Kansas rifle "any deer/any sex" Eastern zone tag drawn

kansasdad

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Deer sightings throughout the day were limited to private fields. I thought I would see any number of deer coming out at dusk to hit the wheat.

188F9FA7-0905-4CE9-BC47-219CDD02A942.jpeg Lots of poop, just no poopers seen tonight.

Snow is to begin at 10:30 tonight, and lightly carry on over night with temps in the lower 20’s.

I hope to see my bruiser in range tomorrow
 

sigpros

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Great pictures looks like where I grew up. They make me kinda home sick. Beautiful country
 

ashersdad

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How did it turn out? Hoping you pulled out a last inning home run.

One of my buddies with a muley tag ate tag soup after 8 straight days of hunting. Couldn't turn up a buck over 4 years old. Game warden told him CWD is really taking it's toll on the deer...
 

kansasdad

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How did it turn out? Hoping you pulled out a last inning home run.

One of my buddies with a muley tag ate tag soup after 8 straight days of hunting. Couldn't turn up a buck over 4 years old. Game warden told him CWD is really taking it's toll on the deer...
The rest of the story to follow..........lets just say I have some interesting stone barn/houses photos to add to the thread, as well as a non ungulate "as they lay" image as well.
 

kansasdad

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The last weekend of the firearms season had arrived, and I'm reminded that I have never positively identified a mule deer while adventuring in Kansas. They just don't exist in my part of Kansas, and according to the biologists, the trend of whitetails taking over more of the traditional mule deer areas will make getting a mule deer in Kansas ever more difficult.

Leaving Wichita super early so that I will be in position to glass some WIHA and adjacent Wildlife Hunting Areas that might have an elusive mule deer, I headed north into the cold front gust line.

As I was driving I thought about how much Kansas has changed from the time my dad took a teaching position at KState's vet school in the early 70's. Deer were not hunted at all before 1965, as there were few deer, and few deer hunters. Whitetails were moving out of Missouri and Oklahoma, and small pockets of mule deer in the western counties were making a living and doing their part to repopulate ungulates in Kansas. Now 55 deer seasons later, housing additions exist in what used to be crop fields, and some small towns such as WaKeeny have grown, while many small towns have shrunk and are threatened with sinking into ghost town status.

The skiff of snow that was dropped by the cold front covered the brown CRP fields and green wheat fields alike with a fuzzy blanket of soft snow. I scanned the hillsides looking for deer, or evidence that deer had recently traveled across the landscape. I also could see that for the most part, no one was traveling the same roads that I was driving on that early Saturday morning.

I was north of I-70 and after scanning the first WIHA, I motored on to the next spot I had hoped to find a mule deer. Steep (for Kansas) cuts into the rolling fields and adjacent fields offered cover and food for deer, and although I hoped for a needle in the haystack, no deer were found glassing or walking this morning. The one WIHA property that I most wanted to hunt had three orange clad hunters on it when I arrived at the south end of the property. I had planned to put my face into the wind and ninja in the quiet snow to find a mule deer bedded but left it to the three AR slinged hunters that beat me to the spot.

I did find examples of limestone houses and barns dotting the country.

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I had picked a WIHA with the thought that I might be able to find some deer tracks in the snow, and carefully follow them to their resting owner. The tracks led me past a crumbling structure (barn?) so I had taken off my gloves to shoot some photos. After shooting the barn from multiple angles, I thought it was time to put my pack on and get to tracking. One minor detail.......where were my gloves?? Backtracking through the snow, even stopping to review the pictures I had just taken, I finally found the fairly well camouflaged gloves in the grass where I had dropped them to start making like Ansel Adams.

AS THEY LAY:

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And limestone used in bridge construction

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The only public access to the WIHA I had chosen to hunt that evening was from the north. The adjacent property was a "archery or shotshell only" property, but the one I was an any weapon property. With a NW wind, I made my way down the eastern boundary hoping that deer would be coming up out of the private bottomlands onto the winter wheat. Discovering two deer trails from the CRP onto the wheat, I was hopeful that I would see some deer tonight.

As hunters we instinctively react to movement. My afternoon location had a few far off windmills churning away, with only the tip of the blades appearing over the horizon as they spun in the gusty winds. My peripheral vision was constantly picking up the movement of the blades, tricking me into thinking that a deer was moving on the horizon.

That night I didn't see any deer until after sunset, and sadly none emerged from the creek bottom to bring themselves into danger from ol kansasdad. The deer that I was seeing were all whitetails and all does. Not what I was looking for at all.

I had planned on sleeping in my car, right next to my next WIHA I was going to hunt Sunday morning. Mrs kansasdad suggested (in such a way that it wasn't really a suggestion!) that I should get a hotel room and avoid the next snow storm.

