The Big Kansas "Failure"

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Big Expectations Turn To Big Disappointment.

I drew a Kansas whitetail tag this year.

I've arrowed some of my best bucks in Kansas. So you'll understand while other bowhunts sat on this year's hunting adgenda -- local whitetail and elk huge among them, a fine Oklahoma whitetail hunt -- Kansas captured the largest portion of my thoughts and dreams as fall approached. Any time I practiced shooting, ordered new hunting attire or gear, it was Kansas that loomed large in my mind.

Arriving in Kansas on Nov. 12, a full week at my disposal, I immediately set a stand and climbed aboard, noting with some excitment the abundance of trashcan lid-sized scrapes, freshly pawed after a cleansing rain which had arrived in the night.

And I began seeing bucks. Not real "Kansas bucks," but bucks that would've been respectable enough in other places. My friend, whose property I hunt, is a bit anal retentive (as he has every right to be, that property putting him deeply in hock). He's very, very picky about which deer you're allowed to shoot. For instance, he'll spend two hours on the computer showing you specific trail-cam photos, dictating which bucks can and cannot be taken. This normally includes at least a handful of 3-year-olds scoring, say, 155-160 inches, which you are forbidden to even think about shooting because some day they might grow into Booners. Of course I always hold secret doubts as to how my resolve would hold up under such a test -- so far unchallenged.

I won't cliff hang you here. By week's end I'd passed about a dozen decent bucks inside 25 yards, witnessing not a single true "shooter" even at a distance, sent an arrow through a pretty coyote and, on the last morning (at the urging of a friend who enthusiastically wanted venison) sent another through an old doe from a group of five being molested by a 130ish 8-pointer (3 1/2 years old) I'd have been happy to "settle" for anywhere else. Similarly, my friends also failed to connect, but at least they got to see some behemoths.

Speeding back to the airport at hunt's end I whined pittifully to friend Jerry Gentellalli (owner of Rancho Safari and, to my mind, one of the last true icons of old-school bowhunting) about the "failed week." He looked me straight in the eye and said quite precisely, "You got your deer, so what're you talking about?"

And of course he's right. I'd hung a lot of big expectations on that Kansas hunt, harboring fantasies of knurly antlers holding banana-like points. Getting to spend time with three of my favorite hunting companions was ultimately overshadowed by a simple lack of synchronicity, luck, maybe even hunting skill when it comes right down to it.

It's a sad consequence of how our sport has evolved; where success is measured only in total inches and final score. Days later I'm still pretty disappointed, sure, but daily a bit of reality manages to creep in.