Monthly Archives: July 2011

Another day another injury

I don’t excel at many things. But I bleed, bruise, scrape and scratch better than about anybody I know.

In barely 14 hours recently I put three new notches on one hand and nobody who knows me was surprised.

One reason I get so beat-up is because I’m a naturally-born klutz.  Also being seriously ADHD my body and attention are often going in opposite directions.

Probably the biggest reason I was the poster-child for band-aids as a boy was that I’ve always lived an active outdoors lifestyle.

As a friend said, “You don’t hear of anybody getting keyboard cuts, do you?”

The recent small wounds came from a pinch while adjusting a trolling motor. The next came from the point of a fillet knife when distracted by a seven-year-old asking one of many questions. The last was from the gill-plate of a walleye I grabbed seconds before it might have planted a treblehook in friend’s foot.

Every year I run long splinters under my skin and perforate myself with thorns, put knots on my head and bruise about every part of my body.

And occasionally I get creative, like that air-crash I survived in northern Canada. Well, technically I was hurt when I crashed my chest into the tail of a parked float plane while jumping from a float to shore and trying to avoid an elderly gentleman who’d stopped unexpectedly in front of me.

I fished all that day, suffered flying home the next and spent most of the third day in intensive care all wired up because I’d bruised my heart…or something like that according to a Dr. who didn’t really even care to see pics of the big pike I’d caught on a fly rod.

And I could go on and on…There was the time I injured my back while sky-diving. I fell 3,000 feet fine but twisted things when I tried to stand and turn too much while cinched down in the body harness.

There really area many more stories but I just don’t have time to share them. I need to get going so my step-brother can heft me 15 feet up into a tree with the front-end loader on our tractor so I can hang a wildlife feeder.

I’m pretty sure I’ll be fine.

That I’m not totally sure means I’m living life as I think it should be lived – on the go and outdoors.

Mountain lion takes 1,500 mile hike but proves little

Cue the “By gosh I told  you so, we see mountain lions in our backyard every Tuesday night between 7:02 and 7:11 p.m.” crowd.

Recent confirmation that a mountain lion road-killed in Connecticut was probably from the South Dakota Black Hills will bring more such talk, for sure.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ABOUT THE 140-POUND MALE CAT.

DNA testing showed the cat that lost a game of tag with an SUV was probably the animal that produced scat and sightings in several other states, too.

Interesting stuff, for sure. That’s a cross-country trek of more than 1,500 miles.

About five years ago we considered it amazing a radio-collared cat from the Black Hills was found dead on railroad tracks in northern Oklahoma, about 60 miles south of Arkansas City. That straight-line distance was about 660 miles.

Last year a cat collared in the Colorado Rocky Mountains wandered eastward, trekked from northwest to southwest Kansas in about 23 days before heading to central New Mexico. Those wanderings were documented at more than 1,000 miles thanks to GPS readings.

Personally, I think that shows the health of populations of mountain lions in the western U.S. and that young males have been prone to some impressive wanderings looking for new territories in the past few years.

Sorry to the “the state’s stocking them to kill deer” and “they’ve always been here because my brother-in-law’s sister’s goat-dipper’s second-cousin seen a female with 37 polka-dot kittens” crowd.

This is a fairly recent occurrence. It’s only within about the past ten years that we’ve gotten the road-kills, trail camera photos and DNA evidence that’s solid proof of what’s happening.

And by the way, there’s still never been a black mountain lion documented in North America. No tracking chips dug-up by a game warden when the guy down the road supposedly shot and buried a mountain lion that was attacking his horses.

Breeding populations east of the Black Hills, the Rockies or north of South Florida? Nope.

But pay attention when you’re out and about. Maybe now you will see one of these top-line predators on a walk-about from places further west.

I’d love to see one…but I doubt I’d believe myself when I told the story. :-)

Kansas City man new Wildlife, Parks and Tourism commissioner, Lauber new chairman

Donald Budd, Jr., of Kansas City, has been appointed to the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission.

Gerald Lauber, a Topeka commissioner, has been appointed commission chairman. His current term ends in 2014.

The appointments were made by Gov. Sam Brownback and reported to the media this morning by Robin Jennison, Wildlife, Parks and Tourism secretary.

Budd takes the place of Shari Wilson, also of Kansas City. Wilson’s second four-year term ended June 30. To date no commissioner has been appointed to a third term.

