The "Kahuna" under the light of a Coleman lantern.
Our dear friend, Kenny Koepsel - The "Kahuna", for he organized and lead us on our bowhunting trips - has passed peacefully on to that great hunting ground in the sky. Kenny lost his battle with leukemia a week ago tomorrow after having just celebrated his 84th birthday on Saturday. If he looks familiar to you, Kenny bartended at Ray & Dot's - "The Legion" (Ray was his brother) since the late 1950's (retiring in the late 1990's) - a Greendale watering hole known well by the Ircink family, extended family and many of Kenny's hunting buddies. My father began hunting with Ken when Dad was 15 and those who hunted with the Kahuna have shared decades of wonderful moments with him. He was a husband, father, grandfather, a teacher, an outdoorsman, a hunter and unselfish every step of the way. I, like so many others, learned much from Kenny and loved him deeply. Thank God I was lucky to see him in perfect spirits just three weeks ago.
We - the guys in our immediate group of bow hunters - were all asked to write a few words about Kenny (by his three daughters). My words are what follows:
"Farewell, my friend,my beautiful friend,farewell.You take the high road,I’ll take the low road,and we’ll meet again…”– from Dennis Wilson’s “Farewell My Friend”, 1977I had just shot my first deer the fall of my senior year in high school. The hunters gathered around to hear my story and give chase. Enter the Kahuna – who quickly settled me down (as well as the anxious bow hunters) and set into motion a plan to track and surround the deer so it wouldn’t venture too far into the woods. Once a small group of hunters had encircled the deer – it hadn’t run more than a hundred yards or so – they were to wait for Kenny’s command to move in. I took up my position and Kenny walked up, kneeling down beside me. He started asking me questions – where did I think I hit the deer, how far a shot was it, was it doe or a buck. Then he put his hand on my shoulder and gently said, “I want you to know the deer is not suffering, Jeffrey. We’ll just give it a few minutes and see what happens, OK?” A tender moment…which gave me more insight into the man behind “the Kahuna”.Over the years I’ve learned much about hunting from my father, brother, Uncle Fran, Cousin Gerry, Dave, Bruce, Gary, Rick, other hunters in our party – and, of course, Kenny. My time with him was spent not only pursuing deer with bow and arrow – we laughed, joked, broke bread, swapped stories, talked about life and my interests outside of hunting. Once we got back to the actual hunt, Kenny switched into “Kahuna-mode”, receiving the respect which he was so deserving of. For above all, Kenny was a teacher. A taskmaster when it came to the hunt, but one of the kindest, gentlest souls I’ve ever met and unselfish to the core. I have the deepest respect for many of the men I hunt with and I am fortunate to know many great men. But the mold was broken with Kenny. Though he has passed from this life, in truth – Kenny will always be with us. From the smell of the earth beneath our feet, to the sound of an arrow whizzing through the air, or the cry of a hunter as a deer is spotted, Though he will not be seen – Kenny’s presence will be felt. The camaraderie we share during future hunts – and within our daily lives – will continue and most certainly reflect Ken’s lasting influence. On Thanksgiving Day, as I was saying goodbye to my family, my father – a man of few words – yelled after me, “Say a prayer for Kenny.” And, of course, I did.“…I am not to speak to you, I am to think of you when I sit alone or wake at night alone,I am to wait, I do not doubt I am to meet you again,I am to see to it that I do not lose you.”– excerpt from Walt Whitman’s “To A Stranger”, Leaves of GrassWhat an honor it has been to be your friend and share so many moments in Nature with you, Kenny. I wish you Godspeed. You have my deepest admiration and love. May every arrow I launch fly true, and be in your memory, Kahuna.Love, Jeffrey
(Above: Brother Jason, Ken and me. Mid 1990's.) For more picture of Kenny and the men who loved him dearly, click on READ MORE!
Mauston Bow Hunt - 2006. Left to right: Kenny, Bill Dudi, Bill Prouka, Greg Pilot, Cousin Gerry Kraus, Brother Jason, Dad in foreground.
Mauston Bow Hunt 2006. Dad & Kenny.
Mauston Bow Hunt. December 1985. Left to right: Gary Schmidt (kneeling), me, Cousin Gerry Krause, Kenny, Jason, Big Jerry Graham, Uncle Fran Ircink.
Mauston Bow Hunt - 1988. Left to right: Daryl (Kenny's brother-in-law), Kenny, Ken's grandson Andy, Dave Hranicka, Dad.
Mauston Bow Hunt. Ken with Brother Jas. 1990, plus or minus?
The Kahuna telling a bowhunt story at the Rendevous camping trip in Mauston, October 2010.
Rendevous camping trip in Mauston, October 2010. Uncle Fran and Kenny.
Rendevous camping trip in Mauston, October 2010. Kenny and Uncle Fran.
Rendevous camping trip in Mauston, October 2010. Kenny's van. If you know Kenny, need I say more? ;)
Rendevous camping trip in Mauston, October 2010. Dad and Kenny.
Rendevous camping trip in Mauston, October 2011. Left to right: Kenny, Ted Witorek & wife, Bill Dudi, Dad and Brother Jas.
Rendevous camping trip in Mauston, October 2011. Brother Jason and Kenny.