Monthly Archives: January 2012

“Death in the Long Grass” still a great read

Peter Hathaway Capstick’s “Death in the Long Grass” continues to be one of the true classics of written hunting tales. I just read it again, and loved it just as much as when it was first published in the late 1970s.

After a short but successful Wall Street career, Capstick headed to Africa where he worked for years as a professional hunter, taking visiting hunters from around the world on safaris. He was also hired to cull elephant herds in areas with over populations and was called in several times to handle a man-killing animal.

The book is basically about the dangers he faced or heard of from lion, leopard, Cape buffalo, elephant, hippos and poisonous snakes.

Hathaway, who died in 1996, was a gifted story teller and the book carries ample amounts of excitement and humor. The author also gives a good account of safari life and a realistic look at how nature really works in Africa.

He also makes it quite clear he had a fondness for a stiff drink after a hunt…deep fondness.

The book form of “Death in the Long Grass” is available on many online sites. I downloaded it to my Kindle.

One thing about it, I don’t think I’ll be complaining too much about being attacked by chiggers and ticks in Kansas!

Food, time afield with friends on the last day of duck season

It was one of the best duck seasons we’ve ever enjoyed. The last week was one of the best of the entire season.

Sunday's sunrise was gorgeous, but held few ducks after a week of great hunting.

Sunday morning five of us shared side-by-side blinds in western Reno County, where three friends had shot their five-each limits of drake mallards by 8 a.m. the previous morning.

So it had gone for about a week. The action had been seriously good about everywhere we hunted.

Sunday’s colorful dawn found no expected flocks of hundreds of mallards as two nights of very cold had probably sent the birds back to a river and flowing water. No problem. Ducks were only part of what we’d planned for the last day of the season.

Ed Markel, foreground, and Bob Snyder watch for ducks as the makings for breakfast burritos simmer.

In the blind I assembled a small camp stove and cooked huge breakfast burritos of four eggs, bacon, sausage, onion, sweet peppers, jalapenos, mushrooms and cheese wrapped in huge tortillas. (Yep, Hank got his own burrito, too.)

The hunting was slow by the standards of the week, with 15 birds taken.

As long-planned, four of us headed to the Wheatland Cafe in tiny Hudson. Their $10 Sunday buffet is so reminiscent of meals cooked by somebody’s country grandma – chicken fried in thick iron skillets, fork-tender smoked hams, real creamed corn, green beans, and variety of homemade desserts.

Three of us headed back to the pond, hoping to squeeze every minute from the season. In 60-degree temps we laughed and remembered while we watched a blue sky that occassionally shared a few ducks. We combined for nine more birds.

At last light a sizable flock of mallards worked and worked and buddy Bob Snyder had a rare miss on about the only drake within range. Just two minutes past the end of legal shooting time a flock of redheads drew a free pass, flying by Andy Fanter.

Sunday's sunset, with a duck blind in the middle, was a fitting tribute on the last day of the 2011-12 duck seasons.

The sunset was even prettier than in the morning. It was a great tribute to a great season.

Not a perfect wetland, but it works!

It’s not a lot to look at for quantity or quality.

Hank holds one of three Canada geese taken at a pond only 15 minutes from home. The water is small, not ideal habitat, but has a way of producing memorable hunts.

It is maybe two acres in size…maybe. No biologist will say it’s ideal waterfowl habitat.

But the pond is only about 15 minutes from my house, and seems to have a knack for producing some nice hunts without taking a lot from my day.

Just this morning I was able to get up, work an hour or so, have a good hunt and still put in time at the office.

Cool, huh?

As well as close to home, I’m able to drive right to the cattle pasture pond. Most times I toss a dozen floating goose decoys into the water and scatter two dozen shell decoys along the shoreline. Half of the decoys have stakes that allow them to bob in the breeze.

A layout blind,…kind of like a camo sleeping bag…,fits right in amid the decoys when I cover it with a few handfuls of grass. Hank lies down on the blind’s north side, so he’s partially covered by shadows.

The entire set-up takes 20 minutes unless I add a dozen floating duck decoys, then it’s 25. (For some reason the pond seldom attracts ducks…unless the season is closed.)

The pond sits between several watershed lakes, Harvey County East Lake and assorted farm fields. That means it doesn’t see a ton of goose activity, but there’s usually enough to keep me entertained.

Two years ago I spent most of morning looking at nothing but water and sky and then heard a single “honk” at about 11 a.m. Looking south, a flock of seven geese were sailing towards the decoys.

Three shots, three big geese down…and I mean big. When Hank came out of the water with the first I couldn’t see the 85-pound dog behind the bird!

On digital scales, one weighed 14-pounds and the other two a tad over 13-pounds. Yes, I know that’s unreal big, and I’ve weighed a lot of geese and gotten very, very  few that would be an honest 12-pounder. These things looked like black and brown swans. I assume it was a brood of especially-large birds.

This year I had a hunt when two shots made for three retrieves. On another, I shot three times into a flock of 30 at point-blank range and, well, —blanked.

This morning’s hunt went a bit better with a lonely lesser Canada coming directly to decoys about a half-hour after sunrise, dropping from high in the sky, rocking back and forth like a falling autumn leaf.

