Published November 28, 2012, 12:18 AM

WILTZ: A first hunt - It was as good as it gets

On Nov. 9-10, my Wisconsin grandkids – Sam, 15, Grace, 12, and Gabrielle, 12, went on what was a first hunt for the girls. They were accompanied by their dad Tom and his friend Steve, along with grandma Betsy and me. We hunted the Corson County ranch I’ve hunted for the last 43 years.

By: Roger Wiltz, The Daily Republic

On Nov. 9-10, my Wisconsin grandkids – Sam, 15, Grace, 12, and Gabrielle, 12, went on what was a first hunt for the girls. They were accompanied by their dad Tom and his friend Steve, along with grandma Betsy and me. We hunted the Corson County ranch I’ve hunted for the last 43 years.

South Dakota sold the kids both doe tags and pheasant licenses for $10 apiece. That’s quite a bargain in my estimation and a good way to help get young folks interested in hunting. Passing the Hunter Safety course is the only requirement.

In judging our hunt as a success or failure, it was important for me to remember my first hunt. Like the twins, I was a seventh-grader. Dad and cousin Robert took my brother and me to Southern Illinois where our relatives had a farm. At the end of the day I asked, “What were the whirr sounds that flitted through the woods like shadows?” I never fired a shot. Everyone laughed as they told me that those sounds and shadows were quail. Some hunter I was.

Our Corson County weather was a major factor in the kids’ hunt. Friday was damp and cold. A blizzard developed late Saturday morning that reached white-out proportions by mid-afternoon. In spite of the conditions, the kids never quit, and I was proud of them. Choosing to go out there in those conditions was their choice, and not something that was forced upon them.

Early Friday morning (we were up at 5 a.m.), Grace and I went to the mouth of Willow Creek. While walking to our stand, Grace spotted some muley does and fawns before I did, but they were gone before she could get the rifle up. Two hours later I asked her if she was cold, and she said she was. We returned to the bunkhouse. Tom and Gab, along with Steve and Sam, had already returned.

Tom and Gab had a nice muley buck come within 25 yards that Tom caught on camera with his smart phone, but no does came within range. Sam had taken a doe two years ago, and now he wanted a coyote. Sam and Steve also drew a blank.

While at the ranch discussing a late morning, early afternoon strategy, the twins revealed that given an easy shot at a doe, they didn’t really know whether they would pull the trigger or not. A buck might be a different matter, but they didn’t have buck tags, so the point was moot. After warming up, we all headed out in Steve’s 4WD club cab to check some spots I knew.

In every cedar-studded canyon or draw we checked, we jumped a good whitetail buck with does. However, it required a quick gun and fast shooting, something the kids had no experience with. While Gab and I sat on a slope as the others poked around for deer, a coyote almost ran over us. That was certainly a highlight. If we were learning anything, it was that taking a stand was still our best option.

Our Friday evening and Saturday morning stands never offered the easy shot at a doe we were looking for. By mid-morning, it began to look like some real weather was brewing. After a brief search for Indian artifacts and dinosaur bones, we again loaded up into Steve’s 4WD quad cab and headed to the top of “The Wall” where a good shot at a coyote or mule deer might present itself. We did spook some mulies, but the shots were beyond what any of us could handle.

Sam was still talking about a coyote, so I made him an offer. If he wanted to walk into the wind to the river, I’d go with him. He took me up on that without hesitation. The weather was beginning to get ugly as we approached the Grand.

“Grandpa, are we lost?”

I assured him that we weren’t, but I also told him that if he were alone, he’d eventually find a road or ranch if he followed the river. Good advice, I thought.

About that time Sam yelled, “Grandpa, look at the coyote!” I’d have done the very same thing when I was 15 years old. When the excitement was over, I told him that it had been time for throwing some lead, and not telling me about the coyote when I wasn’t carrying a rifle. He’ll get it right next time.

Light snow was falling when we regrouped, and Tom, Steve and the kids wanted to go after some pheasants and grouse. I knew a good spot, so we headed to the north side of the Grand and up onto the flat.

Steve and I left Tom and the kids out at the north end of a CRP field to walk with the wind. Within a minute of letting them out, the mild snow flurry morphed into a raging white out. I know they kicked pheasants out from under their feet, but no shots were fired by the girls. They smiled when I asked about it.

Thanks to the great hospitality of our rancher hosts, along with stark country and abundant game, our hunt was a huge success without anyone firing a shot. I’m hoping that when I see the kids again around Christmas, I’ll be hearing about “next year.” That would make grandpa Roger very happy. In the meantime, we’ll get more familiar with those rifles and shotguns.

*See you next week.

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