Western Kansas Deer Hunt

There are few moments in my life that make my stomach feel like it used to the day before Christmas.  Admittedly, the smell of fresh skunk musk is one of them but that is a whole different post.  Deer season still stirs my emotions and sets me to planning weeks if not months before our annual trip out west to chase white tails.  I know that many of you are thinking, “why wouldn’t he be headed west to chase mulees?”  The answer is simple, in my honest opinion white tails are more majestic, better eating and simply put if I wanted to pursue a herd animal it would be beef.

So after days of planning and juggling of the everyday meetings and work obligations the morning of our departure arrived.  We were greeted at 5:00 a.m. with freezing rain and snow.  The meteorologists call this wintry mix.  I have always believed eggnog was needed in order to create a wintry mix but again that is a different post for perhaps a different site.  After a three hour trip that took four and a half we were to our Valhalla.  The best part about planning this year’s pilgrimage was that my youngest son was coming fully tagged and carrying for the first time ever.  His anticipation was at a level that surpassed mine and that was more than enough to keep me awake on the road into Hoxie.

This trip was a rite of passage for Jackson.  Finally, he was one of the guys.  By the same token this trip may have signified a bit of a mid-life crisis for me, I can’t believe my youngest son is already one of the guys.  We made a quick stop to check in at the hotel, changed clothes, met up with our hunting partners and the five of us were on our way to the winding Solomon west of Studley.  Yes that’s right there really is a town named Studley, I cant imagine it to be coincidence that I was drawn to hunt there.  Our first half mile walk resulted in pushing two small bucks and seven does directly to our blockers who passed on each of the deer.  Success early though as the bucks and does had passed within 25 yards of the blockers and didn’t seem to be in a terrible panic to exit quickly.  This would be a spot we would return to each of the following three mornings with similar results.

Our second push was a small draw leading to the back side of Sheridan Fishing Lake.  This piece of private property was a late acquisition last year and was one that none of us were terribly familiar with.  After dropping off blockers Curtis, a close friend from Hutch, and I split the draw and headed North.  I hadn’t walked 100 yards when I saw movement ahead.  I rushed to the fence post that was about twenty yards in front of me and surveyed the opening in the trees about a hundred yards in front of the corner post I had found to rest my gun.  A big bodied buck had his nose planted squarely in the back end of a doe with several other does watching in what seemed to be amusement.  I had to assume they were glad that it wasn’t them being harassed again.  I levelled my.243 wssm and squeezed gently on the trigger.  WOW, two hours into a three day trip and BUCK DOWN.  The shine of my excitement faded just a bit when a bigger buck ran out from behind the timber glanced back only for a micro second and was gone over the hill.  I heard shots ring out from the other side of the hill and again my excitement waxed to think of one of my buddies or even my son downing that big boy.  Unfortunately, it was a miss that I heard but the upside was one tag was full with a buck we refer to as the lobster, because his main beam and G4 spacing resemble a lobster claw as does the split on his right side G2.  After Curtis bagged a doe with about three minutes to spare of legal shooting we hung the Kansas field sausage and headed for the steak house.

Prior to dinner we had to make one stop.  I had decided in my days of planning that my eleven year old did not need a antlerless tag.  This was a miscalculation on my part so prior to that ¾ pound burger we made a quick stop and refilled Jackson’s excitement chamber for day two.  I smiled and pitied the first smoothee that stepped in front of itchy finger Jackson.  Day two was a lot like day one but it was a full day of walking and blocking and maybe even a blister or two.  Jackson opted for an early evening sit with Robby while Curtis sat about a mile away on another piece of ground and John and I headed for some land south that we had not scouted yet this year.  We dropped of Jackson and Robby at 3:15 and headed for the hills.  My phone rang at 3:25 and Robby informed me that Jackson had just shot a buck.  No mistake in time frame, ten minutes after we dropped them off Jackson buried a nice little seven point for his first buck ever.  Yes, super dad was 10 miles away looking for a place to push tomorrow.

I was and am very proud of the 125 yard shot that Jackson made.  I found it to be a teaching moment though as we were dressing the deer I said “son you were a little high on this buck.  You hit him in the spine.  You need to hold lower, because 4 inches higher you’d be without a buck.”

Jackson looked at me with a bit of a twinkle in his eye and said “Dad, I wasn’t high.  The scope was right where it should have been, right on the kill zone.  If that shot was high it wasn’t me, it was the gun.”

I had a tough time not laughing out loud and tried to remind him without being condescending that nerves could play a role in shots and so on.  I suppose it would be an out an out lie on my part if I said Jackson tried not to laugh out loud when we discovered the elevation adjustment had come unseated and the rifle was12 inches high at 100 yards.  Unable to fix the scope we removed it and told Jackson he was back to the basics if he wanted to fill that doe tag and primitive sites were his only option.  He made quick work of a large doe from 200+ yards on day three and informed me that real hunters didn’t need a scope.

I love my son!  The most important thing in the world to me is that I raise my children to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.  My proudest moments with my children come when I see their light shining for all to see.  I must admit though,  my head may have swelled a little with the clean kill my eleven year old made on that doe with primitive sites from a holler and a half away.



  • Chad Luedke says:

    Great post about your son’s first deer hunt. I was in disbelief when I saw the pictures and I realized this was the Jeff Wells that I knew from my college roomates at K-State. It brought back lots of good memories and thoughts about my first deer hunting adventures. I have family around that area and have spent many days out west chasing whitetails and muleys. Hope to see more of your adventures as I visit this site often. If you are ever in the KC area, look me up.

    Chad Luedke

  • Curtis Mitchell says:

    Great story but you left out the part where you and Jackson kindly placed a cooked hamburger in my hunting vest as a momento. 🙂

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