Introduction

The outdoors has special meaning to me. I caught my first fish at age 4 and shot my first duck at age 9. Nearly four decades later I still get excited when I get to spend any time outdoors. A lot has changed during that time but the anticipation and experiences are still similar and just as exciting. It’s a great place to be....Read More

Thursday, January 22, 2015

THE ARMLESS ARCHER

Shooting a bow isn’t easy. Shooting a bow accurately is more difficult. Now imagine trying all this without any arms.

“I Googled ‘How to Teach a Guy without Arms to Shoot a Bow,’ and as you might guess there weren’t a lot of things that came up in that search on You Tube or Google,” laughed Matt Stutzman.

But there is now, thanks to Stutzman who has been dubbed The Armless Archer.

An otherwise healthy baby, Stutzman,32, was born in Kansas City, Kans., without any arms. His birth parents were soon overwhelmed with the obvious challenges that lied ahead and he was put up for adoption. A short time later he was adopted by Leon and Jean Stutzman. A remarkably patient, compassionate strong-willed couple, Matt’s parents guided him through an able-bodied world.

“My parents never treated me differently,” he said. “They were always pushing me to get the best out of life. The reality was that my arms were never going to grow back, so, I remember them telling me I could sit around the house and feel sorry for myself or I could work my butt off and do something constructive with my life.”

As a result of that mentality, there is nothing in Stutzman’s house modified for him to live. He enjoys hunting, fishing and anything to do with cars. He can eat, write, type, drive, care for this children, play the guitar and even change the brakes on his car…all with his feet.

“You would think a guy with no arms would have some modifications, but I don’t have any,” Stutzman said. “My parents taught me to look at obstacles in a different way and I’ve basically taught myself how to adapt to the world, instead of the world adapting itself to me.”

Stutzman’s initial interest with archery was for bowhunting to join his father hunting in Iowa where he grew up. Little did he know his love of archery would take him far and wide and have the impact it has had on his life now.

Stutzman is a competitive archer on the U.S. National Team and travels all over the world competing at a high level and is doing that as a career. He has set numerous national archery records and won a Silver Medal at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. And he’s done it all using his feet. He describes the process of how he learned to shoot a bow without arms.

“I got a Scott Silver Horn release aid off the shelf, just like any other hunter would have,” Stutzman said. “But instead of putting that release on my wrist, since I didn’t have any, I put it around my right shoulder.”

Stutzman stands on one leg and uses his other foot to take an arrow and nock it on his bow which rests upright on the stabilizer.

“I hold the bow with my right foot and bring it up to my shoulder and hook it up to my release and then I push my right leg away from my body drawing the bow,” he described. “Once I get to this point, I anchor and aim which puts the trigger of the release aid on my right jawbone. When I’m ready to shoot, I move my jaw backwards just a little bit and that shoots the bow.”

Stutzman will demonstrate his bow shooting at the Monster Buck Classic-We Are Kansas! show at the Topeka ExpoCentre Jan. 23-25, 2015. He will be doing three shows on Saturday and a couple on Sunday with times to be announced.

“I basically tell some of my story,” Stutzman said. “I love comedy, I love humor so there are a lot of stories I tell that have happened to me throughout life that are just funny like getting pulled over by the cops and their reaction to a guy driving with no arms and things like that.” “I’ll also be doing some trick shooting and then wrap things up with some good ol’ motivational-type stuff,” he said. “I’ll bring my Silver Medal with me that I got in London and people are welcome to stop by and they can take pictures with it and even wear it and I’ll be glad to visit with them.”

In addition to target archery, Stutzman loves to bowhunt. He’s taken deer and turkeys with archery equipment and loves the outdoors.

“I hunt as often as possible and if I didn’t have so many other events going on I’d probably be in the woods 24/7,” he laughed. “I love it and it’s a way to put food on the table and we eat everything I shoot.”

