It was well before dawn on the first Saturday of the 2017 deer firearms season as fourteen year old Inman High School freshman Halee Konrade and her dad Jory set up their pop-up hunting blind along the Smoky Hill River near Abilene, Kansas. Inside, they each settled into camp chairs and unzipped blind windows so they could see around them when the sun arose. Halee adjusted her shooting stick to the right height for her rifle them retreated into the warmth of her hunting coat for a little snooze before legal shooting time was upon them.
Deer hunting runs deep within the Konrade family. Jory’s grandfather and father began taking him and his four brothers deer hunting when they were teenagers, and today Jory’s two sons, Blayne and Kyler, daughter Halee and wife Tamara all hunt deer with him when they can. Jory shared with me how Halee’s only time out with them last year was a bad experience. It had been a cold, wet, rainy day and she was with her dad in the blind that evening. About dusk, they were ready to leave, when 4 or 5 bucks strolled into view. She shouldered her rifle, only to find the scope completely fogged-over, dashing any hopes of a shot. Her dad was afraid that bad first experience might keep her from wanting to hunt deer again, but he was pleased to hear she was raring to go again this year. The rifle Halee carried Saturday is a battled-scared old Remington .243 that was once Jory’s grandfathers and has been passed down through the family to Jory and now to his kids, and has put many Kansas whitetails in the freezer.
After the sun came up, and just minutes after legal shooting time Saturday morning, Halee’s dad quietly roused her from her nap, telling her a deer was approaching their blind. It appeared to be a nice buck, but was slowly heading toward them at an angle that wouldn’t allow Halee a shot. Their only option was to reposition themselves in the blind. But as grazing deer often do, it looked up often to survey its surroundings, and at that moment the buck was starring directly at them. They both froze until the deer decided they were not a threat and continued grazing. Then it became a mad but silent game of musical chairs in the blind as father and daughter moved chairs, rifles and Halee’s shooting stick to put her in a position for a shot. Move accomplished, Halee said “I clicked off the safety, put the scope crosshairs just behind the shoulder of the buck like dad had shown me,” and with his encouragement, she squeezed the trigger.
Something that’s always on the mind of every deer hunter, especially when coaching a young new hunter, is the possibility of them making a less-than-perfect shot and then having to trail and find a wounded deer. Jory told me at the crack of the shot, the deer crumpled where it stood, taken cleanly with one perfect first shot. An interesting addition to the story is that older brother Blayne was across on the other side of the field and could have taken the buck which is bigger than any of the several Kansas whitetails he has harvested. But in perfect big-brother fashion, he allowed Halee the first shot. After a happy dance or two, a round of “high-fives” and some pictures, they loaded the 11 point buck onto the pickup and headed to a local facility where Halee said “I got to sit around the fire and swap stories with other hunters,” while dad skinned the deer and hung it in a cooler. The Konrades will process it themselves into strips for jerky and into ground venison.
I always ask kids why they like to hunt, and to answer that question Halee told me “I like the outdoors, I like to shoot and I especially like the deer jerky we make, which will be a special treat this year, knowing I shot that deer for my family.” She said “I put on camo, shot a deer and did all that tomboy stuff, then 3 hours later went shopping with my mom for a new dress for this year’s winter formal dance.” Now that’s what it’s like to be a Kansas outdoor girl!…Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors.
Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected]