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August 2018
Story by Kyle Peck
State: Kansas
Species: Deer - Whitetail

The 2017 deer season started with me calling my good friend, Jay Hogan with Ridge Runners Guide Service, and telling him this was the year for me to harvest a mature Kansas whitetail. I had been hunting with Jay for the last few years, and although I had some opportunities to harvest a nice deer, it just never happened. A couple of years ago, my hunting buddy, Otto Biasio, and I were hunting on one of Jay’s leases when Otto had taken the infamous 172” Captain Hook deer. Now I felt like it was my turn!


Instead of hunting the rut like I normally did, I told him that this time I wanted to hunt the early archery season, which started in September. Jay agreed and told me that the early season would be a good chance to catch a big buck coming out to feed in the evening. The only thing that could interfere with this plan would be if I drew an archery elk tag in my home state of Colorado.


After not drawing my archery elk tag in Colorado, I phoned Jay to tell him I would be out in September. Unfortunately, due to my new job promotion, I could not make the opener and would have to settle on the week after. In the meantime, Jay was sending me quite a few pictures of nice bucks his clients were harvesting the opening week and I would joke with him about saving some for me.


When I arrived, we decided I would hunt the Russell farm. After my first look at the place, I was convinced this would be a good spot. The farm had it all - a river bottom with a pond and unfarmed CRP adjacent to a large cornfield. The corn had just been cut, so I had good feelings about things. I hunted in a tree stand located in the corner where the CRP, river bottom, pond, and corn all met. Due to the stand’s location, this spot would only be good with a wind out of the west or north because of where the bedding area in the CRP was located.


The first evening, the wind was right, and because of how warm it was, I realized that any mature bucks on the property would only come out at last light. I got in early and waited until nightfall but only saw a few does. For whatever reason, I still felt real good about the spot I was hunting. On the second night, I had not seen a deer until the very last minute of shooting light. The first buck I had spotted was a small 6-point and another deer that at first looked like a doe. Soon, it became apparent that this second deer was big bodied, but I still couldn’t make out the antlers due to the cut corn background. Just then, the deer silhouetted its antlers against the western sky and I could tell it was a nice, mature whitetail with about 16 points! This was the kind of deer I was looking for, and I started to get excited. The deer, which I named "Saw Blade" due to the many points on each main beam, turned perfectly broadside and walked in front of me. At this point, it was still 100 yards away. I was hoping it would move closer to me before I would lose all shooting light. Unfortunately, it stayed 100 yards away, and with no shot, I waited in the dark for a couple hours before it was safe for me to make my way out of the stand.


The next night, I sat all evening and never saw another deer. I was disappointed that I didn’t see Saw Blade again, wondering if I had spooked him when leaving the previous night. I was still feeling positive about the spot, but I was running out of time. According to the weather report, I had only one more night where the wind would be favorable. Tomorrow would be my last chance to hunt this spot.


On the last night, I was seeing zero deer. It was starting to get dark, and I began wondering if I would get shut out again. Just then ,I heard a noise over my right shoulder and saw a doe and the same 6-point buck I had seen two nights ago with Saw Blade. My heart raced as I thought Saw Blade could come out at any minute. The small 6-point walked right in front of me at about 10 yards away. I started getting ready for a shot if Saw Blade came out. As I was looking towards the direction the 6-point had come from, I saw what appeared to be a deer sneaking through the CRP towards the corn and my stand. I thought it was Saw Blade and started to plan my shot. The deer appeared in the corn and walked towards my stand, coming closer. I got excited, and it stopped directly in front of me at 50 yards broadside. Although I couldn’t fully make out the antlers to confirm it was Saw Blade due to the backdrop of corn and low light, I knew by the large body and antlers that this was a mature buck.


Right before I was about to draw, I saw another massive buck following the first one. Was this Saw Blade? I hesitated, and then all of a sudden, a third buck of equal size was following the second buck and heading straight towards me! I was totally unprepared for this scenario. I thought maybe I would get a shot at one nice buck if I was lucky, but three? This was crazy! I froze, not being able to decide on which one I should shoot. I looked at the first buck again, and it was now 70 yards away. I was blowing it. Thoughts raced through my mind that I would be telling this story about how I just watched three big Kansas whitetails walk right past me and I never shot. I couldn’t believe this was happening. As I looked at the second buck, it too was walking further away. I had to make a decision fast. The third and last big buck was now 50 yards perfectly broadside in front of me. I thought I had seen some junk on its right beam and decided I was taking this one. I aimed carefully and released the arrow. The deer took off, running directly away from me, and after about 50 yards, it fell over. It was over! I had just taken a trophy Kansas whitetail for the first time.


I immediately texted Jay to tell him the good news. After taking pictures and sending them to Jay, he told me, “Hey, you shot Pitchfork.” Apparently, the farmer had seen these same three deer running around after last year's rifle season and told Jay he thought there was a good chance they were still alive. I was very happy with Pitchfork, and I was glad it had all worked out. After putting a tape to Pitchfork, it would gross right around 180”, plenty big enough and with character. This was beyond my wildest dreams.