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. 



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