Listen to the podcast here:
Kansas Deer Hunting Secrets with Reuben Martin
We’re heading out to Central Kansas. Jason took a gorgeous 200-inch whitetail. His friend, Reuben Martin, followed up with a gorgeous 170-class deer. Reuben, I’m excited to have you on the show from Kansas. Kansas sure is putting out some big deer.
We try, Bruce. We got a lot of food for them. They’ve got nothing to do but eat and take naps all summer.
Jason and I spent some time talking about stories. That’s one thing I like about Whitetail Rendezvous is it’s about the stories and the people that we meet because of hunting. Reuben is another one of those people. Reuben and his crew, Bowhunting Mature Whitetail, what’s that all about?
We’re a group of guys that believe in hunting the most mature deer that we can in the area. We also like to pass on to others whether they’re experienced hunters or inexperienced our methods and the things we have learned throughout our journey to become where we’re at to better each other as a hunter. Ultimately, that should be the goal of all of us. It’s to help everybody else be the best hunter and the best person that they can be. That’s what we want to do. We want to help others learn success and enjoy stories by what we do and teach us through what they do.
Hunting mature deer, hunting ghost bucks, hunting Mr. Wonderful. A mature deer, anything over 150 and four and a half years old, I call them Mr. Wonderful. On our farm in Wisconsin, we took a 180 and we see 180-class deer on the trail cameras. Mr. Wonderful, as soon as archery seasons starts, as soon as they cross over or change up late August, September on to a different feeding pattern, those suckers disappear. You might see them at night but during the day, they’re scarce. The last deer I took in a farm was the 130 class. My neighbor took it right below my stand. He took a 160-class. We’ve had a 150-class. The big guys, they’re there. There’s no question about. We’ve seen them on cameras. The farmer that owns the land, he sees them from his tractor and stuff. Come hunting season, they disappear. Why did they pull that disappearing act?
A lot of it is in my belief that as a young deer, they see the pressure when hunting season starts. There’re a lot of people that are so excited. I was that way when I first started. I was so excited to hunt that I would spend as many days in there as I could. I run in there. I’m going to be there. The deer would bust you and they’d catch you. Over time, I believe the smart ones figured that out. They’re a smaller deer at the beginning. People overlook them. They learn your movements as well as you learn the deer in the past. They use that to survive because they’re one of the greatest survivalists that we know, a whitetail deer. They will find a way to survive in places and conditions that we could never survive it.
My whole deal is I don’t hunt on a stand more than three days in a row if I know they’re there because after that, I’m patterned. He knows I’m there. I’ve talked to enough people and had enough experience to know the first time I set a stand is the best time for that stand. I’m not saying it’s 10%, 20%. The second day, it’s below 75% and the third day, it’s below 50%. That’s not bad when you’re talking about mature deer. I’m not talking during the rut either because the rut is a whole different ballgame. I’m talking about you are hunting one deer. He’s gotten in your hit list and you’re after that one deer. It sounds like your crew, that’s how you hunt. Is that how you figure it out?
We have a couple of guys that don’t have the genetic powerhouse of Kansas, Iowa or Missouri. The places where they hunt, they have to focus on one single deer and they got to be careful. That’s the way all of us do it. We all run trail cameras constantly. A lot of people give me a hard time because I run so many trail cameras. I’d rather get a whole bunch of pictures of that deer and then shoot it than get a whole bunch of pictures of that deer I’ve never seen. We’re very meticulous on how we do things because it’s paid off for us in the past. We’re learning like the deer does how to survive pretty much in the hunting industry.
Let’s talk specifically about what you do. I know Jason’s story. Is he a member of your club or crew?
No. This is just me and some other guys on a group that we’ve got together. He lives quite a ways where he’s not on any of that stuff, I believe.
Let’s get specific. You guys figured it out. Do you have meetings and say, “We got this deer. How we’re going to change up the stands? Where are we going to put the food plots?” Tell me how you do it.
