Monthly Archives: November 2010

Quivira to open to hunting Wednesday morning

Monday morning officials at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge announced they will welcome hunters in specific areas beginning Wednesday morning.

The refuge has been closed to all kinds of hunting for more than a month per refuge policy that suspends all hunting when endangered whooping cranes are present.

Two of the estimated 31 whooping cranes seen around the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge this fall. With the birds gone, hunting will again be allowed in special areas.

Two of the estimated 31 whooping cranes seen around the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge this fall. With the birds gone, hunting will again be allowed in special areas beginning Wednesday morning.

It’s been several days since whoopers were seen in the area. A press release said about 31 different whoopers were seen in the area this fall.

Recent reports indicate some impressive numbers of ducks and geese using the refuge.

For more information go to www.fws.gov/quivira

Wolves on the way?

The next time you think you see a big coyote in Kansas you’d better do a double-take. There’s a chance, albeit a very, very slim one, it might be an even larger canine predator.

On Nov. 13 a Missouri deer hunter shot what he thought was a large coyote and it turned out to be a wolf. It appears to be a wild male, possibly from the Great Lakes region. Testing is underway but won’t be known for some time.

Click here to read about it.

As you’ll read, a wild wolf tagged in the far north was shot in Missouri about nine years ago, too.

So, wolves in Kansas? It may have already happened.

This wolf was shot near Andover about 23 years ago. All indications were that it was wild.

This wolf was shot in Butler County about 23 years ago. All indications were that it was wild.

About 23 years ago a friend living in Butler County repeatedly saw what he thought was a huge coyote hanging very close to his house and barns.

When he shot the animal he knew he had something larger than a coyote a soon as he got to it.

Biologists and game wardens examined the animal and couldn’t be sure if it was a pure-bred wild wolf, a domestic pure-bred or a possible hybrid.

My friend was allowed to keep the wolf and got it mounted.

No doubt it could happen again.

Wolves are spreading across the Northern Rockies. Their population has spread far beyond the Yellowstone eco-system where they were re-introduced several years ago.

Over about the past year a Colorado mountain lion has logged more than 1,000 miles across the prairies of Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico.

Wolves are better built for distance travel than any feline.

Who knows, maybe some day I’ll hear more stories about sighted wolves than sighted mountain lions.

No, I could never be that lucky.

Mental meandurings from a deer stand

Archery hunting for deer is months of preparation for, hopefully, a few minutes of  unbelievable excitement. Once you see a deer so close you can count her chin whiskers or see the green bark embedded low on a buck’s antlers it’s a tough thing to quit.

But it also contains hundreds of hours with nothing to do but watch nature – which doesn’t exactly suck – and think.

Here are some of my thoughts from recent hunts -

***Maybe I’ve been focusing too hard on the wrong end of these deer. Last week Kathy and I had a venison pot roast cooked all day in the crock pot with loads of onions, carrots and potatoes. I’d carefully trimmed away all fat and membrane so we had very mellow-flavored meat.

It was amazing, as usual.

So maybe rather than a buck with large antlers I should be looking for a buck with a large butt. The bigger the butt the bigger the roasts. Makes sense.

***Birders and wildlife watchers don’t know what they’re missing by not dressing head to toe in camo and sitting in the woods with little movement for many hours. You get a lot better look at things than from your car or a hiking trail.

Saturday morning I had a golden-crowned kinglet absolutely fascinated with what I was in an oak tree. It landed on branches from three to ten feet away for a half-hour. They’re so small but so perfectly beautiful and I didn’t need binoculars to enjoy it.

I also got to watch a pileated woodpecker go to town on a dead hickory tree 30 yards away. Man, were the patches of bark and rotten wood falling!

***And it’s so much fun watching deer, especially those you don’t want to shoot for whatever reason. I had a lonely doe fawn wander by several times. (Its mother was probably off hiding from bucks.) It certainly had an itchy right ear. Using its back hoof it scratched and scratched, but only the right ear.

***I wonder how far this trail camera craze will go. Most hunters I know buy another or two every year. Someday will we have trail cams taking pictures of trail cams taking pictures of trail cams taking pictures of deer?

Still haven’t shot a buck, though I had a very close encounter of the “that’s never happened before” kind.

But that’s for a different blog down the road.

Monster mule deer not from Kansas

Online hoaxes come in all shapes, sizes and species, it seems.

Lately several Kansans have asked me about the photos of a huge non-typical mule deer supposedly either shot near Ellinwood or shot by someone from Ellinwood. Some e-mails say it’s a new world-record buck.

Wrong and wrong.

This big Canadian mule deer is part of a online hoax that says it's from Kansas and world-record. Wrong on both counts.

This big Canadian mule deer is part of a online hoax that says it's from Kansas and world record. Wrong on both counts.

According to Boone & Crockett Trophy Watch the big mule deer was shot in Saskatchewan and will score around 250-inches.

Huge buck, but certainly not a world record. It wouldn’t even be a state record if it was shot near Ellinwood, Elkhart or Ellis.

The Kansas non-typical archery state record scored 269 inches and was shot in 1989 by my friend Dean Hamilton.

According to Pope & Young the world-record is about 275 inches and comes from Colorado.

Pheasant season off to a good start

Granted, I’ve only talked amid friends and a few hunters at gas stations and cafes but it appears pheasant season is off to a pretty good start.

Most groups report seeing quite a few birds over the weekend.

There were a lot of happy hunting dogs pheasant hunting over the weekend - a lot of happy hunters, too.

There were a lot of happy hunting dogs pheasant hunting over the weekend - a lot of happy hunters, too.