About an hour later I saw a flock of about 60 a a half-mile to the west, heading north to south. A little flagging with a T-shaped flag to replicate the motion of goose wings and some active, (but poor) calling and the birds made a left-turn and headed my way.

It took three shots but the two large birds that fell finished my daily limit of three.

Driving past the landowner’s house, I began to peel an orange. I was nearly home when I put the last segment of fruit in my mouth.

Perfect.

 

 

A lot of luck in a great flushing pheasant photo

I’ve shot a lot of birds from the opening of dove season through today.  My favorite was with a camera on a recent trip to Ringneck Ranch to spend time with Bernd zur Nedden, a German hunter.

Even at six frames per second this flushing pheasant was only in a wide-angle shot for two frames. It's luck that one of the pics captured the dog, bird and hunter perfectly.

The photo was the lead shot on last Sunday’s outdoors page and may be the best flushing bird pic I’ve gotten in 30 years of covering the outdoors. Experience played a part, good equipment played a part and luck played a huge part.

Marty, a German shorthair, gave us a great point that left no doubt of a bird’s location.  I took the sun in consideration and figured the bird would flush into the wind. My Canon 7D’s lens was backed open to 17 mm. for as wide-angle shot as possible.

Zur Nedden moved in for the flush and I held the shutter down the split-second I heard wings in the grass. The first shot barely showed the bird rising from the grass and Marty’s tailend in the air. The third photo caught the bird sailing away but again all the pic showed of Marty was a brown bump in the weeds.

The second photo has it all. Marty’s mid-air, mouth open only a few feet behind the pheasant that’s totally visible, wings outstretched in full view. The camera shoots about six or seven frames per second and things just lined-out right.

So many times I’ve had the bird mostly covered by flapping wings, back-lit or just a tiny spec in the photo. The only thing keeping it from being even better is guide Brad Stout in the background is a bit of a distraction.

Oh well, I’m still thrilled.

Here are few of the specifics for you photo-nerds…like me.

Date: 1/16/12
Time: 3:05:30 PM
Model: Canon EOS 7D
Serial #:
Firmware: Adobe Photoshop CS Macintosh
Frame #:
Lens (mm): 17
ISO: 400
Aperture: 4.0
Shutter: 1/2500
Exp. Comp.: 0.0
Flash Comp.:
Program: Aperture Priority
Focus Mode:
White Bal.:
ICC Profile: Adobe RGB (1998)

Clyde, a one-of-a-kind bird dog

Traveling around the world for sporting assignments for about 30 years has let me meet a lot of characters. Many of my favorites have been dogs.

Clyde the bird dog, left, with his friend, Brad Stout.

Clyde is indeed a character.

Clyde’s a German wire-haired pointer that hunts with Brad  Stout. I’m not sure anybody owns a dog like Clyde. It’s more like a partnership.

Brad said Clyde was just a young dog when some local farmer called and said he had a bird dog he needed to place. “He told me where he was at and that if I didn’t want him he was probably just going to shoot the dog because he didn’t want him,” Stout said. “I really didn’t need another dog, or want another dog, but once I saw him I just loaded him in the front seat of my truck. I don’ t think he’d done that before because he was all over me on the way home.”

Clyde is not a little dog. He’s the biggest wirehair I’ve ever seen, by far, and dwarfs my 85-pound Lab.

But it didn’t take Stout long to realize he’d rescued a danged-fine pheasant dog from death. For many years they teamed-up to guide hunters at Ringneck Ranch, a pheasant hunting operation in north-central Kansas.

Back “in the day” Clyde was quite the dog in-charge, making more than his share of points and retrieves.

Clyde looks on as a guest takes a shot at a rooster pheasant he pointed last weekend.

By the time I met Clyde last weekend he was far more laid-back. “He’ll hunt for a while, find a bird or two and then he’ll just follow in behind me and let the other dogs hunt,” Stout said. “He used to be the first dog to a bird when it was shot but now he just kind of watches. It’s like he knows he’s in semi-retirement and he’ll let the young guys do all of that work.”

Sure enough, Clyde spent much of our two days together following Stout. Then, without our noticing him leaving, we’d look up and he’d be pointing some bird the other dogs had missed. His points aren’t stylish…no lifted paw, no low crouch, no curved body. He just stands there, with his nose giving you a very “he’s right there” indication.

There was always a bird there when we walked in on Clyde’s points and he always was again behind Stout within a few seconds.

My favorite part? When Stout and a client gathered at the back of his flat-bed pick-up for a photo with the client’s camera. Clyde was instantly between the two men.

“He’s kind of a ham,” Stout said as he petted his old friend. “He’s had his picture taken so much at the end of a hunt he knows what he’s supposed to do and where he’s supposed to sit. I think he kind of likes the attention.”

 

Why keeping your eyes only on the road is over-rated…

…OK, it is very important to pay attention to the road while you’re driving but it’s also OK to look around a bit, too.

After driving in the pre-dawn darkness most of the way I was more than ready to check the countryside on Sunday’s early drive to Tipton. That’s a very small town south of Beloit, and about 80 miles northwest of Salina.

