Category Archives: Michael’s World

Last day of duck season…four out of five ain’t bad

Four mallard drakes from Sunday's final hunt of the 2013-14 waterfowl seasons.

Four mallard drakes from Sunday’s final hunt of the 2013-14 waterfowl seasons.

All I was allowed to shoot was a single mallard when I headed to a blind Sunday afternoon. Andy Fanter and I had hunted the same blind in the morning, when he’d taken a limit of five drake mallards and I’d shot four.

The buffet at the Wheatland Cafe in Hudson had left me literally about as full of friend chicken as I could be as I headed for the final sit of the duck season.  Friend Bob Snyder joined me in the afternoon, needing three drakes. for himself.

Scores of times in our 13 seasons of  friendship we’ve dropped the four drakes we needed from a single flock. Bob had also shot some nice full-limits of ducks on afternoon hunts several prior days. No problem, right? Mother Nature had other plans.

The ducks flew late in the afternoon, which isn’t unusual when it’s warm, and by that time the wind had totally died. Decoys looked as lifeless as lawn ornaments on the water. Calm conditions also lets the birds circle and circle a spot looking for danger.

Oh, there were a few chances.

A drake and hen flew within 25 yards of the blind just as I’d arrived, before my shotgun was loaded. Another pass was in range but silhouetted, so I couldn’t tell the drake from the hen. Yes, hens are legal, but not something we target at the wetlands Bob creates and manages.

The last half hour had plenty of ducks around, and one pair gave us several in-range passes. I passed on a shot I should have taken, and took one I shouldn’t have and missed.

…and fifteen minutes later the duck seasons that began on a hot September morning for teal were finished until next fall.

Disappointed? Nope.

Not one of my best duck seasons as far as numbers of birds killed, but still plenty of memories made.

Old shotgun, old dog, great spot = like old times

I have access to a great spot for pheasants, even this year, and it’s only about 15 minutes from my house. It’s the kind of place you don’t take lightly because access only comes from a very deep friendship with three generations of the same family. That they probably like my old Lab, Hank, as well as me certainly helps.

Since this family hunts deer on the same lands means I can’t access the dense CRP fields and food plots until the last of the doe seasons is over. No problem, January has always been my favorite month for hunting pheasants.

The long-awaited first hunt in the fields happened this morning, and I knew it wouldn’t last long. Hank’s about 13, and dense grass saps his energy fast. I figured he’d have an hour’s worth of power at best, especially with the warm temperatures and heavy winds.

At almost 13, Hank is down to about an hour of pheasant hunting. The shotgun was my father's pheasant gun and so far is two for two this month.

At almost 13, Hank is down to about an hour of pheasant hunting at a time. The shotgun was my father’s pheasant gun and so far is two for two this month.

All through the weeks of anticipating the trip I figured I’d be caring my Ruger over/under shotgun, which brought an end to hundreds of pheasants and quail before I became hooked on waterfowl hunting. But when I went to get it, I noticed another gun. It’s an ancient Remington 1100 semi-automatic with a cheap camo paint job.

It was my father’s pheasant gun up until he died in 1997. Jerrod shot it for waterfowl for a few weeks, hence the paint, before he moved on to a magnum model. Back in the early 1980s I’d carried the shotgun several times when dad wasn’t along. It’s still the only gun with which I’ve shot a limit of four wild roosters, with three shots, while standing in one spot.

When I lifted the gun for the first time in years last night it felt good, and snapping it to my shoulder it pointed exactly where I was looking. I left the Ruger at home.

The landowners had recently seen up to about 40 pheasants in just one part of the place, so I figured we would see birds. Indeed, two roosters and a hen crossed the road at the property’s edge as I drove up.

The land is a 1960′s mix of well-managed prairie grass with a lot of forbs. The fields are framed with brushy fencelines with nice plum thickets and just the right amount of cedar trees.

Hank and I looped around to get the heavy wind in our face and when the food plots were empty of birds we waded into the grass…but not very far.

I think 18 or 20 pheasants erupted from the grass a few yards in front of the dog. As usual, the illegal hens offered slam-dunk shots and several roosters flushed out of range. One did rise within about 15 yards but made a beeline right at the landowner’s house as if it was headed to the back porch, which means I couldn’t shoot.

