Rack Magazine

Counting Eggs

Counting Eggs

By Mike Handley

Who says there aren’t any sure bets in the deer woods?

Counting unhatched chickens isn’t always a bad thing.

The moon, wind and the following day’s weather forecast convinced Trent Siegle to take advantage of a temporary south breeze on Oct. 11, 2016, to check his trail cameras. An approaching front promised rain and cooler temperatures, and he deduced his favorite buck would be afoot.

The images he collected — daytime photos of a normally nocturnal 200-plus-inch deer he’d nicknamed Mufasa — did even more to convince him to spend the next afternoon in his ladder stand. He even called and persuaded his cameraman to join him.

Apparently, nobody told the 30-year-old bowhunter from Council Grove, Kansas, not to count his chickens before they hatched, because he was practically ready to choose the pose for his mount.

The buck first appeared on Trent’s radar in 2014. It passed within range of the gigantic burr oak in which he was perched, and he let it keep on trucking.

The deer was plenty big enough to shoot the following year, but Trent had already filled his Kansas tag by the time he saw it in mid-December. Between that sighting and February, Trent collected a thousand trail camera photographs of the impressive buck.

“He was huge. Definitely the biggest whitetail I ever had on a trail camera,” Trent said. “I knew he was going to be my main focus in 2016.”

In the interim, the deer put on at least another 20 inches. Trent was retrieving photographs of it every three or four weeks, so long in between that he added even more trail cameras to the property in an attempt to solve the riddle of its disappearances.

The corn on the family friend’s farm was harvested by Oct. 1, and then the buck began showing up regularly. That’s when Trent juiced up one camera site with a mock scrape.

The nearby ladder stand has been in that gigantic burr oak for five or six years. Trent says three people couldn’t join hands and reach around it.

On Oct. 8 and 9, a high pressure system moved over that part of Kansas, and Mufasa became much more active. He also began visiting the mock scrape.

When Trent saw the forecast for another weather front for Oct. 12, he took off work midday on Oct. 11 to take advantage of the south wind, which was best for checking his cameras. The buck was among the images, this time while the sun was overhead.

“I knew I had to hunt, especially with the trail camera pictures of him in daylight,” he said.

Because he wouldn’t go unless conditions were perfect, Trent had actually hunted the buck only three times to that point.

Figuring Mufasa would want to freshen up his scrapes after the forecasted rain, Trent called Joey Turtura, who has filmed his hunts since 2012, when Trent became a pro-staffer for Heartland Bowhunters. He was so certain the deer would show, they were in the ladder and its adjacent platform stand by 3:30, pumped for the day’s remaining four hours.

“That’s a pretty long sit for an early-season hunt,” he said.

The temperature was in the mid-50s, probably the coolest day they’d had that fall, and the wind was coming at 12-23 mph from the north, completely opposite the previous day’s.

The guys eventually spotted the giant whitetail working a scrape in the timber behind them. The deer was less than 60 yards from their tree, but visibility was terrible.

None of the leaves had fallen yet, so they could catch only glimpses of the animal until it finished its business and vanished.

The next time they saw him, Mufasa was working another scrape at the edge of the cut cornfield, 75 yards away. When he finished, he began walking away from them.

“He was leaving, and I didn’t know what to do,” Trent said. “I had never tried grunting so early in the season, but I had to try something. You do what you have to do, right?”

In response to Trent’s pair of grunts, Mufasa snort-wheezed and turned back toward them. When Trent responded with a snort-wheeze, Mufasa marched into the field, where a smaller buck joined him. After they sparred a bit, the bull of the woods came to the tree line to hit a third scrape 30 yards away.

With about five minutes of legal shooting time remaining, Trent shot the buck while it was standing in the scrape. He gave little thought to the available light.

“It was dark early on that side of the field,” he said. “There were so many leaves, we were in the shadows by 5:00.

“The footage is pretty dark, too, but you can definitely see the deer’s rack,” he said. “There was just no way I could not shoot a 224-inch deer because of poor light.

“After the shot, he went about 60 yards from the scrape and expired right in the field,” Trent continued. “I honestly was in shock for hours after I laid my hands on him. It had been a dream of mine for a long time.

Word quickly spread via social media.

“It’s been pretty overwhelming,” he said. “I love deer hunting, even though we’re never going to figure them out. Most of the time, that is.”

Editor’s Note: Trent’s hunt is slated to be shown during season 10 of CarbonTV’s “Heartland Bowhunter,” according to the show’s Facebook page.

This article was published in the October 2017 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.

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