There’s No Place Like HomeAugust 8, 2013 - Mathews Inc
After a quarter-century hiatus from hunting, following a move from his native Kansas to California, Phil Ryan was eager to rediscover the thrill when he moved back home in 2011. And thanks to a church buddy and his brother, Alan, he did just that.
Phil might not have climbed any trees while living on the west coast, but he never forgot how much he’d loved hunting and his father, Dennis, and brothers.
“I shot my first deer with a bow in 1985, with a Jennings.” said Phil, now the proud owner of a Mathews and expandable broadheads. “It’s amazing how much the equipment has changed since then.
“I got back into hunting through a church friend who has ground I can Hunt.” he continued. “He just started talking to me about hunting one day and volunteered to show me his place.”
Because it had been so long since he prowled creek bottoms with his dad and siblings, Phil asked Alan to join him in scouting the property. Although Kansas’ archery season starts in September, the brothers didn’t get out until mid-October.
“I show Alan a couple of spots that my friend had shown me, and we chose the most promising location among those.” Phil explained. “We put up a two-person stand. I like those because I enjoy the freedom of being able to move around more.”
Although they didn’t scout much, they did find a promising, 5-point shed antler. “That’s the buck I was hunting.” he said. “I figured that if both sides of its rack were the same, it would be a 160 or better. And since the area wasn’t hunted, I hoped that deer — unpressured — would still be around.”
Turns out, it was.
Prior to Nov. 6, 2011, Phil hunted from the stand twice with his son.
“The first afternoon while walking in, we kicked up three or four does,” he recalled. “The second time, same thing … kicked up a couple of does. I was hoping that my son would get a show, but it didn’t happen.”
Phil’s third time in the stand, Nov. 6, was also the first time he’d sad in it during the morning.
“It was a Sunday, and I’d gotten there about 30 minutes before sunrise,” he said. “At about 6:30, an 8-pointer came in from downwind and went right past the ladder, 3 yards from the tree.”
Phil credits a scent-killing spray with allowing him to remain undetected.
“Nothing else happened until about 8:15, when I heard a deer approaching,” he said. “When it walked in, the buck was on the trail farthest from the stand. When I finally saw it, it was at 40 yards.”
It was the big 10-pointer, probably the former wearer of the shed Phil and Alan had found. The shooting lanes for that trail were at 30 yards. The woods were thick beyond that point.
“I tried a grunt call a couple times, but the 5×5 was on the other side of some brush, and I just didn’t feel comfortable trying to thread the needle,” Phil said. “I almost drew a couple of times, but then the deer wandered off and my heat sank.”
“Still, I knew I had all day, so I hoped it would return,” he added. “It didn’t, which was a good thing.”
“About 9:15, another buck walked in from a slightly different direction,” Phil said. “The first one, the 10-pointer, had come from the northeast. This one came from the northwest.
“It was walking purposefully, following a creek bed,” he added. “I couldn’t see it until it was about 45 yards distant.
“Although the entire rack wasn’t visible, I could tell it carried a lot of mass,” he added. “I could see the right side only, and when I saw a drop time.”
The buck stopped between two trees. When it started walking again and its head was behind one of them, Phil drew his bow.
“It was right at 15 yards, but moving,” he said. “I was afraid grunting might spook it, so I told myself not to look at the rack, to just concentrate on the shoulder.
“I saw the arrow hit and knew it was a great shot,” he continued. “The buck jumped between two trees, and I saw the arrow break off.”
The buck went to the same spot where the 10-pointer had stood earlier, which was only about 40 yards from Phil’s stand, in thick cover. As the wide-eyed hunter watched, the buck laid down, and that’s when Phil saw a second drop tine.
“I had to stay in the stand for about 25 minutes until I got to the point where I thought I could get down without hurting myself,” he said. “There’s no cell reception from the stand, so as soon as I got to a place where I could make a call, I rang Alan. He was there in an hour.”
Phil waited because he wanted to retrieve the buck with his brother, who was already ribbing him and taking credit for choosing the best place for the stand. Although he and his brother celebrated when they recovered the deer, the best reward they got was seeing their father’s reaction.
Dennis had been ill and housebound for some time, but he elected to visit friends around town to show off photographs of his son’s great double-drop-tined buck.
He passed away in May 2012.
“I think he was more excited than we were, and it really did him a lot of good,” Phil said. “That buck was the best medicine our dad could’ve gotten.”