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 Post subject: A Cold Week in Kansas
PostPosted: November 14th, 2014, 11:29 pm 
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My Kansas trip started out a little differently this year. I didn’t draw the unit I normally hunt so I decided to buy a leftover tag and hunt a new unit. I would be hunting heavily pressured public land that I’d never stepped foot on. Due to family commitments my trip would also be cut from my usual 10 days to 6 days.

In October I was able to parlay a business trip in Kansas into a quick scouting trip of the area and while the area looked promising I didn’t have time to do much more than get a feel for the terrain. I did the usual scouting with aerial photos and topo maps and had several places mapped out that looked promising. While I was a little upset I wasn’t hunting my usual area, there’s always something exciting about hunting new places and my anticipation was high.

I left about 2:00 in the morning on Sunday November 9th hoping to get there in time to scout the afternoon and hopefully hang a stand or two. When I arrived mid afternoon it was extremely warm. I scouted three different areas and only one looked worth sitting. I marked it on my GPS made a quick note of the wind direction I needed and backed out. I would hang my stand when I came in to hunt it.

The wind was out of the south Monday morning, which was good for the place I’d found. I decided I’d hunt it until 10:30 then I needed to get down and find more places to hunt with a north wind. A cold front was scheduled to roll in Monday night and north winds and colder temperatures were projected for the rest of the week. Boy, were they right! My hunt that morning was pretty uneventful, a nice young 2-1/2 yr old 8 point came by and a couple of does but nothing I wanted to shoot. I got down at my determined time and started scouting.

As I started looking at new places the frustration of hunting unfamiliar public land set in. Everywhere I went there seemed to be a truck. After several hours I finally found one place that looked good for a north wind. Again, I marked the spot and left. That afternoon I sat the same stand I’d sat that morning. Around 4:00 the front started moving in and the winds picked up to around 30 mph and the temperature dropped 25 degrees in an hour. I didn’t see a deer that afternoon which is probably just as well, the wind was blowing so hard I couldn’t even stand up let alone shoot.

When I woke up on Tuesday the temperature had dropped to the low 20’s and a stiff north wind was blowing 20-25 mph. The morning hunt was again uneventful but that afternoon just before dark I saw a doe coming toward my stand, behind here was a dandy buck. She looked like she was coming right to my stand with him in tow but veered off at the last minute passing by at 50 yards and taking the buck with her.

Wednesday morning the temperature was 15 degrees and the wind was still blowing 15 mph out of the north, that’s getting pretty cold for a southern boy! I went back to the same stand I’d seen the nice buck on the evening before. Right at daylight I had a young doe come right under me then a 1-1/2 yr old 6 point followed the same path. Around 8:30 a small 8 point chased a doe in front of me and bedded down with here. About 30 minutes later they suddenly exploded from their beds. I knew what was coming and sure enough about 5 minutes later a guy carrying a crossbow came walking up. I was starting to get pretty frustrated. It seemed like I just couldn’t get away from the crowd, and just when I thought I had, I’d run into someone else. But I guess that’s how it goes hunting public land. I got down around 11:00 and headed to the truck for lunch.

As I sat there eating lunch I knew I had to do something different. The reason I was seeing so many hunters was because I was doing the same thing they were doing. If I wanted different results I knew I had to make a change. I got out my iPad, (how’s that for traditional) pulled up Google Earth and started looking for places where other guys wouldn’t go. I had brought my boat with me on the trip as a river ran through the area and I thought it might help get away from the crowd. So I started looking for areas I could use it to access. I also thought to myself “where is the most likely place to kill a buck during the rut based on past experience.” The answer was simple, the downwind side of a good doe bedding area and preferably one that had a pinch point to narrow down a buck’s travel. If I could find one good solid spot that met those requirements I’d hunt it for the next 3 days and surely a buck would come by.

Suddenly it jumped off the screen at me. Right there it was, as obvious as a black eye. An “S” curve in the river and what looked to be a couple hundred acres of willow thicket and reeds grew in the bottom of the curve and they appeared to go to within about 50 yards of the river. Along their south edge I could see a thin strip of larger trees. It looked like a perfect pinch point, any buck scent checking the downwind side of the thicket would be forced between it and the river A north wind would blow my scent out across the river and best of all it would require either boating in to or a very long walk. I got excited just looking at it on the screen. Still I needed to lay eyes on it to be sure I wasn’t getting all excited about nothing.


