Monthly Archives: September 2011

Sharing a drink with wildlife

Thousands of Kansans try to help and attract wildlife with gifts of food. Seamus Lichlyter and his wife, Thelma, are providing something much more appreciated this year – water.

Seamus and Thelma Lichlyter have long planted food plots to help wildlife on their land. For about a year they've been providing tubs of fresh water, too. This is one of their favored trail camera photos at one of the tubs.

Seeing ponds starting to dry and creeks becoming stagnant about a year ago, Thelma started hauling buckets of water for wildlife on their land near Rock. Every day she’s hauled buckets of water to 30-gallon tubs about 100 yards from their barn.

I also have friends west of Newton who began hauling water to scattered troughs on their farm mid-summer, too. Like the Lichlyters, they have hundreds of trail camera pics of bucks, does, fawns and other wildlife using the sources of fresh water.

Water could of increasing importance as this drought continues.

Dog beach fun

It’ll surprise some people that I really look forward to trips to Chicago. There’s a lot to like. It’s always a blessing to see our daughter, Lindsey, and the trips give Kathy and me several uninterrupted days together…and in fine Pearce tradition we put the serious feed-bag on every chance we get.

Dogs and dog owners gather daily at the dog beach near downtown Chicago, even in the rain.

Outside of those things, though, my favorite part of the trip are my daily trips to the dog beach a mile or so from Lindsey’s apartment near Lake Michigan. It’s basically several hundred yards of fenced off beach on the lake where people can let their dogs run off-leash. And man, do they ever run and run and run and run…

Friday evening Kathy and I hit the place about the time people home from work were taking their dogs out for exercise. I went back about noon today on my own, sat on a bench amid the beach and laughed and laughed watching the show as sprinkles turned to a rain shower.

Today’s crew included everything from a young mastiff to an old Yorkie. Most dogs were mixed-breeds from local shelters which is extra-cool. A lot were fetching leveraged tennis balls and retrieving dummies from the rolling surf.

No fights, no growling, mostly dogs happily running everywhere chasing and playing with others. I’ve been around a lot of dogs in my life and I think the dog beach is the epitome of canine bliss. Once free from the cars in which they arrive all sprint to the gate and prance until they’re let in…and most hit the beach as fast as their legs can take them.

Of course compared to being cooped-up in small apartments or taken on short-leash walks on sidewalks roaming with the pack du jour at the beach has got to be like heaven to the dogs. The joy in their faces is obvious as they run by.

Sometimes the joy gets a little much, though.

After getting soaked to the skin by waves and rain a woolly border collie-cross pitched itself down in the sand and did a full-body roll for a solid minute, twisting and digging until it was as well-coated as a floured piece of chicken headed to the fryer.

“All trips to the dog beach mean a good bath as soon as we get home,” said the woman who brought the dog. “He can’t help it, he’s just so excited to be here. He’ll sleep most of the day now.”

Hunters may find far fewer pheasants this fall

After several great seasons, Kansas pheasant hunters may struggle to find birds this fall. Kansas’ pheasant season runs Nov. 12-Jan. 31.

Kansas hunting dogs may find pointing and fetching opportunities few and far between in southwest Kansas this year.

Summer surveys by rural mail carriers and Wildlife and Parks employees in southwest Kansas showed an 84-percent population drop from last year’s summer survey, said Jim Pitman, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism upland game coordinator.

He blamed this year’s severe drought and heat for greatly reducing this year’s pheasant hatch over the portion of Kansas south of I-70 and west of Hutchinson.

The same conditions may have impacted this year’s survey a little as well because birds were hunkered down rather than out where they could be seen during the survey. Still…

“I’d still say we’re going to be down more than half and feel safe,” Pitman said. He said the worst populations will be in extreme southwest Kansas with things possibly showing gradual improvement the further north and east you go.”

Before he read the survey, Pitman hoped for improved pheasant populations in north-central and northwest Kansas where rainfall amounts were good. Not so.

“Things are down a little north of I-70, too, though we expect some places up there will still have some good hunting,” he said. “We can only figure it was because of some hail storms they had up there…or maybe the extreme heat.”

Such poor production is especially disappointing since much of Kansas went into spring with high numbers of breeding birds. Pitman said hunters shot about 780,000 pheasants last season. That’s almost identical to the 2007 season, which was the state’s best in more than 20 years.

Another possible problem are that large amounts of the Conservation Reserve Program lands hunters frequent have been hayed or grazed in the region. Pitman said many lands within the department’s Walk-In Hunting Area program could have been impacted. The federal government has allowed such action to help off-set tough agricultural conditions.

