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In Pursuit of a Kansas Buck

Matthew Palmquist


I am blessed to live in a part of Kansas that has mule deer and whitetails. During my summer scouting I had not turned up a monster mulie to focus my attention towards.

This was probably due to the fact that I really wanted to kill a monarch whitetail that our state is known for. The only problem was I really hadn’t seen any great whitetails either.

Once the season finally arrived I decided to spend every chance I could sitting in a tree. However, I continued to search for a mule deer on days when I didn’t have enough time to get into a tree for a quality hunt. Towards the end of October I located a mule deer that was better than any others I had found. He was a non-typical that was a great buck, but he wasn’t quite in the giant category so I was still drawn back to the treestand.

In the first week of November I was off work and able to get in a tree multiple times. After several sits without seeing a mature buck I decided it was foolish to continue spending time sitting when I could be in pursuit of a great mulie. I decided I would focus my efforts on killing him and ditch my plans of killing a bomber whitetail.

I spent the rest of November playing chess with the mulie. He was using a standing sunflower field as his home base, but he started to extend his range farther as the rut became full swing. I had multiple close encounters with the buck. I was not winning the game and was always a step behind. I continued to be patient and devoted my time to out smarting the buck. As the month of November progressed I realized that I was running out of time before the Kansas rifle season would be open. I had to get more aggressive. Every time I found the buck bedded I would try to kill him. It seemed like I was jinxed because when I would find him in a good position the wind would completely die. On another occasion a group of pheasant hunters showed up to hunt a field the buck was in half way into the stalk. There were multiple stalks were I could get to 100 yards and then run out of cover. To say I was becoming frustrated would be an understatement.

I took off work the day before the rifle opener to give it one last hoorah. After checking all of his normal stomping grounds I decided to come back to the sunflowers a second time and I caught the buck with a bunch of does transitioning from one field to another. I tried to beat the deer to where I expected them to go.  They were no were to be found. I started glassing in the sunflowers trying to spot something. After a few minutes I caught movement and located one of the does. I decided it was time to go for broke. I looped around and started picking my way across the sunflower field. I glassed row by row and finally caught the break I needed, and spotted the buck in his bed.

I devised a plan and was confident it was finally going to come together. I was in stealth mode and started working towards my target. The sunflowers were not very thick and the wind was very light, making for slow going. Even with the thin stand it was hard to relocate the buck. I knew I was close to the buck but still couldn’t see him. I slowly raised my Leica’s to locate him when all of a sudden a pheasant erupted between the buck and me. It startled me and the buck, and my heart sank as I watched him explode out of his bed and into the distance. So close…..

I resumed the search, but never did locate the buck again. After checking the forecast and seeing that the wind was going to diminish to nothing as the day went on I decided to try for a whitetail, and headed to one of my favorite treestands for my last hunt before rifle season opened. I got to my stand early in the afternoon and stopped in the creek bottom below my tree to finish dressing in my Sitka Gear bibs and jacket. I turned to climb the creek bank and into my tree and saw a decent buck standing there watching me. He bolted when he realized what I was. Time would tell if that was going to be a good or bad sign of how the hunt would go.

It was a beautiful evening. Deer movement was slow in my proximity, but I could see a long distance and watched a pile of bucks harassing a doe that was obviously in estrus. The deer were too far to truly evaluate their head gear, but I could tell that none were what I was looking for. I was enjoying watching the bucks when I caught movement 50 yards to my left in the creek bottom. As the deer emerged it was a mature 9 pointer. I sized him up and decided that he would definitely fill the order at this point in the season.

The buck was in no hurry and slowly worked towards my tree. He was travelling in the creek bottom and could either stay in the bottom and go behind my tree where a shot would be difficult or branch off to his left and walk by at 10 yards. The buck stopped at 30 and worked over a shrub thicket. I contemplated taking a shot but there were a few twigs in the way and he was slightly quartered to me. I decided I didn’t need to force anything. The decision paid off as the buck continued on his way and branched off on the trail in front of me. I stopped him in his tracks with a soft grunt and released a perfect shot from my Carbon Element. The buck bounded off a short distance, expiring quickly.

He wasn’t the Boone and Crockett class buck I had set a goal on taking at the beginning of the season, but it was a great ending to a great season! Once again, I am blessed to live in a place where I can have an encounter with an awesome mulie like I did in the morning and then successfully punch my tag on a quality whitetail in the afternoon.

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