Hunting season is approaching. I have hung all my stands. The nights are beginning to get cooler and the falling leaves are announcing the forthcoming snows. Deer season is growing closer and I am excited! That being said, it will be hard to top last season.
In 2006, I harvested a Pope and Young whitetail and a Boone and Crockett whitetail within the same month, in two different states. Much of my good fortune—like many things in life—was due in large part to a twist of fate. An internet chat room conversation in early 2005, between two NAHC Life Members, Scott Fratter and John Hower, would develop into a remarkable story the following year. A seemingly innocent agreement between these two men and me would change the Kansas whitetail record books forever. Here is the story of a legendary buck named "Grandpa."
I have been a Life Member of the North American Hunting Club for many years. I enjoy reading the magazine and the benefits associated with life membership. One of the most overlooked aspects of membership may be the "Member to Member" section of the Club’s website. In this section, a chat room is available. The chat room enables fellow club members to converse over the internet and discuss a wide variety of hunting issues.
A hot topic often "chatted" about includes debate about guided vs. unguided hunts. A third option available to hunters is the "swap" hunt. A swap hunt is where a hunter in one state or province offers a different kind of adventure in his/her state or province. Generally, no money is exchanged, just the hunt. Swap hunts are a pretty simple concept, but one that is gaining acceptance across the country.
Personally, I never thought about a swap hunt, but when my friend Scott called me up and asked if I was interested in a hunt in Kansas, I was ready to catch the next plane to the sunflower state. Scott was in the process of coordinating the swap hunt with another Life Member by the name of John Hower. Scott was offering a Mule Deer/Pronghorn hunt in his newly adopted home state of Colorado, and John was offering a whitetail hunt in eastern Kansas.
Ironically, Scott invited another friend on the hunt before me. When the first friend declined, Scott immediately picked up the phone, and within minutes we had a hunt planned—a "Life Member Triple Threat." Both of us scheduled hunts for 2005, so we agreed to apply for a preference point in Kansas’ unit 14. The point would increase our odds of drawing a 2006 tag. The months flew by, and luckily we both drew the coveted non-resident tags.
The Kansas Connection
On Monday, November 27th, 2006, I flew from Rochester, New York to Kansas City, Kansas. Scott drove from Aurora, Colorado, and met me at the airport. We loaded my gear into his truck and headed west to Council Grove, Kansas. Council Grove is located in Morris County, and is John Hower’s hometown.
When we arrived in Council Grove, we headed over to the local motel, checked in, and met the motel owner named Emma. I told Emma that we were from out-of-town, and there to hunt whitetails. It was then that Emma told us about a mythical deer known around town as "Grandpa." Apparently "Grandpa" was a huge buck with lots of points that many locals had seen but were never able to kill. We promised Emma that if we killed Grandpa, we would bring him back and show him to her. I enjoyed the story from Emma, but never gave it much thought. Scott, on the other hand, joked about the "old wives tale" the remainder of the afternoon. I kept thinking … does he really believe that story?
That night we met John for the first time. The next day we were scheduled to receive maps of the hunting area, scout our hunting ground, and more importantly, hang our stands. We did not have much time to get ready. Opening day of the Kansas rifle season was a mere 48 hours away! After talking to John and asking many questions, he mentioned that a local farmer discovered the left side of a whitetail shed that spring. The shed was found in an area not too far from where we would be hunting. The shed measured 120 inches! I started to get excited, but realized that bucks this large very seldom show themselves. Nevertheless, it was encouraging news!
Tuesday, November 28th, was spent scouting and hanging stands. It was 73 degrees, an all-time high in Council Grove. Scott and I looked at three properties. Two of the three properties lacked the deer sign I was hoping to find. The third property was like hitting the mother lode! Many trails crossed the wooded creek bottom. Rubs and scrapes were in abundance. Just south of the creek was a brushy bedding area. Everything a whitetail needed was right there, and the deer sign confirmed it. I love hunting bottlenecks, and this setup was exactly what I was looking for. If there were any deer in the immediate area, they would be channeled through this location. My hunch was that a big buck would prefer the cover offered by this natural funnel.
I picked a tree and situated the stand in the southeast corner of the property. I figured that any prevailing westerly or northwesterly wind would minimize my human odor from approaching deer. I hung the stand and exited the area as quickly as possible.
