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Four-Wheels and a Droptine


The big, 30-inch wide muley buck suddenly appeared in the alfalfa field, hot on the trail of a doe. Near the field’s edge on this early November evening, a bowhunter was nestled in a ground blind not 20 yards away, in hope’s he would get an opportunity at the big mule deer. However, the buck he envisioned was not the wide muley in the field, it was yet another buck, one much larger, one he had photographed several times during the summer but had not seen until the last few days. A buck with mass, deep forks, and a huge non-typical tine dropping down off the main beam, a buck they appropriately called ‘Droptine’.

It was three years ago on this same badlands ground in southwestern North Dakota, where the ATV four-wheeler overturned pinning this young rancher beneath. The weight of the ATV crushed his spine leaving him a paraplegic, dashing the aspirations of an independent rancher and formidable hunter. Now on these same grounds rolls another four-wheeler, this time a motorized wheelchair carrying a young man that has overcome great obstacles, his name Kevin Swanke.

I got to know Kevin through his father Willard, whom I’ve met over 25 years ago.Many times I would head down to Willard’s part of the state to try my hand at antelope or stalking mule deer. I would swing into the Cedar Ridge Ranch and visit with him. With a big smile and cowboy drawl Willard would tell of the big bucks he had seen or tell of another big antelope killed by Kevin. I met Kevin several times on the ranch although he was usually out hunting or guiding others.

I was first made aware of Kevin’s accident when I received a note in my office at the local hospital. Willard said Kevin was hurt badly and he would probably loose the use of his legs. Upon visiting him, you could tell the depressed look on his face, he seemed as if his life was beyond repair. To others it didn’t seem fair; it was like shackling a thoroughbred.

The road through rehabilitation is long, and this road would take him to Craig Hospital in Denver, Colorado. Kevin would see improvement but it was more on how to learn to live without the use of something you take for granted, something that allowed him to enjoy the outdoors in the past without limits.

It wasn’t until he rolled into a room where posted on the walls were pictures of people who had accomplished their goals, most being just like him, that inspired him to go back home and continue to ranch and hunt just like he had done all his life. 


Now back at his ranch, Kevin sat in the blind built by he and his ranch hand, he gripped his short axle, easy-to-maneuver Mathews Drenalin bow, and focused on the wide buck in the field. Kevin had seen Droptine earlier in the day near this blind and with numerous does nearby; he hoped the big buck would soon return.

As the evening light faded so did the hopes of seeing Droptine. The 30” wide buck stayed focused on the doe, but then suddenly turned and seemed to stare directly at Kevin in the blind.

Kevin tells the story, ‘… I had a 30-inch buck standing at 20 yards and for no reason he turned and looked right at the blind, or so I thought, he actually was looking over the blind at a hill right behind me.  He then laid his ears back with a possessive posturing threat.  I knew then, I had another mature buck coming in behind me and I was hoping it was Droptine. 

I got my bow prepared and drew back, ready to shoot. Just as I got to full draw, Droptine walked into sight, with his ears pinned back, head down, and hair standing on end. He was walking directly towards the 30-inch buck. At 15 yards the big droptine buck past by my blind and I let an arrow fly. When the arrow hit, the buck bolted toward the river bottoms and out of sight. I thought I had a good hit however, with daylight quickly fading, I didn’t want to take any chances with a buck like this and although the excitement on the moment was indescribable, I decided to leave him until daybreak the next morning. 

Early the following morning, we found him expired about 150 yards from my blind. I then saw what I had worked hard all fall to achieve’. 

The magnificent animal was more than expected. The basic five-by-five was heavy with long back tines, big front forks, good brow points and cheater points off each G-3, PLUS an eight inch droptine!  The buck scored 194 7/8”, large enough to be the largest non-typical mule deer taken with archery equipment in North Dakota.

Kevin’s love of hunting and the passion for life has allowed him to achieve goals beyond the normal means. His year of hunting was a success that most of us dream about. Kevin traveled to British Columbia to harvest a 150 lb. wolf, a Boone and Crockett Caribou and a Dall Sheep. On his North Dakota ranch he called-in the largest Bobcat he has ever taken, a 42 lb. Tom.

Bowhunters are a rare group. We become successful through consistency, dedication and persistence. We encourage and support our fellow hunters and we love to see a fellow hunter overcome adversity and have success, and it is the success’s like Kevin’s that are the most rewarding of all.


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Posted On: 08/25/2009 11:00 PM
1013 Views, 2 Comments

Tags: buck, droptine, rsquo, blind, field, four-wheels, wide, 30-inch, muley, suddenly
More Tags: Kevin Swanke, Willard, North Dakota, Denver, Person Travel, Cedar Ridge Ranch, archery equipment, Craig Hospital, rancher and formidable hunter, fellow hunter, British Columbia, Colorado, archery,
Region: Global

Categories: Hunting > Other Hunting
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Comments on this Article


Joined: 09/18/2008
Location: ND, USA
by on 08/26/2009 1:56 PM | Reply #1 "Quote" | "Quick Reply" |
 Talk about some awesome critters and also an obvious drive to do what he loves.  Way to go Kevin.


Joined: 09/25/2007
Location: ND, USA
by on 09/18/2009 10:52 PM | Reply #2 "Quote" | "Quick Reply" |
Man your awsome dude u dont let anything stop you from killing great animals now thats a true hunter way to go and keep it up man. Great stuff i envy you Kevin. This is great stuff man!!!!!
It flies it dies!!!

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