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Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Successful September...

   My 2013 archery season started earlier than ever this year when I headed to south central Colorado on August 30th for my first elk hunt. Two of my best friends volunteered their services and we set out on a short hunt for the first five days of the season. A quick scouting trip was made in early August and we received some tips from a few local friends, but for the most part we were going in complete virgins. No elk were harmed or hardly even put in harm's way that week, but I'm not sure we could have had a better hunt. Of course a kill would have been miraculously special. However, in the 5 days on the mountain we had some very exciting moments. Everything from a 20 yard bear encounter, to some great action in a wild thunderstorm, and eventually a very close call with a bull we were on for 3 days, accumulated to make one hell of an inaugural elk hunt for three rookie flatlanders. I'll be back as soon as life permits...

   Fast forward three weeks to September 20th and I found myself rolling west again, for what I've stated on the blog before as my favorite weekend of the entire year, Kansas antelope season. This year was extremely special as my uncle Keith accepted my invitation to join me. Keith is the very reason I am a bowhunter and has allowed me some opportunities not many kids get growing up as aspiring hunters. For that I am incredibly grateful and I hoped this hunt was somewhat of a repayment, however small it might be compared to what I owe.

   We met the evening before opening day to do a quick scouting session and set up a ground blind. The plan was for Keith to sit water for the good part of three days while I employed my usual attack, whatever in the heck seems like it will work at any given time! For those who aren't aware, Kansas pronghorn are few and far between. Thus success rates are quite low. Couple that with increased hunting pressure and unusually heavy rains in August/September for parts of western Kansas, it didn't take long to figure out that water probably wasn't our best bet.

   I spent much of the first day and a half dogging a big buck I'd been after for three consecutive seasons now. This year it was apparent "Spyro", as we came to call him due to a broken horn that healed and regrew in a spiral pointing straight up, had passed his prime and had little interest in the ongoing rut or any other antelope whatsoever. I would split time when Spyro wasn't hanging in an ideal location with a couple other nearby groups that had mature herd bucks and sizable harems of does.

   On day one a three hour stalk ended with a long miss after the Heads Up buck pulled one of them to 60 yards as he tried to keep track of his 18 ladies. Day two began with a very close call and another swing and miss at Spyro after he bedded in a yucca filled piece of pasture in his small home area. Quite disappointed, just as I was the year prior after chasing Spyro for a day and a half only to watch him chase a doe onto a neighboring property and be held there by other hunters, I headed to a spot I'd had good luck getting close to a herd that routinely lived near some standing corn. Once again this same group would spend most of their days on the north side of a strip of corn normally sheltering them from a stiff south breeze and passersby on the nearby county road. This setup actually allowed me to take a buck in 2012 after I had missed the same buck using the same tactic the year prior. Hoping that it would work as in years past I headed down the edge and quickly made it to 85 yards on the closest does. I figured it was only a matter of time before the buck circled his harem and allowed for a shot. After a couple hours, rising temperatures, and a stiffening wind began to dry me out the group had moved a little farther from the edge and appeared to be bedding up for the afternoon siesta. I decided to retreat to grab some lunch and wait for them to get back on their feet. As I began my move out of the chest high corn I took a couple looks back towards the herd just to make sure I wasn't being picked off. Between two of my checks the buck had apparently decided I was a young buck and closed the distance between the herd and myself in a matter of seconds. I fumbled around to nock an arrow as he had closed to under 30 yards, but had to watch him spin, collect his does, and move off a half mile or so just as quickly as he'd charged. The does were never alerted to my presence though and it was obvious this buck was a prime candidate for a decoy.

