Braggin' Bucks

Braggin' Bucks

These three big-buck stories from Kansas can help you take your biggest buck ever! (July 2010)

At the urging of Kansas outfitter Richard Blakeslee, Brandon Adams of Prague bought a leftover tag, then scored big on the largest buck of his life. Adams' giant typical buck was killed with a blackpowder rifle in September 2009 and scored 192 4/8 B&C points.
Photo by Buckventures Outdoors.

It's hard to say anything about big whitetail bucks these days without mentioning Kansas in the same sentence. It's true: Kansas has some prime deer hunting!

The Sunflower State definitely holds an allure for many whitetail purists hoping to take a "book" buck. Already one of the most popular destinations for non-resident deer hunters, this Midwestern "honey hole" can produce a world-record whitetail. Though the state has produced record-sized bucks from border to border, certain areas annually give up more than others.

Last season, some real trophies were taken during all three deer-hunting seasons -- blackpowder, archery and gun. Read on, and I'll recap the stories of some of those big bucks, and you'll glean expert hunting tips that will help you take your biggest Kansas buck ever!

Brandon Adams of Prague, Oklahoma, probably sees as many big bucks fall each year as any hunter in the nation, but he normally never fires a shot. Being an exceptional videographer and pro-staff member of the Buckventures Outdoors television show keeps Adams on his toes.

Truth is, Adams has videotaped show host Jeff Danker taking some real monster bucks, including a big typical whitetail in 2008 that graced the cover of the 2009 Realtree Monster Bucks XVII Volume 1 DVD. Danker took that huge buck, nicknamed "Tip," near the Kansas border on a ranch that has yielded several 200-inch whitetails.

Adams generally gets to hunt some each season. But because he works as Danker's cameraman, his hunts usually take place when Danker tags out and he is fortunate to have drawn a tag.

Last season, Adams "won the lottery" when Danker was contacted by Richard Blakeslee of Triple Creek Outfitters near St. John. Blakeslee spotted a huge, heavy-horned typical whitetail buck that had taken up residence in a 160-acre field. Enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program, the land was surrounded by corn, soybean and milo crops. The outfitter knew a buck like that needed to be taken before he went nocturnal or was shot by a roadside hunter.

Blakeslee says he leased the property to Bowhunter Magazine's television show but, after contacting them, he discovered they didn't have a hunter who could break loose and hunt the Kansas blackpowder season. Bowhunter agreed that if Blakeslee could get another television crew in there to film the hunt, it was okay with them. The outfitter immediately called Danker at Buckventures.

Because Danker had already drawn a tag in another unit, he decided to reward Adams with a chance to hunt the biggest buck of his life. Adams hadn't applied for a tag during the spring drawing, so he applied for a leftover tag and drew in Blakeslee's area.

Blakeslee emailed Adams photos of the huge buck.

"The buck looked incredible," Adams admits. "I was literally a nervous wreck, waiting two weeks for the season to open."

Just before the season opener Adams and cameraman Steven Stewart traveled to Kansas to scout the area they would be hunting. The outfitter told them he hadn't seen the buck in 10 days, fearing the buck had gone nocturnal.

The evening before the season opened, Adams and Stewart were driving by the area and spotted the huge buck 150 yards away. The sighting tightened Adams' bundle of nerves further. "I was speechless," he says. "I nicknamed the buck 'Turmoil,' since he was making a nervous wreck out of me."

The next morning Adams decided to stay on the perimeter of the big grass field to avoid disturbing the buck. The buck's daily routine generally was to feed in the tall standing crops, loiter in a small patch of trees, then return to the middle of the CRP field to bed down for the day.

Since the buck normally moved best in the evening, Adams plan was to not hunt the next morning. Instead, he would glass from a distance. The big buck was spotted bedded in the CRP field, but Adams didn't feel confident making the long shot. That afternoon Adams and Stewart crawled to the spot where the buck was bedded, but the giant never returned.

