With sweeping Great Plains vistas, the draws and rolling farmland of southwestern Kansas are home to stunning sunrises and sunsets, more than a little bit of wind blowing across the prairie and solid populations of upland game birds and big game animals like white-tailed deer.
In short, it’s the perfect place to raise a family filled with outdoors loving teenagers like Paslie Werth, a typical 14-year-old trying to figure out life in her freshman year of high school.
As with other girls her age, Paslie’s “to-do” list this year has her trying to figure out new class scheduling, get prepared for high school tennis competition and band performances at Friday night football games, and maybe even find a few new back-to-school clothes in the process.
But the teenager’s list of things to get accomplished this year has also included one very specific goal. It’s a task unique to the family she’s grown up in, as well as the wildlife-rich region she calls home.
That task, quite simply, was to get a giant 6 1/2-year-old Kansas whitetail into the glass of a Bushnell 3x9 scope sitting on top of her Savage .270 Win. rifle, to steady the crosshairs a bit and pull the trigger. If Paslie could do that, she’d tag one of the world’s best non-typical whitetail bucks seen in many years.
Paslie did just that a week ago, making a short rifle shot on the second evening of the September 2020 youth deer season. Even before the echo of her shot on Sept. 6 had faded, she’d downed a massive 40-point non-typical featuring a gross score in the 280s and a potential net score that could propel the deer into rarefied air near the top of the record books. But more on all that in a moment.
Paslie’s world-class buck story starts and ends with her family, a clan who have lived close to the land for generations. That includes her grandfather Dee (a farmer and rancher in the area), her dad, Kurt, (a county agricultural extension agent), and mom, Dionne. Paslie also has a sister, Jaeden, and brother, Konner.
From farming to hunting to involvement in the local Kansas 4-H program (Link: https://www.kansas4-h.org ), the outdoors and its way of life are very much in the blood of the Werth family.
“I grew up around hunting with my dad,” says Dionne, a longtime hairstylist and now a salon owner in the town of 2,200 the family calls home. “I didn't start deer hunting until I was dating Kurt. After three years of dating, he proposed to me while we were out hunting!
“It has definitely become a way of life for us,” she adds. “You are completely in ‘God’s Country’ while hunting.”
Active in their area’s school life, church and community events, the Werth center their time around hunting on family farmland, from dove hunts in September to pheasant and quail hunts in November and of course, deer hunting in December, when the Kansas rifle season opens up.
In those hunting campaigns, there have been a number of whitetails tagged, the main ingredient for the bags of hickory-flavored venison jerky the Werths love cooking up in the oven and snacking on. In this region known for big bucks, a number of whitetails tagged by various family members have also found their way to the wall.
That includes a buck or two from Paslie, who has gone hunting with her dad ever since she was a little girl. Other hunts have taken place with her older sister, Jaeden, now a college student at Kansas State University, and her older brother, Konner, a college graduate living and working in Indiana.
“I don't hunt as much as I used to,” says Dionne. “I feel it is important for Kurt to have had and have this time with Konner, Jaeden and Paslie. I will have my turn again someday, when he is stuck with only me.”
The father-daughter time enjoyed by Kurt and his two girls has occurred more frequently in recent falls, as the family has chased several big bucks that roam the CRP acreage, draws and farmland near their rural home. Last fall Paslie tagged one of those, a 12-pointer that gross scored 178 inches.
Even as that buck headed to the taxidermist’s shop, Kurt was thinking about another buck that would be next up on the family’s big deer hit list.
“We’ve had him on film, I think, since he was a 3-year-old,” says Kurt. “I got pictures of him as a 4-year-old, and that’s when he started impressing me the most.”
The buck also started impressing Kurt’s two daughters, including Jaeden, who had the first opportunity to tag the buck in the fall of 2018.
“My older daughter could have shot him that year, and I told her to let him grow,” says Kurt. “That’s another one of those times when I’ve gotten a puzzled look from one of my daughters: the look that asks, ‘Are you crazy, Dad?’”
Last year, when the buck was 5 ½ years old, he was indeed tempting, especially since Kurt knew the bruiser was beginning to get onto the radar screens of some other local hunters.
“He was very, very impressive last year on the hoof,” Kurt says. “We had a lot of pictures of him, but he started getting broke up during rifle season and lost a brow tine and some of his smaller tines.”
In Kurt’s estimation, the buck would have scored somewhere around 230 inches in 2019. But neither Paslie nor Jaeden had a chance to take him. Kurt says that’s just as well, as he would have told his daughters that the buck needed one more year of seasoning.
As it turned out, father knew best.
“I guess I’m glad that they didn’t have a chance to take him last fall, because it all worked out,” Kurt laughs.
Indeed it did. Paslie and Kurt looked at game camera photos of the giant a few weeks ago and considered the possibilities ahead.
“I told Paslie we had better go hunt him hard early this fall, because I thought everyone else was going to be hunting him, too,” Kurt explains.
When youth season opened on Labor Day weekend, the weather was hot and windy. On Saturday, Sept. 5, Paslie and her dad saw some does, but not a buck. The next morning was even worse, as they saw no deer at all.