The overall Kansas quail population may be a bit better than last season, but Pitman said the summer survey shows depressed numbers again in the southwestern quarter of Kansas. Populations are down 93 percent from about Dodge City west and south. Again, populations gradually improve in areas east and north of that region. North-central Kansas and the northern Flint Hills reported improved quail numbers compared to last year.

Wild turkey broods were larger in southeast Kansas, a region that’s had low to very low populations for several years.

Young gun gets a deer

Wyatt Parsons said he’d shoot a buck or nothing going into the youth deer season and that’s what he did Saturday afternoon after several times afield.

Six-year-old Wyatt Parsons with the buck he shot Saturday evening.

“We spent every evening out after he got out of school,” said Mickey Parsons, the 6-year-old boy’s father. “We saw quite a few does but he kept looking for a buck.” Youth deer season ran Sept. 10-18.

Their hunting ground was an alfalfa patch of about 10 acres near Murdock. They passed their time sitting in a blind made of hay bales. Wyatt was shooting a scoped .30/30. He knew the rifle well.

“We’d go to the pasture and target shoot and he shot a box of ammo while practicing,” Mickey Parsons said. “He put the shots in a paper plate at 100 yards every time so I figured he was good to that distance.” Wyatt had also spent hours playing a hunting game on the family Wii to help get familiar with accuracy and shot placement.

The shot was about 100 yards and the young buck was down in a few seconds. “(Wyatt) watched it fall, then laid the gun down and started jumping up and down,” Mickey Parsons said. “he just couldn’t believe it.” The buck’s antlers total six short points.

While it was the boy’s first season to use a gun and his first kill he had accompanied his dad on several hunts in the past.

The buck’s antlers will probably hang in the family’s garage. Wyatt helped his father process the meat. Both look forward to many meals of venison. “His favorite way is probably when we grind the meat and put it in chili,” Mickey  Parsons said. “He really likes that.”

Freaky head is back!

We first met last Nov. 19, late in the afternoon. I was sitting in what we call the “140-stand” when I saw a buck walking my way down a ridge. He probably had just checked a food plot for does and was trolling to see if he could get lucky.

"Freaky Head" is 3 1/2 years-old and appears to have grown about 30 more inches of antler from last year's sheds.

I could tell he was probably 2 1/2 and that his rack was a typical 10-point frame with three extra tines rising upwards from inside the main beam. He was very unique.

A few months later Ed Schulte and I found his shed antlers, minus one of the extra points on one of our food plots. I wondered if he’d come back. If so, how much he’d grown.

According to our trail cameras he came back to the same food plot about Aug. 15, still carrying velvet-covered antlers. By Sept. 1 he was polished clean.

Freaky Head's shed antlers were found late last winter in the same food plot where he was recently photographed by a trail camera. He's grown.

He’s added some more points to his main beams and has stickers coming from some tines. We figure he’s added at least 30 inches of antler since last year.

I hope we see him again during the daylight sometime this fall.

A teal season to forget, so far

Four days into the season and the 2011 September season is stacking to be one not be remembered too fondly.

Retrievers haven't been threatening to strike because of too much work this teal season. It's been one of the slowest in many years.

Best reports so far are from opening day at Cheyenne Bottoms where Karl Grover, area manager, said there were a lot of hunters and quite a few teal. He and his staff checked about 80 hunting parties and found an average of about 3.3 teal per person. Not bad since the limit is four per day.

Sunday, though, the average was down to about 1.4 teal per person without nearly as many hunters. “The birds got educated real quick and vacated the premises,” Grover said. He said the limited amount of water really hurt success this year.

Sorry, no call-back from biologists at Jamestown Wildlife Area where conditions looked much better going into the season. Ditto for McPherson Wetlands where things looked very poor going into the season.

Private land hunters in south-central Kansas didn’t appear to fare much better. Andy Fanter and some friends averaged about two teal per person on Saturday and Sunday hunting in a usually good area in western Reno County .

Ross Clopine called it “worst teal opener of my lifetime.” Saturday and Sunday he shot at and missed one bird on areas where 25-100 had been the weekend before.

No doubt this week’s cold front will bring more teal southward. No doubt they won’t stay around long because of our on-going drought.

All it would take is a few sizable rains and a lot of marshes that have dried and grown up in weeds would be fantastic habitat.

Apple-stuffed moose roast?

We humans  have long been told not to drink and drive.

Looks like someone forget to tell a moose it’s not a good idea to eat fermented apples and walk.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE POPULAR LINK.

Assuming the article is correct it’s not the first time “drunk” wild animals has been documented. I’ve had friends tell of ruffed grouse staggering around northern woodlands after eating fermented grapes or apples.

On a related note lots of doves have been shot coming and going from the seeds in wild marijuana fields. (I can’t say they were flying any slower, sorry.) I’ve also found “weed” seeds in pheasant and quail, too.

