The Breezy Hill Legend

For years, this Kansas legend evaded bowhunters and gun hunters alike. In the end, it took a true woodsman to bring him down!

At 7 1/2 years of age, the Breezy Hill Legend was no doubt beginning to decline in both body and antler size, but the huge buck still sported a 27-inch inside spread in 2005 when he crossed paths with David Strukel.

In a state like Kansas, which boasts some of the nation's top whitetails, you'll find that it's hard to kill a buck big enough to stand out. In spite of these odds, that's exactly what David Strukel did when he harvested a magnificent double-drop-tine monster during the 2005 Kansas firearms season. Within days, news of David's buck had caused quite a stir in his southeastern Kansas community.


As a friend, I made it a point to visit David and hear his incredible account firsthand. As I listened to the details unfold, I realized just what an incredible story it really was. It seems David wasn't the only hunter with his eye on the giant buck. In fact, an outfitter who had moved into the area had gotten several hours of video and some quality pictures of the buck while it was in velvet.


For several years, the buck was spotted over a large area and always seemed to vanish just days before the September muzzleloader season. In spite of valiant efforts by hunters to harvest the deer during the fall hunting seasons, the buck's whereabouts seemed to remain a mystery.

By the summer of 2003, the deer was 5 years old and had already become a local legend.


A TROPHY HUNTER IN THE MAKING
For David, this story actually began in 1997 when he made the decision to become a trophy hunter. That decision would bring him up close and personal with the buck that the locals would come to know as "The Breezy Hill Legend." In the years that followed, David held fast to his commitment by harvesting does and cull bucks for meat and letting bucks with potential continue to grow.

David owns a wood yard where he cuts and sells an enormous volume of firewood and supplies hedge fence posts. Anyone who has cut firewood knows it takes a lot of sweat equity to make it pay the bills and raise a family, yet that is what David does. He approaches his trophy hunting with that same determination.

While spending most of his life trapping and cutting wood, David has kept his eyes open for big deer. The vast amount of time he's spent in the woods has taught him a lot about the habits of big deer and the habitat they prefer. He should know. After all, he's seen a lot of them!

With every passing year, David seemed to get a little closer to his goal of someday harvesting a record-class whitetail. "It was like putting a puzzle together," he claimed. "I just kept listening to stories of where big bucks had been seen and watching and scouting for myself. Each bit of knowledge was like finding a little piece of the puzzle."

Being a lifetime resident of the area had gained David a lot of access to ground. Some of that ground held the potential for growing world-class deer.

A WHITETAIL LEGEND IN THE MAKING
In 1998, the buck that would later come to be known as "The Breezy Hill Legend" was born. It would be years later before David and the buck would meet. On the last day of the 2003 firearms season, David got his first good look at The Breezy Hill Legend. At 5'‚1/2 years old, the buck was already a world-class whitetail with a 22-inch spread and matching drop tines on each side! David fondly recalls the sighting: "It was getting late.

David Strukel proudly poses with his impressive buck, taken on Nov. 30, 2005, opening day of the Kansas firearms season. David hunted the buck long and hard.

The buck had materialized from the brush about 150 yards out with three does, but he never offered me a clear shot." It was a vision that David would not soon forget.

During the spring of 2004, David learned that a local hunter had found both sides of the buck's shed rack and had taken them to taxidermist Mark Boltie to be mounted. The mount was later sold to the Arrowhead Lodge at T&C Wildlife Hunt Club, where it still hangs proudly today.

Just knowing that the buck was still out there was enough to cement David's resolve. The hunt was still on! David hunted hard for the drop-tine buck during the 2004 season but never laid eyes on the elusive monster. David later learned that a local bowhunter had managed to get the buck in his sights at 40 yard just a quarter of a mile from where David had been hunting. Fortunately for David, that bowhunter had been unable to close the deal.

Another archery hunter had fallen asleep on a stand a mile away, only to be awakened from his sleep by the snap of a twig. By the time he realized what was going on, the massive drop-tine buck had managed to sneak through the shooting lane and was long gone.

A SURVIVAL MACHINE
By the spring of 2005, the buck had already survived at least six hunting seasons, several tough winters, and the misdirected intentions of poachers. The buck was a survivor, and it was clear that putting a tag on him would not be an easy task. Still, David felt confident that one day he would get his chance.

During the summer of 2005, an outfitter photographed the buck in a clover field a mile from David's land and posted the photo on the Internet. After that, the buck was famous to a lot more people, making things a little more complicated for David.

That summer, David spent nearly every day searching for the Legend, sometimes glassing and observing for hours from various elevated positions. Just before muzzleloader season, the buck once again seemed to vanish, making David fear that the worst had happened.

On Saturday, Nov. 26, 2005, however, just three days before the firearms season opener, David was handed a big piece of the puzzle that related to the buck's whereabouts. That morning he learned that another bowhunter had encountered a gigantic buck with an extremely wide rack and two drop tines, but once again, the deal had not been closed. David knew that this buck had to be the Legend.

His excitement soared. The sighting had taken place not far from one of the places he'd be hunting. That afternoon David slipped into his area and trimmed out a carefully chosen spot on top of a large mound overloo

king a worn trail in a brush-choked ravine.

On the way in, he jumped a big deer from its bed, running it across the road and onto the neighboring property. Thankfully, it was not the buck he was after.

