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, October 29, 2015


Simply deer hunting is exciting enough.  The adrenaline rush when a big buck or doe is spotted can't be duplicated.  So there's plenty of excitement on a good hunt without adding any additional stimuli.  However, throw in a couple crazy happenings and a deer hunt can go from memorable to MEMORABLE in the blink of an eye.  That was exactly the case on a hunt I witnessed firsthand just a couple weekends ago. 

I was in Harper County working out of the Anthony Gun Club at the 16th Annual Harper County/David Berry Memorial Youth Deer Hunt as part of KDWPT's Pass It On Program.   The local sportsman's club and area businesses and sponsors have made this event a huge success.  So big and successful, in fact, the hunt and its organizers received the 2014 Conservation Organization of the Year Award from the Kansas Wildlife Federation. 

I was guiding 12-year-old Anthony resident Scott Owen.  The youngster was looking forward to the hunt and excited to get to the blind.  We had to be a bit careful as his right wrist was in a solid cast. 

"What happened?" I asked earlier. 

"I punched my brother in the back of the head," he said sheepishly.

"Bet you won't do that again, huh?" I said.

"Nope!" he replied. 

Our blind was a 12-foot box blind overlooking a wheat field in ideal deer habitat.  It's generally not a matter of if the deer show up, it's when.  We wouldn't wait long after climbing into the blind at 4:45 p.m.

It was 5 p.m. when Scott whispered there was a deer walking up behind us.  Fortunately, I'd opened that window for air circulation as it was hot, not really expecting much movement back that way.  But sure enough, two antlerless deer were walking virtually the same path we'd taken to get the blind.

Immediately, Scott's breathing and heart rate escalated as I tried to get him to slowly stand up and turn to see if he couldn't pull it off.  The lead doe knew something wasn't quite right and started to veer off stomping her foot.  I told Scott he'd have to hurry as the jig was almost up.  We got the .243 rifle out the window and Scott settled in.  The doe started walking and I grunted to get it to stop and it did.  I barely got the words out "Okay, take your time and shoot when you're ready and remember where to aim."


At the shot, the doe mule-kicked and took off  to the North and disappeared from sight 100 yards away or so.

"Did I get it?" Scott asked.

I told him the shot looked good and the deer's response was encouraging but we'd give it 30 minutes or so.  It was 5:01 p.m.

A few minutes later our tower blind began to shake for a couple seconds.

"You feel that?" Scott asked.

"Yeah, what the heck was it?" I asked

"Earthquake," Scott said.  "We have them all the time."

"Really?" I said. 

Sure enough, at 5:07 p.m. Saturday evening officials reported an earthquake of 3.7 on the Richter Scale in that area and others overnight. 

Knowing we'd need a little daylight to track, and thinking of some of the places I wouldn't want to be in an earthquake, we eased down the ladder about 5: 30 p.m. and took up the trail where I last saw the deer.

I had just found the tiniest speck of blood when Scott calmly says, "There's a rattlesnake."

"Really?" I asked fully expecting to turn around and see a gopher snake or some other non-venomous reptile.

Sure enough.  Coiled tightly in a small ball was a Massasauga rattlesnake about a foot long.  He was trying to rattle but didn't have enough rattles to make much of a sound.  Fortunately, Scott heard it.

"I almost stepped on it!" he said.  "But I heard it rattle and looked down!"

Scott fetched a long stick for me and I used it to move the snake into some thick grass and away from our tracking efforts.  Understandably, I was reluctant to get on my hands and knees to look for blood so I decided to fan out and look first as I was about 95 percent sure the doe was dead nearby.

We meandered around a bit and the Sandhill habitat was thick and wooly.  We would have to be within just a few feet to spot the dead deer.  On a last ditch loop before returning to the last blood I located Scott's deer about 25 yards beyond where we'd last seen it.

"All right!" the youngster exclaimed when he saw the big doe laying there.  "That's awesome!"

His shot was nearly perfect but the bullet didn't mushroom so the exit hole was no bigger than the entrance hole which explained the difficult blood trail.  Coupled with the rattlesnake still vividly etched in my memory I was glad to find it, shoot a few photos and get it gutted and loaded up.

The night was memorable for other youngsters on the hunt, too.  Nine of 15 kids ranging in age from 12-16 years old also killed deer that evening.  And a few of them felt the earthquake as well.  But fortunately we were the only ones with a rattlesnake encounter. 

Scott and I will both remember this hunt for a long time for more reasons than the deer itself and that's a good thing, despite the earthquake and rattlesnake. 



