The agony of a miss, the joy of seeing good neighbors

Tuesday was the first of several vacation days visiting friends in western Kansas and bowhunting for whitetail and mule deer.

My desire for high antler scores is largely gone, thanks to what I consider maturity as a hunter, and because many of the places where I hunt the landowner is a trophy hunter. It wouldn’t be right for me to shoot a buck they’d be proud to have on their wall. It’s my decision, not theirs’.

So my goal the past few seasons has been an old buck on his way down, or a deer that simply would never mature into something that would score high.

Tuesday we saw my perfection. It was an ancient, grey-faced old mule deer buck that had only grown one antler.

We were lucky to see him burrowed deep in a pile of yuccas, and the wind covered the sound of my steps enough for me to sneak well within bow range.

The buck eventually saw or heard something, rose, moved a few steps and looked around. I rushed the shot that should have been easy and missed. I’d shot bulls-eyes at that range hundreds of times through the summer and fall on targets. Such chances don’t come often. My emotions since have since ranged from disappointment to anger at myself.

We did find the buck bedding in an open yucca flat later in the afternoon, and crawled a solid 200 yards on our bellies. When we were 60 yards out he stood and milled around a bit. The plan was for me to slide another 20 yards closer when he bedded again. Such never happened because a trophy-class 10-point whitetail came to scene and pushed the big mulie from the spot. The 10-pointer, when it passed at about 25 yards, caught my buddy trying to get ready for a shot.

Even unsuccessful and at times painful because of cactus and uncomfortable positions, the stalk/crawl was great fun.

Mid-day our hunt had to take a few hour break as my friend had to climb aboard a combine for a bit. A local farmer died last week before he could finish his milo harvest. About eight combines owned by his friends gathered and finished the task for his family…an no charge.

It was good to see such kindness in western Kansas, though it hardly came as a surprise.

Wednesday we’ll be back amid the canyons and yucca, again looking for a mule deer almost nobody but me would want to shoot.