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This was a good year for hunting NW Kansas for Life in Camo. We were excited to make the draw in this limited non-resident draw unit and even more excited when Richard drew a mule deer tag. Only fifty nonresident mule deer tags were awarded in this unit so he felt that he had won the lottery. We took a trip to the property over the Labor Day weekend to scout ideal stand locations and put up some SpyPoint Wireless Cameras, so we had a pretty good idea of what deer were on the property before we ever left on this trip.

Our first trip was November 3rd through the 12th, which is the time Richard had predicted the rut from research. This year we decided to change-up a few things. We took three Guide Gear 13′ tripods to use instead of taking ladder stands, lock-ons, and climbers. Anyone who has hunted NW Kansas will totally understand our decision for this; finding a straight tree is nearly impossible and when you do find one, having that tree in a spot you need to be hunting is slim to none.

Of course, rut will always bring a myriad of bucks that you haven’t captured on game camera; this is what we found on the first trip. We spent

On Sunday morning, our first hunt, Richard harvested a beautiful 9-point within the first hour of daylight. We actually did have this buck on camera the very next day after we put the cameras up during our September trip. This 9-point weighed 238 pounds on the scale and the taxidermist aged the deer at 6.5 years old by its jawbone. Richard had hoped to hold out for a mule deer but felt he could not pass up on this caliber of whitetail. I surely could not blame him.

Richard’s buck harvested the first morning of our hunt. It weighed 238 pounds and was estimated by his jaw bone to be 6.5 years old.

With Richard filling his tag and being done with his hunting, he had plenty of time to scout and to visit in town with locals. Mojo’s Espresso & Bistro is one of my favorite places for lunch and they make the best Caramel Macchiato I have ever consumed. Richard kept posting photos on his Facebook of his breakfast paninis and steak and cheese sandwiches and of course, I was seeing those as I sat in the stand 10+ hours each day eating tree stand snacks–it was pure torture.

There was more deer traffic at the stand where Richard had killed his buck so I hunted out of that stand. Many of the bucks I saw over the next seven days were more than likely transient bucks and a few that we had game camera pictures of; some of the bucks I saw were phenomenal bucks pushing 160 and better. However, the closest this caliber of buck got to me was 64-yards on the other side of some branches. The bucks were seeking hot does and they had no interest in my buck decoy so I quit putting the decoy up.

Tuesday morning, I actually felt as if I would have an anxiety attack while in the stand. I had bucks in four different directions of varying distances chasing does. I could only explain it to Richard as a bag of popcorn coming apart at the seams in the microwave, I didn’t know which way to look, or set up. The does carried the bucks off into adjacent fields, woods, creek lines and out of sight on pretty much a chaotic run.

Wednesday morning when I reached my stand, the tripod was placed over a half bale of rolled hay, so I laid my crossbow on top of the bale and was tieing it off when I heard a critter of some sort rustling in the tall grass on the other side of the bale. I peeked around and to my surprise it was an adult skunk. I quickly backed up from the bail but now I was in a predicament. Do I hustle up the stand steps or do I back off and give this skunk its time to move on? What if it is about to curl up and take a nap? I didn’t really know what to do but I knew I had about 25 minutes until the sun started to lighten the horizon. Finally, I braved it and I crept up the steps. The skunk eventually moved along and I was able to pull my crossbow up. Whew! That was an intense morning. 

There were a couple really cold mornings that resulted in a lot of deer movement. On one of those mornings, I had ice particles covering my crossbow. I remember thinking how cool that was because we don’t experience this type of weather much in the south. I absolutely loved the cold weather and hunting in it. This was my season wearing Sitka Gear and the new Women’s Whitetail Line offered me a complete system from base layers to a warm, windproof outer layer complete with neck gaiter and toboggan. I was comfortable in the stand from 13 to 72 degrees. Not to mention that the system took less space in my gear bag and it kept me from having to take additional pieces and layers. 