The next day Adams hung a stand in a clump of trees nearby where he could observe the CRP field. While observing the distant field a coyote was spotted running into the clump of trees near the buck's bedding area. A large buck came out, followed by the massive buck. The deer ran out to the middle of the tall grass and bedded. Adams climbed down at 10 am, with a definite plan for the evening's hunt.

Knowing the deer had a penchant for the clump of trees near its bedding area, Adams had Blakeslee drive him and Stewart in to the clump of trees around noon. The deer were used to seeing the outfitter's truck, so the truck was parked between the bedded deer and the trees, giving Adams and Stewart time to hang two treestands before settling in as Blakeslee drove away.

The pair watched the distant field, expecting to see the bedded deer walk toward the woodlot as it did the previous three days, but nothing happened. Just before dark Stewart spotted the huge buck 30 yards away. Adams shifted in his treestand and carefully aimed his Traditions Vortek .50-caliber smokepole at the brute. At the sound of the shot, smoke filled the area as the buck vanished. Adams was afraid his nerves got the best of him and he botched the close shot.

With darkness looming, Adams waited a few minutes before walking to the area where the buck was standing.

"There was blood everywhere," Adams recalls. "I knew then that I had made a good shot, and the buck wouldn't be too far away." Fifty yards away "Turmoil" laid motionless -- giving cause for much excitement.

The buck's headgear was a mainframe 6x6, with an 11-inch dagger point growing off one of the main beams. The rack was 22 inches wide, and its smallest circumference measurement was 5 4/8 inches. Blakeslee scored the brute at 192 4/8 Boone & Crockett points.

Rosalia resident Miles Willhite is much wiser than his 35 years might imply when it comes to whitetail management. In fact, the deer-hunting guide is in demand as a wild

life consultant due to his expertise.

"I just enjoy growing big bucks," Willhite humbly admits. "My challenge is to improve the quality of the bucks in the areas where I hunt and guide."

Willhite operates Little Walnut Outfitters and offers quality hunts for whitetails in hunting Unit 14, located in the east-central Kansas. His business caters to bowhunters, but he occasionally offers hunts for both blackpowder and gun hunters.

Willhite started bowhunting 20 years ago and claims he has taken nearly 50 whitetails. Giving his choice, Miles loves to bowhunt and has taken a host of bucks that qualified for the Pope & Young record book -- with his best being a 185-inch 13-pointer.

Last fall, Willhite was hunting a buck with double main beams, when he saw a huge buck cross the field on one of his properties. He decided to go hunt the area but found the wind was wrong, so he hung a game camera before leaving the area.

The next night he checked the game camera and found the big buck he had seen earlier stood right in front of his stand while eating a food supplement that Willhite formulates.

"The buck was a huge typical that I thought would score very high," Willhite says. "I knew that if I wanted any chance at that buck, the wind would have to be right, because a deer that big wouldn't give me many chances." As a precaution, Miles set up a ground blind in the vicinity, if needed.

Willhite waited patiently for six days before the wind was perfect to hunt the stand. Eliciting his friend Chris Bond to videotape him, the pair arrived at their treestands under the cover of darkness. As luck would have it rain began to fall, so Willhite and Bondo climbed into the pop-up blind to protect the camera from moisture.

As darkness broke, the area was surrounded with deer. Soon, Bond spotted the big buck that had materialized and was making a scrape nearby. Willhite waited for Bond to get some footage of the buck before he released an arrow carrying a razor-sharp broadhead. The arrow struck the buck slightly back of Willhite's target point, so the hunter decided to leave and give the buck time to expire.

Five hours later, Wilhite returned with his dad Larry and Bond. The trio soon found the buck lying in a bedding area nearby. Ironically, one of the buck's shed antlers lay in the grass near the brute. The sight of the fallen monarch was emotional for Willhite.

"I cried when I saw the giant buck," Willhite remembers. "It was very special for my dad to be there with me. I wouldn't have had the opportunity to learn to hunt if it wasn't for my dad."

