March 02, 2022
For whitetail fanatics, discovering prime habitat where mature buck numbers are high and hunting pressure is low is akin to finding the holy grail. After all, few such places exist, and the never-ending quest to discover them is what prompts countless bowhunters each year to purchase land, join leases, book outfitted hunts and trek deep into remote pockets of public ground.
T&C Hunt Club in Southeast Kansas is such a place, providing the fortunate few bowhunters who visit each fall an opportunity to pursue world-class whitetails on expertly managed habitat. Add in five-star accommodations, incredible fine dining and a host of other amenities, and you have an overall experience that is difficult to duplicate.
The T&C Story
As a bowhunter who lives in Pennsylvania — the state with the highest deer-hunter density in America — I know all too well the challenge of finding even a relatively unpressured piece of whitetail ground. In my part of the world, gaining exclusive access to even 50 acres of deer habitat can make you feel as though you’ve just won the lottery.
Needless to say, I was more than a bit intrigued when I discovered T&C Hunt Club at the NRA’s 2020 Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, Pa. Strolling through a large exhibition hall filled with outfitters from across the country, I was initially drawn to the T&C Hunt Club booth by the impressive taxidermy display of trophy bucks taken on club property. However, it was only after speaking with Operations Manager Tim Spehr that I realized what an incredible deer-hunting opportunity T&C offers.
For starters, the Club owns an incredible 10,000 acres in Bourbon and Crawford counties, an area well known for producing big antlers. Virtually all that land is within a short drive of the T&C lodge, with most parcels connecting in a patchwork that stretches for miles in every direction.
“In the rut, when a buck starts traveling, there’s not a piece of property you can sit on here where you might not see one of the deer we have on our trail cameras,” Spehr said.
In addition to a vast amount of acreage, that ground offers tremendous habitat diversity, from large agricultural fields planted with corn and soybeans to woodlots, CRP grasses and an extensive network of food plots. The Club also owns thousands of acres of what the locals refer to as “dump ground,” reclaimed coal strip mines revegetated with an extremely dense mix of hardwoods, cedars and brush that provides an almost impenetrable sanctuary for wary whitetails.
“I think the dump ground is the unheralded hero,” Spehr said. “It’s just so thick and woolly, there might be deer in there that have never seen a human.”
Scattered throughout Club properties are more than 100 hunting locations set up with a mix of ladder stands, hang-on stands, ground blinds and Redneck shooting houses. This ensures no one area gets overhunted, and there is always a good option available regardless of wind or weather.
As if all that were not enough to get my deer-hunting juices flowing, my ears really perked up when Spehr explained it is upland bird and waterfowl hunting — not whitetails — that attract the majority of T&C’s members. Because of that, the Club maintains vast acres of upland and marsh habitat, along with more than 600 acres of flooded corn, millet and timber. As an experienced deer hunter who knows how attractive such habitat is to mature bucks, I knew the potential of the T&C property is virtually endless. And as Spehr showed me an aerial map of the Club properties, I had no doubt the landscape harbored untold numbers of trophy whitetails.
Needless to say, it wasn’t long before I booked a hunt for early November.
An Exclusive Hunt
Although T&C was founded 25 years ago, the Club has placed more emphasis on deer management since Spehr’s arrival in 2016. An avid bowhunter himself, Spehr immediately recognized a unique opportunity created by the fact that wingshooting was, and is, the Club’s most popular activity.
Because deer hunting does not need to generate the majority of Club’s revenue, Spehr has the freedom to prioritize the quality of the hunting and limit the number of deer hunters to a relative handful each season.
“Deer hunting is very important to us, but it’s something we can do the way we want to do it,” he said. “We fully realize the potential of what we can have — if we treat it the right way and find the right hunters.”
Spehr also believes there are few deer-hunting destinations that can match T&C when it comes to the overall experience of spending a week at the Club. For example, Club members enjoy luxury five-star lodging, gourmet meals prepared daily by a Le Cordon Bleu trained chef and a host of other activities such as shotgunning at the Club’s trap house, complete with stadium lighting that allows for an after-dinner round of clays.
“We are looking for people who value the overall experience — not just the quality of the deer hunting, and hopefully harvesting a great, mature Kansas buck, but everything else that is rolled up into it,” Spehr said. “Your experience at T&C doesn’t start when we take you to the stand and stop when we pick you up from the hunt. It’s just beginning.”
Good As Advertised
The truth about outfitted hunts is that reality sometimes doesn’t live up to expectations. Thankfully, this was not the case at T&C. From the moment I arrived at the Club until the moment I left, the staff couldn’t have been more welcoming or eager to help, whether it was offering to prepare a personalized meal from the kitchen or loaning me a side by side to drive back and forth between the lodge and archery range. The Club also encourages members to treat its facilities as their own, taking advantage of multiple bars, TV lounges, outdoor fire pits and other amenities.
“We are rather exclusive, but we also are laid back about how we do things,” Spehr said. “We want people to feel at home.”
As for the hunting, well, I don’t think there’s a deer nut in America who wouldn’t relish the opportunity to climb into a stand at T&C. After arriving at the lodge and settling into my room on the afternoon of Nov. 1, I spent the evening driving back roads and glassed several bucks in the 140-160-inch range. Seeing is believing, and this was confirmation the area’s whitetail quality is as good as advertised.
Back at the lodge that evening, Spehr showed me numerous trail-cam images of great bucks living on Club ground, including a heavy-bodied, mainframe 8-pointer with several kickers and a double main beam on his right side. Needless to say, I was stoked to hit the woods the following morning!
Unfortunately, Mother Nature threw the hunt a major curveball in the form of a lingering warm front that moved in the next day and brought an entire week of temperatures in the mid-70s — roughly 15 degrees above average for early November. As bowhunters across the Midwest learned last year, such conditions result in a dramatic reduction in daylight deer movement. So, instead of enjoying the week of red-hot rutting action I had anticipated, I was forced to make the best of sporadic deer activity confined mainly to the first and last hour of shooting light.
I hunted hard all week and saw multiple deer each day, including several nice bucks that passed well out of bow range, but clearly the heat was making the biggest bucks in the area nocturnal. Given the challenging conditions, I was thrilled when, on the last morning of my hunt, a tall and wide 10-pointer showed up beneath my ladder stand, allowing me to head back East with antlers and venison rather than tag soup.
Later that morning, as I packed my gear and several coolers full of organic protein into my truck for the long drive home, I thanked Spehr, the deer guides and the chefs at the Club for a truly outstanding experience. I also made plans to return this November and do it all again. After all, with last year’s warm weather, many mature bucks survived to see another year and should be even bigger this fall. I am certain the folks at T&C Hunt Club will do their parts to ensure my success, and if Mother Nature cooperates just a little this time around, I am confident there’s a Kansas giant in my future!
Join the Club
T&C Hunt Club is located just off U.S. Highway 69, 13 miles south of Fort Scott, Kan., and 120 miles south of Kansas City International Airport. The Club is in Kansas Deer Management Unit 11. Non-resident deer permits are awarded through an annual lottery, with applications accepted each April and results announced shortly thereafter.
For more information about deer hunting at the Club, visit tandchuntclub.com or contact Operations Manager Tim Spehr (620-215-1157 or firstname.lastname@example.org).