A seventh-grader at Hillsboro Middle School, Dusten was one of only six youth from across the state to participate in the 26th annual Kansas Governors One Shot Turkey Hunt at El Dorado this weekend.
Just getting accepted for the hunt was something of a long shot, as more than 40 youth applied.
Dusten first heard about the event from his social studies teacher, Phil Oelke, who helped him fill out the application.
“I just wrote about how I enjoyed hunting,” said Dustin, who has been active in the sport for about five years.
A few weeks later, “We were going home one day and Mom told me they got something in the mail,” Dusten said. “I was really happy.”
Dusten and his family left for El Dorado Thursday. After registering, one of the first stops was to be outfitted in full camouflage hunting gear and boots, courtesy of Sutherland Lumber Co., one of the corporate sponsors.
“It was really sweet,” Dusten said.
That evening he attended a get acquainted social with about 150 to 200 people, including current Gov. Sam Brownback and former governors Mike Hayden and Bill Graves.
“We all stood up and said our name,” Dusten said. “Later on that night they announced that all six of us youth hunters were getting a shotgun (a TriStar 12-guage). I didn’t know that, so I was really excited about that.”
After a late night, Friday began at 3:30 a.m. in preparation for the first day of hunting. Dusten was paired with another youth participant plus an adult guide, John Sutherland.
Dusten’s partner shot a jake that day, but that was the only trophy taken before they ended the hunt in mid-afternoon.
That night, participants gathered for the “Big Tom” hog roast social Friday.
“It was cool,” Dusten said. “Everybody had something to say. We got to see Mike Hayden—he’s a pretty cool guy. And I got to talk to the guy who gave me my lifetime hunting license. They’re expensive.”
The license generally sells for $462.
After another late night and 3:30 a.m. wake-up call, Dusten and his partners were back on the hunt Saturday morning.
“I hadn’t got my bird yet, we had moved our blinds across the creek from where we wanted,” Dusten said. “It must have rained Friday night because we had been going through the creek (the day before) and the water was (not) deep.
“We went through the same area (on Saturday) and the water was over my boots—it almost swept me away. I told John I wish I had another 20 pounds and was a little heavier.”
Dusten took on the extra weight around 7:15.
“A hen came out in the field and went straight to the feeder instead of the decoys,” Dusten said. “Then a tom came in, and I said, ‘Yeah, this is the one.’ We called him a little bit. It hardly took anything—he went straight to the feeder. But he made a mistake by slowing down a little bit. I shot him at 42 yards—he was on the move. It was really cool.
“John Sutherland…about knocked me over when he slapped me on the back.”
The bird weighed 21.35 pounds and scored 59 points; the top score in the entire event was 70.
Dusten has decided to have the bird mounted as a lasting reminder of the weekend.
The hunt climaxed Saturday evening with a “One Shot” banquet at the Butler Community College Hubbard Welcome Center.
“That was really cool, too—speeches, a silent auction, a live auction and this and that,” Dusten said.
While hunt was finished, the excitement was not.
“Went to the motel turned the TV on—there was storms and stuff,” he said. “We ended up going back to the place we just came from and went down to a big basement. We stayed there until 2:30 in the morning.”
After sleeping in Sunday, Dusten and his family met one more time with Sutherland, who had stored Dusten’s turkey in a freezer to keep it fresh for mounting.
Sutherland told him of a contest he had heard about between the Cabella’s stores in Wichita and Kansas City called Hunt 4 Hunger.
Dusten took a shot at that, too, and for bringing in the biggest bird in the youth category, he received a $75 prize. He used the money to purchase more hunting equipment.
Dusten said he was told that once someone is accepted to participate in the hunt, he has an automatic invitation to come back each year.
“If it’s OK, I’ll go every year,” he said. “It was really cool.”
His mother concurs.
“I just think it was a great opportunity for him,” she said. “It was a really neat weekend to meet the people we met and watch him learn more about turkey hunting and what he did.
“His dad and I are really proud of him,” she added.