By Lisa L. Price
Rather than spook the buck of his dreams, devout archer sacrifices bow range for a long poke.
It’s a good thing Troy Tate packed his rifle when he returned to Kansas in December 2010, even though the avid bowhunter never intended to unsheathe it.
The only reason he carried it afield that one day was because the wind’s direction was completely wrong for sitting in the stand closest to where a buck he’d hunted all year had been seen entering a field 24 hours earlier (and 24 hours before that).
Rather than push the deer off his 80-acre lease, Troy — thankful he possessed a tag good for either — chose bullets over broadheads.
He wanted that buck.
The Louisiana hunter fell in love with Kansas after a disappointing guided hunt in Illinois. Surfing the Internet for alternatives, he and a buddy decided to give the Sunflower State a try, and they began looking for land to lease.
When neither drew tags for the unit containing the property they’d flown up to evaluate, they had to turn to outfitter Tom McMillan, who had holdings in the unit for which they’d drawn. Troy wound up taking a handsome 150-inch 8-pointer, and he and his friend booked hunts there for three years in a row.
During those trips, Troy became well acquainted with the property. So when one of the Stafford County tracts came up for sale, he bought it.
“You can get a (nonresident landowner’s) tag for 80 acres,” he explained.
Troy made many friends in Kansas, including local farmer Jerry McMillan, who kept an eye on Troy’s acreage when he wasn’t there. In 2009, Jerry told him that he’d seen a huge buck on the farm’s east side.
“He found one of the buck’s shed antlers, too,” Troy said. “I flew out and found the other side.”
The antler was huge, which stoked Troy’s furnace. He even went back there in the summertime to hang new stands and trim shooting lanes.
Eager to see the former wearer of the sheds, Troy returned in the fall to hunt for two weeks during the state’s archery season.
“I passed up several good bucks, but they just kept getting bigger and bigger every day,” he recalled. “I met with my friends in the evenings and told them I didn’t know how much longer I could keep holding out.”
The locals encouraged him to come back for the December gun season, which he did. But archery is Troy’s first choice, so he continued hunting with his bow when his neighbors were carrying rifles.
“I hunted from daylight ‘til dark for six days and never saw the buck whose sheds we’d found,” Troy said.
“Finally, Jerry told me he’d seen the buck in a field, close to where I’d found the second shed.”
Troy went there the next day.
“The buck appeared within five minutes of the time he’d come out the previous day. It was very near one of my stands, but the wind was wrong,” Troy said.
“Later, I checked out the weather forecast for the coming days, and the wind was going to be bad,” he continued. “Since I was running out of time, I went out the next day with my rifle.”
The buck wafted out of the timber at its usual time and began feeding, but it was 500 yards from Troy.
“There were about 20 deer out there. All I could do was hope the buck would come closer,” he said. “Then, all of a sudden, all their tails went up, and they ran from the field.”
A coyote was to blame.
About 20 minutes later, the does re-entered the field. The buck waited until a half-hour before dark to join them. But at least it was closer, this time about 350 yards distant.
“A little forkhorn came out about 30 yards to my right, and I had a long stare down with the young buck,” Troy said. “After it left, I looked again for the big buck. It had come another 100 yards closer, enough for me to go for it.”
Troy settled his crosshairs, took a deep breath and squeezed the trigger. The buck fell in the open, just a few steps away from the woods.
Elated, Troy began walking to his buck, only to be intercepted by an excited friend, Jerry, who had been watching the tableau for hours through a spotting scope.
“I don’t know which one of us was more excited,” Troy said.
“Jerry said, ‘You’ve been working your butt off for that deer,’ and he was right.”
Hunter: Troy Tate
Official Score: 163 3/8
Composite Score: 181 5/8
– Photos Courtesy of Troy Tate
This article was published in the Winter 2011 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.