By Lisa L. Price
The mail for which this postman waits bears no stamps.
It wasn’t until Ryan Holthaus hung his newly mounted 19-pointer on the wall, right next to the 120-inch buck that was his first bowkill, that he realized just how big a deer he arrowed with his new Mathews bow last year in Osage County, Kan.
Even though he knew the numbers, seeing the stark difference between the two trophies was believing.
“It’s my brother, Shawn, who studies the big bucks, who can score the rack of a deer on the hoof, who really pays attention to those things,” Ryan admitted. “I didn’t realize how impressive mine was until I saw it right next to the other one.”
Shawn is like a big buck barometer. He always calls Ryan to tell him about the nice whitetails his trail cameras photograph. It was his enthusiasm that pushed Ryan into parking his butt in a stand after a long day of delivering mail on a rural route.
This is the way it happens every year. Shawn e-mails trail cam photographs to Ryan and encourages him to get out in the woods. The brothers’ stands are about a half-mile apart. Inevitably, the bucks Shawn gets on camera near his stand show up at Ryan’s.
“I keep shooting the deer he sees,” Ryan said.
Although he constantly watches for and sees a lot of bucks while driving his mail route, they just don’t light his fire like his brother’s e-mails and telephone calls do.
“My brother had just sent pictures of another big 8-pointer, and then he called to see if I wanted to go,” Ryan said. “He figured that since it had been photographed near his stand, I’d end up shooting it from mine. He’d already shot an 8-pointer, so he said he’d be waiting for my text.”
Ryan’s stand, a 12-foot ladder, has been in the same spot for years. It’s near the edge of a field, where deer leave the woods using the cover of a low, overhanging branch.
Soon after climbing his ladder on Oct. 17, Ryan saw a small buck and used his rangefinder to check the distance. A short time later, a couple of does and two yearlings came onto the field.
“I’d hunted that stand about five times that season, and I’d always seen the same group of does and fawns,” he said. “Then another big deer came out, but I could see only the bottom half of its body because the rest was covered by the overhanging limb.”
Ryan pulled out his binoculars for a better look, but could see only legs until the buck lowered its head to sniff the ground.
“I saw just the right side of its antlers, but that was enough. I knew it was the biggest rack I’d ever seen,” Ryan said. “I put the binoculars down and picked up my bow.
“When it came out, it was 23 yards away and walking, and I was thinking: Stop ... stop ... stop,” Ryan said. “I was at full draw, debating over which pin to use, when I squeezed off the shot. It came as such a surprise that I didn’t even see where the arrow went.”
The buck vanished afterward.
“I thought I’d missed it,” Ryan said. “I texted Shawn that I’d shot at a great big one.”
While daylight was fading, he got down and started looking for blood and his arrow.
“I didn’t have a flashlight,” Ryan said. “I was so hoping to find blood, I was using my cell phone’s flash to illuminate things. Somehow, I actually found a spot that way.
“I’d light up an area, and then move,” he continued. “Then, all of a sudden, I took a picture that had my arrow in it, with lots of blood around it.”
Shawn arrived shortly after that, and they decided to wait about an hour before pursuing the buck any farther. When they resumed, the pair followed the trail into the trees and on into a weedy area.
“I was worried, wondering how we were going to find blood in there,” Ryan said. “Then my brother called me over to him, and the buck was right there.
“It was huge, and I remember both of us just saying, ‘Oh my God ... Oh my God,’ over and over again,” he recalled. “The rack is so wide that it stuck up two feet from the ground!”
Next up was notifying friends and Ryan’s wife, Penny.
“I’ve never had so many people take my picture,” he grinned. “That buck really got everybody excited. Now my whole family is into archery.”
That family includes Ryan and Penny’s children: Dustin, Austin, Rachel and Dalton.
“This is probably going to be the biggest whitetail I ever get a chance at, but that’s okay,” Ryan said. “I can’t wait until one of the kids gets one. Also, I want my brother to get one of the bucks he sees on his trail cams.”
Official Score: 179 1/8
Composite Score: 200 5/8
– Photos Courtesy of Ryan Holthaus
This article was published in the October 2011 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.