After three decades of hunting the whitetail rut, one thing I have learned is that when the best laid plans do not produce, you need to make adjustments quickly to take advantage of what is going on at the moment. Make no changes or wait to make your move, and the window of opportunity will close rapidly.
That’s easy to do when hunting your own land. When hunting with an outfitter, it is usually more problematic. Most commercial hunting operations run lots of archers through each fall, and in the best interests of not stirring the pot up too much they generally keep hunters is pre-set stand locations regardless of how things are shaking out.
2011 was my fourth year hunting with Jeff Louderback and his LL Outfitters. I keep coming back for several reasons, not the least of which the place offers a legit chance at killing a buck scoring over 140 or better — and sometimes, much better. In past seasons here I shot an ancient 12-pointer that gross-scored 164 2/8 and another big 8-point that gross-scored 154 4/8. Another reason I like hunting here is that Jeff grew up on the place and is a very serious hunter himself. He knows how the deer like to move and how to maximize the chances for success. Part of that means being ready, willing and able to move stands if and when an opportunity arises.
My 2011 hunt was a case in point. During the rut and post rut periods, I essentially throw most pre-season scouting out the window, knowing you need to be near the does. I also know that once a mature buck is done chasing, he will come back to his core area, concentrating on high-calorie foods to replenish his worn-out body. If I have done my homework, I also know where the best places will be to ambush him there. But while they are still roaming, you need to know those places they are most likely to travel during legal shooting hours.
The Louderback ranch is not what many would consider classic whitetail country. It isn’t filled with big ag fields and timbered ridges, and there are few classic funnels comprised of the creek channel/fence line/cover break type you read so much about or see on TV. This is sand hill country, more a mule deer-type sagebrush looking area than classic whitetail farm country. The deer usually bed up in the sagebrush, then travel a long distance to a long cottonwood river bottom to feed and chase. When my usual river stands didn’t produce anything but young bucks and the tracks of big, old bucks for several days, Louderback and I found a spot that funneled deer from the sage down into the bottom and where I thought I might catch a big deer cruising during legal shooting hours. Since there are no trees, Jeff and I erected a ground blind near a stock tank located a half mile from the bottom. Water was extremely scarce in this year of serious drought, and we knew that rutting whitetails have to drink a lot of water to keep going. I then waited for a north wind, and caught the buck traveling alone 45 minutes before dark. Thankfully my 40-yard pin was working, as the shot was 43 yards. The 4-year old buck grosses 162 2/8.
Many deer hunters have a hard time sitting stands located well away from more traditional cropland flats or timbered hillsides. In the sagebrush where I hunted, even though the big tracks were there I did not see many old deer. Yet if I stayed in the bottom I felt I would see lots of deer but the chances of scoring big were not good. For me, that’s when it is time to roll the dice and hunt someplace unconventional. Hunting with an outfitter that works with clients in this manner is, for me, a big bonus.
There were two other bowhunters in camp while I was hunting, and both also found some success. One shot a nice 8-point on his last morning, and the other — a good friend — had the misfortune of hitting the largest buck he has ever shot at smack in the shoulder blade at 30 yards. That deer is still running for the border.
To obtain a Kansas archery whitetail tag one must first enter the draw, which occurs in the spring. Jeff Louderback can help you with that, or you can get more information for the Kansas Dept. of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, www.kdwpt.state.ks.us. To learn more about Louderback’s excellent whitetail hunting, contact him at 620-621-4616; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Jeff also recently opened a full-service archery pro shop in Liberal, Hunters Warehouse. Check them out at www.hunterswarehouseks.com.