Today we’ve got a Wired To Hunt reader success story that is a perfect representation of everything we talk about here on the blog. Justin got to know a deer over several years, he scouted hard, was careful about his timing, and hunted in the right places at the right times. In the end, all the hard work paid off. Take a look at this terrific story from Justin Klee, and then please join me in giving him a big congrats! – MK
By Justin Klee
Back in 2012 there was a buck that caught my eye throughout the summer. It was a beautiful 2.5 year-old seven pointer who came out past his ears. I knew he wasn’t what we were looking for in terms of harvesting a deer, but I knew that in a year or so he would be a stud of a buck. So after snapping several trail camera photos and getting summertime video footage of the deer, I knew the future looked bright for this buck. As the 2012 bow season came into full swing, I saw many nice bucks, but I had yet to lay eyes on the 2.5 year-old buck. I began to get nervous about whether the deer made it through the winter because I hadn’t seen him and didn’t have any trail camera pictures of him after the gun season. When March rolled around, I headed out to look for sheds; hoping to find some sign that the buck made it through the winter. I was lucky enough to find his left side which got me excited for the next season as he would be a 3.5 year-old and a deer I would possibly look to harvest.
The summer of 2013 was not very kind to me in terms of trail camera photos, I had an off year in terms of buck sightings, but I thought I had some early photos that I believed to be the now 3.5 year-old buck. Without much information in terms of how big or what this buck’s patterns were, I was basically blind going into the season. As I expected, I didn’t catch a glimpse of this ghost of a buck. I still had faith though that this buck was hanging around the property and would show his face eventually.
Jumping forward to this past summer, the summer of 2014, I had high hopes and was looking to be more dedicated to scouting than I ever had before. I started my scouting early in June by running some trail cameras to try and get a survey of the kind of bucks that were on the property. I wanted to let the cameras sit for at least three weeks to avoid disrupting the area too much and risk shifting any buck’s core area. As most hunters do, after a week, I became very anxious and couldn’t wait to see the kind of pictures I had gotten.
Instead of tromping around the property, I decided to scout the field from a distance. As I expected, a few doe and small bucks stumbled into the field, but what would happen next was not what I was expecting. One of the biggest bucks I have laid my eyes on stepped out. He was a mainframe seven point with a third main beam coming off the base of his right side. On top of that he had another point coming off of that third main beam. I was in awe of the sheer size and character of this beautiful buck. As the summer continued, I began to receive thousands of pictures of this buck and my girlfriend and I dubbed him the “Big Kahuna”. As I looked closer at the characteristics of the antlers, I began to realize he was the young buck I had been watching for the past two years. He definitely exploded in mass and character, which made him a mature 4.5 year-old buck.
The first week of October brought the beginning of bow season and along with it a journey. Throughout the beginning stages of the season and deep into the “lull”, sightings were few and far between. Being a college student I wasn’t able to get out at the best times to hunt, so I took whatever I could get. As October opened up to November, more deer began to show during daylight hours, although the “Big Kahuna” was nowhere to be seen.
That is not until the evening of November 13th. I had classes until noon that day and quickly raced home to grab all of my gear and head out to the stand. It was one of those days that just felt right, it was in the upper 20’s, calm, overcast, and a chance of some sleet later in the evening. All was calm until about three o’clock when I heard some crashing in the cedars to my right. Soon after, a doe sprinted across the trail below me five yards from the tree with her tongue out and panting heavily. I quickly grabbed my bow and prepared for a buck to come past. About two minutes later I heard more crashing and drew my bow because if it was going to happen, it was going to happen at five yards and very quick. No sooner was I fully drawn, three bucks came sprinting across the same trail the doe did. Leading the pack was the “Big Kahuna” followed by a basket-rack 8 point and a fork-horn. In my mind I knew this was it, the three year journey would finally come to a close. He was at a full sprint so I threw out a mouth grunt to try and stop him for a clean shot. The second the noise left my mouth, he planted his front legs and booked it straight away from me to about 35 yards through hard-hack. He eventually trotted off and out of my life, for the bow season would end two days later.
The gun season would open up after Thanksgiving, however due to school and finals I wouldn’t be able to make it out. The only other opportunity to harvest the “Big Kahuna” was the late bow season which would open up the day after Christmas. With me not being able to get out during gun season, it allowed the property to become a sanctuary where the deer would not be pressured and feel safe.
About a week before the late season opened, I decided to sit out and scout the field from a distance. I was lucky enough to spot the “Big Kahuna” making his way into the field about an hour before dark almost every day I went out. I noticed that he typically entered the field from two different trails, both of which were within the vicinity of one of the two stands we had hanging over the field. Looking over maps of the property and the patterns of the deer I decided to wait to hunt that stand until I had a north wind. On the 29th of December I got the conditions I needed to hunt the stand and attempt to harvest the “Big Kahuna”.
I headed out to the stand that afternoon early, I wanted to be there and set without disturbing the area. It wasn’t until 3:15 PM that I saw any sign of life. I saw a body making its way from the back of the property up towards the field, but didn’t come out to the field. Then at around 3:55 PM, the time when the “Big Kahuna” normally came into the field, I saw five bodies moving towards the field; all of which were doe. I watched them for a while and continued to look at where they came from hoping the “Big Kahuna” wasn’t far behind. He wasn’t showing up so I started to get a little frustrated, then all of a sudden all five doe lift their head and looked in my direction. I know I didn’t make a sound or move at all, so I took a closer look and saw they were looking just down the tree line from me. As soon as I noticed that, I heard what sounded like a deer chewing on some grass. I slowly began to turn to my left and then I spotted him, he was standing 30 yards away just behind a limb.
I needed him to take just two steps to come out from behind that limb. He began to take the steps I needed him to take, when he heard something across the field and turned his head. I slowly began to draw keeping in mind the five doe out in the middle of the field. With my bow drawn, he turned back and began taking the steps I needed him to make. I rested my 30 yard pin on his shoulder and squeezed. My arrow made contact and I was immediately overcome with emotion. Not only did I arrow my biggest buck to date, but I also ended the three year quest for the “Big Kahuna”!
– Justin Klee
For more of Justin’s story, check out his video compilation of the story of the “Big Kahuna”