Monthly Archives: August 2011

Wildlife beats the traffic

It appears the bighorn sheep, buffalo and other wildlife at the Black Hill’s Custer State Park don’t much care for traffic.

Hard to find at twilight, Custer State Park's buffalo were easily seen mid-day.

On vacation last week we twice went on evening drives on the area’s famed wildlife loop and saw few of either.  We did, though, see dozens of other vehicles out and about also looking. There were also wagons being pulled with noisy tourists and signing cowboys and assorted tour SUV’s, too.

Seemed strange, since twilight is the best time to see wildlife on Kansas drives.

A small band of bighorn sheep licking something from the edge of the road. Salt from winter care?

So when Kathy wanted a quick mid-afternoon drive our last day in the Black Hills I wasn’t expecting much…but within a few minutes we found a herd of more than 100 buffalo grazing beside a popular road. We also saw a small band of bighorn sheep and the park’s obnoxious “begging burros” that had traffic stopped while people illegally fed them.

Other animals commonly seen were pronghorns, whitetail deer and wild turkeys.

Oh, and trout, I saw quite a few trout. Go to to see some cool fish photos and a story about fishing in the Black Hills.

When predation meets profits

Since the first fox stole a Pilgrim’s chicken there have been conflicts between humans and predators looking for an easy meal in America.

We lost chickens to hawks and coyotes and sweet corn to raccoons on our family farms for generations in eastern Kansas. Some years we lose a significant percentage of our farm’s soybean crop to deer.

But that’s nothing compared to what’s happening to a South Dakota business that has ospreys eating some very expensive trout.


It’s hard to fault the birds, finding hundreds of trout stacked thick in gin-clear water.  It’s hard to fault the business owner who’s seeing $10,000 or more annually leave his pay-t0-fish operation in the talons of birds for wanting something done about the problem.

Federal law, obviously, says he can’t take lethal measures. Nobody has offered a workable solution or to reimburse him for his losses…and those are some serious losses.

It’s an interesting problem, the kind that may become increasingly common in the future.

93-year-old angling woman has it going

I can remember quiet a bit about two of my great-grandmothers.

But I don’t remember them heading to Alaska and winning women-only salmon fishing contests like 93-year-old Lenore Groundwater. Her winning silver salmon of about 16 1/2 pounds won the resident of an Arizona retirement home $1,000, some prizes and a tiara.


Other things super-cool about the catch is that Groundwater was guided by her son and the boat contained four generations of women from her family. I hope you notice her comments on the importance of luck in fishing and living to be 93 and that the excitement probably wasn’t good for her high blood pressure.

And wearing her fishing vest and tiara to dinner at the retirement home? That’s funny.

Enjoy your fillets and the attention, Lenore. You’ve given your family memories for generations and brought smiles to thousands of people around the world…including me.


Crossbows – the next great Kansas deer debate

You have to feel for Lloyd Fox and the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission folks. They no sooner get one great debate over deer hunting in Kansas over than another comes rolling down the mountain.

Steve Wood, of Hays, instructs Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism commissioner Debra Bolton on how to use a crossbow.

Right now it’s possible changes to deer seasons. (See next Sunday’s Eagle Outdoors page for exact details.) The next big debate will probably be the use of crossbows during the archery deer season.

Something tells me Steve Wood isn’t going to give up his one-man campaign soon.

Wood spoke at last week’s commission meeting at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center near Great Bend. It was a presentation unlike any I’ve seen in 11 years of covering commission meetings.

Rather than using the simple standing microphone in front of the commission, like all others of the public, Wood used the podium used by department officials. His presentation of about 15 minutes included handouts and lots of facts and figures.

Early in his talk Wood volunteered that he has a son working for Ten Point Crossbow Technologies, an Ohio crossbow manufacturer. Randy Wood is Ten Point’s vice president of sales.