Pulling into the parking lot of the Super 8, I saw truck after truck parked there, many of them with goose decoy trailers attached, and the hallway had quite a bit of mud on the carpet and assorted pheasant feathers drifting along the walls. The door to the hotel was almost blocked off as a car had just backed up its dog trailer up to the door. The lock on the trailer was locked with a dog or two in the kennel, and the key was lost. The grinder that was going to cut the lock off of the trailer was shooting out a huge spray of sparks as I walked in to register.

I told the hotel clerk that I would be bringing some cased guns into the room in just a moment, and she told me that I would be the fiftieth guy to do the same thing that night.
 

Mudranger1

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When you are ready to find a western Kansas mule deer let me know and I can probably give you a helping hand...very nice pictures...especially the well laid gloves ;)
 

Nhenryyy

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Kansas residents can get OTC whitetail tags anywhere licenses are sold, but to hunt mule deer with firearms, you must apply in the draw (Archery "any deer" is OTC, but requires archery only hunting, even in muzzleloader and rifle seasons). There are two zones for the any deer tag.....western and eastern. The western units all touch Colorado, while the eastern units are the next ones east of them.

I knew that kansasson and I were going to Wyoming in September, and knew that the odds for drawing an eastern zone any deer tag is low (around 100 tags up for lottery, while western zone is closer to 1600-ish) so I threw my hat into the ring just to get the point. And then the purpose of this thread.......I drew the tag.

I have been working my personal connections for intel on where to find mule deer in my zones, with some promising leads. Many years ago I could have had the best informants a guy could ever wish for.......my dad taught vet medicine at K-State, and thus knew almost all the vets practicing in Kansas. Now many of his students are retiring (and snowbirding in Arizona!)

I have hunted NW Kansas for turkeys, killing my first bird north of Hays, back in the day. The hills up and away from the whitetail river corridors will be fun to explore as I try to find a needle in a haystack, and get my first ever Kansas mule deer.

Should any HuntTalkers wish to point me in certain directions to explore, let me say I'm all ears and down for any PM intel you wish to share.

As with all Kansas deer firearms seasons, the Wednesday after Thanksgiving is the opener, with two full weekends after that to do the deed. Upland season will have been pushing deer around for three weeks or so when the season starts, with archery hunters having a go for the last two months, the deer will generally be on high alert. I look forward to the challenge.
If you have access to anywhere near Atwood I highly recommend that area in the future. My family is from that area and have harvested many a muley in those parts.
 

kansasdad

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If you have access to anywhere near Atwood I highly recommend that area in the future. My family is from that area and have harvested many a muley in those parts.
Certainly the mule deer numbers tend to increase the further west you go. My targeted areas were as far west as the eastern zone tag allowed. Highway 283 is generally the divider between East and West Any Deer Zone. With 100 tags given to eastern zone hunters and 1600ish tags for the West zone, the numbers tend to indicate how much harvest is allowed/anticipated.
 

kansasdad

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Sunday O'dark thirty and I'm hiking my guns out of the hotel and watching other hunters do the same. A stiff breeze is from the north but there is none of the predicted 1-2 inches of snow as promised by the weather app. Driving north with one eye on OnX and the other watching for pre-dawn deer that might to chance a highway crossing, I head out for my picked WIHA.

The "road" I want to use to get to the downwind side of the WIHA as shown on the mapping app is in reality a weeded over two track. So I turn around and drive to the other end of the WIHA and park, and gird myself for the windchill, and try to cipher out how to approach my vantage spot without blowing every deer out.

Using the cut cornfield shadows on my right, and red light from my headlamp I ninja my way to the overlook. Behind me is the corn, south is a wheatfield, and in front of me is a treed watercourse that should be a deer haven.

Deciding that "normal" deer movement time had passed, I loaded up to still hunt my way back up the watercourse to the SUV. Very little sign of recent deer was found as I made my way back.

Large flocks of geese had been using the far ridge as a flyway, so I decided I would try to find out where they were going down beyond the horizon. Driving in the direction of their travel, I saw two trucks. One was already parked alongside the road, the other one was leaving a pasture and parking alongside the road.

One truck had an ATV in the back, and the other held a big doe hanging off the tailgate. The driver of the ATV truck looked "in place" as a western Kansas cowboy, but the driver of the truck with the deer looked a bit out of place with his Abercrombie styled game coat, and his Mexican sombrero sized blaze orange colored head covering. The third person appeared to be "hat guy's" significant other (wife, girlfriend, adult daughter??) as they were hugging it out as I approached the vehicles. My guess was she had taken the doe, the cowboy had hauled the deer out of the back pasture, and hat guy had arrived to congratulate her on her big deer.

As I drove past, and then looked into my rear view mirror, I saw something I have never seen before..........

