Looking back on 40 years of Kansas deer hunting

Back in ’73 any buck was a good one, and some people still thought bucks grew one antler point per year.

Monday’s opening of the 2013 archery deer season marks 40 years since I first had a Kansas deer permit. It was an archery permit, because at 14 I was too young for a gun tag. I really didn’t care, the main thing was that I was deer hunting IN KANSAS!

Some thoughts on how times had changed -

– The 1973 season was just the ninth in Kansas and I hadn’t even seen my first deer in the state until 1965.

– It was a time when seeing fresh tracks after a rain was exciting in eastern Kansas. People pulled to the side of the road if they saw deer in a field. Every sighting was reported to friends, family and quite often the first stranger who’d listen.

– Back then just seeing a deer while hunting was a major success. I hunted two years before I saw a deer while hunting.

– It was a time when anybody shooting a deer got their picture in the small town newspaper, and became somewhat of a hero in the local hunting community. Hanging a deer in the yard or open garage would stop traffic and pack the place for hours every evening.

– It was years before I ever heard the word “just” in front of a buck,…like “just” an eight-pointer, or just a three-year-old…Every buck was a trophy and the taxidermy shops were filled with basket-racked six and eight-pointers. Shoot, if someone shot a doe they at least had the hide tanned.

– Back then only about half of the landowners would let you hunt “their” deer because the animals were that special and some didn’t think there was enough to shoot. It was 25 years before they became “their” deer because they were worth money.

– Many of us took up bowhunting because we couldn’t draw a rifle permit every year, or often every-other year. Archery permits were unlimited, and got us into the woods year after year.

– The gear was so simple — recurve bows, maybe fiberglass arrows and either Bear Razorheads, Zwickeys or Pearson Deadhead broadheads. Most didn’t own camo, let alone grunt calls, rattling antlers, mock scrape materials, rubber boots, scent-free spray, scent-free clothing, deer decoys, trail cameras, feeders, food plots, portable stands, pop-up blinds, compound bows, release aids, sights, deer lures, outdoors television shows, videos, DVDs, specific magazines…you get the idea.

– The only “book” most of us cared about was B & C, …as in Betty and Crocker.  And back then few of us knew a thing about cooking venison, and much of it ended up tasting gamey and poor. (I’ve enjoyed those advancements more than the gadgetry, for sure…)

– The concept of getting to hunt with bow and rifle in the same year was not even a dream, nor was being able to  shoot up to six or seven deer per season. Most of didn’t see six or seven deer per year, including while we were driving down the road!

– Nor did we think people would someday pay $8,000 or more to hunt for a Kansas deer…nor did we think a time would come when it would be tough for kids from even small towns to find places to hunt.

– While the opportunity, success, and equipment have all increased, I honestly can’t say the enjoyment has…it was just such a great deal to be deer hunting back then. I still think the first set of antlers you wrap your fingers around, that you’ve shot, is the biggest buck of your life…I know they were for me.

– I often miss the simplicity of those old times, and think of those days when deer was a trophy, and the main enjoyment was just knowing we were actually getting to hunt deer in Kansas.