February 09, 2024
When I was 12, my grandpa took me deer hunting with him for the first time. Since that day, I have always been obsessed with hunting deer — especially with a bow. I love the challenge that bowhunting presents, and as I have grown older, my addiction for these wonderful animals has only worsened. And, I’ve become obsessed with targeting specific, mature whitetail bucks.
These journeys can last multiple seasons, and they can really take a toll on you. My 2022 Kansas whitetail season was no different, as I was focused on a deer that I had nicknamed “Locus” in 2021.
In 2021, I was not targeting Locus, even though he was already very impressive at what we figured was a 4.5 or 5.5-year-old buck. The reason was, I had already set my sights on a different buck — “Hollywood.”
As it turned out, I arrowed Hollywood in early October 2021. He was my first 200-inch buck, and the story appeared in this magazine’s 2022 Whitetail Special. I had always dreamed of having the opportunity to hunt a 200-inch deer like Hollywood, and I am so thankful that I was blessed with that opportunity through hard work, patience, and dedication.
After tagging Hollywood, I figured there was no way I would ever get another chance at a deer of that caliber for many years, or even for the rest of my life. Little did I know, Locus, who we passed on in 2021, would blow up into another world-class whitetail that would push 200 inches all day long.
In the summer of 2022, I was counting down the days until I deployed my trail cameras. Once July 4 came and went, I immediately started hanging trail cameras in hopes of getting some pictures of Locus.
To my surprise, he was one of the first deer that showed up, and I could not believe how much he had grown. In 2021, he had a large droptine, but he had lost it in 2022. Although he no longer had his drop, he had gained loads of mass, plus kickers flying everywhere off his gigantic 10-point frame. I don’t think there was anything that could have knocked that smile off my face, and I immediately went to work on a strategy for intercepting Locus once the season came.
As the summer continued, Locus appeared less and less frequently on my trail cameras, and I started to worry. I knew that he was not living on the piece of property that I was hunting; I was just hoping to catch him on his feet moving between his core area and his food sources. With this intel in mind, I opted to not hunt him in September, as I wanted to keep the human scent and hunting pressure as low as possible.
The first time I sat for Locus was in early October, when we had an unbelievable cold front push through. I got into the stand early, by myself, and I was really treating it as an observation sit because I could see a long way from that stand.
As the night progressed, I ended up seeing over 50 deer — including about 25 different bucks — with the last deer of the night being Locus. He was across a standing beanfield at about 600 yards, but even to the naked eye, I knew it was him because of his frame.
After confirming it was him through my binoculars, I began to worry that I was completely out of the game, since he was moving to a freshly cut cornfield about a half-mile from the property that I could hunt. I knew that if I wanted the best chance to get a shot at Locus, I would need to gain permission on the neighboring property.
I got in contact with the landowner, who was gracious enough to grant me permission to hunt, and I could not be more thankful for his act of kindness. I then instantly went to work using satellite maps to pinpoint a spot where I could effectively hunt Locus with multiple winds, while also having a solid entry and exit route.
My brother, Brock, and I nailed down a spot on a hedgerow between two cut beanfields that led straight to the cut cornfield that I mentioned earlier. With Brock’s help, we hung a trail camera and a double-stand set (one ladder, and one hang-on for filming) that was practically bulletproof with the right wind.
At that point, we were so anxious to hunt the stand that we could hardly contain ourselves, but we also knew that we wanted to monitor the cameras and the weather, as it was early October and we didn’t want to educate Locus to the fact that he was being hunted.
Our first sit in the new stand was our first morning hunt of the year, and it was October 13, 2022. We got into our stands well before shooting light. It was cool and crisp, with a slight breeze blowing in the right direction, which gave us optimism, even though we knew it was still a bit early in the season for a morning hunt.
I saw a handful of does that morning and ended up passing on a solid 4.5-year-old buck, but Locus was a no-show. As Brock and I sat there that morning, checking the weather forecast, we both knew that we needed to be back in that tree come evening because of an approaching cold front.
That afternoon, Brock and I made our way back to the freshly hung stand set with very high hopes. It was sunny at first, but then the clouds started to move in — indicating the approaching cold front.
Immediately after the temperature started dropping, deer started pouring out of the timber into the field that we were overlooking. Brock and I were on pins and needles, just trying not to be picked off by any of the other deer in the field.
With about an hour of daylight left, we were focused on filming a solid 10-pointer that was 125 yards across the beanfield. As we were working to get some footage of the 10-point, I looked down and to my right along the hedgerow…and spotted Locus trotting in while also pushing a yearling buck around. I could not believe my eyes, as Locus was almost in bow range, and Brock and I were by no means ready!
“There he is! Get on him,” I whispered to Brock.
Brock did his best to get his camera on Locus as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, I grabbed my bow, hooked onto my D-loop, and came to full draw as fast and quietly as I possibly could.
At this point, Locus was at 25 yards but moving quickly through our shooting lane. It was then that I made the decision to verbally stop the deer, which I am normally not a proponent of doing, but I felt like if I didn’t try that tactic Locus would have walked right through my shooting lane.
When I tried to stop Locus with my mouth, he paused briefly — broadside while looking up at us. I settled my pin, and then I squeezed off the shot.
I instantly knew my shot was marginal — more forward than I would have liked. After watching Locus exit the field, Brock and I then replayed the slightly out-of-focus footage (due to how quickly the situation had unfolded).
Based on the video footage, Brock and I could tell my arrow had hit Locus in his front shoulder. Upon impact, it looked like Locus kind of sunk down and pulled his body together — almost into a sprinting position — most likely further altering my arrow’s impact point. I got solid penetration, but we knew that we still needed to give him plenty of time.
After backing out that evening and getting almost no sleep that night, Brock, my other brother, Blaine, and I were extremely anxious to start tracking Locus the next day.
We went right to the last spot where Brock and I saw Locus leave the field. There we found my broken arrow, and it indicated I had achieved good penetration.
The blood trail we were following slowly started to diminish, but it was headed straight downhill toward the bottom of a pond dam, where it turned into a creek. Blaine was slowly following the creek when he suddenly spotted Locus bedded in a brushpile — but he was still alive.
Given how close Blaine had got to Locus, we knew that the buck was not doing well. We also knew that I needed to get a follow-up arrow into him as quickly as possible.
After sneaking up to within 10 yards, I was able to finish the deal on Locus. That’s when the emotions started piling up. We couldn’t get the smiles off our faces, and we were absolutely blown away at the sheer size of this deer. The trail-camera pictures, and the post-hunt pictures that we took, simply do not do this deer justice.
The amount of mass that Locus carried all the way through his beams and tines was unreal, and it was such a cool experience to celebrate that moment with my family. Locus ended up having 19 scorable points, with a whopping 48 inches of mass. He grossed 203⅛ and is just flat-out impressive in every possible way.
I feel extremely blessed to have been able to chase two world-class deer, in back-to-back seasons. I could not have done what I did without my family and friends, and amazingly enough, I have no doubt that my addiction to chasing big Kansas whitetails is still only in its early stages.
The author works at Garmin HQ in Olathe, Kansas, as the New Product Introduction Planner for their Outdoor Segment.
On this hunt, I used a Hoyt RX-7 bow, Easton Axis arrows, Garmin Xero A1i PRO sight, Ramcat Diamondback broadheads, Nockturnal lighted nocks, and clothing from Badlands.