September 22, 2010
When this avid bowhunter set his sights on shooting a giant non-typical in central Kansas, he had no idea that he'd be making video history by arrowing one of the largest non-typical bucks ever taken on outdoor television.
Spook Spann's awesome main-frame 6x5 Kansas giant sported a total of 23 points, including the signature 8-inch drop tine on the left side that made the buck so recognizable. In order to shoot this deer, Spook and his cameraman crawled across a CRP field and ended up getting within six yards of the buck.
Thanks to the record-keeping system of the Boone and Crockett and Pope & Young clubs, we have records galore on North America's favorite big game animal. But what you're about to read involves a different kind of whitetail record. Not only is this story about a high-scoring P&Y (and B&C) buck, but this buck also happens to be the highest-scoring whitetail ever captured by the Realtree video cameras.
Incredibly, this monster Kansas buck, grossing 230€‚3/8 non-typical inches, was taken on the ground at point-blank range after a classic sniper-like stalk rarely seen in outdoor television. Spook Spann and his cameraman L.J. Planer snuck up on the deer, and Spook was able to put an arrow into the huge buck at a mere six paces!
Just as this is no ordinary buck, William "Spook" Spann of White Bluff, Tennessee, is no ordinary hunter. His focus is on world-class whitetails (as well as a variety of other big game species), and in order to achieve his goals, he's willing to make sacrifices that most ordinary hunters would find inconceivable. For example, during an Alberta hunt, Spook passed up three different B&C bucks in a single day.
"It was the first day of the hunt, the moon was right and the weather forecast was perfect," he explained. "I knew I'd never kill a 200-inch buck if I didn't have the guts to pass on those 170-class bucks."
On another hunt in Kansas, Spook watched an "upper end" whitetail buck sneak within range right at dark. But he had previously seen a 200-incher and felt that he was sitting on top of a tremendous food source while also being only a few steps away from prime security cover.
"You can wait your turn when you know you've done your homework and aren't relying totally on luck," the unusual bowhunter commented.
GETTING A GLIMPSE
In 2006, Spook started thinking about owning his own hunting land in Kansas where he could film and hunt and enjoy the off-season chores of habitat improvement. Spook's friend Tom McMillan told him about a 160-acre tract adjacent to some property that wasn't being hunted. "When I checked it out, it had so many rubs -- I'm talking trees as thick as your legs -- that I told Tom he must have made them with a machete. I'd never seen anything like it."
Now most avid bowhunters might not appreciate this parcel; only 15 acres of it was wooded. But Spook knew big-buck country when he saw it, and he bought the property in early 2007.
"It was classic," he said. "Scattered cedar thickets, dense switchgrass, plumb thickets, even an old homestead -- the kind deer like to frequent.
"A neighbor captured a heavy-racked buck with unusual split-brow tines on his trail camera," Spook continued. "L.J. and I estimated that he'd score right at about 190 inches. During the summer of 2007, Tom's dad, Jerry, saw the same buck in velvet. That's when I made up my mind to go for broke on this one individual animal."
So Spook spent the rest of the summer scheming and plotting -- literally. "Jerry helped me put up some tower stands, since there were so few trees. Then we got the food plots going -- soybeans, wheat, clover, alfalfa. We sprayed some areas with plenty of Fat Factor to attract deer to spots where we could intercept them in thick places where they'd feel safe.
THE HUNTING BEGINS
"In October 2007, Tom McMillan called to tell me that the big buck we'd been watching had really filled out. He had gotten some good trail camera photos, and the buck's rack now sported more mass and several new points, including a long drop tine on the left side. I was pretty sure this was the same buck that had made the leg-sized rubs I'd found. With the new food plots, we knew this buck would have plenty of does to keep him company in areas where he wouldn't be bothered."
A bighorn sheep hunt in Alberta kept Spook from hunting his Kansas property until early November. His plan was to start with the pre-rut and hunt straight through into the post-rut if necessary.
"We had one funnel in particular on the property that contained a draw and a creekbed connecting to the property where the buck had been seen earlier. There was another draw nearby that could siphon deer from adjacent lands that were not being hunted. So we were feeling pretty good about our chances, even though we knew there were a million places where a mature buck like this could hide from a bowhunter."