We’re spread out across five states. We throw our heads together. We run ideas off each other. We don’t all hunt together, but we do run ideas off of each other. I’m the oldest out of everybody that’s in our group. We’ve got some younger guys, which they have some good ideas and some good things. They also know that I’ve messed up probably more Boone and Crockett, Pope and Young deer than some of I have seen in all the years that they’ve hunted because of the time that I’ve been doing at compared to them. We bounce ideas off of each other mainly when we talk. We get on calls and we have a Messenger chat. Anytime anybody has got a question, we get with everybody, throw heads together and see what’s going on. We’ll ask if we see a deer that’s disappeared. We’ll tell them where we’ve seen it. We all do things pretty much the same way in the fact that we run cameras. We have food plots. In Kansas, we’re allowed to have a feeder.
I won’t shoot deer off of them because that’s part of the process where I believe that a lot of these older bucks have pattern feeders as a place of danger. I’ve tried to tell the other guys, ” I’ve found that if you got mature deer in your property and you do not see any of that feeder, there’s a reason.” You’ll see him in there 30 minutes after dark, but you won’t see him in daylight. There are little things that we looked back and forth across. We know bands were so far apart because two of the guys are in Ohio and two are in South Dakota. We have Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas. It’s hard to get that many guys together all at once. We definitely keep in contact on the phone a lot, trying to figure out ways to get back on deer that we do or don’t see or if something changes. We use each other as sounding boards to figure out what’s going on.
Let’s talk about stand sets. How do you guys figure out your best stand set for each separate hunting area?
I’ll break it down for you a little bit. It’s a creek bottom that runs through the middle of a quarter section of ground. It’s 160 acres. That creek bottom funnels some deer. It’s wide open crop ground on both sides. They can walk through anywhere they want to. When I do my stands, I look for trails. I’ll set up cameras during early seasons and see where they’re moving. I’ll set up my stands to be as effective as they can possibly be with the winds that will keep me from getting busted too much in that area. That’s pretty much the rest of the guys from what I’ve talked to them over the past year that we’ve had this together. We are in pretty well agreement that if you put a stand hoping to kill a deer out of it, chances are it’s not going to work for you because you’re going to change an area that deer knows well. You have to make 100% sure that first off watch your wind, second where that stand is going to get the most deer in front of you successfully and without being winded or busted. That’s how we all set our stands. For me, it’s more of a meticulous deal. I don’t like moving stands. It’s fun. At the same time, I don’t because I know that if you move a stand, those deer will notice that you’ve been in there. It makes me nervous about having to move a stand. There has to be a very good reason.
You don’t run and gun then?
Not too much. I would rather sit on the outside and watch in, move in and see where they’re moving. I would run and gun. I’m old school and the fact it scares me to alert them of my presence until I’m ready for them to know I’m there.Appreciate the experience of getting to witness Mother Nature in her grand glory. Click To Tweet
You want to sit on the outside, so you’re sitting on the fringe. You’re sitting right on the edge between the crops and the woods?
That is an observation stand then or is that a kill stand?
It can be both. Some of the best observation stands I put up ended in me killing a deer out of it.
Why is that?
I don’t set them off somewhere where I know there’s not going to be any deer. I’ll set it somewhere where they’re not normally a heavy traveled place. That way I can still move, look, see, and watch the deer that are out in front of me. A lot of times those out of the way places tend to attract for some reason large deer or mature deer because it gives them an ability. They think like I am. I want to be able to stand back from a distance and evaluate the situation before I get into it.
Do you call that a staging area?
Sometimes yes, here in Kansas the deer will travel forever. People will talk about the core area a couple of hundred yards or something, like ten or twenty-acre spot. Here in Kansas, depending on the terrain out here where I am, there’ve been deer killed seven miles from where someone has seen it in the summertime. They will travel an amazing range out here. That’ll be a place that you feel comfortable looking at what’s going on and assessing the situation. It ends up being a spot where it’s not the buck’s staging area. He just chooses to go to it to check it out. The staging area, a lot of times they’re there in multiple times. That observation stands that you set up, it might be the first time that mature buck has gone there. He goes to a place where he feels, “This was secluded and away from everybody. I can check out all these other deer in this field. Nobody knows I’m here yet.”
Is that in a corner?
I like outside corners. They are so amazing because the deer is right close to you. Even if they’re downwind out in the field, for some reason they don’t believe that there’s a person there because they can see deer standing on the other side of you. One of the first stands that I hung on the property that I have is an outside corner.
Explain what an outside corner means.