Tuesday, August 11, 2015


Oftentimes reading the words "kids" and "guns" in the same sentence in mainstream media is cause for concern, particularly these days.  It's sad, really, as firearms aren't bad.  They play an integral part in hunting's heritage and the outdoors.  Guns are necessary to take small and big game, waterfowl and upland birds and kids and adults have been doing it nearly accident-free for decades. 

You can bet any adult hunter remembers their first firearm and many of them likely still own it whether it's a beat-up, rusty old pump shotgun or something a little nicer.  Even if it's been "retired" it likely still has a place of honor in a gun cabinet with fond memories recalled every time it's handled.

My first gun was a Savage over-and-under with a .22 rifle barrel on top and a .410 shotgun barrel below.  It had a hammer and could only be cocked with my dad's permission.  That made shooting at escaping pheasants or quail nearly impossible so bagging the occasional rabbit, squirrel or hedgeball was the highlight of many early hunts. 

Up until this summer my twin boys and I shared a .22 rifle for squirrel hunting.  Or more accurately, I'd tag along and supervise their use of the firearm and they'd try their hand at shooting squirrels.  The boys turned 16 years old this spring and they were ready for their own firearm.  So I bought a Savage Mark II bolt action .22 for them to share (another pitfall of being a twin) when we hunted as both boys don't often go on the same hunt.  And frankly Cody's interest in hunting is higher than his brothers right now so in effect it became "Cody's gun."

Cody was excited about the new gun and helped sight it in.  A nice scope was included and the combination would no doubt be perfect for squirrel hunting.  The accu-trigger took a bit of getting used to in practice but it shot nice groups.  Cody couldn't wait to try it out on a recent, muggy morning.

We eased into the timbered creek bottom right after first shooting light and hit the squirrel call.  Immediately, we got a response from two different squirrels.  Unfortunately, Cody was screened from them and couldn't shoot.  I killed them both and we eased down the creek.

Cody would shoot the next five squirrels in nearly as many shots as the action was consistent over the next hour.  Even squirrels at quite a distance fell to his .22 and it was apparent we had it dialed in pretty good.  He remarked how much he liked "his" new gun with words like "sweet" and "awesome."  It's amazing what success does for confidence.    

Ol' dad finished up with his 5-squirrel limit shortly and we shot a few photos.  We cleaned all 10 squirrels at a low water crossing in a scenic Flint Hills stream and placed them in a cooler for the ride home. 

The next evening both boys and I dined on fried squirrel, fruit salad and a big ear of fresh sweet corn.  Everyone asks what squirrel tastes like and the easy answer is "chicken."  But even more accurately, young squirrel tastes like frog legs although everyone says these also taste like chicken.  It's a vicious circle, but good nonetheless.

Cody will continue to use this .22 on future squirrel hunts and it will likely become "officially" his at some point down the road.  Regardless, he'll remember this outing and the gun he used for years...just like every other hunter that's been down the same path in the great outdoors.


Thursday, May 7, 2015


There are two months in the calendar that I wish lasted at least three times as long.  November is king in the outdoor world during the fall.  It's spring counterpart, May, is equally good and outdoor opportunities abound.  There's simply too many things to enjoy during these months and if each were 90 days long it would certainly provide more opportunity to enjoy them.   

May is wonderful for lots of reasons, but one of my favorites is walleye fishing.  And it doesn't get much better than right now.  Walleye are done spawning and move to shallow water to feed making them readily accessible and often predictable.  Many fish are caught in 4-18 feet of water and a variety of techniques produce well.  Some anglers like trolling with crankbaits while others like fishing a nightcrawler, either associated with a jig, spinner or Slow Death rig of some sort.  When it's really on, the nightcrawler is generally the common denominator for those fishing live bait.

The 2015 Kansas Fishing Forecast ranks the Top 3 reservoirs for catching walleye as Webster, Kirwin and Cedar Bluff.  Marion, El Dorado, Cheney, Glen Elder and Wilson reservoirs follow in descending order.  However, other reservoirs not near the top, and smaller Kansas waters, can often produce good catches of walleye so don't rule those out, either.

Kansas' state record walleye was actually caught last month, in 1996, from Wilson Reservoir.  It tipped the scales at 13 pounds, 3 ounces.  The world record was caught in 1982 from Arkansas' Greer's Ferry Lake and weighed 22 pounds, 11 ounces.

