Monthly Archives: October 2011

So dry coyotes carry their own drinks!

Good friend and noted Wichita Eagle reporter Beccy Tanner has gathered some pretty nice photos on her weekend drives in and around the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. Her best-ever, in my opinion, came last weekend when she got this cool photo of a coyote carrying an empty Sprite bottle.

Beccy said she was tooling down a paved county road when she saw the coyote and she got a few photos. She said the coyote was obviously on a mission carrying the empty Sprite bottle, sometimes carrying it with its jaws firmly on the jug’s center.

I remarked the coyote had a very nice pelt in these days when many coyotes carry bald spots caused by mange. We exchanged a few ideas on what the coyote, probably this year’s pup, was possibly thinking.

Water holes with pure water are miles apart this year so maybe it was going prepared?

Sprite’s caffeine-free so the song-dog obviously isn’t addicted.

All I know for sure is that it’s a very cool photo.

Cheap trail cameras, valued photography

To own trail cameras is usually to become addicted to trail cameras. It has certainly been that way for me.

Soft, evening sun contributed to the nice look of this trail camera photo of a Reno County whitetail buck

As an outdoorsman I can’t wait to see what’s passed down a particular trail or fed at a food plot while I was gone. It’s shown me just how active wildlife is at night and how many deer are in an area that we never see.

As a photographer I’m also keyed-up to see what kind of photography is waiting on these little hide-and-leave cameras. Some at night are blurry, ghost-like imagines.

Some during the daylight are pretty sharp and impressive, especially when you consider they’re taken by $150 point-and-shoot cameras that are simply triggered by movement.

Keep in mind this pic of a dandy 10-pointer has been cropped to show only about one-fourth of the total frame.

Even Brian Corn, The Eagle’s photo editor, was impressed with the quality.

Trout time is here again

When you think about it, the Wichita area is in the middle of some of the finest trout fishing in America.

Go a few hundred miles west to the Rockies and there’s great trout fishing.

Go a few hundred miles east to the Ozarks and there’s great trout fishing.

For about the next six months Kansans will be able to catch trout and not leave their home state. Oct. 15-April 15 is generally the time when the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism stocks trout in about 32 waters across the state.

Mike Miller, department information chief, said some western Kansas waters normally stocked may be dry this year. Several lakes and streams are awaiting cooler water temperatures before being stocked.

Locally trout are normally stocked in Vic’s Lake in Sedgwick County Park and nearby Slough Creek. Trout are also put in KDOT East Lake, too, and a portion of the Walnut River below the dam at El Dorado Reservoir. Happy, enthusiastic anglers can usually be found at all of the above.

“It not only provides a winter fishing opportunity, the trout are usually cooperative. They’re usually  biting and they’ll hit lures and they’ll hit bait,” Miller said. “They put up a pretty good fight and people really seem to enjoy them.”

As well as a regular Kansas fishing permit, if needed, anglers 16 and older need at $12.50 trout stamp. Youth 15 and younger can fish without a trout permit but are limited to two trout per day. The normal limit is five per day. Youth 15 and under can purchase a trout permit if they want to keep up to five trout per day.


Sorry, folks, but it’s people over animals in my world

I spent much of Wednesday shaking my head in disbelief as people decried the killing  of the released private zoo animals in Ohio.

Unless you’ve been in a coma you’re aware that more than 50 potential predators were released from cages by the owner of the private zoo before the man shot himself to death.

Heck of a way to treat animals he supposedly love, huh? Surely the guy knew this story wouldn’t end with a happy ending.

So, there was a small town with 18 Bengal tigers, assorted African lions,  grizzlies and other flesh-eaters on the loose with darkness falling. We’re talking scared animals with no fear of humans and who’ve long associated humans with providing them with food.

Local law enforcement officials made the only good decision they could make when they authorized the animals be killed.

“They should have been tranquilized!,” I’ve heard so many times from people with no experience with big predators or what it takes to get an 800-pound wild animal tranquilized enough to be handled.

Sure, all city and county cops in Ohio have such gear and are totally trained on how to use them. Oh, and they also tow trailers around with the lifts and all that would be needed to haul out a Bengal or mountain lion. And all animals smacked with a tranquilizer immediately just lay-over and start snoring.

Oh, wait, that’s not how it really goes?

I found it interesting when Ohio officials told of the zoo vet that darted a tiger and cops had to shoot it dead before it killed the vet. A cop talked of a black bear heading in his direction with apparent easy eating on its mind before the cop killed it with one shot from his pistol.

Nice shooting, buddy, a handgun is pretty puny medicine for a charging bear.  Glad you’re OK.

It’s also interesting that the only released animal not shot by cops or captured was a monkey that apparently was quickly killed and eaten by a large predator after the zoo-break.

That kind of tells me right there that local officials made the right call when they started killing the big predators. I kind of doubt a tiger or a wolf would real differentiate between a monkey and a child when it saw a chance for an easy meal.

Then again I tend to think more with my mind than with my heart when it comes to human safety when animals are involved.

Sorry, folks, I’ll take guaranteeing the safety of humans over animals every time.

But having seen many of these species in the wild I’ll add that I’m not a big fan of traditional zoos, public or private.

