It was the rifle, really!

So another muzzleloading season has come and gone, and my luck has proved itself out again.

I spent 4 days in Meade County the first week of the season and only saw deer 1 of those days. I made a quick trip out to El Dorado reservoir on the last Saturday of the season and came up short there also.

In Meade, I was hunting a silage field. They had a test cut through the center of the crop circle and the irrigation pivot was leaking so there was a nice little marsh of fresh water that I was sure the deer would come in to. I sat off the pivot about 30 yards watching back to the east figuring the deer would come in from that direction since the generator for the irrigation equipment was running and sitting at the west entrance to the cut.

Sure enough, about 30 minutes before sundown, a small 4 point buck stepped out of the crop about 150 yards or so and walked away from me to the east. He was joined by a few does who came in from the east entrance. I watched them for nearly 20 minutes before they spooked at something (probably me) and ran out of the cut.

I set back and contemplated my plans for the next day’s hunt, figuring I’d need to move my stand further east in the cut.

Have you ever had that feeling something was watching you out on the stand? As I was sitting there thinking, I happened to glance towards the pivot and there he is, a nice 8 point standing there watching me. I’m frozen in place as I’m caught totally off guard.

I slowly pull the rifle up to my shoulder. He doesn’t move. I pull the hammer back. He’s still there. I set the trigger. He doesn’t flinch. I pull the trigger…

My view is blocked by the black powder smoke as there was practically no breeze that night but I can hear him crashing through the crop back to the east. While reloading I’m thinking how bad I don’t want to have to try to track the buck through that silage. He was so close, there’s no way I could have missed, I’m sure of it.

A bit later I see him step out of the silage into the cut. He’s about 100 yards or so and walking away. He stops, turns and looks back down the cut towards me. I’m frozen again. I’m afraid to move thinking he’ll run so I hunker down and glass him watching to see what he’ll do.

“Drop! C’mon, drop!” I say to whoever…

I watch him for over thirty minutes, until it gets too dark to see. So I get my flashlight and head down the cut to see what’s up. Meanwhile I had texted Keith to let him know I thought I had a deer down. I get to the place I think he should be…

Nothing. Nothing! No deer, no blood.

I keep walking, nothing. I don’t see a trail at all. As I meet Keith at the east end of the circle he asks if it was a nice looking 8-10 point. Yeah.

“Well, he was just in my head lights and then took off across the next field to the east. He didn’t look hurt to me.” Keith says.

That can’t be right! I’ve been to the range, the gun was shooting fine. I can’t believe it.

The next day I do some target practice, trying to figure out what happened. I set up  a steel target at 25 yards ad put a square of orange duct tape on it. First shot, dead on. Next shot, 4 inches to the left. Next shot, dead on. Then 4 inches to the left.

I check the front sight and find that it’s moving back and forth about a 1/16th of an inch. So sometime between my range time and the hunt, I must have knocked it loose. So really, it was the gun.

I didn’t see any deer the rest of the hunt or the last Saturday. I blew it by not checking my equipment over before going into the field. Stupid mistake.

Oh well, there’s always December right?


Opening Day!

My favorite weekend of the year is coming up! Dove opener on Labor Day weekend is the kick off to the hunting season for me. I’m so ready this year to hit the fields. Heading out west to Meade, Kansas to do some dove hunting with my buddy Keith and youngest daughter Maria. I’m also going to do a bit of scouting for the muzzleloading deer season later in September. Can’t wait!

Anyone else heading out this weekend? Where you all going?

Hunting Season Begins

So the traditional start of the hunting season here in Kansas kicked off over the weekend with Dove season opening up on September 1st. I went out with a co-worker and good buddy Tim to see what we could find.

We made it out on Sunday afternoon and took a look at a few sunflower fields that were set up on some public hunting grounds. The sunflowers looked a little worse for wear from the summer heat and lack of rain we’ve had. We picked a field but still had a few hours before the dove would really start flying so we decided to do some scouting for a possible place to deer hunt during muzzleloading season coming up in a couple of weeks (since I won’t be heading out west as I’ve normally done the last few years).

We found a nice looking field and made note on my map and decided to head back to the dove field. I grabbed some vitals and decided to sit in some shade and watch the field for awhile since it was still a little early yet. One thing that had bothered me on our way out there was the lack of birds we were seeing on the power lines and roads. Way unusual. So as I’m eating my snack, I’m just not seeing anything flying around outside of songbirds. I’m starting to get worried.

Another group of hunters pull up and we chat a bit and work out where everyone is going to sit off the field so as not to interfere with each others shots.

Well, needless to say, the rest of the evening was pretty much the same. We saw a couple of birds. Heard the others guys take a few shots. But the birds just weren’t there. The opening hunt was a bust for me.

Towards sundown, we’d had enough of nothing and decided to go watch the field we like for deer hunting to see what might show. We were rewarded with a couple of does wandering out to feed about 30 minutes before sundown. So at least we know that deer are using the field. So the trip wasn’t a total bust.

I did feel sad that I won’t be spending this year’s muzzleloading season with Keith, it almost feels wrong. But he is doing better a little bit every day. So keep the prayers up for him.

