Monthly Archives: July 2010

Cheyenne Bottoms looking like fall

Just back from Cheyenne Bottoms researching an article on the area’s sky-high population of crawfish. We saw them by the hundreds.

While fall migrants were still in low numbers at Cheyenne Bottoms, super-sized crawfish were in great supply. You can read about a day of catching "prairie lobsters" on the Aug. 7 outdoors page.

While fall migrants were still in low numbers at Cheyenne Bottoms, super-sized crawfish were in great supply. You can read about a day of catching "prairie lobsters" on the Aug. 7 outdoors page.

But while the temperature and green vegetation said middle of summer some things we saw made us think of fall.

Several nice flocks of blue-winged teal, with 15-20 birds per bunch, appeared to be newly arrived migrants. We saw several big flocks of shorebirds. Sorry, I can’t tell you which ones but my hosts said they hadn’t seen many like them before the past few days.

No question the early stages of the fall migrations are upon on. It at least gives us hope the real fall migrations and weather conditions can’t be far away.

Lab, fawn play it their ways

Normally I don’t post clips of wildlife in civilized situations but this clip of a fawn playing with a happy Labrador retriever -(are there any other kind?) is pretty special.

It’s interesting both animals try to utilize types of play that come naturally. For the Lab it’s playing with the ball. For the deer it’s standing tall and boxing.

Note it’s the dog that seems to say, “OK, we’ll do it your way…but are you sure you don’t want to play with this ball?”

It’s a fairly long clip. Sorry, I have no details on the origin.

Click here to see the clip.

Grand wildlife performance nightly in Wichita

One of Kansas’ top wildlife spectacles is again playing deep within Wichita.

Nightly upwards of 30,000 purple martins are gathering to roost amid a line of trees at the edge of a parking lot at the Via Christi Regional Medical Center-St. Francis Campus.

Kevin Groeneweg, a local birder, last night reported online that the clouds of martins gathered above the trees at about 8 p.m and the best viewing was at about 8:30 p.m. All was quiet by about 9 p.m.

This is the fifth consecutive summer martins have gathered on the hospital grounds as they prepare to migrate to Brazil. Over the next 10-15 days the flock could reach as high as 50,000 martins before large numbers begin to leave.

Groeneweg said they’ve probably picked their gathering site because it’s well-lit and wide-open. Purple martins, most of which have lived all summer in man-made bird houses, also equate humans with safety.

The birds can be viewed from vehicles in a number of nearby parking lots. Some wildlife watchers sit out in lawn chairs, either wearing wide-brimmed hats or holding umbrellas.

Much of the viewing is watching clouds of martins quietly moving overhead.  Eventually they come by the thousands from all directions. Many fly low over the parking lots, tracing the contours of any cars, trees, buildings or people they encounter.

Wichita Audubon will hold an informational  field trip at the roost on Aug. 11. Participants are asked to meet at the parking lot south of the hospital, just west of the railroad tracks, at 8 p.m. Binoculars are highly suggested.

Hats, too!

Rod and reel overboard!

I have no clue why it hasn’t happened sooner. Dozens of times I’ve made a last-second grab for a fishing rod headed towards the deep. I can think of three or four times when one actually splashed but I had it back in-hand within a few minutes.

But last night one of my favored reels became an innocent victim to an aggressive bass and an inattentive bass fisherman. The latter, of course, was me.

I’d taken 19-year-old Cameron Hershberger to the watershed east of Newton where the bass fishing’s been pretty good of late. He’s in visiting his grandmother, Jane. The bite’s been best in the mornings but my schedule would only allow an evening trip.

So, I’m fishing a Texas-rigged red worm and am unhooking a two-pounder when my cell phone rings. It’s an elderly buddy calling and I always take his calls. I hurry, unhook the fish, drop it and the lure back into the water. The worm’s scrunched up on the hook and maybe two feet below the boat – maybe.

Just as I opened the phone the fishing rod bucked and tipped up as a bass hammered the lure. I made a successful grab for it mid-pole. But as it kicked up the butt knocked another rod up and over the side of the boat. Cameron made a valiant grab but missed the sinking rod by inches.

That’ll teach me to let a lure dangle in that pond. I should have already learned my lesson.

About ten days ago I was fishing with Sherry Chisenhall, working on something in the boat, when a bass also grabbed a dangling Culprit worm barely below the surface. That time the rod’s butt hooked on the underside of my knee before it could fly out.

But all’s not lost. I have a pretty good idea where the sunken rod is at. Sometime soon I’ll head back and drag a chain stringer with all of the clips opened back and forth through the area.

To make sure I focus on that effort I’ll probably leave my fishing rods in the truck.

Well, at least if I take one along I danged sure won’t be letting any more lures dangling in the water.

The bass out there are nuts and super-aggressive – but I guess that’s probably why I keep going back.

6 ducks, with 2 pintails, probable daily limit

The thumping sounds you’re hearing from across Kansas are the sounds of retriever tails banging kennel walls and carpets as they wag to the good news.

Kansas duck hunters will probably get to shoot an extra duck a day this fall and winter.

The past several seasons the daily limit has been five with only one pintail. Only a few years ago pintail season was only about half that of most species.

Faye McNew, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks waterfowl biologist, said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has offered Central Flyway states the following daily bag limit guidelines.