A few hours in the Flint Hills…

One of the better views of an afternoon in the Flint HIlls south of Matfield Green.

Southern Californian Jerry Ellerbusch was in Newton visiting family, wanted a chance to see a bit more of Kansas and needed a tour guide. I was the perfect man for the job.

Jerry Ellerbusch gets a look at a Flint Hill's vista.

After pounding the keyboard and editing a through a few dozen photos I picked Jerry up late Saturday afternoon and we headed into the Flint Hills.

From Newton we took the scenic route on First Street and Highway 177 to get to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve near Strong City, then back-tracked through private lands where I often hunt and fish south of Matfield Green.

Jerry’s one of those guy’s who is perpetually happy and likes to talk about positive things. Raised on a farm in southern Illinois had him interested in all aspects of Flint Hill’s ranching and farming.

After a great view or 200 we ended up at The Hitchin’ Post in Matfield Green with thick burgers, fries that had been whole potatoes minutes before and in-depth kidding and conversation with owner Susan Hardesty (“the nicest business owner in town”) and a cast of  Post regulars.

Counting time coming and going we only had about six hours for the tour of rural Kansas…and it went very, very well.

Turkey time in Newton

Had you been near the west end of Newton’s Broadway Ave. this morning I can assure you those really were wild turkey gobbles you were hearing at about 8:30 a.m.

A wild turkey tom in strut normally isn't considered normal for October. Strutting and gobbling are signs of excitement any time of the year.

If you were awakened by the loud owl hoots and honking car horn that preceded every gobble…I know nothing about it. :-)

I was a bit surprised to see three longbeards pecking in yards as I headed for work this morning. I’ve seen sizable flocks on the edge of town several times. That’s about three blocks from where the birds were pecking and scratching this morning. That’s a short walk for wild turkey legs.

Being somewhat of a turkaholic I couldn’t resist the chance to circle the block and give the birds a slower look. When I slowed the toms went into a bit of a panic and two bumped into each other. I whistled the kee-kee call of a lost poult out the window and a tom gobble as he streaked into another yard.

I circled the block again. My loud owl hoots brought a few more gobbles as did quick honks on my car’s horn. One bird, obviously the dominant of the three, snapped into strut.

A few other cars stopped, no doubt wondering why the toms were in Newton and why one was strutting and gobbling like it was April or May.

My guess is that they wandered into town looking for food. That’s a pretty tough commodity to find in a lot of places these days if you’re most kinds of wildlife. Crops failed and native plants barely grew before they shriveled under the on-going drought.

But the strutting and gobbling are perfectly normal. I’ve seen and heard it all 12 months of year. One January I listened to more than two hours of nearly non-stop gobbling in the Flint Hills as a gobbler flock of about 35 birds fought and chased each other around as they determined pecking order.

Strutting and gobbling are signs of excitement…it just so happens the spring breeding season is when toms enjoy the most excitement.

Changes made to state park fees, possibly more to come

Several issues related to state park fees were addressed at Thursday’s Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission meeting in Pratt.

Robin Jennison, department secretary, told of his goal to make it possible to purchase annual state park passes at a reduced rate when people register their cars and light trucks. It’s hoped the ease of the purchase and modest price could lead to more sales.

Under his plan the annual passes would be $15, compared to up to $24.50 under the current system of purchasing permits at agency locations. He hopes the legislature will OK the idea next session. The purchases will be voluntary.

“If we get ten-percent (of registrations to purchase passes) that will mean $3.8 million,” Jennison said, “and I think we can do better than that, really.”

Also at the meeting Linda Lanterman, state park director, began the proceedings to end the discount rate for those who purchase annual permits for a second vehicle.

Currently prices for one vehicle are $24.50 if bought April 1-Sept. 30 and $19.70 the rest of the year. Owners could then buy a permit for a second vehicle they own for $14.70 or $12.20 respectively.

Lanterman said the current option has been plagued by fraud.

She also said this year’s bad weather statewide seriously reduced state park income. State park budgets were already very tight heading into the year. Last night’s proposal will need to be discussed and eventually voted on at several commission meetings.

Last night commissioners voted to raise utility rates $1. Lanterman said their utility fees were about $400,000 over what was budgeted.

Commissioners also lowered the annual camping permits $50 hoping to increase sales. Off-season purchases will be $150 and prime-season $200.

The return of Wrap-Around

It seems like it’s homecoming time at the Pearce farm. Bucks we had on trail cameras last fall seem to be coming back. I’m guessing it’s kind of a pre-rut thing as they gather around the does that gather around our food plots all year.

A common buck around our food plots last fall, Wrap-Around is again back. He's probably enjoying the good eats while he patiently awaits the first doe of the fall to come into estrous.

Recently a buck we named Wrap-Around last fall  again began making nighttime appearances. He obviously got his nickname from the fact that the ends of his antlers wrap-around. Last year they nearly touched. This year they overlap a bit.

It’s obviously the same buck. He’s a bit bigger this year, though only maybe 10 inches at best.That his antlers so wrap-around is what makes him desirable. A lot of good venison there, too.

