Caution: Objects in your scope may be larger than they appear
By Dean Hulce
Photos Courtesy of Nick Missler
When the unbelievably huge buck lowered its head to sniff the scrape, Nick Missler had to lower his rifle and check to make sure the scope's power was not dialed up to 9. The rack appeared so big that he was sure he had mistakenly cranked the scope to the max.
Only when he confirmed the scope was still set on low power did he believe what he was seeing.
Nick had not planned to hunt in Kansas in 2007; he was simply looking forward to Ohio's shotgun season.
He got a telephone call from his hunting buddy, Terry Jackson, two weeks earlier. Terry told him that one member of his Kansas-bound foursome had to back out because of an illness in the family, and he asked if Nick would like to join them.
Nick said he'd love to, if he could get the time away from his job as a door maker in his hometown of Ohio City, Ohio.
He did, and he went.
The four men drove the 11 hours to Nemaha County, Kan., and arrived three days before the rifle opener to have a little time to scout. The first day was a hot one for late November. While the thermometer topped out in the mid-80s, Nick spent much of his available time scouting an 80-acre piece of property.
Following a dry creek bed, he discovered numerous rubs and three sizeable scrapes. He immediately hung his stand there.
The group decided to give their respective areas a break and to hunt some nearby state land for the first day or two. But after spending the opener on state land, Nick was ready to escape the crowd. The second morning found him waiting for daylight in the stand overlooking the creek.
After a few days of unbearable heat, the frosty morning was a welcomed surprise. Nick climbed in the stand long before first light and enjoyed the cool predawn wait.
Nothing much happened for the first couple of hours. But about 8:30, a respectable 140-inch buck ran across a field and into a woodlot on the neighboring property.
Seeing that whitetail helped make the wait bearable until it was time for a quick sandwich about 12:30. The stretch felt good, but Nick was excited to get back into the stand after a few short minutes. He was hoping the buck he'd seen that morning might venture over to check the scrapes near his stand that afternoon.
On his way back to the creek bottom, Nick sprayed some doe-in-heat scent on his boots. And when he got to the biggest scrape, he added some of the potent liquid to the dirt there as well.
After climbing in the stand, he relaxed and waited patiently. About three hours later, a doe busted out of the same woodlot that the 140-incher had run into that morning. Nick knew that something had to be chasing her and watched carefully for more than 15 minutes.
But nothing happened beyond the doe's relaxing and meandering over to eat grass around the base of the Nick's tree.
After quite a bit of time had passed, Nick figured that it must not have been a buck that pushed this doe out of the timber. Nevertheless, he was enjoying watching her.
Eventually, he casually glanced back over his shoulder and caught a glimpse of another deer sliding through the thick row of trees flanking the creek. At first, he could not tell if the deer was a buck or a doe. The trees were just too thick. Then, when the deer got to the scrape that Nick had freshened with the scent upon returning from lunch, it started pawing the scrape.
Nick knew then that he was watching a buck, but he still could not tell how big it was. Struggling to find antlers through the scope, he held the rifle up until, at last, the buck dropped its head to sniff the ground. That's when the confusion over magnification began.
Even though he could see massive antlers in the scope, the buck's body was hidden. It seemed like hours, but was actually less than a minute, until he could get a good shot at it. When it looked as if the buck was clear of brush, Nick put the crosshairs on the shoulder and squeezed the trigger.
At the shot, the buck hit the ground and almost bounced back on its feet. It bolted through the tree line and briefly stopped in an opening on the other side - just long enough for a follow-up shot to finish things.
Nick sat in the stand not really realizing or understanding completely what had just happened. He was shaking badly. When he settled down enough to descend his tree, he felt like doing a fireman's slide. After rushing to the buck and confirming that it was indeed dead, Nick took a moment and gave thanks.
With all of his companions hunting in other areas, he didn't call for help. He field-dressed the buck and then drove his truck to within 100 yards. Only because of the amount of adrenaline in his bloodstream was Nick able to drag the 200-pound buck to the truck and then load it into the bed by himself.
He impatiently waited for the other three hunters to show up at the bed-and-breakfast after dark. When they asked how he had done, he told them that he had seen only a few deer all day. Terry asked if he had left his pack in the back of Nick's truck. Nick confirmed that it was there, and Terry went out to retrieve it in the dark. When Terry reached into the bed of the truck, his hand touched antler.
When he turned on the light, he and the others were amazed at the size of Nick's buck.
Over the next few days, Nick tried to call his hunting buddies back in Ohio to tell them about the buck he had taken. Each time, he explained that he'd bagged a monster. He promised to send everyone photos by way of his cell phone, but he never succeeded.
They all thought he was playing them for fools until he arrived back home a week later with the buck.
Hunter: Nick Missler
Official Score: 175 2/8"
Composite Score: 194 3/8"
-- Reprinted from the Winter 2008 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.