Few places are more inviting for bowhunters than a Kansas woodlot in mid-October, especially when a huge buck is visiting the area. Brothers Isaac and Nathan White, Kansas bowhunters, studied trail camera images for months before realizing that the buck of a lifetime was in their backyard.
Isaac moved from Ohio in 2015 and quickly learned about huge Kansas deer. Nathan suggested setting up trail cameras to see what kind of deer lived on properties they had permission to hunt. Watching deer on a trail camera started their passion for bowhunting whitetails.
“We got a giant,” Nathan said one day after scrolling through trail camera photos in July 2021. Their deer season quickly focused on harvesting the buck they named “Holyfield” because of a large slash in its left ear, so named from a boxing incident when Mike Tyson bit a chunk out of Evander Holyfield’s ear in 1997.
Both brothers realized they had seen this buck on their property during the 2020 season. They recognized it because of a large slash on its left ear. He was smaller then and they didn’t want to harvest a lesser buck. At the time, they never imagined he would grow into a future giant.
The buck made only a couple camera appearances between 2020 and 2021 while its antlers were still in velvet, a tissue or type of skin that regenerates annually and provides nutrition and growth to the antlers.
“We knew he was our targeted buck,” Isaac said. “Season started Sept. 13, and on Sept. 22 he appeared with polished antlers on the camera. Next morning, he returned during the day on camera. I hunted that evening to see if he would show; he did not. He made another daylight appearance on camera the evening of Sept. 27. I set up in our blind the next day and following morning but still no Holyfield. We decided to stop hunting until he showed more of a consistent pattern.”
The big buck made various appearances on camera throughout October but never consistently and never appearing in the daylight. The night of Oct. 23 the trail cam recorded 50 photos of the ghostly animal spanning several hours. The next morning, he appeared in daylight chasing does.
Isaac realized that evening was the time to hunt this ghostly buck. He left the house after lunch and took a long time getting to the blind while avoiding making noise. He settled in the ground blind about 3 p.m.
“A doe and two fawns come in at 5:30 and another doe with fawn at 5:45,” Isaac said. “Does were in front of me and I heard twigs and branches breaking in the distance. Another doe was coming up the trail at 5:50 and seemed to be getting chased. I heard a buck back in the trees and had a feeling it could be him. By 6:15 p.m. several does were cruising in front of me and another doe kept looking back. Suddenly the big buck appeared, nose on the ground heading straight up the trail toward my blind.”
Isaac’s heart was beating hard and nerves began setting in. The trophy buck stopped about 40 yards out, slashing tree limbs with his antlers. Suddenly it continued up the trail, directly toward the nervous hunter and stopped at 18 yards, then looked back where he came out of the woods.
“I pulled back my bow, a Hoyt Power Max,” Isaac said. “I had to lean back in my homemade blind to the window that provided the best shot. I looked down my pin, an aiming device on the bow, and let the Gold Tip Kinetic arrow fly. I hit him perfectly … .”
The huge buck sported non-typical antlers; a condition sometimes caused when the antler base is damaged. Growth changes, developing more points and drop tines, sometimes making the antlers difficult to score. However, Isaac’s 18-point buck was scorable and registered a 166 7/8 Boone and Crocket score that was measured and determined by officials at Cheyenne Bottoms.
Yet the story doesn’t end here. The brothers visited Rogers Sporting Goods in Liberty, Missouri, a sponsor of the Whitetail World Champion annual contest and decided to enter Isaac’s monster buck. They sent in photos of the big buck with the scorer’s sheet and received a call the following February that his buck was in the top five.
“My buck wound up winning the Whitetail World Championship and my name is on a traveling trophy,” Isaac said. “I got a check for $5,000 and a plaque, plus Vanmar Taxidermy and Outdoors, in Claremore, Oklahoma, is going to mount my trophy buck for free,” Isaac said. “I tribute this buck to my brother Nathan. He let me chase this whitetail without any hesitation or jealousy. He did everything possible so I could be successful before my wife gave birth to our daughter. Zach, our brother, started deer hunting over the last couple years and now he is in love with it — a Kansas family tradition has started.”
Isaac’s Tips for Big Buck Hunters
- Cellular cameras allow us to stay out of the woods until the moment is right to stage the hunt.
- Building my own arrows allows me to trust my shot knowing it doesn’t have to be 100% perfect because I will get good penetration. I hit a buck quartering hard toward me in 2020 and the arrow stuck in the ground behind it. The arrow hit near the front shoulder and came out its hind quarter and still stuck in the ground.
- Be sure of your equipment. I spend hours inside my garage adjusting my bow and arrow. I struggled with arrow penetration and target consistency my first few years of hunting. I found Ranch Fairy video and started using their nock tuning tips and tricks. I changed from an expandable broadhead to fixed blades and decided to shoot micro diameter arrows. Once I learned how to get maximum penetration from shooting a “straight and heavy” arrow, I have seen a dramatic improvement with arrow penetration and gained new confidence in my bow and arrow set up.
- Keeping your scent contained inside a ground blind or on a tree stand is vital. You cannot let mature trophy whitetails know they are being hunted or they will become impossible to kill unless they are rutting and chasing does.
“We have harvested some incredible whitetails, including a 216-inch non-typical shot by Nathan in 2018 using our techniques,” Isaac said. “This will be my eighth fall of bowhunting and I’m looking forward to defending the title of Whitetail World Champion.”
Isaac knows anything is possible, including a repeat champion while deer hunting for massive Kansas bucks.