October 17, 2023
Matt Winters has whitetail hunting is his blood. Since growing up in of central Kansas, he's always had an infatuation with hunting whitetails — a love which ultimately led him to pursue his career as co-owner off Kansas Premier Outfitters.
In the fall of 2022, Matt’s brother Adam had seen a giant buck on three separate occasions, all of which happened when he was leaving his hunting area at dark. On every occasion Adam saw the deer, Matt simply didn’t believe his younger sibling’s description of how big the deer was.
After the 2022-23 Kansas deer season closed for the year on Jan. 3, Matt drove down to one of their leased properties to pull a camera. It was around 4:00 p.m. in the afternoon, so Matt didn’t really expect to see anything out in the neighboring field. However, as Matt drove closer to the field, he caught sight of the magnum buck his brother was talking about! And his brother was right. It was a Giant!
From that day on, Matt was totally committed to “Mr. Mega,” as they nicknamed the buck. Matt vowed he would be pursuing this buck until his tag was wrapped around it the following season.
The buck was staying on a piece of land that hadn’t been hunted in two years. A family friend, Mike, owned it. So, Matt asked if he could run cameras on it and shed hunt it. Mike graciously allowed Matt to do just that.
Because the buck was so visible and close to the road, Matt says: “I was really concerned that someone may poach him. I’d regularly see him in a particular field in early spring, nearly every day until he dropped his sheds.”
Logging every bit of information in his journal, Matt was slowly building a game plan for the coming season opener. For instance, the buck had one particular trail he’d come out of and go back in. Matt explains: “I was watching him do this several times through long range observation right after season had closed. Knowing where the buck was staying, I made a full out effort to locate the deer’s shed antlers.”
Staying out of the area until the time was right, Matt eventually logged many miles searching for Mr. Mega’s sheds. But after much looking, Matt had come up empty-handed despite a great effort. “I was about to give up,” Matt says. “On my last shed hunt of the year, I thought about checking one spot I hadn’t given much consideration. And wouldn’t you know it, there was one of his sheds laying 60 yards from where I’d park my truck.” Elated to get one more piece of the puzzle, Matt later learned the deer’s left side scored an impressive 92 inches.
The hunter was meticulous in his efforts by taking detailed notes of the buck’s movements all spring and summer. Putting the pieces together from camera intel and observation, Matt was confident he knew where the deer spent the majority of its time. In fact, from July to August, the buck had daylighted 56 of 62 days. Throughout the entire summer months, Matt was supplying the buck with Purina Antler Max protein (legal in Kansas at the time of this writing) at a few feeders located on the property.
Around the first week of July, Matt says the buck had already sprouted an impressive 180-inch rack and was continuing to grow by the week. As the days and weeks went on, Matt continued getting pics of the deer morphing into a giant.
“I felt like if I played my wind right and the deer kept the same pattern he’d been on all summer, that I’d have a really good chance at taking him opening day of Kansas Early Muzzleloader season,” Matt says.
During the days leading up to opening day, the Kansas weather had Matt feeling uneasy. “I couldn’t believe two days in a row we had east winds,” Matt explains. “Opening day was coming fast, and an east wind would definitely not work.” But as if Mother Nature had heard Matt, the weather switched just in time, bringing a cool-down in the temperature, accompanied by a north-northeast wind. This was perfect.
On Sunday, the day before season was to open, Matt was still getting pictures of the giant buck in full velvet. “I really thought I’d possibly get a crack at him while he was still carrying his velvet,” says Matt. “On opening day, 9-11, a morning rain shower had pushed through. The buck showed up on camera still in full velvet.”
With ideal conditions for an evening hunt, Matt left early to get to his blind, taking every precaution possible. “I’m a scent-fanatic,” Matt says. “So aside from keeping my hunting clothes scent-free, I also sprayed down my pop-up ground blind religiously with Scent Killer. I also used my Ozonics unit to mask any human odor that might leak out.”
Arriving at his blind around 3:20 p.m., Matt settled in and anxiously awaited to see if Mr. Mega would make an appearance. As the evening progressed, three does were the first to arrive. But the ladies were getting nervous! “They had gotten downwind of my location,” Matt says. “I really thought they were going to blow it.”
With Matt’s full attention on the does, he missed Mr. Mega’s arrival to the field. “I imagine three or four minutes must have passed before I took my eyes off the does,” he explains. “Then I looked over and saw this giant buck standing only 70 yards away feeding!”
Slowly, Matt raised his muzzleloader on the giant buck and found him in the scope’s crosshairs. Gently, he squeezed off a shot. Ka-boom!
“I heard the loud bang of the shot,” Matt says. “The blind was filled with smoke, so I couldn’t see much else. Luckily, the shot was good, and the buck dropped in his tracks. I could see a big main beam sticking up, but I wasn’t taking any chances! I reloaded and shot again to finish off the buck.
“I was still sitting in my blind when I called Mike, the landowner, to tell him the news,” Matt explains. “He’d already known what happened because he was also linked to Matt’s cell camera. Unbelievably, he was able to see the whole sequence unfold via cell cam pics being sent to his phone.
“I next called my girlfriend, Danielle, to tell her the news that I’d got Mr. Mega,” says Matt. “I couldn’t help but laugh when I also told her that life could now get back to normal! As I approached the buck, a flood of emotion took over. I looked at him lying there, and I kept telling myself I’d done it. I had to convince myself that the moment was really happening. I had finally joined the 200-inch club.”
Mike showed up later with his wife to see the buck in person and to help Matt recover the big-bodied deer. Mike, who is currently battling cancer, had his spirits lifted to see good friend Matt tag such a special buck.
With 30 scoreable points, Matt Winter’s opening day giant gross-scored an impressive 233 inches. It’s yet another fine trophy buck from Kansas, and an example of just how good the state can be at making whitetail dreams come true!