Fifty yards from there, though, we pinned a running rooster where tall grass met an open lane and it fell amid a true jungle of plums, hedge trees and cedars. It took some time to get Hank over a woven wire fence, and to where he could even enter the thickets. He found the bird at the bottom of a dry creek.

The plan was to shoot one bird each trip the rest of the season, and head for home…but on the way back Hank again started working scent. Probably 100 yards from where his trailing began two roosters flushed inches from his pouncing paws. I shot one and let the other one go.

I’ll head back out a few more times before the season closes the end of the month. The trips will be short for Hank’s sake, and I’ll carry the old shotgun for mine.

But we’re off to a good start – old dog, old proven shotgun, two shots and two roosters in less than an hour. It kind of reminds me of old times.

Retriever/pointer cross, the best of both worlds

Duke, owned by Tom Devlin, is a Lab/pointer cross that points and honors as well as any.

Duke, owned by Tom Devlin, is a Lab/pointer cross that points and honors as well as any.

Through the years I’ve hunted over a few hundred bird dogs. Most were purebreds, and some from bloodlines seemingly as long and legendary as  that of England’s royal family.

I’ve also hunted over some mixed breed dogs, too.

There was Duke, a terribly ugly Boston terrier/pekingese/rat terrier mix that was heck on chasing rabbits and treeing squirrels.

There was also Goldie, a friend’s yellow Lab and English pointer cross that had about as much drive as the Cowardly Lion. She probably only pointed one bird for every 20 found by my Brittany, Rose. But it seemed every time Goldie did point it was a rooster pheasant…never a quail, never a hen pheasant…go figure.

And there was also Brillo, which I think was a cross between a German shorthair and a German wirehair. That dog was death of working running pheasants. Slow and steady, it was rare when she took up a trail that didn’t result in a solid point.

And a few weeks ago I got to spend the afternoon with another Duke, a “kennel accident” owned by Tom Devlin. This Duke is a Lab/English pointer cross that basically just looked like another case of an unplanned meeting between a pure Lab and a something else.

Duke Devlin, though, seemed to get the best of both breeds. He pointed as well as the good Britts and shorthairs with which he shared the fields and found more than his share of the wild quail and released pheasants and chukars. He honored the points of the other dogs as well as they honored his.

Duke's Lab lineage really showed with his excellent retrieving.

Duke’s Lab lineage really showed with his excellent retrieving.

Where he really excelled, though, was once a bird was shot down. It made no difference if it fell 15 or 150 yards away, Duke was probably the dog that brought it back. I can’t recall not finding any downed birds for which he searched.

I wonder, though, how well Ol’ Duke would do on a duck hunt. I’m guessing he’d probably do just fine.

 

Helping to heal a Wounded Warrior

Former Marine Irona Cliver got a 10-point buck Sunday afternoon and, hopefully, much more.

Marine veteran Irona Cliver got a 10-point buck Sunday afternoon and, hopefully, much more.

Irona Cliver is 33, in good condition but Sunday afternoon she about suffered a physical malady she hadn’t experienced since she was a very little girl.

“Oh my God, I almost (wet) myself,” she said through a loud, excited laugh, a split-second after watching a nice whitetail buck fall to her shot.

The Marine Corps veteran, a sergeant, was more than due some positive excitement in her life.

Irona Cliver fills a plate of catfish, home-made French fries and more at a dinner in her honor.

Irona Cliver fills a plate of catfish, home-made French fries and more at a dinner in her honor.

We met in October when she was a guest at a Wounded Warrior’s-style event. Cliver was probably the most popular of the 25 or so vets being honored because of her out-going personality. At the closing dinner she understandably broke into tears as she spoke of enduring more physical and emotional damage within the past few years than I have in my 55.

We talked for a few minutes, I  gave her my card and a “contact me if you ever want to go.”  Usually you don’t hear from people after such offers.Within a week of the event Irona more than convinced me she really wanted to go  deer hunting, something she hadn’t done in about eight years. I figured  we would go. I hadn’t figured we’d have so much assistance.

But the forecast for serious cold, plus about a slam-dunk chance of freezing drizzle and snow ,meant we’d need shelter for her to be even remotely comfortable. So I called my friend, Ed Markel, to see if we could use an enclosed shooting tower on 160 acres he owns in Reno County. It’s a great place to which I’ve been granted access for several years. Still, taking someone with me deserves special consent.