The creek bottom comes to the east and then turns back to the north, and it squares off. It’s a corner that juts out into my feed. The opposite side would be my inside corner, meaning it comes to the trees or the trees are behind me in the corner and the feed is out in front. For me, an outside corner juts out into the feed. The inside corner is where the feed comes into the trees. That outside corner for me, when I have my stand there, I have it blowing out into the feed. I have a food plot right next to it where the deer come through the creek bottom into that food plot.
It’s right on the edge of the actual crop field. The deer, if they get downwind to me, there is zero fooling of a deer’s nose. They’ll know, “There’s something over there.” They look up and they see these deer that are 100% calm standing in the food plot. They’re like, “Maybe I’m crazy.” That stand has worked for me. I might have been busted out of that stand twice in the five years I’ve hunted this spot. It’s usually an old mature doe that gets me. She usually doesn’t make it through the season if she busts me. I tried to make sure that doesn’t happen. The ones that point me out are usually the first ones to get the ride back to the farm in the truck.
On your corner section, how many stands do you have?You have to trust the things that you believe in to make you successful and trust the advice you get from others to be successful. Click To Tweet
I have five. I did have six but I took it down because the access didn’t give me the access made me nervous. I decided to abandon that stand for the purpose of having access to my other stands, not going in there and busting a deer needlessly.
Are these hang-on climbers or ladder stands?
Climbers scare me because I have a firm belief that I’m going to fall out of the tree. I don’t use any climbers. We also don’t have a tree straight enough where I live that we can put a climber on it and still is small enough around that I can get around it. I pretty much stick to ladder stands and hang-ons. The older I get, the better the ladder stands look to me. It’s a little more comfortable. You’re not climbing upside down, backwards on your side, on a tree branch, on ladder sticks, or steps to get up to your stand. When I was 25, that didn’t bother me too bad. I’m getting closer to 40. One of these days, that ratchet strap is not going to hold me. I’m not getting any lighter either, so that doesn’t help me. I’ve got a ground bull line. I’m going to try to start integrating some elevated blinds. I’m also one of those old school guys that doesn’t like to spend that much money on a small house. This is what I would call them. I have a couple of them made. I’m going to put them up. I’ve got some old fuel barrel stands that’ll work perfectly for what I need. We don’t have to get up too high here.
Is that for rifle hunting or is that for archery?
That will be for bow hunting. Since 2007, I have not even looked at a mature or even looked at an antlered deer through a scope to shoot it. I like the thrill of being close to him. I personally only hunt deer with a bow. I got my wife into bow hunting. She shot one with a rifle the second year she went out. She decided it wasn’t for her. We started her in bow hunting. I’ve got a crossbow for my kids. They like shooting either one the gun or the bow. They liked the bow a little bit better.
I like hearing about the crossbows. Crossbows are a big segment of hunting. It’s getting a lot of people in hunting. It makes it easier for kids to be deadly accurate.
It definitely is a help. In 2016, I had shoulder surgery and had it reconstructed. That’s when I bought the crossbow. I was already looking at getting one for the kids anyway because they were getting old enough to start shooting deer. That forced me because I wasn’t going to be able to push my bow. I’m a little bit hardheaded. I told my wife there was no way I’m going to miss hunting this year. I don’t care. I was climbing into a tree stand and hunting as soon as they took the brace off of my arm. I don’t know if you’ve ever had shoulder surgery, but you still got a couple of weeks before you’re supposed to be able to be doing anything.
We all got stories. I got two pins in my shoulder. That’s why I don’t hunt with a compound anymore. I hunt with a crossbow. It works. I’m still hunting. Crossbows, TenPoint‘s and Ravin‘s got them. You can shoot out to 100 yards and put them in the six-inch group. I don’t shoot my crossbow and it goes 380 feet per second. I don’t shoot that hunting. It’s sighted in for 52 yards. That’s as far as I’ll shoot. That’s an elk in Colorado. Bow shots are 30 yards, twenty yards. I had a 10-point at my feet. I was on the ground. He was ten feet away. I couldn’t shoot him because he was moving hard. That was a great, awesome experience to see all that happen. Having said that, crossbows have a place. One thing I’ll say on that is I don’t care what you hunt with. Hunt legally, ethically, go out, enjoy yourself and have some fun.
