Monthly Archives: January 2010

Alligator found in Kansas lake

State wildlife officials are clueless to origins of an alligator found floating dead in a Kansas lake on Wednesday.

Jason Goeckler, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks invasive species coordinator, said the 64-inch long reptile was found by a fisherman near the warm water discharge area of Coffey County Lake.

The lake is basically the water supply for the Wolf Creek Nuclear plant north of Burlington.

Wildlife officials have no clues as to origin of this 64-inch long alligator that ws found floating in Coffey County Lake on Wednesday.

Wildlife officials have no clues to origin of this 64-inch long alligator found floating in Coffey County Lake on Wednesday.

Goeckler  hasn’t heard any reports of alligators in Kansas for several years. A few years ago a caiman, a relative to alligators, was found near Cheney Lake. It had escaped from a nearby residence where it was being kept as a pet.

In the wild alligators range in the Gulf States and as far north as southern Arkansas or extreme southeast Oklahoma.

Wildlife and Parks has no idea how long the ‘gator may have been in the lake.

They do know, however, that it shouldn’t have been put there.

A close-up look at the head of the alligator found dead at Coffey County Lake on Wednesday.

A close-up look at the head of the alligator found dead at Coffey County Lake on Wednesday.

“We’re looking at it as another invasive species, like zebra mussels, and trying to educate the public,” Goeckler said. “You don’t release exotic species into our environment. It’s illegal and it could be dangerous.”

Tasmanian turkey dog

If you were near El Dorado or Emporia Tuesday afternoon you may have seen my Lab, Hank.

As fast as he was running up and down Flint Hills ridges in Chase County I wouldn’t be surprised if he made it by one or both towns.

All I could do was wait until he regained some of his senses and returned.

The scent of big flock of wild turkeys does that to him. The poor ol’ boy is seriously addicted to Kansas’ largest game bird.

Don't let the soft brown eyes fool you, Hank's a dog possessed once he gets the sight or scent of wild turkeys. He loves to flush and fetch them, like this hen he did both with last weekend.

Don't let the soft brown eyes fool you, Hank's a dog possessed once he gets the sight or scent of wild turkeys. He loves to flush and fetch them, like this hen he did both with last weekend.

I guess his addiction, and that’s what it is, really, is because the birds are so big and provide so much scent. That he often finds them in flocks of 100 or more probably adds to his excitement.

At home he’s been nicknamed Eeyore  because he’s so laid-back around the house. Hank’s easily controllable when hunting waterfowl or pheasants.

Tuesday afteroon I was trying to get some good pictures of Hank rushing and flushing a big flock of turkeys. We’d seen a bunch of about 60 or so cross a ridge and hustled that way.

When we popped over the ridge I released him from heal thinking he’d be into the birds within a few yards.

No turkeys were in that valley. Hank found their scent and was off at full-speed.

I watched him charge up one ridge then disappear down the otherside. Eventually he was up and over the next. In the distance, maybe a half-mile away, I’m pretty sure I saw turkeys flying in all directions.

A tiny black dot on that far ridge proved to be Hank when I checked it with binoculars. He was looking back in my direction, giving me a “Hey, where were you? I found them!” kind of look.

I met him half-way back and his eyes were still bulging from excitement and his tongue  flapping like line-hung laundry on a windy day as he ran. He took a long drink and cooled his body in a nearby spring.

Sunday’s outdoors page will have more tales of our dog that’s a turkaholic.

Gumbo-thon!

A nasty winter system headed this way.

After Wednesday morning in a blind a bunch of us will be gathering for an annual lunch together as duck, pheasant, quail and turkey seasons come to an end.

Sounds like perfect conditions for a gumbothon!

I like many kinds of cooking but none more than throwing together a monster batch of gumbo.

That there are no real rules for a batch of the Cajun classic is a major attraction. It’s also fun to make it into monster-sized batches.

Most times I just walk out to our deep freeze and gather up an arm load of whatever I find.

The batch I made over the weekend includes the breast meat from a wild turkey gobbler we got last spring and the thighs from two young birds I shot this winter.

There’s also a wild pig roast, a dandy elk roast and four pounds of tube sausage.

I had to slum it and buy this year’s sausage. Most years I have a bunch of spicy brats or Polish sausage made from a wild pig. Last year Ed Markel contributed some danged fine homemade elk sausage that worked great.

I base my batches on some gumbo lessons from good friend Margaret Simien. She’s the mother of  former KU All-American basketball player Wayne Simien, Jr.   Every media report I ever read listed gumbo as his favored food.

I can see why.

Margaret learned to make gumbo from Wayne Sr.’s mother, a Louisiana native. Wayne’s family concedes that Kansas –born Margaret makes the finest gumbo in the family.

Here are the basics for a normal-sized batch, one that would feed about six people.

I basically did everything about 4X for Wednesday’s feast. Leftovers freeze well. Jerrod likes to take a small container to work and eat it with a package of microwave rice.

ALL-AMERICAN GUMBO

1 stalk of celery

1 large onion

1 lb. tube sausage (Johnsonville makes a New Orleans-style that’s great.)

