Truly, I was a little spoiled growing up as a deer hunter in Kansas – one of the best states in the country for bowhunting whitetails. For me, opening day is akin to Christmas Eve, so exciting is the knowledge that somewhere, beneath that open sky and all those acres, there’s a buck of legends. Let’s face it – even those of us who don’t hunt simply for the size of the antlers still dream that maybe, in the right stand at the right time, you’ll have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
I never take the first deer I see. Sometimes I can go an entire season without drawing my bow, because the opportunities for quality deer seem almost limitless here in Kansas. That’s not saying that opportunities for huge, monster bucks are limitless; quite the opposite, in fact. However, mature deer and their yearlings usually have a set routine and are easy to pattern in the early season. Plus, harvesting them also helps manage herd populations, and they provide good quality meat.
But every once in a great while, the stars align perfectly to provide that once-in-a-lifetime moment. That’s what happened for me. But first, the context: The start of that particular bow season had been good, and I saw numerous deer every night, especially during rut. I’d passed on some quality antlers, on a hunch that maybe something bigger and better would come along. One afternoon, toward the end of rut that year, I was bored out of my mind. I’d been sitting for what seemed like hours – the weather warmer than what any of the “experts” would call good hunting weather – and I hadn’t seen anything except the occasional squirrel and a soaring bald eagle.
As I was moving to stretch my legs, I noticed a quick movement out of the corner of my eye and something moving through the brush. The thing that caught my eye was the antlers. They looked a little different than anything I’d seen before. This wasn’t one of my regulars. As he came around the corner, I knew for sure I’d never seen him before. He was unique. Different. Exactly what I was looking for to end my season. And after a 15-yard shot, he didn’t even know what happened.
The adrenaline, the hours upon hours of sitting, the hard work put into food plots all year long? It all finally came to fruition. And it was worth every single second.