Rack Magazine

Third Time’s the Charm

Third Time’s the Charm

By Bill Robinson

They say you’re supposed to stay out of a buck’s bedroom, but this tale defies all logic.

Back in October 2012, a friend who works for me at the Clay Center, Kan., Police Department (I’m the chief) sent me a text message, saying he’d arrowed a moose of a whitetail.

The word moose wasn’t an adjective; it was a nickname, because the deer’s rack was heavily palmated. He’d been collecting trail camera photographs and hoping to see it in the flesh since the season opened.

Scott Dalindo was hunting east of town that day, on the north side of the nearby Republican River. He’d borrowed another officer’s buck decoy and set it beneath his stand.

He told me the story the next day.

Scott was preparing to get down from his tree when he heard a loud crash. Moose had snuck in and tried to destroy the decoy.

My friend grabbed his bow and took the shot, but the arrow hit too far forward. And he never found the deer.

Scott saw the buck for the last time while scouting several days later. He did not get any more trail cam photos of it.

I hunt a tract on the south side of the river, a portion of which is only a mile — as a crow flies — from where Scott hunts. I kept hoping the pressured deer would eventually swim the river.

With that lofty dream, I went in and created a spot for my ground blind. I waited a week to let things settle before returning.

The day I went to my new spot, I was dismayed to see another hunter had beat me to it. He also had permission to hunt that ground, and he’d parked his truck at the best spot.

Third Time’s the CharmDejected, I resumed hunting my usual spots about 2 miles away, on the other side of the property.

Another friend from Utah, Bill Plowman, was the next guy to see Moose. He comes to Kansas every year and hunts the portion of the farm between my area and the river. He sent me a text in November to let me know that a giant palmated buck — the biggest he’d ever seen afoot — had come to within 7 yards of his treestand.

His arrow hit the deer in the shoulder, but the penetration was lousy.

I shared some of Scott’s trail cam photos with him afterward, and he sent me some of his, and it was clearly the same buck. This deer was shot twice in the same year, and it was still alive!

Nobody else saw or collected photos of it for the rest of the year.

When the 2013 archery season arrived, I was really busy at work, so I didn’t start hunting until mid-October. I had been checking trail cameras and did not have a single decent buck photo on any of them.

Nevertheless, the palmated buck was still on my mind, though neither Scott nor Bill reported any sightings.

I hunted several times on this property and others with no luck, but I was hoping things would pick up in mid-November, when the rut really peaks. By then, I had put Moose out of my mind.

After the first couple of uneventful weekends in November, I felt it was time to change my tactics on the property south of town. While driving home from the shelter belt where my stand was, I had been seeing several deer feeding in a wheat field on the west side of the road.

It was always dark, so it was hard to tell much about them.

The only cover nearby was a small hay field on the east side of the road, where I had permission to hunt. The few trees in the field were small cedars beside the eastern fence.

The property east of the fence was an idle farm that had once been planted in crops but hadn’t been touched in several years. It’s a wildlife haven, but I didn’t have permission to hunt it. I figured the deer were crossing that CRP field in the evening.

I ultimately decided to hunt from within one of the small cedars in hopes of intercepting deer en route to the wheat on the other side of the road.

When I started bowhunting in 1992, I hunted almost exclusively from the ground in pruned cedar trees. I preferred that method over treestands because I’m extremely scared of heights, to the point of having vertigo, and I’ve found that hunting from cedars gives the best possible concealment as well as a natural scent cover.

Third Time’s the CharmI just cut limbs so I can sit on a stool or stand back against the trunk of the tree. I have done less and less of this as farmers started cleaning up their farms and cutting out all of the cedars.

I was glad to give up my treestands for a while, and I cut out one of the cedars along the fence on Nov. 14.  I was pretty happy with the setup.

The first time I used it, a large doe came from the east and milled around in front of me for about an hour. I had to crawl out for a short distance to keep from spooking her.

When I got back to the west side of the field, I climbed out of the ditch onto the road and saw about eight or 10 deer out in the wheat field. They were only 50 or 60 yards away, but it was dark — but not too dark to see that one was waving around an enormous set of what appeared to be palmated antlers.

I got back into the ditch and duck-walked down the road to my truck so I wouldn’t spook them.

I didn’t have time to hunt that weekend. On Nov. 20, I had a frustrating day at work and didn’t get off until 4 p.m. I thought it was a perfect evening to go hunt that cedar tree.

This spot is only about 5 miles from town, so I changed and hurried out there. I backed into my tree at 4:30.

When I did, I noticed that the tall grass was matted down back into the cut-out. It appeared that a deer had been bedding down in the opening I had cut.

I had only about 30 or 40 minutes until dark, so I didn’t waste any time. I rattled briefly, waited awhile, and then repeated the clashing. I heard something walking around on the east side of the fence, but I couldn’t see anything because of the cedar limbs and the terrace upon which the fence was built.

I waited for a while, and then I did a few short tending grunts. When I turned my head to lay my grunt call beside my stool, I looked up to see the palmated buck standing on the terrace about 20 yards away, staring right at me.

I froze, and the buck watched me for what seemed like several minutes.

I had scent canisters out in front of the deer, and I hoped it would cross the fence and stop at them, giving me a nice broadside shot at around 20 yards. I would use the moment he cleared the fence to draw my bow.

Everything seemed to be coming together as planned. The buck jumped the fence, and I drew without being noticed. The problem was that it didn’t stop at the scent canisters. It turned and started walking straight to me.

I’ve always been told to never shoot a deer head-on with a bow. I went from very calm to panic mode in less than a half-second. It just kept coming, rapidly closing the gap.

When my bow started to wobble, I had to blink hard to regain my composure. I aimed for what I thought would put my arrow into his chest — 5 yards away — and hit the release. The arrow buried almost up to the fletching, and the buck turned and ran back eastward, across the fence and out of sight.

I was almost sick because I was afraid I might have wounded the animal with the frontal shot. When I looked at my watch, it was 5 p.m.

I sent Scott a text and told him I’d just shot a big deer, probably Moose. He was on duty until 6:00, but he was so excited that he had another officer cover for him and headed out to help me.

Ten minutes was all I could manage to wait. I stepped out of my cubbyhole and found blood everywhere.

I followed it about 50 or 60 yards, and then I saw a big wide antler sticking up out of the grass.

Trail cam photos confirmed that it was Moose. Plus, the guy who caped him at the locker plant told us the deer had quite a bit of scarring on the shoulder.

I can’t imagine why the buck was walking straight at me, unless it was the deer that had been bedding in my pruned cedar tree. Maybe it intended to bed down and watch for the other buck(s) it thought it heard.

Hunter: Bill Robinson
BTR Score 184 5/8”
Compound Bow

– Photos courtesy Bill Robinson

This article was published in the Winter 2014 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.

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Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd