Donnie Monroe knew he had landed a special buck when he landed a 23-point whitetail that netted 230-4/8 inches three days into the early Kansas season. What he didn’t know was that the monster buck would break Buckmasters’ mark for the highest “irregular” (the organization’s term for atypical) category for muzzleloader hunters in the Sunflower State. Monroe bucks scored 213-⅞ on the Buckmasters scoring system, topping the previous category by ⅞ inches. The group acknowledged Monroe’s money as the new state champion in an Instagram post just this morning. Buckmasters marks white bucks similarly to Boone and Crockett, but eliminates the spread score, does not require a 60-day drying period, and does not count deductions.
A tricky hunt for a surprise monster
Monroe is no stranger to big deer. As a member of the TV show Team 200, he has a number of trophy bucks on his wall, including a 200-inch buck in 2018. However, he had his hands full with this buck, a deer he’s known since last year “This buck ran with another last year, and I thought his mate would be my target this fall; he was a 4-year-old, 150-class 10-pointer that I thought would be a Booner this year. Well, that deer looked pretty cool this summer, but his running mate had an absolute blast. From the trail-cam photos I was taking, I felt he would score over 200.
But the debt presented challenges, chief among them being that the 160-acre ranch Monroe was hunting was bordered on one side by an avid hunter and on the other by working equipment. “I was sure they both knew this deer and I honestly thought I had about a week to kill the buck or one of them,” he said. “I felt like I had to figure it out in a hurry and prepare for every opportunity he gave me. I spent a lot of time glassing, getting out the trail cameras and coming up with a plan. I finally figured out where the bed and the bean field where he liked to feed were, and I decided to try for him in a little cover pocket that connects the two.”
A change in wind direction creates an easy shot
However, Monroe had a big problem. The south wind predicted for the first week of the season was almost wrong for his organization. “I’ve learned over the years that sometimes a change in terrain can change the wind direction a little bit, and I knew a place where I thought I could find just that,” he said. “When I got in there, I was right; the wind was more east-southeast at that particular location.” This was nearly perfect for deer, but imperfect enough for Monroe to take advantage. “I also brought my Ozonics unit, which has allowed me to be a little more aggressive on installations like this. I’m also a big believer in the Moon Guide and it was the first red moon of the month. I really felt like if I was going to throw a shot at this deer, that would be the day and the place.”
Monroe’s plan worked. “I knew I’d have a narrow window of opportunity if he showed up, so I sat on the ground and kept my muzzle on the shooting sticks, my butt against the bino’s harness. I’m normally a bow hunter, and probably should have had my bow, since the buck came at 40 yards. It turned out to be an easy hit for a muzzleloader. When I went up to the dollar, it was pretty humble. I mean, I would have had enough intelligence to let me know how big it was, but when you actually see a deer like that in front of you, it’s just amazing.”
Although Monroe had a lot of success with big deer, he says it never gets old and he still gets the same amazing feeling every time. “I grew up dirt poor in Indiana and honestly learned to hunt just to put food on the table for me and my dad. But the more I hunted, the more I fell in love with it and it has become a way of life. I had been coming to Kansas as a non-resident for 17 or 18 years, and then I had the opportunity to come here for work. So now, I not only find this magical place, I live here. I honestly have to shake my head every now and then; this is like living a dream for me.”