Most deer hunters don’t like hunting during hot weather. But when you have a deer moving in daylight, you have to hunt him, and that’s what Realtree United Country Land Pro Slade Priest did this past October.
Priest has been hunting this part of south-central Kansas for 13 years and is very familiar with area's big, wide-open sandhills, small tree rows, and sprawling wheat fields. Drilling down to the property he hunted this year, he had extensive history with one particular buck. It was already a big deer last year, but they didn’t kill him. This year, the buck blossomed into a 6 1/2-year-old stud and shot straight to the top of the target list.
On Oct. 12, Priest shot his bow, gathered his gear, and headed afield. Shortly after lunchtime, he and his cameraman, Luke “Bear Cub” Mitchell, walked to a top-producing treestand location. The spot was unpressured, and this was the first sit of the year for that area.
“It was extremely hot, but there was a front coming in the next day,” Priest says. “It had that barometric pressure moving a little bit.” From the stand, they could see in all directions. Their honey hole is a tree row that runs east to west, with a wheat field to the north and sand hills to the south.
“We weren’t even planning on hunting, but we watched our cameras,” Priest says. “All things were staying the same. The weather had not changed yet, and this deer had been consistent. So, we eased in there.”
Deer movement started late, typical of a hot afternoon hunt. But once the action began, it was textbook. First, a spike eased past the stand. Then a doe. After that, two young bucks — both 2 to 3 years old — walked into view and milled around. The next deer was the target buck. It snuck up on them.
“Even though that country is so wide open, we didn’t see that deer at 40 yards,” Priest says. “But when I saw him out of the corner of my eye, it was no doubt — shooter.”
After several tense seconds, the deer offered a slight-quartering-to shot opportunity. Priest hovered his 30-yard pin on the vitals and let an arrow fly. The buck kicked, ran off a few yards, and then stopped for a few minutes. They watched the buck walk about 500 yards before it eventually stepped out of view.
“I didn’t notice how far back the near-side shoulder was,” Priest says.
His arrow struck the deer 2 inches behind the shoulder, but the near-side leg was back. In fact, it was 6 inches back of center, effectively covering most of the vitals.
Fearing the arrow had hit only one lung and the liver, they decided to wait overnight. The next morning, right before sunrise, they got out and listened for coyotes.
“There’s such an issue out there when a deer lays overnight,” Priest says. “But there were no coyotes howling, which was extremely strange. However, there is an irrigation system where the deer headed, and we knew he likely made it to that water.”
After several hours of searching, they finally found blood. An hour later, they jumped the buck from his bed on the edge of the water, and Priest finished the job with another arrow.
While Priest was certainly upset about the shot, it sometimes happens, and he was able to follow up with a lethal second arrow. As for the deer ... it was huge.
“These deer grow on the ground,” Priest says. “They’re such big animals. This deer weighed a little over 300 pounds. You’re looking at it, and you’re like, this is an impressive deer. We thought he’d be in the high 160s, but it was in the high 170s instead. Their heads, legs, and bodies are bigger. So, a deer that normally looks 16 inches wide might be 18 inches.”
With three drop tines, the buck stretched the tape to 178 inches. You can watch the hunt on Realtree 365.
Article by Josh Honeycutt
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