Just starting to get back into the swing of things and catching up from being gone for nearly a month hunting big game in Nebraska and Canada. This post is concerning my Nebraska hunt which was with Lance Kuck, owner and operator of Laughing Water Ranch Outfitters located just north of Bassett, Nebraska.
We booked this hunt nearly a year back and I was very excited to get down to Nebraska and set up on some big whitetails with Lance.
The hunt started out a bit rocky. On the way down, the 12 hour drive turned into nearly a 17 hour drive because just over 400 of the total 930 miles I had to travel was basically a sheet of ice. I counted well over a dozen semi's that had slid off the road between the Montana and Nebraska boarder. Wyoming and S. Dakota were not friendly to us drivers that day. I only had a couple instances where the old Duramax wanted to get loose on me, just enough to keep me away.
Got in late and pretty bushed. The hunt itself was set up in very similiar conditions that I hunt in here at home. Mostly on stand overlooking large fields of alfalfa and wheat with some smaller corn fields as well.
Unfortunately, from the day I got there until the end of the hunt, it pretty much warmed up every day. The hunting was hard and the big mature bucks that were obviously there just were not moving.
We put in five hard days sitting on stand in the mornings and then would go have an early lunch, then head out to some other locations to do some rattling in the early afternoon and then finish up back on the fields for the evening.
We always saw deer, that was not a problem. 30-40 deer a day was common, just no mature bucks. By that I mean over 4 years old. ALOT of younger 2 and 3 year old bucks and some very good ones at that but just no mature bucks like had been taken off the ranch regularly in years past.
We were all baffled at the lack of mature buck movement but with the relatively warm temps, it was not surpising.
On the fifty morning of the hunt, Lance put me in a location overlooking a large winter wheat field. I could see 750 yards across the field, and had around a half mile window of angle out into the field. My position was elevated over the field by around 50-60 feet on a hill, perfect for long range shooting.
At first light, there were two bucks in the field with several does. I could only tell this by the way they were acting pushing does around. As the light allowed me to see better, it was revealed that these were, again, just young 3 year old 4x4 bucks, not shooters.
At 9:10 am, across the field, I spotted two deer on the treeline. A buck and a doe. The buck was the biggest I had seen yet. A very impressive 3 year old 4x4 with decent mass and dark antlers. He was roughly in the 125" B&C range. after the previous days, this buck really made me think about taking the shot. In fact I even got set up ranging the buck and figuring the hold with my 7mm AM for roughly a 700 yard shot attempt.
Still when I got ready for the shot, I just could not kill this buck. His doe wondered off the field into the bush and he followed.
At around 10:00 am, I just caught the tops of a rack moving behind a raise in the field were the field dropped off out of view. He was traveling the same path as the buck and doe before had so I figured he would give me plenty of time to see what he was. I could clearly see he was a 5x5 and a solid 5x5 at that. He was not overly tall but his tines looked to have good mass to them. Thats about all I could get from the quick glance then he was behind the rise in the field.
About 20 minutes later, I spotted three does and this buck where the previous deer had been. A quick look through my spotter showed what the buck had to offer. He as not wide, only ear tip in spread, had a solid 5x5 frame, main beams were a bit short but it looked like he had some stickers on his eyeguards. This was the best buck I had seen so far on the trip by far and figured he would be in the mid 130 range.
Had we been seeing the deer which were typical for the ranch, I would have passed on him but thinking over the past days of hunting, I figured he would do for my first Nebraska buck.
I set up on the buck at a measured 720 yards. This was near the outer limits I have for my lightweight 7mm AM with the 160 gr Accubonds at 3350 fps but I was confident in the shot and there was no wind at all.
For some reason however, just as I was settling in for the shot, the buck left the does and started walking RIGHT AT ME. For no real reason other then to cross the field. I stayed on him and he never broke stride until he came to a smaller winterwheat field and he stopped right behind a small shrub that was between me and him. I could see him through the bush but was not able to take the shot. I leaned over to the spotter to get a better look. He had thee tines that were quite bladed and double split browtines. He was not an old deer, 3 year old again, but a good three year old for what we had been seeing. I had ranged the beginning of the smaller field earlier and knew it was 325 yards from my location. Anything inside that was point blank, hold dead on and pull the trigger.
After a minute or two, the buck started on his original path and cleared the bush. I yelped at him to stop him, once, nothing, twice, nothing, then I really let out a yell and he stopped and looked up at my position.
The 160 gr Accubond landed dead center on the chest and I watched as the buck set right back on his rump and just set there for a second and then fell over dead.
There was no surpise when I walked up to him. I knew what he was before I shot, just a good young deer. Again, on a normal year, with the bucks that are on this ranch, I would not have shot him but still I was happy to have gotten him with the hard hunting we had done. By far the best deer I had seen.
I green scored him at 136 3/8". Certainly not a monster but a good deer on a difficult hunt. He scored pretty well considering his small frame being only 16" outside spread and 17" main beam length. This was a deer that in a couple years would have been turning into something special. I actually apologized to Lance for shooting this deer as he would have been a hummer in a couple years. Both G-2 were starting to fork and his G-3 on the right side was as well. He had two spots on his main beams that looked like they were going to develope drop tines and his brows already had good splits on them with more trash starting at the bases.
His frame would never have been huge but he had the potential to be one of those special deer down the road. Again, I actually felt bad for taking him off Lances Ranch but I am sure his genetics are all over that ranch from other deer and possibly himself.
All in all, it was a great time. Lance and his guides were great to be with, food was top notch, comfortable place to stay and alot of deer. Just a bad 5 days with no big mature buck movement but that is something that no one can control or promise a hunter, just a risk you have to take when we go in the field.
Would like to thank Lance for making me feel so welcome at his place. IT was a good time and I suspect I may return again to try for one if his big boys. I know none of them got killed this fall!!! Unless he did it after the hunters left.