Bill Collins' 2009 buck is recognized as the No. 2 bowkill from the Fort Riley installation in Geary County, where it's included in the Big Buck Hall of Fame.
By Mike Handley
Photos courtesy of Bill Collins
It's probably safe to say that no climber manufacturer has ever advertised a treestand as being a deer magnet.
Perhaps they should.
Consider the testimony of Bill Collins, a senior analyst for the U.S. Army, whose going-away present for his recent Kansas-to-Massachusetts move wore a bow with 21 points. Officially, he credits his Bone Collector grunt call and Primos' can. Unofficially, however, his success is due largely to the climbing stand he carried into the Fort Riley military installation last October.
The 31-year-old bowhunter had thrown in the towel one warm, mid-October afternoon and had just jacked himself down from his tree when he got that I'm-being-watched feeling. There was still plenty of daylight, but he'd seen nothing all afternoon ... until he descended his tree.
As soon as his boots touched the ground, Bill looked over and saw the biggest buck he'd ever beheld, staring at him from a mere 50 yards. The deer, which had to have heard the scrape of metal against bark, wasn't overly concerned; it didn't blow or turn on the afterburners. It just walked away, seemingly disappointed that it wasn't another buck destroying one of its trees.
"There's something about that noise - of coming down a tree - that seems to draw bucks," Bill said. "Because I hunt only public land and must carry a climber, that wasn't the first time that's happened to me ... or to my brother."
Had it not been for the buck, Bill never would've explored the woodlot he was hunting. Curious, he decided to devote the remaining daylight to looking over the place where the animal was traveling.
"I wanted to go see what was going on over there," he said.
He was astounded to find a regular deer highway. "It looked more like a hog trail," he added.
His mind reeled, he took notice of the wind direction, and the gears clicked. The next time there was a northwest wind, he vowed, he would be sitting over that creek-bottom trail.
The Northwester arrived on Oct. 22, carrying a cold front that caused the temperature to plummet almost 30 degrees.
Bill and a friend, Robert Young, were eager to hunt that afternoon, despite the chill and threat of rain.
"We got there about 3:30 and climbed trees about 300 yards apart," he said. "We knew there were several nice bucks cruising the bottom."
But even with perfect conditions, it wasn't the zoo Bill expected.
Eventually, after he'd been aloft over that hog trail for about two and a half hours, he glanced to his left and saw a buck in a field about 75 yards distant. He threw everything in his arsenal at it - pleading with his new Bone Collector grunt call and his Primos can - but the animal didn't respond, not even to the snort-wheeze the hunter used as an exclamation point!
While Bill's attention was riveted to his left for five minutes or so (he'd lost sight of the buck), he was stunned to hear a loud grunt from the other direction. When he peered over his right shoulder, a real stud of a whitetail was coming his way, only 25 yards from the tree.
"All I could see was a mass of antler coming at me. I turned back to my left to grab my bow, trying to stay calm. I'm pretty sure it wasn't the same buck I'd been watching in the field," he said. "The first one I saw was brownish. The second wore a gray coat, like it was a much older deer."
The new arrival was traveling fast. While Bill was reaching for his bow, trying to attach his release in the same motion, the buck sailed through the best shooting lane at 18 yards. Bill turned to his right, leaned out, grunted to stop the deer and took the 23-yard, quartering-away shot.
The deer trotted about 40 yards before disappearing into some thick vegetation. Moments later, Bill thought he heard it go down and called Robert to tell him he'd just shot the monster he'd seen a week earlier.
It was almost dark when Robert arrived, and they immediately found the arrow and blood trail. It was flashlight time when they strode forward into the thicket.
Bill was amazed to see a drop tine as he approached the downed deer. He hadn't noticed it before. And when he lifted the rack, he saw a second drop - the other "handlebar."
• Hunter: Bill Collins
• Official Score: 181 1/8
• Composite: 199 1/8
• Compound Bow
-- Reprinted from the August 2010 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.