On one of those cold mornings, I watched a solid black domesticated tom cat rolling in the warm sand, dusting itself on the edge of the alfalfa field. I originally thought the black object moving around in the tall grass was another skunk, I was surprised when a huge cat walked out unto the field. It never ceases to amaze me at what I will see in the woods. 

Mid-day Wednesday, I had a situation that I learned a lot from. It was not that comical in the heat of the moment, but afterwards I couldn’t stop giggling. I shared it on Facebook, but for those that don’t have Facebook, I will share that post here:

“This is my first season ever where I have worn bibs to hunt in. I have to admit that I am loving the Sitka Gear Fanatic Bibs and everything about them. But MY STARS, there is absolutely no grace in getting out of bibs when you really, really, REALLY have to go see a man about a dog. Forty yards before I got to my destination I was losing gloves, 2 pairs…then I struggled getting my jacket off for about ten quick-stepping yards, throwing it down in the weeds, about 10 yards from the spot I became delirious for a moment when my right hand and left hand couldn’t figure out if I wanted to zip down the front zipper of my bibs or pull the straps over my shoulders first. As I started to break a cold sweat, it hit me that I still had to finagle some base layers and a HECS suit to be in the clear. A brief panic came over me when I thought, “GUD LAWD, where’s the toilet paper?” And it dawned on me that the small roll was clenched tightly between my teeth. Meticulously gathering up my bib straps in a panic as not to soil them, I glanced out across the field, and I had to giggle, what was staged in front of me was the perfect scene from a movie where a couple comes into an apartment in a hot fit, stripping shoes and clothes on their way to a flat surface… a high-heeled shoe here, a skirt two steps away, a blouse a couple more feet. As I looked out across the field, I saw a glove here, another one there, a mix-match pair close together, fingers blowing in the wind as if waving at me, my jacket sprawled wildly across the unlevel weeds, and somewhere in all that manic chaos, I even lost my toboggan which was laying 10 feet away from me in a briar bush, but hey….I held onto the toilet paper!! Note to self: Give yourself a little more time the next time this issue comes up and you are wearing bibs! Whew!

img_4347-1Later that afternoon, I noticed movement to the right of me and as I looked up a beautiful mule deer was walking by. My heart sank. This buck would have been an amazing mule deer for Richard to have harvested. All I could do is watch it walk by. I took a few photos and as soon as I took the last one I received a text from Richard asking me if I had seen any more deer since he last checked with me. I text back, “You are going to be sick!” and I sent him the photo. He sent a text back that read, “I am happy with what I got.” I knew he really was hoping for a mule deer and I hate that this buck had not visited him in the place of the whitetail but at least he settled for a beautiful mature buck that I sure would have been happy with.

Thursday afternoon I swapped to another stand we had set up on the alfalfa field where I had seen a lot of traffic. Right before sundown, I saw a massive heavy-racked buck walk around a  fence post onto the edge of the alfalfa field in my direction at about 100-yards. I did not have to pick my Hawke binoculars up to see this buck was massive with tall tines and a wide rack. I have to admit I have never experienced buck fever before. Even after shooting some really good bucks from the stand, I just have never experienced the shakes and heart palpitations. I have always felt that I was missing out on something.

Well, that all changed. When I saw that buck and my “OH SHIT!” factor went on high alert, I immediately felt my heartbeat in my neck as I reached for my crossbow. The buck walked down the edge of the alfalfa field and I felt I was going to relieve my bladder, then I felt sweat beads start to form on my upper lip. The buck turned into the woods that led to a dried creek bank behind me. I grunted at him and he didn’t slow up, he was on a mission. I strained to see if he would turn my direction but he didn’t. As I sat my crossbow down I instantly started shaking uncontrollably. I had to plant my feet on the platform solid and put weight on them to keep my legs from shaking, but it didn’t do anything for my upper body. I only had about 10 minutes of daylight left and I was worried about having to descend the ladder shaking like I was. I managed and I was still shaking when I met up with Richard at the creek crossing. I was out of breath telling him what I had just experienced. He asked me if I was going to be alright.