But when I told Ed  Irona’s story, he instantly said, “Or there’s the ranch, it has a lot more shooting houses and probably a lot more deer.”

I was stunned.

Offering up “The Ranch” over the other land  is as much an upgrade as offering a golfer a chance to go to Pebble Beach over their local favorite course. It’s about 4,000 acres in Elk County that are managed more for wildlife than cattle and crops,…much more. It’s part of the famed Chautauqua Hills, with the steep rimrock canyons, dense woodlands and patches of great prairie and amid all of that are more than about 60 acres of food plots.

And it’s Ed’s baby, …his best spot, a place he understandably only shares very rarely with a relative or friend from out of state. The ground is so sacred to Ed I’ve never asked for bowhunting access out of respect, despite 12 years of our very good friendship.. But he offered it up instantly if I thought it would help Irona  to have a good time. It was just the start of unrequested kindnesses.

Ed Markel, left, visits with Irona Cliver, after she shot a nice buck on Markel's Elk County Ranch.

Ed Markel, left, visits with Irona Cliver, after she shot a nice buck on Markel’s Elk County Ranch.

Ed’s ranch manager, Rick Mitchell, volunteered to guide us around on his day off and help in anyway possible. Another nearby friend, Greg Pickett, flat insisted we come to his ranch to warm up and enjoy a fish fry feast after the hunt. Possibly the best outdoorsmen I’ve met in Kansas, Greg also offered up advice on which stands to hunt on The Ranch, given Sunday’s freakish southeast wind and snow.

Everyone involved was probably offering up some silent prayers for success, too. Deer activity had been almost nil since the weather turned so cold several days earlier.

Rick met us at the ranch and took us to the stand we thought was the best option. Things got off to a good start when a doe and fawn flushed when we neared the heated shooting tower. Within ten minutes later 37 turkeys, far more than Irona had ever seen in a flock, came on the scene and entertained us for an hour. A gorgeous, big male coyote gave us a long look, too.

I’d told her not to expect any deer until at least 4:30 that afternoon, but it was only 3:50 when we saw a buck working the edge of some nearby standing corn, a route that would quickly take it in front of our stand.

Irona was using my .30-06, and earlier I’d let her dry-fire it  so she could get a feel for the scope and the trigger. With each shot on an empty chamber she’d gone through a good 15 second breathing and squeezing ritual and I’d been left wondering if she would take too long if a buck appeared. That was not a problem.

I grunted like a deer to stop the walking buck,  and somewhere between my “Take”…..and…”him,” the rifle sounded.

An 80 yard shot from a trained Marine marksman wasn’t a challenge and the 10-pointer was quickly down, though a little later the perfectionist did grouse that the bullet had hit her deer about an inch from where she’d been aiming.  Irona laughed, she thanked, she hugged, she high-fived, and she shook visibly from more than the cold. But her day was far from over.

Rick was on the scene in minutes and after a photo shoot we were off, with the buck in his truck, to Greg’s ranch. There we took the buck into a building that was toasty warm from a wood-burning stove, and  Greg and I skinned and quartered the deer as Irona warmed by the fire, watched and chattered.

Irona Cliver stands by the kind of shooting house that kept her warm and dry amid Sunday's nasty weather.

Irona Cliver stands by the kind of shooting house that kept her warm and dry amid Sunday’s nasty weather.

What followed was a full-fledged southeast Kansas feast as Greg, and other friends who had volunteered to help, made platters of homemade venison sausage, fried catfish, freshly cut French fries, long-simmered beans and a homemade apple pie served still steaming.

More importantly, Irona was being nourished emotionally more than physically as she talked and laughed with Ed, Rick, Greg and others first at the table, and then by the fire. When we headed back to Wichita, Irona had several month’s worth of venison, the makings of a fine European mount for her wall and what could be some very important memories.

Through time she’ll remember the kindness of strangers that she knows really cared about and appreciated her.

And there will be times in the future when she mentally returns to some of those dark chapters of her life, which will always be as much a part of her as her blue eyes or her Semper Fi attitude. But she WILL have the memories of a special day, and she will know she has friends from that day that care deeply about her, and that the outdoors can go a long, long ways towards patching wounds that simply can never completely heal.

