Hunter Success Story 2008
* Note: This hunt actually took place on private land bordering Rawhide Camp. Rawhide Camp conducts Archery Only hunts for Whitetail Deer *
Just Meant to Be - Tyler Whetstine
As submitted to The Huntin Fool - www.huntinfool.com
My story starts out much differently than most others seen in the Huntin’ Fool magazine. As much as I truly enjoy the Huntin’ Fool magazine and respect and appreciate the services the Carters and the rest of the Huntin’ Fool staff provide, this story doesn’t start with an application or with a “Congratulations” from a state Department of Wildlife for winning the hunting world equivalent of the lottery. This story is also not going to begin with me boasting of hours and days and months of preparation, and hint at how deserving I am of harvesting a trophy animal. The truth is that I would argue I have as much passion for hunting and fishing and the outdoors as any other Huntin Fool’, and for the most part rely on my experience and intellect to garner success during a hunt. But with every story there is a higher power in play. This story has shown that to me more than any other I have experienced. The same man that created the beauty we enjoy in the outdoors wrote this story himself, there is no other explanation. For all of those that are successful in taking a trophy of whatever species, you understand how many variables have to align in perfect order to produce the perfect outcome. The overwhelming majority of the time, the outcome is not perfect.
This story begins for me on a cold and blustery, snowy morning in early December, with the alarm clock warning at 4 AM. I make the hour drive north of my home to a farm that’s been in my family for much longer than I’ve been around. On some sloppy dirt (now mud) roads I’m not able to drive as far as I’d like without making a mess and a lot of noise, so I pull off the road in a good spot and start the short trek in the dark. “Crap I forgot my flashlight”, I thought to myself. “Surely I’ve got my headlamp…..nope it’s still in the other backpack from the Bear Hunting trip” said the part of my brain that is actually thinking this early. Because of the front that moved in the early morning sky is pitch black, but there’s just enough snow on the ground for me to clumsily navigate to where I think I want to be. The previous night I called my older brother Heath to discuss plans. “I’m gonna go sit in the timber on the north end of Grandpa’s hayfield to start the morning, we’ll assess other plans from there” I told him. “Nah, you don’t wanna go there, you should go farther west in one of those timbers that finger off the road surrounded by corn. They haven’t been able to get that corn out yet, so deer are most likely feeding through the night and moving back through those timbers to bed in the morning”. With the wet and sloppy late Fall weather prohibiting those fields from getting harvested yet it didn’t take me long to agree to that plan. We talked a little bit more and agreed on which timber and area of a deep ditch I should set up. I should tell you that typically at this point in the year I’ve sat through quite a few days’ hunts in the bow stand and usually even get out a bit during the muzzleloader deer season. So I would normally be able to tell you what deer are living in which timbers, and formulate a pretty solid plan to get a shot on one. Not this year. With the economy in the shape that it’s in I certainly can’t complain one bit, but work’s been busy. This is my first day in the timbers of Kansas this Fall. I’m in the dark, literally and figuratively. Side note: I was fortunate enough to join a group of friends on an annual muzzleloader Elk hunting trip to Colorado in September. Although I was unsuccessful on harvesting a trophy bear, there were tons of bear stories told at camp each night (some big bear stories, those just didn’t include me). I was also elated to be able to put Heath 23 yards from a very good bull on his first Elk Bow Hunt. I’ll keep the readers in suspense, but Heath could certainly tell you how that story ends :)
As the wind howls out of the north it blows a dry cold snow right at my face. The cold north wind also tells me I need to be on the south side of this agreed upon timber. Thanks to the little bit of snow on the ground, my ineptitude walking up this south ridge in the pitch dark is quieter than it should be. Even as I was preparing to sit down on the ground I remember thinking to myself “Why here? Why not on up the ridge a ways, this seems too low, this doesn’t feel right…..”. But I sat down anyway next to a comfortable log. I had that thought you have just about any time you are hunting or fishing and make a decision about your next fishing hole or your next stand location. "If it’s meant to be then it’s just meant to be." I said a quick prayer that I have a safe and enjoyable day in the outdoors (something my Dad has passed on to me) and wait to let the hidden sun bring on the day’s light.