   I returned to my uncle's blind to find him ready for something a little more action packed. We took a tour of the surrounding area and made it back to our primary location after a few hours. Just as I had expected the does from the same group I was on earlier had moseyed back towards the corn in the midst of a hot windy September afternoon. The buck was standing guard nearby. In no time the two of us were within 200 yards of the group and my uncle was hanging the Heads Up out of the edge of the corn. Some of the herd picked up the intruder after a couple minutes and the buck was soon to spot us as well. He went into a stiff legged walk with his head held high and hair standing straight. Instantly he broke into a dead sprint and in no time stood broadside at 60 yards. I had come to full draw as he hit top speed and settled my pin on him while he decided whether to continue his charge or replay his escape from a few hours earlier. As he was deciding on the safe choice I let my arrow fly. In the stiff south Kansas breeze it caught the buck solid, and allowed for closing arrow in the corn a short while after his final charge.

    Calling this hunt special would be an understatement. It will be one of those few moments in life I can replay in my mind as clearly as it happened for years and years to come. Having my uncle running the decoy and seeing the enjoyment he expressed only adds to that memory. I know it may seem like it gets overplayed, but taking a kid hunting may be the greatest gift a hunter could ever give. It has been for me.


Friday, October 4, 2013

Doing the Right Thing

Contributed by Prostaffer Dennis Howell

There was a news flash today about some college football boys that went into a store, they thought was open. The door was unlocked and the lights where on. They waited for someone to show up, but no one did. They got what they needed and flashed the money to the camera and walked out. It made the national headline news. THEY DID THE RIGHT THING! The boys did right when no one was looking. They got rewarded for their honesty, as they should have. I hope some young kids look at their actions and follow what they saw.
We, as hunters are always out there by ourselves with no one watching. We think!  We are always trying to do right. When no one is around is when our ethics will show who we are as a person. I have always thought that,” Do as you would want someone to do to you”.

On my Utah mule deer hunt, I went up early Friday with my two mules and myself and packed into my favorite basin for mule deer. I got my camp all set up and then started to get my hunting pack ready for the morning opener. I went to get in my pack and then I realized that I had left my deer tag in my folder on my desk at home. Wow 3 hours from home with no tag what a good way to start a hunt. I went down  the mountain to get some cell phone coverage and called my wife. She said she would start driving and save me over two hours of windshield time.  What would we do without our best friends, our spouse's!
I met up with her and turned around and drove 2 hours back to the trailhead only to climb another 2 hours to my camp. It was 11.30pm before I got to bed. I did the right thing by making the effort to be legal and having my tag with me. I talked to several people that said they would have just hunted. I figured that if I did not have a tag in my pocket then the deer I killed would have been illegal. So I was good! I DID THE RIGHT THING!

Recently, I called one of my buddies. I said, “What are you doing” he said “I am skinning my deer out.” I said” So you got your Utah deer.” No I got my Colorado deer. I said “ That is great but the season does not start till Saturday. He  said “ No it starts on the 28th. I said  “OK but I think you are wrong. Well, a long story short, while we are on the phone he looks up his tag. The phone goes quite then I hear. O my God! Dennis I made a bad mistake!  So we start talking. He decides he is going to talk to his wife and then decide what to do. He asked me what I would do and I said 'no deer is worth getting in trouble over'. I would call and turn my self in. I told him to make a good example of himself and not a bad one. He is a pro staffer for several companies and he had a lot to lose if he DID NOT DO THE RIGHT THING! So this morning I get a call and he said he was going to turn him self in. I said “Great”.

I was glad that he had decided to call and turn himself in. As ethical hunters, we need to know that it is way better to confess than to hide our mistake. The fines and the embarrassment are way easier to deal with than the guilt a person would face trying to hide a violation.

He meet the officer at the state line and the officer told him that if he would not have turned himself in they could have taken his truck, and his weapon. They could have fined him a 2000.00 dollar fine, and 750 dollar trophy fee. Ultimately, they confiscated his animal and fined him a small amount.

The point I am making here is for us hunters to DO THE RIGHT THING! We need to set a good example if we do wrong. Our young people are watching every move we make. We need to set the bar high for our youth, and our peers that admire what DIY hunters do. We are the directors of the show that we are producing, so let us win an Emmy for our performance in the field of ethics and moral performances.

Good luck this season. I hope to see you at some of the shows this year. Grab your decoy and get out and hunt!!