Monthly Archives: March 2010

The frustration of a missing dog

Birdie, a black and white English setter, is missing – and it’s tearing at John Best’s heart.

She’s not even his dog.

“She’s a very much -loved family pet as well as a good hunting dog,” Best said in a Monday phone conversation. “Her owners are very dear friends. She probably hunted with me more than them but even if  it wasn’t a good hunting dog I’d be doing all I could to help find her.”

And that’s pretty difficult since Birdie is lost about six hours from his St. Louis home.

Best, Jim Petersen – Birdie’s owner – and two friends were heading back to St. Louis from an Oklahoma quail hunt when they spent the night at a Wichita motel near I-135 and the turnpike.

The next morning, Jan. 17, one of the other friends opened a kennel door and Birdie and another setter owned by Petersen were off and running. A few hours later a Wichitan spotted the male and called the phone number on its collar. Best said they saw no signs of Birdie despite about six hours of hard searching.

One of the hunters spent that night at the motel in case Birdie returned to the scene of the escape. Maggie Petersen, Jim’s wife, has twice traveled from St. Louis to Wichita to search for Birdie, check animal shelters, post fliers and talk with locals.

She talked with someone who’d seen Birdie about a week after her escape. They’ve heard nothing since. Not knowing, Best said, is much of the problem.

He said Birdie was wearing a collar with ID information and implanted with an ID chip. If the dog was hit by a car Best figures someone would have called to let them know. Though he admits the odds are long he hopes somebody has simply adopted the sweet-tempered dog, figuring she was dumped. He’s hoping they find out she’s a beloved dog and contact Best or  Petersen.

Best said he worries about the dog but also knows the pain his good friend, Petersen, is suffering. He also fears what impact current sadness  could have on the friendship the four hunters have shared for several decades.

“It’s not only the loss of a very good dog,” he said. “this may well have altered a 30 year friendship. It’s pretty sad.”

Best is hoping people reading this share the information with others. Anyone with any information on Birdie can call John Best at 314-368-8429. Jim Petersen can be reached at 314-249-9353.

Moose burger Mondays! (with recipe)

One of the perks of being an outdoorsman professionally and on my own time is a freezer full of great eats. In our 30 years Kathy and I have seldom bought meat unless it was already cooked and we were in a hurry. We mostly turned down offers of free beef when my dad was raising cattle.

We enjoy the healthy aspects  of game meat and have some danged fine ways to cook everything from doves to moose. The latter is something we have in copious amounts this year.

You may remember my tag-along moose hunt in Maine with Chris Tymeson. As well as a great experience I got to keep half of the meat from the steer-sized bull moose. That means we have more than 100-plus pounds of moose burger.

And that doesn’t suck. Moose meat is very mild-flavored and we like it even better than elk – and that’s saying something.

So, to make sure we work our way through the burger and don’t end up putting a huge amount into jerky we’ve decided to have moose burgers every Monday evening. Weather permitting I’ll grill them outside. If not, I’ll break out the George Foreman which is hardly a let-down.*

As we do with venison burgers we’ll spice the ground moose up a bit before it hits the heat. Very simply done.

1-2 lbs. ground meat (can be venison or if you’re slumming it – beef.) :-)

2-3 tbs. powdered Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing or other seasoning. *

Thaw meat and press on a plate until about one-inch thick. Thoroughly  sprinkle seasoning over the burger. Fold one side of the meat over the other then thoroughly mix with your hands.

If possible, let sit an hour or so. If not, form into patties and cook. Be careful to not over-cook the patties so they don’t dry-out. Serve while hot.

* Other tips -

Frying in a skillet will work, though it doesn’t let the liquid drain from the cooking meat as on a grill. It helps if any fat in the burger drains off since the fat within wild game can have a strong taste.

Any favored meat seasoning will do. We’ve also  had good success with Montreal steak seasonings or from some home-made rubs. Just pick the flavors you like the best.

Enjoy. All we’ve shared the cooking style with have given good reviews.

Special permits bringing big $$$

A program designed to raise added funds for big-game animal conservation programs in Kansas seems to be working.

At least four of seven 2010 special commissioners permits have already sold, bringing a combined $34,500.

The permits are annually awarded to conservation/sporting groups lucky enough to get their names drawn at a January Wildlife and Parks Commission meeting. Seven are offered, one to honor each of the Kansas Wildlife and Parks Commissioners. No more than one of the permit can be for elk or antelope.

This year one group selected the elk option and the others deer.

The commissioner permits are then re-sold and are valid during any season with the appropriate weapon, anywhere in the state.

Already deer permits sold by the Ark Valley Chapter of Ducks Unlimited and the Tri-County Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation sold for $5,500 each.

A permit auctioned by the Mule Deer Foundation at their annual convention brought $14,000. A permit to hunt elk at Fort Riley also brought $9,500 through the Kansas National Wild Turkey Federation.

Sheila Kemmis, who monitors the program for Wildlife and Parks, said the organziations get to keep about 15-percent of the money they raise. They must put the remaining 85-percent towards a conservation project approved by Wildlife and Parks.

The record amount raised was about five years ago when an elk permit sold for $23,000 at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s annual convention. The hunter who bought the permit did not get a Kansas elk.

Some permits have only sold for face-value – about $300- in the past.

The permits are popular with some non-resident hunters because it’s the only way they’re guranteed a permit to hunt mule deer. It’s also the only way they can legally shoot a mule deer with a centerfire rifle under current Kansas laws.