Steve Wood rated getting crossbows legalized during the archery season as “number-one on my bucket list.”  He graded Kansas with a D or D- for crossbow hunting opportunities.

Currently those who can’t easily draw a bow can get a special permit to use a crossbow during archery deer season. The weapons are also legal during all of the state’s firearms seasons, too.

Many “vertical bowhunters,,” as Wood would refer to them, have long been against the use of crossbows during archery seasons because they’re too easy to use.

At the meeting Drew McCartney, an avid bowhunter who used a crossbow after an accident cost him an arm in 1990, said he’s not in favor of widespread use of crossbows during the archery deer seasons.

“It’s compromising our sport,” said McCartney, who now uses a leather tab and his teeth to draw a compound bow.

During a break Wood offered to let commissioners shoot a crossbow in the parking lot of the Kansas Wetlands Education Center. (Is that legal? It’s illegal to target shoot on most KDWPT lands unless specifically OKed on a  regulated range.)

Commissioner Debra Bolton accepted the offer.

Indoor guy gets great outdoors photo

The Eagle’s Fernando Salazar is about as much of an outdoorsman as I am a fashion photographer but he certainly got my envy with this shot of  end-to-end young whitetail bucks.

Fernando Salazar got this nice photo last month while shooting a story about the on-going drought southwest of Wichita.

He was an hour or so southwest of Wichita taking photos for a story on the ongoing drought when he got the photo.

Fernando is one of the easiest people at The Eagle to like and has “a way” with indoors photography.

He shoots a lot of fashion photos for Bonnie Bing and is gifted at shooting indoor action, like dancing and celebrating.

No, you don’t have to worry about Fernando showing off any of my fashion or partying shots in the future. :-)

Waterfowl seasons set

Thursday evening the 2011-2012 waterfowl seasons were set by the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission at their meeting near Great Bend.


Low plains early duck zone – Oct. 8-Dec. 4 and Dec. 17 and Jan. 1

Low plains late zone – Oct. 29-Jan.1 and Jan. 21-29.

Low plains southeast zone – Nov. 5-Jan.8 and Jan. 21-29.


Whitefronts – Oct. 29-Jan.1 and Feb. 4-12.

Canadas and Snows – Oct. 29-Nov. 6 and Nov. 9-Feb. 12.

For more information about Thursday’s meeting check Sunday’s outdoors page in the Wichita Eagle or at

Kinds of bucks dreams are made of…

This nice 10-pointer had never been seen before about a week ago. He should start rubbing the velvet off his antlers in a few weeks.

This is a fun time of the year for deer hunters. Antlers are about as large as they’re going to get so any trail camera photo shows what dreams will be made of between now and the opening of deer season.

Here are a couple of beauties recently sent to me. Sorry, all I can say is they were sent “by a friend” who happens to hunt in “central Kansas.”

Many bucks are currently traveling in bachelor herds that will break-up in coming weeks when velvet is rubbed from antlers and testosterone kicks in.

Herds of two to eight or ten bucks are common sights in August. It won't be long before the testosterone kicks-in and they all go their merry ways.

Several people have commented on the lack of fawns seen on their trail cameras this year. Biologists in Oklahoma and Texas say does will often leave their fawns during stressful times…like during severe droughts.

Dogs find a way to comfort kids in court

This won’t come to a surprise to any of you that know the healing power dogs can provide those who are stressed.

I remember when my mother died when I was 14 my Brittany spaniel, Rose, would just come and lay beside me, snuggling just close enough so I knew she was there. Her eyes showed her concern. That helped heal me more than any of the thousands of words I heard from friends and family.

Locally therapy dogs are used to comfort residents in nursing homes and patients in hospitals. Programs pairing stray dogs with troubled teens have been very successful for both.


Thanks to Cheryl Miller for passing this along.

Zebra mussel population in El Dorado Reservoir makes rapid increase

After three years of welcome declines the population of zebra mussels at El Dorado Reservoir  has grown exponentially this summer, according to Craig Johnson, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism fisheries biologist for the lake.