Spook and L.J. saw some younger bucks during their first few days of hunting in early November. They also saw a 160-class 10-pointer with a 20-inch spread. But they felt like it was still too early for the older "monarch" bucks to get aggressive with the does. In fact, Tom McMillan saw the 230-inch buck in the middle of a wheat field feeding leisurely while ignoring distant does.
"Then it really warmed up around Nov. 9," Spook remembered. "The temperature was in the high 80s with southwest winds to match. So we decided to head for Iowa for a week of bowhunting since I had an Iowa tag. We planned to return to Kansas when the rut was peaking and the temperatures were cooler. Going to Iowa turned out to be a great move. Nov. 13 was especially memorable.
"That day turned out to be one of those rare days when you couldn't put your bow on a hook, not even to eat lunch. We saw a lot of bucks, and I ended up shooting a very old buck with a 22-inch spread that was probably 6 1/2 or 7€‚1/2 years old. He scored about 160 inches, and he was absolutely huge from his neck to his hindquarters. He ran right under my tree, and I shot him at about seven or eight yards. L.J. got great footage of our hunt.
BACK TO KANSAS
"The next morning, Nov. 14, we packed up and drove straight back to Kansas. When we changed into our hunting clothes at the farmhouse for our afternoon hunt, I almost forgot my bow. But L.J. reminded me that I might need it for a rut hunt, and I didn't need much coaxing. We packed the ATV with our scouting gear and my bow in tow and headed out.
|THE SPOOK SPANN BUCK
|31 (22R, 13L)
|TOTAL LENGTH OF ABNORMAL POINTS: 42 2/8
|1st Point (G-1)
|2nd Point (G-2)
|3rd Point (G-3)
|4th Point (G-4)
|5th Point (G-5)
|1st circ. (H-1)
|2nd circ. (H-2)
|3rd circ. (H-3)
|4th circ. (H-4)
|Gross Typical Score:
|Subtract side-to-side differences:
|Add abnormal points
|FINAL NET NON-TYPICAL SCORE:
|TAKEN BY: Wm. Spook Spann, DATE: Nov. 14, 2007, LOCATION: Stafford County, Kansas
"On the way to our stand, I was preoccupied with looking for new rubs and scrapes along the way when I happened to glance out toward a slight rise in a CRP field, and there he was -- the giant drop-tine buck -- about 400 yards away! I could easily make out his whole rack with the sun shining directly on him. When I got my binoculars up, he turned. Suddenly I could see that signature drop tine and all of the mass he'd grown, just like Tom had said. 'That's him' I whispered to L.J. 'Let's go kill him!'"
GETTING DOWN 'N DIRTY
Without saying a word, the duo left the ATV behind and ran as fast as they could straight at the buck, using the hill to block their view. Directly ahead was a cedar thicket containing the only cover between the two hunters and a thick, low-lying area toward which the buck was likely headed. The next segment of this amazing hunt is provided by cameraman L.J. Planer, who has worked with many established names in the hunting industry -- Hunter's Specialties, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela's, Higher Ground Outdoors, and Right Time, Right Place -- to name a few. L.J. was a former sniper in the Armed Forces, and his skills in stealth came in quite handy on this hunt.
"The wind was pretty stiff, about 25 miles an hour, and blowing right in our faces," L.J. recalled. "When we reached the knoll, the only thing between us and the cedars was the CRP field. We didn't know where the buck had gone, and the truth is that he could have been anywhere in that general vicinity. Spook figured we had to get to those cedars to have any chance for a shot, so we decided to get 'down 'n dirty' and belly-crawl the rest of the way."
Spook and L.J. then used a standard sniper tactic that worked quite well. It sounds easy on paper, but carrying it out in the whitetail world takes a lot of skill and even more patience. First Spook eased his bow through the thick vegetation -- careful to avoid making any disturbances -- then he'd grip a clump of grass at the roots and pull his body forward. Meanwhile, L.J. would cautiously survey the scene, glassing off and on from a few feet behind. Then, after Spook gave the signal, L.J. would belly-crawl up to Spook while Spook kept watch. This clever teamwork may well have made the pair more effective than would have been the case had Spook been stalking alone.
