When Kansas bowhunter Jamie Farr headed out to his stand, a cold front was moving in, and he thought it would be a great hunt. But never in his wildest dreams did he expect to shoot a world-class buck!
I started hunting with a rifle in Kansas in 1996. After a year or two, I was introduced to bowhunting. Like many hunters who have picked up a bow and tried to get within 30 yards of a whitetail buck, I was instantly addicted. However, after 11 years of bowhunting, I never dreamed I'd have the good luck to shoot a buck like the one I shot on Oct. 22, 2008.
Like so many other mature bucks, the one the author shot on Oct. 22, 2008, was virtually a ghost; the bowhunter had never seen him, found any of his shed antlers or even captured a photo of him on a trail camera. The long-beamed basic 6x5 typical rack grossed 199 1/8 inches and netted 185 typical.
I was watching the weather that day and we were supposed to get a cold snap that might include some snow flurries. In Kansas, any cool weather in October is a great thing because we often have hot weather at this time of year. With cool temperatures on the way, I knew I was going to have to get into a stand that very evening. The wind was out of the west and perfect for almost all of my stand locations. I decided to sit in a ladder stand that I had been in only one time before a week earlier. I certainly hoped it would be the "right" stand.
The previous hunt had been successful in my eyes because I'd seen six does and fawns. Just because Kansas is known as a great deer-hunting state doesn't necessarily mean hunting big bucks is easy here. I've had several hunting outings where I never saw a single deer, and I've actually gone long periods of time without seeing any animals. I hoped the afternoon of Oct. 22, 2008, would be different.
NOT A GOOD START
The ladder stand was located on a farm that I had been hunting for several years. It was in a funnel coming from a big draw leading to a creek and feed fields. I had moved the ladder earlier that summer from its original location to catch bucks traveling along a north-south fence that separates a cattle pasture from this funnel area. I figured it would be hard to beat an oasis away from the cattle that funneled deer to water and food, and this particular area featured great trails winding through the overgrown cover.
I walked into the area later than I wanted to that afternoon. As I got close to the ladder, I bumped two does and a fawn from the brush. These deer didn't just run off -- they stood there for about five minutes stamping, snorting and trying to find out what had just disturbed them. After they finally left, I figured every deer in the area was going to stay away from my spot. But although I really didn't expect to see a buck that far in advance of the rut, I decided I might as well climb into the ladder anyway.
The woods seemed to come alive about two hours after I sat down. I had turkeys all around me, and wouldn't you know it, they roosted about 80 yards away! If you've never been close to a flock of roosting turkeys I'm here to tell you it's a memorable experience!
A NOISY AFTERNOON
Things finally calmed down and it started to get dark. All of a sudden, something started spooking the turkeys off their roost. This went on for about 10 minutes, and those birds were causing a tremendous commotion. By this time, I started thinking that nothing was going to come down the trail near my stand on this particular evening. Furthermore, it had cooled down quite a bit, and I was getting chilly. I started thinking about heading back to the truck.
Before beginning my descent, though, I looked around one last time for deer movement. As I looked to the west (the direction from which the wind was coming), I spotted a deer walking toward me. I couldn't see it that well because of the cover, but initially I thought it might be one of the does I had seen coming from the same direction the week before.
As the deer closed the distance, I could see antlers, but I couldn't tell how big they were. The buck was walking straight toward me, and I figured he would either come right by my stand or stop and begin feeding under some nearby oaks, just as the does had done a week earlier.
With numerous long tines and a 24 1/8-inch inside spread, it's easy to see how this huge-framed typical rack tallied almost 200 gross inches of score. Resident bowhunter Jamie Farr shot the brute in northeastern Kansas.
As the buck started to clear the trees, I saw the last two tines on his left beam. That glimpse was all it took. I immediately knew the deer was a shooter and that I needed to prepare for a possible shot.
As mentioned, I knew he had only two possible ways to go; he'd either continue directly toward me on the trail or head over to the oaks. I started positioning myself for a possible shot on the trail, but as soon as I heard the crunching of leaves, I knew he was heading for the acorns.
I didn't have to make much of an adjustment to shoot toward the oaks, but before taking the shot, I wanted to see if the buck was going to come any closer. At this point, he was 30 yards out, and I had never had to shoot a deer beyond 23 yards. In fact, most of those I'd taken had been shot within 15 yards. Don't get me wrong -- I feel very comfortable shooting at 30 yards, but I was hoping for that 20-yard "chip" shot.
As I started to pull back my Mathews Q2, I felt the wind hit the back of my neck. I knew it was blowing directly toward the buck, and I knew the gig was up! The buck lifted his head, rolled his upper lip and started searching for the odor. I'd already told myself not to look at his antlers so I wouldn't get nervous, and I didn't -- but still, with nearly 200 inches of bone on his head, I could tell he was a pretty good buck!
Now I had to commit to going to full draw, because time was running out. When I was almost there, the buck looked right at me as if to say, "Hello, what are you doing in that tree? I see you!" I had to stop all movement. Luckily for me, the buck then turned his head away, still trying to locate my scent in the swirling wind. I finally got to full draw.
With the 30-yard pin resting on his vitals, I squeezed the release. The buck instantly turned back the way he had come from, and the arrow hit in front of his left shoulder. It exited behind the opposite shoulder and created a blood
trail that couldn't be missed. As the deer turned, it was the only time up to this point that I'd had a good look at his rack. Antlers always look bigger as a deer is running away, but there was no doubt these were indeed big!
Immediately I started asking myself, Did I hit him good? Is he going to run far? But before I could worry much about the hit, I saw the buck drop and knew he was down for good.
As I walked up to my trophy, I realized I'd just shot the biggest deer of my hunting career. I'd been lucky enough in the past to take three bucks scoring in the 150s and one that scored 170, but this whitetail was truly in a class by himself.
That memorable afternoon shows just how unpredictable hunting can be. I didn't like my chances of seeing a mature buck, given that it was Oct. 22 and does had blown my cover on the way to the ladder stand. Nor did I know this particular buck existed; not only had I never seen him, I'd never even caught him on a trail camera or found any of his sheds. But that's whitetail hunting for you. Sometimes it's really just was a matter of being in the right place at the right time!