The Kansas Hunt: Windsurfing Squirrels and Woodpeckers

Sometimes you just go out because it’s what you do. I’m in Kansas, three days into a four-day hunt. It’s the rut. So you go. The wind yesterday morning was blowing 20 to 30 mph, with gusts to 35. We rose at 4:30, suited up, and found our way to our stands. Over the course of the morning I saw exactly one deer, about 400 yards away, arcing along the edge of the field as if something were pursuing it. I saw it for a few seconds, then it dove into the thick brush at the field’s edge. That was it.

During the afternoon, the wind rose. It was blowing 25 to 35, with gusts to 40. I tried to go out at lunch and shoot a few practice arrows at lunchtime, but my 20-yard pin was waving around like crazy. I didn’t even try to shoot. A few minutes later, the foam target blew away like a tumbleweed. I chased it down and put it on the porch out of the wind.

At 2 o’clock it was time to go back out. It was nuts. We all knew it. The temperature had dropped and the wind had increased. I was sitting a ladder stand in a draw. I had on every layer I’d brought, including—most crucially—my rain suit to block the wind. The trees were swaying. I heard a crack and watched a squirrel ride a short branch 30 feet to the ground and scamper off. A crow flew by. A woodpecker cackled for a while as it explored a nearby dead tree, then caught the wind and was gone. Just as it got dark, three does came to the far edge of the draw, 40 yards away. The wind was bad. They stood there for a minute, getting more suspicious by the second. Then they caught my scent, blew, and took off.

By then, it was over. I climbed down, glad to get the blood pumping again on the walk out.

Today is the last day. It’s supposed to be in the 30s, winds 10 to 15 mph. It sounds like my last, best shot at a buck. I’ve laid out every bit of clothing I brought, along with hand, toe, and body warmers. I may not connect, but I’m going down swinging.

Photo by David DeHetre