It is not a secret that the last few years for Kansas deer hunting has been less than stellar. The numbers are significantly down. Not only the general population, but also the number of mature bucks. The reasons for this situation are complex and beyond the scope of this post. With that, the option is to make the most of your opportunities and be thankful for them.
If I am calculating correctly, the 2023 bow season would be my 38th. There are about 30 of them I would like to have back. As the 2023 season approached, I was thankful for a young energetic bow hunter living in the house to get the ball rolling on permission and camera sets. If you follow Heads Up Decoy, you will know the month of November is go time. We have severally under represented during October. We hope to change that in 2024.
Big bucks on trail cameras are generally a good way to get the juices flowing, but nothing really got me fired up. There were a few good bucks, but nothing to make me loose sleep. The months of September and October was spent in the bleachers watching high school football and middle school volleyball. There were a couple off days in the mix that provide an opportunity for my son to tag a nice buck.
For me, I often reflect on the best advise I have ever received regarding shooting big bucks. That advise was to take a week off in November. For the past 15 years, I have done just that. I usually take the week before the opening of upland game hunting since most of my primary ground I hunt is prime pheasant and quail ground. The season started slow. I think it was the first time I had taken a day off in November and did not see a single deer...and I can see for miles where I generally perch.
The days ahead would begin to pick up and I was fortunate to pass on a really nice 10 pointer that I had seen prior. Although he was a nice buck and probably 4 1/2 years old, I was not interested in wrapping my electronic tag around him. He was cruising for does. I had predicted their motives for the day and set up accordingly. He was not the right buck.
As the day went on, the wind was too much to handle for decoying anything in the open country. Weighing my options, I settled on a small creek bottom offering some wind protection and an ideal ambush/cruising buck decoying set up. There were multiple good bucks using the area and given the circumstance, I felt good about my chances at one of those "good" bucks to cruise through and see the decoys.
Whenever I set up and do not plan on moving, I set the decoys in a highly visible location, but not out of close bow range. I like to set out both the Heads Up Whitetail Doe Decoy and the Heads Up Whitetail Buck Decoy as if the buck is pushing the doe. A big cedar tree against a big chalk bluff provided perfect cover with ample shooting lanes. If a cruising buck ventures by, he would easily see the decoys. If he chose to investigate, I would have an easy shot.
Settling in for the evening hunt, I was rudely interrupted by 2 bobcats. One of the coolest outdoor experiences I have had. Both were only 10 yards away growling at me high up the chalk bluff behind me. That alone made the evening a win.
Not long after the cats moved off, I spotted movement up the creek. It was 8 1/2! A great eight pointer that had one small nub that was barely a point...aka 8 1/2. The wind was still blowing hard, but I knew I needed to get his attention. I grunted a couple times. On the second sequence, I could tell he heard me. He quickly closed the distance and buzzed by my first and second shooting lanes at a rapid pace. Reaching my last window for a shot opportunity, I attempted to stop him but to no avail. He was close! Because he was so close I put my top pin on his front shoulder and released the arrow. Boom! The 2023 season was over in an instant with a great buck. And the first buck I decided to shoot where I did not spot and stalk.
It would not be right if I did not recognize the beauty of were this buck lived. I was far from my vehicle. With the waning light of the evening, I would not be able to retrieve my Canon camera in time for pictures that attempted to capture the beauty of the animal and the landscape where he came to rest. The iphone would have to suffice. The real life images, maybe not representative in the pics, will be forever etched in my mind...maybe it is better that way. For Video of this hunt: Click Here