Monthly Archives: December 2011

Merry Christmas to me

After our trip to Hawaii my family agreed we wouldn’t buy Christmas gifts for each other.

We never said anything about not buying presents for ourselves, though.

Wednesday afternoon I headed to Michael Murphy and Sons near Augusta to get a new shotgun. All season I’d struggled a bit with  my well-worn Beretta Extrema. While I used to routinely drop two ducks from a passing flock this season I’d struggled to consistently get one.

It had to be the gun, right? No way could it have been my shooting skills. I’d never really liked the Beretta’s feel, which to me was thick and slow to move.

So at Murphy’s we laid seven possibilities on a table and Marc Murphy told me the mechanical pros and cons of each 12 gauge while I repeatedly snapped them to my shoulder and swung the barrels on imaginary pheasants and ducks.

The new Benelli shotgun doubled on two rooster pheasants that flushed at the same time. It later missed a much easier shot.

My final pick was a Benelli M2.  I gave up the option of using 3 1/2-inch shells but gained a gun that’s lighter and naturally points where I’m looking. I left the old Beretta as a trade, paid the difference and left the shop anxious to get the new gun afield.

My chance came 30 miles west of Hutchinson Friday afternoon when Hank and I headed into some waist-high grass on a friend’s  farm. From a tiny patch of cover two roosters flushed. Two shots and two birds down in the thin ice on a shallow pond. Hank fetched both with ease.

He pushed up a nice covey of quail at a nearby overgrown small pond. My first shot downed a nice male and my second failed on a bird that was probably out of range. Hank pushed up five more hens from the cover and a rooster left out of range.

Spot #3 was heavy cover along a creek across the road from a field of milo stubble.  Hank trailed up two hens (which are illegal to shoot) on our first pass. He worked and worked the scent of a running bird on the creek’s other side. We finally had the pheasant  pushed to a bend in the creek and the rooster flushed about 10 yards from me, angling right to left, my favorite shot.

And I missed him clean – twice! Oh well, two pheasants in less than two hours of hunting, an hour from home, with a 11-year-old dog is pretty good this year.

But the miss nagged on me  all the way to the truck.

Picking a dirt clod sticking above the snow I fired a test round from 25  yards. The gun’s pattern of shot pellets was about 22-inches wide with the modified choke. As I left for home I vowed I’d put in a more open improved cylinder choke before my next upland bird hunt.

The modified pattern was just too tight for me to hit that close rooster. The miss just couldn’t have been my fault, right?


Poachers carry a price on their head…sorta

Game wardens aren’t the biggest worry for some poachers who killed and beheaded a large buck near Tulsa on Christmas.

Their main problem could be the reward being offered by the landowner where the buck was illegally killed.

CLICK HERE for a link to the story of the landowner who is offering $5,000 for news of who poached the buck.He may raise the reward to $10,000.

The concept that the poacher will want to show-off the buck’s antlers is solid, as is the fact that $5,000 can loosen a lot of tongues and possibly lead to a conviction.

The idea isn’t totally new in south-central Kansas, either. Several years ago an El Dorado businessman purchased a prime piece of property near the edge of town. For years the land had been heavily hunted by those who did and didn’t have permission from the previous landowner. When normal things like posting his land didn’t discourage trespassers, the new landowner tried a different angle.

In the local newspaper he ran a sizable ad pledging several hundred dollars, for information that led to the conviction of anybody  hunting illegally on the land.

The trespassing problem decreased quickly.

Unfortunately many landowners don’t have the financial means or desire to post such rewards to catch and deter poachers, just as many judges don’t have the desire to hit poachers with strong enough penalties to discourage the action.

There currently is no program to offer financial rewards to those who turn-in poachers in Kansas.

But I’m guessing poaching won’t be nearly as big a problem on a particular piece of property near Tulsa for quite some time now.

Accident or not, sportsmen will insist punishment needed in Texas playground shooting

The recent shooting of two kids on a rural Texas playground is tragic. First thoughts go to the boys wounded and their families. The event had to be terribly traumatic to the other children and teachers at the scene, too.

So it is so many times annually when shootings occur on school grounds in America’s largest cities.


Let’s hope the careless target shooters are justifiably held responsible for their stupid actions.

I promise they won’t get much support from other target shooters and hunters. Every hunter education or firearms safety class I’ve taught or attended has repeatedly stressed the importance of making sure of a target and what lies beyond it before a trigger is pulled.

