Thirty-year bowhunter had 26 reasons to buy a gun in'09
By Mike Handley
Photos Courtesy of Tracy Atchison
It's easy for a bowhunting purist to scoff at the notion of taking a deer with a firearm. It's something few riflemen could understand.
It's just not the same.
Tracy Atchison knows. The 43-year-old railroad track supervisor from Kirwin, Kan., has been hunting with a bow since he was 13. He's shot plenty of whitetails, too, including some whoppers - nary a one with a bullet.
But that was then.
On the eve of the Sunflower State's 2009 blackpowder season, Tracy swallowed his pride and drove to Cabela's - not to purchase a new pack of broadheads, but to buy himself a new blackpowder rifle and all the trimmings. He'd reluctantly ruled out the possibility of getting a bow shot at the incredible deer his trail camera had photographed no less than 100 times.
The buck clearly lived on the adjoining property, for which he didn't have permission to hunt. But it routinely crossed into the CRP where Tracy had erected a ground blind only because there were no trees suitable for climbing.
"That deer was driving me crazy," he said. "It had my head spinning. It weighed at least 300 pounds and looked like a cow."
That its distinctive rack carried numerous kickers and stickers - 26 points in all - also played a major role in bewitching the guy.
"I checked that camera every day after work. I couldn't take not knowing. I even slipped in one morning at 4:30," he added.
Tracy hunted all eight days of the early blackpowder season. On the last day, Oct. 4, it was cold and cloudy, and the wind was perfect for his setup. Even so, he didn't get to his blind until 6 p.m.
Rather than risk a deer's seeing him walk to his hiding place, Tracy persuaded his girlfriend, Tonya, to drive him out and drop him near there. He crawled the remaining distance in the grass.
He'd set up a feeder and a camera there about three or four months before the season opened. At first, only does came to the free buffet. Tracy got so tired of seeing antlerless deer that he pulled the camera until about three weeks before the opener. The enormous buck was photographed on the very first night.
The buck with the tall rack visited the feeder about three times a night, showing up first about five minutes after dark, but never during the daytime. The camera snapped at least three photos a night. In all, it got more than 100 pictures of it ... though Tracy accidentally erased two-thirds of them from his computer.
Tracy took his 13-year-old son, Alex, there during the state's youth season. The buck came to within 50 yards of them, actually on a terrace below them, but they didn't know it until it busted them and ran off.
"I figured after that day, the buck would never come back," Tracy said. "For a big deer, I have to say: It wasn't all that smart."
Despite his doubts, Tracy continued checking the camera as regularly as brushing his teeth.
On the evening Tonya dropped him off near the blind, Tracy finally saw the buck in the flesh, in daylight - and not as it was running away.
At 7:15 - five minutes before sunset - he saw the big swaybacked buck approaching through the CRP. When it was at 80 yards, he took the shot. The deer ran 40 yards and stopped, while Tracy reloaded. A second shot dropped it.
Afterward, Tracy called the local game warden. He wanted to be sure that nobody could raise any doubts about the legality of the harvest, particularly where he shot it and where it died - since the neighboring property, where it obviously spent its days, was off-limits.
"That's the first thing people say whenever a big deer is taken," he added. "I wanted to nip all that in the bud."
The buck, obviously, was special to Tracy. But even he didn't realize how special, at first. In fact, nobody seemed all that impressed with the taxidermist-aged, 4 1⁄2 -year-old deer until it was green-scored at 236 inches, which made it a contender for the state's No. 1 spot among muzzleloader kills.
With a net B&C score of 223 3/8 inches, Tracy's buck is a new state record among blackpowder-taken entries recognized by the Longhunter Society. In the BTR, however, it ranks No. 2 - behind the same (Kent Marr) buck it bests by B&C's yardstick. The reason: The Marr Buck has more antler, but its inside spread is 3 1/8 inches less than the Atchison Buck's.
• Hunter: Tracy Atchison
• Official Score: 211 2/8
• Composite: 230 6/8
-- Reprinted from the July 2010 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.