The elk permit was purchased by a Kansas hunter who had a commissioners elk permit in 2007. Regular permits for hunting bull elk at Fort Riley are very hard to draw and are once-in-a-lifetime.

Last year a Missouri hunter with a commissioners deer permit shot a western Kansas mule deer that grossed about 255 inches of antler. It was one of the biggest mule deer shot in the world last fall.

Yes, the fish were biting

In case you were trapped inside and wondering – yes, the fish were biting during yesterday’s warm afternoon.

I figured it was my professional duty to find out since so many people would be wondering. OK, so maybe I had a bit of writer’s-block and was looking for any excuse to head to the country.

Except for some ice-fishing it was my first fishing trip of the year. Had you seen me in action you’d have quickly realized that fact, too.

My fly line and my casting were both stiff and prone to snagging. Hank was also out of our usual fishing rhythm, trotting right through a loop of fly line. It took a few seconds go get one of his paws un-lassoed.

It took a few minutes before I believed a cast had a chance of catching a fish from a friend’s small pond near Newton.

I was casting a white and yellow buck tail Clouser with a slight weight on the head. (That’s the fly-fishing version of a simple jig.)

Several of my casts brought tiny bits of moss or weeds. When one of those clumps felt particularly heavy and pulled a bit I set the hook and a short fight was on. In such cold water the two-pound bass didn’t put up much of a fight.

The 14-inch crappie that came a few casts later didn’t, either.

I was kind enough to shoot a cell phone photo of each fish and send them to a few friends and family members.

No need to leave them wandering as they stared from the windows where they worked.

Kansas’ strangest dog

Keep your eyes open for a cool, huge white dog if you’re along the eastern edge of the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.

You won’t believe your eyes if you see his running buddy. I sure didn’t.

Last Friday I was near Quivira’s east entrance for some errands and wildlife watching. At dusk I was slipping out of insulated coveralls back at Ol’ Red when I noticed something trotting my way.

It was a big white dog. I’m talking well over 100 pounds that looked like some kind of Lab/cross. It had naturally short hair and an easy-going lope.

As I scratched its waist-high head I heard another animal coming.

When I looked up I saw a brown goat, and he trotted right up for some attention, too. It was obviously as happy to see me as was the dog and equally calm around humans.

The dog wore no collar but appeared to be well-cared for and very socialized around people. Ditto the goat. First the dog and then the goat trotted off to the north as I got into my pick-up.

A little later two friends joined me for some clean-up work around the old homestead where I’d parked.  It wasn’t long before the dog bounced into the light cast by my Coleman lantern. Seconds later the goat happily appeared, too.

The brown goat was as approachable and calm as any friendly dog. It’s the first goat I’ve really ever liked.

At one point I had to make a 500 yard walk to retrieve a backpack I’d left in some tall grass. Half-way through the trip I looked up and saw the dog and goat headed my way. When I made a playful lunge at the dog it ran happy circles around me. So did the goat.

Both politely wanted a little petting and scratching for making the trip.

I’d just started the walk back to my friends when the dog bolted far ahead. Twice it stopped and waited for the much slower goat to catch-up as they returned to the homestead.

Later that night I mentioned the odd couple to the landowner, a farmer who knows the area and all his neighbors very well. He’d never seen the dog or the goat. Saturday he made a few phone calls and nobody in the area had, either.

We were back in the area Sunday afternoon and, unfortunately, saw nothing of the dog or his short-horned buddy.

Maybe they were over on the refuge, hitting up visitors for a little attention.

If  you’re there and happen to see them, remember they both enjoy a little scratching behind their ears.

No denying it about mountain lions

Enough. I’m tired of hearing it – over, and over, and over.

In today’s Letters to the Editors section of The Eagle, Frank Chenoweth, of Clearwater, said “the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks denied there are cougars in Kansas.”

That’s news to me. Never in the 28 years I’ve worked closely with KDWP biologists, game wardens and upper-level managers have I heard anyone deny mountain lions in Kansas.

Not once.

(For the record, I’ve never denied it either. Within the past ten years or so I considered it almost a certainty we’ve had the occassional mountain lion in Kansas. I deny, though, the existence of “black panthers” in Kansas because black mountain lions have never, ever, been documented in the U.S. or Canada.)

Many times I heard KDWP  people  say “we have no proof.”  To a man and woman they said it was sure possible and, more lately, very probable to have the occasional big cat in Kansas.

And until a couple of years ago there was no solid proof. Thousands of times biologists followed leads that lead to no solid proof. “Sure-thing ” lion sightings and tracks on the snow lead to proof of coyotes, dogs or bobcats.

One particular houndsman, with dogs that annually ran lions in the mountains, drove from border to border hoping to be the first to tree a big wild cat in Kansas. Nada. In many years of following leads nobody even showed him a for-sure track.

Through it I never heard any of those following leads deny there could be mountain lions in Kansas.

Never. Still the accusations and assumptions keep coming. And I’m not sure why.

We now have proof in the carcass of a cat shot by a rancher and the fuzzy photo taken by a deer hunter. That confirmations are up in surrounding states also helps solidify the probability of a few mountain lions in Kansas.

More and more young male lions have been documented across the midwest. Most coming from an expanding Black Hills population or possibly from Colorado.

That none have been road-killed or regularly show up on Kansas trail camera pics prove they’re still a great rarity but nobody can deny they’ve probably here.

As far as I know, our state game agency never did.