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

Friday, October 31, 2014


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


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


I've often joked my favorite color is camouflage.  While that's likely still true, my favorite color in September might very well be 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  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.