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Uninvited guests crash hawk buffet

Three of us hunted pheasants one afternoon. As we approached the road after walking through a CRP field, Curt's shot at a rooster appeared to miss. The bird caught the wind and headed north by northwest. I watched him fly, and when he landed in bean stubble almost a half mile away, I felt his descent was a bit hurried. I suggested to the guys that we drive over to the bean field and see if that rooster lay dead.

As we approached the field, we could see two hawks on the ground about 175 yards out. A third hawk circled the pair. We drove across the field toward them. As we came closer, we thought something lay on the field between the birds. When we closed the distance, the hawks took off. The "something" on the field was a warm rooster. The hawks hadn't touched it yet.

Imagine what those hawks thought. Good fortune literally drops a juicy pheasant out of the sky for them, and a pickup pulls up and takes it away. We wondered why the hawks waited before ripping into the pheasant. Jerry said the birds were probably saying grace.

n Looking for a last minute gift idea for your hunter? When it comes to big-game hunting, I have come to realize that the most important piece of equipment, other than the rifle itself, is the bipod, tripod or cross sticks. Most of the deer I have taken in the past 10 years came with the help of a telescoping bipod that doubles at times as a walking stick. If I don't use the bipod, I use a tree or rock to steady my rifle.

I'm not saying this just because of my tremor condition, although I'll admit I could no longer rifle hunt without the extra support. Any hunter, no matter how steady he or she may be, will profit from the use of extra support. Carrying it around may be a nuisance at first, but once you dope out a system, you won't go without it. Some bipods attach to the forearm of the rifle. I hook my collapsed bipod over my belt. These extra legs relate to shot placement -- what good shooting is all about.

n You don't need a Boone & Crockett's measuring system to tell you a buck is record class, but it does give antlers an objective scoring system. The length of the spread, the length of the beams and points and the circumferences of the bases enter into it. In my opinion, any white-tail that scores 100 points is a respectable buck. A 125-point buck is special, and 140 points gives one some bragging rights, but 170 points make the record book. Go to Boone & Crockett on the internet, and you'll find a scoring sheet.

I know of two near-record book white-tails so far this season. When Steve Petry, one of our local school principals, showed me some photos taken by his trail cam last month, he was obsessed. He was headed back to his dad's Union County farm where the photos were taken, and he had both an archery tag and a rifle tag. Steve shot the buck with his rifle just minutes before the end of legal daylight on opening day. The 6-by-6 buck had a 24½-inch spread, seven-inch circumference base and unofficially scored 168 B&C points.

You might remember Brad Lhotak, one of Wagner's great prep wrestlers. Brad had seen his buck on earlier Edmunds County pheasant hunts and took the great white-tail with his .270 as it walked out of a corn field on opening day. Like Steve's buck, Brad's 7-by-7 buck with a 21-inch spread unofficially scored 168 B&C points. Brad is a professional guide who raises high quality hunting dogs in the offseason.

We occasionally hear of battling bucks with locked antlers, but I wonder how often bucks fight to the death. An area farmer called me. He was checking fence when he came upon the sight of a violent struggle. The ground was torn up, and deer hair and blood covered the ground. An obvious blood trail led to the tree belt adjacent to his farm buildings. At trail's end lay a magnificent 5-by-5 buck. It had been dead for a few days. The blood had come from a severe puncture in the deer's neck.

See you next week.