Cattle Farm Turned Deer Paradise Yields 172-Inch Monster Buck

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Cole Arkenau has been improving his family’s hunting property for years, and his father got to reap the rewards on Kentucky’s 2021 bow opener.

Rack Report Details
Buck: 172 5/8”
Time of Year: September 4, 2020
Place: Boone County, Kentucky
Weapon: Ravin R29X Crossbow

Ed Arkenau was more than pleased with his opening day Kentucky buck. Image by Cole Arkenau

The Arkenau family, of Indianapolis, Indiana, has been hunting on a small property in Kentucky since 1974. Early on, the farm, just over 100 acres, was home to cattle and race horses. The property continued to have cattle on it until 2017, and that had a big effect on the deer hunting. Other than an exceptional 160-inch buck that Ed Arkenau shot on the property 30 years ago, the Arkenaus said that little bucks and very few deer sightings in general were normal.

But Cole Arkenau, Ed’s son, believed the ground could be transformed into a dream place to deer hunt. So, he rolled up his sleeves and got busy. Along with getting cattle off the property, he’s put in food plots, run trail cameras, and set out and maintained feed stations. After adding some acreage to the existing property, the Arkenau family now has about 217 acres on which to grow and hunt whitetails. And the work has been paying off. In 2019, Cole captured pictures of a young deer with great potential.

“That year he was 2 1/2 years old,” Cole says. “We named him ‘Splits’ because he had a split on his left G2. He also had big brow tines for his age. Interestingly, even though we have 217 acres, the buck lived on only 20 acres when he was on our property. That part of the property is across the road from the rest of our acreage. The 20 acres consists of about 10 acres of field and 10 acres of timber. We have about a 1-acre food plot back there. I usually plant it in radishes and clover. We also have a feeding station in the plot.”

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In 2019 and 2020, the buck lived on that 20 acres from June until the end of September.

“We’d have pictures of him just about every morning and some evenings,” Cole explains. “It’s because there are no producing oaks on those 20 acres. They all used to be hay fields. They have good bedding cover, and a creek runs through the bottom. That’s why he liked it there. But when the oaks would start dropping acorns on adjacent properties, he’d relocate to my best friend’s place about a mile away. He has tons of oaks on his ground, and that’s where Splits wanted to be. For the rest of the fall, Splits would make only sporadic night appearances on our trail cameras.”

Cole says that Splits was about 130 inches during the 2020 season as a 3 1/2-year-old deer.

“He had super-long split brow tines and double split G2s,” he says. “We elected to pass him. We want to harvest only 4 1/2- and 5 1/2-year-old bucks. Fortunately, our neighboring landowners do likewise. They encountered Splits three different times and could have shot him, but they passed.”

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The Arkenaus followed this deer for quite a while before finally arrowing it. Image by Cole Arkenau

Like clockwork, Splits appeared this year during the middle of June at the feeding station on the same 20 acres where he had been the previous two years. Even in June, the buck was obviously going to be huge.

“I planted the food plot back there during early August,” Cole says. “We got lots of rainfall after I planted it. It grew up really nice. I kept the feeder going and made sure the batteries in the cell cam were good to go. It’s actually a timed feeder, and Splits would show up 10 to 15 minutes after the feeder would go off. In the two weeks leading up to season, he only missed two mornings.”

Cole and Ed elected to go in and hunt for Splits the morning of Kentucky’s 2021 opener. They left home in Indianapolis at about 2 a.m. in order to get to the property in time to hunt.

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“We got into the blind and waited for daylight,” Cole says. “A little yearling buck was first to come in. At about 7 a.m., we saw Splits in the food plot. He gave Dad a beautiful 24-yard shot. After waiting 2 hours, we found him 50 yards away.”

Ed shared his thoughts on the hunt.

“I’m really proud of my son,” he says. “Cole’s done a lot of hard work to develop this property. In the past, we were happy anytime we just saw deer. Now, after all of the hard work, it’s not unusual to see really good-quality deer. Splits is the third deer over 150 inches that we’ve taken in the last four years.

“I used to shoot young bucks,” he continued, “and Cole helped change that mentality. You have to pass young deer to produce big deer. As Cole mentioned earlier, our neighbors agree on that. And with the cattle gone, it’s now 100 percent deer paradise. I sat on another stand with my nephew on opening afternoon, and we saw 30 deer. It’s just amazing to see what hard work and management can do.”

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