Today’s blog post comes from Jim Kinsey, Executive Producer of Skull Bound TV. You can tune in to Skull Bound TV Wednesdays at 8:30 PM ET and 11:30PM ET and Thursdays at 12:30 PM ET.
Light was fading fast when we caught movement to the right of our pop up blind. Tall tines came into focus as a big whitetail buck made his way through the thick cedars. The frigid temperatures had zapped nearly all the battery life from my main camera as I continued to film the deer approach our position. It was go time in Kansas and only our second day in the blind. We’d watched several bucks come and go on day one but this buck had our undivided attention. “You on him Jana?”, I asked still following the buck’s movement through my camera’s viewfinder. “I’m going to take him when he turns broadside”, she whispered back concentrating on the bucks vitals. It moments like this that we live for. All the cold weather, travel and adversity that we go through to produce Skull Bound TV is worth it when the two of us witness moments like this unfold before our very eyes.
Kansas consistently produces some of the biggest whitetail deer in North America. Last year Jana fought off warm weather, a full moon phase and coyotes on every set while hunting deer in the sunflower state. She was able to take a buck nicknamed “Limpy” due to a former injury to the bucks left front leg. We knew he was either going in our freezer or the coyotes would be dining on him. Jana connected with that deer as he moved across an old bean field at 325 yards. Budd Prud’ Homme, owner of Petersburg outfitters, was kind enough to extend an invite for both Jana and I to come back and hunt during the opening week of rifle season in December. With two new rifles in our hands compliments of Nosler Inc., Jana and I loaded up our gear and headed to a small town in southeastern Kansas named Fort Scott.
Scott Engstrom, one of Petersburg outfitters lead guides, was excited to have us back and spoke of some killer new properties they had acquired. Scott had several good bucks on trail cam and with a well laid plan of attack we couldn’t wait for opening day to get here. The sound of the alarm clock went off at 4:30 am and we began to gain consciousness. I had to remind myself we were about ready to hit the road to one of the many stands that dotted Petersburg Outfitters’ leases. With some whopper deer in the area we knew if we stayed put in one area the odds of seeing a good deer would be in our favor. After a ½ hour drive we reached the property where our ground blind was located. We unloaded the Ranger 900 and set off towards our stand. Unfortunately the fog was so thick that it made it almost impossible to find our ground blind.
Daylight came fast inside the blind as we watched the sky dance with hues of red, white and blue reminiscent of the American Flag. Jana searched the surrounding tree line for any signs of life. The fog around us continued to shroud our view. After several hours waiting for the fog to burn off we decided to head back to camp for a quick bite to eat before heading back out for the afternoon hunt. Back at the lodge Brenda, Budd’s wife put out a spread of food that the nights of the round table would be proud of. After refueling Jana and I decided to head back out in hopes that the fog in that area had burned off improving our visibility across the fields.
We found the blind without any trouble and settled in for the five-hour sit. In front of us a narrow valley with a small stream stretched out to a fence line and heavy cover. To our left a CRP field rolled off into the distance. Kanas allow the use of attractants and we had brought some of our own to try out. With the recent launch of the Skull Bound series scent line we were eager to try out the new “Shake n Scent” apple and acorns shaker. Inside the bottle are tiny polymer granular bits that re-hydrate every time moisture hits them. Quietly we sprinkled out the polymer pellets on the ground 120 yards from the blind then settled in for the show.
Within an hour several does made their way our to check out the new smell in the air. More and more deer began to appear including several 3 ½ year old bucks. One in particular supported a solid 4×4 frame and was nearly as wide as his ears. The evening gave way to lots of deer but none of the big bucks that were known to frequent this area had shown face during daylight hours. The morning of day two turned up several of the same bucks and more does all curious about the new scent in the air. Jana and I were excited about all the activity and with an arctic cold front forecast for the afternoon hours we knew that with the weather change one of the big boys might be out on the move.