May is a great month to chase these tasty perch. So whether you hope to set the next state record, or just enjoy fishing for fun, now is the time to get your 'eye on and give it a try.  But you better hurry because there's only three more weeks left in May!  If you can't make it now, the good news is June isn't too bad, either!

Friday, April 17, 2015


Hurry up, Dad, these things are heavy!
For many youngsters Easter is a time for hunting hidden Easter eggs filled with chocolate goodies.  My kids are old enough now where that's not all that appealing, although they're all about the chocolate gifts they still get from Mom as a substitute for the standard Eastern egg hunt.  So knowing Cody had that in that bag he was game-on for an Easter morning turkey hunt.

Cody's first outing a couple days prior was a bust.  I consider it a good day if we can at least hear turkeys on the roost, see a few and if we get to work a bird that's a bonus, even if we don't kill it.  We had none of that his first hunt but Sunday would make up for it.

We eased up to the blind and were barely inside when we heard the first gobble of the morning.  It would be followed by dozens and dozens more until it got light.  The gobblers sounded off, occasionally, once they hit the ground but it was apparent they had the real-deal girlfriends in their midst. 

Undaunted, Cody and I both kept calling.  It wasn't long and we got the attention of a raucous, rowdy hen, possibly the most audible one I've ever heard.  She yelped, non-stop and LOUD, from a couple hundred yards all the way into our blind location.  It was fun to watch and cool to listen to her before she flew across the creek. 

A short time later we heard something fly back across to our side of the creek.  I assumed it was her as she'd gone silent, but we heard another fly across followed by others.  I called softly and got a thunderous gobble just to our left.  I peaked out the window and saw four longbeards and two jakes in full-strut and a few hens just out of range.  Unfortunately, the hens were feeding away from us and the gobblers followed.
Wow, that was a poke!  Two, actually!

The two jakes were content to stay mostly in one spot wondering if they should come check out our lone hen decoy.  It didn't take any convincing for them to come do battle with five more jakes, none of which were colored up or strutting, that were headed to our decoy from the other direction.  Unfortunately, on their first pass they didn't venture by close enough for a shot.   

After the dust-up, the two jakes, still strutting, eased back towards their group and skirted our decoy.  I asked Cody if he wanted to shoot one and he said, "YES!"  He got lined up and he shot a bird in full strut and it dropped in its tracks.
The other one jumped in the air, ran a few yards and stopped and looked back.  I told Cody to shoot that one, too, if he wanted and the words barely left my lips and his 12 gauge barked again with the same result.

"Awesome!" he hollered.

This is better than an Easter egg hunt!
As I looked out of the blind I was a bit taken aback as to how far the birds actually were when he shot.  The first bird was 40 yards and the second one was 53 yards!  I've patterned that gun numerous times and it's a killer out to 50 yards for sure.  The results were perfect and I couldn't have asked for anything better.   

That turkey hunt will be Cody's last as an official "youth" as next year he'll be too old.  The youth season for turkeys and other species has created more wonderful memories than I ever could have imagined.  Each and every hunt was as magical as finding an Easter egg filled completely with M&M's!        

Thursday, April 9, 2015


Anyone that lives in Kansas knows the saying if you don't like the weather just wait 15 minutes and it will change.  That's particularly true at this time of year and the change is sometimes dramatic as evidenced by the recent bout of bad storms that hit south-central Kansas early last Friday morning.

My boys were off of school that day and Cody was game for an early morning turkey hunt as this is the last year he qualifies as a "youth."  However, I would start second-guessing our plans in the middle of the night when the storm came rolling through.  Wind gusts of 80-90 mph and hail the size of quarters found me nearly waking all of my family to head to the basement.  But a couple of them heard the racket (while two slept through the entire event) and we checked the radar and didn't see any warnings. 

The storm moved through fairly quickly.  The only damage I could see was about five sections of privacy fence leveled in my backyard and we lost power.  I woke up a few hours later and we had power back but the wind was still howling.  I woke Cody up and we headed out.  Much of my side of town was without power and we saw light and power poles snapped in two.  Trees and debris littered the roadsides.  I nearly turned around a few minutes outside of town.  I could barely keep my 3/4-ton truck on the road and gripped the steering wheel tightly with both hands as the wind pummeled us.  I wondered aloud if the ground blind would even still be in the same county where it was put up 45 minutes to our east. 

Undaunted, we arrived to find the wind still howling, but actually not too bad in the blind's location and it was indeed still standing.  However, after three hours of calling, hearing nary a peep, we were about ready to leave when Cody spied a couple birds off in the distance.  Confirming them as hens we picked up and chalked one up to next time.