0726blog001_mp6 ducks per day -

up to 5 mallards -

up to 1 hen mallard *-

up to 2 pintails

up to 3 wood ducks

up to 2 redheads

up to 2 scaup

1 canvasback

(* the feds actually allow up to 2 hen mallards per day, though Kansas routinely limits the take to 1 per day at the request of sportsmen)

McNew expects the department to propose the above daily limits at the Aug. 12 Wildlife and Parks Commission meeting in Mankato. The feds have also OKed a 74-day duck season. McNew isn’t sure what those proposed dates will be.

Remember when we wanted heat

You have to wonder if these two February guys ice-fishing were dreaming of summer heat as they drilled deep holes on a frozen Wilson Lake in late February.

You have to wonder if these two February guys ice-fishing were dreaming of summer heat as they drilled deep holes on a frozen Wilson Lake.

Remember when we had a winter that went on and on and how many millions of times we said we couldn’t wait for the warmth of summer.

Now I find myself longingly looking at photos of ice-fishing and hunting in the snow. Watching a big flock of geese cutting through blowing snow as they come into decoys sounds pretty good.

Piling fat crappie beside a hole in the ice sounds more fun than sweating like a sprinkler hose while casting amid swarms of mosquitoes.

It will all come with time, thankfully.

Probable new world-record catfish from Missouri

And here I thought a 25-pound northern pike was something to really be proud of.

Click this to read the story about a possible world-record blue catfish from Missouri.

According to CNN it weighed 130 pounds. Their article said the Missouri Department of Conservation verified the weight and species.

No doubt the “big” northern pike was a lot prettier, though. :-)

White perch problem growing at El Dorado

One of the scariest parts of my job has been watching how invasive species are invading Kansas waters and lands.

In my short ten years at The Eagle I’ve done stories on when zebra mussels, white perch and silver carp were first documented in the state. All three have since spread widely.

It’s been about one year since an angler reported catching two white perch at El Dorado Lake. Wildlife and Parks biologists then set some nets and found another.

A few days ago two anglers fishing with nightcrawlers for walleye caught more than a dozen white perch in a very few minutes. That doesn’t bode well for the lake’s fishery.

I’m hoping to have more details on Sunday’s outdoors page.

Never easy raising twins

It’s emotionally demanding trying to ride herd on young twins for any kind of mother. This photo taken on one of our food plots at our farm shows it can be physically challenging, too.

With most of her physical energy going to  producing milk for young fawns,this doe is looking very thin. She also appears to be dealing with lots of ticks.

With most of her physical energy going to producing milk for young fawns,this doe is looking very thin. She also appears to be dealing with lots of ticks.

You can easily see her ribs and pelvic bones because most of what she eats goes to producing milk.

Checking the photo on a larger screen shows lots of ticks and some large areas of hair loss, too.

The fawns, however, are shiny and fat.

So it usually goes in the world of white-tailed deer. Probably 75-percent of the Kansas does have twins another 10-percent or so have triplets.

Keep in mind this doe’s standing amid a lush clover field. There’s also plenty of natural browse in the area, too. It was a hard winter but a lush spring. Heat and humidity have been very high the past two weeks.

But this doe’s fortunes will probably change in coming weeks as the fawns become more dependant on vegetation. She’ll also give them enough kicks and head-bangs to stop their efforts to nurse.

And within about six weeks acorns and other mast will begin to fall and provide even more food. The does will have about two months to fatten-up before they’re bred again. After that winter is only about a month away.

From then on much of what a doe eats goes into the fawns developing within.

Fishing hotter than the weather

The weather’s  been all we fear late July in Kansas can be – air temperatures around 100 degrees, jungle-like humidity and lake water that feels as warm as bath water.

Fishing conditions at their worst, right?

Wrong. This morning at least 60 bass hit lures like it was April at a watershed east of Newton. It was a wonderful surprise to a spur-of-the-moment trip where 8 or 10 between us would have left us thrilled.

Eagle editor Sherry Chisenhall met me at 7 a.m. in Newton and we headed the five miles to the little lake. The first 15 minutes were fair as we each caught a decent bass along the dam.

We caught another four or five from a nearby cove and were pleased.

Then things got very good in the shallows at the lake’s west end and positively insane around a couple of mid-lake island.

She fished a 1/4 -oz. spinnerbait with a yellow and chartreuse skirt while I tossed a Texas-rigged 7 1/2-inch red Culprit worm. Seriously, the action was nuts!

From around an island smaller than a lot of living rooms we caught 25-30 bass. A lot of the largemouths were 2-3 pounds. A lot.

At least a dozen times we both had fish at the same time. I about had a rod yanked overboard when a bass smacked the bait only inches below the surface while I dug for something in my tackle box.

Sherry’s lure was once hanging maybe four inches from the boat when a bass made a rush at it and smacked into the boat – hard.

This lake’s often good but nothing like this before. Honestly, if we went two or three casts without a strike we considered in a noteworthy accomplishment. I caught five nice bass with as many casts from a patch of water off an island no bigger than a couch.

Most of the fish smacked lures hard and came to the boat with huge bellies. A major feeding frenzy was on.

And the action was good well into the morning. Sherry caught two nice bass as I was gathering up my gear in the bottom of my Scanoe.

The skin on our thumbs feels like sandpaper from holding the Velcro-like lips of so many bass.

It was probably the best two hours of bass fishing I’ve had in almost 50 years of chasing the silly things…and it happened in the middle of a red-hot summer.

Go figure.

No, go fishing. You just never know when they’ll be biting like crazy.