He recently learned summer testing found 114 zebra mussel larvae per liter of lake water. Last year the figure was 4.5 per liter.

Difficult to find a few months ago, adult zebra mussels are again common at El Dorado Reservoir. Recent tests show larvae numbers have jumped from 4.5 to 114 per liter of lake water in the past year.

“I was kind of afraid that’s what would happen when we saw the increase in adult zebra mussels this summer,” Johnson said. “I’m not sure I was expecting this much of an increase, though.”

El Dorado was Kansas’ first lake infested with zebra mussels back in 2003. The population peaked at about 300 larvae, called veligers, per liter in 2006. Their numbers began a serious crash in 2007. The population reduction could have been caused by rapid water level fluctuations that had the lake change from six feet low to six feet above normal levels.

In 2008 El Dorado had 15 larvae per liter and 8 per liter in 2009.

Johnson said some of the past reduction may be attributed to high flow-through at the lake in 2009 and 2010. This year not much water has been released from the lake.

“(The population increase) may be partially because every veliger the adults made this year have stayed in the lake,” Johnson said. “We’ve had almost no outflow and obviously had enough adults left to produce a lot of veligers.”

Zebra mussels came to the Great Lakes region in the 1980s in the bilge water of ships coming from Europe. They’ve since spread to many states and cause problems by clogging intake structures at power and water plants. Some facilities spend up to $1 million per year battling zebra mussels.

They can also out-compete native wildlife for nutrients in the water. Such competition from a record number of zebra mussels may have contributed to a crash in El Dorado’s gizzard shad population in 2006. Shad are an important baitfish that provide food for such popular sportfish as bass, walleye, crappie and catfish.

Zebra mussels have sharp shells that can also cut the hands and feet of swimmers and waders.

Mike Miller, Wildlife and Parks information chief, said Kansas currently has zebra mussels in 14 lakes. Locally that includes Cheney, El Dorado, Marion Reservoirs. Marion’s population has also increased dramatically in the past year. Cheney has held some of Kansas’ highest densities in recent years.

Lake Afton and Winfield City Lake also have zebra mussels.

Miller and Johnson said Wildlife and Parks continues to urge lake-users to “Clean, Drain, Dry” all boats, bait buckets and other equipment that could carry infested water or zebra mussels from one body of water to another. For information on preventing the spread of aquatic nuisance species in Kansas go to

Johnson said he’s not sure what to expect next from El Dorado’s zebra mussel population. “We’re the first to do this, to jump back up this quick,” he said. “I don’t know if it’ll jump back up to 300 (per liter) like it did in 2006 or not. Your guess is as good as mine.”

Kansas, Kansan featured on television Saturday

It may be too hot to get out and enjoy the  outdoors  directly but Saturday you’ll be able to kick back and enjoy a good central Kansas duck hunt from the comfort of your air-conditioned home.

Saturday at 9:30 a.m. a late-season mallard hunt will air on The Fowl Life with Chad Belding  on The Sportsman Channel. That’s channel 252 on Cox. Last year Belding filmed a late-season mallard hunt with Jim Stanford and Adam Gilkey of Central Kansas Outfitters.

They actually got enough footage for two shows. The second episode will air the following week. The show airs Thursdays at 4 a.m., Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. and Sunday at 8:30 p.m.

Saturday morning Kansan Kelsey Konrade will be a guest on Fox and Friends, channel 27 on Fox. The Ashland native has been a co-host on Bass Pro Shops Next Generation television show for several years, with hunting and fishing adventures videoed from Kansas and many other states.

Konrade has been invited to Fox and Friends to help promote the television show and Bass Pro Shops’ 2011 Fall Hunting Classics held at Bass Pro Shops stores.

Larry Konrade, Kelsey’s dad, said she’s expected to be on-air at about 7:30 a.m. and may have appearances through the rest of the show’s three hours.