Things were not looking good. Oh, the drive out to Kansas had been pleasant and relaxing for the most part. There was no rush, so Sam and I took our time. We stopped when we wanted, admired the countryside and talked about life’s twists and turns with great abandon and reflection. Sam is a long-time friend and understands my circumstances as caregiver for parents. He was along to keep me company and had no plans to hunt. I was glad to have him.
I set my hunt up through Lee Hawes (www.classichunts.com; Cody Hawes, 620-227-3049.). Lee is a gentle sort who has hunted worldwide and has over the years, along with son Cody, put together a bison operation that is purely 1870s. I was fortunate to hunt those shaggy giants with him in the fall of 2010; that hunt now rates at the top of my outdoor experiences. While there in October 2010, we talked whitetails. I didn’t feel that
I needed a great deal of assistance if I could arrange a hunt, just a look at property boundaries. Lee obliged my request and agreed to be available via phone while he went about his trap line chores. And now, a year and two months after the bison hunt and much planning, I was in Kansas. Rifle season opened the next morning. Then one of those calamities of life.
Even before we got to the trailers that would serves as camp housing, my phone rang. Major difficulties at home. A bad diagnosis for my dad, a severe fall for my mom. I was needed there as quickly as possible. Additionally, that Kansas weather was in the process of change, and not for the better. Cold, wind, snow – all coming by the second day of season and predicted to stay for several more days. A sit-down with Lee was brought into play, along with several phone calls back home, and the decision was to rest that night, hunt the next day and then head back home the following. All were in agreement and things appeared under control, so this dramatically modified and less than perfect plan was set into motion. Far from ideal and much less than year-long hopes had envisioned, but necessary.
That evening we did some looking at properties to which I had access. A box blind had been set on a ridge near agricultural crops. A tiny stream bottom with cottonwoods was not far away. I would hunt there.
The blind afforded a reliable view and would help thwart bitter winds that had already begun to batter those lonely hills. Before we got back to camp a grand buck appeared; he was ghosting a fence line on a neighboring property. Even in the growing twilight we made a reasonable assessment of his rack and put him in the 170 class. Maybe the following day – my only day to hunt – would be fruitful.
That day broke cold with 25- to 35-mph winds from the north. Clouds scudded overhead. Even within the confines of the box blind, a Cabela’s Stand Hunter Extreme coat and heavy wool pants were needed to hold the chill at bay. But Sam and I were secure and carefully scanning the surrounding area with binoculars as daylight won its battle with a stubborn, frigid darkness.
My rifle was a Browning A-Bolt acquired the first year the A-Bolt became available. Chambered to .280 Remington and topped with a Leupold Vari-X III 3.5 – 10X scope, this rifle has served me well. Although I have a superb handload worked up for the .280, I opted for Hornady’s Superformance 139 gr. SST factory fodder. Bench tests revealed this load to be as accurate as anything I had ever tried. It proved perfect before the day ended.
By midmorning a few deer had been spotted moving from fields to the cottonwoods. One was a huge-bodied specimen that we saw coming from the distance. He loped along as we marveled at his size and deep chest. But as he got closer we discovered that both sides of his rack had been broken off just above wrist-size bases. A victim of the rut that had not long passed. Not a candidate for the A-Bolt.
As the afternoon aged, a deer showed over near the cottonwoods. A buck. He trotted back and forth along the woods line and then turned in our direction. It was apparent that this was not a Kansas monster, but he was a good buck. Not unlike his comrade of earlier in the day, this one had a broken tine – the G2 on the right side. I determined years ago that all whitetails are magnificent, that all deserve full respect. So does any animal we hunt. Without hesitation I placed the crosshairs behind his shoulder and gently pressed the Browning’s trigger. The SST worked its magic. My Kansas buck was down; the day was fading.
Tomorrow I would begin the drive home and face those arduous tasks that awaited. But today I gave thanks for the break I had been afforded and for the grand gift of nature and a whitetail buck I had been given.
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