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, December 15, 2016


A deer hunter's first deer is memorable.  A deer hunter's first buck might be even more so, as antlers are a magical thing.  These "firsts" only happen one time and the sights, smells and sounds of a successful hunt are etched forever in the mind of a someone who puts their first tag on a Kansas whitetail.  My soon-to-be-son-in-law, Jake, did just that and will remember all the details of these experiences for years to come.

In addition to his deer permits, Jake had to buy the Apprentice Hunting License as he hadn't taken the Kansas Hunter Education Course yet.  That was fine, as I'd planned to help him anyway since he was new at it.  He started out using my crossbow and just 40 minutes into his very first hunt had a close encounter with a doe at 15 yards that just didn't work out.  And after only another 50 minutes or so on our third trip to a ground blind he shot a nice-sized adult doe that barely went 75 yards or so.  He was thrilled and I was proud to witness his first deer.

He was likely even more excited for his chance to take an antlered deer.  He'd seen pictures of bucks taken by his friends and me and the antler allure wasn't lost on Jake.  However, I put no pre-conceived notions in his head about antler size and told him he would be the judge of what he'd be happy with as his first buck.

As easy as filling his antlerless tag was, filling his buck tag proved more difficult.  We had some hunts where we didn't see anything and others where we saw plenty of deer just out of bow range. One of the most memorable outings had Jake watching two really nice and big bucks, about two hours apart, that nearly gave him a shot but it never materialized.  And he'd observed, on several occasions, a small, half-racked 4-pointer walk right under our stand he chose not to shoot.

"I would have shot him if he had the other side," Jake laughed.  "But I'd like to have something for BOTH hands to hold on to for a photo."

I understood completely.

The firearm season opened and Jake borrowed my Remington 30-06.  A buddy of mine was gracious enough to offer up his prime property to set up a ground blind for us to try to get Jake's first buck. We hunted the first Saturday morning of the season and surprisingly, never saw a deer.  We hunted the next Tuesday, both morning and evening, with a close call at last legal shooting light but a nice buck made good on his escape thanks to a doe and a fawn that spooked.

It was coming down to the wire for the firearm's season when we headed back out the last Saturday morning.  We popped up a ground blind on the edge of a bean field in nearly the same spot where the buck stood on Tuesday evening.  We had a great vantage point in three directions as daylight came and the woods began to wake up.

I saw deer first, several does, on the wooded hillside over 200 yards away.  Jake got his binoculars up and said excitedly, "There's a buck behind them!"

It took several minutes before I could finally see the buck and his antlers as he was statuesque standing beside a tree with his rack obscured by limbs.  He started after one of the does and I could clearly see antlers.  I told Jake to get his gun on the shooting sticks thinking we'd have to try a shot at about 210 yards. But as we watched, over the next 5 minutes, each doe made their way to the edge of the bean field and started trotting across headed right at us.

"Uh, oh," I said to Jake.  "They're liable to get downwind and smell us and spook."

But luck was on our side as the first couple passed by within easy bow range.  I was watching the last one disappear from my sight to our left when I thought Jake whispered, "There it is," referring to the last doe.  I told him to be still and he didn't twitch.

I moved my eyes ever so slightly to the left, looking past Jake in his stoic position and the buck was standing there in the only open window on that side, nearly filling it up as he was less than 20 yards away.  Jake could see it for the last few seconds and he'd whispered, "There HE is!"  He'd covered 200 yards just out of my sight as I couldn't see from my angle in the blind!  My heart rocketed.

As quietly as I could I whispered to Jake to get his gun off the shooting sticks as he would have to get it out the side window and shoot off-hand.  The buck sensed something was up and started to head back the way he came taking a couple, slow steps at a time, then stopping to look around.  Jake moved perfectly when he wasn't looking and got the gun out the window.  The buck started to trot and I grunted to stop him and he turned perfectly broadside at only 30 yards.

"You're going to have to hurry," I told Jake.  "He's not going to hang around."

Jake shot and the deer buckled but took off on a dead run in a looping arc away from us as Jake racked another shell.  He'd run more than 100 yards before starting to falter.

"He's stumbling!" Jake said ecstatically.

And down he went running full-stride.

Jake was on Cloud 9, fist pumping and reliving the experience verbally over and over talking a mile a minute.  His excitement was contagious and I was thrilled, too.  We continued chatting about how fortunate we were to have it all finally work out this time as Jake's first buck was truly earned.

"How long do we have to wait to go get him?" Jake asked.

"Whenever you quit jabbering," I teased him.

Jake's feet barely hit the ground as we made our way to the downed buck.  His reaction was priceless and he was beyond happy to grab the antlers of his first buck.

"That was SO cool!" he kept repeating.

It was even more rewarding knowing we'd worked for it and put in our time.  Jake never got discouraged and was excited each and every hunt about something different as it was all new to him. His first buck was indeed, very cool, and I was happy to be a part of it.              


1 comment:

  1. Really great write up that captures the experience. My family was always big into hunting but I was definitely a late bloomer there. Those first moments are special. I remember the first successful hunt (despite it being 10 years ago) and the first fish I ever caught fishing with grandpa (hate to admit it - 32 years ago) like it was yesterday. The smell, the sound, the place - you just remember those special moments. Always awesome to be a part of that experience - great job of capturing it here!