And I promise you…Ed, Rick, Greg, and I are better people having spent time with “our” Wounded Warrior.

If nothing else, seeing her bravery re-emphasizes how fortunate we all are in our lives. Seeing her smiles and hearing the excitement in her voice, we now have even more confidence that we can make a positive difference where it’s really needed.

She may be our first Wounded Warrior, but I’m pretty certain she will not be our last.

 

Bad winter to come —so says the persimmons

American persimmons grow on high, rocky ground over much of eastern Kansas.

American persimmons grow on high, rocky ground over much of eastern Kansas.

Forget the National Weather Service, Accuweather and all those other fancy forecasting conglomerations….Steve Harvey says his personal weather forecasters are saying it’s going to be a danged hard winter.

His forecasters, by the way, are persimmon fruit on the hunting lands he manages in Bourbon County.

American persimmon trees, also known as opossumwood, grow over most of the eastern and central U.S., including much of the eastern one-third of Kansas.  I’ve seen some in western Butler County, a few miles north of Kellogg and Santa Fe Lake Road. They’re normally found on rocky hilltops, growing in clusters about the size of an average two-car garage or smaller. The trees are normally about wrist-thick, and 10 to 15 feet tall.

Country lore says that if the inside of a persimmon seed holds something shaped like a spoon, a hard winter is on the way.

Country lore says that if the inside of a persimmon seed holds something shaped like a spoon, a hard winter is on the way.

They produce a sweet fruit that appears to be like a cross between a date and a plum, though about the size of  a ping-pong ball. When ripe, the fruit is orange and sweet. When literally green, one bite will leave you puckering for quite a while, and never biting a green persimmon again. Historically, people either ate ripe persimmons raw or made them into puddings. I have friends in Elk County who turn persimmons into some mighty tasty, and potent, wine, too.

Persimmons are hugely popular with wildlife, and deer can often be seen feeding in persimmon groves this time of the year when the ripe fruit is dropping to the ground. A heavy wind can also shake the thin trees enough to drop more fruit to the ground. Raccoons often climb the trees to knock down the fruit. Opossums like persimmons a lot, too.

A persimmon grove in Bourbon County is loaded with fruit.

A persimmon grove in Bourbon County is loaded with fruit.

Stopping to snack on some fruit at one of the many groves that was loaded with persimmons last weekend, Harvey, a native from southern Arkansas, pulled out a pocket knife and sliced into a seed. He and Wayne Simien, Sr., said they’d long been told that if the inside of the seed held what looked like a small spoon it meant a lot of snow and cold would come this winter. If the inside held what looked to be a fork, the winter would be mild.

Wouldn’t you know it, the permission seeds Harvey tested had the smallish spoons.

Wayne Simien, Sr., eats a persimmon, a wild fruit much like a date.

Wayne Simien, Sr., eats a persimmon, a wild fruit much like a date.

So I guess we’d best bundle up since the persimmons say it’s going to be a bad winter. One thing about it, their accuracy rate can’t be much worse than those of the major weather services.

Ah, November – the pleasure of prairie chickens

A flock of prairie chickens fly from a feeding area back to a broad Smoky Hills.

A flock of prairie chickens fly from a feeding area back to a broad Smoky Hills.

No question, November is my favorite month of the year. It’s a time of several weeks or so of vacation, with times taken out for covering the opening weekend of pheasant season and whatever other outdoors event that’s both fun and worthy of an outdoors page feature.

From time to time this November I’ll be blogging on how the month is going.

So far, so great.

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All of my Novembers have days of deer, ducks, geese, pheasants and fall turkeys. This one had a few hours of prairie chickens, too.

Hunting greater prairie chickens in the Smoky Hills.The fall Outdoor Writers of Kansas meeting was at Beloit recently, and Keith Houghton of Ringneck Ranch was kind enough to scout out a field for a group greater prairie chicken hunt.

FYI, the Smoky Hill region, including the Blue Hills near Ringneck Ranch, have left the Flint Hills in their dust when it comes to prairie chicken numbers because of kinder land use practices, with less burning and less double-stocking of cattle.

