A south wind whips through the few remaining brown leaves. They flutter in the warm breeze as they cling with all their might to the branches of a tall and proud willow tree. The long grass in the field across from me seems to dance with the wind, and a whitetail doe flicks its tail to ward of the biting flies awoken from their slumber during the warm November day. I bask in the warmth of the setting sun’s rays as it sinks over the valley. The next morning I shiver as snow pelts my face from a strong north wind, and thank God for remembering to pack my winter coveralls for this trip as I drag a 148″ massive whitetail from its final resting place in a thicket of plum trees. Welcome to Fall in Kansas, where one day it will be 70 degrees and you will be sweating through clothes faster than you can shed the layers, and the next you are scrambling to find enough clothing to ward of the chilly wind that attempts to sink its teeth into your many layers.
Hunting whitetails in Kansas during the rut can be an extreme challenge to the inexperienced hunter. It isn’t the deer that you have to worry about, but the weather that can present its challenges to you. Warm temperatures can change a rut-crazy buck at night into a sleepy beast during the days; presenting little opportunity for a successful harvest for the bow hunter. Nothing is more disheartening than watching a 140″ buck resting lazily beneath the shade of a lone cedar as it chews its cud, and rattling antlers, spraying scents, and blasting hot doe bleats isn’t going to make it leave its cool refuge. Never fear, my fellow hunter, as there is hope! Yes, because every buck pictured in this article was harvested in temperatures ranging from 65-77 degrees Fahrenheit, and I’m going to share with you our strategy we used to harvest these magnificent bucks in the hottest days we’ve ever hunted whitetails in.
The first strategy Matt and I used was our setup location. Just like humans, deer are going to seek water to recover their energy during hot days. We chose setups along active creeks and ponds that showed obvious signs of being frequented by deer. The soft soil surrounding these bodies of water provide an excellent scouting opportunity for you, the hunter, to hone in on a monster buck. The typical mature buck will leave an imprint of 3″- 3 1/2″ in length and if those front claws are splayed or sink deeper than the rear hoof, you can reasonably expect that you have a trophy buck cruising through your area. Just like multitudes of animals gathering at a watering hole in the African savannah, you can expect deer to congregate and show active rutting behavior a hour before the sun begins to rise or sink over the horizon.
Your next step is choosing a suitable location to hang your stands around that body of water. Locating deer trails that lead to and from the water’s edge is a good start, but you want to find that natural chokepoint where multiple paths cross and deer are forced by the terrain around you to come near your stand location. Hunting in western Kansas, as we were, left us with very little options to hang a stand since there were so few trees, but with a little time, effort, and trimming we found our golden locations where we knew the bigger bucks in the area would likely wander by our stands.
Now that you have your location chosen, all you have to do is coax a cruising buck into your area. Easy, right? Not always, but I’m here to tell you that it can be. Never before had I seen so many mature bucks during a rut as I had seen hunting this season. I had been hunting whitetails in the hardwoods and corn fields of Iowa for nearly 10 years prior to hunting Kansas, but my strategy in Iowa was always to be very cautious with calling and laying out scents. In Kansas, I took a much more aggressive approach, and it paid dividends; exactly 460″ of antler in dividends. Two of our bucks taken the past year can be attributed to laying a good scent trail, and countless more opportunities and, eventually, the one I would place my first Kansas whitetail tag on were brought in through our relentless rattling using Matt’s “lucky” antlers, as he would call them.
Picture 1. Lost Velvet Outdoors Pro-Staff, Ben “Hawkeye” Schneider, with a 148″ massive framed Kansas whitetail harvested in 70 degree Fahrenheit weather.
Laying down a good scent trail can be tricky. Too much scent and you ruin the chance that a buck will catch on to your trick, and not enough could mean your trophy buck might not ever catch wind of it. Finding the right amount is difficult, but knowing the wind direction and speed can help you determine what you need to do to lure a cruising trophy into shooting range. As Matt Swanson, my hunting companion throughout my Kansas deer odyssey, would be hanging our stands, I was busy working the scent magic around our area. Tinks #69 Doe-In-Rut Buck Lure was my number one choice when it came to laying my drag. It became an intricate dance as the season progressed as I followed deer trails leading to our stands and wove figure eight’s in and around our shooting lanes we had so carefully trimmed.
The final touch, and what would lead to Matt’s 2014 buck harvest, was using Code Blue Whitetail Tarsal Gland Gel. The tarsal glands for this seductive jelly-like concoction is selected from a rutting buck, and when used during your hunts it may be the extra trick you need to lure in a wary buck. Using the little cotton applicator that comes with each bottle, I would wipe a little several trees around our location making sure to apply the scent facing the direction the wind was blowing from. Lastly, and I recommend using this method at your own risk of injury or death, I would apply a swab to each of my hunting boots. What other cover scent could be better than that of a testosterone fueled buck? With the scents in place and our stands hung, Matt and I climbed our trees and began our hunt.
Picture 2. Matt Swanson, pro-staff with Lost Velvet Outdoors, poses with his 2014 170″ Kansas whitetail harvested in 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
I can’t begin to even remember how many times Matt Swanson and I rattled during each of our setups. We rattled so much that I began to bleed from the antlers scraping my fingers so often. If a buck wandered by without giving us a second look after we rattled we were not phased, and continued to rattle religiously every 15 minutes we were in the stand. For every buck that didn’t pay us any heed, there would be three more that would come charging in with fur raised looking for a fight. If we saw a buck step into a field nearby and it couldn’t hear our rattle, we would just rattle harder and longer until it would turns it gaze in our direction. Calling aggressively works, and there is no right time to know when a buck will take interest in your bone rattling so why not just do it all the time?
The last and, arguably, the most important step for your success in hunting whitetails during the rut is your scent control. Matt and I took a very strict approach to our scent control this year, and it paid off without us being winded by any deer this year. We were ghosts in the trees and that is how your hunting should be. We used plastic boxes with lids and sealed our clothes in trash bags filled with leaves, zip locks, whatever we could to avoid any scent getting onto them before we piled into the truck to head to our hunting location. As soon as we jumped out of the truck, we would immediately apply a layer of Dead Down Wind scent eliminator, and the coup de grace, a final layer of Final Step Natural Scent Cover. The Final Step Natural Scent Cover was, and I firmly believe, our saving grace for most our hunts. Their cedar scent smelled identical to the same cedar trees we would so often rub ourselves on around our hunting areas, and acted as the perfect mask to our human scent. I have been deer hunting since I could walk and used a variety of scent control products from Primos, H&S, etc. Some work, and some only work half the time. I have seen a lot of big bucks this year, and while using Final Step, not once, I repeat, not once, was I ever scented by a deer.
Picture 3. Tristan Swanson, Lost Velvet Outdoors guest, with his largest whitetail harvest to date; a 152″ western Kansas whitetail harvested in 68 degrees Fahrenheit weather.
As much as I want to go into great detail about the bucks you see we harvested this year, I do not want to ruin the surprise for those who watch our Lost Velvet Outdoors television series on the Pursuit Channel. If you want to know the story behind each of these monster bucks then be sure to out our show every Sunday 8:30 A.M. eastern time and 7:30 A.M. central time. This is Hawkeye, pro-staff with Lost Velvet Outdoors, signing out until next season. Happy hunting!
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