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PostPosted: November 15th, 2014, 12:17 am 
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I decided it would be best to make the long walk in the first time so I could scout as I went. If it looked good I’d hang my stand and use the boat to access the stand from that point on. I pulled the coordinates off Google Earth and downloaded them in my GPS. I strapped my backpack and extra clothes to my stand and started walking in a little after noon.

As I started getting close to the spot I got even more excited. It looked even better than it had on the aerial photos. The willow and reed thicket was head high and I could see trails zigzagging through them. I walked a little further and there was a small gap in the willow thicket maybe 20 yds wide and right on the edge of the gap was a triple trunked cottonwood tree. There were dozens of rubs all around the tree and 3 different heavy trails crossed within 20 yds of it. Not only could I shoot any buck that scent checked the downwind side of the thicket I could also cover the trails coming through the gap in the thicket. The spot just had that feeling, you guys know the one I’m talking about.

I quietly hung my stand, pulled up my bow and settled in a little before 2:00. Around 3:00 I could hear reeds breaking to my right and a doe came out into the gap. About 30 minutes later I looked over into the willows and 3 more does were slipping through. This confirmed it was definitely being used by the does as a bedding area, now I just had to wait on a buck to show. About 4:30 I heard a deer walking in the leaves coming down the rivers edge, paralleling the thicket. A small 6 point came by with his nose on the ground. Perfect, now I just needed a bigger buck to do the same thing. Just as it was getting dark with maybe 10 minutes of light left I looked to my right and another doe came out of the willows about 30 yards away and headed right toward me. I started thinking “I’ve got an extra doe tag, the rivers right there I could pull the boat right up to her and not mess anything up” just as I was thinking that she snapped her neck around and looked behind her.

Here's a picture of the gap in the willows where the doe came out of
Image


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PostPosted: November 15th, 2014, 12:32 am 
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But then what happened? :o


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PostPosted: November 15th, 2014, 1:11 am 
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I took my bow off the hook, pulled up my fleece facemask which had been shielding me from the cold 15mph wind, and slipped off my right glove. I could hear more reeds breaking behind her then he came into view and my heart skipped a beat (or two). He was a clean 10 pt and seemed to have everything. He was heavy, extremely tall and probably 22-24” wide. I’m not hung up on what a deer scores and haven’t had one scored in a long time but use score more for relating a bucks size. The buck in front of me was an honest 170” deer. His forehead was almost completely white and his body dwarfed every buck I’d seen up to this point. He was a fully mature, world-class animal. The doe he was following was now feeding toward me at 25 yards, the wind was perfect and a shot at him seemed imminent. I was surprisingly calm.

The doe kept coming and stopped in the open in front of me at 18yards and started feeding. The buck was now at 30 yards facing me but instead of following the doe he crossed the gap in the only thick spot at 30 yards, walked into the other side of the willow thicket and circled the outside edge of the doe staying just inside the thick stuff. He worked a scrape while the doe continued to feed right in front of me. Light was fading fast and I needed him to make a move before I was out of time but he stayed put and kept working the scrape for several more minutes. The doe finally started moving off but instead of following her path the buck circled wide. He finally came into a shooting lane at 28 yards but it was just too dark.

It always amazes me the uncanny survival instincts mature bucks have. That buck could have done a dozen things that would have gotten him killed, but he did everything right and stayed alive. What can you do but tip your hat and be thankful for such a great encounter.


The buck walked from the right side of this picture through that narrow strip of brush into the thick stuff behind the biggest cottonwood tree and worked the scrape. The doe was feeding about right where my shadow is.
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PostPosted: November 15th, 2014, 7:19 am 
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Great stuff so far Aaron - I'm hoping there is more to come!
Sounds like you came up with a great plan and it came oh so close to working immediately.


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PostPosted: November 15th, 2014, 8:40 am 
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I was disappointed I hadn’t gotten a shot at the buck but I knew I had found a great spot so once it was completely dark and I thought the buck and doe had moved far enough away I lowered my bow, crept over to the rivers edge and quietly walked out trying to avoid spooking anything on my way. I knew the chances of seeing a buck like that on public land were not great and chances of seeing him again were extremely slim, but the doe he was with was using the area for bedding and he wasn’t leaving her so I knew there was hope. I also knew he wasn’t the only big buck in the area so my anticipation was high for the next morning.

