THE BUCK we have been ready for confirmed up simply earlier than final taking pictures mild. He materialized out of head-high Johnson grass simply 50 yards away from the blind. 

I slid off the protection on my crossbow and tracked the buck as he angled towards us and into the open, then stopped broadside. I floated the 40-yard dot simply on the prime of the buck’s vitals and squeezed. There was the thwap of the crossbow string, a hole thud of the arrow hitting house, after which the fading rustle of the buck operating off by the grass. 

My buddy Matt Arkins, who was within the blind with me filming, clapped me on the again, and we had a quiet second of celebration. The shot felt good, however we watched the footage simply to make sure. In Arkins’ viewfinder, we might see the arrow hit tight behind the buck’s shoulder, perhaps only a tad excessive. I known as the landowner, Brett Courson, to relay the information: “We acquired the 18-pointer.”

4 days earlier, I had pulled into Courson’s farm city of about 1,000 folks with the thermometer on my truck dashboard studying 98 levels—​a scorcher of a September night, even for southern Kansas. I met up with Courson and his spouse, Heidi, at a energetic little bar on the sting of city, and we drank Lengthy Island iced teas (it was that night time’s particular, so what the hell) and talked concerning the upcoming hunt. 

black and white image of deer in velvet in grassy, woodsy area
A trail-camera shot of the 18-pointer in midsummer velvet.

Arkins and I had been down earlier in the summertime to set path cameras, hold stands, and brush in floor blinds with Courson (who Arkins had met beforehand on a video shoot). So for the final two months, he had been sending us updates and images of shooter bucks slinking by our setups. 

Essentially the most notable deer was the buck Arkins known as the “18- pointer.” Actually, the buck was a main-frame 13-point with a bunch of kickers, however neither Courson nor I challenged Arkins’ overenthusiasm. This was a 170-class deer and price getting enthusiastic about. 

As I drained one other drink, I observed that Courson—who’s the daddy of two younger, cute youngsters—had an image of the 18-pointer because the display screen saver on his cellphone. Clearly, I wasn’t the one one with that deer on my thoughts. He might have simply picked up a muzzleloader or crossbow and hunted the buck himself, however as a substitute he was letting Arkins and me take a crack at him. Courson isn’t an clothes shop (the truth is, he’s a co-op assistant supervisor).

I requested him why he didn’t lease his properties to an clothes shop or out-of-state hunters to show a revenue on his bounty of huge deer. The reply: He knew he had a great factor going and didn’t need to destroy it. 

Courson and his buddies prefer to hunt (they’re nearly all rifle hunters), they usually prefer to shoot large deer. However one way or the other on this little pocket of Kansas, an obsession with big antlers hasn’t spoiled essentially the most pleasant components of searching. So that they sit their stands when the wind isn’t good, take out youngsters, exhibit trail-cam images, hunt doves, and cross up lease {dollars} to let their family and friends hunt. 

There’s a skinning shed on the town that’s a testomony to the crew’s searching philosophy. If you happen to occur to kill a deer—whether or not it’s a Booner or a doe—you haul it to the shed and convey a cooler filled with low cost beer with you. With a number of textual content messages, the hunters on the town present as much as minimize meat and listen to the story of the hunt. The shed’s again wall is stuffed with 130- and 140-class racks (too small for these guys to shoulder-mount). Arkins and I ogled the antlers and requested who owned the most important units, however the guys couldn’t recall who had killed which buck. 

Unhealthy Blood

plane flies overhead as hunter with crossbow aims out ground blind window with large deer in foreground, dog in background
AJ Frena

The blood path turned from splotches of vibrant pink into occasional drips after which disappeared fully. It was darkish now, and our search get together—which consisted of me, Arkins, Courson, and the neighboring landowner, John Schupbach—unfold out, casting our headlamp beams over grass and plum thickets. 

Even because the blood ran out, I anticipated to search out the buck lifeless, nestled underneath one of many thickets. A flash of white hair, a gleam of antler, high-fives and backslaps, a fast gutting job, after which again to the deer shed. “That is the most important buck I’ve ever killed,” I’d inform the fellows. 

However we didn’t discover the buck inside 100 yards of the final blood drop, so we backed out to take up the search once more within the morning. Arkins and I watched the footage of the shot a number of extra occasions again at our lodge room. Then I stared on the ceiling till dawn.