IN THE COVER AT LAST
"It seemed to take forever," L.J. remembered. "We had a couple of hours of daylight left, and we knew that getting to or not getting to those cedars would likely make or break this hunt. When we finally got there, we quickly discovered that it was a very good setup -- a larger cedar behind a smaller one, with a space inside where we could tuck right in.
"As luck would have it, Spook had a pair of brush cutters in his pack, and he began trimming some branches so he could see ahead while shooting to either side. It wasn't long before he saw a doe about 100 yards away, then another one. 'He has to be around here somewhere,' he whispered. 'He's got to be keeping an eye on these does.'"
The tension mounted. Spook could see through the front ceda
r and could likely draw his bow undetected, but L.J.'s view was limited to the two sides. To kill this monster buck on film, both men would have to make the right decision at the last second and time their movements with pinpoint precision. A wrong move might alarm the buck and result in poor footage.
"Just as we were contemplating where the buck was most likely hiding out," L.J. continued, "Spook saw a small 8-pointer chasing a doe about 85 yards away. Now what? Should we grunt? Should we bleat? Should we try to get closer? Should we sit tight and do nothing? Spook decided we were in the best spot we could be and that time was still on our side. So instead of forcing the issue, we decided to let the hunt come to us. 'If we don't get a shot, at least we'll have a good chance to see where the buck is hanging out,' he whispered."
THE ACTION PICKS UP
The rest of the account comes from Spook's perspective.
"Now we were both glassing every inch of every blade of grass and every twig around us," Spook said. "Just as I lowered my binocular, I could make out a decent buck licking himself out in the CRP field. Before long, a doe took off and the buck followed. They ran right by us. L.J. and I both wondered, 'If the big buck is still around, why is he letting a 140-class buck run off with the doe? Maybe our big buck had a hot doe of his own.€‚.€‚.€‚.'
"Next thing I knew, another doe stepped out of the same thicket that I thought I had seen the big buck enter. That's when I finally saw him again! But instead of following her, he turned in the opposite direction. She headed right for us and got within six yards. Eventually she passed directly downwind. I remember holding my breath, praying she wouldn't blow. Thankfully she just bolted and disappeared behind a large cedar.
"I then turned my attention to the big buck and could tell that he was working a scrape and drooling over a licking branch. When he finished that task, I watched him look around. I could tell he realized the doe was missing. He seemed to panic and turned in our direction. In spite of the wind, I could hear him grunting every step of the way. L.J. could hear him grunting, too, but he couldn't see the buck, so I had to give him a play-by-play account of what was going on.
"'Thirty-five yards€‚.€‚.€‚. 25 yards . . . 15,' I whispered. At that point, we didn't know if the buck was going to follow the doe all the way, and we certainly didn't know which way he was going to go when he reached the cedar trees that we were hiding in. As he drew closer, I thought he was going to circle to the left, even though the doe had circled to our right.
"Before drawing my bow, I had to wait it out to the bitter end. If I drew to my left and the buck veered to my right, I'd probably spook him and not get a shot. So when I thought I saw the buck's chest turn, I committed to the shot and drew my bow off my right shoulder. The buck passed by at the same distance as the doe, about six yards. I didn't dare try to stop him, so I just aimed my sight pin for the opening, and when the buck passed through, I timed the shot.
"He didn't know what happened. He sort of jumped and looked around. I tried nocking another arrow just in case, but instead of bolting, the buck actually took a few steps closer to try to make me out. Before I could shoot again, though, he made a little loop and simply tipped over."
Spook Spann can't remember what happened next. His mind was a blur. Everything was a rush. Like all of the other TV viewers, he had to rely on the video footage to finish the story. And it does a very good job!
"We did it, we did it, we did it!" Spook shouts triumphantly into the video. "Oh thank you, Lord! What a buck€‚.€‚.€‚. what a hunt.€‚.€‚.€‚. We finally did it."
FOR YOUR INFORMATION
Spook Span's unbelievable hunt appeared on "Realtree Outdoors" on the Outdoor Channel last July, and you can also find it on DVD in Realtree's Monster Bucks 16, Volume 2. Spook is currently a partner in Big Buck Properties, a company that buys prime hunting tracts across North America. For more information, visit www.bigbuckproperties.com.