The buck's awesome rack was a mainframe 14-point, with a kicker point. The massive rack spanned nearly 20 inches and scored 194 P&Y points.

If the name John Hafner sounds familiar to you, it's because he is a prolific outdoor photographer. His photos have graced the covers of many outdoor magazines and hunting company's catalogs. Hafner gets to hunt occasionally, but most of the time he is on assignment and shoots animals with one of his Nikon cameras.

After meeting Tom McMillan during a 2008 Kansas photo shoot with Michael Waddell, Hafner was invited to come and hunt Kansas whitetails. He jumped at the opportunity and traveled from his home in Utah to hunt a renowned buck with McMillan Outfitting in Stafford. McMillan has a reputation for putting his clients on some super-sized bucks each season.

Hafner grew up in Pennsylvania and humbly admits he has only taken eight bucks — his best: a 125-class Texas whitetail.

Last December, Hafner arrived in McMillan's camp and hunted from an elevated shooting house overlooking a CRP field dotted with cedars. The wind blew hard and the temperature was in the single digits. The first two days produced numerous sightings of deer but no bucks of the caliber McMillan is known for locating.

The third day of Hafner's hunt he climbed into his enclosed perch and waited for daylight to illuminate his surroundings. In the pre-dawn minutes Hafner began to see deer moving across the waist-high grass in the distance. He began glassing the area, when he was alerted to a strange object 225 yards away.

"I really thought I was looking at driftwood until it moved and I realized it was the antlers of a bedded buck," Hafner says. "The antlers looked really dark, and I guessed the buck would score between 150 and 160."

Hafner was only afforded brief glimpses of the bedded buck, when the wind would gust and the grass would sway, revealing the antlers and tips of the buck's ears. Hafner knew he would have to wait for the buck to stand up if he was going to get a shot.

The afternoon came and Hafner caught brief glimpses of the buck almost hourly. At 5 pm Hafner noticed a doe standing in the tall grass beside the buck. Another doe soon appeared and the two does walked through the grass crossing a game trail, giving Hafner an unobstructed full view. John noticed the buck had reversed his position and was now facing the does.

Being a photographer Hafner was mesmerized by the unfolding drama.

"I remember thinking to myself, 'I wish I could take a photo of that buck lying in the grass,'" he admits.

In an instant, the big buck was on his feet and headed toward the does. When the monster walked into the game trail, the buck turned directly away from Hafner. Growing more tense by the minute, Hafner held his gun on the deer and was soon offered a quartering away shot. "I was praying that I would hold my gun steady," he admits.

Making an allowance for the wind, Hafner placed the crosshairs of his scope on the big-bodied buck and fired. The recoil of the shot caused the scope to lose sight of the deer, and when Hafner refocused his scope on the spot, the buck had vanished.

"I really thought I might have missed," Hafner recalls. "I reloaded my gun and went to look for blood since it would be dark soon."

Upon arriving at the spot, Hafner was welcomed by the sight of the huge buck lying lifeless in the tall grass. John looked at the whitetail overcome with emotion but knew the buck wouldn't score 160, as he had hope. The huge whitetail sported 16 points and would score much more!

"It was surreal," Hafner remembers. "I felt really blessed to have the opportunity to take such a magnificent animal." John thanked God for his good fortune and picked up his cell phone to call his wife Holly and tell her the good news. After calling his parents and a friend back home, Hafner began the slow process of dragging his huge buck back toward his blind.

The buck would later score 180 6/8 B&C points and weigh more than 230 pounds field dressed.

YEP '¦

Kansas deer hunters are blessed with incredible hunting opportunities each time they venture afield. And for at least three lucky hunters, the 2009 deer last season in the Sunflower State will always hold special memories.

Who knows? The 2010 Kansas deer-hunting season may give you the chance to take your biggest buck ever. Just remember to pass on young bucks and keep the taxidermist's number programmed in to your cell phone.

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