Rack Magazine

Making the Grade

Making the Grade

By Chad Zimmerman

Kansas kid excels at reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic and rifles!

Had my son Alex’s report card been less than exemplary back in December 2009, he would’ve gotten much more sleep on opening morning of the Kansas rifle season. He might’ve faced a home-cooked breakfast. And I might’ve come home from the woods with a giant buck.

In other words, Alex would’ve been miserable.

But since his report card contained all As, my son missed out on the extra winks; he had to settle for a convenience-store sausage biscuit; and his was the finger on the trigger.

In other words, the kid’s still grinning.

When that Saturday morning arrived, Alex and I were up well before dawn. I had been looking forward to that day as much as my son had been counting the hours.

Our only stop during the hour-long drive to the Sheridan County tract we hunt in northwestern Kansas was to stoke our internal furnaces with fast food.

It was brutally cold that morning, made worse by a 20-mph north wind. The wind chill was below zero, which is one reason we went to a tower blind overlooking a hay field.

It required a half-mile hike, but at least it would keep the wind at bay.

The hay field was a great spot for deer. Alex’s uncle had arrowed a 180-incher there two weeks earlier, only 100 yards from where I built the new blind.

Trail cams set out during the archery season had routinely photographed a couple of young bucks, and Alex, who had never shot a deer, was hoping to get one of them.

After we entered the blind tucked beside a creek bottom, Alex loaded my .243 and prepared for dawn’s arrival. We were miserably cold.

At daybreak, we saw several deer in the middle of the hay field, but none were close enough. Just before shooting light, all the deer headed back into the creek bottom.

Shortly afterward, a few does appeared upwind of the blind. They stayed and fed for quite a while. Alex was discouraged that there was not a buck in the bunch, but he enjoyed watching the does.

Around 8:00, we spotted the two bucks we were looking for, along with some does, about 600 yards distant. All were following the fence line and coming toward the blind or to an opening in the creek where Alex’s uncle shot his buck.

Alex steadied himself and waited patiently for them to get closer. Halfway to the opening, the two bucks dipped back into the creek and disappeared. I told him to be patient, but neither buck reached the opening.

ZimmermanThe sun eventually took the bite out of the breeze, but it did not brighten our outlook for the day. Alex and I sat for several hours without seeing anything.

Eventually, while glassing the field’s edge, I noticed a lone doe exit the creek on the other side of the field. She followed the fence line, heading slowly toward us. Shortly afterward, a buck appeared in her wake.

The two animals were so far away that we could tell only that the second deer had antlers. But those antlers grew as the buck got closer, and Alex wanted it.

Halfway to us, the doe jumped the fence and began grazing. I told Alex that if the buck jumped over the fence and gave him a shot, he should take it.

Alex leaned across the rail of the blind and watched the deer through the riflescope. The buck edged up to the fence, jumped over and started pursuing the doe. I told my son that it was a fairly long shot and that he should aim a little high.

Alex took his time and squeezed off a shot. The deer jumped, turned and limped 10 yards back toward the creek. As soon as it laid down in the field, I figured it was all over except for the shouting.

Alex’s heart was pounding out of his chest.

When the deer stood back up, Alex was so nervous he barely managed to hit the dirt near it when he chambered another round and fired a second time. Rather than leave the field, however, the buck managed only another 10 yards before lying down again.

At nearly 11:00, I called Alex’s uncle and told him about the downed buck. After that, we hiked back to the truck so I could try to fill my tag on some nearby ground.

An hour and a half later, we and Alex’s uncle were exchanging high-fives. We didn’t load the deer until after the camera batteries died.

Hunter: Alex Zimmerman
Official Score: 174 2/8
Composite Score: 194 7/8
Centerfire Rifle

– Photos by Chad Zimmerman

This article was published in the July 2012 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.

Copyright 2016 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

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