One big whitetail seemed unlikely; two proved to be life-changing.
LEAVING THE PHOTO CENTER with a handful of pictures from our 2002 Kansas bowhunt, I hopped into the truck and Jimmy and Glenn each grabbed for a pack of photos. It had been a successful week. On the first day Jimmy had arrowed a beautiful 130-class 10-point, I had bagged a tall 8-pointer with a big kicker off the right G-2, and Glenn had passed up numerous good bucks. With a couple of days left to hunt, he was still holding out for a big one and was willing to eat "tag soup" if it came to that.
Looking at the pictures, we really enjoyed the trophy shots. Then I got to the interesting pictures, the ones from my DeerCam. Several showed turkeys, raccoons, does, a small 8-pointer, and then...
"Oh my goodness!" was all I could say in looking at four photos of a nontypical buck. He had a mainframe 10-point rack with split brows, split G-2s, and stickers all around the bases -- a real Kansas slammer!
YOU CAN BET THOSE images were still vivid in our minds as Jim Purcaro, Glenn Hurley, and I left our New Jersey homes on November 7, 2003, for our second straight self-guided whitetail hunt in Kansas. Also along was Ed Picorale, who would capture the hunt on video. Ever since seeing those photos from our last trip, we all had daydreamed about an opportunity at the big nontypical. I remember saying, "If that buck is still alive, he could be over 200 inches."
He was a true buck of a lifetime. But none of us really expected to ever see him again.
The drive to Kansas took us 20 hours, straight through, but the telling of old hunting stories and friendly wagering made it seem shorter. Glenn, a compound shooter, even said that if he shot a buck with antlers measuring over 135 inches he would switch to a traditional bow. The rest of us agreed we would hold him to it.
THE FIRST DAY OF HUNTING looked promising for everyone. Just after first light a 2 1/2-year-old 8-pointer came right under my treestand, feeding on burr oak acorns. Later I did some rattling and three times pulled a little 4-pointer within range. Jim and Ed went together, and before shooting light they had a huge buck under their tree. Later they watched two good bucks, one in the 150 class, hot on the trail of an unwilling doe. Although the deer were out of range, Ed got some good video footage. Glenn had a few deer around him, and he saw several deer crossing a creek to the west. So after the morning hunt he moved his stand to that crossing, where he saw several more deer but none he wanted to shoot.
On the morning of November 20, we got up at 4 a.m. to a light, steady rain. The woods were silent, and the sweet smell of outdoors filled my nose as I made my way to the treestand. Despite the rain it was a comfortable morning.
Until 9:30 I saw nothing. Then I spotted a tall 10-pointer 300 yards away across a field and instinctively reached for my rattling antlers. As I clashed them together his head snapped up and quickly he cut the distance in half, intently staring into the woods in my direction for several minutes. Then he slowly turned and walked away. Again I tickled the antlers together. He stopped and gave me a couple of courtesy glances, but then he was gone. My heart was pounding. Man, that was fun!
At 10:30, Glenn and I met, and the first words out of his mouth were, "I just saw a 200-inch nontypical."
"Yeah, right, a 200-incher," I responded. "What did he look like?"
"I don't know," Glenn said.
"What do you mean you don't know? Can you describe him?"
"No, it happened too fast. But he had points everywhere," Glenn said.
Glenn went on to describe how he had stood in his newly relocated stand all morning. At 9 a.m., when he finally gave in and sat down to rest his back, he heard something behind him. Turning his head slowly, he saw the monster nontypical standing 14 yards away. The buck then ran past him and stopped at 70 yards. Glenn grabbed his horns and rattled.
"That buck practically turned inside out getting the heck out of there!" Glenn said.
That evening and the following morning I saw very little. Despite tons of buck sign in the strip of river bottom where my stand was located, I saw only a young 8-pointer and two does. Needing a change of scenery, I planned to hunt a different stand I'd placed to the north.
