Monthly Archives: November 2011

What a shotgun!

I often appreciate but don’t often envy when I’m in the hunting fields.

My personal hunting spots are pretty good and I’ve been blessed with some very fine dogs for 90-percent of my life. I’m not the best shot in the world but I can usually hold up my end of the deal.

But Monday I’m sure my skin had a distinctive shade of green to it. It was a serious case of shotgun envy.

Rehan Nana was carrying an heirloom L.C. Smith 16-gauge shotgun Monday for prairie chickens.

Rehan Nana, a  Kansas City native now in Minnesota with Pheasants Forever, was a last minute addition to our trip to the rolling prairie in Edwards County.

I noticed he was carrying his shotgun broken-down, in a weathered hard case.

At the field I stared as he opened the case and assembled as nice a side-by-side as I’ve seen in years.

The shotgun was a L.C. Smith probably made 60 or so years ago in New York. The guns were never overly decorative but they have always been known for good workmanship and outstanding function.

Rehan’s shotgun was just worn enough to show it had spent many days afield but well-kept enough to still be downright handsome.

The gun was even a 16-gauge, the shotgun I’ve always thought to be ideal for most kinds of upland gunning in Kansas. I only saw him fire it once and it dropped a lesser prairie chicken – probably America’s most-coveted upland gamebird.

Sigh……

The shotgun even had a history as it had been carried by various members of Rehan’s family over much of the U.S. and Pakistan.

Like most of its kind, the L.C. Smith was a fine combination of plain and elegant.

Seeing and photographing the gun was only part of a fine day. We saw a lot of birds, shot well and it was a pleasure to spend time with Rehan. In fact, I invited him to come share the fields with me again.

Even when he can’t come, he’s more than welcome to send his shotgun.

Sigh……

Decoying deer works…sometimes too well

The chance to call whitetail bucks is one of the main reasons I so enjoy bowhunting. Rather it’s with buck grunts, doe bleats or rattled antlers I get a charge out of pulling some rut-crazed buck into a few yards. I’ve watched them make scrapes, attack trees and posture-up with their backs bowed and eyes bulging with drool dripping from their mouths.

The doe decoy was pointed away and upwind from the blind figuring an approaching buck would would work downwind to scent-check the "doe."

I always thought decoying was secondary to calling for getting bucks to come close. Wednesday afternoon a doe decoy gave me an unforgettable show.

Last week I placed a buck decoy in front of my pop-up blind in Stafford County and watched three bucks come in for a closer look. All three put their ears back, pawed the ground and walked side-ways at the decoy trying to make themselves look bigger. Two of the bucks were shooters but it was snowing so hard I was afraid the recovery could be difficult after a shot.

About 1 p.m. Wednesday I was back with the decoy’s antlers removed so it looked like a doe. I placed the decoy about 20 yards upwind of the blind, sprayed it with scent-killer and settled in to wait.

About two hours later I heard the sound of pounding hooves and looked out to see a buck with busted antlers streaking across the field directly at the doe decoy.

Normally bucks approach cautiously downwind of a doe decoy to see if the doe’s in estrous. Not Mr. Broken Horns, he charged right up to the decoy’s side, slammed to a halt and started licking the decoy’s back.

Then in less time that it took to pull out my camera and hit the “on” switch the love-crazed buck mounted the doe decoy and, well, “had his way” for about 20 seconds.

I’d propped the decoy up with two steel electric fence posts so it was pretty solid but as it started to wobble the buck seemed to hang on tighter and hurry more and more as things tilted.

Eventually the decoy fell over with an ear and back leg flying off. The buck bolted about 50 yards then slowed to a walk. He looked back at his lost love three or four times as he left the field.

Still chuckling at the show I hustled to get the decoy together and between the fence posts and took a few seconds to spray some doe scent between the decoy and the blind.

A half-hour later, shortly after banging some antlers together to simulate a fight, I saw a big-bodied buck coming from the west, angling downwind of the doe decoy.

I quickly recognized the buck as one of the ones that had come to the buck decoy in the snow. He was old and had antlers that turned up at the end. His rack carried nice mass and eight main points plus a sticker. His body carried the tattoos of many past battles.

I made the shot when he stopped to sniff some of the doe scent 14 yards away. Within a few seconds he was down on a farm road 60 yards away.

After the broken-horned buck mauled the decoy to the ground this old bruiser came in to the sound of rattling antlers and passed within 14 yards of the blind.

He was perfect. I’d gone into the season wanting a buck that was old and with unique antlers. Several bucks with more points had been within bow range and I’d let the young deer walk hoping they’d some day turn into some high-scoring trophy for the landowner.

I’m not sure what the buck weighed but he was a brute which complicated removing the venison from the deer. Still, I was done in time to watch a great sunset develop then fade.

It was one of the best days in more than 30 years of bowhunting.

