Monthly Archives: October 2010

Good and bad of duck opener

It appears hunters out for last weekend’s opening of the low plains early zone duck season met with mixed success.

So far the best reports have come from the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area.

An estimated 650 hunters were out for Saturday's opening of duck season at Cheyenne Bottoms. it's the most hunters seen in several years. Success was mixed.

An estimated 650 hunters were out for Saturday's opening of duck season at Cheyenne Bottoms. It's the most hunters seen in several years. Success was mixed.

Biologist Ted Bidrowski said the area was holding about 70,000 ducks when the season opened.

He and three friends shot limits by about 8:40 a.m. Bidrowski gave a lot of credit to hunting partner Jason Black, who had scouted the area well.

Area manager Karl Grover estimated there were about 650 hunters out early Saturday morning. He said that’s the most for an opening day in quite a few years. Success was mixed.

“Some guys seemed to do wonderful and some guys came back with nothing,” Grover said. “I think most of the ducks headed to (the refuge) pretty quickly once things got going.”

Bidrowski estimated about two-thirds of the birds taken were blue-winged teal with a fair number of pintails,too.

At the McPherson Wetlands hunters mostly shot bluewings and wood ducks said Hal Kaina, the local game warden. Unfortunately not a lot of either were taken.

He said he only found about 35 vehicles scattered around the area and he saw few, if any, hunters with limits.

“Friday it was in the low 90s and most people guessed the ducks hadn’t really started moving in,” Kaina said. “People seem to be hoping for a little colder weather to help things out a bit.”

Hunter dislocates his knee, but he got the bird!

Duck hunters are known to be a hearty bunch of fools, me included. We sit for hours in extreme cold with snotcicles hanging from our noses and lay in the mud for hours.

All of us have a story about filling our waders with water so cold for hours our voices sound like we are on helium.

But there aren’t many as tough as Rick Tomlinson, of Great Bend. At least I’m not.

Rick Tomlinson said it really hurt when his knee popped out of socket in the mud at Cheyenne Bottoms. It hurt even more when he pushed it back into place so he could continue hunting.

Rick Tomlinson said it really hurt when his knee popped out of socket in the mud at Cheyenne Bottoms. It hurt even more when he pushed it back into place so he could continue hunting.

On Sept. 26, he and three buddies were teal hunting at Cheyenne Bottoms, a place as legendary for its boot-sucking muck as great hunting. Tomlinson swung his shotgun on a blue-winged speedster and fired.

That’s when his twisted knee popped out of socket since his leg hadn’t twisted along with the rest of his body.

(I’ll give you a few seconds to wince and squirm……….OK, there’s more.)

He knew what had  happened and that time was not on his side.

“My foot was pointing in the wrong direction so I knew it was out,” he said. “The pain was really bad but I knew it would be a lot worse in ten minutes as those muscles and tendons started to tighten.”

So, he sat there in the water, resting on a small platform he’d brought for his dog, and pushed his knee back into socket.

(Take a few more seconds to groan and squirm if you need to. Me, I’d have been crying like a little girl with her finger caught in a closed door.)

But the story has a happy ending. He’s on the mend and his doctor said he did the right thing.

More importantly, he got the teal and more.

“I stuck around, sat on the stand and shot the other two teal I needed to limit-out,” Tomlinson said. “I had to or that would have been the only time all teal season I didn’t shoot a limit. A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.”

Fishing with a kid named Konner

I gained a couple of new fishing partners last evening – Michelle and her six-year-old son, Konner. She’s been a good friend of our family since her high school days with our daughter, Lindsey.

Her son’s the kind of kid who gives you faith in our future – articulate, intelligent, extremely polite, respectful and sees the world as a giant adventure.

Six-year-old Konner's first fish was a two-pound bass. His second was the three-pounder pictured.

Six-year-old Konner's first fish was a two-pound bass. His second was the three-pounder pictured.

You know what had to happen when I learned he’d never caught a fish.

Rather than ol’ fashioned hook-and-bobber fishing, which can bring boredom, I set Konner up with a Zebco 33 spin-cast reel and a spinner spiced-up with a worm.

For a kid simply casting is an adventure.

Konner’s from an athletic family so casting wasn’t a problem. Most of his casts went well. He quickly learned to vary the height of his rod tip and speed of his retrieve to keep the lure out of the moss.

He asked a lot of good questions, especially when a fish was brought aboard. Konner showed no fear of touching any catch and gladly did the honors when it was time for something to be released.

His first fish was a two-pound bass. His second was a three-pounder. Both taxed his small arms as did a few more nice bass as the evening wore-on. He never gave-up fighting a fish and he never stopped giggling during the event.

Seemingly rare for his generation Konner is long on quality time with his parents and short on time in front of the television. He’s learned to entertain himself and be creative.

So for the trip Konner made his own simple fishing pole at home. It was a short stick, a section of dental floss and a staple for a hook. Pretty cool, huh?

