As stated in my pre-season write up, I had looked forward to this season more than any I could remember. My preparation and accumulation of quality gear were at all time highs, and I'd spent more time scouting/shooting than ever.
The season began a little later than originally hoped, with a Kansas antelope hunt in late September. As usual the goats were rutting hard and hunting was even harder. I used about every tactic in the book to try for a large buck I'd known for the past two seasons. As they say, he didn't get that big because he was stupid.
Four plus days had been planned to get the job done, but it was becoming evident early on that killing the big buck would likely take a miracle. He was being pressured by more young bucks, arrow flingers, and amused passers-by than was ideal for a quality chance at a kill. On my second morning, while making my way towards the primary buck, I stumbled on a 12" satellite buck that had been stealing does and breeding them while the big one was occupied with others. He and I had the same idea, so I quickly hustled to a yucca covered hillside and popped up the Heads Up within 150 yards or so. The buck was a little leery, though primarily ticked off. He stomped his way to 50 yards and as I drew he jumped back about 5 yards or so giving my a broadside shot. As I released he tore off unscathed before my arrow even hit the dirt. A couple more attempts at the large buck yielded nothing encouraging, and he was eventually pushed off the property I was hunting and held on another by a group of pickups. Discouraged I quickly changed gears and headed off to another spot.
On the way I passed a group with a medium sized buck I had missed the year prior. I knew he was plenty mature as he had held this large group of does for at least two years and probably even longer I believed. A quick stalk to the edge of some abandoned corn, where the buck and his harem of 13 slept about 120 yards out led to a long sit. An hour and a half later a few of his does happened to feed my way. The decoy was at my side, but I was fearful the does would pick me off before the buck got a chance to investigate. These were some wise old fat does I wasn't about to try to outsmart. Thus I waited and finally got a chance at the buck. The first arrow was inches low at 50. He hopped up confused, and offered another attempt at 65. This one found its mark and a quick 300yd dash later he face planted in some wheat stubble. Another perfect KS antelope season was complete, my third in a row.
Instantly my focus switched to big northwest Kansas mulies. I'd seen some beautiful bucks over the summer and hoped to match or exceed my first mule deer, taken the year prior. After helping a buddy kill a great buck in muzzleloader season, I immediately jumped into it. I knew the best way to find and kill a big buck was to actually get out and cover some ground. And cover ground I did. For as dry as it was this year harvest seemed to drag on forever. Big deer were invisible. The first three weeks of October held little promise. However, finally much of the crops had been taken out and little by little mature deer began to appear. With time dwindling before a move and job change I hit it as hard as possible the last week of October. In little more than a day or two the switch flipped on the muley activity. On the 28th I followed a large buck in to some deep canyons, but had to pass when I found he'd already busted of a whole fork, likely 20-25" on a deer of that caliber. Minutes later I was 150 yards from a big bodied 4x4 in some standing milo. I stuck the muley doe decoy into the bow bracket and raised my bow high above my head. He spotted her instantly. Without hesitation he came on a string and gave me about 5 seconds at a 15 yard broadside shot. The buck had small forks and barely reached his ear tips in width, so he lived to see another day.
The following morning found me in another spot full of canyons and crp surrounded by crop ground. I had know of some large deer to come out of the area, but had yet to lay my eyes on one since season began. As luck would have it, one of the biggest deer I'd ever laid eyes on to date happened to appear out of some crp terraces that morning. He had a group of 25+ does and bucks within 200 yards of him as I observed his morning feeding, but paid little to no attention to any of them. With decoy in hand I decided it best to attempt a stalk and get a shot off undetected. After bouncing yucca to yucca for what seemed like forever I finally got my chance. He circled back for a broadside look and I punched one through the rear of his shoulder. He was hurt badly and made a quick dash down into the canyons. After a couple attempts he finally put himself in a good position for a finisher. I was without a buck tag heading in to November for the first time ever, but who am I to complain?