Big eight-pointers with tall brow tines are certainly a genetic trait that’s very common around our place.

Wrap-Around was one of about three trophy-sized bucks we had hanging around a small clover patch last fall. Jerrod had him within bow range when he ran a button buck off one morning but couldn’t get a shot. Better luck this year, we hope.

Wrap-Around as he looked last fall.

It’s interesting that our two main food plots are maybe 400 yards apart but we seldom get pics of the same bucks using both food plots, even during their trolling days of rut when they’re ranging far and wide looking for love.

We’re still hoping to see a couple of more bucks return again. One was a heavy 10-pointer that has haunted me since I found he’d used a food plot repeatedly the day I wanted to hunt it but couldn’t because of the wind direction. We also got several pics of him using the same food plot in January, too.

Another is a big eight with sword-like browtines that Jerrod had a chance at early last November but failed. We haven’t seen him or gotten a pic of him since rifle season started last fall.

Chances are a neighbor or a neighbor’s guest got him. So it goes.

A look at the height of Wrap-Around's antlers this year. The trail camera is over a mineral site, at a bottleneck leading into one of our food plots.

Disease continues to kill Kansas deer

A deadly disease spread by tiny insects is taking a toll on Kansas’ deer population in some areas.

This summer's heat and drought are largely to blame for an outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease in eastern Kansas deer. The disease is spread by tiny insects. (Fernando Salazar photo)

“We had a guy in yesterday who’d found 13 dead deer in two sections,” said Lloyd Fox, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism big game program coordinator. “We’ve had them found from about all over the eastern one-third of the state.”

Epizootic hemorrhagic disease has been documented as far west as Butler and McPherson counties in recent months.

EHD is most common in years of extended drought when large numbers of deer are forced to drink water from shallow, stagnant pools of water in creeks and ponds. Such waters are perfect breeding grounds for midges, tiny insects that pass infected blood from one deer to another.

“Those sites are almost as good as a high school for spreading a disease or illness,” Fox said.

The disease can not be passed to humans or pets. Cattle can get EHD but it’s very rarely fatal in them. Sheep can be vulnerable to EHD.

Fox said Kansas probably has cases of EHD every summer but some years are far worse than others. The worst year was about 1990 in northcentral Kansas. A few years later the disease is believed to have killed a high percentage of the pronghorn antelope population in the Flint Hills.

Deer of all ages can become victims of EHD. Western Kansas deer generally carry high immunities to the disease. Michael Pearce photo

Years of mild outbreaks can help deer develop immunities to the disease. In western Kansas, where water is often hard to find, deer genetically have developed immunities to the disease.

In past years places in the Dakotas and Wyoming have lost about 50-percent of their deer herd to EHD outbreaks. Fox estimates some localized areas in northern and eastern Kansas may lose 25 to 30-percent of the deer herd this year. Recently the disease has spread to states like New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan where it’s never been found before.

Many places in Kansas are only losing a few animals.

“In some areas (in other states) they find more than 100 deer. Most of our employees haven’t found more than two or three together,” Fox said. One game warden found five dead deer together in Greenwood County.

Deer with EHD often have lesions on their tongue and may stand around with their tongue hanging out. Hooves often fall off the animals and they eventually head to water because of high fever.

Most EHD mortalities are found in or within a few yards of water. Many are found by landowners and early season deer hunters. “That’s one thing about this disease is that you can find the deer. You can usually smell them if it’s hot,”Fox said.

Fox said the best medicine for the on-going outbreak are temperatures cold enough to kill insects. “Knock out the midges the disease stops,” Fox said. “A good rain can slow the disease dramatically because you have water everywhere and deer are spread out.”

Sometimes when it rains it really pours!

Only in Kansas can a farmer go to bed complaining about a drought and wake up complaining about flooding. So it happened across much of western Kansas beginning Friday evening.

Usually little more than a dry wash, the Smoky Hill River near the Chalk Pyramids was flowing high this weekend. Some places upstream had about 8-inches of rain.

Reports I’ve gotten range from 2 1/2 inches to more than 8 inches and most in a relatively short amount of time.

This weekend a friend who farms and ranches in Scott County and Gove County sent these cellphone pics from some of his properties.

In all the years I’ve chased pheasants and deer out there I’ve never seen a drop of water in the White Woman Creek. I’m guessing the water must be eight-feet-deep or better where this photo was taken.

The White Woman Creek in Scott County was full and flowing for the first time in several years over the weekend.

He also sent a photo of the Smoky Hill River. This bridge is immediately south of the Chalk Pyramids so many of you may have been over the same bridge. This photo is looking west from the bridge. The most water I’ve seen in the past is a 50-yard shallow pool under the bridge. It was still really ripping as of Sunday evening.

The big question out there was how much water soaked into the ground where it’s surely needed for this year’s planting of wheat.

Closer to home we had two-inches of rain in most places of the Wichita area and it fell gently. That should mean a good start for farmer’s wheat locally. It could also give deer and geese some valuable food this winter.

Speaking for selfish reasons, it is too bad the heavy, fast rains didn’t fall a few more counties to the east. That would have put them over the Walnut and Rattlesnake drainages and possibly put some serious water in Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira.