November 8, 2009

Kansas holds added meaning for one hunter

All deer hunters experience excitement the first time they sit in a stand for the season.

All deer hunters experience excitement the first time they sit in a stand for the season.

Few have been as happy to be afield as Nicholas Muche on Oct. 30.

"It felt just incredible and I was so excited," said Muche, of Rose Hill. "I kept thinking that just three days before, I'd been sitting in Kuwait."

He was back from a six-month Air Force deployment in Baghdad, where his thoughts were often of autumn in Kansas.

"I couldn't stop thinking about getting back and bowhunting again," said Muche, 24. "It helped keep me going."

It turns out his long-anticipated season didn't last long. On his first trip to a stand, he bow-killed a trophy 10-pointer worthy of his over-seas dreams.

Growing up in central Wisconsin, hunting has long been an important part of Muche's life.

He brought the passion with him when he enlisted and was stationed in Kansas.

"The first thing I did when I got here in 2005 was get in my truck and start looking for places to hunt," he said. "I asked at six places and got (permission) for four."

On April 18, he was sent to Iraq on his second deployment.

He sometimes fletched arrows and braided a treestand safety vest out of parachute cord to pass the time.

He didn't let being half a world away keep him from getting his hunting grounds ready ahead of the season.

"I spent a lot of time studying Google Earth maps of the places I hunt," Muche said. "I'd mark where I wanted stands and send them to my friends and they'd go put a stand there for me."

His friends, Peter Hosmer and Craig Stevenson, also placed trail cameras where Muche requested. They sent him trail camera pictures every week.

"It was a very nice thing for them to do," Muche said of his Wichita-based Air Force buddies. "But I'd do it for them, too, if they were over there."

The cameras were pulled in mid-September so deer wouldn't be disturbed.

Muche arrived home on Oct. 28.

The next day he and his cousin, Brock Margelofsky, placed a few more treestands.

His first hunt, on Oct. 30, was rained out. That afternoon, he went to a stand between a pond and a thicket of pine trees.

"Things looked really good. You could tell nobody had been in there in a while," Muche said. "There was deer sign everywhere."

But for about four hours he sat in his treestand, occasionally rattling using a grunt call, without a deer in sight.

"I was still loving just being there, happy to watch a sunset and enjoy the silence," he said. "When you're deployed there's never silence. You miss it."

About dusk, he heard the unmistakable sounds of deer hooves in the leaves behind his stand.

Looking, he saw a 10-pointer about 10 yards behind his stand. Muche eventually shot the buck at 7 yards.

"It all happened so fast, I didn't get excited until after the shot," Muche said. "To me, buck fever's the greatest adrenaline rush on Earth.

The buck later grossed about 147 inches of antler, making it Muche's best buck.

Muche then headed to Michigan and Wisconsin to hunt with family.

Then he'll be back in Kansas for pheasants and ducks with his Labrador retriever.

He expects to be deployed again next spring. Muche said from Iraq or Afghanistan, he'll prepare for the 2010 season.

He's also planning for deer seasons further in the future.

"I'm wanting to buy some land for hunting here in Kansas," Muche said. "I believe it's probably the greatest place on Earth."

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