Skip to main content

Kansas Accidental Opportunity

Kansas Accidental Opportunity
John Butler harvested this 144-inch 10-point during the Kansas gun season. The buck was estimated to be 6 ½ years old. (Steve Bowman photo)
Kansas Accidental Opportunity

Kansas, it was almost too easy.

John Butler was sitting in the “Hangover Stand,’’ a name given to the stand just 50 yards from the clubhouse.

For obvious reasons, it would be the first choice of anyone unable to get out of bed on time, but up in time to actually hunt.


Butler wasn’t hung over, though. He had spent the morning of Kansas’ opening day of modern gun season in another stand. The traditional opener falls on the Wednesday following Thanksgiving. While Butler hunted early on the opener, he had spent much of the day repairing deer stands, checking deer cameras and in general taking care of maintenance at his Buck Forage Deer Club.



Click image to view photo gallery
Kansas Accidental Opportunity


Even though Kansas’ deer season opens on Wednesday, the following weekend would be busy, following more of the standard opening-day bevy of activity. He along with fellow member, Dr. James Kroll, were working as much or more as they were hunting.

Butler would work through the day and have enough time to sit on the closest stand as opening day came to a close.

It would turn into a good choice. In less than an hour a big 10-point would saunter into the oat field in front of him. It wasn’t the deer that Butler had hoped for, but the accidental opportunity was good enough.


Accidental opportunities are a big part of Kansas’ deer hunting.

Dr. Kroll, known to many as Dr. Deer, loves to hunt Kansas. His services as the fore-most authority on deer management are in high demand all over the country, but when it comes to Kansas he’s not hesitant to point out that much of what drives hunters from all over to want to hunt here is by accident more than by design.

The state has never had to deal with an overabundance of whitetails, meaning the population issues of too many deer haven’t come into play. Added to that, when it comes to whitetails (the No. 1 hunted game animal in the country), hunting pressure and selection in Kansas puts the whitetail at No. 3 behind upland bird hunting (pheasants and turkeys) and migratory waterfowl (ducks and geese).


Historically deer have never had much pressure in this state.

“Deer numbers came back in the 1970s here and they started a season with just a resident-only draw,’’ Kroll said. “There wasn't very many deer and they've never had real heavy hunting pressure in Kansas as compared to the South or the Midwest.

“You had the nutrition and, my goodness, you've got the genetics statewide. So you've had an opportunity here because of extremely light hunting pressure, as compared to virtually everywhere else. The age structure is here as well as the rest of it. Then they’ve never had a gun season during the rut, and they still don't.

“There’s been a one-buck limit for years; you had to choose whether you wanted to bow hunt or gun hunt. A lot of the, let's say fanatical deer hunters, chose the bow so they could hunt during the rut.”When it comes to a rifle season, the pressure remains light, helped by a state that has an aging population, major changes in cattle production and remains largely rural.

“As you move from central Kansas, like around Hutchinson westward, you've got relatively low white-tailed populations, even to this day,’’ Kroll said. “There's certainly more than there used be, because what's happened is a lot of this ranch land is no longer grazed. It's succeeding into juniper and brush habitats because the big ranches are breaking up, and the younger family members are moving on.”

All of it provides better and more habitat for whitetails. But it also requires work for those looking to grow and build a whitetail herd that provides more than just an accidental big buck.

That’s where Butler and Kroll have teamed up. Their camp is in central Kansas and is basically reclaimed pasture.

“Most of this property out here was grazed to the ground,” Butler said. “It didn't have a cedar bush on it and very little brush. No cover at all. Just 1-inch tall grass in the fall after it was basically abused by having too many cattle on it.

“The first thing we did was took the cattle off of it completely. Then we started planting food plots. Immediately we put out a dozen or so corn feeders, primarily to give the deer and the turkeys something to attract them, to hold them on the property.

“The first food plots were Buck Forage oats. Later, we came in and planted alfalfa, which will grow very well here if it's fall seeded. Now we have it up to around 40 acres of alfalfa that we custom farm, and bale it as we can. This year we made around 20 tons, which is pretty substantial amount of feed, probably 400,000 pounds or more.”

Currently, the club plants 40 acres of Buck Forage Oats, mixed in with cow peas and another 40 acres of Alfalfa. With deer holding on the property, the club is religious when it comes to shooting bucks on an age-class basis.

“After you try to feed them more than they can eat, you let them get to be 4 ½-years, the bucks in particular, 4 ½-years old or older. And you leave them alone. Like this 800 acres, we just got a perimeter road around it. Very, very rarely do we get inside the perimeter of it during hunting season. So we have undisturbed whitetail deer as close as we can get.”

