NAME: Joshua Trolinger
SADDLE GEAR: Phantom XL, One Sticks, Predator
“Pops’ Final Season”
This year has been a roller coaster of life for me. Lots of changes within our family, work demanding some extensive travel & very little opportunity to be afield doing what I love. This trip to Kansas would prove that lightning could in-deed strike twice. After e-scouting a new piece of public, I proceeded to survey the area from the adjacent roadways and deemed it worthy of boots on the ground, picked a western edge, and cautiously made my way into the east wind. The small area I wanted to scout would either prove worthy of my time or not waste much and move on. Once I entered the area, I paused on the edge of the creek bank to glass my approach. The explosion erupting from under the bank will forever be burnt in my mind! What seemed to manifest out of thin air, a mature deer lunged forward, a mere ten yards in front me, stopping 25 yds away in thick under brush curious of what noise he had just heard. Quickly before he could fixate his eyes in my direction, I knelt in the waist high grass hoping to conceal my presence as he stood attentive, looking in all directions in an effort to affirm his suspicion. After what seemed like five minutes, frozen as to not give up my position, the buck passively eased south as I gazed in awe of what I had just encountered.
Without much time to assess the situation, I moved downwind 100 yds closer to a field edge in anticipation that if he attempts to circle back to his bedding, I’d have him pinched off, unable to enter without an opportunity. After two hours, unprepared for the frigid temps and winds with just minimal clothing, I sat shivering in a downfall awaiting his return. Once I decided he continued south to other bedding, I exited to circle the property and prepare for the evening sit. That afternoon, Gary & I picked a location I felt worthy of spending time. After a calm afternoon, at 5:15pm, the buck appeared from nowhere heading north across the cut bean field & in an effort to bring him within range, I grunted 3 times grabbing his attention and he angled towards our setup. Somehow, he disappeared behind the only cedar blocking his approach to vanish in to the bedding area east of our vantage point. Deflated that he had come back but presented no opportunity, we climbed down after dark, pulling half the set, knowing I was coming back solo the next morning and snuck out using the dry creek bed to conceal our exit.
The next morning, thirty minutes before first lite, I cautiously made my approach using the creek bed again, ascending slowly in preparation that he may still be in that cedar bedding. The first few hours were slow & at 9:00am, the buck appeared from the cedar patch, headed south toward his previous days bedding, again out of range and moving away. Discouraged of another lost opportunity, I began to map out my approach to pull my setup, move further east into the gap within the cedars he had used the two previous sightings and be ready for the evening should he do those same things again. Forty minutes later to my surprise, he appeared from the southern bedding, running straight towards my location. In what seemed like thirty seconds, he was within range and quartering to me, but turned entering the cedars again, presenting no shot, only 40 yds away.
I placed my bow back on its hanger, hung my head and tried to understand what just happened. Within a few minutes, watching a little buck bedded nearby’s demeanor, he snapped his head towards the cedars, immediately stood up fixating his ears towards the last sounds I heard from that buck and proceeded on the trail, 4 yards under my tree and walked quickly away. My gut told me that buck must be close & unaware of my location, I decided to aggressively tempt his curiosity.
Once the little buck had moved out of hearing distance, I pitched an aggressive grunt away from the bucks location, turned back towards him and softly made two tending grunts. Immediately, I heard the leaves rustle and what sounded like him thrashing a tree. Focused on the noise, I could see a tree shaking, believing it had to be him, the buck quickly appeared within 25 yds, presenting no shot again! He moved slightly away, smelling where the buck was recently bedded. Acting as though he was going to leave, I leaned out from the tree, extending my tether, in hopes to find a window. Surprisingly, the buck about faced & in an effort to not be noticed, I leaned back into the tree, tightened my tether and secured myself for what could be a point blank opportunity.
The buck proceeded in my direction on the same trail as the young buck, once concealed by some brush, I came to full draw, steadying my bow, finding the click in my release, I focused on the top of the bucks back up tight to his shoulder and settled my pin. What seemed like 5-6 secs in, as the buck paused almost under my feet at 4 yds, I began pulling & as the hinge released the string, I watched the arrow bury to the nock and open a substantial entry and lodge into the brisket. I immediately knew without a pass through, blood would be scarce but as the buck made a 270 degree circle around me, I watched as blood propelled from the top of his back like a hose that sprung a leak! The brute continued to rapidly move away: 60 yards, 150 yards, 200 yards and disappeared into the grass, 250 yards north of my setup. My heart sank as my body succumb to the adrenaline and I slouched into my saddle and began to shake.
In a hurry I preceded down the tree with nothing but my bow. Leaving everything at the tree to race a 1/2 mi north where the property meets the road in case he isn’t dead and tried to flee north to private ground, creating a whole other set of challenges for recovery. After waiting on help for almost four hours and my mind running a thousand different scenarios, two buddies showed up to assist in tracking the deer. Able to slowly follow the blood, Gary & Jeff crept along as I stayed 50-75 yards ahead and to the side in case they jump him up maybe I can get another shot. As we closed in on the bend of the creek just past where I last saw him, I decided to cross the creek to climb a small mound affording me the ability to glass over the top of the grass.
Finally, the glorious shimmer of an antler barely visible through the buffalo grass. Almost as though it was intended to be camouflaged and never found. After looking three times for needed verification…I erupted! Everyone exploded with curious excitement…Do you see him? Yes…Yes I do.
The next moments disappeared in my mind as I approached this monarch. As much excitement as I was consumed with there was also sorrow…I wished my dad was here to enjoy this deer. He would be so excited and proud. All the years of our love shared for this passion in pursuit of Whitetails would culminate into the telling of this story every day for the next week. Instead, I was able to share this with him in his last few days and he acknowledged with a head shake and smile of my last great accomplishment…My first ever buck on public ground and an absolute Giant at that!!