But by afternoon the Kansas weather had moderated and turned into a wonderful spring day.  I was scheduled to assist with our KDWPT youth turkey hunt in Hutchinson and the evening promised to be a good one. 

I was guiding an 11-year-old youngster named Jaggar.  He had participated in the KDWPT youth deer hunt in Harper County last fall and I was with him then when he killed a nice doe, his first deer ever.  This would be his first turkey hunt, too.

We arrived at our blind location to the sounds and sights of turkeys.  Jaggar's eyes were wide as we sneaked into position and got into our blind unseen.  A few calls and less than 5 minutes later we had turkeys headed our way. 

The first one was a bearded hen, followed by another hen, sans the "facial" hair.  I told Jaggar to try
and get on the bearded bird and when he did and was ready he fired.  The bird dropped and others just out of sight ran in front of us.  Several jakes stood around and Jaggar got lined up on one of those and tried his luck again.  A clean miss sent the flock scattering and putting.

It wasn't too long and more hens came by.  Jaggar kept asking if any of them had beards and I told him that wasn't too likely as his first bird, the bearded hen, was somewhat unique.  But a group of hens this time of year doesn't stay lonely long and a tom came over the hill from our left and sidled up to the quintet of hens. 

Jaggar got repositioned to shoot left and he would have to shoot through the blind's mesh.  Once he got in position and ready he shot.

"I got him!" Jaggar hollered.

The big bird flopped a couple times and was still.  We had been in the blind less than 90 minutes and Jaggar had a hunt many kids, or adults for that matter, could only dream of. 

Knowing we'd likely have other youngsters in the same blind the next morning we quietly snuck out and shot a few photos.  On the way back to meet the others from the hunt Jaggar borrowed my cell phone and couldn't wait to call his mother, grandmother and his neighbors that lived across the street to tell them of his good fortunes.  He even promised the latter he'd share the turkey meat with them since he had two birds. 

The two hunts I got to witness that day were night and day different.  It just goes to show you that you have to be in the woods for anything good to happen.  And if it doesn't go according to plan, it makes those times when it does all that much more memorable and that was certainly the case this day.       


Tuesday, March 24, 2015


I can remember taking the Kansas Hunter Education Course in 1974 when I was 9 years old.  It was like a rite of passage into the hunting world and I held on to my hunter education card and accompanying patch like it was gold.  While the sewn-on patch likely got tossed when I outgrew my first hunting vest, I still have the original card nearly 41 years later. 

During that time there have been few changes to the curriculum of the Kansas Hunter Education Program.  It still focuses on creating a safe, responsible, educated and ethical hunter and gives any student all the information they need to enjoy hunting and the outdoor world. 

To date, the Kansas Hunter Education Program has certified nearly 536,000 students since the
program began 42 years ago.  The success of the program isn't possible without the support of roughly 1,200 volunteer instructors who donate their time and share their passion for hunting.  Many have decades of experience teaching the course and all take pride in seeing students take the course and go on to enjoy  and participate in hunting, no matter the species pursued. 

There have been several changes related to the Kansas Hunter Education Program and the first one happened about a decade ago.  It allowed any youngster to go hunting, provided they were supervised by an adult, without having to complete the course.  And the minimum age to become certified as a student was 11 years old.

This option opened the door for kids to get started hunting at an earlier age and I took full advantage of it.  My twin boys were 7 years old the first time they turkey hunted and sat between my legs as we leaned against a tree with their gun resting on shooting sticks in front of us.  Over the course of the next 8 years they participated in deer and waterfowl hunting, too, and enjoyed it all and were successful some years, and missed opportunities in others. 

However, since they turn 16 years old today, they had to take the Kansas Hunter Education Course and they did this past weekend.  I chose the Internet-assisted course where they studied and tested online and then participated in a field day followed by the final test to complete the rest of the course and receive their certification.  The Internet option is also relatively new (rather than the standard 10 hours of classroom instruction) and a great way for busy families to complete the course.
The boys learned a lot and I was happy to sit through the class again (for the third time as I also went through it with my daughter when she was 9 years old).  I'm always amazed at the enthusiasm of the instructors and applaud their efforts.   

When we got home I gave each son a Kansas lifetime hunting license I'd purchased in 2005 (before they increased in price from $300 to $440) as an early birthday present for their 16th birthday.  They were thrilled and proud as they stowed this and their Kansas Hunter Education card in their wallets. 

