By Kevin M. Stephens
Getting drawn for a quota hunt is always a good thing. I was fortunate enough to get drawn for the Kleber Wildlife Management Area (WMA) hunt on November 3rd & 4th.
Kleber is in deer-rich Owen County, Ky. Its proximity to Lexington, Louisville, Georgetown and other towns make it very popular among outdoorsmen. It has a high doe-to-buck ratio, but if you look hard enough, you will find some true giants there.
I didn’t not have enough time to scout, so my hunt started off a little different than most. My brother was also drawn, but he had to work late and chose not to hunt the next morning. I figured I might as well give his spot a try. Isn’t that what brothers are for?
He had chosen to hunt a small overgrown field on top of a ridgeline with several good trails leading to and from the field. He had found an old rusty chair along the way and positioned it among a small clump of cedars in the middle of the field. This provided decent concealment and a good view of the surroundings.
I arrived at the spot 20 minutes prior to daybreak. I unzipped my pack and hung my binoculars and a brand new grunt tube around my neck. I gave myself a quick spray of earth scent and hunkered down.
It was still too dark to see well, but the frost on the grass did lighten things up a bit. It was one of those mornings where you have to wiggle your toes every now and then to make sure you can still feel them.
As the sun began to rise, the frost-filled field was transformed into a shimmering paradise beaming with life. Birds of all sizes and colors began to buzz around the field singing their morning songs. Squirrels leapt from branch to branch. Watching birds and squirrels can only entertain you so long. Before you know it, you are wiggling your toes again.
Just as life was returning to my toes, I spotted some movement out of the corner of my eye. A deer was coming out of the woods behind me and walking onto the field.
I eased around and spotted an unusually tall 4-pointer grazing about 20 yards distant.
I decided it would be a good chance to try out my new grunt tube. I eased it to my lips and blew. I was expecting a gentle BUURRPP, but got nothing.
This is a good time to point out the importance of checking ALL equipment before going into the field. It seems I had purchased a grunt tube with a defective reed.
The little buck continued toward me and was suddenly right behind the cedar in front of me. When he stepped around the tree, we were eye to eye and no more than 6 feet apart!
He froze. I am quite sure he was trying to figure out what this thing covered in orange was doing sitting in an old rusty chair in the middle of a field. He stared for maybe 15 seconds before running a short distance. He then began to blow and stomp at me. He did this for about five minutes before wandering back into the woods.
I barely had time to stretch my legs when a single doe crossed the bottom of the field and began to graze. Minutes later, something caused her to turn, stare at the woods behind her and then run toward me. When she was about 15 yards away, she turned and ran off the field into the thick woods.
I thought that one of two things had happened. Either another hunter had spooked her or she was being pursued by a buck. Being the glass is half-full kind of guy, I had to go with option No. 2.
I scanned the woods edge intently. After 30 minutes of anticipation, I was losing hope and found myself once again wiggling my toes.
About an hour after daybreak, six does appeared seemingly out of nowhere and were grazing in the strip of moved grass below me. The sun was at that angle that causes instant blindness when you try to look at anything below it. Guess where all the deer showed up? Binoculars were out of the question, so I pulled my hat down and squinted. The does leisurely made their way back into the woods. I was so pumped, I had forgotten how cold it was.
Five minutes after the does disappeared, I saw the unmistakable glint of sunlight bouncing off an antler. I raised my .270 and looked through the scope. I had to use one hand as a sunshade over the eyepiece to be able to see through the scope.
The buck was in the brush at the edge of the field. Only his head and rack were visible. White racks always look bigger in the sun, but I knew this buck was big.
It seemed to take him forever to walk those 20 or so steps to the clearing; in reality it was more like 30 seconds. I had my crosshairs waiting on him. As soon as his shoulder was clear of the brush, I gave my best BBUURRPP and pulled the trigger.
I don’t know if it was the cold or the fact that I was shaking so badly, but as soon as I fired, the deer vanished. I franticly looked through the scope to get a tree as a marking point. Suddenly, I saw part of him. He had fallen at the shot and was in a low spot with only a portion of his rack visible.
I had never yelled in the woods until that moment. I let loose with my best good old Kentucky woo-hooo! I can honestly say that if I could have ran as fast in high school as I did to reach that deer, I would have been a wide receiver instead of a lineman.
I was in awe as to how beautiful he was. I have taken a lot of whitetails, but never anything like that tall 8-pointer with lots of mass.
Due to work and family obligations, I only get to hunt maybe five days a year, so to get a whitetail like this one was special. The smile on my kid’s face when I pulled into the driveway was the best trophy of all.