Three for three on a memorable heartland hunt.
October has always been a very exciting time of the year for me. That's when the first cool winds of autumn blow through the heartland, ushering the stifling heat of an Oklahoma summer far away to some distant southern neighbor. It's football season, county fair time and Halloween is just around the corner.
Field Editor Eddie Claypool poses with his 2008 Kansas buck.
By early October, I will have recently returned from a Western bowhunt, and my appetite for adventure will be insatiable. It's time to exchange bugles for rattling antlers and days of backpacking for hours in a treestand. The realization that it's once again time to pursue whitetails -- the greatest quarry imaginable -- puts a pronounced bounce in my step. Visions of massive bucks ghosting through oak woods float through my head, and it becomes increasingly harder to focus on daily tasks.
So it was, once again, as October 2008 rolled around. There were grounds to be scouted, stands to be hung and schedules to coordinate. All this planning and effort would culminate in two to three weeks of dedicated November effort when my wife Peggie and I, along with our hunting buddy Travis Keith, would spend time trying to fill three Kansas deer tags with three big bucks!
Calm Before the Storm
In early October, Travis, Peggie and I began to make weekly junkets to our Kansas hunting area 200 miles distant. I'd secured permission for Travis to hunt on a piece of ground I'd been hunting for years, while Peggie and I would spend our time on another property less than a mile away. Hunting close to each other, while camping together at night, would make for an excellent adventure. We were all stoked about the days to come.
It's a good idea to keep a journal of your adventures. This will help you remember small details that can make you a better bowhunter in the future.
October slowly rolled by, and a few weekend hunts constituted most of our early-season effort. Plenty of does and small bucks were seen, though mature buck encounters were non-existent. As Halloween approached, everyone prepared for the party that was about to start. Soon it would be time for the studs of the whitetail world to appear, and we eagerly dreamed of a chance encounter with just such an animal.
Sitting in a treestand as freshly fallen leaves blanketed the late-October woods, I quietly pondered the tremendous amount of time, effort and money that would be exhausted by countless bowhunters across America in their quest for that "magic moment" -- those few seconds when they would lift their bow in an attempt to take a trophy. Certainly, this was a powerful, adrenaline-charged experience. But there was much more to it than that. Wasn't it really about time spent afield, the pursuit, and the solitude? As I pondered these questions, I realized just how blessed I've been to spend a large portion of my life outdoors.
I'd matured through many stages of growth as a bowhunter. I'd spent most of the last 30 years blasting full speed ahead on a self-satisfying binge to soak up everything nature had to offer. Now, at age 50, my conscience pricked me. I was beginning to enter into a new era of my outdoor life. It was time for me to be patient, considerate and giving to others. It was time to share some of my memories and experience things with others who shared the same bowhunting fire.
Travis Keith poses with his 2008 Kansas buck, which was taken at virtually the same time as Eddie Claypool's trophy and only about a mile away.
Snapping back to reality, I quietly watched as a 2€‰½ year-old buck made his way past my hide. Watching the buck glide away, I smiled inside as I realized how a guy could get lost in some deep thinking on a warm morning spent in a treestand. Life was good!
Getting The Party Started
Halloween found Peggie and I at home, handing out candy to all the little ghosts and goblins who had the nerve to visit our humble abode. Decorated like a freak show, our little home was certainly the talk of our neighborhood. Dressed as an axe-wielding monster -- sitting on my front porch amongst countless screaming, howling decorations -- I thoroughly enjoyed my role as "chief freak." Peggie, dressed as a witch, handed out treats to those brave enough to approach. When the evening festivities were over, I quickly changed clothes, jumped in my truck and headed for Kansas. Rolling along in the darkness, I marveled how a few hours would make such a difference. By daylight, I'd be in a peaceful, quiet treestand! Arriving in my hunting area at 10 p.m., I jumped into my pickup camper and slid into a sleeping bag.
Over the next few days, deer activity steadily increased. Clearly, the rut was starting to crank. Travis arrived Nov. 7, eager to begin his hardcore hunting session. Peggie would arrive a week later due to work responsibilities. Quickly putting our heads together, Travis and I decided it was time to get some bone on the ground!
Travis and I hunted hard, and action was plentiful, though sightings of older bucks were few and far between. Finally, on the morning of the 13th, my number came up. As 10 a.m. rolled around, I pulled out a sandwich and munched away. Spotting a nice buck heading my way, I stuffed the sandwich into a fork of the tree and prepared for action. Handling my Mathews bow, I stood still as the buck quickly strode into range. The buck wasn't a monster, but he was bigger than I cared to pass.
Coming to full draw, I quickly settled my top pin onto vitals and flipped the switch. He never made it out of sight. I climbed down, examined my trophy for a few minutes and headed back to camp. I was amazed to find Travis there, and from the look on his face, I knew something was up. In short order, he informed me that he also shot a good buck and likewise had already recovered it. The party had begun!
Grabbing cameras, Travis and I headed out for a day of celebration. Arriving at my buck, spirits were high. After "hero" pictures were taken, we quickly loaded my buck on the ATV and headed for camp. What a load! After unloading my prize, we jumped on the machine and hurriedly headed for Travis' buck. I was dying to see it! Pulling up to the fallen trophy, I was thrilled to see the buck wore impressive headgea
r. Travis was grinning from ear to ear, the sun was shining and we had big bucks down. Life couldn't get much better than this.
Shooting pictures while Travis recounted his story, I listened intently.
"I moved from one treestand to another around 8:30," he said. "I'd only been in the new stand about 15 minutes when I looked up and a nice buck was coming toward me from where I'd just walked in. I couldn't believe my luck. Grabbing my bow, I was ready in seconds, and the shot was off almost before I had time to even think about what I was doing. The buck was gone in a matter of seconds. I saw him go down about 100 yards away, in some thick brush. Not even sure what caliber of buck I'd just shot, I climbed down in record time and ran over to my trophy. I was more than happy with what I found. He's a beauty!"
As I looked at Travis' buck, I marveled at our good fortune -- from dreams to reality in a matter of minutes. Just like that, our whitetail seasons were over. I simply couldn't believe it. Peggie was going to freak out; her hunt hadn't even begun yet! Loading up our bucks, Travis and I made a beeline for Oklahoma. We had some bragging to do.
Icing On The Cake
Less than a day after getting home, Peg and I were back on the road to Kansas. This time, I would be the chief goof-off, while she did the hunting. Man, this was going to be hard on me.
I put Peggie in the best stands available, and she was into good action from the get-go. On the evening of the fifth day, Peg returned to camp with a big smile on her face.
"I'd just watched a giant buck follow a doe into a thicket about 80 yards away," she recounted. "Hearing something nearer, I looked behind me to find two does passing with a nice 8-pointer following them. Not being one to 'hold out,' I grabbed my bow and shot the 8-pointer immediately. He didn't even make it out of my sight before he expired! And, oh yeah, that big one I saw earlier had antlers as big as anything you've ever killed."
Hugging babe, complimenting her on her success, I could only shake my head in wonderment. Oh well, I guess it takes all kinds.