So let’s hear it from the rest of you, did you make it out dove hunting and how’d you do?

Last Call For Venison

We’re heading out for the final weekend of deer hunting for the late antlerless season. This time I’m taking my wife for her first hunt. Which seems to be the predominate hunting I’ve done this year. My daughter had her first dove and deer hunt this year. Now it’s the good wife’s turn (it was her idea to pick up the Marlins anyway).

We’re heading back out to the Buttons ranch that I took my daughter to. Hopefully I can find the deer before we have to go this time. We have some weather moving in late Sunday, I really hope that it stays out there. They’re calling for snow Sunday and Monday. I just hope we see more then deer butts running away through the trees this time and hopefully on our side of the fence.

So, good luck to all those out wrapping up Kansas deer season. Keep your powder dry.

My Daughter’s First Deer Hunt

Well, we’re all set for my daughter’s first deer hunt this weekend. There was a nice 9 pointer taken the opening weekend, but there’s still a bigger one running around there. At least, that buck wasn’t the big one we’ve been seeing on the trail cams. Hopefully, he’s still around. It would be really cool if she get’s a shot at him.

And no, it won’t bother me a bit if she takes one down (as some of my friends have asked). I’d be right proud of her.

I picked up a doe tag for myself, as I’m really wanting some venison this year. Anyway, we’re heading out in the morning. The weather looks like it will be decent, maybe a little on the warm side in the afternoons. Although, there is a cold front coming in Saturday night.

So wish us luck.

Good Luck Kansas Deer Hunters

To all the hunters heading out tomorrow for opening day of the Kansas Firearms Deer Season, good luck! May your shots be straight and true.

It looks to be fairly decent weather, not quite as cold as the last couple of years. This is the first time in 3 years that I’ll miss the opening! I can’t make it out until the last weekend of the season when I take my daughter out. So save a couple of deer for us alright?

Book Review: Hunting and Trading on the Great Plains, 1859-1875

As I’ve hunted in various places across the state of Kansas, I’ve often wondered what the early settlers and pioneers experienced when they came to this territory. They had to be awestruck as they left the hills, mountains and forests to see the apparent emptiness of the prairie. But still, I wondered how much different it looked to them than what I see today. Today, much of Kansas is sectioned off for agriculture with large acres of crops or cattle grazing. Roads crisscross the state, so much so that it would be nearly impossible to get lost or lose your bearing.

I finally found some of my answers from the book, Hunting and Trading on the Great Plains, 1859-1875 (American Exploration and Travel Series). It is the autobiography written by James R Mead, who later became one of the founders of Wichita, Kansas, the city I live in. Actually, Mr. Mead dictated his story to a stenographer. The tale is a fascinating look into the early days of the Kansas territory.

James Mead left his home in Iowa came to the territory in the spring of 1859 at the age of 23. He and some friends loaded up their wagons and headed west.

He ended up in the Salina area, along the Saline river hunting and camping. The first thing struck me was that he talks about how clear the streams, creeks and rivers were and how sweet the water tasted. Clear? Sweet? If you’ve spent any amount of time in Kansas and looked at the water, its anything but clear now. And I’m not about to take a taste of it. He also speaks of the abundance of trees along the rivers and streams.

The next thing is the variety and abundance of game. The vast herds of bison, elk and deer. So much so that he ignores the turkey that seem to be everywhere. Now, outside of deer, its hard to imagine the herds of bison and elk. I’ve never seen elk in the wild and have only seen bison fenced in. That would have to be an amazing site to see.

James would spend the first years out here as a contract hunter. Basically, he would shoot as much game as he could and sell the meat to the settlers and small towns that had begun to spring up. He claims to have made a great living at it during that time. But some of his descriptions of the hunts are a bit unsettling to the modern mind. The waste is shocking. To kill a bison just for the hide and tongue is shocking to the modern hunter with rules about wanton waste.

But it was a different time then, at least that’s what is said.

After a few years of hunting, James became a trader to the various Indian tribes that made the plains their home. He mentioned that he was always treated fairly and could rely on them to keep their word. The would always pay their debts according to the agreements he had made with them. Interesting how that goes against what recorded history and Hollywood has portrayed.

Mr. Mead also talks of the various historical figures he encountered through the years. Names like Jesse Chisholm, William “Buffalo Bill” Matthewson, Kit Carson, Kiowa chief Satanta and many others. The stories of these early celebrities are an interesting collection of things you don’t hear very often. James Mead then goes on to become a founder of the city of Wichita, helping to bring the railroad and cattle industries to the young town.

The end of the book brings about Jame’s looking back with some remorse to the changes that had come to the prairie. Saddened by the takeover of farms and ranches and the change they brought to the plains. The forested streams and rivers were gone, no longer clear running. The herds of bison and elk were no longer found on the prairie, having been slaughtered by the hunters, of which he was one. He did feel guilt for his role in the change and wished he could alter it. One has to wonder what the plains would look like today had the buffalo hunters of Mead’s day had a bit of foresight to see what the future held.

I thought the book an excellent view of the early history of Kansas. It is a unique look into the daily life of an early pioneer, one that we don’t often get to hear.