Most of the gloss has been hand and glove-rubbed from the stock of Arlan Shandy’s .270. The barrel, once shiny and blue on the Winchester Model 70, is a now faded gray. The bolt slides back and forth easily, with a bit of wiggle, from so much action since it was made in 1964.
Shandy, of Riley, has plenty of great memories within the rifle. It was, after all, the gun he used to kill and tag a 12-pointer when he drew a permit for Kansas’ first modern deer season in 1965. It’s the rifle he went to when he drew an even more valued permit this year.
“To be honest, I just thought I’d never draw that elk tag. I’d been applying since they started (in 1990),” he said just before heading onto Fort Riley for a morning of elk hunting. “It’s just always been a heck of a rifle, so I thought I might as well use it for this, too.”
First buck, first season
Shandy, 72, hunted small game as a kid where he was raised around Milford. For years, his only contact with deer and deer hunting was in the pages of Outdoor Life. Then things slowly began to change.
“I remember the first time saw deer around here, that would have been in ’55, when if you said you saw deer people thought you were lying,” Shandy recalled. “But there were 12 of them in a field up by Leonardville. I almost didn’t believe it myself, deer in Kansas.”
Within a few years talk began of a deer season in Kansas. Years of reading outdoors magazines convinced Shandy that if a Model 70, chambered in .270, with a 130-grain bullet, was good enough for writers such as Jack O’Connor, it would be good enough for him and Kansas whitetails.
He got that chance in 1965, when he drew one of the 4,575 firearms permits issued for Kansas’ first deer season. He knew he had the right rifle, but little else.
“Seriously, I didn’t know anything about deer hunting, only what I’d read,” Shandy said. “I did have a pretty good spot up in the Smoky Hill River bottoms, so I drove my Corvair up there and went hunting. Walking back to the Corvair I saw a herd of 12 does with a really nice 12-point buck. They weren’t very far, but I laid down to get steady, shot and when he ran off I figured I’d missed.”
After shooting two boxes of ammunition for practice that morning, Shandy went out again that afternoon, saw a different 12-pointer and took the shot. That buck ran off, too, but Shandy noticed a flinch at the shot. At a nearby bar and grill that evening, Shandy was sharing the day’s events when a local with experience hunting deer in Colorado told Shandy he’d probably hit and killed the second buck, based on its reaction.
“So we went back out, in the middle of the night, and we found the buck I’d shot at that afternoon dead not far away,” Shandy said. “I had no idea deer wouldn’t just fall right over when you hit one. I’m glad that guy said something.”
Failing to draw firearms permits the next two seasons sent Shandy to another form of hunting.
“That I could get a permit every year is the main reason why I got into bowhunting for deer,” he said. “It’s a lot tougher, but once you get a taste of bowhunting, it is really hard to get it out of your system.”
The bowhunting bug has stayed in his system for more than 45 years, including through two heart attacks and when physical limitations forced him to start using a crossbow. Through those years, he’s taken a lot of trophy-class whitetails, all the while hoping to get one that would make the Boone & Crockett record book.
Though his .270 sat shelved for decades of Kansas firearms deer seasons, he took it on antelope, deer and elk hunts in several mountain states. He’s used it when he pursues another great outdoors passion – calling in coyotes.
He’s learned if he misses, it’s probably not the gun’s fault.
“I still have the original scope on it that I put on it brand new in 1964, a Weaver six-power,” Shandy said at the end of a recent hunt. “You know, it’s stayed dead-on pretty much all those years. Oh, I did fall once on some rocks and when I checked it things were out of whack, but I sighted it back in and it’s held all these years. It’s pretty amazing.”
Good enough for elk, too
“Amazing” is probably one of the many superlatives that went through Shandy’s mind when he learned he’d drawn an any-elk permit for Fort Riley this year.
For the first time in 49 years, he planned on not getting a Kansas deer permit, and making hunting with the old .270 became his main focus for the fall.
“I ain’t gonna hunt for anything else until I get an elk,” Shandy said as he hunted elk on Nov. 24. “I’m going to catch so much (grief) from people if I don’t get one it won’t even be funny. I could have killed a couple of bulls already, but we’ve seen some dandies and keep hoping to get a crack at one of them.”
Hunting in single-digit temperatures on Thanksgiving morning, friend Brad Roether got Shandy in a position where a herd of about 50 elk passed by. The best bull of the bunch had eight points on one side and six on the other.
“We’d seen bigger bulls, but that one was pretty darned nice, so we decided I’d better take him,” Shandy said. One well-placed shot from the .270 at 115 yards dropped the bull within a few seconds.
With the elk hunt over Shandy, said he may find time to do a little deer hunting, with his .270, during the on-going firearms deer season. He can’t remember the last time he shot a deer with it in Kansas, but said it “had to be decades ago.” He probably won’t, he said, shoot one with it this season unless it’s exceptionally large.
If he does, he won’t make the haunting mistake he made back in 1965.
“One of my main regrets is about that first buck I shot in that first season. He ran off after I shot, but knowing what I know now I’m pretty sure I hit him and he probably didn’t go far and died,” Shandy said. “He was such a big buck. I’m almost sure that was my Boone and Crockett.”