- Lynn Burkhead
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There aren't many archers who would be all smiles just days after missing a shot at a Pope & Young caliber 10-point buck.
Then again, Topeka, Kan., bowhunter Brad Henry has plenty of reasons to smile these days.
On a recent Sunday, the 32-year old hunter arrowed a magnificent 12-point whitetail buck that appears poised to become the new Kansas state record archery typical buck following the completion of the 60-day drying period.
The Henry buck, which has been given an initial green gross score of 217 1/8-inches and a green net-score of 196 2/8-inches by Pope and Young Club measurer Gary Hunsicker, could also rank as one of the top three P & Y typical whitetails of all time.
The current P & Y world record typical deer is a 204 4/8-inch buck taken in 1965 by Illinois archer Mel Johnson. The current number two P & Y typical whitetail is a 197 6/8-inch deer arrowed by Iowa archer Lloyd Goad in 1962.
A pending potential world record typical buck taken in Alberta in October is due to be officially scored early in December. That buck's final score will play a role in exactly where Henry's awesome monster whitetail places in the all-time P & Y rankings.
The current Kansas archery record for a typical whitetail is a 193 2/8-inch buck taken by Dr. Stephen Weilert in 1994. For the record, the current Kansas rifle record is a 198 2/8-inch buck taken by Dennis Flenger in 1974.
Not bad for a beginner
All in all, the 12-pointer Henry tagged Nov. 18 wasn't bad for an archer who picked up the sport of bowhunting just two years ago. But world-class whitetails really weren't the goal that Henry had in mind coming into this autumn's archery season.
"Because I haven't ever got a buck with my bow, I just wanted to get something for my wall," Henry said. "I wanted to get a good eight- or 10-point that would look good on the wall and was a mature deer.
"That was my goal for the year to get a good one for the wall. All of my buddies had one on the wall and I didn't."
Earlier in November, it appeared Henry would indeed get that coveted wall-hanger, as a nice 10-point buck moved into range on the 80-acre parcel of land that he owns, manages, and hunts for big whitetails.
As the Pope & Young candidate closed ranks on Henry's stand site, it appeared that it was all over but the shouting for the husband and father of two. But as the archer drew back, disaster struck.
"I pulled back into a tree with my elbow, which apparently triggered my release and I shot under him," Henry recalled.
While the disappointed archer couldn't know it at the time, that miss would prove to be one of the most fortunate moments in Henry's young hunting career. It enabled the Burlington/Northern/Sante Fe Railroad employee to still have a legal buck tag in his pocket when a monster buck of historic proportions came sauntering by in the days to come.
Kansas knows big bucks
But hunters in Kansas seem to have the odds in their favor when it comes to big bucks. Kansas has produced four of the top five, six of the top 10, and 10 of the top 20 non-typical bucks of all-time.
And with an archery record over 190-inches on the typical side of things, it's safe to say that there are few better places to hunt world-class whitetails than the land of Dorothy and Toto.
Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks deer biologist Lloyd Fox said that a combination of good food resources, good genetics and rich soils all are a part of the Sunflower State's formula for legendary bucks. So, too, is the state's deer herd age structure.
"Many of these states (Midwestern states) have an age structure with 40-percent of their antlered deer that are harvested by hunters being 2½ years or older," Fox said.
"We're up around 50 percent (in Kansas) and some of the units are even above that. That means that many of our animals are reaching older age classes that allow them to develop to their full antler potential."
History in the making
On Nov. 17, Henry found himself on the cusp of bowhunting history as he discussed the following day's hunting plans with longtime bowhunting pal Jeff Frank.
Henry, wanting to give the big 10-point he had missed a lengthy rest before hunting the buck again, eagerly accepted an invitation from Jeff to hunt the Frank family's old home place.
Henry knew there were good deer on the 500-acre tract of Central Kansas land that contains a cornfield, a major creek bottom, and hilly terrain. But he was just as interested in getting to hunt on the old Frank family farm originally owned by Frank's father, Gary, prior to his passing away nearly a decade ago.
"This is land that his dad used to own and hunted on his whole life," Henry said. "I'm really, really close to Jeff, but I had only hunted this place twice. When he (Jeff) asked me to come out there and hunt the place, I felt very privileged to even be able to hunt out there, knowing that only he and his brothers hunt there."
As the hunting partners set up their game plan for the following day, they decided to sleep in a bit.
"We decided not to go in at daylight because on previous trips we had been chasing them out when were walking in there," Henry said. "So we decided to wait until about 9 a.m. before sneaking in to give the deer a chance to get from their feeding areas to their bedding areas."
When Henry went afield the following morning, he liked the cool, damp, and foggy weather conditions that had kept the deer actively moving the previous two days. Like much of the deer rich Midwest this fall, Kansas had been plagued by abnormally warm autumn weather and the change in the weather was indeed welcomed by Henry.
Weather plays a role
But on Nov. 17, Henry found himself slightly concerned by the light wind blowing from the south.
"That concerned me just a little bit because it was blowing my scent into the field a little bit, but if there's something that I have confidence in, it's my Scent Lok suit. I know it works from some of my past hunting experiences, so I just gave a passing thought to the wind direction and went ahead on in."
Henry and his hunting partner were able to make it to their stand locations without spooking any deer. He found a tree just inside the edge of the timber bordering the cornfield. The numerous deer tracks, a scrape, and two rubs helped the archer to pick what would turn out to be the treestand site of a lifetime.
"I just walked along the edge of the corn until I came to an opening where first, I could find a tree and get my stand up into it and second, have a shot out into the cornfield. When I found the rubs and the scrape, I knew that was the spot."
Henry buck could rank as Pope & Young's third best typical of all-time