Hat guy was standing on the passenger side of the cowboy truck, and hunter girl had moved into the front of the ATV truck. She was using the bumper of the truck as a back support, and had dropped her bedazzled jeans to take care of a full bladder. I did a double take and looked back again, she proved to be quite adept at rising and re-pantsing herself, maintaining her dignity.
 

kansasdad

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I had to decide whether to give it the last afternoon of the season a chance or figuratively pull stakes and head home. The temps were going to remain in the 30's with a "breeze" by Kansas standards.

I decided to go see some of the WIHA properties that I had marked on OnX and decide where to make my last chance count. I drove through Hill City and saw other areas further north, but felt drawn to a place that would provide a mule deer lots of space to hide from road hunters, random draws to allow bedding out of the wind no matter the wind direction and just felt "right" for some deer action.

Pulling off of the road, I parked so the sun would hit the SUV, set my alarm,and reclined my seat to take a snooze. Waking up a few minutes before the alarm was set to ring, I pulled out my binoculars and scanned the hillsides and tried to imagine where a wiley buck would have settled in for a snooze himself.

Heading down the fenceline, I found a deer trail winding its way through the CRP, right where I had expected it to be found. OnX topo showed me the knob where I knew I could look up into 3 folds in the opposite hillside, and have a clear view of the bottoms that could be the deer highway that I wanted to sit over.

As I walked, I was thinking how pheansanty the CRP was looking. The first rooster popped out within range, quickly followed by two hens. I walked about thirty more yards and out came a dozen birds, all flying down the valley and turning north around the corner.

Heart rate slowing down from the covey-like explosion of pheasants, I continued down the valley, stopping to glass as new terrain was exposed to view. Several yuccas tried to fool my naked eye, but the Big Fin garage sale binos told the real story. As I reached the spot where I had planned to stop moving and start glassing for real, I found a good spot to hide and be ready to ambush. I pulled out my range finder and memorized basic yardages to various likely spots for a deer to appear so as to be ready at a moments notice.

Across from me there were south facing hillsides that would have provide relief from the wind, and multiple plum thickets and clumps of grasses that could easily hide deer. On the bottom of the valley there were multiple areas of super tall grass (like ornamental Pampas grass) that could swallow up any number of bedded deer. Further down the valley (and eventually into non WIHA) were some bottomland trees that I suspected might hide some whitetails. 049.JPG
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My ears picked up pheasant roosters calling every so often, and then it seemed that two roosters had found each other and were fighting each other. Pulling up my binoculars I could see one or the other jumping up over the tops of the grass on the far hillside, almost like images I had seen in cockfighting scenes from a movie. Then they both decided that flight was indicated. Pitching out from the hilltop they were mostly in glide mode as they descended towards the lone tree at the bottom of the valley.

The brightness that is a cock pheasant was accentuated by the two of them flying in perfect USAF fighter pilot lead/wingman formation. The tawny grass of the hillside and the waning sun of the "golden hour" of near sunset further accentuating their brilliant colors. Red, white, black, purple, orange, green iridescence in full display, it was a breathtaking moment.

As the sun continued towards the horizon, I kept scanning the hillsides for movement. The three obvious trails coming down the hills became less obvious as the sun changed the shadow angle, with other trails now becoming visible. Each of these trails took advantage of terrain features that would make moving easier, and it was just a reminder that the creatures that make these pathways in the grasses aren't dummies.

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Just before sunset I looked all the way back towards where I could barely see my my SUV parked and along the horizon saw a doe. With the deer nearly in line with the sun, I could only see its outline, and by her ears I wondered if I had seen my first Kansas mule deer. I hoped that she would drop down off of the horizon and allow for a better identification opportunity, but alas, she went across the road towards the cut corn and wheat further away.

400+ yards away in the other direction I saw movement on the other side of the WIHA fenceline. There were multiple deer coming out of the far off trees, and all of them heading towards the wheatfield. Those deer eventually made it to the wheat, and spread out in the gloaming light, enjoying their green supper.

As the clocked ticked closer to the end of buck season for me, I kept hope alive, trying to will a buck popping over the opposite hillside. Scanning up and down, I was surprised when the first prairie chicken flew overhead. Flap flap, glide, flap flap glide away it went towards the opposite hillside. Followed by a second bird moments later, and then a flock of more than a dozen flew overhead.

And then it was over. Sunset plus 30 minutes. No buck for kansasdad this year.

And I'm both sad and happy about how the season went down. Miss Corona messed up my plans in several ways......getting to live in isolation from my wife/married daughter as they weren't well enough for me to leave for scouting weekends. My work situation required that I not take time away from the clinic.

I still have some plans for 2020/2021 hunting opportunities. I will mentor some kids with OutdoorsMentors.org for the antlerless whitetail season, which is always better when a kid gets a deer than if it were me. I will get an employee's kids around crossbows and guns still this winter, and perhaps they accompany me on a goose hunt or we might try to get them on some squirrels. And no matter what activity it is, it will be good for my heart to be outdoors enjoying wild places.
 
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