But even the best prairie chicken field in the state is a coin toss gamble at best. ‘Chickens may fly into a field every afternoon for a week, then skip a couple of days before hitting the same pattern again. Keith had them scouted as mostly coming from the south and east, as they accessed several hundred acres of poorly harvested corn field.

Most of the birds, of course, entered from the southwest were we had no hunters waiting, which may have been good. A few minutes before the end of legal shooting time Keith and some others moved across the field from north to south,

Hunters await flights of prairie chickens, using large bales of hay for cover.

Hunters await flights of prairie chickens, using large bales of hay for cover.

pushing scattered groups totaling about 180 birds back over our line of about eight hunters.

Sitting at the east end, I was the lone gunner to not fire a shot…but I sure got to fire my shutter several times as the birds left the field silhouetted  against a classic Kansas sunset.

The tall grass prairies of the Smoky Hills now hold Kansas' best populations of greater prairie chickens.

The tall grass prairies of the Smoky Hills now hold Kansas’ best populations of greater prairie chickens.

With that, the sun pretty well set on one of my better Novembers…now, let’s see how things go during my second most-favored month – December!

Ah, November – a much better buck than expected

No question, November is my favorite month of the year. It’s a time of several weeks or so of vacation, with times taken out for covering the opening weekend of pheasant season and whatever other outdoors event that’s both fun and worthy of an outdoors page feature.

From time to time this November I’ll be blogging on how the month is going.

So far, so great.

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The soft, calm words from my mouth were “Yep, here comes another buck.”

The loud, panicked words trapped in my mind were, “Holy @#@$%, and it’s a really big buck!”

Eleven-year-old Jake was willing to let about any buck be his first, but ended up taking a real trophy with a crossbow.

Eleven-year-old Jake was willing to let about any buck be his first, but ended up taking a real trophy with a crossbow.

One of my main goals this November was to get my 11-year-old friend, Jake, a buck. Since it would be his first deer, about any buck would work.

Going into a pleasant November afternoon we’d already had some close calls. On a morning when Jake froze-out, trail cams showed a dandy nine-pointer passed the blind about 20 minutes later. We’d come but for a little too much movement from buck fever from getting a crossbow shot at a whitetail with mainbeams like white licorice sticks with a few ivory gum drops for tines per side.

One morning we watched a good eight-pointer play ring-around-the-cedar tree chasing a doe. Another similar buck literally about ran us over as we were exiting our cedar tree hide that morning.

And on the pleasant November afternoon, which I think was the 14th, Jake and I had watched a fat, 2 1/2 year-old six-pointer piddling around before our ground blind for about 15 minutes. Seeming to know it was being watched through a scope, the buck just wouldn’t quite give us that perfect broadside shot as it grazed, looked around and finally began staring to the south.

I followed the buck’s gaze down the mowed path through the pasture, and saw a buck trail cameras said had moved into the area within about the past 10 days. The main thing about his rack was that it was tall, with second points on both sides pushing 12 inches, and third points pushing nine or ten. The buck’s big body, and assortment of stickers, burrs and bumps on the antlers, told me it probably had some age.

As soon as it saw the six-pointer, the bigger buck took an aggressive and dominant posture. His walk turned into stomped steps, and he curled back his upper lip and let out a his that sounded like a leaky tire as he warned the smaller buck to move on. Unlike that younger, smaller male deer, the bigger buck sauntered around the edge of the meadow to come up in front of the smaller deer, nose to nose. It stopped 14 yards from the blind, as perfectly broadside as the one on the proverbial barn. He looked as big, too.

I’d already figured that me showing a little excitement would cause Jake to show a lot, which could lead to a bad shot. I calmly said, “Jake, shoot the buck on the right.” Seemingly surprised he was getting asked to shoot a deer, after so many years of waiting to go hunting, my friend took a little convincing that the time, and the buck, were right.

The shot was good, the buck was off, and within six seconds we heard brush breaking nearby where it fell.

Jake looked at me with hoot owl-big eyes, and whispered that it had looked like a nice buck. “No,” I corrected, “Jake, that was a very nice buck…I’d have shot him in a minute, myself.” That’s about when excitement swept through Jake and he about fell off his bucket because he was shaking so hard.

I was trembling a bit, too. I’d been pretty sure I could get the boy his first buck, but I wasn’t expecting it to be bigger than a lot of hunters ever kill in their lives.

