April 16, 2021
I moved to Kansas in 2017 specifically to pursue whitetails. In July 2018, I was able to persuade a neighboring farmer to let me hang some cameras on his land. It’s important to note that all I had asked for was permission to hang cameras. After receiving permission, I studied the property using the HuntStand app. As it turns out, the first picture I got was of a deer we would later name “Athos” — the giant from Greek mythology.
This caliber of buck is the sole reason I moved to Kansas. As promised, I showed the landowner this incredible buck, and he got excited and wanted to hunt him exclusively. Obviously, that was fine with me. After all, it’s his ground. I was just thrilled to have a deer of this caliber on camera! The landowner and I made a deal that he would only hunt Athos if I were there to film. Throughout the remainder of the year, I received thousands of pictures of Athos, mostly in daylight. His dominance over the others in his bachelor group was clear, and he dwarfed every other buck in sight.
Fast forward to July 4, 2020, when my Browning camera caught the first glimpse of Athos since fall of 2019. Not only was he still alive, but he was also shaping up to be his largest self yet! Excited about the revelation, the farmer and I both agreed that 2020 was the year. We had to go after Athos once the season opened.
After talking to my friends, we decided that if the landowner hadn’t harvested Athos by the time they all came out for our annual deer camp week, we would approach him with an offer for one of us to hunt the great buck. I eventually reached out to the farmer when the next cold front showed up in the forecast. He replied: “If you can make me a good enough offer, he’s yours. I’m going to be busy with harvest.
The next morning we agreed on a deal. Immediately I messaged my friends to see when they could arrive in Kansas for the hunt. One friend responded just moments later texting: “Nothing to think about. All of us have spoken and made a decision. We are taking care of everything, and you are hunting Athos. We all agree it means more to us for you shoot the buck.
How do you put into words the emotions you feel when your friends gift you your dream? I was blessed to have been given such an awesome opportunity to chase a Kansas giant. It officially was go time.
However, there was a major problem. At that point, I hadn’t actually hunted whitetails in two seasons. Instead, I’d been behind the camera filming other hunters. In fact, I’d been so excited about filming hunts that I’d even sold my bow!
Then my friends proved to be amazing once again. Being the generous person that he is, one buddy actually overnighted me a load of gear that he won from a shed hunt. The gear included a Mathews bow, along with camouflage clothing from Sitka, and a pair of Lacrosse boots. After a quick trip to an archery shop, my new Matthews bow was set up. I was ready.
When a cold front hit on October 23, I hunted a blind and saw plenty of action from smaller bucks and does during the evening. But the one I was after continued to elude me, and I began feeling pessimistic. So, I decided to pack up my equipment and load my bag. I started closing windows in the blind, so I could slip out before any other bucks showed up. Midway through closing the last window, I noticed movement.
caught a glimpse of antlers, and within a true millisecond, I knew without a doubt which deer it was. I didn’t have the luxury of admiring him; I didn’t try to get my binoculars back out of my bag to double check. There was no doubt in my mind which deer was working its way towards me. I had no time to think, only react. I pulled the bag off my back, sat down and quickly began to unpack my camera gear. I got my tripod up, pulled my camera out and turned it on. I faced the camera in the direction I knew Athos would pass through, and I hit record. I grabbed the Mathews bow and loaded an arrow.
Standing at 27 yards, Athos heard me draw and picked his head up. He looked towards the blind. For the first time in three years, I was able to finally lay my eyes on the buck of my dreams. As the light was fading fast, I took an extra second to confirm that my peep sight and anchor point were in position. I squeezed off the shot and saw the red lighted nock find home.
I was able to catch up to Athos on the night of October 23, 2020. Laying my eyes on him for the first time in person was bittersweet, for sure.
FYI: To read more about my hunt for this great Kansas whitetail and to see more photos, stay tuned for a full-length feature article in North American Whitetail magazine.