Sleeping in the Blind for a Drop-Tined Hoss

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Phillip Vanderpool camped out in the woods on a single-digit night, with no heater, to get a chance at this Kansas stud

Rack Report Details
Buck: 170 1/8 inches (green gross score)
Time of Year: Dec. 31, 2020
Place: North-central Kansas
Weapon: Elite Enkore

Phillip Vanderpool spent the night in his ground blind, and then tagged this 170 1/8-inch buck the next day. Image by Phillip Vanderpool

Phillip Vanderpool, co-host of The Virtue, is well-known as a big-buck expert. He's tagged some genuine dandies over the years and last season, he added yet another stud of a buck to the wall. The story behind this deer is even more impressive than the antlers, too. 

Vanderpool has subleased a 42-acre Kansas property through Triple H Outfitters for the last five years, and he’s been managing it all the while. He’d never taken a buck off the place until this season, when he set his focus on a 5 1/2-year-old deer nicknamed "Hoss." In 2018, he rattled the deer in. And in 2019, he received several trail-camera photos of it. But this year, Hoss was big enough to command Vanderpool's full attention. 

He hunted the buck off and on from Oct. 4 until the last day of the season. He even had four encounters where he just couldn't get an ethical shot. 

“It was always too dark to make the shot,” Vanderpool says. “I’m talking 10 yards and you can’t see your pins. It was still legal shooting time, but with only two or three minutes left.”

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On Dec. 30, Vanderpool settled into a ground blind located on the edge of a creek. His wife, Rhonda, was there with him, too. With two days left in the season, they hoped Hoss would give them one more good opportunity. And Vanderpool planned to pull out all the stops. 

After a long, cold night, the sun finally rose, and so did the dedicated bowhunter’s anticipation.

“Rhonda stayed until dark and then left,” he says, “but I spent the night in the blind. It got down to 7 degrees real feel. And I about froze to death. I didn’t have a heater. And I had one bottle of water and a sandwich in 30 hours. I didn’t want to have to use the bathroom a lot.”

So, why go to such trouble? Vanderpool says the spot, on the edge of a quarter-acre food plot, is difficult to sneak into early in the morning without bumping deer. Plus, the buck didn't seem to be on a pattern, and so Vanderpool wanted to be there if the deer finally made an appearance. 

“He wasn’t very regular,” Vanderpool says. “I passed up a lot of bucks to get the opportunity.”

After a long, cold night, the sun finally rose, and so did the dedicated bowhunter’s anticipation. It was the dawn of closing day. He had mere hours to fill his tag on the huge deer.

A heavy frost covered the ground, and temps hovered in the teens. High pressure had deer on their feet. Several bucks moved through, but not the big one.

As the day progressed, the sun peeked in and out from behind cloud cover, resulting in a mostly overcast day. Conditions were optimal for a late-season hunt. While there weren’t really any crops in the general vicinity, there was a good bit of browse, and deer were hammering the food plot.

Vanderpool finally caught up to this target buck on the last day of the 2020 Kansas deer season. Image by Phillip Vanderpool

Around 11 a.m., Rhonda slowly eased in and climbed back into the blind to play out the clock. Looking out the right window, they observed the winding creek and peered up toward the steep bank deer often walked up over. Nothing, and the story was the same elsewhere. Nothing stirred in the brush and CRP off to the left. No deer were in the food plot in front.

But that changed early in the afternoon, when movement finally caught Vanderpool's eye. A young buck that had already shed its antlers entered the food plot, and milled around for quite a while.

Around 4 o’clock, it finally left the plot. No sooner had it exited when they spotted a heavy-racked deer coming from the far end of the plot — it was Hoss. He fed through the green field and slowly made his way toward the ground blind. As he went, three different cameras captured video.

Vanderpool drew his bow numerous times, but something always got in the way: bad shot angles, or the deer moving or being on alert. So each time, the veteran bowhunter lowered his bow. 

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Finally, more than 10 minutes later, Vanderpool got the chance he’d been looking for. He focused three different video cameras on the giant, drew back, and let an arrow fly. The 10-yard shot connected, and the deer bolted. Several yards later, he tipped over. One trail camera actually got the impact of the shot.

“I shot him the last hour of the last day of the season,” Vanderpool says. “It was like the good Lord put him in my hands, because I hadn’t had him on camera in over a week. I didn’t know where he had gone. Rhonda got as excited about it as I did. We truly had a big buck celebration. Kansas was really special to us this year. She’d killed a great buck a few days prior.”

The drop-tine buck named Hoss green scored 170 1/8 inches, gross. And since it was the last day of season, it'll be a while before Vanderpool has to pull another all-nighter in a ground blind.