OUTFITTER: C&S WHITETAILS, EL DORADO, KS
HUNTER: JESSE RUNGE
SCORE: 144 3/8
WEAPON: Lane precision rifles (LPR) 300 rum, Defiance light weight hunter monolithic action, Bartlein 28” 1:10 twist #13 contour, heavy spiral fluting, seamless brake, throated for 230 Bergers , Jewel trigger @ 12 ounces, McMillan a3 sporter with edge tech bedded by Dallas lane, Custom bottom metal
Under Armor scent control clothing
Really Right Stuff carbon
Tvc 34 tripod with leveling head and vyce grip
Night force ATACR 5-25 f2 rifle scope, MOAR reticle
Vortex precision matched rings
Vortex Viper binos
STORY OF THE HUNT:
My 2019 season began in late October upon my return from my latest deployment. Missing the early season and only having public land to hunt presents some challenges to be sure. However, the public land I hunt is some of the best in the Country, as I write this (Dec 28th) a buddy of mine is tracking 170+ non typical he shot last night. we call this deer “trash panda”, due to all his “trash” sticking out everywhere. Although difficult, success can still be had if you put in the time and do not let the random weekend novice walking through your set 30 minutes after shooting light get you down.
I was lucky this year to have a close friend whom I serve with to scout my favorite spot. He was sent home early to attend the birth of his 9th child. He is an avid and experienced hunter whose judgement I trust. He hung sets, put up cams, and put in the time that I simply couldn’t while overseas. When my boots hit the ground he was there with a thumb drive in hand and a snap shot of his stand locations, “welcome back and sit anywhere you want man” was all he said and I went on my way to spend time with my wife and son. As you can imagine, my priorities were to spend time with my family, but when you get trail cam pictures like the ones he gave me, your mind will take you to the stands when you’re idle.
After a week or two of being home I took some leave and traveled to visit family in Missouri. I took my orange ensemble and a long range hammer with me as it was gun season. I generally don’t get to excited about hunting in Missouri, as we are surrounded by people who shoot anything that moves. We have had booners harvested in the past, but it is the exception not the norm. Ultimately, I didn’t see anything worth harvesting and returned to Kansas to take a crack at my now jointly hunted spot.
My first sit was on the 15th of November and it was amazing. Days like this are what brings people back to the woods year after year. Bucks in groups dogging a single doe, locking up horns, grunting, making more noise than Rosie O’Donnell at an all you can eat buffet without flatware. My heart was in my throat the majority of the hunt. I had numerous opportunities at a 145” 5 year old that I let go last year as a 4. You might say “well a 145” 5.5 year old is a nice buck to harvest” and you would be correct. It’s just that in this area there are so many monsters I just can’t fathom dropping one so early in my season. The night ends and I walk back to my truck. I don’t get a lot of time to get back out there and get after it with work, family and other activities, but I have an ace in the hole…..
Years ago a man named Cory Smith organized and funded a hunt for a Soldier with a Kansas Whitetail Outfitter. I was lucky enough to be that Soldier and I am eternally grateful for Cory and what he did for me and what he has done for other Soldiers over the years. The relationships that grew out of that encounter have benefitted me greatly throughout the years, not just with the hunts but the vast knowledge they both share with me and that’s priceless! The outfitter has invited me back each year and both he and Cory will always be considered the best of people and great friends of mine until I draw my last. So, now you know why I pass on nice bucks on public land. It’s not just the idea of killing a bigger buck, it’s about hanging out at a deer camp with great people of a like mind and sharing stories. When you have spent your entire adult life in the Military with 8 deployments, you can’t put a price on the relaxation factor of deer camp with friends.
Fast forward a few more weeks and I’m at C&S Whitetails with the same great group of guys I hunted with last year, minus one, rest in peace Wade. I get there a few days late, as I wasn’t authorized additional leave over what my Division Commander assigned for “block leave.” So, I have 3 days to get after it.
The first morning it’s uncharacteristically warm. I’m in a shoot house overlooking a draw that leads from food to bedding. I have some early movement about 30 minutes prior to legal shooting light. You gotta love Nightforce products, turning dawn into daylight one optic at a time. I watch some smaller bucks and a few does until 1030 or so and I get a message to pack it in. We have a nice lunch and Chad discusses where everyone is going that evening. He says he has a place where I may be able to shoot 700 yards over a cut corn field. I know that seems like a long way, but I regularly shoot out to a mile and my reloads are meticulous with standard deviation in the mid single digits. He says I’ll be looking west as the winds are shifting from south to north and will be out of the west during that time period.
I walk in and ground sit in 5 foot tall grass and sprouts on the east side of this field. I set up my RRS tripod and pull out my gunwerks BR2 range finder. A couple doe travel from south to north in the lowest part of the field exposing only their heads until they are on the north side and travel east. With 1 hour of shooting light left it seemed as though a dam had broke and the field was being flooded with deer. My shoulders were getting tired from holding my Vortex Viper binos up for so long. I counted 45 doe and a couple bucks all traveling the exact same route. With 7 minutes of light left I see bone above the corn stalks that have been cut. I can’t get a good look at him as his body is hidden by the slight rise in terrain, but he’s tall and is a clean 8. I have to admit I have an affinity for clean 8’s, I put my wife on a clean 157” 8 just two weeks prior, perhaps a story for her to tell…….now there is only 3 minutes of shooting light left and he’s 275 yards to my right along the north edge of this field. As he walks I can see a rub line that looks like the trees owed these bucks some money. I settle my MOAR reticle on his shoulder and call out with my best imitation of a doe bleat. He stops in his tracks and looks at me. I see a mature body, 12” G2’s and a 17 or so inch spread just a bit outside his ears. I say to myself “I’ll mount that” and then the earth shakes as I send a 230 grain Berger OTM at 3010 feet per second with a slight touch of my jewel trigger set at 12 ounces. I look after the shot and he’s nowhere to be seen. With 1 minute of shooting light left I can’t see much with the naked eye, I tell myself he has to be down and I’ll have Chad bring his tracking dog Chassy.
I know that the shot was clean as the RRS tripod mimics shooting off a lead sled anywhere you set it up and being hit with that round carries the same amount of energy of Thor’s hammer, it’s science! We go back to the lodge and have some dinner, tell the stories of the day, collect the tracker and head back out.
As soon as we arrive the blood pup goes to work. She immediately finds the blood trail. It’s not long, maybe 10 yards, and she lights up. He jumped once and piled up. Chassy is already tearing a hole in the back side of this buck. I get my hands on him and I could not be happier. Scoring 144 3/8 (green) He’s not the buck of a lifetime, but I would not trade this harvest and the time with friends for a 180” solo kill. One thing that Cory and Chad have taught me over the years, it’s not just about the bone, it’s about the whole experience and memories with friends.