Since September’s opening of archery deer season, Theresa Vail had been looking forward to spending a few days in a deer stand. Those days finally came over the weekend when Vail, the current Miss Kansas, got to battle what she called “brutal, brutal, brutal” conditions as she hunted near Pratt.
“That this was finally my first time out, because of a very busy schedule, made it even more special,” said Vail. “It was cold but I enjoyed every moment of it. I told David that this was the kind of stuff I really live for.”
Along on her hunt was Realtree’s David Blanton, videoing her experience for a Realtree Outdoors television show amid cold and snow that reminded him of hunting whitetails in Alberta.
“It’s 15 (degrees) now and was 22 when we were in the stand,” Blanton said minutes after Vail shot a buck late Sunday afternoon. “This morning we had a windchill of zero. Any bowhunter would struggle under these conditions but Theresa was into it. When it’s this cold, you can probably get by with just hunting the evenings but she wouldn’t have had any part of that…she was there to hunt.”
Blanton and Vail were hunting on lands managed by JB Outfitters, near Pratt, an operation Blanton visits about annually for his own hunting.
During the summer Vail drew a lot of media attention at the Miss America pageant when she announced she would not be covering up her tattoos, like other contestants.
The week after winning her Miss Kansas crown in June, the Wichita Eagle printed a story on her love of hunting and recent addiction to bowhunting, something she’d first tried last fall. That, too, ended up getting her a lot of media coverage around the country.
Vail tried to get some archery practice time throughout her Miss Kansas travels. Things got a bit complicated when Blanton said he wanted her to shoot a bow made by Bear Archery, a show sponsor, rather than the Hoyt she’d used for about a year.
“I got it, and got it ready to go and sighted in like two days before the hunt,” said Vail. “I switched releases, too, so that took some adjustments but I love, love the bow. I was confident.” She credited assistance received at Wichita’s Diamond Archery for helping get the new equipment ready for the hunt.
Realtree had furnished her with plenty of cold weather gear, but the cold and snow of their Friday-Sunday hunt tested it. Still, Vail said part of the experience was not having to dress in the typical fancy clothing she’s been wearing when she makes appearances.
“It was so great to get up, and put on camo clothes and boots and just go hunting,” she said, “and after the hunt I’d go into a diner for breakfast still dressed like that. It felt amazing to go out in public like that…that’s me.”
After passing up shots on numerous small bucks and does throughout the weekend, Vail and Blanton saw a nice buck coming their way Sunday afternoon. She drew her 55-pound-pull bow, but then the buck stopped facing away from her, which is not a good body angle for bowhunters.
“We checked later, and I held the bow at full-draw for one minute and five seconds” she said. “It was awful, but he finally turned and was quartering slightly away.”
The shot was about 28 yards and perfect.
“I’m telling you, she pin-wheeled that joker perfectly, I mean she drilled him,” said Blanton. “She’s a whole lot better shot under those conditions than I am. Seriously.”
Blanton said the buck was at least 5 1/2 years old, and had it not been for some antler damage the buck probably would have grossed more than 140 inches. Though they didn’t see it fall, Blanton assured Vail the buck wouldn’t go far.
The recovery was quick, easy and with enough daylight left for some good photography opportunities.
Via a text message Vail referred to it as “THE most enjoyable photo shoot” of her life and the whole hunting experience one of the top events of her life.
“I was speechless, and just so proud,” she said. “I mean, we were out there freezing for three days in the cold and the snow, and I’d spent hours and hours practicing at the range whenever I had the chance, hoping for one shot and it all paid off. It was amazing.”
The venison was taken to an area processor, and Vail is anxious to start eating the assorted products. She’ll think of the hunt often when she gets the mounted buck back from the taxidermist.
Blanton headed back to Georgia Monday morning with the makings of a very good television show, and a new friend that impressed him with her love of hunting and willingness to endure such conditions.
He chuckled as he spoke of some of their treestand conversations. “I’ll never forget it, what she said immediately after she shot the buck,” Blanton said. “She looked over at me and immediately asked, ‘Can I shoot a doe now, too.’ She was really into it.”