A good time in Kansas

Some of my best deer hunting trips end without me coming home with a big buck. This was one of those. I spent a week in Kansas duck and deer hunting with friends. My brother-in-law, Russ Campbell, drove out with me, and while neither of us shot a buck, we certainly saw some dandies. In hindsight, we probably should have taken one. But that's what makes deer hunting and choices so intriguing.

The night before the hunt, we watched a lot of hunting videos in which guys were knocking down trophies, so we had visions of killing a Boone and Crockett record buck the next day. I saw at least three deer that would score in the 150-160 class, but since it was our first day of hunting, I figured I'd be patient and wait for a bigger one. Besides, we would be hunting three more days, and I didn't want to be done the first day. If I'd seen any one of those deer back in Michigan, I wouldn't have hesitated to pull the trigger. But this is leased land in Kansas — Disneyland for deer hunters.

Everything is bigger and better. Well, the weather changed several times, and the wind blew (which didn't help). We had 30-mph winds the last day, which was the calmest day of the week. I did shoot some good video on my Kodak Play Sport camera and will post it soon on my Web site, www.kevinvandam.com . I saw a lot of deer sparring and one morning watched three big bucks chasing a doe. It's that kind of stuff that makes any hunting trip worthwhile, regardless of whether you pull the trigger.

Now, our duck hunting trip was a different deal. We spent the first two days hunting property of a friend of mine who floods a lot of timber, and the ducks love it. Our timing couldn't have been better as the migrating ducks were really filtering into that part of the state. We got out early each morning and set decoys, then stood by trees watching the birds flutter in. It was mesmerizing as groups of 50 and 100 ducks would work our decoys and land within 10 feet of where we were standing. The sky was blackened with ducks, a scene right out of National Geographic.

I had never experienced anything like that. When we decided to start shooting, the five of us had our limit (25 birds total) in less than an hour. We did the same the next day, although it took us maybe 30 minutes longer. My friend has a great lab and it was equally fascinating watching him work. It was a sight to behold. All of those experiences — watching the ducks cup in on us, the dog work, the bucks sparring and chasing does, and even grilling juicy steaks at night — made for a great trip. One of the best of my life. Remember: It's all about the attitude.