This is one of the trail-camera photos that inspired our excitement about returning to Kansas. The nontypical buck, not the raccoons, was what got us pumped.
WHEN GLENN DROPPED ME off at the north stand that afternoon the thermometer in the truck read 65 degrees. With a really long walk to my tree, I took it easy to avoid sweating. About 100 yards from my stand I kicked up a buck, and as I crept closer a doe rose from her bed and slowly slinked away. I had placed a stand here because there was a good bedding area nearby and because some big bucks had been seen here. Three years earlier, Jim had videotaped a 10-pointer Jim estimated at 170 P&Y inches or larger.
It was 2 p.m. when I settled into the treestand. A light breeze was blowing from the west, which carried my scent away from the main trail. My confidence level was high, and time passed quickly as I watched several fox squirrels gather big burr oak acorns and chase each other around my tree.
Frequently, I picked up my Leica 8x32 binoculars and glassed the dry creek bed and woods to the north, watching for any deer moving from the bedding area. The stand was placed in a narrow strip of woods halfway between the dry creek bed and a horse pasture.
While leaning my head back against the tree with the sun in my face, just enjoying the view, I glanced toward the horse pasture to the south and was startled into instant attention. An absolutely monster buck stood about 200 yards away. The pasture was teardrop-shaped and I was positioned at the north point. As the buck started walking my way at a steady pace, he hugged the edge of the field bordered by a rock wall and a barbed-wire fence. I expected him to jump the fence and disappear from my life forever, but he kept on coming steadily.
Because of this big buck, Glenn Hurley is now practicing diligently with his recurve.
As he closed to about 50 yards, it struck me that I might actually get a shot. With my Black Widow recurve in hand, I prepared myself mentally. If you don't relax, you'll never make the shot, I told myself. Pick a spot, and don't look at the rack.
With his head hung low and mouth open, he kept coming and stepped behind a big cottonwood. That's when I made my move and came to full draw. As he came back into view and slowed slightly, the string rolled off my fingers.
The buck charged head first into a barbed-wire fence and bounced back off like a pro wrestler off the ring ropes. As he caught his balance I saw the hole behind his right shoulder but no arrow, and I panicked, thinking the arrow had hit the shoulder blade and not penetrated. The buck then leaped over the fence and ran about 40 yards, stopped, and turned to look back in my direction. As he turned to walk away his right rear leg began to falter. He took two more steps and fell over dead, right in front of me.
Now it all hit me, and I forced myself to sit down. My watch read 4:23 p.m. Watching the buck through my binoculars, I saw no movement, so after 15 minutes I climbed down, put an arrow on the string, and eased up to the majestic animal. The arrow had passed through his heart and lodged in the opposite shoulder.
To say I was blown away would be an understatement! The rack was incredibly massive and had too many points to count at a glance. With plenty of daylight left I took pictures and gave thanks for my good fortune. I now understood what Glenn meant when he said he couldn't describe the rack. Even after holding it in my hands for over an hour, I couldn't describe it either.
I radioed Glenn and asked him to pick me up at dark. As his headlights bounced across the field toward me, I eagerly waited for the gang to check out this buck of a lifetime. To share the hunt with such good friends made it an experience I will never forget.
Jim and Ed hunted hard the whole week and had a lot of close calls, but they never did connect. They did get some great video footage, and the new camera even survived a 20-foot fall from a treestand. Luckily it was still in the backpack.
The day after I shot my buck, and no more than 300 yards from my stand, Glenn arrowed a big mainframe 10-pointer with 18 total points, a whopper that scored 167 3/8 P&Y-style inches. Glenn is now practicing with his recurve!
*Steve Stivaly is an avid stickbow hunter from Randolph, New Jersey.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: My buck has 26 scorable points. Gross measurement is 226 7/8 inches, and the net P&Y score is 204 1/8. His right antler base measures a whopping 10 1/2 inches in circumference. Along with my Black Widow recurve, I shot Easton 2219 shafts tipped with Thunderhead 100 broadheads.