The story of my experience with a buck named Mufasa began unfolding three years ago, when I was searching for a ranch to buy in south-central Kansas. In the spring of 2009, I started my quest for the perfect place to develop into a top whitetail hunting farm. I contacted land specialist Tom McFarlane from Whitetail Properties, and he showed me numerous ranches. My only problem at the end of a hot, dry weekend was trying to narrow it down between two places I knew had the potential to become something special.
We ended up breaking our piggy banks and buying both ranches, one being 1,050 acres and the other 1,040 acres. One of the biggest decisions involved in the decision to purchase the 1,050-acre tract that we called “Red Rock” was the information I’d gathered about the adjoining property. I’d heard rumors of the adjacent property’s tenants having some unreal trail camera photos of a giant buck over the previous two years.
As our first year managing the two ranches passed, I actually hunted the other property and harvested a great buck in the 160s, but throughout the season, I continued to wonder if anyone had gotten a chance at the big deer rumored to be living near Red Rock. After the season, I had a chance to meet the man who had been leasing the property next to Red Rock, and he informed me that they had, in fact, captured a bunch of trail camera pictures of the giant for the second straight year but were unsuccessful in harvesting him. As 2010 rolled around, he offered me a chance to acquire the additional acreage to tie into our ongoing management of Red Rock. The day we closed the deal, I instantly went out and put trail cameras where I believed the big buck was living.
Now, my attention span is about as long as a tick’s, so when the deadline for the Kansas muzzleloader application was due, I naturally forgot to put in for my general tag. As the owner and operator of Red Rock, I qualified for a landowner tag, but here’s where it gets scary. I pulled the cards on the cameras two or three days after the leftover tags became available and there he was—right where the previous tenant had pictures of him. I immediately called to apply for a leftover tag, but had missed one by a day. I don’t know if I actually cried, but I know I yelled out every possible combination of words and phrases you wouldn’t normally say in front of your mother.
At that time, I had two choices: sit and cry about it or let someone else try to hunt him. My good friend Dan Perez, who is one of the owners of Whitetail Properties, is someone I’d always looked up to, so I decided there was no better way to pay him back for the knowledge I’d gathered about killing mature bucks than to invite him to try to harvest the buck I’d named “Mufasa.”
As fall approached, Mufasa was a regular on the cameras, and I thought it literally was going to be a slam dunk. Dan hunted him hard and was unsuccessful, but that fall we learned an important thing—Mufasa was living way up in a cedar-choked canyon surrounded by big rock formations that actually made a giant bowl. Basically, if you were anywhere below a certain elevation, the wind would always swirl in his face. In the winter of 2010, Tom Mcfarlane and I went out to try to find his antlers.
As we were walking around, we were discussing different options for hunting him in 2011. On the opposite side of the canyon, there were rock formations that overlooked the whole river bottom and were 200 feet off the canyon floor. We climbed them and decided right then that we had found our spot. Based on the way the river wound around the rock formations through the canyon floor, we knew we could hunt the location with multiple wind directions.
In 2011, the waiting game started. To my knowledge, Mufasa had to be at least 6 years old at this time, and with the harsh winters, severe droughts and predators in south-central Kansas, I knew it was possible that Mufasa could have died during the off season.
I was always a little nervous going into Mufasa’s home range. I’d named it Mufasa’s Hole, because to get there requires a scary traverse down a rock bluff with a truck or ATV. During my first trip down into Mufasa’s Hole, I’d managed to bury my truck up to the frame in sand a few feet away from my Reconyx cameras—not the best thing to do when hunting a mature buck and being less than 250 yards from his bedroom.
Two days later, I had to travel to Minnesota, but I had Tom pull the cards for me. I’ll never forget answering my phone a few days later and hearing Tom yell, “We got him!”
Mufasa became a regular on my trail cameras, showing up basically everyday at some point on the camera by the river. After two years of my own scouting and the previous tenant’s scouting, I had him pinned down to his bedroom, and from my rock outcropping view, I felt like I finally had a chance to harvest him. Many sleepless nights and countless scenarios played out in my mind until I finally found myself sitting on top of that rock formation overlooking Mufasa’s bedroom with my Thompson/Center muzzleloader in hand.
The first few days of the season were totally uneventful to say the least. I was seeing just about every buck I’d gotten pictures of throughout the summer—except Mufasa. During mid-morning on the third day, I decided the curiosity was too much and I had to go pull the card from the Reconyx camera. As it turned out, he’d been coming by the camera alright, but it was always 15 minutes after legal shooting light or just at the crack at first light.
On the fourth evening, deer were up on their feet 30-45 minutes earlier than usual, and my hope was rising. As minutes ticked by, I started counting the deer and noticing certain bucks that I recognized. My theory was right; they were definitely moving early.
The whole year I’d been getting pictures of a yearling with tall spikes I’d named El Diablo. Mufasa would always follow or use him as his scout. I was burning my eyes looking through my Brunton optics when I spotted a flash of antler about 200 yards away through a cedar. Immediately, I knew it was El Diablo. Could Mufasa be following him?
Seconds later, Mufasa emerged from behind the cedar. I’ve harvested a lot of great bucks, but to see a 200-inch buck that had become a legend to so many people walking my way was a moment and feeling that words can’t describe. The only problem I was facing was that he was walking in hard off my right shoulder, putting me in an awkward spot since I was up to the edge of the cliff already. I turned my entire body and hung my left leg off the cliff, leaning on my left elbow for support. The scenario was unfolding rapidly, and I rushed to get into position, steady my breathing and ready my muzzleloader for the shot.
Mufasa slowed his walk and turned broadside, offering me a 160-yard shot. As I slowly started to squeeze the trigger, Mufasa raised his head up, but this time it was to late. My 250-grain Shockwave flew true through the hot Kansas air and found its mark. The shot was about 4 inches high, but Mufasa fell in his tracks. The bullet had struck him high in the shoulder just below the base of the neck. I sat looking through my Brunton scope in disbelief of what I was looking at. I couldn’t help but expect him to stand up and walk away. After about two minutes of looking at him, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was dead, and my emotions flooded out. My two-year quest was over.
Numerous times people had tried to harvest and hunt this buck, and he’d never even been seen with a human eye before this night. This buck lived his whole life in the canyon and truly lived by his nose. His unofficial score is 215 5/8 inches, and the hunt will be featured on Whitetail Properties Television.