Contour lines, a wind change and rubs with attitude combine to reprogram this deer hunter’s internal GPS.
If there are big bucks in an area, Ken Courington will exhaust all legal means to put himself within shooting range of one.
The 67-year-old Florida contractor begins by studying topographical maps. And if scouting confirms what a bird’s-eye view shows him, he’ll begin adjusting his work schedule to allow for hunting days.
He will be free to hunt when the time is right, and his lack of open wall space proves it. Four of his whitetail mounts have antlers exceeding 170 inches, and he didn’t buy them at a yard sale.
“I don’t play golf,” Ken said, even though he lives where a guy can do it the year ’round. He prefers to devote his spare time to future deer hunts.
“I don’t read either, except for topo maps, which I like to study,” he adds.
Ken’s most recent buck, a 17-pointer dropped Oct. 31, 2014, in Houston County, Minnesota, is representative of his typical homework and hunt.
Each fall, as a result of his off-season research, Ken chooses a destination he feels confident will be home to big bucks. He’s hunted Illinois for seven years, gone twice to Montana and Iowa, and he’s spent seasons in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
“I’ve seen four 200-inch deer during those years,” Ken said. “If you don’t go where big bucks are, you’re not going to kill one.
“I hunted for many years in Illinois, and a farmer I met out there told me he’s never seen anybody pass up bucks like I do,” Ken said. “I’m hunting a certain kind of deer, what I call a big one, and if I don’t get a chance at what I want, I won’t take it.”
Ken met that Illinois farmer in his typical fashion. He’d already researched the area and had identified that piece of land as desirable for hunting. When he arrived in Illinois, he walked out into a huge field to talk to the farmer.
He ended up hunting that property for three years, refusing to take any buck under 150 and harvesting does.
“When you’re asking for permission, it’s important the farmer knows you’re willing to shoot does,” Ken advised. “Make an extra trip to scout the area and meet the landowner, if at all possible.”
Ken did the same kind of homework before hunting in Minnesota. He and his son, Jeremy, arrived in late October 2014.
“I sat in the same stand for three days, but I saw only little ol’ stubs, just 1- to 2 ½-year-old deer,” Ken said. “When I came in after the third day, I told the farmer I wasn’t seeing anything, and he said he felt the deer would start moving soon.”
Ken decided to give the stand one more sit.
While riding in a UTV back to camp, he was facing the back trail.
“In one little stretch, I saw monstrous rub after monstrous rub,” he said. “I asked about hunting that area, which was swampy, but the farmer said someone else had hunted there and hadn’t seen anything.”
From the same stand he’d hunted for two and a half days, Ken finally saw a decent buck that afternoon. Its rack would have tallied in the 160s, and it was following a huge doe.
“I drew. I could have smoked that deer,” he said. “But hoping my son would get it, I let down the string and let the buck walk.”
Ken was also banking on the breeze shifting, and he couldn’t shake the image of those massive rubs … rubs PLURAL.
“Later that afternoon, as the wind was changing, I thought about the swampy area nobody wanted to hunt.
“I know from experience that it’s imperative never to go to a stand or hunt it with the wrong wind,” he said. “I do the research, and when I get to a place, I keep doing the best things I know that won’t blow big bucks out of their sanctuaries.”
The wind was right for a trip to the swamp on Halloween.
The next warm morning, the farmer took Ken to the base of the stand.
“I got in the stand, which was very comfortable, and closed my eyes, thinking Man, this is nice,” he said. “When I opened my eyes, there was a huge buck standing just 25 yards away.”
The buck was facing away from Ken, giving him the opportunity to pick up and draw his bow.
“I don’t know how the deer got there, whether or not it was after a doe, or if there were other deer. I just knew he was suddenly right there,” Ken said. “I knew I could make the shot.”
After the thwack, Ken watched the heart-shot buck run uphill to a logging road, where it tipped over and remained still.
This article was published in the August 2016 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.
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