I’m glad the Swedish moose appears to have survived the ordeal and hope it has a long life. But, should a hunter get a crack at the moose this fall I wonder if he’ll be in for an extra-special treat. Moose meat is already special but he might have gotten one that came pre-marinated.

Teal time cometh

Last years opening of teal season found water and birds in decent supply. Not so for the 2011 teal season over much of Kansas.

Saturday is the opening day for the special September teal season. It’s been an annual event for many decades as hunters get a crack at teal that often migrate through Kansas before traditional duck seasons begin.

News from some of Kansas best wildlife areas is certainly mixed this year.

CHEYENNE BOTTOMS WILDLIFE AREA – “We’re hurting for water,” said Karl Grover, refuge manager.

Grover said pools 3B and 4B should have enough water for hunting this weekend. There is also a little in pool 5, too.

Grover said teal are beginning to appear but cautioned hunters there are a lot of bigger ducks, which can’t legally be shot in September, also at The Bottoms.

Looking ahead he’s concerned how much water will be left when the regular season opens in October. Things don’t look too good as of now. “But one storm in the right spot and we could be in fat-city,” Grover said.

JAMESTOWN WILDLIFE AREA – According to Matt Farmer, assistant area manager, too much rain has been the problem at Jamestown. They’ve had six flood events so far this year.

Farmer said Game Keeper, Gun Club and Marsh Creek marshes will all be open and have some food for the ducks around the edges. He said a big rain could flood some other parts of the area where great food is just waiting for water.

Farmer has been seeing a few teal but said Nebraska biologists tell him there are lots of teal not far north of the Kansas border.

Hunters should be on the look-out for high numbers of wood ducks now calling Jamestown home.

A blue-winged teal, the reason for the special September season. Hunters should remember teal are the only legal bird that can be shot during the season. Other species like pintails and wood ducks can also be very common.

MCPHERSON WETLANDS – Brent Theede, area manager, couldn’t be reached and hasn’t returned calls. Sorry. I’ll update the blog when he does. Last we talked, though, water was in very  short supply.

QUIVIRA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE – Same song, different verse as Cheyenne Bottoms. Water is in very short supply at Quivira. Staff say some water has been moved to pools 10 and 11 in Reno County. Teal are showing up but nobody is reporting big numbers yet.

Labor Day weekend tradition continues

One of my favorite family traditions happened again over the holiday weekend. I think it’s the 14th time in 15 years we’ve made trips to hunt doves around prairie waterholes a couple of evenings over the holiday break.

(file photo)

It started when both my kids were still quite young. Lindsey was probably in middle school and Jerrod in about the 5th grade.

We made the sizable drives because the action the last half-hour of the day can be amazingly fast. It’s also quite social since we can all sit close together and watch different directions.

I think Jerrod was 10 when he shot his first waterhole limit and Lindsey 13. She hasn’t been in a number of y ears, though. Hank, our Lab, was not quite five-months-old when he made his first fetch on a hunt. I think he had more than 60 before that weekend was over.

This year Jerrod, Hank and I headed towards Kinsley to hunt with Tom Turner. His son, Tyler, joined us one day. The gunning was good. The cool front made it very comfortable for two and four-legged hunters.

As they have every year doves buzzed the small waterholes surrounded by miles of dry prairie like bees from a shaken hive Saturday and Sunday evenings. Limits of 15 per person were easily gotten both days. The 10-year-old dog did surprisingly well considering he’d been exercised little because of this summer’s heat.

This was Hank's 11th Labor Day weekend dove hunt. He remembered it all just fine.

But that’s gone now, and what follows will be dove sauteed with fresh veggies and some red wine or maybe some more wrapped in bacon and tossed on the grill.

We’ll have more family traditions this year, though they’re harder to arrange with two kids living in two different states. We’re gathering for a special Thanksgiving and hopefully some time around Christmas, too.

They’ll all be fun but I’ll still be looking forward to Labor Day weekend 2012, too.

Dove season off with a bang-bang-bang…

Two days gone intp the new dove season and reports from the field are pretty good. From Garden City to Columbus I’ve had friends call with tales of limits.

Opening morning at the McPherson Wetlands sunflower field found more than 60 vehicles worth of hunters banging away.

A few guys hunting feed fields have reported the birds are pretty scattered because so much corn had been chopped or combined already. Folks on ponds have been doing pretty well.

Some years doves are the most often harvested game animal in Kansas. This will probably be one of those years thanks to high dove and low pheasant populations.

This afternoon Jerrod and I are headed west for a waterhole hunt with buddy Tom Turner. Hopefully the rains in the forecast will come, but hopefully not until after we’re done for the day.

Have a good weekend