As I sit writing this week’s column, the 2014 deer firearms season is in the wings and deer
hunting stories from my past flood my memory, so I’ve decided to tell you a few. In Ohio where I grew
up the only legal firearm for deer was a shotgun shooting slugs; a deadly load if a deer is hit well, but not
real accurate at any distance, especially with the over-the-counter shotguns we owned back then. Our
usual hunting style differed too; we hunted deer like many people hunted rabbits. There were a group
of us “locals” that hunted together and the more seasoned deer men in the group took a few of us kids
under their wings and let us hunt with them. We all owned land in the area so each of us came to know
how the deer moved through our farms. It then became sort of communal effort. Each day we’d gather
in a group of six to eight and head for one of our farms. If we had a fresh dusting of snow, so much the
better, as we would drive around the blocks and look for fresh tracks crossing the road. When fresh
tracks were found, we’d go to the other side of the block to see if they exited. If not, a couple guys were
dropped off where we knew deer normally crossed, and the rest of us walked through from the other
side, attempting to get the deer moving and count on someone getting a good shot. This method was
pretty effective, but required great trust in our fellow hunters, and was perfect for teaching us kids safe
shooting and target identification. In fact, this method was so effective and so prevalent in our area,
that those of us land owners often sat alone in stands for the first day or two, counting on other hunters
to move deer past us.
My nearest neighbor, Dave, a policeman in a local town, was practically a local deer hunting
legend and could always be counted on to hunt with our group. His home had a large kitchen/dining
room with windows facing three directions and was the spot where we often met to warm up and drink
a cup of hot coffee or cocoa. I cannot count the number of times that someone, usually him, saw a deer
cross the road somewhere near as we all sat there warming up and shooting the breeze. A cry would go
up and coffee cups and chairs would fly as we all scrambled out the door and into pickups, attempting to
get some shooters to the other side of the block before the deer moved completely through.
Then there was the day when we were walking through another neighbor’s woods and a nice
buck erupted from a big brush pile in front of us. The land owner was the only one of the group with a
clean, safe shot, and shoot he did, emptying both barrels of his old double barrel at the buck that just
cantered off in disgust at having his nap interrupted. As I recall, Don, the land owner traded guns the
very next week.
Another year on opening morning I sat in a fencerow overlooking a small patch of woods on our
farm. The morning was as clear, calm and frosty as it could be, and shortly after sun-up a buck stepped
out of the woods about seventy-five yards away. It was so calm and frosty that I actually heard each
step he took, and could see his breath as he stopped to survey his surroundings. I clicked off the safety,
put the sights behind his shoulder and squeezed off the perfect shot, only to watch him flee the scene
without a scratch. I promptly took my shotgun to a local gunsmith for help in sighting it in.
I suppose the most memorable story of all involves my brother and his first deer. I got Joe
involved with our annual neighborhood hunting group and he was soon as hooked as I. As I remember
it, this particular weekend during deer firearms season I was gone during the day for some reason, and
when I returned home that evening, a nice buck hung in my barn. You have to understand that at this
point I had hunted for two or three years without yet harvesting my first deer, and here I came home to
find my “little” brother had harvested his first deer, a dandy buck, from my woods, and right where I’d
missed the perfect shot in the story above. Today I’m ashamed of how I first reacted back then; I believe
I asked him where he planned to find land to hunt the next year.
Today Joe is a still a better deer hunter than I, has harvested many more deer than I and both
his son and daughter and their families are all deer hunters because of him. My wife Joyce now hunts
deer and we hope to pass our love of hunting and of the outdoors on to our young grandson as well.
That’s what it’s all about and that’s how it’s supposed to work! As our various Kansas deer seasons come
and go for 2014, be safe, be patient and may your freezers be full! Continue to Explore Kansas
Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected]