Deer season is upon us. Many folks have hung up the fishing poles, at least temporarily, to get out in the woods with a bow or rifle. While Truman Lake area fishing is obviously very popular, there is also some great deer hunting to be had. This year, there was a special deer running around on some Truman Lake public land, otherwise known as the Corps. of Engineers ground. This deer was a true giant, and few people knew about him.
For the lucky hunter, Joe Hull, who finally bagged the giant on Nov 11th, the story began the year before in 2019. A buddy of his lived on some private ground that bordered the Corps. land and began getting pictures of the deer.
“It was a big deer then, probably 160s, and I told him he needed to get in there and get him,” Hull said.
His friend chased him through September 2019 but stopped after the trail seemed to run cold and the deer was nowhere to be found. Fast forward to 2020.
“This year rolled around and I hadn’t even asked my buddy about it all summer until about August to see if it had been showing up again,” Hull stated. Soon, his buddy showed him the pictures.
“That has to be a 200-inch deer were the first words out of my mouth,” Hull said. The buck was a true once-in-a-lifetime giant, spending his time between private and public land with a another very nice buck tagging along with him, too.
While Hull spent time in Colorado on an elk hunt, Hull’s buddy took up the chase again, along with some other locals that knew about the deer. The smaller buck that had been hanging with the giant was taken on opening day of archery, but the big boy was nowhere to be found.
“When I got back, I asked if he had seen the buck or if anyone had gotten him and he said no and that he was done chasing him,” Hull said. “Told me I needed to get in there and get after him to see if I could find some luck.”
“I kind of brushed it off because we know how folks feel about deer like this, so I didn’t really want to encroach,” he added. “I just went to work finishing up our farming, cutting beans, and circled back with him a little while later.”
After checking again with his buddy to make sure it was really okay, Hull finally decided to go in there and check out the area after his friend insisted on it. He hung a couple trail cameras but didn’t see anything from the deer for quite a while. It took 6 or 7 days before he finally got a picture. But that was all he needed to start putting the puzzle together on his pattern and movements.
“This deer was hanging in some pretty rough terrain with ridges and draws all over the place, not like the tree rows and croplands I’m used to hunting a lot around the Clinton area,” Hull said. “The OnX Hunt app really helped me a lot looking at the topography to really figure out what his likely travel routes would be between areas.”
After about 5 or 6 sits, his first encounter came on November 1st in a spot that was a bit limited on tree stand selection. Hull didn’t see any deer until an hour after daylight when he turned around to see a deer behind him.
“I could tell it was a buck but couldn’t see the antlers in the brush until he started moving his head back and forth,” Hull said. Then, his eyes lit up. It was the giant.
The buck eventually moved through at 45 yards without offering a clear shot. Hull tried grunting to get the buck’s attention. It worked momentarily as the buck turned to look and investigate, but the wind swirled, and he turned and trotted off down the hill like he wanted nothing to do with it.
The hunt continued for another 10 days, requiring Hull to put his boat in each time to access the area. During that time, Hull had a stand and a trail camera stolen. The human pressure was increasing with each passing day, so he knew he had to get it done soon.
Finally, the morning of Nov 11th arrived. Hull made the decision to go to the spot on the day he first saw him. But this time, he moved the stand a tree closer to the path the buck had taken. It wasn’t long before he heard leaves crunching. This time, the buck came from the opposite direction, but took the same trail, offering Hull a 35-yard shot. He made it count.
The deer ran down the hill out of sight and the distinctive crash could be heard.
“I didn’t see the deer fall, but I knew he was done,” Hull exclaimed. “I saw the shot was good and when he didn’t go back up the opposite hill, I knew it was all over.”
“I honestly almost couldn’t believe it. If you love deer hunting and you’re after one, specific buck like that putting all your time, blood, sweat, and tears into it, it’s just a high you can’t get doing anything else,” Hull said. “Your knees shake bad and I just had to hang the bow back up and sit there a minute to calm down.”
Although the deer hasn’t been officially measured yet, Hull roughly measured it at about 178”. That was after it broke off a massive extra point that would have likely put it closer to 190”. That’s one heck of a deer anywhere, let alone a public land deer around Truman Lake.
After the whole process was over, Hull reflected on the experience and things that he had learned. He had been fortunate to take a large buck the year previous on a public managed hunt as well.
“I’ve been very blessed the last two years to connect with the two bucks that I have,” Hull said. “One of the biggest things I’ve seen is that these bigger, mature deer really seem to have a very specific routine on areas they travel and places they will go. They will stick to a certain area they’re comfortable with and they notice everything, every little detail around them.”
“They’re just so much smarter than the younger deer, they don’t let anything get past them,” he added.
Wind direction, stand location, and scent elimination were some of the key factors among a list of many that Hull was worrying about on each hunt. For his hunts, Hull had washed his clothes in scent elimination and kept them in a tub to remain as scent free as possible.
“I don’t care what precautions you take though, they’re still going to find a way to smell you,” he joked. He did offer some words of encouragement for those who think they may have blown a chance at a deer after being winded.
“Just because a deer smells or winds you, doesn’t mean it’s over,” he said. “I’m actually pretty certain he smelled me that first day when I grunted at him.”
“But around here, you’re not the first person they’ve ever smelled. They may be bothered for a day or two, but they’ll be back to their routine soon after that,” he stated.
We all hope to one day have a shot at a buck like this one. Knowing that it spent much of its life on Truman Lake public land should be a confidence boost to any hunter. Truman Lake is known for its great fishing, but clearly the deer hunting opportunities are excellent as well. Congratulations to Joe Hull on a buck-of-a-lifetime!