It all started two years ago when my search for land took me to Kansas. Kansas has been good to me when I hunted with McMillan Outfitters. In fact, I thwacked a 166-inch freak nasty a few years ago. The Kansas environment is really cool and I love hunting it, so I decided to buy a 500-acre property and get serious about collecting some bone there.
The value of this property is amplified because it butts up against Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is about 22,000 acres and a major rest stop for birds migrating along the central flyway. It is open to limited bird and small game hunting. Being so close to this sanctuary, I knew the land would always offer the chance to kill mature deer.
So, I ponied up, hammered my stake in the ground and looked forward to hunting the property.
After a few scouting ventures, I started seeing some strange things. One evening, I saw two deer with collars on their neck and tags in their ear. I nearabout dropped my Bushnells when I saw that.
I was curious as a cat once the collared deer started turning up on trail cam pics. Something was out of kilter, so I started asking some locals in town. Slowly but surely, I got to the bottom of it.
I come to find out that the local college darted, tagged and collared around 20 deer in the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge as part of their biology program. The research project was related to understanding deer movement, patterns and contact rates.
Pretty cool if you ask me!
Anyway, I forgot all about program when I started seriously hunting the bone paradise in 2010. It was hunting season, and I was pumped to make good on my land investment! My good buddies, Travis “T-Bone” Turner and Blake Shelton, shot two studs off the property. I was after another one that I could never get in bow range. The dear sported some serious hardware – and not just the kind made of bone. It had a collar around its neck and a tag earring.
We got the buck on video, and I watched it over and over. T-Bone snapped a photo of the brute from the road one day when driving to town. This buck was M.I.A. when I took my son Mason out for a youth hunt. I even had him come about 50 yards from my stand as the season wound down. This buck was taunting me.
I was looking forward to the 2011 season so I could get the upper hand on this bruiser.
I arrived in Kansas the second week of November and it was shaping up to be a bone fest with the good weather, the rut throttling up and plenty of sharp G5 broadheads.
The excitement all came to a climax on the evening of November 9. There was a good buck coming in to our stand and right on his trail was Buck No. 89. Nose high in air, steam blowing out of his nostrils… “Here we go,” I thought. “Finally.”
Fifty yards away, he stopped his pursuit of the other buck. Catching wind of our scent and hightailing it, the wise giant skirted us again! I was beginning to think that dang collar was giving this deer some superpowers or something.
Later that night in camp, we had a pow-wow and came up with a plan to finally get the witty magician. It went off without a hitch and the deer was taking a dirt nap 10 minutes after the sun crept over the horizon.
Case closed, right?
I took the collar off the deer and found a phone number to call if found. The call was answered by a member of the local college’s biology department. He congratulated me on the deer and asked if he could recover the collar.
I asked for more information about what was going on with their research. It turns out Buck No. 89 was tagged and collared in 2009 when it was figured to be 4 1/2-years old. The collar logged the deer’s location every seven hours and stored it in its memory. This data is going to be downloaded from the collar by the experts at the college and analyzed. I cannot wait to see what Buck No. 89 has been up to in the last two years! We stand to learn a lot about the habits and movement of mature deer from the results.
The 6 1/2-year old freak sported 12-points, huge main beams and a 21-inch inside spread. It scored 145 inches on the Pope & Young charts. That is with no brow tines! It isn’t the biggest deer I ever shot, but was one of the most amazing hunts I have been a part of.
As I learn from the college about the results of their research, I will be sure to share them with you. Be sure to check back for news. While the case might be closed, the study Buck No. 89 is just beginning to open. We’re positioned to gain some insight on these magical monsters that will help us lay down some big bone in the future!