I have been blessed in my 29 years of archery hunting to take a lot of great whitetail bucks, but never did I imagine I would have the opportunity at a deer of this caliber. November 14th, 2016 I headed to north central KS with my good friend and cameraman Wes Cooper to go hunt with Cody Kuck and Heartland Pride Outfitters. We met up with Mike Hunsucker and Brandon Franklin midday and headed west in pursuit of some giant whitetails. We did not arrive in camp till 10:30pm, but we were all pretty excited and stayed up till after midnight putting a game plan together for Tuesday. It did not take long to realize Cody and his guides had done their homework and showed us a good number of nice bucks that he had on the farms we would be hunting. Tuesday morning we started scouting at sun up and then spent the next six hours slipping in and hanging stands. We ended up hanging two sets on two different farms about three miles apart. Of all the bucks Cody had pics of, there was one non-typical that I really hoped to get a crack at. Only problem was he seemed to be the only shooter on that farm while the other farm had four different shooter bucks using it. We decided that first evening we would try hunting the non-typical.
With unseasonably warm weather the deer activity that afternoon was not great for Wes and I. Mike and Brandon on the other hand were on a big buck that afternoon, but could not get him close enough for a shot. Wednesday brought much of the same warm weather patterns and we decided to hunt the other farm near a pond. That morning we had an encounter with a shooter but he stayed just out of bow range. It was a long all day sit as the temps climbed up to 70 degrees. Sitting by the pond offered a great deal of waterfowl to keep us entertained, but by the end of the day we had only seen 4 deer. With a cold front moving in that night we had high expectations for the 3rd day.
I wanted to give the non-typical one more opportunity and the wind was perfect out of the NW that morning. The draw we hung the stand in was only about 600 yards long and maybe 100 yards wide with a CRP field to the west and a winter wheat field to the east side. We had our stand on the east side of the draw about 300 yards from the north end where the bedding area was located. That Thursday morning, November 17th, we climbed into our Hawk Helium XL stands before sun up with no idea what was about to go down.
At day break we had a doe come from the SE that caught our wind and right away we started to question our stand choice. After she spooked, I decided to rattle and a couple nice two year olds came in to check things out. About 8:45 I picked up the horns again and before I could finish my sequence, a nice three year old came to within ten yards of the tree. It was just one of those special mornings that the bucks really seemed to be on their feet and cruising. About 9:15 Wes and I were chatting it up in the stand and he asked me what the non-typical looked like. I got my phone out and pulled up a pic to show him. As we were looking at the picture I looked up the draw and saw a deer heading our way. Right away I knew it was a nice buck and as soon as I got my binos up I knew it was him. We watched as this giant made his way through the draw, heading right toward our tree. As I reached for my bow I gave myself a little pep talk: “you got this, just keep it together”. The Lord brought him just far enough down the draw before he stopped and appeared like he was going to head back to his bedding area. By this time he was at 26 yards and I was already at full draw waiting for him to give me that shot angle I needed to seal the deal. As he turned to head back north I released the arrow. I knew the shot was a little back, but was sure it was good enough to get the job done.
As an archery hunter you live for that moment. I was flooded with emotions that I had no control over. Twenty-nine years of bow hunting and I had just killed my biggest buck ever. Not until Cody met up with us and we walked up on him did I realize just how big he really was. This buck’s trail cam picks did him no justice. We had all thought he would be pushing about 170 inches, so when we walked up on this 20pt 188 inch giant…well let’s just say there was no ground shrinkage. And just when I thought this hunt could not get any better, Mike ended up killing another great buck the following morning. There is always so much more that happens on a hunt such as all the stories shared and friendships made along the way. I was truly blessed to be given such a great opportunity at a buck of a lifetime and even more blessed to get to share this moment with such good friends!
Watch the hunt for this Giant on the upcoming Season 10 of Heartland Bowhunter – Only on the Outdoor Channel.
Monday 08:30 AM EST
Wednesday 08:30 AM EST
Thursday 09:30 PM EST
Thursday 05:00 AM EST