Sheila Kemmis, Wildlife and Parks assistant to the commission, said Budd owns Budd Enterprises, an agricultural and real estate firm. He’s an avid waterfowl and deer hunter and very involved in shotgun target shooting.

On July 20 Brownback appointed Randy Doll, of Leon, and Tom Dill, of Salina, to the commission. Doll took the commission seat of Kelly Johnston, of Wichita. Johnston was commission chairman for much of his two terms. His second term also ended June 30.

Still serving on the commission are Frank Meyer, of Herington, Debra Bolton, of Garden City, Lauber and Robert Wilson, of Pittsburg.

Early photographer gets the wildlife shots

Most of the day Kansas outside of air-conditioned buildings and cars is at a stand-still. Not much moves when it’s 100-plus degrees for the umpteenth day this month. But if your timing is right you can find a lot of activity in the Kansas wilds.

This was the only fawn that could be seen with two mature does early Friday morning. You have to wonder if others hadn't fallen prey earlier in the summer because of the drought.

I left home a bit before 5:30 a.m. Friday morning and headed to Quivira. An hour later sunshine was just beginning to really spread across the acclaimed national wildlife refuge when I arrived.

It didn’t take long to find things to photograph. A few geese were scattered on the Little Salt March. A mile or so to the north I caught a velvet-antlered whitetail just before he slipped into the relatively cool shadows of a cottonwood grove.

A hen quail heads for safety in a thicket of wild plum. Pretty good camo, huh?

On down the road I found more deer, including a spotted fawn that was more wary of vehicles than the does she was with. I got photos of a bob and hen bobwhite quail but was disappointed they had no chicks scurrying with them.

Up at the Big Salt Marsh I didn’t find an big amounts of water. Shorebirds like avocets worked the moist mudflats for  breakfast. Dead carp littered ares that had long been dry. A big flock of pelicans sat a quarter-mile or more from the shore, probably resting in only  a few inches of water.

I shot more photos of shorebirds and then again more of deer. Stopping by a bridge I walked a section of Rattlesnake Creek and saw where deer tracks came and went from a stagnant pool of water. It’s the kind of place where the midges that spread EHD to Kansas deer are probably thriving.

A long-legged avocet looks for snails and other goodies in the shallows of the Big Salt Marsh.

Little was moving on my drive back through the refuge. Deer traffic was down to a sighting about ever half-hour to just one or two distant whitetails headed into cover.

A small pond that had held six or seven great blue herons on the drive up to the Big Salt Marsh was down to just one and it was very spooky.

With little happening I decided to make the hour-long drive home. Checking I noticed I’d shot more than 250 frames, of which 30 or so would later be considered “keeper” photos.

As I drove out Quivira’s south entrance I noticed it was 8: 17 a.m. Most of my friends at The Eagle weren’t at work yet. On the way home I saw little evidence of wildlife on the move.

By then the 5 a.m. wake-up certainly seemed very worth the trouble. (To see more photos from the photography trip to the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge go to www.kansas.com/outdoors any time after Sunday morning. Open the story about drought and click on the link to the photo gallery.)

A velvet-antlered whitetail buck stops to check his backtrail before bedding early Friday morning.

Two new commissioners appointed to Wildilfe, Parks and Tourism

Two new members have been appointed to the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission by Gov. Sam Brownback.

A press release from Brownback’s office said Randy Doll, of Leon, and Tom Dill, of Salina, will take seats on the seven-member commission at an August 11 meeting near Great Bend.

The press release says Doll is the president of a real estate service, a life-long Kansan and outdoorsman.

Dill is a financial advisor with a deep love of bowhunting and managing for wildlife on a farm he owns.

They’ll take seats vacated by Kelly Johnston, commission chairman from Wichita, and Doug Sebelius, of Norton. Both had served two four-year terms and had not applied for re-appointment.

Shari Wilson, of Kansas City, has applied for re-appointment for a third four-year term. No word on her position has come from Brownback’s office though historically no commissioner has served more than two four-year terms.

Terms for Johnston, Sebelius and Wilson ended on June 30.

Wildlife, Parks and Tourism commissioners are appointed by the governor for four-year terms. No more than four commissioners can be from one political party. The commission works with the department and general public to help advise and regulate the management of the agency and many species of Kansas wildlife and state parks.

