If you enjoyed Episodes #62 and #159 of the Wired To Hunt Podcast with John Eberhart, you’re in for a treat. Over recent weeks, we’ve been sharing a number of John’s successful kill stories here on Wired To Hunt and we’re back with more today. Here we’ve got John’s story of his 2013 trip to hunt Kansas with his son Jon and friend Bryan. The three of them impressively filled all of their tags, and here John details exactly how it all happened. – MK
By John Eberhart
When it comes to deer hunting I love listening to the excitement level of a hunting story told by another hunter far more than telling one of my own. Listening to hunters start by describing their seasonal trials and tribulations is interesting and is sometimes a learning moment for me as they may describe a successful hunting scenario I’m unfamiliar with.
Then as the shot opportunity moment approaches their excitement level rises and without thought, heavy voice inflections are used to emphasize the special moments leading up to and including the final moments.
If the hunt was successful, which is typically the case when a story is told, their eyes light up with elation as they scroll their cell phone’s gallery of pictures for verification. Sometimes however, the hunt or recovery was unsuccessful and a sense of intense disappointment and defeat is obvious in their voice. Even unsuccessful hunts are interesting though, as hunters are supposed to and usually do learn from their failures.
There is nothing else in bowhunting that peaks my self-gratification level more than the taking of a record book buck in my home state of Michigan due to the intense competition from other hunters. In fact, statistically in Michigan, on average each year only one out of every 3,647 licensed bowhunters enters a Pope & Young buck in the record book. To put that in perspective, if 91 bowhunters hunted for 40 full seasons each, statistically only one of them would enter a 125 inch buck into the Pope & Young record book during his lifetime (*source of license sales: Archery Business /Trade News *source of Pope & Young entries: Pope & Young Club 26th recording period statistical summary book).
Of course there are several other states with similar hunting pressure and statistics.
While I love the intense challenges of hunting heavily pressured bucks in Michigan, when I get a chance to go out of state on a short term hunt I obviously go to states with minimal pressure where there are lots of big bucks and they are relatively easy to pattern and kill.
Due to the sheer numbers of mature bucks, the kill criteria on the knock-on-doors-for-free-permission-properties and free walk-on properties we hunt have climbed to the 150 inch level and drops to 140 later in the week. For one week hunts in areas we haven’t been in for the previous 51 weeks those criteria level seems almost unrealistic to most Upper Midwest and Northeastern bowhunters that have never hunted in states like Illinois, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska to name a few.
The Kansas Trip
In 2013 our group trip would be to Kansas and as always we drove all night (two vehicles) and arrived just before daybreak so we could drop off our loaded trailer at the house we rented and then spend the entire day scouting and preparing locations.
Nothing had changed as every primary scrape area we hunted the year before was again active. By the end of the first day we had prepared seven locations and the second morning we slept in until 8:00 am to catch up on some much needed rest and then we hit it again and set up four more locations before cleaning up and hunting that evening.
Of the eleven locations, nine were at active scrape areas and the other two in pinch points of transition cover. Three of the locations had Lone Wolf hang-on stands for Bryan and the other eight were set-up for the sling harnesses my son Jon and I use.
We set up motion cameras at all eleven locations and what’s interesting about low hunting pressure areas is that human intrusions at hunting destination locations don’t affect the daytime movement habits of the mature bucks. That is definitely not the case back home in pressured areas where any pre or in-season human intrusion at a hunting location can cause severe alterations in mature buck daytime activity. To say it’s another world from just about every hunting perspective to what we’re used to back home, would be a gross understatement.
Jon was the first to draw blood when on the second morning hunt he took a perfectly symmetrical 140 inch 10 point. The buck came in right at first light to one of the primary scrape areas and Jon made a perfect shot and watched the 10 point expire within sight. When we checked the camera’s SD card it showed the buck working the scrape the evening prior and also showed him moments before Jon took the shot.
On a 20 acre parcel we had passed over the previous year, we found a primary scrape area but had difficulty finding a suitable tree. There were huge trees along two of the runways that fed into the scrape area, but the only tree within shooting distance of the entire small destination scrape area was a short, leafless locust covered with clumps of long two to six inch thorns.
It took me over an hour just to hatchet off the clumps of thorns, but it was the only tree that made sense. The locust was only 10 yards from the scrapes and in it we hung a stand a mere 12 feet off the ground. A deer at the scrapes would basically be in Bryan’s lap and his scent control regimen at this location would be critical.
Even for Kansas, this set-up was so low, so exposed and so close to the scrapes that all three of us had doubts as to whether an opportunity could be capitalized on. In a pressured area there would have been no way we would have set-up in the locust because getting picked would be nearly 99.99% guaranteed.