The best I’ve heard of is 14 guys getting their limits of four-each by about 11:30 Saturday morning near Garden City. They got their birds out of CRP, food plots and places where there were both.

A buddy decided to go solo west of Pratt so he could work his young Brittany. He had his limit by about 10:30 a.m. and most of the pheasants held fairly well for the dog.

Closer to home a group of six got 16 pheasants west of Hutchinson on opening day, too.

Our Gov. can out-hunt your Gov.

Word out of Missouri is that most hunters reported slow deer activity on yesterday’s opening of the firearms deer season.

But their governor seemed to do just fine.

Click here for the link.

Gov. Jay Nixon simply being a field is a huge boost for hunting in the Show-Me State, not to mention that he tagged a nice eight-pointer and donated the venison to a program that furnishes meat for the needy.

Very cool.

Last spring, you’ll remember, Gov. Mark Parkinson shot a wild turkey on the Governor’s Turkey Hunt near El Dorado. Sure, it took him a couple of shots and it was his first-ever time hunting. He said in public and the media how much he enjoyed the outing and that he planned to go again.

Governor-elect Sam Brownback has expressed a desire to start a Governor’s Pheasant Hunt to help promote the sport.

Hard to beat that kind of support in either state.

Luck easy to find at Quivira

We’ve all heard the old addage of “better to be lucky than to be good.”

So it was Tuesday afternoon when I drove to the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, camera and telephoto lens on my lap. Winds were too high for sitting in a treestand. Once on the refuge usually plentiful deer were very few and very far between.

blog111210whoopers_mp0002So that found me driving Ol’ Red around the Wildlife Drive about an hour before sunset. Because of drought the Big Salt Marsh was very low and nearly void of waterfowl.

Because it was low hundreds of dead carp littered the thin water and shore. Because of the heavy south winds many carp were lying in the shallows at the marsh’s north end.

And there I found two adult whooping cranes gorging themselves on the bloated fish within 50 yards of the drive.

Often a very shy species these two whoopers were real hams for the camera. And since it was clear evening a true Kansas sunset made for some nice silhouette photography.

You can click here to see a photo gallery of the birds.

And had the winds not blown I’d have been hunting. Had deer been active I may not have made it to the Wildlife Drive in time to find the feeding whoopers.

I got lucky, but for outdoors photography that’s very easily done at Quivira.

Pheasant update

Only a few days before the biggest day on the Kansas hunting calendar – the opening of pheasant season.

Reports continue to be pretty good to excellent over most of Kansas. Unlike the past two seasons the harvest of fall crops is ahead of schedule so the birds won’t have nearly as many fields of uncut milo where they can seek sanctuary from hunters.

If there is a negative it’s the on-going dry weather. A few landowners and deer hunters say they’re seeing less birds in dry areas and more around ponds and other places where the birds can more readily get water.

It’ll be super-tough for dogs to smell birds if we don’t get some rain and the temperatures drop a bit.

Hopefully the cold front and rain in the forecast will hold on and give us plenty of both.

Game warden checks a welcome sight

I have avid hunting friends who’ve gone a decade or more without getting checked by a game warden.

Me, I’ve  been checked twice in the last two months.

Feeling persecuted? Not at all.

I figure if they’re checking me they’re surely checking others. So far they’ve always been simple checks and not hassles.

Game warden A.J. Meyer inpects a duck after checking to make sure Bob Snyder's shotgun was plugged.

Game warden A.J. Meyer inpects a duck after checking to make sure Bob Snyder's shotgun was plugged on Saturday's opening of duck season.

Saturday warden A.J. Meyer arrived when we got to our trucks after duck hunting. He was thorough, professional and courteous as he checked licenses and stamps, made sure our shotguns were plugged and inspected the ducks we’d shot.

Afterwords he spent a few more minutes just talking about hunting, his job, and a few other topics.

Then he went on his way, probably to check thousands more hunters in his career.

If I’m one of them, I’ll be glad to see him.

Kansas’ most awesome predator

Yesterday afternoon a friend was looking for mule deer on their family ranch in a rugged part of Gove County.

He wasn’t surprised to see a herd of antelope lazily grazing along. When he looked back a few minutes later the herd was running in a panic and one was down and dying or dead.

Atop the 40-pound fawn was possibly Kansas’ most awesome predator.

Mountain lion? – Nope.  Bobcat?-Nope. Coyote? – Nope.

Sitting squarely atop the antelope, and feasting away, was a big golden eagle.

Pretty cool but not too surprising.

Unlike bald eagles, which earn a lot of their living eating dead things or grabbing fish, golden eagles make their way through life mostly killing and eating mammals. Prairie dogs, cottontails and jackrabbits are common dinners but they can go big if they get the chance.

A little Googling showed several sites that talked of golden eagles eating small calves, lambs and fawns of antelope and deer.

A Wyoming study even documented golden eagles killing adult antelope. That’s a major accomplishment for a 10 to 15-pound bird. Click here to read the study.

Researchers watched goldens chase and attack antelope on several occasions, sometimes having to try several attacks before succeeding.

The big question that’s not totally answered is how the golden eagle actually kills the deer or antelope. They don’t seem to go for the throat, like cats. It’s possible their talons cause enough spinal damage to cause paralysis.

It appears that like coyotes and wolves, they simply grab on tight and eat the animal to death. One study mentioned watching an antelope live for about 10 minutes while the eagle ate away.

Disgusting? Nope, it’s nature, not Disney.

In the real world Friend Owl would have eaten Thumper.

Still, a bird killing even a small antelope.Wow!