Highs and Lows of a Kansas Bowhunt Part #2

Overnight the wind made a drastic change and switched from the NW to a SE wind. On my home turf in Ohio I can normally expect a handful of days each winter where I get a SE wind and it seemed from our discussion over breakfast that was the same scenario for Kansas. When you don’t get a particular wind regularly, you normally don’t set up properties to accommodate it. I had hoped to return to the same spot I hunted the morning before, but that just wasn’t possible for the wind we had, so I ended up back in the same box blind from the evening before. Deer were moving, but nothing like the previous morning. Around 11:00 am, we got out of the blind and headed back to the lodge. We had a lot to talk about if we were going to get it done. I was on day 4 and running out of time quickly.

During our mid-day break our conversation kept returning to that first morning when from a distance we had glassed the 180 class deer running does. That particular set-up was a ground blind with a feeder and surrounded by CRP. It was the one set-up on the property that had less than a 50 yard range of view and one we had avoided up until now with the limited camera options for the spot. If a deer came to the feeder, it was going to happen very quickly with minimal footage, and he was going to be close. However, the set-up could handle being hunted on a SE wind so it seemed like the choice that made the most sense. We finished a quick lunch, loaded back up and headed off. I wanted to be in the blind as early as possible because time was running out. On the way to our spot, we discussed final details like the route we would be taking into the blind, where to expect the deer to come from, and what other bucks he had pictures of in the area. It was a 5 mile drive to the spot with only wheat fields between us and it, stretching for miles. As we crested a small rise, an old, abandoned homestead about an acre in size came into view. With less than half a mile to go, I was focused on getting my gear ready when I glanced out the window and saw a doe standing just outside of the over-grown location. My attention was on her until she took off running and I went back to prepping my backpack. Seconds later, my stomach was in my mouth when Mack slammed on the breaks, looked at me and said there was a huge buck bedded behind the old barn. With so much CRP grass and briars growing up around barn it took those seconds to sink in that what he had seen was not only a buck, but a shooter buck! In a matter of moments we had turned around, parked on the other side of the acre plot and had a plan in place to stalk up to within shooting range of the bedded buck. With only seconds to get ready when we got out of the truck I grabbed the only camo close at hand which was my Air Brake Vest. With the incredible winds I couldn’t have grabbed a better piece of clothing. It was the first time that week I was truly thankful for the unrelenting winds. Not only would it mask our movement and noise, but would also quickly carry any scent past the buck and out into the miles of wide-open fields. Where the buck was bedded, we believed that his head and field of view were blocked by the corner of the barn so that was going to be our approach: use the barn for cover, get to within approximately 10 yards of him, and wait for him to stand up. One step and we would have a perfect broadside shot at him. Plans seldom work the way we hope, but this time was different. We walked as low and quickly as we could around the edge of the property with only the blowing CRP between him and us. Once we realized the barn had our approach blocked, we took a quick breather and whispered back and forth until we both were on the same page for our final approach. Mack was filming for me, so it was imperative that we both knew what the other would be doing.

One of the old barns on the abandoned homestead. One of the old barns on the abandoned homestead.

Ever so slowly, I rounded the final corner of the property putting me just 30 yards from the bedded buck. Mack was just behind and me and slightly to my left, giving him an un-obscured angle for the camera. Low crawling at this point, we quickly covered another 15 yards. CRP was still blowing hard, bending to the point that it was blocking our view of the opposite side of the barn, but it was also blocking the buck’s view of us. I knelt down to prepare for a shot when the wind, without warning, completely died, CRP stood back up, and I found myself staring into the eyes of a huge buck. We had misjudged his bed by a mere foot which was all he needed to see us on the field edge. For a brief moment the deer and I froze – eyes locked on one another - and then he exploded out of his bed like a shot from a gun… and was gone. Close encounters were many that trip, but none were as close or heartbreaking as this one. This blown stalk had eaten up over 20 minutes and we were now late to the blind. We back tracked our steps, heading to the truck, when we realized we didn’t see the buck running through any of the wide open fields around the property. He hadn’t left!!! With a glimmer of hope, we bent down and assessed what our next move needed to be. With only an acre within which for him to move, we knew he was close and we would have just one more chance at him before he left the county. As we looked at the situation it became clear what we needed to do.

