August 29, 2022
By Nate Smith
In the fall of 2020, I struggled to find a shooter buck in Kansas. In early December, my hunting partner and I gained access to a new farm and then hung a couple of cell cameras. Within two nights, we had pictures of a deer that we eventually named “Caesar.” We guessed that he would score between 180 and 190. After hunting the deer a few times in mid-December, the weather didn’t cooperate. After checking the 10-day forecast, the weather was going to be perfect, as a major cold front was going to hit two days before Christmas. On the evening of Dec. 23, I had a great encounter with him, but I never had a shot.
On Dec. 24, he came back but from the opposite direction I thought he would, and I ended up shooting over his back at 40 yards. Completely disappointed, I headed home to Missouri to spend time with my family for Christmas. I continued to monitor the weather and cell cameras, but I honestly thought I would never have another chance at him.
The anticipation was high as we deployed our cameras in the summer of 2021, hoping to get a picture of Caesar. Also, we joined the Quest Hunting Tournament. I joined in Missouri and in Kansas knowing there were two potential shooters in each state.
After we had our cameras up for a month in Kansas, on Aug. 7 we got our first picture of Caesar. He was standing far from the camera in a bean field, but we knew it was him and we knew he looked bigger. After the first picture he disappeared for over a month, and we didn’t get another picture of him until Sept. 23. It was a clear and close picture, and that’s when we knew he was at least a 200-inch deer.
My partner and I decided to make a game plan, because the access to enter and exit the farm was very difficult. The game plan included being patient and waiting for the perfect weather, so that we knew Caesar would be on his feet. We waited to hunt until late October, when he was starting to show up on camera more regularly.
I hunted the deer in late October and into November without seeing him. The weather wasn’t cooperating, so we moved some stands around and I went back to Missouri to hunt another big buck I called, Diesel.
I killed Diesel on Nov. 9, and I headed back to Kansas on Nov. 10 in time for the evening hunt. I decided to hunt the edge of the bean field, but I didn’t see Caesar. On the morning of Nov. 11, I went deeper into the timber to the stand that we had moved a week prior. The hunting was very slow until about 9:00 a.m., when we finally saw our first couple deer.
At 9:30, I heard a twig break. I looked over my right shoulder and saw Caesar at 40 yards coming down a trail right toward us! I turned in my stand and got ready to shoot, because I knew the wind was swirling that morning.
As he was about five yards from my shooting lane, he stopped and then started to catch our wind. I adjusted, and I managed to find a small hole in the brush where I had a clean view of his vitals. I shot and double-lunged him! He ran about 100 yards before tipping over.
I knew Caesar was big, but I didn’t realize how big he actually was until I walked up on him and laid my hands on his rack. At that point, I knew I had shot my first 200-inch deer. We rough scored him, and we knew he was going to go well over 200, but we could not officially score him until my partner and I went to the Quest Hunting Tournament banquet on Feb. 27.
My Missouri and Kansas deer were both officially scored at the banquet. Diesel, the Missouri buck, scored 166 7/8 inches; and with my partner’s deer added on to that, we took home fourth place in the state of Missouri. Caesar officially scored 230 5/8 inches, and with my partner’s Kansas deer added on to that, we took home second place in the state of Kansas! Not only did we get second place, but Caesar tied for the biggest buck out of the 11 states entered in the tournament.
After the banquet and awards ceremony, it truly sank in how special this past season was. As I look back on this once in a lifetime season, I am grateful for the memories that I have made. They will last a lifetime and be on my wall forever!