 

Ah, November – Sometimes it all comes together

There’s a lot that can go wrong when you take off to sneak within archery range of a western Kansas mule deer. Their radar-like ears can hear you coming even when you can’t hear yourself walking, and hawk-like eyes can spot even the tiniest movement that seems out of place.

Michael Pearce found this mature mule deer bedded in a perfect spot for a stalk, on a day with ideal conditions for a sneak.

Michael Pearce found this mature mule deer bedded in a perfect spot for a stalk, on a day with ideal conditions for a sneak.

Big bucks are often saved from being shot, or at least missed, by the herds of does they usually bed with or some smaller buck that’s hidden just out of sight, but right in the hunter’s scent stream. Sometimes there also just isn’t enough cover to sneak within the 30 to 40 yards most of us prefer for shooting an arrow at a living creature. And I honestly swear sometimes it’s like the big boys have ESP, and can just sense when you’re about to pull back the string.

Especially in my case, there’s also the little issue of getting excited and flat missing the shot you’ve spent a few hours trying to set-up. Oh, it’s not like I’ve missed dozens of times, or even double-digit times, but the fact that simply sneaking to within range is so difficult makes missed shots very memorable and painful.

But, if you do enough sneaks, and cover enough country, sooner or later it will all come together. It did for me on a recent trip out west.

The wind was howling and the ground damp from heavy mist, which makes staying unheard much easier. Somehow we found a mature buck bedded by himself, in a perfect place for a sneak.

A friend and I had been in the same valley the day before, trying to get close to a herd of several does and at least four bucks. Fifty yards was the best we could do with a buck, and even then he had us pegged and would have bolted when I drew.

So we were both thrilled on the windy, damp day to see one of those four bucks bedded in a series of canyons, backed into a cutbank by itself. Usually such deer bed with  the wind at their back so they can smell danger from behind. This buck probably had earlier that morning, but the wind had changed and was then in our favor.

It took some slow searching, but we found the tips of his antlers poking barely within sight. He was bedded back so far in the cutbank we couldn’t see much of his body.

I have no doubt I could have slowly crawled up, reached out and touched the tips of his antlers with an extended arrow…but that’s not why we were there.

Rather than force the issue, I took a knee along the ridge while my friend circled to the north, staying just out of sight, and started making coyote barks and deer bleats. Perfect!. Curious, the buck turned his head in that direction and I drew my bow. Just as I reached full-draw he stood, and took a few steps forward into plain sight. The distance was well under 20 yards and the shot was easy, and on the mark.

The big-bodied deer passed probably within 8 yards of me in a full-speed run after he was hit. He covered a lot of ground before falling, but from impact to end was no more than six seconds. No trailing needed, no hard recovery, no drag out of a steep canyon…we saw him fall and were able to drive right to the spot.

We’d seen better scoring deer on the ranch, but this buck’s antlers had a lot of character because of mass on points and main beams. Such characteristics only come with age.

He was a tad less than 24-inches wide on the outside, and short main beams and front forks means he won’t quite make Pope & Young.

The mule deer buck had antlers that were pretty thick, but not overly wide.

The mule deer buck had antlers that were pretty thick, but not overly wide.

But he’s a big deer, an old deer, I shot him in my favorite part of Kansas with a great friend on one of the few times in our many years together when everything worked perfectly.

I’ll take all of that over another few inches of antler score, any day.

Ah, November – more on the magic of mule deer

No question, November is my favorite month of the year. It’s a time of several weeks or so of vacation, with times taken out for covering the opening weekend of pheasant season and whatever other outdoors event that’s both fun and worthy of an outdoors page feature.

From time to time this November I’ll be blogging on how the month is going.

So far, so great.

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Sorry for no recent updates, but some time off work required me keep my fingers off the keys…but also allowed me to continue one of the better Novembers of my life.

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A young mule deer buck, with a doe nearby, stands but a few yards from a county road in western Kansas. PHOTOS BY MICHAEL PEARCE

That includes a few more days in western Kansas mule deer country after covering the opening of pheasant season, and that great afternoon when both of my host’s sons bow-killed nice deer within minutes of each other – one a nice whitetail and one a very good mule deer.