That’s my two cents on that. I’ve got Deer Hunting Institute coming on board. It’s coming on soon. I’m rebuilding my website. There’s a lot of great things happening on Whitetail Rendezvous. I’ve created Deer Hunting Institute. That’ll be coming soon. If you want the seven steps to becoming a better deer hunter, you go to http://bit.ly/7stepsBetterDeerHunter. Pick up that. You’ll get some other information about Deer Hunting Institute. You’ll get some follow-up information about stand set. There’s some good information there. Try that out and appreciate it. We talked about Big Brothers Big Sisters. You give a lot of your time away. I know you’re pouring into your own family, but let’s talk about why you are getting bowed being an outdoor mentor.
I lived in Wichita for six years. I met my wife in college in Hutchison. We moved back to Wichita because that’s where she was from. While I was there, I did a lot of hunting. I was big into hunting. I was young. I met Mike Christensen from Big Brothers Big Sisters and Outdoor Mentors. We hit it off. He’s a good down-to-earth guy. He talked to me. I wanted to do something for somebody else. It was before I had kids. I love taking people hunting. I love taking people to do things. I love sharing my time. My wife will give me a hard time about it because I don’t spend enough time with the family, but if it has anything to do with the outdoors, I’m in it 100%. He told me that they were starting the Outdoor Mentors Program. It was to take kids that wouldn’t normally have the chance to go hunting.
At first, it’s a little scary because you’re getting matched up with someone you’ve never met before. Sometimes it can be a kid that’s in a foster situation. Sometimes it’s a kid that does not have one of the parents in the house. The parents are struggling. They need something else for the kid, give them an outlet to go do other things besides getting in trouble or sit in the house. I was matched with a young man named Bryce. I took him out. We went hunting. I took him hunting with my dad. He had never seen anything like that. It was probably one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. The first time we went out, I knew it was something that was going to be burned into me forever. He had never been in the outdoors ever, not once. I took him out. We went fishing. We went hunting a couple of times.
My dad, he understood what I was doing, but he wasn’t sure what was going on. We had Bryce out hunting deer one day. Bryce turned to us and he said, “What time is it and what time did the deer come out?” My dad looked at me and he looked back at Bryce. At that point, my dad knew what I was doing.
For us as hunters to hear that question, you’re like, “I don’t understand the question. We’re hunting. We don’t worry about when the deer come out. We worry about when they walk in front of us.” After Bryce went home and I talked to dad on the phone after that, he told me, “That’s pretty cool.” He said, “Bring him out here more. We can take him to go hunting.” It’s a two-hour trip to where we go hunting with dad. He loved every minute of me taking Bryce out there with him.
We went and hunted elk on a high-fence place that was going to let kids shoot cow elk because they had too many. Bryce got to shoot a cow elk. We got to see a 300-inch bull at 30 yards. That’s an experience in itself. Those animals are super majestic anyway. Elk is one of my favorite. I know that they’re connected in Minnesota, but they’re big in Kansas. What they do for kids and what they do for adults is absolutely amazing. They have programs all the time. You can go on their Facebook page or their website. They’re constantly doing raffles and giveaways. All of it is for the kids. Every bit of it is for the kids. If you’ve never taken a kid out hunting, you’ve never done anything or taken a new person out hunting, there is no better feeling in the world than watching the light come on in their smile when they get to be outside.
They get to witness the things that we take for granted that we see every day. They get to watch wood ducks come down into the creek bottom. We watch them swim across the creek bottom, watching bobcats, foxes, and coyotes hunt mice out in the field. Some of these people never get to see those things in their life. They can never imagine that. When they do finally get to see it, hunting the animals may not be for them, but I’ll promise you they will appreciate the experience of getting to witness Mother Nature in her grand glory. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what we should all be geared towards. That was the thing for me is it definitely put me on a path to try to help as many kids as possible and as many adults as I could. You’re not only helping that kid, when you go through that situation, but they’re also helping you.