Who knows, maybe they'll hold on to theirs for the next four decades and be able to tell their own kids, my grandkids, about the Kansas Hunter Education Program and its success.  Regardless, I'm proud to know they'll get to enjoy the great outdoors.  Here's hoping they enjoy it even half as much as I have since I was their age.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Anyone that knows history is well aware of the value of beavers and the fur trade to settlement.  Historically, trapping and beaver hides were instrumental in the culture and bartering of early life on the Great Plains.  Today, although we don't use beaver pelts in trade, their presence is still much a part of rural and even urban Kansas and they are quite common in many locations. 

However, North America's largest rodent can cause substantial tree damage and their dams can flood agricultural and other prime land holdings making a giant, sometimes monetarily-significant, mess.  Like other furbearers, the control of their populations is necessary and beneficial in ordinary situations, but absolute where they're causing damage. 

So when a friend e-mailed me complaining of beaver problems I was eager to assist.  It seems beavers had built a couple dams and were backing water up where it didn't belong and worse yet, they were chewing down trees nightly.  While most of the seasons for other furbearers ended in mid-February, the beaver season runs through the end of March.  So I loaded up a few beaver traps last weekend to see if I couldn't help him out and get rid of a few beavers.

The tree damage was easily visible along the creek and the dams were substantial.  After a little
scouting I found their lodge and got busy setting a 330 body-gripping trap on a tall, H-stand to reach the bottom in one of two runs in 3 feet of water.  No sooner than I got the second one in place I saw the top of the other stand twitch like something hit it.  I had never caught a beaver that quick, nor seen one get caught, but assumed there would be much more commotion when it happened.  But there wasn't and the 35 pound beaver died quickly and humanely. 

I had to go back to my vehicle to get my setters/tool to reset the trap with the beaver in it.  In the meantime, I saw my friend driving by and asked him if he wanted to see how quickly I had worked on his beaver problem. 

"Did you catch one already?" he asked in disbelief.

"I did!" I replied.

He wanted to see it so he followed me down the creek bank.  The beaver's tail was floating at the surface and while my friend said, "That's awesome you already caught one!" I glanced over and saw the second trap stand was moved out of position a few inches from where I'd set it. 

"I might have another one," I said as I walked over to it. 

My suspicions were confirmed when I pulled that stand up and another 35 pound beaver was dead in that trap.  In a matter of minutes I'd caught more than 70 pounds of beaver and I was off to a good start in removing the animals causing the problems.  

The check the next morning would be successful as well.  I caught three more beavers and two of them were similarly sized to the ones the day before.  However, the last one was CONSIDERABLY larger than the others and later weighed a whopping 55 pounds.  In just two days I had five beavers weighing nearly 200 pounds.  Subsequently, three days of empty traps told me I might have solved his problem, at least for now.
I skinned all of the beavers and I'm in the process of fleshing, stretching and drying the pelts to send with the rest of my other furs to sell at auction in a couple weeks.  Trapping beavers is hard work, but rewarding in the fact I helped out a friend, while at the same time realizing a small monetary reward for my efforts, much like early settlers did way back when. 


Friday, February 27, 2015


With the recent, on-again, off-again bouts of good and bad weather, I've had numerous people I've met say, "I can't wait for fishing season."  I'm always amazed at that particular take on angling, but not real surprised.  After all, winter months are typically reserved for many hunting seasons and I love those, too. 

You have to be a little dedicated, or a little crazy, or some of both, to fish year-round, in Kansas.  But that's all I know and some of the best fishing trips of the year, especially for crappie, take place in December, January and February.

Granted, I'm not as die-hard as I once was as I used to fish in snow and sleet, provided the wind didn't howl.  Wind is the biggest limiting factor and too much is exactly that in the winter.  Now that I'm older and wiser (maybe tired and lazy), I don't fish in those conditions any more.  But in Kansas, even in the middle of winter, we have enough nice days to pick and choose and find at least a couple a month to hook up the boat and head to the lake.  Granted, we're often bundled up in full winter gear of coveralls, coats, stocking hats and gloves, but you have to when the temp's are still in the 20's and 30's.  I prefer 40's and 50's, but you have to work with what Mother Nature deals you.     

Ice is also a limiting factor.  While some anglers love ice fishing, I'm not a fan.  Actually, I'm not a fan of BAD ice fishing.  I love GOOD ice fishing, but when it's not it's far-fetched for me to believe something good is going to happen in that 8-inch column of water I'm covering.  That's why I'd rather be sitting on the front of my boat.  It's comfortable and way more mobile. 

