TREGO COUNTY — The crunch of boots stepping through the brush was the only sound, other than the occasional distant blast of a shotgun, as a group of hunters moved through a walk-in hunting area approximately 11 miles south of WaKeeney on Saturday.
The windless morning, a rarity in that part of the world, allowed for the piercing sun to glint off the thin layer of frost that covered the still foliage.
A perfect morning for the opening day of pheasant season, especially considering the unseasonable warm temperatures in the week or so leading up to the occasion.
Four hunters from Colorado, and two chocolate labrador retrievers, Chip and Katie, had been up since before sunrise to enjoy a quick breakfast, courtesy of Donna Deines, Butterfield Trail Bunkhouse, before setting off to find birds.
The Butterfield Trail Bunkhouse is a bed and breakfast, owned and operated by William and Donna Deines, and has been welcoming guests for approximately 15 years. The bunkhouse is located in Trego County on the Butterfield Overland Despatch Trail where pioneers made their way westward from Fort Leavenworth to Denver.
The house sits near the Smoky Hill River and the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway. Surrounded by trees, it has been part of a family farm for three generations. The farm-and-ranch operation continues to function alongside the bed and breakfast.
“We cleaned it up, painted and without changing it too much, got it ready for guests,” Deines said.
The bed and breakfast is open year-round and features four beds, a bathroom, and a complete kitchen and seating area.
Recently, Deines said she had hunters from Louisiana who came in September for muzzleloader season, and some from Michigan for archery season who just left a few days ago. The pheasant hunters from Colorado have been repeat guests for many years.
“I can say we’ve gotten guests from all over,” Deines said. “Even the Netherlands.”
Deines said in recent years, they usually only have pheasant hunters on opening weekend due to the decline in the pheasant population.
“Before, when there was a good population of birds, we had hunters here nearly every weekend and some even during the week,” Deines said. “I had guys up from Texas that stayed a whole week before.”
Fewer birds haven’t kept Paul Maloney, Golden, Colo., and Kevin Keller, Morrison, Colo., from enjoying opening weekend at the Butterfield Inn and Bunkhouse each year.
They have been coming there every year for the last 13 years.
Paul’s son, Sean, Goldon, Colo., and friend Randy Anders, Grand Lake, Colo., came this year as well and have joined them several times in the past.
“The birds are there,” Maloney said. “We just have to look a little harder to find them.”
“The hunting is always good. The harvest just isn’t always plentiful,” Anders said with a laugh.
The group hunted in a walk-in area Saturday on land Deines had received permission for them to hunt, as well as land owned by William and Donna.
“We don’t guide,” Deines said. “We just let them know where they can hunt, and they do the rest.”
Maloney and Keller said the company of William and Donna keeps them coming back each year, while Donna’s cooking might, in fact, be the biggest factor.
“She’s a great cook,” Keller said.
Deines prepares breakfast each day for all the guests at the bed and breakfast.
That morning, the hunting party was treated to biscuits, a ham, egg and cheese skillet with salsa, fresh fruit and cinnamon pecan sticky buns.
Deines said when her hunters from Louisiana come, they bring with them fresh shrimp, and they all enjoy a dinner prepared by her guests.
“These hunters that come back year after year, they really become like family,” Deines said.
For more information about the Butterfield Trail Bunkhouse, visit butterfieldtrailbunkhouse.com, email Donna at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (785) 769-3194.