Stutzman now lives in Tooele, Utah, with his wife of 10 years and three sons ages 2,7 and 9. In a nutshell, Stutzman’s message is simple at any of the inspirational programs he presents at schools and big businesses and they’re words he lives by every day.

“You know, life gets hard a lot of times and there are a lot of ups and downs and everyone has issues they have to deal with or go through,” he said. “But if you can just keep your head down, keep grinding away at it and be positive about life, things will get better and you’ll be successful.”

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

MEATEATER

The Kansas deer seasons are drawing to a close in most units.  There are still a few open that allow hunters to harvest an antlerless white-tailed deer if they choose.  Fortunately, one of these was open in the area I hunt as I was a little lean on deer meat in my freezer this year.
 

Normally, in a given season my kids and I will take anywhere from a couple deer to four or five, depending on how often we get out.  However, this season the only deer to ride home in the back of my truck was the nice buck I bow-killed on Halloween Eve.  And I gave that one (with a completed transfer slip-page 16 of the 2014 Kansas Hunting and Furharvesting Regulations Summary) to my buddy who helped track and haul it out.  He absolutely LOVES deer meat and hadn't killed one so I knew he'd put it to good use in the coming year in tacos, spaghetti, chili, burgers, steaks, summer sausage and jerky. Plus, I figured I'd shoot another or my kids would, too.

But as the calendar flipped to 2015 I still hadn't put any venison in the freezer.  Whoops.  My boys didn't get out as much as they have in the past for one reason or another and my daughter was busy wrapping up her Senior year in college and didn't hunt so my freezer was void of deer meat. 

When temperatures plummet and I don't want to be outside, like recent weeks, I like to make several batches of venison jerky.  Most of it gets eaten right out of the dehydrator and it's good stuff.  I try to hide a little back for spring fishing trips but most of it never makes it that far if two teenage boys find it.  They're like bloodhounds when it comes to that stuff.
BEFORE-Ready for the grill!

The original plan for last-minute venison called for one of my twin boys, Cody, to go with me and he would shoot a doe with a rifle.  However, a 15-year-old's internal clock doesn't seem to function well before 10 a.m. on a weekend, particularly when a buddy spends the night and all three of them stay up late playing video games.  Oh well.

So I did a last minute swap of Cody's .243 rifle for my 30-06 rifle.  Mind you, the spot I had would be a near bow-range chip shot, but I haven't shot a deer with a rifle in at least a decade or two since I've been bowhunting and figured I'd let the big dog bark.  After all, it wasn't as much a hunt as it was a grocery run of sorts.

DURING-Can you smell it sizzling?
I eased into the ground blind and settled in about 7 a.m. with about 15 minutes to legal shooting time.  It came and went but it wasn't long and an antlerless deer stepped into view off to my right.  I threw my binoculars up to make sure it wasn't a button or shed-antlered buck.  At less than 50 yards that confirmation was easy.  It moved in front of me as I rested my rifle on shooting sticks and at the shot the deer dropped in its tracks.  A few seconds later, a 1 1/2 year-old buck trotted in to see about the commotion.
AFTER-MMMM..Good!
 

I was back home and had the deer cut up and in the cooler by 10 a.m.  That is, all except the tenderloins and a chunk of backstrap (loin).  Those got cleaned up and marinated with a little soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and garlic pepper.  Later that night they were wrapped in a couple strips of bacon and grilled to a near-perfect rare to medium-rare.  Thinly sliced the venison tasted as good or better than most beef steaks and the boys and I ate like Kings. 

Now if I can just find a good hiding spot for some venison jerky I'll make from the rest of it I'll be able to get by until next deer season!     

Friday, October 31, 2014

TRICK OR TREAT BUCK...ALMOST!

Halloween provides an exciting time for kids wanting to dress up and load up on all kinds of candy.  It's also a date that provides an aiming point for many bowhunters as that's usually when things start to click in the whitetail world.  Weather changes, days get shorter and the rut is just around the corner causing deer of both sexes to be on the move.  And that's exactly what happened last night on only my second sit in the 2014 archery season.

