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Kansas time: sometimes you fight and scratch for every opportunity to take a whitetail ... then there's Kansas.

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I WASN'T EVEN HALFWAY up the ladder stand in the predawn darkness when I heard a deer walking in the red oak leaves practically right underneath me. How did I get in here without spooking this deer? I wondered. Maybe it was so dark the slight noise I made walking to the stand just didn't alarm the deer much. Or maybe it attracted the deer? As I stood motionless on the steps of the ladder, the deer passed by mere feet from my rubber boots without a clue I was there. It was still too dark to tell whether it was a buck or a doe. When I could no longer hear the deer, I slowly ascended the ladder and into a "sit" I will never forget.

Operating on only about four hours of sleep, I was exhausted. I had driven all night from southeast Iowa after sitting in a deer stand until the end of legal shooting light. I'd been bowhunting for two weeks on a fabulous farm in Zone 5, and it was hard for me to believe that my unused Iowa buck tag was still in my backpack. How could this be? The farm was an exceptional piece of deer-hunting property. Knowing the history and the caliber of whitetail bucks that it had produced, I'd elected to pass on a Pope and Young-class eight-pointer early in my hunt. I did play "cat and mouse" with a mature 150-class buck a few days later that I would have gladly shot given the opportunity, but it wasn't meant to be. The deer herd in this particular part of Iowa had experienced an outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD), which decreased the number of mature bucks that are typically on this property. There were a lot of deer, but the number of mature bucks was down.

I had only a few days left before I needed to fly back home to Alaska. My original plan was to shoot a good buck in Iowa first, and then drive to Kansas and hunt my place there. As the days ticked by in Iowa, I saw my hunting time and opportunities slipping away. I had to make a decision. Should I stay in Iowa and hunt until the very end, or should I head to Kansas and get in a few days hunting there? Being the optimist, I felt like I had paid my dues in Iowa, and it was just a matter of time before I would get an arrow in a good buck. To increase my chances those last few days, I endured all-day sits in my treestands. Still, no opportunities materialized. It appeared that it just wasn't going to happen for me in Iowa. If I drive to Kansas right now, I would only have four days to hunt, so it was now or never, I thought. It was time to go to Kansas.

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Texas is where I started hunting whitetail deer, and where I learned to bowhunt. I arrowed a lot of Texas whitetails in my early years of bowhunting, but ever since my first trip to Kansas in 2001 I have been hooked, and I've missed very few seasons of whitetail hunting in Kansas since. Of course, all of the well-known Midwestern whitetail states offer great hunting too, and I've hunted several of them. But the state where I've hunted whitetails the most, by . far, is Kansas.

Kansas has been good to me over the years, and besides tagging my share of bucks there, I've found there are no finer people than the ones you'll find in Kansas. The hospitality is second to none, and spending time in these small farming towns and communities every fall is pleasant, relaxing, and rewarding.

Walking across the Kansas field in the dark, I tried my best to keep the light from my headlamp pointed towards the ground, hoping I wouldn't alarm any deer that might be in the field. Even with this precaution, I heard and saw a few deer fleeing off in the distance as I made my way to the old ladder stand. The stand was located in the corner of a small patch of woods that bordered a large, harvested agriculture field. The wind direction was perfect for me to slip in and hunt this spot. As exhausted as I was from the two weeks of hunting in Iowa, and driving all night long, I was really excited to hunt this particular stand. It was in a grove of large, red oak trees that still had some acorns and, more importantly, it was also in an area where bucks come to chase does during the rut.

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With the unseen deer now gone, I was in my stand trying to get my bow hung up and my gear situated. I could hear other deer walking in the leaves, but as hard as I tried, I couldn't see what was walking through the dark woods. Quietly, I got settled in for what would turn out to be an unforgettable morning hunt. With the stars in the clear sky overhead, and the glow to the east increasing, the action began. It was barely light enough to see, and I already had several does and a couple small bucks feeding within 20 to 30 yards.

Then I heard deer running, and a buck chased a doe right in front of me. He was wide, had some mass, and appeared to be 314 years old. I expected him to have more points, but he was only a six-pointer and he was intently focused on that doe. I guess you could say the rut was on, because he proceeded to breed her twice right in front of my stand! The second time he mounted and bred her, they were only 15 yards away. When I had first heard and saw flashes of these deer running toward me, I grabbed my bow off the hanger on my left. After seeing he only had six points, I carefully hung my bow back up.

I had just barely let go of my bow when I heard another deer walking in from my right side. Ever so slowly, I turned my head to the right to see a heavy eight-pointer with great mass that was already inside 25 yards and getting closer. He stopped on my right side at only 12 yards, laid his ears back, bristled the hair on his back, and stared at the wide six-point that was still in front of me harassing the doe. There was no question about which was the dominant buck. The six-pointer sulked down, and immediately acted submissive to the big eight-point.

So here I sat. I had three deer inside of 15 yards. The ladder stand I was sitting in was fairly tall and up against a large red oak tree. There were a few branches and leaves to the side and in front of me to provide some cover, but I still felt somewhat exposed. The deer were definitely too close for me to try and stand up. In my mind I was wondering how the heck I was going to get my hand on my bow, which was now hanging inconveniently on my left side, and then get my body twisted around enough so I could shoot the big buck without alarming any of the deer.

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I slowly reached around and got my hand on my bow, carefully scooted my butt out to the edge of the seat, and drew my bow in one fluid motion. So far, so good. I twisted my body around as much as possible, and somehow got my sight pin on the vitals of the big eight-point without any of the deer seeing me. The arrow was gone in an instant, and zipped through the buck.

After running only 24 yards, the buck was down in plain sight. I could hardly believe what had just transpired. The other two deer didn't comprehend what had just happened, and in a just a few seconds they went back to eating acorns and chasing each other around some more. Not wanting to rush anything, I sat there quietly and soaked up the magic of the morning. A few minutes later, a couple more small bucks in pursuit of does cruised by my stand. For 30 minutes I sat there, enjoying all the deer doing what deer do. It was the essence of what makes bowhunting so captivating. When the deer finally ambled off, I climbed down, anxious to get my hands on that heavy-antlered buck. It was sweet success after only 20 minutes in Kansas!

When I acquire enough bonus points, I will definitely go back to Iowa and try again. But in the meantime, this Alaskan will spend the majority of his whitetail hunting time in a tree in Kansas. From that first Pope and Young buck I tagged in Kansas in 2001, right up until this last eight-pointer in 2015, I have experienced some great times in this state. For me, it's hard to beat Kansas time.

The author is a regular Contributor from Wasilla, Alaska. He is an airline Captain for UPS, has completed the Super Slam, and has entered 125 animals in the Pope and Young record book.

AUTHOR'S NOTE:

On my hunts I use PSE bows; Victory Archery arrows; Rage broadheads; bow accessories from Trophy Taker, Schaffer Performance Archery, and TightSpot; No Limit Archery release aid; clothing from KUIU; and SKB bow cases.
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Title Annotation:BH WHITETAIL SPECIAL
Author:Noska, Frank
Publication:Bowhunter
Geographic Code:1U4IA
Date:Nov 1, 2016
Words:1591
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