As close as you can get is just outside the door from the cabin in a stand known as the “Hangover Stand.”

Butler’s buck, a 144-inch 10-point, wasn’t shot because of its antler size. As a matter of fact, it wouldn’t have been his first choice in any year at his Kansas club. Each year one of its members or guests shoots a deer in the 160-inch range, and every three years or so a 170-inch plus Boone and Crockett shows up on the records.

A 144-inch deer is a dime a dozen here. But this 10-point was 6 ½ years old, and past its prime. The hocks on its rear legs, an indicator of age and productive viability, were white instead of painted black.Always the manager, Butler took the deer out of the herd.

“People ask me all the time what are the secrets to killing big bucks?” Kroll said. “There's two: First one is you have to hunt where there are big bucks. That’s places that have good age-structure and great soil to grow them. Kansas has that.

“The second, though, is most important. When you set out to kill a big deer you have to be willing to lose. That means you sit for days without killing anything. And when and if you pull the trigger on a deer not up to your standards, you are helping yourself get closer to winning next time.”

In some ways, it almost sounds too easy.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Understanding Reel Retrieve Ratios and How it Affects Lure Presentations

Understanding Reel Retrieve Ratios and How it Affects Lure Presentations

Increase a lure’s effectiveness by pairing it with the ideal reel speed.

Catch More Bass on a Jerkbait in the Cooler Months

Catch More Bass on a Jerkbait in the Cooler Months

This one simple trick will trigger more bass strikes on a jerkbait during the fall months.

Hunting Elk with the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter in 6.5 PRC

Hunting Elk with the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter in 6.5 PRC

Michael Cassidy and Paul Pluff talk about their elk hunt in New Mexico using the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter.

Action and Power Ratings- How to Choose the Right Bass Rod

Action and Power Ratings- How to Choose the Right Bass Rod

Most fishing rods feature both an action and a power rating, but what do those ratings mean and how do you use them to select the right rod for different scenarios? In this video, outdoor writer and tackle specialist Shane Beilue breaks down the difference between a rod blank’s action and power and discusses what the various ratings of each mean.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

This Elk Venison Patty Melt Recipe makes the perfect wild game sandwich. Elk burger patties are accompanied by melted Swiss cheese, caramelized onions, and Thousand Island dressing and then pressed in between two toasted and golden brown pieces of rye bread.Elk Venison Patty Melt Recipe Wild Game

Elk Venison Patty Melt Recipe

Kristy Crabtree - October 27, 2020

This Elk Venison Patty Melt Recipe makes the perfect wild game sandwich. Elk burger patties...

The best jig fisherman are those that are always aware of what their jig is doing.4 Tips When Jig Fishing For Bass Bass

4 Tips When Jig Fishing For Bass

Chris Schneider - August 25, 2015

The best jig fisherman are those that are always aware of what their jig is doing.

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options.12 Great Catfish Baits Catfish

12 Great Catfish Baits

Jeff Samsel

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options.

Simplify breakfast or brunch for a crowd by making this savory venison chorizo quiche recipe.Southwestern Venison Chorizo Quiche Recipe Wild Game

Southwestern Venison Chorizo Quiche Recipe

Allie Doran - October 30, 2020

Simplify breakfast or brunch for a crowd by making this savory venison chorizo quiche recipe.

See More Trending Articles

More Whitetail

You can't always wait for the deer to come to you.Don't Just Sit There; Consider Making a Treestand Move Whitetail

Don't Just Sit There; Consider Making a Treestand Move

Tony Hansen - November 25, 2020

You can't always wait for the deer to come to you.

Follow these steps to find any deer you've hit, whether struck by bullet, slug or arrow.Field Skills: Deer Recovery Done Right Hunting How-To

Field Skills: Deer Recovery Done Right

Mark Kayser - November 24, 2020

Follow these steps to find any deer you've hit, whether struck by bullet, slug or arrow.

How to stay scent-free. Plus, three other tips for bowhunters this season.Get Cloaked for Stealthy Approach to Whitetail Hunting Whitetail

Get Cloaked for Stealthy Approach to Whitetail Hunting

Game & Fish Staff - November 06, 2020

How to stay scent-free. Plus, three other tips for bowhunters this season.

When it's cold and miserable, and the rut is pretty much done, it's still one of the best times of the deer season for a trophy.Late-Innings Whitetails: How to Rally for a Southern Giant Whitetail

Late-Innings Whitetails: How to Rally for a Southern Giant

Doug Howlett - November 24, 2020

When it's cold and miserable, and the rut is pretty much done, it's still one of the best...

See More Whitetail

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now