I woke up Thursday morning and hooked the boat up to my truck. I planned on boating in as it would only be about a 15 min boat ride and I could park the boat 75 yards downwind of my treestand and not spook a thing on my way in. As I drove toward the river this is what the thermometer on my truck read. That 15 min boat ride was going to feel a lot longer!
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PostPosted: November 15th, 2014, 8:48 am 
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As I pulled up to the boat ramp and my headlights shined out toward the river I could see that it had frozen overnight. The thought of breaking ice for 8 miles up river didn’t sound like a good idea especially since my brother had left for home already and I didn’t have anyone to call if something went wrong. I thought about what I would do if something happened and then thought about my kids at home. That voice in my head said “Bad idea Aaron” and I’ve learned the hard way to listen to that voice. A deer just wasn’t worth the risk so I decided I would just walk in again. I parked the truck and loaded my daypack with enough food and extra clothes to hunt all day. I also put a small theromos of coffee in my pack, something I don’t normally do but then again, I don’t normally hunt when it’s 9 degrees either and the high was only suppose to be 28.

I managed to make it to the stand without spooking any deer. I quickly put on my extra layer of clothes and got settled in. It was going to be a long, cold day. I didn’t see any deer until about 8:00 when I saw a deer in a bean field probably ¾ of a mile away. Through my binoculars I could tell it was a nice buck and he was working his way down the field edge looking for does. That was a good sign. I just needed one to do the same where I was. By 9:00 I hadn’t seen another deer and I was getting a little discouraged but I kept reminding myself that I was in a good spot and it only takes a second for everything to change. I also reminded myself that it was likely to be later in the morning when a buck came through since he would be checking a bedding area the does would have to be bedded already and with the cold weather they were probably on their feet later than normal.

At about 9:30 I heard something walking in the leaves coming down the edge of the willow thicket paralleling the river. It was a really nice 2-1/2 year old 8 point and he did the same thing the 6 point had done the evening before cruising through with his nose on the ground scent checking as he went, passing me at about 20 yards. My plan seemed to be working and the bucks were getting bigger, now I just needed a big one to shoot to follow the same routine.

By 10:30 nothing else had showed up and I was finally starting to get a little cold. I decided I’d wait about 30 minutes and have a cup of coffee to warm up a bit. Then around 10:45 I heard a branch break in the willows in front of me. It was pretty close to the same path the 6 point and 8 point had taken except this one was just inside the thicket. I could hear the unmistakable gait of a buck walking straight toward me. I slowly stood up, pulled up my fleece mask, took off my right glove to reveal my tab and readied myself. He was going to be close when he came out of the willows and I wasn’t going to have much time.

As soon as I saw him I knew he was a buck I’d love to shoot. I quickly ran my shot checklist though my head and reminded myself to pick a spot. He stopped for a moment in the willows about 25 yards out just about where the big buck had worked over the scrape the evening before and scanned ahead. Then he lowered his head and continued toward me. He came out of the willows at about 20 yards and when his head went behind a cottonwood tree broadside at 15 yards I pulled the bow to anchor. I was just about to stop him in an opening when he stopped on his own. I held for an extra second really trying to bear down on my spot then string slipped from my fingers.

The buck came out of the thick stuff on the right edge of this picture. I drew when his head went behind the cottowwood center frame and shot when he got in the opening just to the left of it.
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PostPosted: November 15th, 2014, 9:03 am 
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My arrow disappeared right where I was looking and the buck took about 5 leaps then stopped looked around and started slowly walking away. I knew he wouldn’t make it far. He walked about 20 yards toward the river then collapsed. Wow, that had happened fast! From the time I first heard him until he was down couldn’t have been more than 30 seconds. For the first time all morning I started shaking. I knew my shaking wasn’t from the cold but that cup of coffee I promised myself sure sounded good so I pulled out my thermos and enjoyed one of my finest cups ever, 15 min early.

I climbed down and walked over to my arrow. I had watched him go down but always like to follow the blood trail anyway. This one was especially heavy.

My arrow
Image

Standing at my arrow looking back at my stand
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The blood trail
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And this was at the end of it.
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PostPosted: November 15th, 2014, 9:15 am 
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Luckily the buck had only died about 50 yds off the river and the river had mostly thawed out now so I was able to use the boat to get him out.