If anyone else is like me, you view the 20-30 minutes before shooting light and the following hour after to be the pinnacle of the day. In the anticipation of the woods coming alive I sit there, eyes and ears glued to my surroundings, completely unobstructed by facemasks or earmuffs. By the time I caught a glimpse of the 3 does moving into the timber as it starts getting light my ears and nose were froze. The wind, still chapping my cheeks and ears as I’m pointed north, has picked up it seems with the light and continues swaying trees and blowing dry snow almost sideways. The 3 does browsed through the timber towards me and decided they liked the area about 50 yards up the ditch to paw around and bed. “The wind is right” I thought to myself, “so maybe this is a good thing they are so close, as long as I’m still”. A few minutes later I caught another movement beyond the does on the other side of the ditch. “There’s a good buck” I thought. Immediately I could see the length and mass of the rack, and slowly moved the rifle to my shoulder and anchored it on a log next to me. In a matter of about a minute I watched this great buck walk down his slope of the ditch and shred on a power-pole sized tree (he had obviously claimed this tree for his own, and took his aggression out on many times) without even thinking about pulling the trigger.
I was trapped in the moment and just in awe of what was playing out in the crosshairs of my Leopold scope. As he left the tree I could see several more does now following behind him as they moved down the ditch toward me. At about 80 yards below me he made his next stop at a good scrape underneath some low hanging branches. He was standing broadside and at that point I had a great view of how good his G-2’s were and could now see the split on each G-2, but I was still trying to count points and add everything up in my head. I also had the silly thought run through my head that I was only an hour into my hunt, maybe I should wait to see what else might happen. After a brief stop at the scrape (still running numbers through my head) he continued to move on down the ditch and in a few steps had moved to a point where he was leaving my sight around a knob below me. That’s when it hit me. “You idiot Tyler, you should’ve shot that deer”. Without even thinking I stood up, looked at the bedded does and started walking towards the buck over the top of the crest of this knob. About the time I saw the deer again (walking out of my sight and range), he saw a truck driving by on the road below us, turned around and ran directly back up the ditch where he came from. I looked back at the does, “How are they still bedded 70 yards away when I’m walking around?”, I thought. As the buck slowly turns uphill to walk back in to the corn field and out of my life I reach a tree that I can steady myself and the buck stops. Slightly quartering away and considerably uphill I steady the crosshairs where I want them, squeeze the trigger, and watch him fall.
Later that morning I synched up with Heath and my cousin John, who guide hunters to lots of phenomenal bucks every year. When I described the deer to them they knew exactly the deer I was talking about. Heath confirmed he was the split G-2 buck as he helped me get the deer out of the timber. At the lodge they showed me trail monitor pictures they have of my deer from November last year, also several from this year in late October, as well as a shed of his they had found the previous year.
They also went on to tell me that they thought 2 or 3 of their hunters have had him within 20 yards of their bow-stand in the last 2 seasons and all missed. All of the events, the sheds, trail monitor pictures, missed shots happened within about a half mile of the harvest site. Unofficially the buck scored 158 4/8, and is the product of excellent natural nutrition and high-quality deer management.
No matter how many times you do it, there is still something real and sobering and magical about that moment when you connect with one of God’s great creatures. And no matter how many ways I’ve calculated the variables that took place for this event to happen it’s hard to add it all up. The only explanation is that it was meant to be. I’ll end this story as many others do. I have to thank my Grandparents for providing the land and legacy to their grandchildren. I also want to thank my Dad and brothers Heath and Blaine for being the best hunting/fishing partners anyone can ask for, and my mom and beautiful wife Sarah for allowing and enduring our passions for the outdoors. And of course I have to thank God for writing this story for me.