Tracy Atchison knew the only route to killing the Kansas buck he had named "Goliath" was straight down the barrel of a muzzleloader.
Tracy Atchison's 24-point Kansas non-typical scored 223 3/8, with bases topping 6 inches and more than 40 inches in abnormal points.
Tracy Atchison of Phillips County, Kansas pulled out all of his Midwestern wit and cunning to harvest a massive grassland buck in 2009. On the last day of the muzzleloader season, with light fading, his plan reached a climax -- and the rest is history.
It was the evening of Oct. 4, 2009, and Atchison was tucked in a ground blind in the middle of a 300-acre grass-choked CRP field. With no trees within a quarter mile in either direction, his unusual whitetail setup wasn't merely conjured from a waning hope that a Goliath-size buck would arise from the grassy tangle. Atchison's strategy was well thought out, and if the end product was to outwit a true Kansas giant -- then his approach proved to be genius. Having never hunted with a muzzleloader before this season, he knew it was the only way to kill the buck he was after.
Only one thing would drive a serious bowhunter of 30 years to hunt off the ground with a muzzleloader in a huge CRP field of chest-high grass --antlers. For the last 35 days, Atchison's game camera had captured photos of a huge non-typical that he estimated to gross score more than 230 inches! Thunderstruck by the massive frame and non-typical growth, the seasoned bowhunter made a gutsy gamble to purchase a muzzleloader.
The story began on the first day of September 2009. "I had located a trail in some CRP grass bordering a corn field," Atchison recalled. "That was where I decided to place my trail camera in early July, and on September 1, I got my first picture of the huge buck. I almost fell out my chair when I saw the picture. After this first sighting, the deer appeared almost every day on the camera."
The camera was catching the buck leaving the massive tract of grass and entering a corn field on another property shortly after dark. Based upon the timing of the pictures and the direction from which the buck was coming, Atchison concluded that the buck was bedding in the huge CRP field on his hunting land. This was good news.
"I had it figured out where the buck was bedding, and I thought he was crossing my hunting ground during the last minutes of daylight," Atchison explained. "I put out my blind 1/8 of a mile ahead of where my camera was at the very edge of my hunting property." The grassland buck was using the CRP like a fortress, but Atchison felt like he might just be able to slip in and beat the buck on his home court.
A BAD ENCOUNTER
Previous to the October 4 hunt and the purchase of his muzzleloader, Atchison had an unnerving encounter with the giant non-typical. Unselfishly, he decided to let his 14-year-old son, Alex, hunt the buck during the Kansas Youth firearms hunt on September 12. "The first weekend of youth season I took my son out to the blind," he said. "We hunted without seeing a thing. Then, as we started to leave, we stepped out of the blind and the giant non-typical jumped up out of the grass 50 yards in front of us and took off!" The buck had been within 50 yards of them the entire evening! Atchison and his son were disgusted. Certain that they had blown the buck out of his core bedding area for good, Atchison decided not to hunt the buck until the early muzzleloader season opened.
AN AMAZING REVELATION
Kansas' early muzzleloader season opened on September 21, and Atchison had dedicated himself to hunting the "Goliath Buck" every chance he could get. His blind was set up 75 yards from a good deer trail on a slight rise in the CRP where he had excellent visibility of the field. Atchison's custom was that on days that he hunted, he would park his truck out of sight of the field and walk into the blind. On days that he didn't hunt, he often would drive his truck to check the trail camera, which was located on a farm road between the CRP and the adjacent corn. After several days of hunting without seeing the buck, he began to wonder what was going on. Based upon the continued trail camera pictures, he knew the buck was still frequenting the same trail that he had been using since September 1. Then, Atchison began to notice a pattern in the timing of the buck's arrival at the trail camera. On the days that Atchison hunted the buck, it would consistently arrive at the camera one hour after dark -- effectively eluding him. On the days when he didn't hunt but would drive the truck to check the camera, the buck would arrive at his usual time -- 15 minutes after dark.
It was at this point that Atchison had a revelation about how the deer was able to avoid him. The position of the ground blind on a small rise, allowed Tracy to see down into the grass. By the same token, Atchison's entry to the ground blind was visible to most of the CRP field.
He concluded that the buck was watching him enter the ground blind and not getting up until after dark. This buck had him figured out! Likewise, the buck was accustomed to farm trucks cruising the CRP fields. This explained why when Atchison drove his truck to check the camera, it didn't seem to bother the buck at all.
LAST DAY REDEMPTION
October 4 was the last day of the early Kansas muzzleloader season, and Atchison's strategy was ready for action. "On the last day of the season, the temperature had dropped 15 degrees and it was overcast," he recalled. "I knew it would be my best chance of the season. I had my friend Tonya drive me within about 50 yards of my blind and as she was turning around to leave, I rolled out of the truck into the grass on my stomach and belly crawled to the blind."
He reached the blind around 4 p.m. and sat down, anxiously hoping to see big horns wading through the grass.
"I had sat for about two hours, seeing only a few does and one small buck," Atchison said. "There was only about 15 minutes of shooting light left, so I called Tonya and told her to start heading my way. I was bending down to put the phone in my pack when I noticed movement to my left. I couldn't see his body, but coming through the grass was a giant set of horns!"
Atchison quickly readied his Thom
pson/Center and waited for the buck to step up on a small terrace. As the buck crossed it, he stopped broadside at 100 yards. In that instant, Atchison's crosshairs steadied on the buck's shoulder, and at the belch of the muzzleloader, the buck took off on a dead run. After a short sprint, the buck stopped. Atchison quickly reloaded and shot the buck again, sending the giant down nose first in the grass. On the last day, at last light, Atchison had his Grassland Goliath!
The rack was unbelievable. The 24-point buck had an inside of spread of more than 19 inches, gross scored 232 2/8 inches and netted 223 3/8! Had the buck not broken off the last four inches of its left main beam he would have netted over 230 inches. If you considered only the typical frame of the buck with a complete left main beam, the main frame 10-pointer would have grossed over 200 inches as a typical! This truly was an amazing Kansas muzzleloader buck and certainly one of the best bucks ever killed in Kansas!