John Kraft is another hardcore young hunter I met down at the QDMA Deer Steward Course this year, and when I met him he was actually working towards a degree in the wildlife management field. After chatting with him a bit, I immediately could tell he had a great passion for the outdoors and some serious deer hunting chops. The perfect combination of attributes, in my opinion, for someone working on behalf of our natural resources! That being said, after putting in a lot of hard work over the off season this year, it all finally paid off with a dandy whitetail. Congrats again to John, and I look forward to seeing what he can achieve with his degree down the road! – MK

“The story of my 2011 deer season began in early February, just like countless hunters across the whitetail’s range. Only after I invested endless hours researching, attending the Quality Deer Management Association’s (QDMA) Deer Steward I management course, tending to food plots, running trail cameras, and scouting for the upcoming season was I finally able to enjoy the first cool morning watching the sun arise from the comforts and pleasures of a tree stand.

The first two weeks of the season presented several heart pounding excitements, as well as disappointments. On the 1st of October I was blessed with the presence of a familiar mature buck that I named “Splitter.” The buck gave me a mere chip shot at 20 yards, but the arrow connected high, just above the lungs. I made the mistake of adjusting my pins the night before and completely forgot to snug the sight back up when I was done. Unfortunately, the rest was bumped either on the way to the stand or during the truck ride home and resulted in the pin shooting high about 8 inches. My father and I trailed the deer for a good 600 yards but the blood trail eventually ran dry and my hopes of my largest bow kill to date disappeared faster than they appeared. The month of October came and went with no sightings of “Splitter” and very few encounters with any mature bucks for that matter. However, with the fast approaching fall weather and the rut, I knew that if I stayed diligent and steadfast my time in the woods would eventually pay off.

Earlier in the fall I planted a small hidey hole food plot on the edge of a major doe bedding area with the hopes of attracting a few does and the possibility of a cruising mature buck during the rut. I placed a trail camera on the edge of the plot the last week in October and was surprised to find two unfamiliar mature bucks cruising by regularly. An added bonus to the spot was the presence of water in the creek nearby which is a growing scarcity in Eastern Kansas. I knew when the wind was right and with the right weather pattern I would find myself face to face with one of these new mature bucks soon! After hunting the stand a couple times without much success I was considering changing my game plan. On the morning of November 7, I approached the stand an hour before sunlight. As I sat in the dark, trail camera images and hopes of a successful morning raced through my mind. With the rising light and growing east wind came a doe and fawn into the brassica and winter pea plot. The pair ate for around 30 minutes and left exactly the way they came. It was now around 8 a.m. and with my hopes quickly fading I decided to sit down in the stand. Not five seconds after I decided to take a seat a couple familiar faces came sprinting into the plot from the northeast. I had watched this doe and her two fawns all summer and fall. I truly enjoy getting to know all the deer in the area and not just the bucks I want on the wall. With the growing coyote numbers around home and the several encounters in the tree stand watching deer being chased by these pesky carnivores I assumed that there would be  a coyote close on their tails.  Much to my surprise though, the doe and her fawns parked themselves 15 yards in front of my tree and began to forage. The deer couldn’t have a coyote close behind for they were way too calm. My mind immediately searched for an answer for the hasty movement of the doe. DUH!! The answer was right in front of me. There had to be a buck pushing this doe and hopefully he would be close behind.

As I searched the timber in front of me I spotted movement 80 yards out. I quickly  reached for the binoculars, as the deer was coming in fast. Through the glass I identified the buck as the main frame 10 that had been gracing my trail camera pictures for the last week. My brain went into hyper drive as I searched for an opportunity to stand and get into position. With the doe right below me my options were limited. As the buck came closer I realized I would have to improvise and find a way to get into position while sitting. Luckily, I had my bow in my lap and with the bruiser at 40 yards I shifted into a manageable position. Thump! Thump! That pesky doe spotted me! I’m done for now I thought. As the doe and her two fawns circled downwind of my stand the buck stopped at 30 yards and stared directly at me. I might as well thrown in the towel now right? As I stared into the eyes of the deer to my left I was frozen with no options but to hold tight and hope for an opportunity to draw. My heart rate eased when the buck decided to keep traveling towards the plot. The doe was still right behind me at 10 yards attentive as ever. As the buck approached the stand I searched for an opening to raise my bow and draw. The buck stopped right in front of the stand at 5 yards, but with a relatively short stand I still hadn’t found an opportunity. As the buck slowly looked north and away from my stand I slowly raised my bow and began to draw.

As soon as I felt the let off of the bow I heard the sound of my worst enemy. With the doe blowing frantically behind me I quickly lined up the pin and squeezed off the shot. The shot was perfect. The deer was quartering away and the arrow plowed through both lungs and lodged itself in the opposite scapula of my target. As I watched closely, my largest bow kill to date expired not 50 yards from the stand and within sight. As I let out my excitement and an overwhelming weight was lifted off my chest, I tried to steady my knees so I could climb down from the stand and get my hands on the object of my frustration. The buck scored out at 157 ¼ gross and was a trophy in every sense of the word in my mind.

The excitement of harvesting a mature whitetail buck with a bow is an emotion that captivates me in every way, and I’m sure that every bow hunter with a successful notch on their belt can witness to that. Hunting is a privilege that not everybody can enjoy and it’s no secret that there are constant forces trying to take that privilege away. I write this story with the hopes of sharing my excitement and enjoyment with those that do not realize how fulfilling the outdoors can be. Our job as hunters includes the passing of stories and experiences to others in order to preserve one of America’s pastimes. I encourage everyone to share an exciting experience in the outdoors to ensure that the hunters of the future can be infected with the same sickness that we all enjoy and live for.” – John Kraft