By John E. Phillips
A near hair-to-grill encounter is all it takes to awaken Kansan’s inner deer hunter.
Keith Hendrix, now 77 and living in Topeka, still remembers the afternoon in 1973 when a gigantic buck crossed the country road in front of his vehicle. He was so enthralled by the sight, the 35-year-old policeman decided to go on his very first deer hunt the next day, Dec. 7, opening day of rifle season.
That required his obtaining permission from his uncle, who didn’t allow hunting on his 200 acres in those days, but a nephew has pull. He also scouted the property, discovered well worn deer trails and hung a stand about 7 1/2 feet off the ground.
The huge buck that crossed the road in front of him gave Keith a real long look. It stopped, looked at his truck, and then ran into some thick woods.
After the buck disappeared, he heard dogs barking. They were on the deer’s trail.
“Hunting deer with dogs is illegal in Kansas,” he said. “They were probably wild.”
Keith might have been a stranger to deer hunting, but not to rifles or small game. He grew up on a farm in Jefferson County, and began hunting rabbits and squirrels when he was only 7 years old. He was born about a mile from where he encountered the buck.
While looking over the woodlot, Keith found a clearing that had several deer trails running through it. He set up a treestand about 175 yards from the spot, not wanting to get too close and possibly spook the buck before it reached the gap.
Keith climbed into his stand about 5 p.m. on opening day. Barely 10 minutes later, five does walked into the clearing.
“I kept noticing the does were looking back into the dark timber,” Keith said. “I assumed there was a big buck behind them, and I hoped it was the buck I’d seen in my headlights.”
About five minutes after the does arrived, a 13-point buck walked out of the timber and into the open.
“Although I realized that deer was a big one, I also knew it wasn’t the really big buck that had jumped in front of my vehicle,” Keith said. “But I decided to go ahead and take it anyway. I spent time aiming, and then carefully squeezed the trigger.”
When Keith’s 7mm Rem Mag barked, the buck jumped straight up in the air. When it hit the ground, it crumpled like a limp dish rag.
“I could tell — even at 175 yards — the buck I’d just shot was a big one,” Keith said. “When a police officer friend hunting with me heard the shot, he came over to help me load my deer.”
Keith’s truck was parked only about 175 yards from where he was hunting. And there was a clear path to the dead deer, so he drove right up to the animal.
Loading it should have been easy.
“It was a comedy of errors,” Keith smiled. “Not until I put my hands on the deer did I realize how big it really was. Whenever my buddy and I got the front end of the deer in the truck bed, the back end would fall out. When we tried swapping ends, when we got the buck’s back end in the truck, the front end fell out. We just couldn’t seem to get all that deer in the truck at the same time due to its size.”
After finally wrangling the buck into his vehicle, Keith took it to a venison processing plant. The owner announced, “That’s the biggest deer we’ve ever processed!”
Keith soon had 125 pounds of deboned meat from his first deer, which he then had made into summer sausage, jalapeno sausage and other cuts.
His first deer hunt might’ve lasted only 15 minutes, and his first deer might’ve been a glorious buck, but Keith became a diehard hunter. He wound up buying 60 acres close to his uncle’s property, and he’s taken several nice bucks off his own land, including a 165-incher.
He’s somewhat disappointed he never bagged the giant that crossed the road in front of him, but he’s very happy with the one he shot. His days of trying to best it are over, he says.
Hunter: Keith Hendrix
BTR Score: 179 1/8
View BTR Scoresheet
This article was published in the April 2016 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home. Read Recent RACK Articles:
• Lone Star Doozie: Floodwaters pushed this buck onto higher ground. That he chose not to recede was his undoing.
• Lifetime Hunt Lasts Maybe Half an Hour: Behold the Land of Lincoln’s No. 3 Typical (by shotgun)
• Cox & Son - Deer Movers: Nobody complains about too many handles, right?