Dick Cheney didn’t get much sympathy in the hunting community when he shot his friend while hunting Texas quail. Neither did a New England hunter  a decade or so ago  when he mistook a woman slapping white mittens together in her yard for the tail of an alarmed whitetail  deer. He got justifiable punishment for his very stupid actions.

Those who fired the shots that struck the boys deserve the same. Hunters and target shooters across America demand it.

I certainly do.

Zip-lining is just fine

“Two things fall from the sky,” my dad said when I told him I’d gone sky-diving years ago. “Bird “stuff” and dumb”stuff.”

The view down the line on one of the zip-line take-off platforms. It passed more than 10 stories over the forest floor.

Standing on a wooden platform a few stories above the jungle floor, getting ready to step off and ride a steel cable at 35 mph, I wondered what dad would have said of my zip-lining in Hawaii about two weeks ago.

Someone who loves flying, and is a bit of a daredevil when it comes to speed, I couldn’t resist the chance to go zip-lining with Lindsey, Jerrod, and my nephew, Brian Elliott. Checking around I found it was one of the safest sports on Kauai. Checking the harness system I wasn’t at all worried.

OK, so the first run off the end of a platform took a few deep breaths but after that it was full steam ahead. Man, that split-second from when you step from the platform and the bow in the cable catches you is quite the rush.

The surprise was how short the runs were, time-wise. I don’t think any of the seven runs lasted more than about 45 seconds. It took me a few runs to remember to look down, to watch the rain forest pass by 20 or so stories below.

Coming in for a landing. Looking back I wish I'd have worried less about a perfect landing and just ridden the zip-line as fast as possible.

Word has it there’s a zip-line in Africa that’s well over a mile long, at a steep angle, and the harnesses lets you zip horizontally, Superman-style. If I’m ever in that neighborhood, I’ll be sure to give that a try.

If my dad were still alive, he may have enjoyed it, too.

Major changes in bait, fishing and state park regulations

Hoping to prevent the spread of invasive species to new waters, Tuesday evening the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission passed the following new regulations.

The special meeting in Topeka was held so the new laws can take effect Jan. 1. The commision usually doesn’t have December meetings.

–        Baitfish caught by anglers can only be used in the waters where it is caught. It can not be removed from that stream or impoundment.

–        No live fish can be removed from waters that hold an aquatic nuisance species, such as zebra mussels, white perch or Asian carp. Cheney, El Dorado and Marion Reservoirs are three such waters. Fish in coolers with ice or within emptied livewells can be taken from the lakes.

–         It is now illegal to release any kind of fish, including purchased baitfish or wildlife, into the Arkansas, Missouri or Kansas Rivers, any federal reservoir or state-managed impoundments. Fish can legally be released back into the body of water from which they were caught.

–         All boat or other vessels must be emptied of water before being taken on any public roadway. That means drain plugs must be removed, livewells and all bilge areas must be  emptied.

Most bait-related regulations passed 7-0. A possible amendment that would have allowed the transportation of green sunfish, bluegill and bullheads failed 3-4.

The commission also passed a regulation that eliminates second vehicle permits at state parks. For years such permits have been sold for about a $10 discount to individuals and families who have already purchased an annual permit for one vehicle.

Linda Craghead, Wildlife, Parks and Tourism assistant secretary, said elimating the permits would allow for better customer service and possibly increase state park income up to about $40,000.

Canine-related hunting accidents happen in Kansas, too.

Last week much of America chuckled at story from Utah about an excited hunting dog stepping on a loaded shotgun, shooting a hunter in the buttocks.

You can click here to read one of the reports.

The concept may be new to most and seem funny but the injured hunter could easily have been killed. It’s happened in Kansas.

An excited dog placing a paw on a shotgun's safety and trigger can turn an enjoyable moment into one of pain or even death.

Several years ago a western Kansas hunter set his shotgun in the bed of his pickup. A dog jumped into the bed and while moving around the canine pushed the gun’s safety to “off” and then hit the trigger. The hunter was fatally shot when the shotgun fired.

I’ve heard of at least two similar accidents where nobody was injured. Years ago my buddy Jon Hawkinson was on a hunt when a hunter set his shotgun down to cross a fence and a passing dog hit the safety and pulled the trigger. Fortunately the shotgun was pointed in a safe direction.

From then on Jon and his buddies always made sure their guns were unloaded, or at least placed on a side where the safety couldn’t be moved to the “off” position.

While many Americans are having laughs at the painful incident in Utah, maybe many American hunters will learn how to be more careful the next time they are afield with four-legged hunting buddies.