After a couple days we checked the camera and it showed two 150 inch plus bucks visiting the scrape area with regularity. Since Bryan was the tree stand guy he hunted it and scored the first evening.
As the buck was coming in from behind the tree through some tall weeds, Bryan said the buck became a bit leery and stopped at about 16 yards to Bryan’s right and Bryan is right handed. When the buck turned his head away to look at a truck going down the road, Bryan twisted around in an attempt to find an opening to shoot through. We hadn’t cleared out anything for a shot anywhere other than at the scrape area because we wanted to leave whatever concealment cover that was in the leafless locust.
Bryan located a small opening a bit low and back on the buck, and took the shot through the branches. The arrow entered exactly where he aimed and Bryan watched as the buck ran into some distant plum brush. He decided it would be best to leave him overnight and after my hunt the next morning we found the 150 plus inch 13 point in a nearby picked Milo field. He had only went about 150 yards and he was one of the two bucks we had on camera.
Now I was on my own and Jon and Bryan were able to coyote hunt, fill their doe tags and basically run the roads. I had already passed on several 130 inch bucks and as the week was winding down I was considering lowering my kill criteria.
Jon had previously sat in the tree I would hunt next in an unsuccessful attempt to take a doe. Our camera at this location showed a weird antlered buck that wouldn’t score well, but was unique enough to consider taking.
It was a small primary scrape area located at the end of a long draw that meandered through the section. To the east of the draw was a short green field, to the west was a picked milo field and to the north was a pasture with two huge bulls in it and its makeup consisted of tall weeds, sparse trees, and a small pond. About 20 yards north of the scrape area and running east and west was the four strand barbwire pasture fence.
The first deer to visit was a four point and he came in and worked an overhanging licking branch and then moved towards the green field. Next was a mature doe that crossed the milo field and passed just south of me towards the green field.
Then it got quiet for a while. I wasn’t really paying a lot of attention to the north as I doubted a buck would show from the pasture area where the bulls were, but I was wrong.
I have no clue exactly where he came from, but all of a sudden there was a huge buck slowly walking along the opposite side of the barbwire fence to the north. While keeping focused on his every movement, I moved around the tree in my sling. At the same time I was ready he stopped directly north of me facing the scrape area with his head over the top wire.
I counted nine long points and patiently waited for him to make his next move. My initial assumption was that he would jump the fence and come in and work a scrape, but then I thought, we didn’t have any night or day pictures of this buck. He definitely knew the scrape area was there, but he hadn’t worked any of the scrapes in the five days the camera was there.
With head over the top wire he nose-curled several times to scent check the scrapes that were directly upwind of him. My scent control regiment is such that I never pay attention to wind direction and had no concerns with him winding me.
With nothing arousing his testosterone driven curiosity, he turned broadside and slowly continued down the fence and that was his last mistake.
At a distance of 22 yards the gap between the top 2 wires perfectly framed his vitals. While at full draw I made a vocal doe bleat to stop him and took the shot with my 57 pound Mathews Conquest bow. The Maxima Hunter arrow tipped with a G-5 T3 head found its mark and I watched him run about 80 yards through the pasture before disappearing behind some brush.
After mentally marking his last sighting with an easily identifiable landmark, I slowly packed up my stuff and descended the tree. While always keeping track of the two bedded bulls, I took my time searching for my arrow at the shot sight and then along the route he took without finding it. During the process I saw some blood, but without an exit hole I never expected to find very much.
Since daylight was beginning to wane and at least half an hour had passed since taking the shot, I began searching beyond the last point I saw him. There was a narrow dry creek bed in the direction he went and it had a runway along it that was lined with active scrapes.
I hadn’t gone far before sighting the white belly of the buck in front of me. The beautiful 9 point had expired on the runway and as always when out of state I checked to make sure there weren’t any broken tines. There are so many mature bucks and they compete so fiercely for breeding rights, that no matter how big the buck, broken antlers are extremely common. Nothing was broken and his brow tines uniquely bent over at the top to form the shape of a heart.
I called the guys to inform them that all we had to do now was finish filling the doe permits, which we did.
We feel extremely fortunate to be able to afford and have the time to hunt out of state, but make no mistake about it, Bryan, my son Jon and me are very aware that our hunting credibility and skill levels should never be based on or attributed to the big bucks we take in lightly hunted states, because it’s not that difficult.
Editors note: John Eberhart is an accomplished bow-hunter that specializes in heavily pressured areas with 29 bucks listed in CBM’s record book from 19 different properties in 10 different counties. John produced a 3 volume instructional DVD series titled “Bowhunting Pressured Whitetails” and co-authored the books, “Bowhunting Pressured Whitetails”, “Precision Bowhunting”, and “Bowhunting Whitetails the Eberhart Way”. They are available at www.deer-john.net, where you’ll also find information about his new whitetail workshops.