The warm weather had me worried. Would it ever get cold? Scott and I watched the weather reports intently. A large weather pattern was approaching the Midwest from Canada that night, and the reports indicated a chilly wake-up call the next morning. Fortunately, I brought my Arctic Shield cold weather clothing with me. Opening day, November 29th, dawned a crisp and cold 23 degrees.
The Kansas King
Scott dropped me off at my hunting spot very early that morning. He agreed to check in with me at noon. If I was not at the road, I told Scott that I would be sitting for the remainder of the day. I needed to walk a long combined corn field that morning to get to my stand, so I left the vehicle, wished Scott good luck, and proceeded to walk as quietly and slowly to my hunting spot as possible.
I settled in my stand and arranged my gear. Soon after sitting down, I heard a shot ring out from nearby. Within 15 minutes, I noticed a small three-point buck sauntering by at 15 yards. The little buck was unaware of my presence. I was comforted by this fact because the buck was downwind of my position.
Later that morning, I saw a lone doe skirting along the edge of the wooded creek bottom. The doe was moving with purpose, and eventually walked away from me and disappeared into the woods. A short time later, I noticed two does being harassed by a larger buck. All three deer swung south of me and headed in the same direction as the tiny buck and doe earlier that morning.
The weather grew more ominous as the day progressed. A mid-morning drizzle turned to sleet, which eventually progressed into a full blown hail shower. It was around noon. I had not seen any deer movement for the last three hours. I decided to pull a sandwich out of my backpack, and sip on some water. The cold weather had nearly frozen the water. I ate the sandwich and had to suck on my granola bars as they were also solidified from the extreme cold. The midday lunch break helped keep me focused. I still had another 5 hours on stand.
At 12:40 p.m. I turned my head to look behind me and was amazed at what I saw. A buck had just stepped up out of the creek bottom. All I could see was antler. The monster was only 60 yards away!
The buck was in no hurry, just walking slowly. The wind was blowing hard, but in my face. The behemoth was upwind of my position. Instinctually, I turned, knelt down in the stand and prepared for the shot. The buck was still walking though, so I attempted to stop him. I gave a loud doe blat, but the deer kept walking. I blatted louder and finally the mammoth buck stopped broadside and looked in my direction. The deer’s vitals were bordered by two large trees, but the shooting lane was large enough. I fired the Remington .270, and the 140-grain Hornady bullet did its job. The monster ran uphill approximately 75 yards and dropped before my eyes!
I stood there not believing what just happened. Three hours passed without a deer sighting. Rain, wind, sleet and hail pummeled me, and all of a sudden the buck of a lifetime appeared at 60 yards. I gathered my backpack and excitedly climbed out of my tree stand. As I walked up to the buck, I could now see the other side of his rack. A huge 14-inch drop tine protruded from an even more massive main beam and I counted 27 points!
I immediately called Scott and left a message on his cell phone. The message was, "Scott, get over here. I just shot Grandpa!" I managed to call my Dad and brother and tried to explain to them what just happened. I think they realized the enormity of the moment. I have measured a lot of deer in my lifetime. In fact, I just became an official Boone and Crockett measurer earlier that year, so they knew I was talking about a true monster. Needless to say, Scott heard the shot and quickly made it to where I was standing. We shared high fives and hugs and stood there and basked in the moment.
Looking at the rack, I knew it was a 200-inch whitetail. That night, we rough scored the buck and realized that he was around 285 inches! Sixty days later the buck was officially gross scored at 282 7/8 inches, and scored 266 2/8 inches net non-typical. The Rightmyer Buck is the largest non-typical ever harvested by a non-resident in Kansas, is No. 2 all-time in Kansas history as a non-typical, and currently ranks No. 23 all-time in the Boone and Crockett record book.
Word spread through town like wildfire. I now know that the old wives tale that Emma was talking about was more fact than fiction. I had one more visit to make before returning home. As promised, we brought Grandpa back to Emma. As soon as she laid eyes on him, she said, "That’s him." Needless to say, a Polaroid picture of Grandpa is displayed prominently in the lobby of The Old Trail motel. Sometimes, old wives tales do come true … just ask Emma!