By Hayden Greenwood
KS, Mule Deer
We arrived in Kansas a few weeks into the archery season and wasted no time meeting up with Cody Kuck of Heartland Pride Outfitters to converse and strategize about where and how we would hunt the mature deer he had kept an eye on all summer. I have nothing but great things to say about Cody and those helping at Heartland Pride Outfitters. They worked very hard to locate animals and made us feel like lifelong friends.
We felt that sitting ground blinds in transition areas where deer moved to feed in the mornings and evenings would be our best bet of harvesting a mature pre-rutting buck. We entered the blinds with high hopes for the days to follow, but unexpected rainstorms prevented farmers from harvesting their crops. Corn standing eight feet tall still covered a majority of the area we were hunting, and within the corn was food, water, and cover for the deer, giving them no reason to venture into the grassy draws in which we were set up. The morning and evening of day one came to a close with not even a glimpse of a deer. We went to bed hoping for clear skies, only to wake up to pouring rain and two curious mule deer does crossing an opening a few hundred yards away.
Cody reassured us early in the morning of the third day by saying, “Call me when you need the meat sled.” The morning, although rain free, yielded no sight of any bucks. The only sign of life was a whitetail doe and her young fawn feeding in the distance.
We took the long way home on a muddy road. I stared out the window at cornfield after cornfield. I turned to my left and thought I saw a buck standing along a fence line. The deer-like object quickly disappeared as we drove around the knoll it appeared on. I hit Cody on the shoulder and said, “I think I just saw a buck standing there!” We reversed a hundred yards or so, and sure enough, standing in the sunshine and staring at us no more than 150 yards off the road was what looked like a mature, decent-framed mule deer. Having not seen a buck until this point, we quickly drove out of the buck’s view and came up with a game plan on how I would close the distance for a shot.
We knew the direction the wind was blowing and that the buck was either going to bed right where we had seen him or continue up the fence line into a grassy draw, looking for more cover. I checked the wind and began my approach at the buck. I crawled on my hands and knees 100 yards or so until I reached a tumble weed-covered fence line. I remembered roughly where the deer was standing and moved silently along the fence line, stopping every few feet to scan the next 50 yards in front of me. As I approached the general area where I thought the deer had been, I realized I did not take the best mental notes prior to the stalk and all I had to rely on was a high-standing fence post that was a few yards away from where we had originally seen the buck.
I kept moving towards the fence post, stopping and scanning the area every few feet. I moved forward until I was right next to the high post I had recalled the deer standing by. Where in the world did that thing go? I thought to myself. After scanning up the draw, below me, and in front of me, I stood up in disbelief. As I turned around, I saw a tiny bit of movement only a few yards in front of me. I pulled up my binos, and there was the buck! I crouched back down, dialed my sight, and it was go time.
I stood back up and scanned the area where I had seen the movement. The weeds were so thick that I could only see through small openings. I pulled up my binos and saw another straight tine. It was like those two bucks were bedded right on top of each other. I moved to my left and looked again and saw a small fork of tine. Confused, I inched closer and slowly stood up, looking through my binos. As I did, a deer raised his head and showed me his entire right side. I started counting, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. That is a giant!” I knelt down, took a few deep breaths, and prepared myself to stand up, get the buck’s attention, and let an arrow go. I drew back, slowly stood, anchored my bow, and mewed at the buck. I caught his attention but not enough to make him stand. I let down and decided to see how close I could get.
I moved as slowly as I could, inch by inch, until I felt close enough that when I stood I would be able to see how the deer was oriented and let an arrow fly while he was in his bed. I took a few deep breaths, crouched until I could see his back tines, and ranged him. My rangefinder read 9 yards. I drew my bow back, anchored the string to my cheek, and slowly stood up. I could see the back of the buck’s head, his ears forward, and his entire rack, but about mid-neck, I could not see how his body was oriented. I stood, trying to lean side to side to get a better idea of how he was bedded. After what seemed like an eternity, I finally crouched back down and let down my bow, feeling uneasy about sending an arrow through brush in a direction I was not certain led to his vitals. I regrouped, checked my arrow, drew my bow, and began to stand up. I stood completely upright, anchored the string to my cheek, and mewed at the buck. The first time, his ears twitched, and with the second mew, he whipped his giant rack around and stared straight into my soul. I saw the white throat patch beneath his chin and the fur beneath slowly go behind the brush. I held as close as I could to his chest and squeezed my release. The arrow whizzed and thwacked the biggest buck I had ever seen. The buck twirled around and ran straight down the draw into an open field. He was lethally hit, and I was in disbelief as to what had just happened.
It is hard to describe the feelings I felt when I walked up and put my hands on the buck I was able to harvest. He was a symmetrical 7x7 and grossed 202". I am extremely grateful for the times I have been able to spend with my father, Les, in the mountains hunting and fly fishing our favorite rivers together. It was a great memory to be able to design and then execute a successful stalk with him watching the whole thing unfold. I am also very grateful for my beautiful wife, Macey, who pushes me to be a better person and who supports me as I chase my most wild dreams.