The afternoon cold front slammed Kanas with some of the coldest temperatures they’d seen in nearly 40 years and both Jana and I knew sitting for hours on end in sub zero wind chills wouldn’t be easy on us or our camera gear. We hadn’t been in the blind for more than a few minutes when we caught movement in the cedars. It was a small buck with one side of his rack broke off. He worked his way along the fence line before disappearing behind a distant stand of cedars. Two hours into the sit the wind chills began to take their toll and we rocked back in forth in the blind to stay warm. With 40 minutes left to hunt we knew we’d reached the witching hour. “ I’ve got movement Jana”, I said as a big buck emerged from the cedars and made his way towards the hardcore acorn pellets we’d dropped on the ground earlier.
With every second that ticked by Jana studied the old buck as he made his way closer and closer. “ I’m going to take him when he stops”, Jana said as she steadied her new Trophy Grade .300 WSM on a home made set of shooting sticks. After filming the buck for nearly 10 minutes he finally stopped perfectly broadside. “You ready?” Jana whispered while she took the safety off. “ Take him whenever you’re ready” I said back recording every second of the hunt. My battery was nearly dead when the shot rang out. The buck hunched up from a perfect heart shot and ran a short ways before succumbing to a perfectly placed Accu-bond bullet. “ He’s down! Nice shot”, I said reaching over to congratulate Jana on a solid Kansas buck.
With daylight fading fast we made our way towards where we last saw the buck run in to the brush. “ Here he is! Wow this deer has zero ground shrinkage” Jana shouted with excitement as she wrapped her hands around his super thick bases. What a deer he was! Supporting 4 points on each side with good width and extra junk on his thick bases it was apparent this was an old deer. Jana turned to the camera which was still recording, “I’m excited to take this beautiful Kansas buck but I’m even more excited for cameraman Jimmy since it’s only day two of the hunt and he’s got a tag too! I’m going to swap rolls with him and go behind the camera and try and capture his hunt on film.” “You’re excited? I’m excited!”, I said while filming her checking out the deer’s headgear. Soon daylight bid us farewell and we loaded the old deer up in Budd’s Ranger 900 and headed back to tell the other hunters in camp of our success.
Day three of the hunt brought us the coldest temperatures we’d faced yet. Several small bucks and lots of does came though the small valley but still nothing to write home about. We did see the good size 4×4 that we watched on day one but with two days left we knew our persistence might pay off and I decided to let the buck grow. On day four we reached the blind an hour before light. Hoping to outsmart one of the big bucks, we settled in for a long sit but as the morning light began to break only a few deer were on the move. I began to question whether we should move to a new stand or just tough it out at our current location. By mid morning we headed back to camp for a quick bite then returned to the ground blind for an afternoon sit after sprinkling out more of our apples and acorn attractant.
With an hour left of legal shooting light I began to think maybe this wasn’t my year. As those thoughts tossed around in my head I caught movement with my vortex razor HD binoculars. “ Big buck Jana on the left side of those trees”, I said peering hard through my binoculars. “ I see him”, she whispered. Jana hit the button on the big camera and began to record the old buck as he worked his way towards us. I am amazed how well Jana did while filming this moment unfold. Many people always say they want your job but don’t realize the stress involved with capturing that one moment that puts the audience in your shoes each week. Jana was feeling it now and I was feeling the pressure to make a perfect shot. Swapping roles is never easy but make no mistake about it Jana is getting the camera part down to a science.
The big buck moved closer towards us until I realized he was in a perfect position for me to drop the hammer. I lined up my new model 48 custom .300WSM on his vitals and asked Jana one more time if the camera was recording. She reaffirmed as I carefully lined up the crosshairs! It was all on me now. I slowly squeezed the trigger and watched the deer jump straight in the air from the moment of impact. The big deer launched itself forward once it hit the ground and stumbled face first onto the frozen ground twenty yards from the initial hit. Jana and I couldn’t believe we’d pulled off an incredible double whitetail hunt in the middle of the coldest temperatures imaginable. Approaching the buck I realized he had 6 points on each side. “Back home we’d call him a 6×6 but in Kansas he’s a 12 pointer”, I said as Jana recorded the final scene at Petersburg Outfitters. God willing we’ll be back again next year chasing the giant bucks the sunflower state is famous for!