September 10: Coltin Hampton

As Told by Doug Hampton.

I was glancing towards the west watching the sun slowly sink into the tops of the pine trees. My phone was on my lap, and I was on quick draw mode for grabbing it to check text messages. The first to come in was a picture of the view they could see from inside the blind looking out. Now I knew the exact cedar from which they had brushed in their ambush point. I stared for a second and imagined I was right there beside them... But I was not. I was actually 500 miles to the south of Kansas and headed home from work. My phone buzzed again at around 7 p.m. "Two does and a yearling buck," was the next message to come from Rod Owen, my hunting partner. My son, Coltin, was sitting just to his left, staring at the fence-crossing that leads into the bean field. A Reconyx camera had been keeping surveillance on the crossing for over two months, and the feedback was outstanding, to put it mildly. The wind had shifted from the forecasted North to the East on more than one occasion over the previous three hours. The bachelor group of studs should be coming from a single draw that funnels up from the river bottoms. Rod couldn't help but wonder if the deer's best friend had blown down into the bedding area to tip the bachelor group of their presence. All at once, a flash of antler on the edge of the wood line grabbed the duo's attention. It was no doubt a shooter!

Curly Jr. Hits the Radar
A few months ago, I secured a non-resident Kansas deer tag for my wife Brandy, as well as Coltin who is now 15. He has already harvested some impressive whitetails. But most importantly, he knows how to pass the youngsters, no matter what kind of headgear they're carrying. Just two seasons ago, in the afore mentioned bean-field, a big bodied 3 year old 9 point barreled his way across within easy rifle range of the young hunter. He appeared to be in the mid 130's. He had a striking resemblance to a buck named Curly that my wife had harvested just one day prior to this encounter. Coltin never raised the gun to even look through the Nikon scope. "We'll try for him next year dad," Colt exclaimed. I had mixed emotions at the time. I was happy he was being selective, yet shocked that any normal 13 year old could pass on a buck like that. Maybe it was the Reconyx photos that showed much bigger deer on the farm that we were hunting. The decision to pass on the buck, that would now be named "Curly Jr.", was ultimately a good one. The following afternoon Colt downed a 6 year old named Big Red that was 5 inches shy of a gross Boone & Crockett. Curly Jr. stayed on our food plots and was the most visible buck on the farm. I myself had an encounter with him just a few weeks later.

A Deer Saved By Grades
Last fall, Curly Jr. was a 4 year old beast! He was a mid 140's type rack, but he was a fighter. He was a homebody that didn't mind defending his territory. Pictures of the buck all bristled up, the battle scars, and the broken racks of all of his competitors, only brought us to one conclusion.... It was time for him to go! His time was now limited. Colt had a Kansas gun tag & I had brushed a blind in for a guaranteed encounter with the bean-field boss. Just days before our hunt would begin, a friendly reminder called "Progress Reports" from Colt's school arrived at the house. Not being to my specs for a privileged hunting trip, Curly Jr. would live to see another summer. I knew with the activity in the field and a perfect wind, that it was a sure kill that just was not going to happen. But as a parent, I would have to stick to my guns. Our hunt was scheduled for 5 days. According to the Reconyx pictures, it would have only taken one afternoon. Colt vowed to not let it happen again.

The End Is Near

This summer arrived without disappointment. As soon as the cameras were out, you know who was showing off his heavy body with an equally impressive rack. Just a week ago on Labor Day, Rod had made a trip to the Kansas farm. I was laying on the floor taking a break from a day full of food-plotting when my phone began ringing. I saw that it was Rod calling so I immediately declined the call..... Just kidding! When I answered, I could tell quickly that Rod was pumped up. "Are you gonna get that boy up here to kill one of these giant bucks or what?!” he was nearly screaming in my ear. I asked him which bucks were showing up in the daylight. His answer was "all of them." There was no way I could take off of work for the upcoming weekend and opening of the Kansas youth hunt. I work 6 days a week from January through October. Missing a day in construction will usually get you more time off than you'd like, by being fired. Rod said he'd be glad to take him if I couldn't make it. I hung up the phone and called my wife to just check the price of a possible plane ticket. That's about when my phone began to sound like wind chimes banging in a hurricane! The daylight pics that were coming in non-stop were nearly unbelievable. I can't remember the price of the ticket, I just remember telling Brandy to "book it now!" Colt played in his first varsity football game Friday night, and then flew out on Saturday morning from Little Rock, Arkansas. He arrived in Kansas City just shortly after 1:00 p.m. Rod was waiting and super confident. They wasted no time driving to the lease and crawling into the blind. Rod had made it practically disappear in the cedar filled fence row. The pictures from the evening before were very promising.

A Perfect Plan, Perfectly Executed
Now, back to where we left off in the beginning... With every minute that passed, my confidence in a storybook first day buck diminished. My phone began ringing... I glanced down to see the caller as "Rod Owen" & it took me by surprise. I answered the phone call to hear my son say "Dad, I got him dad! I killed Curly Jr.!" I only remember shouting and screaming with pure joy and excitement. They began to tell me the events that had just taken place. The 2nd buck to enter the field just happened to be a 9 year old that we had written off for dead. He had fallen off considerably, but is definitely a shooter. Four more bucks entered the field in sequence, the last one being a 4 yr old that could hit the 170" mark. And that was when all the bucks snapped their head around to watch as the boss entered the ring for his 5th year and final time. Rod expressed the footage as "a scene from Jurassic Park." There was over 1000 inches of antler in the field as he panned them before telling Coltin to "take your pick." There was little decision to be made in Coltin's mind. He had dreamed about what should have been from last season as he stuck the cross hairs on Curly Jr's massive shoulder. When the silence was shattered, the Bouncer of the field was downed immediately from a perfectly placed shot.

I wasn't there, but I was just overwhelmed with emotion at what happened. I don't know who was more excited out of the 3 of us, but I'm sure Rod and I both teared up a little bit. There were a lot of factors that weighed heavy on our minds this particular day. My grandfather (Colt's great grandfather) who taught me how to hunt passed away 10 years to day & nearly to the minute of when Colt dropped the hammer. It was Colt's last year to qualify as a youth and I was unable to be there. Colt used Rod's gun that was passed down for generations through his family. I thank God that Rod loves Colt and treats him as his own. You can tell that he loves having him around and gets as much out of the hunt as Colt does. Thanks Rod, you really don't know how much I appreciate it. Also, Brandon Warren, Colt's uncle, passed away last month at the young age of 36 from a 4 year battle with cancer. So this hunt is dedicated to two people that loved the outdoors as much as we do. They will be on our minds for each and every upcoming hunt. We're glad God has blessed us with the time that we had with them, and to Him we are thankful.

When I talked to Colt just before boarding his flight to hunt, he said that he would treat this hunt like it is business... When he arrived back home as I was typing this story, he let me know that he had handled his business just like he said he would. So thanks to Rod Owen and my wife Brandy for coordinating the travel and for all they put into this hunt. I have the highest respect for these whitetails. Curly Jr. will be hanging next to some of his elders that have crossed paths with our team over the last 5 years. This was a great way to start our season. Rod and I will be returning to Kansas shortly to make some more great memories, and if the Lord's willing, we'll have another Dream Season!