It was quite windy, but the direction was good, and it died down towards sunset.  Just prior to that, I watched a small 2 1/2-year-old buck work a scrape, cross the creek and walk within 5-feet of the bottom of my ladder.  I enjoyed the show wondering how many other people were busy watching television programs while I enjoyed nature's ultimate reality show as the buck disappeared from sight.

Several minutes later I heard grunting and he had found a doe and was dogging her right back towards me.  They both ended up within 15 yards of my tree again but he stopped and looked back across the creek.  Apparently, other bucks had heard the commotion and were coming down the trail behind me.



For the next 15 minutes I tried to figure out which buck was which among four or five that had come into the picture.  Light was fading fast and I saw two that looked like deer I would shoot as they were both mature, big-bodied deer with nice racks.  Despite the fact they were less than 50 yards from me I couldn't get a real good look due to thick cover and they were in no hurry to give me a closer view. 

I had about 15 minutes of legal shooting time left when they finally got close enough to think about getting a shot.  I turned, still seated in my stand, back to my left and drew my Mathews bow as a huge-bodied 8-pointer with a heifer-like body walked no more than 6 yards away.  He moved through a small shooting opportunity before I had the pin settled.  I stood up to turn around to the other side of the tree but just as I did I noticed another buck right behind him walking into that same spot so I held at full draw.  Ready now, I grunted when he hit the opening and he stopped.

I had time to try to calm down although for me that's like going from a 10 to an 8 as I get so jacked up I'm surprised I could hit a barn.  I rested the pin for a nanosecond and released.  The buck mule-kicked and took off like he was running a mad dash.  He and the others disappeared around the bend in the creek and the woods were silent. 

When I turned back around there was another nice 8-pointer that had walked to within a few feet of my ladder stand wondering what was going on.  I watched him wander off before finally climbing down as it was now dark. 

I was roughly 80 percent sure I had made a near-perfect, fatal shot but it happened so fast I second-guessed myself as I often do due to the cataclysmic adrenaline rush I get every time I shoot a deer.  So I headed back home figuring it was the safest bet to wait until morning and take up the track as the meat would be fine with temperatures near 40 degrees.

But on the 45 minute drive back to my house I saw four packs, with three or four in each, of coyotes cross the road and then another single dog.  I had one other buck years ago I left overnight and the coyotes beat me to it.  I tagged it and chalked it up to experience.  After seeing all the coyotes on the ride home I was bound and determined it wouldn't happen again.  I called a buddy, Kent, and loaded up one of my boys, Cody, and we went back out at 9:15 p.m. armed with flashlights and hope.

I found the first speck of blood.  Unfortunately, specks are all we'd find but Kent and Cody did a fine job locating even the smallest of sign.  Despite the difficult task we were able to trail and find my buck in about 45 minutes about 100 yards away.  I was relieved, and pleased my eyes did not deceive me as to the result of the shot.

The buck wasn't a monster rack-wise, but a beautiful specimen nonetheless.  I was happy and proud to put my tag on him and we shot photos from several different angles.  His body was huge and I was thankful another good friend, Dale, lived just across the section and had a Kawasaki Mule he could drive right to him!  It took three of us to get him in it for the drive out and we arrived back at my truck at 11:15 p.m.

I had planned to look at my photos in the morning as we got home at midnight.  I was still too fired up to sleep so I went ahead and took a peek.  Kent did a fine job as my photographer and I appreciated his, Cody's and Dale's help with everything else, too.  It was nice to share such a special outdoor experience with good friends and family.
 

I finally crawled into bed at 1:30 a.m. with a smile on my face.  Sleep didn't come easy as I replayed all the events of this memorable experience over and over in my mind.  It would have been fitting to call this my Halloween Trick or Treat buck, but it was close enough and I'll take it! 

 

 

 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

OH DEER! THAT'S AWESOME!