They’re teaching patience that you had forgotten that you had and also forgotten that you didn’t have. It’s getting you to watch the other things besides fixating on which buck you’re trying to shoot or what turkey you want to kill. That’s another thing. We went up to an outfitter up in Northern Kansas that every year, the entire weekend, they are two weekends out of the season. They dedicate it strictly to the kids. They take fifteen to twenty kids up there and let them shoot as many turkeys as they legally can. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have to be a big long beard. They can shoot a Jake. It’s in the spring and they let them go up there and hunt turkeys and it’s all free for the kids. They’ll do the taxidermy mounts form, everything. That led me to eventually become a coach for football because football is my second love out of everything.Kids are teaching patience that you had forgotten. Click To Tweet
Coaching kids in football helped me be able to teach my kids better. It was almost a practice for me for to be able to effectively teach my kids what I wanted. I already knew by the time I had kids what they needed, the way that they looked at things. It’s an amazing program. I go on about it for days, Bruce. It’s the greatest thing that anybody will ever do. Whether you’re through a program like Big Brothers Big Sisters or Outdoor Mentors, if you can get someone out to go hunting, a kid or adult, it doesn’t matter. Take them because it will make a difference in their life that you may not get to see the results of it, but someone will. Somebody eventually down the line will get to see those results.
Thanks for sharing that. One thing I picked up is patience. I’ve been impatient. It’s costing me ducks, pheasants, turkeys, elk and everything else because I wasn’t patient enough. Let’s visit that a little.
When we were first getting into something, we want to be so successful at it. We have the drive for it. We want to know everything we can so we can go out there and be so great at it. A lot of times it doesn’t work. People get upset. They get mad. They walk away from it because they say, “I haven’t shot a deer in three years. I’m done.” To say that I’m not guilty of feeling that way some days, I’d be lying because I’ve gone before one, two years, and never pulled my bow back because it wasn’t the deer that I wanted to shoot. I wasn’t happy with settling for whatever walked by. It’s something that you learn as you get older. If you can help someone realize at a younger time in their life, you’ll make them more successful. You have to trust the things that you believe in to make you successful.
Trust the advice you get from others to be successful because it’s hard to try to teach someone something when it comes naturally to you. Sometimes it’s hard to understand how it doesn’t come naturally to others. We all have skills and we all have gifts. I’ll give you an example, I went out hunting the second deer that I ever shot with my bow as I hunt a mid-140s Ten Point, a respectable four-year-old deer. I was super happy. At the same time, I was also very upset with myself because the day before, I had watched a 170 to 180 class typical Ten Point run across from a half to three quarters a mile away to the edge of the creek bottom I was sitting on. I knew I had to get down and intersect that deer because I’d never see it again. We all know that’s not how that works out. That deer would be around because it ran to your spot for a reason.
It’s because it felt comfortable there. It was running from where it’d been spooked, it’s going to where it was comfortable. In my inexperience, I thought that was the only chance I was ever going to get to shoot that deer. I got down, walk to the fence, crawled up there, come to full draw. I drew him all the way to me. He was maybe ten yards from me. I shot and I split the barbwire fence with my arrow. What are the odds of that happening? I am ten yards from this deer. I hit a barbwire fence. He ran off a little way. I started grunting. He stopped. I drew back and he was walking. Instead of waiting until he stopped, I made the mistake of shooting. I shot right over his back. He ran out to 60 yards, stopped, turn broadside. At this time, I practiced every day out to 60 and I knew there’s no way I can miss this shot. I pulled back. I went to shoot, put this pin on him.
I directly hit a sunflower head as square in the middle of as you could that I had no idea was there. It deflected off, hit the top of the deer’s back, and he ran off with every doe in the county. I was 100% devastated. I went home. The next day, it rained until 3:00. It rained solidly all the way until 3:00. I went out, sat in my pickup at my hunting spot, and waited until the second it quit raining. I ran in and got into my stand. As soon as I got in my stand, got my harness hooked up, everything ready to go. I look over, there’s this 145 class Ten Point, four-year-old deer walking right down the trail making scrapes, stops at twelve yards. I centered punch him at twelve yards. I killed him. I’m excited. I go out the next day because I’m like “I can go out and shoot a doe.” Lo and behold, who do I see chasing does 30 yards from my stand for two hours?
That big typical ten running all over like he had no care in the world, which is exactly what he had because he got the free pass because my tag was already punched. I sat and watched that. I may have passed that 145 and never seen that bigger dear. That’s what taught me. If you settle for less than what you truly want, it can cost you. You still get rewarded, but it does cost you. There’s a cost to every reward. It’s how patient you are is what teaches you whether that cost is worth the reward for you. For me, that 145-inch deer was 100% worth it.