The last two days that I sat in the stand were extremely slow. I spent a total of 57-hours in the stand on this first trip and I passed up on a few decent bucks. I came to Kansas with a personal goal to harvest a 150+ class buck. The buck would need to be unique for me to harvest one less than what I set out. We didn’t necessarily need the additional meat in the freezer and I have been blessed with a couple good Kansas bucks that I enjoy the memories and mounts on the wall, so this was a personal goal I wanted to stick to. I left Kansas that first trip with a tag in my pocket.

Having personally witnessed the incredible bucks that were in this area, and since I still had a tag, we decided that we would come back during the Thanksgiving holidays.

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Our trip started off with a low tire when we left home this morning. Cletus had evidentially picked up a bolt on a job site the previous day and we were not going to be able to make the one-hour commute into work without adding some air until we could get Cletus by Don Duncan’s All-American Tire. Nathan Woodring quickly assessed the situation, located and removed the bolt, patched the Cooper S/T Maxx-Armor-Tek3 tire, put it back on Cletus in record time. It was a relief that Mister found the bolt and the computer on Cletus told us we had an issue before we started out on this trip.

I can’t say that the workday crept…it was 3:30 p.m. when I finally was able to take a minute to evaluate the amount of work I had left to do versus the amount of time I had left in the “concrete jungle.” The last 1.5 hours flew by! As Cletus’ diesel motor turned over and started purring, we found ourselves strategically placing the last few items we had left to load in the cab of the truck. Snacks directly behind the console, bag of ice in the cooler behind my seat, a roll of paper towels behind the driver seat headrest, my computer bad at my feet…it all becomes second nature when you have shared over 450,000 miles on the road hunting together over the last 10 years.

The fancy box in the dash where the crazy lady lives!

I plugged in our destination into the square box mounted in the dash, Big T Motel in Tarkio, Missouri, and the “crazy lady that lives in that box” politely told us that we would reach our destination 14 hours from the current time. We were on our way!

One of our favorite authors, James Patterson.

 

 

 
I have spent many hours in the passenger seat typing, editing, uploading photos and even paying bills, shopping on Amazon. Some time in this 14 hour stretch, I have some typing for a women’s boot article that needed to be completed. But first, i was responsible for the entertainment of the evening. I put an audiobook on, James Patterson’s 11th Hour, and cranked up the sound and we were settled in for the long haul.

 

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One of our favorite snacks on the road; Club Crackers, squeeze cheese, & Wisconsin Beef snack sticks. 

After a stop for fuel at the Love’s truck stop, it was time for a snack. We have eaten many meals in the cab or on the tailgate of our truck–I have to admit, we have shared some of our favorite meals together there. Tonight, captain wafers, cheddar can cheese and jerky snack sticks. Okay, maybe not the healthiest of all snacks but surely much better than some of the alternatives while on the road.

Catching up with friends on social media is probing that this unseasonably warm weather is putting a damper on deer movement. We can only pray that we made the right decisions on the dates we picked and have chosen some good ground to hunt. This is what makes Do-it-Yourself hunts exciting; you never know what will unfold on the trip. As we made our way through Nashville, I can feel my shift at the wheel coming up in a few hours so I better catch me a nap. If you are hunting this weekend/week, good luck to you, safe travels and remember to ALWAYS wear a safety harness.

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I figured the new snow was deserving of a homemade hot chocolate with real milk, Hershey Chocolate, canned Whip Cream, and a few marshmallows! Meetu thinks it might be something for him. Let the sugar coma begin. #Meetu It's chronic.... #LifeinCamo doesn't hunt without @ozonicshunting! #OzonicsHunting Good Morning & Happy Black Friday to all those brave enough to go shopping today! It's a brisk 40 degrees here in Kansas and the wind is supposed to pick up and get pretty brutal, but I will be hanging tough like a Black Friday Shopper! #SitkaGear #LifeinCamo Wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving!! #lifeincamo
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