A COLD OPENING DAY
David had a gut feeling that the drop-tine buck was using the ravine to pass between properties undetected, and the hunter wanted to be there come opening morning. On the night before the Wednesday firearms opener, David's daughter Misty and her husband Charlie came to visit for a week of deer hunting. No one got much sleep that night, knowing that the double-drop-tine buck was out there somewhere close to where they would all be hunting the next morning.

David poses with his daughter Misty shortly after the Breezy Hill Legend fell to his .30-06 slug on Nov. 30, 2005. Over the years, the Legend survived vehicles, poachers, tornadoes and the best efforts of numerous hunters.

On Wednesday, Nov. 30, the eager group woke to a hard frost and a stiff north wind with temperatures dipping to around 18 degrees. The three hunters drove to their spot and made their way to their stands. When it was time to part company, they bid each other good luck and went their separate ways. David headed to his stand alone, maneuvering through the darkness as best he could without a light. As he approached what should have been his destination, he realized that something wasn't right. He had gotten turned around.

He feared that if he didn't find his bearings quickly, he would contaminate the woods by leaving his scent all over the area. He knew this mistake could come back to haunt him later. He reached into his pocket and turned on the headlamp that his daughter Misty had given him. He soon found the place he needed to be and settled in for the wait.

The morning sky chased back the shadows and spilled its light down into the secluded ravine below. After some time, the cold began to bite miserably at David's hands and feet. He waited patiently, watching the ravine for any sign of movement, but the morning seemed uneventful. "The woods were eerily silent," he recalled. "Nothing was moving at all, not even the squirrels. Even the birds were quiet. I remember wondering if it was going to be one of those mornings when you just don't see a lot of deer movement."

Still he remained hopeful. If the buck passed David's way, the ravine would funnel the buck's movements along the well-worn trail below. David's eyes continued searching the frosty shadows for some time until he caught the cautious movement of a deer in the brush. As it sneaked closer through the tangle of saplings, David got a better look at it. Immediately, David knew he was looking down on the buck of a lifetime!

MOMENT OF TRUTH
This was the chance he'd been waiting for! He pressed off the safety, shouldered his Remington 700 BDL .30-06, and aimed carefully. As he squeezed the trigger, the gun thundered and recoiled, shattering the silence. The buck tucked his tail and took off running, stopping momentarily to look back. Even though his bullet had passed through both lungs, David chambered another 180-grain Nosler Partition and dropped the buck in his tracks with a second shot. Shaking with excitement, David continued to hold the gun on the buck until he was at its side.

It was only 7:20 a.m. David knelt down and lifted the heavy rack from the grass, staring in shock at the buck's massive antlers. The Legend had forked brow tines with drop tines on both sides coming down off the beam below the G-3s. David could see that the unbelievable spread was pushing 30 inches! David had finally done it. He had killed "The Breezy Hill Legend"!

THE DAVID STRUKEL BUCK
Scorable Points:14 (6R, 8L)TOTAL LENGTH OF ABNORMAL POINTS: 17 5/8
Tip-To-Tip Spread:25 3/8
Greatest Spread:29 1/8
Inside Spread:27 0/8
AREAS MEASUREDRIGHTLEFTDIFFERENCE
Main Beam25 4/826 5/81 1/8
1st Point (G-1)7 4/86 4/81 0/8
2nd Point (G-2)10 3/810 7/84/8
3rd Point (G-3)8 6/89 7/81 1/8
4th Point (G-4)--3 2/83 2/8
1st circ. (H-1)5 6/86 0/82/8
2nd circ. (H-2)4 6/85 2/84/8
3rd circ. (H-3)5 1/85 6/85/8
4th circ. (H-4)4 1/84 7/86/8
TOTALS:72 2/879 0/89 1/8
Gross Typical Score:168 6/8
Subtract side-to-side differences:-9 1/8
Add abnormal points+17 5/8
FINAL NET NON-TYPICAL SCORE:177 2/8
TAKEN BY: David Strukel, DATE: November 30, 2005, LOCATION: Crawford County, Kansas

THE SWEET JOY OF SUCCESS
David's first step was to call his wife Deborah and share the good news with her. He had not only killed a record-class deer, but he had also killed the big buck he had been after. The last piece to the puzzle was now in place, and the picture was beautiful!

Misty and Charlie had heard the shots and soon stood at David's side admiring the magnificent animal. The three proud hunters loaded the deer and headed for an area sporting goods store to get pictures. The big rack towering above the pickup bed in the parking lot quickly drew a crowd of admirers. By the time David pulled into his driveway, his yard was full of hunters with cameras who had already heard the news.

Later, two wildlife biologists examined the deer and determined it to be at least 7'‚1/2 years old. The buck's side molars had been worn down to the gums, and his body was thin and gaunt. The deer had obviously passed his prime.

While skinning out the buck, David noticed a calcified growth on the animal's neck. After digging around, he was able to extract a .22-caliber slug that a poacher had fired into the buck a year or two earlier. That poacher had been only centimeters away from robbing David of the joy that comes from hard-earned success. Such a deer deserved a lot better than dying at the hands of a poacher.

Over the years, The Breezy Hill Legend had survived vehicles, poachers, F4 tornadoes, and the intentions of countless hunters. But in the end, it was a hard-working woodcutter who finally laid the buck to rest. In an area inundated with out-of-state hunters, it seemed a fitting ending for a respectable buck and a local man who never gave up on his dream to harvest a record-class animal. Sometimes, good things come to those who wait!

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