In the back of my mind, I still sit there and every day look back because I can remember exactly what that big deer looks like. I think to myself, “What would it be if he had been on the wall? What if I’d never seen him again?” It’s the patience in this situation that you have to learn and be able to pass on to those other people. You have to trust your system. I have a system in place of everything I do every year. It’s a routine. I trust the system. I’m patient with it. That’s what gave me the deer I got. It was patience, because the trusting what I’ve done and what I know.
Let’s end up the show with your system.
I am meticulous with scent in the fact that as soon as deer season starts, I shower with scent-free soap only. I don’t use field sprays. The ones I have used, they make me nervous. I have a little bit of a fear of things that make me nervous when I’m hunting. If they make me nervous for some reason, I don’t use them. My clothes get washed in scent-free soap and they hang outside the whole season. They hang outside. I’ll wash them maybe a couple of other times. I’m very meticulous in how I keep my sent down. I will not hunt a stand unless it is a perfect win. If it’s an off win, I won’t do it all. I’ve even stayed home before as much as it hurt my feelings to stay home and said, “I’d go hunting.”
I’ve stayed home instead of go hunting so I will not get busted and ruin the chance. I put a self-imposed limit on myself in 2013 of no deer under four and a half or 150 inches. At that time, I had never shot anything like that. I knew that I needed to have a set of limits. That year I shot a 147-inch deer, but he was eight and a half years old. I had him aged by a biologist. I was super happy with my decision. I did not shoot a deer the next year. I did not see one that was up to that limits. The year after that I shot a smaller buck, but he was old. He had a messed up rack. I shot out 172 -inch deer with my crossbow. I shot my deer with my compound. I only hunt the right wins. I pass anything that I am not 100% sure of. If I don’t know what it is or there’s a doubt in my mind, I will not shoot it.
That goes along with the patience also. That’s what I try to teach other people. That system that you put in place has to be meticulous. You got to be patient with it. You can’t get upset and rush it because it will hurt you in the end. I’m terrible about the fact that I will wear my hunting clothes in my pickup on the way to my stand, which seems completely oxymoron to what I said about my scent. It’s never cost me a deer ever. I’ll get my pickup, drive my stand. If it’s hot early season, I will carry my clothes in and people drive by and think, “What is this guy doing in hunting boots, basketball shorts and a tank top walking through the crop field?” That’s me when it’s hot in September because I don’t want to sweat all over my clothes. The other thing is I go in every two weeks and check my trail cameras.
I don’t use cell cams. I go in every two weeks check my trail, cameras, check all my stuff, my food plots out and I get out. When I go hunt, I try not to act sneaky as weird as that sounds. I tried to walk to my stand to get in it and be done. Out here we have a lot of crop fields, a lot of farmers going in and out all the time. When you start acting like a predator, the deer start associating you as a predator. I can drive in and check my trail camera, get out, walk to my trail camera, look over the creek bottom, there’ll be a deer embedded there. As long as I don’t try to sneak around, that deer will stay there and watch me until I leave. I have a set of goals that I have on it and a set of rules that I live by on hunting. I don’t ever change it. Every year, it’s the same. It’s definitely paid off for me. That’s the best advice I can give anybody is to trust your system, no matter how rough it feels at the time.
You gave us a lot of information. Reuben, I can’t wait someday we can meet up and spend some time together. This has been a pure joy. I thank you for who you are and how much you’ve given back to the hunting community. I’d love to get your whole crew on and have a 30-minute round robin campfire about hunting for mature bucks and let everybody chime in. I want you to throw that into the pot and see what the guys think. With that, on behalf of hundreds of thousands of readers across North America, thank you so much for sharing some mature buck hunting tips. I appreciate it.
I appreciate it, Bruce. I’m more than happy to do it. I’ll definitely pass along the invite. It will take you up on that.
- Bowhunting Mature Whitetail – Bowhunting Mature Whitetail Facebook account.
- Big Brothers Big Sisters
- Outdoor Mentors
- Facebook – Kansas Big Brothers Big Sisters Serving Sedgwick County