Doll and Dill come aboard at a time when the commission is setting what could be major changes in the collection of live bait by Kansas anglers. Some possible major changes in deer seasons are also up for discussion in the coming year. State park funding is a constant concern.

Other current commissioners include Frank Meyer, of Herington, Debra Bolton, of Garden City, Gerald Lauber, of Topeka and Robert Wilson of Pittsburg.

Loch El Dorado monster swims!

Pity the poor five-pound bass not paying attention in El Dorado Lake. He could become lunch at any moment.

Biologist Leonard Jirak struggles to heft the big flathead catfish biologists caught and released last Friday at El Dorado Lake.

Any angler using equipment short of a boat winch for a reel and pool stick for a rod could get his tail whupped by a beast swimming within El Dorado’s waters.

Last Friday Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism biologists caught and released a huge flathead catfish at the lake.

“It’s the biggest thing I’ve seen in my career,” said Craig Johnson, the lake’s fisheries biologist. “The pictures don’t do the thing justice, really. Not only was it a long fish it was a really thick fish, too, with huge head.”

Johnson said biologist Sean Lynott said it was the second-biggest flathead he’d ever seen. The only other was the 123-pound state and world record caught at Kansas’ Elk City Lake in 1998.

Johnson and others estimated the fish at a conservative 80 pounds. That number could change quickly for the fish with a five-gallon face. Asked if he thought Moby Catfish could swallow a five pound carp Johnson chuckled and said, “Absolutely no problem.”

Johnson and others were electro-fishing the lake that day, sending jolts of electricity into the water to hopefully stun blue catfish. After reaching the surface the blue catfish were measured, weighed and released unharmed.

Craig Johnson, El Dorado Lake's fisheries biologist, with the huge flathead catfish. Conservative estimates put the fish at 80 pounds or more.

The shocking boat was in water about 30 feet deep over the old Walnut River channel when the big flathead floated to the surface.

Biologists put the huge fish into a large holding tank of water where it got plenty of oxygen and quickly recovered. After a few photos it was released back into the lake.

Flathead catfish are currently the largest fish in Kansas, living in most river systems and sizable lakes. Kansas fishermen regularly catch 60 to 70-pounders using hand-sized or bigger live fish for bait. Occasionally anglers fishing for walleye or bass will tie into a sizable flathead while fishing with lures.

Several years ago a flathead weighing about 60 pounds was added to an aquarium with other Kansas fish at the Cabela’s store in Kansas City. True to the species the fish spent most its time resting on the bottom.

Cabela’s staff said every few days, though, they’d count and there would be a two-pound crappie or nice-sized bass missing.

Because they mainly eat live fish and are so passive the meat of flatheads is mellow-tasting, tender and white.

Summer swims = fall and winter fitness

It’s about as far from the frigid days of December as we can get. It’s more than 80-degrees at 6 a.m. Hank’s panting just walking around. But what we do some mornings helps him greatly on morning’s when we’re both shivering.

Summertime swims let dogs exercise while staying cool. It's also easy on the joints, tendons and muscles of older dogs, too.

Two or three mornings a week Hank and I are at the water by the time the sun’s fully up. With decades of practice I’m splashing  plastic retrieving dummies 60 yards or more into the water and making shorter tosses into knee-high weeds along the shore with bulls-eye accuracy.

So it’s gone for every summer of Hank’s life. Water-work is a way for him to exercise without getting too hot. Swimming also puts no extra strain on his joints. That’s really important now that he’s 10-years-old.

Like taking a kid from a bathtub, Hank’s leaving the water re-energizes him and he romps around like a dog half his age as he makes dry fetches. I give him a few minutes between retrieves to just be a dog, which in his case means peeing on things at a mind-bobbling rate.

(I swear, the dog’s claimed more ground than Lewis and Clark and the Spanish Conquistadors combined.)

Though far from the tougher work sessions we’ll have when it’s cooler I’m able to use whistle commands enough to keep him in-tune and listening. Summer hand-signals are simple but it makes sure they’re far from forgotten.

Sometimes we have an audience. Kids often stop and watch. Sometimes I’ll let them toss the dummy a time or two. Most laugh the first time Hank showers them with a good shake.

Ducks and geese often swim over to see what’s going on. Hank  weaves in and out of their midst to get to the dummies. He has no interest in the birds until shotguns are part of the game.