Deer hunting is enjoyable for young and old.  Veteran hunters anxiously await opening day and find sleep the night prior sometimes difficult.  Young hunters are likely the same as anxiousness and excitement finally get to meet opportunity when the big day arrives.  Such was the case recently for more than a dozen youngsters on the 15th Annual David Berry Memorial Youth Deer Hunt in Harper County.

The local sportsmen, businesses, landowners, our KDWPT employees who organize it and everyone involved roll out the red carpet to make this a tremendously successful event each year.  Kids and their parents or mentors were treated to lunch, archery shooting, shotgun instruction and sighting in of rifles when they arrived at the Anthony Gun Club last Saturday afternoon.  All kids go away with door prizes and two REAL lucky kids go away with a brand new .243 rifle complete with scope. 

Shiv's first deer!
None of the youngsters had ever harvested a deer and anticipation was high.  Paired with a guide the kids were sent on their way the first evening with a sack lunch.  Upon their return they were treated to pizza and the hunting tales flowed freely.  The chatter was non-stop and the smiles of successful hunters said it all as most of them killed deer or at least had close encounters.

The first evening I had a young man, Shiv, whose father had driven 9 hours from Denver, Colorado, to participate in the hunt.  The evening was perfect and we had a front row seat from our tower blind where we watched coyotes, sandhill cranes, turkey vultures and a myriad of other wildlife until the first deer showed up.  A big doe meandered into the field to our right and Shiv got situated and with one shot dropped it in its tracks at about 125 yards. 

"I GOT IT!" he hollered and squealed.
Shiv and his dad, Som, share a memorable father-son moment


Indeed he did and he wasn't done.  Armed with another tag we watched at least eight bucks and the same number of does before finally getting lined up on another big doe.  He got that one, too, and he was all smiles as we shot photos and I showed the 6th grader how to field dress the first one while he did the second one mostly by himself.


The next morning I was in the same blind with another 6th grader named Jaggar.  He had some close calls the evening prior but didn't get a deer so he was REALLY hoping he got one this morning.  Again, we were treated to another wildlife spectacle with raccoons, quail and six different bucks we watched, the latter off limits due to the antlerless season. 

Jaggar's first deer!
But just as things looked like they might not work out I spied a couple antlerless deer moving off to our left in the tall grass.  They angled behind us as I got Jaggar situated with his gun pointed out the back window.  There were three of them when they popped into view in heavy cover and at a steady walk.  I told Jaggar to get on the lead doe as she was the largest.

"Can I shoot?" he asked quickly.

I bleated to get them to stop and when they did I gave Jaggar the green light.  One shot from his .243 dropped the big doe in her tracks at about 100 yards. 

"I did it!" he exclaimed.

Jaggar was excited admitting his family liked to eat deer meat and his first one would be special to share.  He couldn't wait to call his mom and grandma on the cell phone and tell them about his good fortunes as soon as we got in the truck.
Jaggar and hunt organizer, Kyle McDonald
    

In the end, 10 kids shot 14 deer in two hunts.  There are other hunts similar to this one and additional special hunting opportunities for kids as well as adults, for a variety of species throughout the year, listed on the KDWPT web site. 

Although National Hunting and Fishing Day was observed in late September, I'd like to think it's celebrated each and every time you see a smile on the face of someone that participated in one of these events or others like it.  Many are unique and none are more rewarding, for participants or observers, than a youngster's first deer.    

Thursday, October 2, 2014

TEAL IS MY FAVORITE COLOR!

I've often joked my favorite color is camouflage.  While that's likely still true, my favorite color in September might very well be teal...in the form of bluewings and greenwings!  The Kansas early teal season in recent years has been nothing short of spectacular and it's a wonderful time to be in a marsh

The sights and sounds of a wetland are nearly reward enough in September.  Breathtaking sunrises and sunsets are beautiful and painting-like.  The sounds are even more intriguing.  Take for instance a small but vocal bird, the Sora rail, that has a cadre of cool sounds (check them out at http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/sora/sounds).  These visual and auditory stimuli are reason alone to enjoy the September teal season.
  