If you’re monitoring a well-hit deer, daylight solutions all of your questions. The puzzle that appeared unimaginable at nighttime turns into apparent throughout the first minutes of daybreak. However in case you are monitoring a poorly hit deer, daylight brings solely extra questions. Why isn’t there extra blood? Was the shot worse than I believed? 

hunters gather in large shed to skin deer hanging from above; walls covered with deer antlers
Butchering a deer within the city’s skinning shed. Matt Arkins

Quickly we have been on fingers and knees, searching for flecks of pink among the many grass, sand, and brier. Schupbach and Courson needed to get to their jobs, so Arkins and I set off and made large circles, checking the thickest cowl. By midday, the temperature was within the excessive 80s. 

Whereas we have been crawling down deer trails, Courson known as his buddy (the city mayor) who pilots a small airplane out of a grass runway. When the mayor heard our story, he provided to take us as much as search by air. So we flew loops like an enormous motorized vulture, hoping to discover a brown melancholy or spot of white within the bean fields beneath. After two hours of circles, we gave up and put the airplane again within the hangar. 

A Shot within the Darkish

However nonetheless, I believed. My final hope was Scott Beavin and his younger bloodhound, Fudge. 

I had discovered Beavin on the United Blood Trackers web site ( and advised him concerning the buck. The trackers on the positioning volunteer to search out misplaced deer for nothing greater than the difficult canine work, the satisfaction of serving to different hunters, and a few protection of their fuel cash, so they need as many particulars as potential. 

Beavin made the drive up from Oklahoma to satisfy us at 9 p.m. that night time, and instantly the jowly, good-natured Fudge started working. He plodded his method by the grass, and I held my breath when he charged towards his lead and pulled Beavin at a trot into heavier cowl. Fudge had his nostril down, and he was working forwards and backwards like an excited chook canine. I used to be sure he would dig out the buck in some pocket of canopy we had ignored.

hunter stands in field holding flashlight out, dog in foreground
AJ Frena

However 200 yards later, Fudge acquired rotated. Beavin labored him in each course, however we might each inform he was off the observe. 

Unwilling to surrender, Fudge, Beavin, and I picked by deadfalls and willows. I searched the thorniest patches—partly searching for the buck, and partly hoping to pay my penance. By 1 a.m. we had completed nothing however bump dozens of deer off Schupbach’s land. The buck, Beavin declared, should nonetheless be alive. 

The following morning, with my hunt over, I pulled into the city’s solely fuel station, and the woman on the counter requested, “Did you guys discover your deer?” Phrase travels quick right here. I advised her no, we didn’t.

“Nicely, there’s a lot extra of them,” she stated. “I nearly hit three on the way in which on this morning. You’ll get one other one.” 

I smiled and stated thanks. And meant it greater than she knew.

Finish of the Path

That December I acquired a textual content from Courson—“The 18”—with a photograph of a child holding the rack of an enormous buck within the city’s skinning shed. I zoomed in, and certain sufficient, it was the 18-pointer, although his G2 and G3 have been busted off on the left aspect. However the child within the picture, who turned out to be John Schupbach’s 15-year-old son, Tyler, didn’t appear to thoughts in any respect. 

Schupbach had placed on a one-man deer drive for his son, attempting to drive some motion. It was a cool, quiet night, and Schupbach made a push by the riverbottom whereas Tyler sat along with his again to a cottonwood tree on a well-worn deer path. Pushing a main bedding space (the “sanctuary”) can be taboo for many private-land trophy-whitetail hunters, however these guys don’t fear an excessive amount of about bumping deer. Earlier than lengthy, a number of does and a younger buck bounded down the path previous Tyler.

Then a heavy-racked buck appeared out of the underside, 30 yards away, going through straight on. With out hesitating, Tyler raised his rifle and shot, hitting the buck sq. within the chest. He fired twice extra because the buck crashed by the timber. This time there was no monitoring job. Tyler walked as much as the 18-pointer and ran his fingers over all these tines and kickers.

On the shed, they skinned the buck and located a scar behind its shoulder blade. My arrow had handed by, hitting too excessive to penetrate the lungs and too low to strike the backbone. The buck had shrugged off the damage to battle his method by the rut.

After the crew had taken care of the meat, Tyler posed for a number of photos with the rack and cape. It was the younger hunter’s fifteenth deer, and the most important buck he’s ever killed. 

This story initially ran within the Summer time 2018 difficulty. Learn extra OL+ tales.



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