2 chicken breasts*

garlic powder

Cajun seasoning

Seasoning salt

4-6 oz. roux *

file *

1-2 cups shrimp

*Most cookbooks have recipes for making homemade roux. I use Savoie’s instant roux that I order from www.cajungrocer.com. You can also order some amazing sausage from them, too.

*File is basically ground sassafras leaves used to thicken gumbo. It’s optional and can be found at some local grocery stores or online.

*Pheasant breasts and thighs work great in gumbo as does wild turkey. Most of my mega-batches have a venison roast or two.

Cut meat and veggies into bite-sized pieces and place in a large pot. Add enough water to cover the veggies and meat. Heat to a slow boil, stirring often.

Sprinkle liberally with garlic salt, Cajun seasoning and seasoning salt.

While it’s simmering, prepare the roux. If using instant roux boil about one quart of water and mix in the instant roux and stir and whisk until it’s totally disolved. Add to gumbo.

Let simmer another 20-30 minutes, stirring occassionally. Sample the broth. If it needs more “kick” sprinkle on more Cajun seasoning. If it needs more salt, add seasoning salt.

Cook rice, figuring about ¾  cup per serving of gumbo.

Add about 1 tbs. of file and stir into the pot of gumbo while you add the shrimp.

When serving, place rice in the bottom of a bowl and pour over the gumbo.

Other tips –

I like to make my gumbo two or three days in advance so the seasoning can work through all of the ingredients. If possible I’ll let it sit in the cooking pot in the garage or other cool place.

Again, there are no rules so get creative with the ingredients. Some use a lot of okra and others add peanuts. Rod Steven tells of adding shelled whole boiled eggs to the gumbo and putting one in each serving bowl.

Get creative, making each batch unlike any other is much of the fun.

So, while you’re eating your normal lunch Wednesday afternoon think of four good hunting buddies and a smattering of friends/landowners  and spouses coming in from the cold and sitting down to bowls of steaming gumbo.

I promise you, we’ll be having a great time.

Spring had sprung – for a few days

For the past few weeks we’ve been in the kind of winter Kansans won’t forget. Later this week we’re supposed to get more bitter cold and snow.

But in between we had a few days of false spring.

Saturday a buddy saw two live frogs on a muddy road. I saw the remnants of where something had eaten most of a garter snake the day before. In a spot where the sun hit and wind didn’t I saw a few flying insects buzzing around that afternoon.

Several friends reported hearing male cardinals singing at their best at dawn and dusk. While duck hunting we heard male pintails making the peeping call they use to attract the hens.

Though it seems out of place none of the above is unusual.

I’ve seen snakes active in Kansas all 12 months of the year. It’s the same with insects. Male cardinals seem to need little prodding to break-out into their pretty calls.

But they won’t be anywhere to be heard or found when the temps drop and the snowflakes fly later this week.

But they’ll be back. Much of nature is as ready for spring as we are.

Finally, some sun

People seem to be walking with a little extra spring in their step this afternoon.

Most I’ve talked to have commented on how nice it is to finally see some sunshine.

It has been quite the run of days with fog or heavy clouds. Wow, and it was so danged cold before that.

No, Wyatt, a golden retriever, isn't depressed because of Friday morning's fog. He's patiently waiting until his services are needed retrieving geese. You can read about his Friday morning hunt on Kansas.com/outdoors Sunda morning.

No, Wyatt, a golden retriever, isn't depressed because of Friday morning's fog. He's patiently waiting until his services are needed retrieving geese. You can read about his Friday morning hunt on Kansas.com/outdoors Sunday morning.

This afternoon’s sun is coming none too soon.

Lately I’ve noticed several people grouchier than normal. I’ve probably been even grouchier than usual – which is saying something.

Just ask my dog.

But six of us who hunted geese south of Haysville this morning have no reason to be in bad moods.

We easily got our combined limits of 18 Canada geese and saw many thousands more.

An article on the hunt will run at www.kansas.com/outdoors Sunday morning.

Hopefully we’ll be having plenty of sunshine.

Kansas has more CWD cases

Four more deer killed in northwest Kansas are suspected of having chronic wasting disease. That’s in addition to six deer reported to have the disease about three weeks ago.

Mike Miller, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks information chief, said the deer were shot during recent deer seasons. Tissue samples were taken from about 2,300 deer for testing at a K-State laboratory. Most came from the 2009 deer seasons. Slightly more than half have been tested.

The four recently reported as positive at K-State have been sent to Iowa for federal verification. The six sent to Iowa earlier this month were confirmed to have the disease.

Chronic wasting disease is always fatal in deer, elk and moose. It hasn’t been documented in livestock, pets or humans.

It was first identified along the Colorado/Wyoming border about 40 years ago. Kansas’ first case was in 2005 in the extreme northwest corner of the state. Ten deer tested positive for CWD last year.

It appears to be moving eastward and southward.

One of the four that recently tested positive at K-State was the first-ever from Logan County.

Amazing spirit

OK, rather you’re an archer or not you need to watch this video clip. It’s an amazing testament to the power of the human spirit and shows how the right mindset can overcome a less than perfect body.

