Rick Cunningham: My 2011 tom turkey

Hays Daily News
Rick Cunningham

My favorite types of hunting are turkey hunting and bowhunting deer.

All firsts in our lives – our first kiss, our first job, our first car – are forever etched in our mind.

My very first turkey was killed at Cedar Bluff in Page Creek in 1985. A friend had hunted turkeys for the first time the year before, and was willing to be my guide.

It was a windy day, and after calling for a while, we decided to call it quits. As we walked out, a tom flew out of the wheat field. I shot and killed my first turkey. It was a 13 pound jake with a 3-inch beard. It will always be one of my favorite all-time hunts.

The first year I hunted deer with a bow was in 1989. I purchased a bow because I was a turkey hunter and at the time, you could only hunt fall turkey with a bow.  After I got my turkey, I put a board in a crook of a tree and crawled up in it for a November morning hunt.

I knew absolutely nothing about how to hunt deer. I put my board in this tree because I had seen a nice deer trail.

As the sun rose and the temperature started to warm, I saw two bucks cross the road and hit my trail. The one in front was a little 1-and-a-half-year-old 6-pointer, followed by a 2-and-a-half-year-old 8-pointer.

When they were standing directly under my tree, I had to draw my bow for the shot.

Mel, a great friend and a bow hunter himself, had told me that when it came time for the shot, I would not be able to draw my bow. It would feel like I was trying to pull hundreds of pounds. I always thought that was silly and would never happen.

Well, it must have been the excitement of the moment, buck fever or whatever, but Mel was right. As I tried to draw, both deer just looked up at me, probably wondering what that strange blob was up in that tree.

I somehow was finally able to draw and put the arrow into the smaller buck. I hit him high and not knowing the angle, I thought it was a bad shot.

Both deer took off. I got down and again, not knowing what to do, I just took off walking. I found the buck piled up not too far away.

I couldn’t believe what I had done. I’ve never been more excited. I was so excited and full of adrenalin that I drug the buck up a steep hill and threw him in the truck with ease.

As I drove to town, I realized I was driving too fast and had to slow down.

That small 6-point rack still hangs on my wall and will always be one of my best memories.

May God bless you all.

Rick Cunningham is an avid outdoorsman from Ellis, KS