December 05, 2022
By Darron McDougal
Kate Sanford isn’t the type of deer hunter who just shows up when it’s time to hunt. She rolls up her sleeves and puts in the work alongside her husband, Shawn. From scouting to cultivating food plots to placing stands, she does what it takes to be consistently successful.
The Sanford couple have 6-year-old twins and also an 11-year-old, so they rarely get to hunt together — one usually watches the twins while the other hunts. Normally, Kate hunts diligently during September with her bow while Shawn watches the children. This year, however, she didn’t bowhunt very much because of a home project.
However, Kate made up for it on the opening morning of Missouri’s firearms deer season. She and Shawn got babysitters for the twins, and although they didn’t initially plan to sit together, they decided to seize the rare opportunity and enjoy some side-by-side time in the deer woods for the first time in a long time.
When the Sanfords arrived at the elevated stand which they’d selected to hunt from, Shawn remembered that he’d previously removed one of the two chairs that are usually in the blind. Left with one chair, they took turns switching between sitting on the chair and the blind floor. Conditions were very cold and windy.
Kate was about to switch from the seat to the floor when she turned around and saw a monster buck heading straight toward the stand. Wisely, she didn’t look at the antlers through her scope, knowing that she’d likely fall apart if the world-class antlers became her focus. The buck came within 30 yards and was just about to cross a dry creek that the elevated stand overlooks. Kate stopped the deer with a mouth-grunt, then took her shot, nailing the bruiser buck through the shoulder with her Marlin .30-30.
The buck bounded for 30 yards, and although she could no longer see the buck, she was almost certain that he was down. She recalls suffering from a severe case of the shakes for at least half an hour afterward. Shawn suggested that they wait another 15 minutes before trailing, but after 10 minutes, Kate could wait no longer.
Before she could get down, though, four does came through and headed straight for where the buck had disappeared. The couple agreed that if the does spooked, it meant that the buck was dead right there. The does didn’t react at all, and an ounce of doubt crept in.
Kate got down and walked towards the dry creek. She couldn’t see the buck, but she quickly found blood. The blood trail led her straight to the buck, which had been dead since seconds after being hit by Kate’s well-placed bullet. The buck had expired right at the edge of the creek bank, only briars holding him from descending 8-10 feet down into the dry creek, which would’ve made the recovery rather difficult.
Kate didn’t realize until that moment in time just how big her buck was. She’d been thinking he was in the 170 class, but Shawn quickly assured her that it was a 190-class deer. And he was right. The buck grosses 196 6/8 (green) as a typical.
Regardless of score, it’s the type of buck that every deer hunter dreams of seeing. The fact that such a deer stepped into Kate’s crosshairs was beyond her wildest dreams, because she and her husband didn’t previously know the buck existed. After the fact when they collected SD cards from their trail cameras, and the buck was on one of them.
A typical buck flirting with the 200-inch mark is a very special deer. It’s fitting that Kate took such an incredible animal during a rare outing with Shawn right beside her. I’m sure they’ll be telling the story of their 2022 Missouri opener for years to come. Stay tuned for a full-length story in a 2023 issue of North American Whitetail Magazine.