Editor’s Note: Mark Watson from Portland, Kansas, explains, “This big buck had been on two different properties that we had permission to hunt. One of the properties was 160 acres, and 1/2-mile away was another 120-acre property. My brother, Rob, and I hunted this big buck for over three years. Over the three years, we got more than 2,000 trail camera pictures of this buck on both properties. I remember the first time I saw this buck on my trail camera pictures I said, “Oh, my goodness!” My brother Rob, who was paralyzed from the waist down from a spinal-cord injury at age 17, said “what is it?” I held the computer screen up, so he could see it and he said, “Oh my goodness!” After that we got really serious about our hunting for this buck.
Rob still loves to deer hunt, and I really enjoy going with him. In 2018, we had permission from the farmer of the land we hunt to use a zero-turn mower to cut a trail through the corn to a ground blind, where my brother could hunt. He has a Trackchair (http://actiontrackchair.com/) that has treads on it similar to a tank, which allows him to go almost anywhere he wants to go. So, with his Trackchair and ground blind, we made a good stand for him to hunt. The farmer said, “I think it’s almost sacrilegious to cut down corn before it bears a crop,” but I paid the farmer for the corn that we cut down, so my brother could hunt too.
The day I finally harvested this buck, was the only time I had seen him during daylight hours. Everything else was on the nighttime trail cameras. The buck scored 300 3/8-inches, and he was shot with a .270 caliber rifle at 70 yards. One time, my younger brother saw this buck fighting another buck, but he couldn’t get a shot at hi m. We saw him again at night when he walked across the road in front of us.
During the summer months, he wasn’t nocturnal, because we had really-good daylight pictures of him. But around mid-September, he would become nocturnal and remain that way until the rut hit. My brother, another hunter who hunted with us, and I decided not to go into the woods where we had trail-camera pictures of this buck to do any shed hunting or turkey hunting. We wanted these two properties to remain a sanctuary for this deer, until we could harvest him, or he died of natural causes. Although we put out mineral blocks every year, we chose not to create a green field because there were soybeans and corn crops on all sides of these properties.
On December 2, 2018, there was some snow coming down. The weather was about 40 degrees – cool but not cold. About an hour before dark, I heard a rifle shot about 1/4-mile from me, and my heart sank. I thought, “I hope another hunter hasn’t taken the big buck.” A few minutes later, I had a large 10-pointer step out of the woods, and he was acting really nervous. So, I thought the other big dear might be behind him. The 10-point came to within 10 yards of my stand before whirling and taking off. Then a doe came out of the woods, and our huge buck was right behind her. He walked right across my shooting lane, turned and faced me. This wasn’t a shot I wanted to take, but this was the only time I’d seen this buck during daylight hours. I aimed at the center of the buck’s chest when the buck was at 70 yards. I had spent a lot time sighting my rifle in and wouldn’t have hesitated to take a 300-yard shot with that gun. That’s why I didn’t hesitate to take a 70-yard shot with the buck facing me.
After the shot, the buck spun to his right and went over a little hill. I couldn’t see him anymore. The doe went about 10 yards, stopped, turned around and looked back. Ten seconds later, the big 10-point buck that I’d seen earlier, came out of the woods and bred the doe. When the buck and the doe left, I pulled out my cellphone and called my hunting buddy, who was about 30-minutes away. “I shot the big buck,” I told him. “Dark is going to fall in about 45 minutes, so I’m only staying in my stand about 10 more minutes. Then I’ll go and look for him because if I have to shoot the buck again, I want to make sure I have good light and can see well enough to shoot.”
Once I reached the little knoll the buck went over, I spotted a deer down on the ground, but I couldn’t see any antlers. My mind started going crazy. I kept thinking, “I know I shot the buck; I know I shot the buck.” Finally, about 40 yards from my buck, I saw one antler. When the buck fell, one antler went under the log and the other went over the log. The buck also broke his nose when he fell. Then I start doing a crazy dance out in the middle of the woods. I was happy all over.
This buck was the biggest deer I ever had seen in my life. I called my brother, another friend of mine and the farmer who owned the land. My brother posted on social media, “My brother took the big buck.” Another one of our hunters came through the woods to see the deer and help us get him out of the woods.
We loaded the huge buck in a four-wheeler Rhino, took him over to the farm shop, field dressed him and let him hang. Then I called the game warden. I told the game warden, “I think I shot a buck that’s going to be the new state record, if not world record.” The game warden said, “I can’t get there tonight, but I’ll be there first thing in the morning before you cape him. I’ll bring one of our wildlife biologists with me.”
I thought the buck would be at least a Kansas state record. But the new state record had a rack with 1-inch more antler than my buck did. After the buck was verified, we had him caped out. We planned to have replicas made of his antlers because the landowner wanted a mount of the buck’s antlers, and my brother wanted one as well. My brother and I both had hunted that deer hard, and he played a major role in my finally taking the buck. After we caped the deer out, a gentleman called the taxidermist and told him he had the shed antlers of this buck, so I was actually able to obtain the sheds of this buck from the year before.
To learn more about hunting deer, check out John E. Phillips’ book, “How to Hunt and Take Big Buck Deer on Small Properties,” available in Kindle, print and Audible versions at (http://amzn.to/1vIcj4m). If necessary, copy and paste this link into your browser.
Tomorrow: The Hunt for the Megatron Deer with Jody Franken