A welcome weekend cold snap gets bucks on their feet again in north-central Kansas.
Unusually high fall temps experienced by most locales throughout the nation had made for some tough whitetail rut hunting this week in north-central Kansas, but thankfully, a week-ending cold snap got the local bucks moving again. That was the story in and around Glen Elder, the home of Rader Lodge, a semi-guided operation run by veteran whitetailer Jeff Rader.
As mentioned previously, Team HuntStand arrived in camp last Sunday and began bowhunting Monday, and promising sign was seemingly everywhere. The hope was the incredible daytime deer movement would continue; the week previous, a total of 9 of 11 hunters had punched their Kansas tags, and everyone had seen plenty of buck action. When I came across the monster rub you see above on my first day in the field, expectations for another great week of Kansas hunting were high.
Despite a continuing trend of unusually warm temps that no doubt were plaguing many areas of the nation, the first few days of Team HuntStand’s Kansas hunt saw a surprising amount of daytime buck activity, which just goes to show the true power of the whitetail rut. With daytime highs in the high 60s and low 70s prevailing, most everyone in camp was seeing a good amount of deer activity, although bowhunting-close encounters remained elusive. For this bowhunter, running into a shooter buck seemed only a matter of time, and my confidence was soaring.
On Wednesday morning about 8:30 a.m., I was lucky enough to have an encounter with a true Kansas giant of a buck. The site was an isolated cedar filled draw situated in a virtual sea of wide-open CRP that looked much more like the ideal pheasant habitat that it is. But make no mistake, Kansas deer love those wide-open spaces too, and scrapes and rubs were everywhere in the cedar draw. I’d used a Primos Can call to bleat that impressive buck into bow range, but the bruiser caught my wind just at the last second and spooked. Close but no cigar. The buck had approached from the left side and had largely been shielded by brush, and I never did get a great look at its headgear; what I remember most is a tall white rack and, just at the last second, a glimpse of at least one broken tine. Instantly I knew I was looking at a buck at least 4.5 years old; Kansas was once again showing me its many-tined treasures.
Bowhunting for whitetails is often a mind game that will test you on many levels, and now, somewhat predictably, I had a conundrum on my hands. After spooking the Kansas giant my confidence in the cedar draw stand had waned, and it was time for a little more scouting. The neat thing about Rader Lodge is that its hunts are “semi-guided,” meaning you’ll be given access to a leased property that holds several established stand sites. But you can also bring your own stands and set up where you choose. For someone who enjoys setting his own stands that type of freedom and flexibility is a breath of fresh air. So I decided to take advantage. After consulting aerial views of the area with my HuntStand app, a brief midday scouting trip to an area of the lease where Jeff Rader had informed me no established stands existed soon turned up a promising draw. Actually, “promising” is an understatement. Closer inspection found the draw was literally lined with big buck sign (the sizable rub pictured above was merely one of many). I knew I needed to hunt this new area some way, some how, and soon was hiking back to my truck for a hang-on and some climbing sticks.
That first evening hanging in my new stand, I had what looked to be a nice buck almost climb into my lap. True story. With the stand situated just downslope from a steep cedar bedding area, I first glimpsed the buck’s legs through the cedars, then its ivory rack. The buck was within 15 yards but mostly obscured; I hadn’t counted on that angle of approach. As I was reaching for my bow the buck spooked, and I wasn’t sure if he’d seen or smelled me. At that range, it could have either. Or both.
The next morning, with a cold front settling in, I was back in the newly hung stand, and even with bitter winds whipping the action didn’t take long to start. About 7:30 a.m. a buck burst from the dense cedars to my left, then trotted down into the draw and then up the opposite side, moving quickly out of range. No! When the buck paused I grabbed my Primos Can and produced a quick bleat. At the familiar “Meeahhh” the buck snapped his head my way. This is good, I thought, as the buck instantly turned, seemingly to survey its best path back down into the draw. One more bleat, and he was on his way…angling right to the base of my tree! At full draw now, I waited until the buck was at 10 yards, and released. The buck charged off, but even in the early morning gloom, shrouded by dark clouds, I could see my arrow below, covered in bright red blood.
The shot proved deadly indeed, and it wasn’t long before I was following a steady blood trail that—for once—was leading back along my morning entrance trail. Minutes later I was standing over a beautiful Kansas buck complete with dual bladed G2s, and the left, featuring a cool little “crab claw” fork. A buck with some character. I was one happy bowhunter.
The power of the new Kansas cold front was real; the next morning Mississippi bowhunter Justin Garner scored on another Kansas beauty, while hunting on another Rader property. Garner, as well, had taken advantage of the option to set his own stand; he’d noticed deer moving through a funnel area and had used his climbing stand to set up a good-looking ambush. That morning, with cold winds howling, Garner was actually getting ready to climb down and take a break, when he heard a deer coming as he was preparing to lower his bow on his tow rope, about 10:45 a.m. A few quick adjustments and Garner was soon at full draw; he’d soon find his Kansas trophy just 30 yards away.
Looking to waylay a Kansas buck of your own? A trip to Rader Lodge to sample its semi-guided hunting comes highly recommended. Don’t forget your grunt and bleat calls, and a favorite hang-on or climbing stand or two, and of course, your smartphone loaded with the HuntStand app. All can be invaluable when looking to score during the very best time of the year…when the calendar turns to the magical month of November, and the Kansas bucks are once again running wild.