Once while I was untangling a mess from his rod Konner announced he was going to try fishing with “his” fishing pole. When he lowered the floss overboard the staple must have surprised a fish on our stringer because the water erupted.

Water from the spray dripping from his face Konner, and his mom laughed a long time about the wet surprise.

At least a dozen times during the two hours Konner commented how much he enjoyed fishing.

Trust me, I enjoyed fishing with Konner and his mom even more.

New duck zone boundaries a concern

About 25 local waterfowl hunters gathered at the Great Plains Nature Center Monday evening for Wildlife and Park’s presentation on duck and goose hunting in Kansas.

The main topic of interest was the exact boundaries of a proposed new duck zone in southern Kansas and when opening weekend might be within that zone. Any changes wouldn’t be made until the 2011 seasons.blog100510seqn}_mp

The proposed zone basically runs from around Ottawa, westward to below Dodge City. The area around the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge would be included.

(To see a map of the proposed new zone go to kansas.com/outdoors.

Many hunters from about Wichita westward aren’t in favor of the new zone if it leads to a later start of duck season.

Biologist Faye McNew explained southeast Kansas duck hunters and public marsh managers have requested a season that opens and closes later, like in early November. Their marsh crops seem to mature later and their fall flights of ducks arrive later than in most of Kansas.

Hunter/landowner Richard Waite was one of many in attendance who said a later opener would cost him hunting opportunities at early migrants, like teal, gadwall and widgeon. Others said their ponds or marshes would probably be frozen the last few weeks of the season.

McNew listened to concerns and reminded those in attendance that the boundaries of the proposed new zone are preliminary, more input would be taken by the public from meetings and surveys. The topic would also have to pass the Kansas Wildlife and Parks Commission before it could become a regulation.

A lot of talk was given to making the westard boundary of a south unit Highway 77. It met with high approval. Another consideration is to go down Highway 77, then include the southern tier of counties westward for those who like late season hunting on the Arkansas, Ninnescah and Chickaskia Rivers.

Kelly Johnston, commission chairman, was in attendance and talked with biologists and sportsmen.

Fishing for a fishing pole

It was a freaky kind of deal when I had a rod and reel go overboard late in the summer. It was no real surprise that I eventually got it back.

I was helping a guest and had a plastic worm about three feet in the water over the side of the boat. The fish were active and a bass grabbed the lure. No, I never lost that rod and reel.

As the bass pulled down on the line it caused the back of that rod to tip up. It hit another rod and tossed it in the drink. Didn’t care much for the rod but it was favorite bait-casting reel.

A few days ago I was back at the same pond and darkness was coming fast. Still, I figured I had 5-10 minutes to spare so I went to the general area of where I’d lost the outfit.

To the end of the line of my heaviest outfit I tied an old-fashioned snap chain stringer. You know the kind, about four feet of chain with metal snaps for holding fish.

I opened every snap and slowly moved over the area. Nada on my first pass.

On my second drift through I felt added weight, slowly reeled up the line and found the lost rod and reel. Two of open snaps had connected. One was between the line and the rod and the other had the reel.

A buddy is cleaning the reel and said it’ll be good as new. I’m picking it up today.

That’s the fourth time I’ve used the open chain stringer to pull rods from the water. I think I’m four for four, actually.

The most important was the first time I tried it. I was about 15 and a buddy kicked a spinning outfit off the dock. I was my Dad’s favorite rod and reel and Father’s Day gift from my mother who’d died the year before.

It’s now mine and considered a family heirloom.

Duck Commander/Bass Commander

Sorry for the late notice but I just got an e-mail about  a big waterfowling expo this weekend in Bixby, Okla. Part of the event is a chance to meet and eat with Phil Robertson, the famed Duck Commander.

Click here for details or call 918-991-9900.

Sunday’s outdoors page features an article on spending a recent morning with Eric Akred. Based on that morning you could refer to him as the Bass Commander.

Eric Akred with the 4 1/2-pound bass that struck on the first cast of the day.

Eric Akred with the 4 1/2-pound bass that struck on Wednesday's first cast.

He’s one of the fishing department managers at Gander Mountain, a successful tournament bass angler and teaches a class on bass fishing at WSU.

His experience, mixed with ideal conditions and a perfect private lake, gave me more than enough material for the article on fall bass fishing.

We guess we caught at least 100 bass in less than four hours. All of mine were on a $1 white spinnerbait while Akred used tackle worth more than my truck.

OK, so most people carry more cash in their pocket than Ol’ Red’s worth…you get the idea, though.

A three-pound largemouth bass jumps trying to shake a popper from its mouth.

A three-pound largemouth bass jumps trying to shake a popper from its mouth Wednesday morning.

Be sure to check Sunday’s outdoors page and go to kansas.com/outdoors afterwards to see a photo gallery from what Akred said was his best-ever bass fishing trip.

Have a great weekend!