Only In Kansas

Only In Kansas

Time was running out for Kirk Keller. On the last afternoon of a week-long hunt, another person came in and deliberately took a stand almost on top of him. With precious little daylight remaining, Kirk was forced to move.

Time was running out for Kirk Keller. On the last afternoon of a week-long hunt, another person came in and deliberately took a stand almost on top of him. With precious little daylight remaining, Kirk was forced to move.

I was so mad that I just got up and left," Kirk Keller said. "A hunter from the adjoining property walked right up on me. He knew I was there, but he didn't care. He sat down right on top of me. So I went to a box blind that was the closest of our stands to where I'd been hunting. I just knew my hunt was ruined. I was so ticked off at that hunter for being so thoughtless and unethical."

It had been a long week. Kirk, a 25-year-old native of Stuttgart, Arkansas, had spent the last six days hunting in Kansas alone. He knew that his chances of success were slim at that point. This would be his last day of hunting during the 2005 season except for possibly an hour or so in the morning before having to leave for home.

Chasing big whitetails was nothing new to Kirk. He'd been hunting his whole life. He killed his first deer at the age of 11. Actually, he killed two deer when he was 11. His first was a doe, and the second was a big 6-pointer. As he matured, the quest for big deer became a major motivation, not just for him, but for his dad, Bill, and younger brother Kris as well. Deer hunting had long been a family avocation. The Kellers, along with some of their close friends, had been hunting around Stuttgart and killing trophy bucks for years. But then a new twist entered the equation.

"Several of our friends had been hunting in Kansas for a number of years," Kirk said. "And every year they would come home with 160-class bucks. So we finally decided to find a lease of our own so that we could hunt those big Kansas deer, too. We found a lease online. After making some calls, we drove to southeast Kansas to check it out. There were lots of deer and turkey on this property, so we decided to take it. Dad and Kris both killed good deer the first two years while I never filled a tag. But I knew my time would come."



Arranging to spend a week in Kansas in early December 2005 despite upcoming final college exams, Kirk made the trek to the family's hunting lease by himself. His dad and

brother would be coming in just as he had to leave.

"I saw a big 10-pointer on the second day, so I spent four more days sitting in the same stand. I knew it would just be a matter of time before I saw him again."

Now, Kirk knew that time was a crucial factor and it seemed to be working against him. To complicate matters, this other hunter had walked in on him on the last afternoon

and he had to change stands at the last minute. In addition to being

discouraged, the young hunter was getting cold.

"The wind was blowing about 25 miles per hour and the temperature had dropped to 25 degrees. There was a major storm rolling in with sleet and snow. I thought the deer might be moving pretty good, but I sat for more than two hours without seeing a deer. I was sitting on

the edge of a very large Buck Forage oat field. I was carrying my Remington Model 700 7mm Magnum, so I knew that if a buck showed up in the field I could make a very long shot if I had to."

Daylight was almost gone when a small doe appeared. She was alone, and as the light faded, the weary hunter had just about given up hope that a buck might show up.

"I started gathering up my things," Kirk said. "All I could think about was the fact that I had spent a solid week of hunting and I had only seen one buck that I could not get a shot at. Then, this selfish, unethical hunter had come and sat down right on top of me. My dad and brother would be here tomorrow and I was sure that they both would kill big bucks, but I would probably go home empty-handed again!"


Suddenly, the small doe yanked

her head up and stared intently across the oat field.

"I knew she was watching something," Kirk said. "So I took my binoculars to scan the field in the direction that she was staring. All at once I spotted a big-bodied deer headed my way. As I watched, the deer raised its head. It was a monster buck! I grabbed my rifle and got him in the scope. He appeared to be a huge 10-pointer.

"The buck kept coming. When he got within about 125 yards, he turned broadside. That was just what I was hoping for. I quickly found him in the scope and squeezed the trigger. The buck ran wide open back across the field and I saw him disappear into the woods. He never missed a beat as he ran off and

I thought that I had missed him completely."

Darkness quickly closed in as the hunter waited a few minutes before going to check for blood. His flashlight batteries were almost dead, so he had very little light to go by as he looked for fresh sign.

"I went to where I last saw the

deer in the edge of the woods. There was no blood and no hair -- nothing. Then I went over to check out a three-strand barbed wire fence. The top strand of wire was broken and there was blood on the wire. Then I found blood on the other side of the fence. I kept turning my light off and on in order to save power."


"I walked on toward a dry creek bottom," Kirk said, "and then I saw the deer's body. I hurried down into the bottom and I could see that his rack was stuck in the wet gravel

and dirt. I had to work to get it out. Then, when I turned on my light to look at the rack, I was stunned to see that it was much bigger than I had originally thought. I could not believe how massive it was and how many points it had!

"I kept trying to count points

with my flashlight going off every few seconds. I finally counted around 22! No one was going to believe this, but it really didn't matter -- I was alone in deer camp! Dad and Kris would not be here until tomorrow. I walked three-quarters of a mile to a neighbor's house and borrowed an ATV. The deer was so big that I didn'

t think I would ever get him loaded onto the ATV or out of that creek bottom.

But I finally did.

"I knew I had just killed the buck of a lifetime, and sadly, there was no one in camp to share it with. I called Dad and Kris. I told them that I had just killed a 120-class 10-pointer. Dad got mad when he thought I had killed a small buck. He started fussing at me -- telling me that there were much bigger bucks in Kansas and that I should never have used my tag on a little buck. While he was fussing I sent a picture of the buck to Kris on his cell phone. The picture was dark, but they could tell that the buck was much larger than I had indicated and they realized that I was pulling a fast one. I finally told them that my buck was a giant with at least 20 points."

While Kirk slept in the next morning, several fellow hunters from back home had come in during the night. The next morning one of them killed the big 10-pointer that Kirk had hunted for six days. That buck grossed almost 150 inches.

As Kirk predicted, no one could believe the size of his Kansas buck. The 24-point buck had it all: incredible mass, long tines, and lots of abnormals with points coming off of points. Later on, when scored by official B&C scorer Dan Doughty, Kirk's hard-earned Kansas trophy netted 226 6/8 non-typical points.

Today, Kirk is truly thankful to the hunter who bumped him off his stand. Without being forced to move, he never would have seen the giant non-typical. What a wonderful gift resulting from a simple twist of fate. . . . Only in Kansas!

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