But whirling dervish-like flocks and singles and pairs of bluewing teal are the main reason I'm there.  Throw in the even more dart-like greenwing teal and it's a wing-shooter's paradise.  Add to this that many of Kansas' major wetlands had good water conditions and it was another memorable early teal season once again.
 

A handful of hunts ran the gamut but all ended with tremendous success.  A 6-teal daily bag limit stretches the experience just a little longer than past years, but not by much if there are many teal around.  One particular hunt it took me longer to get my duck boat ready and motor to my spot than it did for me and a buddy to shoot 11 bluegwings and one greenwing teal.  But we simply cased our guns, watched the sunrise and continued to enjoy everything that's special about a morning on a marsh before finally picking up 45 minutes later.

It doesn't hurt that teal are some of the finest wild table fare, either.  Wrapped in bacon and cooked to rare, medium-rare on a kabob they're mouth-watering.  It's like an appetizer of sorts, setting the stage for what will take place in another week when the regular duck season opens for many of Kansas' managed marshes. 

The early teal season just whets waterfowlers' appetites and now it's time for the main course.  I'll just add other favorite colors now, like the iridescent green in a drake mallards head, or the milk chocolate of a pintail drake's.  Throw in a few more teal and I'll have the full palette of colors available in the waterfowl world.     

Friday, August 15, 2014

DADDY'S LITTLE GIRL NEARLY GROWN UP AND GONE...HERE'S HOPING FISHING BRINGS HER BACK OFTEN

Many fathers have a "Daddy's Little Girl."  I'm no different and it seems like just the other day I was teaching my 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Ashley, the finer points of fishing on her first trip to a pond.  While she was content to catch some nice bluegill and bass, she was almost as thrilled to eat "moo-berries" from a nearby Mulberry tree.  But an outdoor kid was born and her gender didn't matter despite the stereotypes.

Over the years she's killed turkeys and deer and caught bunches of fish.  In high school she hit a bit of a stretch where she was busy with sports, a major sports injury and school activities so hunting took a back seat.  But she still loved to fish and summer vacations then and now during college were a good time to do it.  We fished for walleye, crappie, wipers, white bass and channel catfish and we both enjoyed our time together as she grew up.

We haven't fished together too much this summer as Ashley was on a mission trip to Zimbabwe for two weeks earlier in the summer and she's been working a lot, too.  So when she had a day off earlier this week she was game for a fishing trip and we headed out bright and early at 5:30 a.m.

Our goal was channel catfish and this summer had been good so our hopes were high.  The morning was gorgeous, remarkably cool at 58 degrees and winds were light as we launched my boat at 6:30 a.m.  We got anchored up and started to chum and it didn't take long to figure out it might be a pretty good day as Ashley hooked up with a 2-pounder we pitched back.  The action heated up and we both started catching fish.  I ended up fishing with only one pole as it seemed like every time I'd get both of mine situated Ashley had another fish and I'd have to reel up and get the net.

By 8 a.m. we probably caught 20 channel cats of various sizes with about a dozen keepers.  The action was fast and I commented that her twin teenage brothers, who opted out because they wanted to sleep in, were missing a great morning.

"That's lame," she said of their excuse to bypass the 5 a.m. wake-up call.  "That's what naps are for!"

The wind kicked and pushed me off our spot a bit and our success dwindled.  I re-anchored a couple times and finally got back to the honey hole and we were doing well once again.  Ashley had the hot hand and not only caught the first fish of the day, she had the biggest at just over 7 pounds.  Once I tallied 18 fish (the limit is 10 each) on the clicker we just released all fish and proceeded to simply have fun. 

We were about ready to leave when Ashley hung a big ol' carp.  I told her we couldn't end on that one so we gave it another 5 minutes.  It didn't take that long and Ashley had her last channel catfish of the summer and it weighed just over 5 pounds so we pitched it in the livewell and called it a wonderful morning about 10 a.m.
 

