"Robert Shadow's '09 Kansas bow tag almost wound up in a drawer rather than on a buck's antlers. He and his son, Alan, had drawn the permits and were looking forward to hunting the "Promised Land," but then along came a double dose of tragedy.
Robert's 89-year-old mother passed away in early October. Later that same month, a tornado toppled a large pine tree that fell across and did substantial damage to his garage and roof.
"I had already put my hunting plans on hold because of my mother's illness," he said. "And that tornado just about put an end to any thought of leaving town."
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When Robert learned from the construction crew that it would take a week for the new shingles to arrive, he called his son.
"That gave Alan and me a window," he said.
Robert had never been to Kansas, but his son had lived and hunted there before moving to Texas. Dave Batt, a good friend of Alan's, still hunted the property near Junction City where Alan had taken a nearly 160-inch 10-pointer four years earlier.
Dave gave the thumbs-up for the Shadows to hunt the Riley County tract during the bow season. And because he'd tagged out on another piece of property before they arrived, he even left some stands out for them.
The best news was that Dave had found a sticker-studded shed antler from 2008 that scored almost 100 inches. They referred to its wearer as "Stickers."
Father and son scouted and hung even more stands on Sunday, Nov. 8. They hunted Monday morning, but rain kept them indoors that afternoon. On Tuesday morning, Robert went back to the same ladder stand he'd hunted the previous day.
A few minutes past 8 a.m., he saw a buck approaching from about 100 yards distant. Typical of deer out there, this one was following a swale to get from point A to point B.
"My bow was on a hanger, and I had to reach around, grab it and hook my release to the string," Robert said.
"When I looked back at the deer, it had closed to within 50 yards, and my heart skipped a beat. It was huge!
"Several small limbs a few feet in front of me blocked my shot. While I was waiting for an opportunity, my arrow somehow slipped off the rest and made a loud pinging noise against the bow riser.
"The deer immediately froze and looked right at me," he continued. "Fortunately, I had on full camo and was wearing a facemask.
"We had a good stare-down for about a minute. The buck had a large split brow tine on its right side, and for some reason I focused on that while remaining perfectly still.
"I wasn't the least bit nervous or rattled. I was just sitting there, waiting," he said. "Suddenly, the deer turned like it was going to walk away. It took a step, but turned around to look back. When it did that, it was broadside and gave me the opportunity I needed.
"I leaned out and shot around the small branches. It was about a 27-yard shot with my Mathews Switchback.
‘"Shoot low … Shoot low,' I kept thinking. I had missed a deer by shooting too high the previous year, and I didn't want to make that mistake again. Everything just sort of came together. My arrow went exactly where I was aiming, though it didn't penetrate very far," Robert added.
"I could see the fletching and part of the arrow flopping around in a circular motion as the buck ran away, and I got this sickening feeling. I knew I'd hit the deer low in the heart area, but the poor penetration really had me worried.
"It didn't help when I looked at the branches in front of me and noticed one of them might've been nicked.
"I got out my cell phone and called my son. ‘I think I just shot Stickers, but I'm not too sure about the shot,' I told him. ‘I think I'd better give him plenty of time.'"
"I sat in the stand for another two hours," Robert said. "Meanwhile, Alan sent a text message to Dave about 8:45 with the news. Dave was at work that day, and he waited on pins and needles for the next several hours.
"I finally got down and walked over to where the buck had been standing. I found lots of blood and about half of my arrow shaft. I also found some hair. Alan came over, and we debated whether or not to give the deer even more time.
"While we were talking, Alan walked up the trail a few yards and suddenly threw his hands up in the air. I knew he'd spotted my buck, which had run only about 30 yards after the heart shot.
"When we walked up to it, we were amazed. It was the kind of deer hunters dream about – 21 scoreable points, a mainframe 6x6 rack with a lot of stickers.
"Alan and Dave really wanted me to get a crack at a big buck, and they were both thrilled for me," Robert said. "In fact, as soon as Dave knew we'd found the buck, he took off work and brought his four-wheeler to help us get it out of the woods. It would have been a tough job otherwise.
"All in all, it was a great hunt. I met so many great people in Kansas. It was an unforgettable experience!"