Photo Shoot

Exploring Kansas Outdoors

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The August evening was steamy-hot and humid as I quietly walked across the alfalfa toward a tree line thick with fallen cottonwoods and old rotting hay bales. I followed the tree line until it ended abruptly, then tiptoed through a sea of Poison Ivy to the back door of our pop-up hunting blind.

Once inside, I settled into a camp chair and unzipped windows on 3 sides. Approaching storms blew a nice breeze through the blind. In front of me was a narrow strip of alfalfa, hemmed in on the far side by a tilled wheat stubble field, and framed on 2 more sides by the river as it meandered through the countryside.

My quarries tonight were wild turkeys which I had seen here with some regularity, and I was prepared to shoot as many as possible. The flock I’d been seeing was perhaps a dozen birds, and I was pretty sure I could get them all with 2 shots at most! Three Blue Herons rose from the timber along the river, but were gone before I could shoot. A lone Red Tail Hawk perched high above the river was also giving me a nice shot if I hurried!

Now before you overload the switchboard at Operation Game Thief to turn me in for hunting turkeys out-of-season, and attempting to shoot blue herons and red tail hawks, allow me to explain. That night my weapon of choice hung by a strap around my neck; its barrel was a lense, and the trigger a small silver button. You guessed it! I was “shooting” photos with a camera.

In the Kansas Hunter Education Manual, the chapter on Hunter Responsibility lists four stages of a sport hunter. This topic discusses how the standards by which a hunter defines success evolve and change as the hunter develops and matures. Stage 3 is called the “Trophy Stage,” and stage 4 is the “Method Stage.” During these 2 stages in a hunter’s life, he or she matures to the point where a trophy can just as easily be a photograph rather than a mount on the wall.

One frigid and snowy April morning years ago I shared a blind with a young man and his guide during the early youth turkey hunt. That was before cell phones had such fantastic cameras, so I had a digital camera around my wrist, hoping to record some of the hunt in pictures. Among the group of birds that came to our decoys were several hens, and among them was a white-speckled hen. My camera wouldn’t work in the icy morning air, so I didn’t get a photo of her, and now I’m relegated to remembering her only in my mind, (which is quickly fading.) I was more disgusted over the camera malfunction than if I had missed a shot at a long-bearded tom!

I started deer hunting when I was just a kid, and I wish I had pictures or videos of every awesome, unusual and hilarious event I’ve seen in the woods since. Once, as I sat quietly on a log during deer season, a mother fox and several cubs ran by me so closely I could have reached out and grabbed one. The first red fox I ever caught in Ohio grabbed the toe of my rubber boot and wouldn’t let go. While fishing one evening at McPherson State Fishing Lake, I watched a beaver swim clear across the lake with a huge leafy branch in its mouth. Another time during the early January antlerless-only deer season, a buck with a monstrous rack hanging full of long grass and weeds became curious of my presence, and stood just yards away from me before coming to his senses. He looked like some exotic hanging garden on four legs.

I could go on, but my point is that all these things are in my mind’s eye only, and someday will probably be forgotten. If they were documented as photos, at least I could pass them on for others to enjoy as well. High dollar trail cameras are available that transmit photos directly to a computer, so why not a pair of glasses that does the same with images and action seen through their lenses?

The Kansas Fur Harvesters Assn. has a collection of fur pelts from every furbearing animal in Kansas. Among those pelts is a hat made from three skunk pelts. Whenever I take those pelts to an educational event or help with the booth at the state fair, I have more fun than I deserve to have with that hat. I put it on kids of all ages and senior citizens in wheel chairs and let moms and family members take all the pictures they can. They will all remember that experience for years.

Now days, I always have my cell phone camera at the ready wherever I go, in the deer blind, checking traps, on fishing trips etc. Not many years ago, if someone had suggested I could be as happy with a picture as with a mounted trophy on my wall, I would have bristled at the thought. Now, however, I feel like that transition will someday be an easy one… Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors.

Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected]

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