There were two decrepit barns on the property that lined up perfectly to each other. The buck had been bedded behind the one so we needed to cut the distance down as quietly and quickly as possible, while using the other as our cover. Sneaking up to the barn, we peaked around the corner and realized the barn door was open. We got to the entrance and ducked in to the dark barn with one exception, the door at the other end of the barn was cracked open. That door would put us within 10 yards of where we first saw the buck! With mud floors, we were able to hug the wall and slip to the other end. Exhausted from the stalk and the emotional roller coaster, I struggled to regain composure. Looking through the smallest of openings, I didn’t see any sign of the buck we had hoped was still there. Seconds turned into minutes without any sign of him and I began to come to grips with the fact that I had blown my opportunity. Right then, I caught the slightest movement off to the right. I couldn’t believe it - the buck had been standing just out of eyesight for the last few minutes and was now sneaking back into his bed no more than 10 yards directly in front of me. With the camera still rolling I slowly stood up behind the door, drew my bow, said a quick prayer and stepped out from behind the door. I picked my spot quickly and let the arrow fly. At the shot, the buck mule-kicked and crashed out of sight. It had all happened so fast and we were so close that I physically didn’t see the arrow connect. Based on the sound and his kick I knew I had hit him, but didn’t know how good the shot was. We’ve all experienced the elation of a shot followed with immediate fear that we may not get the deer. At that moment all I could do was collapse to the ground. Our adrenaline had been pumping for the last 40 minutes and I was emotionally spent.

The barn Aaron shot from. The barn Aaron shot from.

We backtracked to the truck and reviewed the footage Mack had gotten of the shot. After reviewing the shot we both immediately started high-fiving. There was no way that deer was going far. He had been slightly angling away from me when I shot and the arrow placement couldn’t have been better. We gave it 30 minutes before going back to where he had been shot and immediately found the tell-tale sign of a double-lung shot deer. We tracked him through the CRP easily, and after making a large circle inside of the square acre homestead, we found our buck just feet from the entrance of the barn we had used to get in close on him undetected.

Aaron is all smiles with his 2014 Kansas trophy. Aaron is all smiles with his 2014 Kansas trophy.

Putting my hands on that buck was the most exhilarating experience to date in my hunting career. Measuring 172 1/8 inches, I had my trophy Kansas whitetail on the ground. That week we had faced 40 mph winds, temps before wind chills in the teens, wrong direction winds, many close encounters, many highs, and many lows - all of which culminated in the greatest experience for which I could have hoped. Next year I will be returning to Hang’Em Outfitters, hoping to have a repeat, but even if another Kansas monster doesn’t hit the ground, I have experienced all of the wonder that Kansas has to offer.

That next and final day I was able to get in a little pheasant hunting before pulling out that evening for the long trek home. After a couple of hours in the field and with a couple of birds in my vest, it was time to wrap up my Kansas hunt. I had decided that I would need a nap before hitting the road so I said my goodbyes to Mack as he headed out to try and capitalize on the rut himself while he still had some time before his next hunters arrived in camp. After a few hours of sleep and loading my truck, I got a text from Mack telling me that he had just dropped the double main beam buck he had been sending me trail camera pictures of all summer. By delaying my departure a few minutes, I was able to take a couple parting pictures of Mack with his buck. It was just another memory of that hunt that will not be seen in my trophy room, but will be remembered for a lifetime.

Mack's double main beam buck he harvested shortly after Aaron left camp. Mack's double main beam buck he harvested shortly after Aaron left camp.

To learn more from Aaron, or to pick his brain about bow hunting Kansas, feel free to reach out to him.

Aaron Zimmerman

New Bearing Media

aaron@newbearingmedia.com

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