Article contributed by Field Staff Writer G. Thurman.
Every hunter can remember their first deer, most of the time very vividly. Who they were with, what kind of day it was, even the smallest detail is burned into memory. For the last couple of Kansas rifle seasons it has become a tradition for me to go along with my good friend Lance to take his boys deer hunting. This has always been a good reason to get together and help a group of young men do something we all so much love. A week before we were to head out on the hunt Lance asked me if it would be alright if we took one of his son’s friends, Michael, who had duck hunted in the past but never deer hunted. I enjoy taking people hunting more than I do hunting for myself so one more sounded great to me.
The morning of the hunt started early at 4 A.M, the truck was loaded up with three boys, guns, gear and everything else required for our hunt. We headed out west to a friend’s ranch to see if lady luck was going to be on our side for the day’s hunt. We were strictly hunting for whitetails, as none of the boys had a mule deer rifle tag. As we got closer to the ranch I was hoping that it would not be like last year, mule deer everywhere and not a single whitetail. I took Michael and Lance’s oldest boy Luke to the top of a small ridge overlooking a river bottom of cottonwoods and willows. As the sun rose it took no time to spot deer moving down the river, including one very nice buck, the only problem was they were the wrong type. At least fifty mule deer walked down that river bottom on their way to a winter wheat field a mile away. None the less it was a blast showing the boys the difference between mule deer and whitetails and how to tell if a buck we were looking at was mature.
The morning was no different for Lance, who I had dropped off with his youngest boy on a different part of the ranch. They too had several groups of mule deer come within rifle range but no luck on a whitetail. We made a game plan to push several creek bottoms in hopes of getting a shot at a deer. It was a perfect morning, snow had started to gently fall in the calm creek bottom when we began our first drive. We busted up two groups of mule deer with one doe that I about rode out of the creek, she ran by so close I could have touched her. We quickly decided that we needed to hunt other ground, as not a single whitetail was spotted.
Kansas has some amazing walk-in hunting ground and there was a large piece I had scouted out earlier in the year for archery season where I glassed up two mature whitetail bucks. I thought we would have better luck getting a whitetail in front of one of the boys, so we headed over to that property. We decided that Michael and I would go to the ridge that was overlooking several deep cuts, which met up with a river emptying into a large basin. Lance took his two sons and headed off to the back of the property.
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No sooner did we get set up that I spotted a whitetail buck, and it was one of the big, mature bucks I had seen earlier from scouting. Well like most mature deer this one did not offer an easy shot and gave us the slip, as he quickly made his way down into a cedar thicket. I told Michael to stay ready as that deer had not busted us, the old buck just didn’t want to stop. At that moment another, smaller racked buck appeared 160 yards away in the river bottom. Michael was on him quickly, the .243 rifle barked and the young buck dropped in his tracks.
The excitement that followed is the reason we hunt. This young man was so thankful for helping him get his first deer he stated, “I will remember this forever!” I truly believe him. Lance and his sons made their way over to us just in time to help with skinning and quartering. Pictures were taken and we had the deer packed back to the truck just in time to witness a beautiful Kansas sunset. We are very blessed as hunters to do what we do, taking the time to make sure the next generation has the same fire and passion for this awesome sport will always be more important than a rack on the wall.