Mason Engel would be the first to tell you that it had been a season of disappointments when he climbed into his treestand on Black Friday morning. A Sunflower State native, this was his 30th hunt of the season on his Kansas lease and he had yet to see the quality bucks he was used to seeing.
As he sat there in the early morning darkness, he couldn’t help but think how the previous season turned out when he arrowed a 150-inch 8-pointer in this same stand on the evening of November 5. He wasn’t going to shoot him at first because he had his eye on a 175-inch stud that had been seen running the river. But when he witnessed the giant 8 pushing around all the other bucks on the property, he couldn’t help himself when he presented a shot. That was one of his best bucks with a bow to date, and although he had hoped to top him this season, Mother Nature threw him for a loop.
Things were really looking good for Engel when early October rolled around. His food plot was doing well, all his stands and blinds were in place and he had several good bucks showing up on his trail cameras. Although none were giants by Kansas standards, they were mature enough to keep things interesting throughout the season. Then, without warning, the rains came, and they kept coming for several days. When it was all said and done, over 10 inches had fallen, and the river rose over 10 feet — 4 feet above flood stage. Engel’s once-prime river-bottom property turned into a swamp.
For two weeks it was un-huntable, as he waited for the flood waters to recede. And when he started hunting again on October 28, it just wasn't the same.
“The flood restricted deer activity all around and I just wasn’t seeing the bucks that I was seeing earlier in the season,” Engel said.
Engel hunted off and on for the next 27 days. He put in his time, but needless to say, the situation was discouraging by Black Friday. However, like any dedicated hunter, he knew it could still happen.
“Being on the river, you get bonus bucks throughout the season,” Engel said. “They just show up for a couple days and then disappear.”
The wind was forecasted to switch around 9 o’clock that morning. About that time, he knew he’d have to get down soon when a doe trotted into his setup. She fed for a few minutes and then suddenly looked behind her. That’s when he saw him. He knew it was a good buck the moment he laid eyes on him, but he didn’t know just how good.
In a matter of seconds, the buck eased through the grove of trees going toward the doe when he abruptly stopped and looked up at Engel.
“I was busted,” Engel said. “He continued walking behind a cedar tree, and I had to make an adjustment. That’s when my stand made an awful sound.”
The buck immediately bolted but made a fatal mistake when he stopped to look up at the bowhunter just 32 yards out. The arrow hit with a hollow thump. And Engel knew his shot was true.