I’ve never made any secret of my appreciation for the Kansas mule deer herd. I most enjoy the spot-and-stalk hunting in the country they call home. It can include table top-flat fields of wheat or milo stubble and hair-thick fields of CRP grasses. My favorite habitat, though, is the often steep and broken canyon country that trace the river and creek bottoms of western Kansas.

The deer are usually more visible than whitetails, especially when young and especially during the rut. Some label them as “stupid” or “too easy” because of their visibility from roads at this time of the year. A lot of that has to do with rut, as bucks stick with does no matter where they find them.

Earlier this month bucks not wanting to leave does bedded near roads, or often pushed into the corners of tall barbed-wire fences offered some great photography opportunities.

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The day before this was a trophy-class mule deer buck, but the next morning he’s broken one of his main beams. It’s the one on the deer’s right side.

From my point of view, I can assure you that some mature mule deer bucks seem to be quite accomplished at staying out of the range of rifle and bow hunters. Every year  monster bucks are seen for the first time by some really good hunters. Many quality bucks die of old-age though some quality hunters were on their trails for years.

Stay tuned for the story of one good buck that seemingly made a bad decision last week.

Ah, November – a special double on deer

No question, November is my favorite month of the year. It’s a time of several weeks or so of vacation, with times taken out for covering the opening weekend of pheasant season and whatever other outdoors event that’s both fun and worthy of an outdoors page feature.

From time to time this November I’ll be blogging on how the month is going.

So far, so great.

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Life was already pretty danged good as Stacy Hoeme and I toured some backroads late Saturday afternoon.

I’d come out on Wednesday and we’d enjoyed a few days of trying to get me within archery range of a nice mule deer.

Chaston Hoeme, left,, and his brother, Joshua, right, both bow-killed nice bucks Saturday evening. Chaston’s is a 5X5 mule deer and Joshua’s a nine-point whitetail with several sticker points. Stacy Hoeme, their father, center,is in the middle and probably happier than both young men combined.

Saturday morning Stacy and six others had done far better on pheasants than they’d expected. I was pretty pleased with how my camera work had gone as I covered their opening day hunt, too.

YOU CAN CLICK HERE to read about the hunt and see the gallery of photography.

So while Stacy’s sons, Joshua and Chaston, headed to deer blinds Saturday afternoon, my longtime friend and I just kind of cruised around, talked and looked at some pretty country.

Then at about 6 p.m. Joshua called and said he’d just shot a nice whitetail, a basic nine-pointer with some cool stickers. Stacy was understandably ecstatic because he and his sons have a long tradition of bowhunting together, though not as often since Joshua’s career now has him living in Salina. Chaston his a senior at K-State so he’s not around many weekends for hunting, either.

We immediately headed the truck northward, to go see what Joshua had shot, and to help him get the buck loaded in his truck.

We hadn’t traveled five miles when we got a text from Chaston saying he’d just shot a very nice mule deer buck. The shot had been good, he was sure, but he had yet to go looking for the buck.

I’ll never forget the look on Stacy’s face when he heard the news. Nor will I ever forget the speaker phone conversation between father and son, as Stacy, who was more pumped than I’ve ever seen him, tried to calm Chaston away from rushing out and looking for the deer by himself.

Long story short, both of the boys had made great shots. Joshua’s whitetail fell within sight of his blind, and where we could drive right to it. Chaston had made a perfect shot and we easily tracked the buck to where it was down in a deep ditch. Being old, Stacy and I coached the boys as they grunted, tugged and dragged the huge bodied, 5X5 buck a steep bank.

We later learned Joshua and Chaston had shot their bucks at almost exactly the same minute, though about 15 miles apart. Both bucks are trophy-class and well-earned by the young men who’ve been avid archers since they were old enough to get their first permits in Kansas.

Stacy , by the way, had already affixed his archery permit to a 163-inch ten point whitetail earlier in the season.

They weren’t even my sons, but I was positively giddy and felt blessed to be around for the success and so much happiness. I’ve known “the boys” since they were very little, and have enjoyed watching them mature into the kind of young men that give me quite a bit of faith in the future of America.

More importantly, I sincerely enjoyed watching the amount of joy Stacy carried and his lived the incredible evening with his favorite hunting partners.

Congratulations Joshua and Chaston,…and congratulations, Stacy, too. That evening has been the highlight of my hunting season.