Rack Magazine

No Fair-weather Hunter

No Fair-weather Hunter

By Mike Handley

A repurposed turkey blind becomes the perfect stand for a rainy Sunday.

The likelihood of hunting in wet clothes in 33-degree weather wasn’t enough to keep Corey Urban indoors on Dec. 13, 2015, the last day of the Kansas rifle season.

The Dodge City hunter might have planned to spend the afternoon inside a pop-up blind, safe from the elements, but the half-mile hike to it ensured he would be drenched while the temperature dropped and the rain turned to snow.

He struck out for his repurposed turkey blind around 2 p.m. The rain was coming down with such force that the 24-year-old had to sit in the very middle of his little tent to avoid the drops coming through its open windows.

A small price to pay for a shot at a 200-plus-incher, he thought.

Corey first became aware of the giant whitetail’s existence in January 2014. He was in Colorado with friends when his father sent him a nighttime trail camera photograph revealing only a deer rack in the corner of the image.

“It wasn’t a very good picture, and it left a lot to the imagination,” he said. Nevertheless, the deer was obviously special.

The Urbans retrieved only a couple of photos of the buck the following fall, and points were broken off the rack. Corey happily settled for arrowing a 168-inch 11-pointer.

“We didn’t forget about the big one. We never really thought we were going to see it,” he said.

The Urban family and some friends gather at their hunting cabin every November to usher in the pheasant and quail seasons. That weekend often coincides with the peak of the whitetail rut, too, and Corey usually takes to the woods with his bow.

The Thursday prior to the pheasant opener, a cousin shot a 160-inch 9-pointer with his bow. The next day, he went back to check trail cameras. Among them were two daytime images of the buck they’d photographed twice in 2014.

“That’s when I decided it was all or nothing for me with that one deer,” Corey said. “I couldn’t wait to get out there and hunt it.”

Corey hunted the same stand where they’d retrieved four photos of the obvious 200-plus-inch buck at least 20 times over the next three weeks. And he continued hunting with his bow, even when the rifle season opened in December.

He decided to take a break from his usual stand one day and went to one near a wheat field. Just before dark, the buck at the top of his wish list came onto the field at 150 yards.

That was the first time anyone had seen the deer on the hoof, and the avid bowhunter was kicking himself for not carrying a rifle that day.

Planning for the last weekend of the firearms season, Corey and his father set up and brushed in a pop-up blind in a clump of trees beside the wheat field the buck had visited.

Despite the rain, Corey hiked the nearly half-mile from their cabin to the blind on the last Sunday afternoon. He was inside by 2:30.

The night before, he’d learned the neighbors had been collecting trail cam photos of the deer. The only time they’d seen it breathing, however, was on the Urbans’ land.

That boosted Corey’s confidence.

No Fair-weather HunterAbout an hour before dark, when the rain slacked off a bit, between 10 and 15 deer entered the field to graze in the wheat. Soon afterward, a coyote burst forth from some cedars and spooked them all.

“I thought I was wasting my time at that point,” Corey said. “My hunt was ruined.”

But it wasn’t. All the deer returned a short while later.

Corey had spent much of his time staring out the blind’s front window, paying particular attention to where the big buck had appeared the previous week. When he thought to glance out a side window, he saw numerous does, along with the buck of his dreams.

“I don’t know how long it had been out there,” he said.

“My hands started shaking because of buck fever,” he continued. “I frantically searched for my binoculars and rangefinder to confirm it was the buck and to check the distance. I had to take numerous readings because I didn’t trust what it said. My hands couldn’t keep still.

“There were so many tines in a small space. It was amazing,” he said.

When Corey was satisfied the distance was 257 yards, he placed his .243 on the tripod. Even with the added support, the gun was practically vibrating atop the rest.

“I had to tell myself, This is it, your one chance,” he said.

When Corey squeezed the trigger, he lost sight of the buck. It took a second or two to see it on the ground, but still moving. So he shot it twice more.

“My dad shot a deer a few years earlier; knocked it over. He walked all the way up to it and kicked it. But when he turned his back, the deer stood up and ran away,” Corey said. “I was determined mine wasn’t going to get that chance.”

After he fired the third shot, Corey ran — an all-out sprint — to the downed buck. While marveling over the antlers, he called his dad and his cousin.

“I probably blew out their ear drums,” he chuckled.

His father came to help him drag the deer off the sodden field, to a place more easily accessible by tractor. They loaded it into the bucket and took it to the cabin, where Corey used his hand to estimate a score. He thought it was a 200-incher, but he wanted to be sure.

“I tried to be conservative so as not to lie to myself,” he said. “And I still came up with more than 230 inches, even when I didn’t count several points.”

He thinks the buck was at least 5 1/2 years old.

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

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