No doubt long after we’ve eaten the last package of the buck’s venison and the antlers are thick with dust in our basement I’ll still be thinking about that love-struck buck that mauled the decoy.

I wonder what he was thinking when he was walking away.

Panda/opossum hybrid?

John Cavassa often finds free-loaders near his Newton County horse barn where they dig and tear their way into assorted trouble trying to get at feed. Most get a free ride to somewhere else after they wander into one of John’s live-traps.

Recently he checked a trap and found this very unique opossum.

Through the decades I’ve seen several hundred of Kansas’ only marsupial and most have been grey, a few have been black, a few fewer have been blond or brown.

This is the first I’ve seen one that’s white with black ears so I decided to share it with you. Pretty cool, huh? Kind of like a cross between a panda and an opossum.

Snow day…

I’ll never get tired of seeing blue skies, white ground, green-headed ducks and black dogs. I know thousands of sportsmen feel the same way.

The snow started in western Reno County about dusk on Tuesday. All the while bowhunting I was thinking about the next morning’s duck hunt.

The first snow of the year is always special but especially so when enjoyed following dogs for pheasants or watching a spread of decoys from a duck blind.

Clear skies meant Bob Snyder, Andy Fanter and I got to watch ducks work the pond and decoys in dawn’s glow 20 minutes before the start of legal shooting time.

Mallards seemed more common than the days before. Andy used a cord attached to several decoys to make the fakes bob and put action into the otherwise lifeless spread.

The first 45 minute were fast with action and we totally a dozen ducks in a hurry. Then things slowed enough we could enjoy the frosted surroundings.

A redhead drake was one of seven species within the 18 ducks taken Wednesday morning. Most were drake mallards.

We had our limits of six ducks apiece by about 10 a.m. Most were mallard drakes but we had seven species that also included pintails, widgeon, gadwall, teal and redheads.

I had to take a few pictures to commemorate the day and try out a new little point-and-shoot camera.

There will be more good hunts this season but the one on the first snow always seems to be one of the most enjoyable.

Prairie lion and a malltail…or is it pinard?

This mallard/pintail drake has the bill, tail and feet of a pintail and the greenhead of a mallard drake. It was shot in Reno County Monday morning.

Yet another mountain lion has turned into a dead prairie lion. The cat, a young male, was road-killed in western Oklahoma last week. CLICK HERE FOR A LINK TO THE STORY.

Also Monday morning Great Bend duck hunter Andy Fanter  spotted a duck with a vivid green head in a flock of mallards and shot it. Several yards  from retrieving the bird he noticed it was a mallard/pintail hybrid drake. The bird is headed for a taxidermist.

Little buck with big ideas

A little mule deer buck in Gove County may have bitten off a bit more than he can chew by threatening a fight with a much older and bigger buck. Mule deer fights aren't usually as violent as those involving whitetails

A buddy happened across this neat photo when he checked a trail camera he has on a Gove County food plot.

Who knows what was going through this 1 1/2-year-old mule deer’s mind when he lowered his antlers against a much older and larger buck.

It’s doubtful any serious pushing was taking place.

From what we watched last week mule deer seldom get in the vicious fights whitetail bucks sometimes have when battling over does or herd dominance.  Several times we watched a larger mule deer buck push another from his herd of does with simple posturing itself to be bigger and badder.

Thursday morning we witnessed two whitetail bucks trying to kill each other for about 15 minutes. Antlers meshed they pushed and shoved over a sizable chunk of prairie. Eventually one quit and was chased about 400  yards across the prairie at full-speed as it left the area.

The winner in the whitetail brawl was the smaller buck with a smaller rack than the loser. Attitude has a lot to do with fights in the wild but I think the little mule deer buck above would need more than just the right frame of mind to do much damage to the larger mule deer buck.

Photos from mule deer country

Even though I didn't get even close to bow range of these huge mule deer bucks just seeing them was worth the drive to western Kansas. The buck on the right is probably 30-32 inches wide.

I’ve spent most of this week in the Smoky Hills of far western Kansas, trying to get a nice mule deer buck with my bow. So far I’ve had a couple of “almosts” with my bow but my cameras have been scoring time after time.

The nearly vertical canyons and rock outcroppings add to the scenery of the Smoky Hills of western Kansas.

Here are three of the estimated 500-600 photos I’ve shot in the past few days. It’s going to take me several hours just go through the shots after this trip and get a photo gallery completed.

Stay tuned, I think you’ll enjoying many of the photos yet to come.

Wish me luck on Friday’s hunt. Twice a good friend and I have made nice, long stalks and gotten well within bow range of a great buck only to have one of his does blow our cover. Arghhhhh

With or without a mule deer buck I’ll head home that afternoon.. No matter, I’ll be heading home realizing I spent most of a week in what I consider my favorite part of Kansas.

I can’t wait until I get to return.

A herd of antelope run full-speed through Wednesday's heavy snow and fog in the Smoky HIlls of far western Kansas.