That evening the Kansas teen and her father went back out, parking a mile away, sneaking through a draw and along a fence line before eventually settling into a blind near a large grassy field. There they quietly waited to see what the evening would bring.
For a few hours, the father and daughter sweated things on a day when the temperature topped out at a sweltering 102 degrees F. As shooting light began to fade, Paslie was left wondering if her gut feeling that she would get the deer that night was wrong. Her father was already convinced, and he began to quietly pack things up as his daughter continued to wait and watch.
Just then, the giant buck appeared in front of the blind and well within shooting range. After being bedded down only a short distance away, he had stood up in the late-evening light, stretched his legs, and caught the attention of Paslie and her father.
After quickly getting her rifle onto the deer, Paslie pulled the trigger and sent the shot into the buck’s boiler room. Soon she and her dad were walking out to a spot in a CRP field less than 100 yards from their blind. At the end of the short blood trail was a buck most of us can only dream about.
“When we walked up on him, I was kind of in shock,” says Paslie. “I couldn’t believe that what had just happened had actually happened.”
Through the tagging and meat-care chores, Paslie couldn’t keep from looking at the huge buck she had just downed.
“He was way bigger than I thought, and I couldn’t believe how heavy his rack was,” says the young hunter. “My hands couldn’t even go around his antlers.”
At some point, Kurt began to count the number of scorable points on the buck’s massive rack. When he did, he and his daughter were in total disbelief. The number was 40.
“I was shocked, and I was like, ‘Are you sure we counted them right?’” says Paslie. “I had my dad double-check them, and he came up with 40 again.
“My grandpa soon got there, since I had called him right away,” she continues. “When he came out, he couldn’t believe it, either. We started wondering what kind of score the buck might have with all those points.”
As Paslie’s grandfather admired the buck, he summed up everyone’s feelings about the rack, stating: “Every direction you look, there’s something new.’”
Indeed, there is. With amazing mass and all those scorable points, Kurt’s scoring session the next day came up with a potential gross score of 282 6/8 inches. While he acknowledges that isn’t an official measurement, Kurt took a Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks & Tourism scoring class a few years back, and he has put the tape on numerous bucks through the years.
Kurt thinks Paslie’s deer could eventually post a net score in the upper 260s when official scoring takes place after the mandatory 60-day drying period. If the final number proves to be in that range, the massive buck would will be recorded as one of the top whitetails ever taken in Kansas.
Those include world-class bruisers like Brian Bucher’s 321 3/8-inch bow kill taken last year (still awaiting future panel scoring); Joseph Waters’ 280 4/8-inch B&C overall state-record hunter kill from the outskirts of Topeka back in 1987; and Dale Larson’s Pope & Young archery state record of 264 1/8, from Pottawatomie County in 1998. Overall, the highest-scoring whitetail in state history is a 295 0/8-inch beast found dead of EHD by Jim Wanklyn in Marshall County in 2012.
In recent years, Internet headlines have often claimed antler scores that ultimately fell short of claims. Having offered that cautionary note, it is worth noting here that Paslie’s buck could be among the best ever taken by a female, regardless of the hunter’s age or weapon.
“Currently the top non-typical ever taken by a female hunter is the 257 1/8-inch buck shot by Jamie Remmers,” says longtime North American Whitetail Editor in Chief Gordon Whittington. “And Barb Brewer’s No. 2 from Illinois nets 253 3/8. Amazingly, both deer were shot on Dec. 7, 1997.”
Paslie’s big buck also appears to be among the largest ever shot by a teenage hunter, falling behind only Tony Lovstuen’s 307 5/8-inch “Walking World Record” taken in Iowa back in 2003.
While only time will tell where the Werth buck eventually falls in the record books, what is known is that Paslie has become a virtual overnight celebrity.
“We live in a small town,” she says. “And when you live in the country, the word kind of gets out quickly. A lot of people were really nice and congratulated me and were shocked at how big he really was, as we were.”
Soon Paslie was getting texts from classmates amazed at the giant buck she had shot, along with new friend requests on Facebook and being part of social media trending for a couple of days. And then there was her first day back at school after the Labor Day holiday.
“The first day I went back to school, there were quite a few teachers who told me good job and asked me about the hunt and wanted to see pictures of him,” she laughs.
Paslie’s mom also had to deal with all the sudden attention from people in southwestern Kansas and elsewhere.
“Yes, my phone was crazy,” she says. “It was very surreal. Before we agreed to any publicity for Paslie, we first checked with her grandpa (my dad), to get his OK to let the word out. Since then, it has been fun to have friends come by, so Paslie could show them her deer.”
While Dionne and Kurt say they are proud of the big buck their daughter has tagged, the parents also indicate they are most pleased by her attitude through it all.
“I'm beaming with excitement for her,” says Dionne. “And I’m very proud that she has remained humbled with all of the attention.”
Proving that sometimes, even in a year of tough headlines and news, good things do indeed happen to good people. Especially when those people are hunters and live in the whitetail heaven of Kansas.