I've heard that life is like a roll of toilet paper and the closer you get to the end the faster it goes.  As I age it's particularly true and I think it's exaggerated when you have kids as they, too, grow up fast.  Again, it seemed like just the other day when I took her to her first year of college but 3 years flew by and I dropped her and her stuff off yesterday for her Senior year.  It's not likely she'll be home next summer as her first "real" job will hopefully be waiting when she graduates.

But as I drove away I thought about our fishing trip the other day, and many of the others earlier this summer and over the years.  I couldn't think of a bad trip.  Sure, there were some we didn't catch much, but the time spent with her was golden and will be cherished forever.  She's a wonderful daughter and student and I'd like to think some of our time outdoors shaped who she is as a person.  Fishing is an activity that builds strong bonds, too, so I'm hoping it's lure enough she'll return home often, even after she hits the "real" world.   

Thursday, July 3, 2014

HUNTING IN JULY

If you're dressed in camouflage and you stop at a convenience store or gas station in the fall you really don't get too many strange looks.  After all, people often associate hunting seasons with those months and assume people are out deer hunting, duck hunting, or something similar. 

But show up basically anywhere in July dressed in camouflage and you'll get some strange looks.

"Are you hunting?" comes the inquisitive question. 

"Yes" is my reply to which they immediately fire back, "WHAT?"

"Squirrels!" I say and they wrinkle up their face.

Lifelong Kansans remember squirrels as a staple growing up and many were raised on their meat.  Today, not so much.  But I've enjoyed squirrel hunting, particularly calling squirrels, since I was introduced to it a couple decades ago.  And I've passed that enjoyment on to my kids and others as well.

Since squirrel season opens June 1 there's no better time to enjoy it than right now.  One of my boys, Cody, and I decided to try it recently for the first time this summer.  I couldn't have scripted a more perfect outdoor adventure, either.

The air was wonderfully still with a temperature near 60 degrees when we got out at 6:15 a.m. We eased into a stretch of riparian timber and I hit the squirrel call.  Nothing, which isn't unusual but always disappointing.  Heading to our second location we spied a couple does out in the pasture and watched them until they bounded out of sight.

Our second calling location proved to be a sign of things to come.  I hit the call and three squirrels sounded off, one way too close right above our heads and he saw us and spooked.  Just across the creek another was barking and Cody readied his .22 rifle and fired and the squirrel fell to the ground.

Over the last few summers Cody has killed a couple of squirrels each trip, but most always with his 20 gauge shotgun since it allowed a little more "flexibility" as far as aim.  But he chose to use my .22 rifle which, outfitted with a scope is a tack-driving machine, provided you can hold it steady.  I wasn't so sure Cody would have much success on his first trip with it since he's never really shot it all that much.  Boy was I wrong. 

As we eased down the creek and called in several locations, Cody's rifle sounded off and squirrels dropped, as did my jaw after most shots.  I was more surprised than anything, but quite proud that he'd found instant success with well-placed shots.  In less than 90 minutes, Cody killed his first-ever limit (5) of squirrels with nearly as many shots.  Heck, I rarely do that well and he made it look easy. 

We still had a bit of time so Cody handed me the .22 rifle and I handed him the squirrel call.  We rounded the corner and came face to face with a beautiful whitetail buck with a basket rack encased in velvet.  Cody thought that was really cool since deer always look MUCH bigger in velvet.  After several minutes he went on his way. 

I managed to kill two squirrels with Cody calling for me before the wind came up a bit and we decided to call it a morning knowing we had 7 squirrels to clean.  I provided instruction to Cody and he cleaned a couple squirrels and I helped to move things along. 

As we got back into our vehicle to head home Cody looked at the clock and it was barely 10 a.m. 

"Most of my friends aren't even out of bed yet," Cody laughed.  "And we've been up for five hours!"

I wouldn't trade those five hours for any amount of sleep, either.