In the early history of Hayes County, the Pawnee and Sioux nations roamed the grasslands and hunted buffalo in this area. It was also a buffalo hunt that brought about one of the most significant events in the history of present-day Hayes County.
After it was revealed by President Ulysses S. Grant that the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia would be making a tour of the United States and wanted to shoot a buffalo during his visit, arrangements were made for the Duke and company to hunt on the central plains in the Nebraska Territory. He would be accompanied by General George Custer, General Phil Sheridan, and a young Buffalo Bill Cody as the hunting guide. Cody rounded up a herd of buffalo with the help of Sioux Chief Spotted Tail, who was paid for his service with 1,000 pounds of tobacco.
The hunt took place in January of 1872. An extravagant camp of two meal tents, 10 guest tents, and a dorm tent for orderlies and servants of the Grand Duke was set up just inside the eastern boundary of Hayes County. A herd of buffalo was located by scouts and the Sioux near Medicine Creek. Duke Alexis emptied two pistols in a failed attempt to kill anything, so Cody lent him the use of a .50 caliber Springfield rifle and with one shot, the Grand Duke dropped a buffalo bull. By the end of the hunt, Duke Alexis had shot a total of eight buffalo. The success of the hunt was celebrated with a basket of champagne brought out by Russian servants.
Every September from 2000 until 2010, the Hayes Center Lion’s Club hosted the Grand Duke Alexis Rendezvous out at Camp Hayes. It was a weekend filled with shooting, knife throwing, and axe throwing demonstrations, reenactments of the hunt, numerous vendors, ceremonial dances, trail rides and more. The Rendezvous is not currently held in Hayes County, but it is still celebrated through the Lincoln County Historical Society in North Platte, NE and includes a guided bus tour to the camp site in Hayes County.