As Jim Purcaro and I settled in for the evening vigil in southeastern Kansas, I was a little surprised to still be holding a video camera while Jim held his bow.
AS JIM PURCARO AND I settled in for the evening vigil in southeastern Kansas, I was a little surprised to still be holding a video camera while Jim held his bow. After all, that morning we had hunted Jimmy's Go To Stand, where, over the past four years, he had gone four for four on his first day of hunting.
This morning the streak was broken, so Jim was still hunting while I ran the camera. After that morning's unsuccessful hunt, we had decided to set up on a hedgerow in an old Osage tree about 400 yards from Jimmy's hotspot. From our morning stands, we had seen good activity there and wanted to give ourselves another option.
With sap still oozing from the freshly trimmed branches where we'd cleared shooting lanes, we started to see deer moving about 4 p.m., mostly does and small bucks. As daylight wound down, a doe jumped a barbed-wire fence 50 yards to the east. As she ran out into the field, another deer came out on that same trail. This one was a buck -- a very large buck.
When he hit the field, the doe began to run, and he followed. As he trotted away, we could see he had everything -- a massive body, wide rack, and tall tines with a kicker on the right side. We also never expected to see him again.
However, if we could solve three problems, we might have a chance. First, our stand sat between two well-worn trails, but the buck had followed a third heavily used trail. Since this was Jim's hunt, I hesitated to tell him what to do. Still...
"If we tied one of my T-shirts to the fence on that far run, maybe it would force that buck to use the trails by our stands," I suggested. Jim agreed, and we gave it a shot.
Second, we had to get into and out of the stands undetected. While on stand that first night, we had noticed a dry creek bed nearby. It was some six feet deep, and large flat rocks covered the bed. Creeping up that streambed, we could get into our stands without deer seeing, hearing, or smelling us.
Third, one trail went almost directly under our stands. Deer following this trail would never present a good shot. So we stacked the limbs we'd cut while trimming shooting lanes on this trail to detour the deer. We now had the Osage Stand prepared as well as possible to improve our chances there.
THE FOLLOWING MORNING we hunted Jimmy's Go To Stand, and right at first light we heard a deer moving from the northeast. Knowing the southwest wind would soon give us away, I was shocked when the deer kept coming. In the low light I made out a huge, light-colored rack and whispered the words every hunter likes to hear: "Big buck coming!"
The deer was headed straight at us, but just before presenting a shot, he veered off and worked a scrape 25 yards away. Wow, what a show!
When he exited at 22 yards, Jim wasn't comfortable with the shot and let him walk. Without question, this was the same monster buck we'd seen the previous evening.
To make that morning even more exciting, while sitting at Jim's Go To Stand, we glassed five shooter bucks using the runs at the Osage Stand. Our expectations were high, and we were eager to spend a morning there.
However, we needed a south wind, which we did not get on day three, so we rested that stand. But with a light south wind blowing the morning of day four, we crept up the dry creek bed and climbed stealthily into our stands. As we waited quietly an hour before first light, we felt sure no deer had detected us.
As the sun began to rise, a yearling buck chased a doe near our stands, mere feet below us. They had come from the north, opposite of what we had expected. As they meandered off, Jim spread his thumb and pointer finger inches apart and whispered, "Just a little bit bigger." He was worried I was getting impatient to hunt, but when you're behind the camera, you know you might not get to hunt at all.
At 8:15 a.m., we heard a deep grunt from the north, again not in the direction we had planned, and through the saplings we made out antlers. It was the big guy!
Slowly he fed toward us, and our anticipation grew. Then he started to feed away. When Jimmy reached for his grunt call, I motioned for him to wait. The deer was still very close, and he was unalarmed. It seemed better to let him move naturally.
Well, our patience paid off, as once again the buck turned our way and dipped down into the dry creek bed. Now only 10 yards away, he began munching a hedge apple off the Osage tree that held our stands. With his huge rack bobbing up and down every time he ripped a piece off the apple, I was probably more nervous than Jim.
Take your time, I thought. Be smart. This is going to happen. Just do your job and stop shaking. You're not the shooter!
When the buck finally emerged from the creek bed, he was on the run we had blocked with the branches. Noticing the obstacle, he casually stepped to his right into the open, giving Jim a clear shot at seven yards.
Jim drove an Easton 2018 arrow tipped with a Thunderhead 100 through the top of the near lung and the center of the far lung. The buck bolted out of sight, but we knew the trail would be short.
We approached this magnificent animal in awe. His body was enormous, and on his head he carried a rack with 12 points -- five on the left side, seven on the right -- and an inside spread of 202„8 inches. It could be best described as "impressive."
Not only had we seen this buck three times, but twice he had approached from downwind. Whether we'd done everything perfectly I cannot say, but we'd done everything just right.
Author's Note: Jim's buck had a gross antler measurement of 1722„8. To watch this and other traditional hunts, check out the DVD Gettin Stickbow Close at gettinstickbowclose.com .
The author is a resident of Randolph, New Jersey.