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Eleventh-Hour Trophy

By Lee Fagan

Photo Courtesy of Lee Fagan
The author might prefer to do his bowhunting in Kansas, but he relies on hometown taxidermist Scott Moore (Mountain Man Taxidermy in Craig, Colo.) to preserve his memories. Photo courtesy of Lee Fagan.

I love to hunt in Kansas, and 2004 was especially good to me. I arrived at camp on Nov. 4. The stands were set, and my hunting partner, Vic Updike, and I were ready to go.

I decided that year to spend time in one particular stand. It was placed on the edge of a milo field flanking a creek.

I saw lots of deer that week, but the one that really stuck in my mind was a buck that had split brow tines. It returned several times to the area around my treestand. As the week came to a close, I had seen the split brow tine buck twice, but not in range.

Saturday was my last opportunity.

When 5 a.m. came, my feet hit the floor and away we went to the stands. At sunrise, I saw a buck following the creek bank. As it approached, I noticed no split brow tine, but I did see kickers off the right P-2.

This was a new buck.

Photo courtesy of Lee Fagan
Lee Fagan shows why he's smitten with Kansas bowhunting. Photo courtesy of Lee Fagan.

I was hunting a trail that cut through a bench approximately 30 yards square. As the buck approached the bench, it began working around to the south and stopped where two does had drunk from the creek earlier that morning. When it resumed walking, I grunted.

The buck stopped and looked, grunted, and then began sniffing the wind, which was blowing out of the northeast. The deer continued westward, behind me, and milled around for a spell - probably looking for the source of the grunt it heard.

In order to be in bow range, the deer had to be on the bench. But it kept to the edge the whole time, which frayed my nerves.

Eventually, the buck simply left without offering me a shot.

Since that was my last watch, I was thinking about remaining on stand the entire day. But a grunt from the north interrupted my thoughts. A good buck and a doe soon materialized in the distance.

Eager to lure the buck closer, I grunted. While it didn't pay much attention, its girlfriend turned and began working her way toward me. She stopped about 100 yards away, however, and turned back north - the buck in tow.

Emotionally drained and starving, I left the woods and drove into town for a bite to eat. I was back in the stand in short order.

Long afterward, a 4-pointer approached the bench. I have to admit that even it looked good to me at that point, but I ultimately ... fortunately ... passed on it.

About two hours later, right before the sun started its descent, I looked to the south and my jaw dropped. The great buck with the P-2 kickers that I'd seen and drooled over that morning was heading straight for me. Here we go again, I thought, as it began skirting the edge of the bench.

I knew that I'd lose sight of the deer as it rounded the southernmost edge, and I did. I automatically shifted my gaze farther north, expecting it to reappear there - just as it had done earlier - but it didn't. To my surprise, it chose to come up onto the bench via the well-worn trail that had lured me to that spot in the first place.

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Today!It appeared as if the buck was heading for the milo field. And when it stopped en route in the woodlot, I assumed it was debating whether to wait until sundown. It seemed like it stood there for an hour.

I'd been so engrossed by the buck that I suddenly realized I'd neglected to even draw my bow. And now, with the deer at only 30 yards, I was certain that it would see me do it. I'd have to wait until its head was behind a tree.

When the buck resumed walking, it was very cautious. I began to pull back my bowstring as its head passed behind the first tree, but even that did not go unnoticed. I couldn't complete the draw, and a staring contest ensued.

I was losing.

I could even see my bow wobbling severely, though the buck did not seem to notice. We played that stop-and-go game three times before the rascal seemed to inhale the whiff of doe urine that I'd sprinkled under my treestand (which I'd forgotten about altogether). As soon as it put its nose to the ground, I drew.

This is it, I thought.

A second later, my 30-yard pin floated over the vitals, and I let go.

Following the arrow's impact, the deer hit the ground. I'd spined it, having misjudged the distance. It had been 20, not 30 yards, but the deer was down and going nowhere. If the arrow had flown an inch higher, I'd have never cut a hair.

Read More Stories From RACK MagazineI tried putting a second arrow in it to finish things, but I missed entirely. A third shot did the trick.

I might've leaped from my treestand to the ground. Now I don't quite remember.

Compound Bow
Semi-Irregular
Official Score: 187 3/8"
Compound Score: 205 1/8"

-- Reprinted from the October 2006 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine

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