That's exactly what a few friends and I decided to do recently just prior to this round of winter weather.  We loaded up a couple boats and headed out to a nearby reservoir shortly after lunch.  My buddies had been catching plenty of crappie and this would be my first trip out in a month or so.  I would soon be glad I made the trip.

We had to break rotten ice much of the way to our intended destination in the upper end.  Our plan was to fish river channel breaks and finding a brush pile on said location would be a bonus.  We hit a couple spots where they'd caught them previously and caught only a handful of smaller crappie with one decent-sized 11 incher.

It wasn't long and my buddies in the other boat managed to find some hungry fish.  They didn't mind sharing and we eased up and started catching crappie, too.  We were fishing 13-17 feet of water as we dropped 1/8-ounce jigs to the bottom and reeled up one crank.  The color of plastics didn't seem to matter as black and pink, blue and chartreuse and several other combinations produced fish.
The action for both boats was steady and success would come and go.  Moving a little up and down the break, and up and down the channel, we'd pick up more fish and then cycle back to previous locations when one spot slowed.  The wind was predicted to switch to the north and howl and we were hoping to boat just a few more before that happened.  At about 4:30 it switched and we tried one more spot before calling it a day just ahead of the next front that would effectively shut down fishing this way for at least a week.  The single digit nightly lows will likely lock the lake up to the point the ice will be too thick to break.

Each boat had dozens of crappie to clean and a mess for everyone to take plenty home.  None of the fish were huge and my boat had nothing over 12 1/2 inches.  Most crappie were 10-11 1/2 inches and in my book those are perfect eaters.  One small fillet, dipped in Andy's Yellow or Shore Lunch batter and deep-fried, is a bite-sized morsel fit for a King.  I'll have to savor the flavor of these last few fillets until I get another chance to go as it's always fishing season! 


Tuesday, February 3, 2015


Canada geese are plentiful in the Sunflower State right now and it's a great time to be a goose hunter.  The season lasts until February 15th so there's still time if you haven't got out or want to take it right up to the end and hunt every last minute.  I had a hunt last week that was a little of both and it reminded me of why I liked it so much. 

I used to hunt Canada geese fairly frequently back in the day and did fairly well on many trips.  In a season's time I'd shoot 50-70 honkers and that's when the limit was two, and later three birds per day.  But a gradual shift to mostly duck hunting saw the numbers of honkers I'd kill each season shrink to the fingers on one hand, or two if I was lucky when they dropped in for a visit to mostly duck decoys on the reservoirs or rivers.

So after a buddy invited me on a field honker hunt last week I was excited. He'd been doing well and it had been a long time since I'd laid in a field and waited on the big black and white birds resembling B52's.  Despite years of experience I admit I had a little trouble going to sleep the night prior anxiously thinking about the next morning's hunt.

My buddy and his son killed several geese the night prior and just left the decoys in the field.  However, the wind shifted 180 degrees in direction and we had to move the decoys.  Worse yet, the velocity increased 10-fold and it was gusting 30-40 mph. 

A little wind isn't bad and a lot is workable.  However, there was one point where we had most of our roughly 2 dozen full-body goose decoys on their side or tumbling.  Too much! 

We were persistent putting them back up and the first flock of the morning paid a quick visit and we each dumped a big honker from that flock.  But like they sometimes do, subsequent flocks started dumping on an adjacent field.  No worries.  My buddy took off to get them up.  It was interesting to watch as I saw a group fly over him and he shot once and killed two birds. 

I ended up going out and laying in the decoys under a big shell decoy.  The birds would come in almost perfect and then veer at the last minute.  However, enough of them ventured too close that I killed four more nice big birds when my buddy returned about an hour later and he, too, had added four more so we were both one bird shy of a limit.

Birds were still flying and we hunkered into the waterway adjacent to our decoys.  The wind had dropped considerably and a flock of big Canadas circled and two peeled out for a final approach.  Perfect.  My buddy shot the lead bird and I cleaned up the back bird and we were done with a nice two-man limit of 12 honkers. 

It was a great morning.  I commented this was my first 6-bird Canada goose limit ever and I was real glad I didn't have to carry them all out of the field as I'm guessing I had roughly 60 pounds of geese.  It was nice to drive right up, load up the decoys and be on our way.  Here's hoping I can get out again at least one more time before the season closes. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015


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


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.

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!