As Brandon Schnelzle, 10, lugged around a mount of a trophy whitetail during the Kansas Monster Buck Classic, he was asked more than once, “Did your dad shoot that buck?”
And each time, the youngster proudly responded, “No, I did. And I shot it the first time I ever went deer hunting.”
Many stories emerge during the annual show, where hunters bring in the racks of huge Kansas bucks shot during the previous season and have them scored. There is a tale behind each of the mounts on display at the Kansas ExpoCentre in Topeka.
But during this year’s event, which ran through Sunday, Brandon’s story was hard to beat.
“He had been begging me to take him deer hunting,” said Loren Schnelzle, Brandon’s father. “He’s been around it his whole life.
“I love to bow hunt and I have some nice mounts on the wall. But I think Brandon’s deer might be the biggest of them all.”
Beginner’s luck? Maybe. Or maybe it was just meant to be.
Brandon, who had marked off the days on his calendar until the youth season opened, shot an 11-point buck that was officially scored at 153 6/8 during the Monster Buck Classic. That wasn’t a record by any means, or even the biggest whitetail brought in during this year’s show.
But it was still a trophy that drew attention…especially when Brandon related his story.
Dad decided to introduce his son to the sport during the youth deer season in September. The memorable firearms hunt took place on Walk-In Hunting Area (WIHA) land in northeast Kansas, Because the youth season gives kids first shot at Kansas deer, the big buck hadn’t been pressured on the public land and that played a part.
Another advantage was that Loren knew the lay of the land. He had hunted there before the landowner decided to lease it to the state and open it to the public.
“We were hunting out of a buddy stand,” said Brandon, whose family lives in tiny Axtell, Kan., in the northeast part of the state. “We were set up in this big tree, and we weren’t there long before my dad saw bucks.”
Two of them—and right behind the massive tree the Schnelzles were hunting out of.
“These bucks were so close that I was afraid they were going to walk right around the tree under our stand, where Brandon couldn’t get a shot,” Loren said.
But the bucks veered off, Brandon chose the larger one, and he hit his target when it was 55 yards out.
“His hunting season was over in about an hour and a half,” Loren said. “But I don’t think he cared.”
Now both father and son can’t wait until another Kansas deer season arrives.
“He doesn’t realize it, but it’s all downhill from here,” Loren said with a laugh. “A lot of people hunt their whole lives and don’t take a buck like that.”