As Kevin Dill said in his post, we hunt the hard way but get them out the easiest way possible.
Image


Thanks for tagging along!


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PostPosted: November 15th, 2014, 9:18 am 
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Most excellent story, great buck. Didn't need that special tag/area after all!


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PostPosted: November 15th, 2014, 9:23 am 
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Well done man!!!!!

Great hunt and loved your approach to it!


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PostPosted: November 15th, 2014, 9:29 am 
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.... and that boat looks like a Bayou Meto special. :mrgreen: Love it. I bet you've got a 40hp under a 25 cowling don't ya.


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PostPosted: November 15th, 2014, 10:06 am 
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Great story, great buck, great adventure. Thanks for posting.


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PostPosted: November 15th, 2014, 11:44 am 
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That is the epitome of PBS right there Aaron...hard hunting in hard conditions. That's also one heck of a payday for a six day hunt! Huge congrats.


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PostPosted: November 15th, 2014, 11:51 am 
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Wicked buck. That was a great write up as well.


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PostPosted: November 15th, 2014, 12:29 pm 
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WOW! what a great hunt and a great story. Congrats and thanks for sharing your story. I certainly enjoyed reading it.

Tony


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PostPosted: November 15th, 2014, 2:58 pm 
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Julian Tisdale wrote:
.... and that boat looks like a Bayou Meto special. :mrgreen: Love it. I bet you've got a 40hp under a 25 cowling don't ya.


Julian..I'm glad to see another PBS'er so knowledgeable in the finer aspects of Arkansas waterfowling. Yeah that boat's been to "The Metro" a time or two..but I'm running a straight 25 ;)


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PostPosted: November 15th, 2014, 4:19 pm 
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Attachment:
2014010995091503.jpg
2014010995091503.jpg [ 51.99 KiB | Viewed 4388 times ]


Oh I used to visit the Metro at least once year.


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PostPosted: November 16th, 2014, 2:34 am 
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Excellent job A-Aaron. That TallTines looks better every time I see it.

You really should write this adventure up for the rest of the membership. Sometimes I feel guilty we get the best stuff here!


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PostPosted: November 16th, 2014, 3:58 am 
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Perfectly done! Clean job.

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PostPosted: November 16th, 2014, 7:57 am 
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Nice story telling and congratulations on a fine hunt.

I don't "feel guilty", I fell fortunate that I'm able to take advantage of just another excellent tool (website) that PBS offers to the membership, but I fully understand what Steve was meaning.


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PostPosted: November 16th, 2014, 8:04 am 
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Well done, Aaron! Thanks for sharing the story and pictures with us.


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PostPosted: November 16th, 2014, 8:55 am 
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Way to get it done Aaron....awesome buck as well

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PostPosted: November 16th, 2014, 12:17 pm 
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Great job!


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PostPosted: November 16th, 2014, 3:20 pm 
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I'd call that buck "Golden Boy" - what a beautiful cape, and a great crown to to it off!
Congratulations on a well earned buck Aaron!


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PostPosted: November 16th, 2014, 4:09 pm 
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Congratulations. Great hunt and story.


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PostPosted: November 17th, 2014, 8:12 am 
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Congratulations Aaron! Excellent story, especially the information on how and why to pick a spot and hunt it. Way to go on the shot too... its not easy to shoot accurately when you are cold.


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PostPosted: November 17th, 2014, 9:07 am 
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Very well done! Besides the beautiful buck, this is my favorite part of your story:

"As I sat there eating lunch I knew I had to do something different. The reason I was seeing so many hunters was because I was doing the same thing they were doing. If I wanted different results I knew I had to make a change."

THAT is the essence of public land hunting. Many hunters realize it, but you took the next step and actually did it. I love it.

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PostPosted: November 17th, 2014, 10:58 am 
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Aaron,
Fantastic buck and a super story! Very well done with great pics too! Way to stick with the cold temps. and the hunting pressure. You found a honey hole that should pay off if you ever have to hunt public land again there in Kansas.

What kind of bow/arrow set up did you use?
Harry


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PostPosted: November 17th, 2014, 11:10 am 
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Nice buck. Congratulations. Nice to have the pictures. Great story and a good hunt right now in Iowa we have wind chills below zero.


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