Unlike most Labs he keeps his weight in-check through the year because of the morning swims. As he was when he was a two-years-old he hits the scale at about 84 pounds, is deep-chested and slimmer in the hips and middle than the shoulders.

Physically the exercise puts him at ease for the rest of the day. Having had a chance to do his job for the pack leader (me) mentally mellows him for a while, too.

He spends most of the rest of the day snoozing. Sometimes when I see his paws twitching I wonder if he’s dreaming of ducks or pheasants this fall.

At least he’ll be in as good of shape as possible for a guy his age.

Wichitan featured on Sportsman Channel show

Saturday at 4 p.m. Wichitan Brett Graham will relive cooler times of last fall.

Thousands of Americans could be joining him as he watches a video of goose hunting with friends.

Brett Graham with one of his favorite hunting buddies.

Last season Graham helped shoot an episode of Brotherhood Outdoors, a television show that chronicles members of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance in the field.

The show is on the Sportsman Channel. That’s channel 252 on Cox.

Show host Tom Ackerman was along for the hunt near the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.

Most episodes include a union member being taken somewhere on their dream hunting or fishing trip.

Graham said he was fine with having the show shot where he regularly hunts in Kansas.

“I’d rather they come and hunt with me than go somewhere else,” said Graham, a union machinist at Spirit. “I love Kansas and it seemed a cool opportunity to show people there’s more to Kansas hunting than pheasants and whitetails.”

Graham also operates Liberty Chesapeakes Hunting Guides and Kennel, a waterfowl guide service when he’s not working for Spirit.

On the second day the group of four hunters totalled 20 geese, including near limits of Graham’s favored whitefronts.

Brotherhood Outdoors shows usually feature how unions have well-served featured members.

“In my case the story is that my wife (Dana) has MS,” Graham said. “She’s been able to get the help she needs to lead a pretty normal life because of the health benefits the union has provided.”

Fishing kids say the darndest things

I went fishing with a 7-year-old last Friday evening. What I heard was as memorable as what we caught.

“I guess he’s really disappointed he decided to eat that lure.”

Konner Jaso said after watching a bass he’d hooked jump high out of the water.

Some may have seen an article last month about fishing in the Flint Hills with Konner. We made most of our equipment, skipped rocks, pieced-together cattle skeletons and picked wild flowers. CLICK HERE TO ACCESS THAT COLUMN.

Michelle and Konner with two bass they caught Friday evening.

Friday evening Konner, his mom, Michelle Ewert, and I caught about 25 bass from eight to 20-inches long.

They didn’t miss a detail when I filleted four smallish bass for their trip home.  Konner promised to call after he’d eaten the fillets coated in Andy’s seasonsing. Sunday evening he called.

“Hmmm, probably eating them,” Konner said when asked if it was more fun catching or eating the fish.

But what do you expect from a kid who said, “Lunch,” when asked his favorite part of going to school? 

Fishing as hot as the weather

Weathermen say it was the hottest weekend in more than 30 years in many parts of Kansas.

Gardens died, lawns wilted and many people stayed indoors all weekend.

And a friend and I enjoyed some great angling.

While many were stuck inside complaining about the heat Sherry Chisenhall spent a few hours fishing at a local lake where she caught these nice-sized walleye.

The fish were walleye, some stretching to nearly two-feet in length. As fat as feedlot steers they produced fillets as thick as $20 ribeyes.

Kathy and I feasted on my share Sunday noon.

Do you have any idea how good those walleye fillets tasted grilled with onions, sweet peppers, green beans, squash and tomatoes fresh from the garden with a few store-bought mushrooms thrown in?

No matter what you’re thinking those fresh fillets tasted even better.

The goal Saturday was to scratch “catch a walleye” off Sherry Chisenhall’s bucket list. Sherry’s The Eagle’s editor. She’s also a lover of the outdoors. She’s an accomplished birder and we’ve had some good evenings fishing for bass.

Her best bass is about six pounds. A few weeks ago she caught about fifty bass one evening, with two weighing more than four pounds.

Saturday morning we fished with a friend who helped us catch some of the nicest walleyes I’ve seen in many years.

Where?

It was a lake not far from Wichita

Want more details?

Check next Sunday’s outdoors page.

…did I mention how incredible those thick, sweet, fresh walleye fillets tasted?

Wow!