. Fortunately for me, I was strapped in really well with my Tree Spider safety harness so I had no doubt that wherever the tree blew, I would be moving in the same direction and not heading in the direction of the ground. During the first couple of hours on stand, the only deer I saw was the decoy set-up 25 yards out into the field. Like most rut hunts I’ve experienced, one minute nothing will be moving and the next minute the ground around you explodes into frenzied deer activity. Off in the distance I could see a young buck on a bee-line for my decoy, kicking up dust as he ran. As he got closer, he realized he was out-gunned by the rack on my decoy, so with tail tucked, he circled around the corner I was in and kept going. Moments later, out several hundred yards, I watched several 140 class bucks bumping does out of their beds. They never came in my direction, but that early in the hunt I wasn’t about to end the experience with a 3 ½ year old buck. I knew from all the trail camera pictures I had seen that there were much bigger deer in the area. After a couple more hours of no deer movement, we slipped out of the field for a quick lunch and then on to the next set-up.

The second evening hunt had all sorts of visitors. The second evening hunt had all sorts of visitors.


That evening I set-up in a box blind overlooking another food plot surrounded by CRP. Mack had told me there were a lot of does in the area so with the rut just heating up I felt it was a great place to try that evening. He wasn’t kidding; I saw no less than 20 does taking turns at the water trough. Their need for so much water told me they had been run hard by bucks during the day, but that evening with just a couple younger 3 1/2 yr old bucks moving through, I didn’t see the size of buck I was there for. Winds were still kicking into high-gear, topping out at 40 mph gusts. Such a change in weather would impact the deer movement for the first day or two, but once acclimated to the change it would only be a matter of time till the deer were in high-gear as well. Day 2 of my 5 day hunt was officially in the books. So far, it had been an incredible experience and exactly what I had hoped for. No deer hung yet at camp, but an endless flow of deer movement and younger bucks helped keep my confidence high and ready for the next day.

With the start of the third day, there was a very obvious change in the deer activity. Bucks were on their feet before shooting light had even begun and the activity continued well into daylight. This was, by far, my favorite set-up so far in the trip. There was a bedding area just off the end of the wheat field that was bordered by two thick fence rows. Not only was the wind being blocked, but the deer seemed to have adjusted and were looking for a receptive doe. Just after daylight, a 150 class buck stepped out of the bedding area, fed for a few minutes, and then headed in my direction. He approached slowly at first but then he started to run right to me! Standing up, I positioned myself for the shot. As he got closer, he slowed back down to a walk and I had a chance to really look him over. The 20” inch spread with 10 points, G2’s over 10” at least made my decision for me; I was going to shoot if he gave me the shot. As the distance shrank between us, he started to veer slightly on a path that would take him just out of shooting range. His path did end up taking him just out of shooting range, unfortunately, and I felt my first real disappointment of the hunt.

Looking back at the camera, with the frustration we all feel after a close encounter with a shooter, I caught more movement out of the corner of my eye. Standing at only 70 yards away another 150 class buck had come out of hiding. With everything going on he had managed to slip in behind us completely unaware of our presence. Picking up my rattling antlers, I tried to draw his attention to my decoy. I was able to get his attention, but he had no interest in my decoy and started to head out of the field. Giving him a series of grunts and snort wheezes had basically the same response as my rattling. In less than 5 minutes, I had two trophy deer stay just outside of shooting range. Disappointing yes, but what an incredible experience to have! Focusing back on the task at hand was tough, but I forced myself back into the zone and started searching for the next deer. Fifteen minutes went by when I caught a flash of white moving through the CRP. That flash of white was the rack on ANOTHER 150 - 160 class buck. No doe was in front of him so what he was chasing I don’t know, but he was on the move and not stopping for anything. In all my years of hunting I can remember only one other time I had seen 3 bucks of that size from the same stand inside of 20 minutes. At that point, I sat down and couldn’t help but give the biggest and dumbest grin to the camera. Those 20 minutes had made the trip worth it to me.

Another view from one of Aaron's Kansas tree stands. Another view from one of Aaron's Kansas tree stands.


That evening was another great hunt. Multiple 130 and 140 class bucks came to water, but how do you shoot when you just came off of a stand like the one from my morning hunt? That evening I was able to sit back in my chair nestled into a box blind, out of the wind, and drinking coffee while watching all that Kansas hunting had to offer. I witnessed pheasants cleaning up the corn left behind by the deer, coyotes floating through looking for their next meal, and deer taking turns licking holes in the 2 inches of ice that had formed over the tops of the water troughs. Needless to say, I had found my own little slice of heaven and I was going to take it all in.

*this is only the beginning of Aaron's story, check back next week to see how it turned out

1 Comment;

  • Mike

    I want to hunt Kansas! To busy to hunt while I was there in the military, but I want to go back.

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