Missing both arms this guy shoots better than 90-percent of the archers I’ve been around during my 40-plus years within the sport.

I promise you’ll feel better after watching this.

Click here and enjoy

1917 outdoors magazine

Recently at a wild game dinner a friend of a friend presented me with a framed June, 1917 issue of Forest and Stream magazine.

Luckily it’s in great shape and I can easily remove it from the frame for reading.

It’s been pretty enjoyable. Here’s some of what I’ve found-

-The back cover is an advertisement of “The Oldsmobile, Nineteenth Year.”

-One of the first articles stresses the basics of rifle marksmanship and states, “The time is ahead when you on your marksmanship may depend the safety of something you would want to fight to keep.”

That’s surely a reference to America’s recent entrance  into World War I.

-There was a precocious article on the importance of protecting the big game living within national parks. The article said deer, elk, moose, antelope and mountain sheep within the parks would be needed to re-stock the many areas of the American west were they’d been extirpated.

At the time only three states allowed elk hunting and none allowed pronghorn antelope to be legally shot.

-On the other extreme are ads showing huge stringers of Atlantic salmon from eastern rivers that completely lost the fish to pollution and the building of dams in the coming decades.

-There are few ads related to automobiles but several to train trips. One advertisement is from a  train line that would take anglers to the “virgin wilderness waters” of the North Carolina mountains.

-My favorite part of the magazine is a tiny one-inch ad buried amid a page near the back of the magazine. It’s for a funky kind of shoe for fishing and early fall hunting, with regular leather uppers and rubber bottoms.

They were being sold by some guy named L. L. Bean in Maine.

Pretty cool.

Strike nine – we’re out!

I can see it now. Some animal rights group will name me their “2010 Deer Guide of the Year.”

They’ll see me as no danger to whitetails.

Friend Carolyn and I headed out this afternoon(Sunday) for the last day of the January doe season in unit 15.

We found trails worn almost down to bare dirt in some places, fresh tracks and so much deer poo it looked like a raisin farm in some places.

But though we sat for nearly three hours we  didn’t see hide, hair, nostril, hoof, eye or any other part of a deer – again.

Nine hunts and only three deer seen and a couple of more heard. Not sure I’ll ever know where I went wrong.

And to end it all I almost got stuck when I drove the wrong trail heading home after the hunt.

I should have gotten the hint when a gust of wind about turned me into the Kansas version of “Balloon Boy.” Back in late November a  massive gust pushed my pop-up blind airborne just as I was tying the first anchor rope. I had a hand wrapped in the rope and got a pretty good tow southward until I got freed.

And there was the charging skunk and watching a nice buck at 11 yards the first day of doe-only season, plus some brutal cold.

But I learned quite a bit about birding from Carolyn, got some great trail camera photos and always had an excuse to sneak out for a little scouting between hunts. There were some good sunsets and a very close look at possibly the world’s ugliest coyote.

No deer were shot, but that doesn’t mean we totally failed.

A smelly decision.

Thursday evening I could have faced a decision unlike any other – having to decide between a deer and a skunk.

Here’s the deal -

Carolyn Schwab and I were deer hunting when a big ol’ skunk started foraging about 10 yards to our north. It was twilight and I expected deer to appear on a trail to the north at any second.

To take a shot Carolyn would  have fired a round right over the skunk, which happened to be directly upwind from where we waited. No doubt the shot from the ported .30-06 would have startled the skunk and if – or when – it sprayed the breeze would have brought  the putrid yellow cloud right to where we sat confined in a ground blind.

No deer showed. But had the tiniest doe trotted into sight I’d have begged Carolyn to pull the trigger.

It’s been that kind of hunt.

I’ve previously blogged about what’s evolved into my most frustrating deer hunting adventure in many, many years.

Thursday was our eighth time afield trying to get Carolyn her first deer. We’ve come close a few times but so far she hasn’t even flicked the gun’s safety, let alone taken a shot.

I don’t understand it. This fall and winter 10 people have either hunted with me or used my stands. Nine have had easy shots and eight killed deer. I’ve invested more time into Carolyn’s hunts than most of the others.

Between hunting and scouting we’ve invested a combined 70-plus hours. By hand-pulled cart I took in a pop-up blind complete with a shooting bench to help with the shot that’s never come.

I’ve learned the true meaning of “bone-chilling cold”  after some of our long sits.

So after all of that an extended bath in the below concoction and chucking a few clothes in the trash would have seemed easy.

Hopefully we’ll make it to the blind a final time this weekend. Skunk or no skunk, if a deer offers a good shot I’m going to be begging Carolyn to fire!

ANTI-SKUNKING POTION

Forget the tomato juice, use the following to remove the smell of skunk spray.

1 qt. hydrogen peroxide

1/4 cup baking soda

1 tsp. liquid dish soap

Dampen the smelly creature with water and work the potion in thoroughly and rinse. Repeat several times.

The recipe can be doubled or tripled and must be used immediately after it’s mixed. Avoid getting it in contact with eyes.