Tom McMillan's Last Hunt?
By: Lynn Burkhead
If Kansas' Tom McMillan had only one more hunt to go on, it would be with the people near and dear to his heart and very near to his own backdoor
Over the years, Kansas whitetail hunting outfitter Tom McMillan has seen it all when it comes to the whitetail world.
The #DeerWeek co-host has seen his Midwestern state turn from a place where deer were once a semi-rare sight to a hunting dreamland where hunters from all over the U.S. save big bucks to put in for a Sunflower State whitetail tag and dream hunt.
Over the years, he's had plenty of whitetail success, both personally as his trophy buck collection will show, and in guiding other hunters – some of them famous like his #DeerWeek co-host buddy Michael Waddell – to their own big antlered riches.
Along the way, he's turned his outfitting business and connections in the industry into one of the sport's most popular hunting shows on the Sportsman Channel.
Such success has put a solid collection of George Washington's in his wallet and paved the way to be able to enjoy hunting adventures literally all over the world.
With the world as his hunting oyster, what if McMillan only had one more hunt to go on? What would it be for? And who would it be with?
Easy money says McMillan in giving his answer.
"If I had one hunt left?," he queried with a sly grin. "It would obviously be with my wife and my son.
"Because my wife Jacque and I are just now getting to see our boy Gatlin really get enthused and really learn and appreciate the payoff that the outdoors alone can bring, let alone that a hunt can bring."
Like many parents, McMillan admits that he is starting to enjoy living vicariously a little bit through the eyes of his son.
"We're just now getting a taste of the excitement through him," he said. "And it reminds me of all of the excitement (and enjoyment that I was able to get myself as I learned about) the outdoors. And (my son is) growing up in the outdoors."
If the who has been settled, then what about the critter that Tom McMillan, his wife Jacque, and his son Gatlin might chase? A bighorn sheep in Montana? A kudu or Cape buffalo in Africa? A moose in Canada? A massive bull elk in Arizona? A big mule deer in Nevada? A pronghorn antelope in Wyoming? Or even a King Eider in Alaska?
All exciting and intriguing options to be sure, but McMillan shakes his head with a negative nod.
"You know what? If I had to pick, it would be a deer," he smiled. "But it wouldn't be the biggest deer we've ever seen, it wouldn't be a trophy, it wouldn't be a state record, but it would be a whitetail."
Just a plain old simple whitetail? For a guy who is constantly around such big game animals – not to mention the industry that surrounds them – why is that?
"It would be whitetails because they are such an important part of my life," said McMillan. "We've spent a million hours, watching, learning, telling stories about them, chasing them, hunting them, so they are a part of us for sure."
The bottom line here for McMillan is something along the lines of a statement that the great hunting and shooting writer Jack O'Connor once penned.
Despite chasing big game, waterfowl and upland birds literally all over the world, O'Connor never forgot which critter was the best.
"The whitetail deer is the most widely distributed big game animal in the United States, the most plentiful, and the smartest," O'Connor once wrote in a story entitled Portrait of a Whitetail Deer.
"So crafty is the whitetail, and so much joy to hunt, that no one whose hunting is confined to the whitetail deer should feel very sorry for himself. He's got the best."
McMillan gets it and totally understands that sentiment that drove O'Connor to write such a couple of timeless hunting lines.
Because even after a lifetime of deer hunts for McMillan, O'Connor's whitetail thoughts are what drive him too.
"One more hunt?" McMillan asked again. "I'd have to say my wife, my boy, and one more whitetail hunt. Man, I hope that's a long time from now."