This young female snowy owl was sitting on a roadside large bale of hay in Lincoln County Sunday morning.

Anyway, as I’m cruising down a long stretch of road heading into the Smoky Hills I look to my right and see this girl looking back at me. A turn-around at the next field entrance while grabbing a camera with a stout lens took about 15 seconds. I spent less time than that taking a few pics of this juvenile snowy owl sitting atop a big bale of hay.

As I was slowly heading off a car passed between the owl and me…and the driver didn’t even look like she noticed me, let alone a rare snowy owl in Lincoln County.

She might have gotten to her destination on time while I was a few minutes late because I saw the snowy. Time well spent, in my book.

 

 

Commisioner’s permits continue to raise funds

For the seventh year Wildlife and Parks commissioners had a raffle at their January meeting. Lucky winners could end up raising a little money for their conservation or shooting  group and, hopefully, a lot of funds for Kansas wildlife.

Seven special permits are so sold every year. The winning organization can then sell them to the highest bidder. They get to keep about 15 percent and the rest goes back to the agency for wildlife projects.

No more than one of the seven permits can be for elk and antelope, though up to all seven can be used for deer. The deer permits are good during any season, in any unit, for whitetail or mule deer.

In 2006, the program’s first year, $49,000 was raised. That was largely because  Montana hunter spent about $23,000 for an elk permit. A total of about $224,000 has been raised from the program. The 2011 total was about $42,000.

Most years more than 100 groups apply for the commisioner’s permits.

Though a few sold for less than $500 the first few years, deer permits now often go for about $5,000 or more. Many are purchased because it’s a guaranteed permit that allows the taking of a mule deer buck. One year noted hunter Garth Carter drew a permit to hunt mule deer with a muzzleloader and bought a commission permit, too. It’s the only way someone can legally take two antlered bucks in the same season in Kansas. It’s the only sure way to get an elk permit. Odds of drawing an elk permit are usually more than 100 to 1.

Several years ago a Missouri hunter used one of the deer permits on a mule deer that grossed about 255 inches of antler, one of the largest taken in the world that year.

The permits, though, don’t insure success. The Montana hunter who paid $23,000 to hunt elk never saw a bull on his trips to Fort Riley. Last year’s elk permit buyer, Ed Markel, of Pretty Prairie, saw quite a few elk but no big bulls.

This year’s permit winners are -

National Wild Turkey Federation – Hays – elk

Ducks Unlimited  – Wichita – antelope

Friends of the NRA – Pratt – deer

Ducks Unlimited – Topeka – deer

National Wild Turkey Federation – Iola – deer

Friends of the NRA – McPherson – deer

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation – Wichita – deer

The high safety rate of hunting

The words “hunting” and “safety”  are often found together as many within the sport strive to make it safer.

Often maligned as dangerous, hunting is actually safer than many other hobbies and pursuits...like golf and cherrleading.

So, how safe is hunting? Here’s what the National Shooting Sports Foundation has to say.

You are 11 times more likely to be injured playing volleyball.

25 times more likely to be injured cheerleading or bicycle riding.

34 times more likely to be injured playing soccer or skateboarding

105 times more likely to be injured playing tackle football.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE NSSF STUDY.

Still, one hunting accident is too many. Hope everyone has a safe remainder of the season.

-

“The Stretch”…a fishing silhouette

Today’s  below-zero windchills make it tough to remember the warm temperatures of Monday afternoon. That’s when I went crappie fishing at Marion Reservoir with a local expert.

As well as photographs of Warren Kreutziger fishing I was often looking for other pics. I got lucky and spotted this angler along the rip-rap dam, fishing for who-knows-what, probably trying to get a snagged lure free from a rock.

The problem was that the angler was half a dam-length away, hence the use of a maxed-out telephoto lens. I had to use a high shutter speed to compensate for my wobbly arms and the rocking of the boat. To get the guy’s head silhoutted against the glare of the water instead of having it blend into the landscape I had to stand atop a boat seat.

The photo has had a lot of cropping  to increase the size of the angler. More details are listed below.

Date: 1/9/12
Time: 4:33:00 PM
Model: Canon EOS 7D
Serial #:
Firmware: Adobe Photoshop CS Macintosh
Frame #:
Lens (mm): 400
ISO: 400
Aperture: 10
Shutter: 1/4000
Exp. Comp.: 0.0
Flash Comp.:
Program: Aperture Priority

Notes from last week’s commission meeting

Last Thursday’s Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission meeting in Salina had so much happen there was no way to get it all in The Eagle.

CLICK HERE TO READ WHAT WAS PUBLISHED.

Here’s some of what you missed -

—Tim Donges, Blue Stem Quality Deer Management Association, spoke for more than 30 minutes during the public comment portion of the afternoon meeting to push for cased-gun laws and stiffer penalties for poaching.

—Lloyd Fox, Wildlife and Parks big game program coordinator, said the department would like to offer five permits for antlerless-only whitetails in deer management units 1,2,3,4,5,7,8,11,12,13,15, and 16. He would also like to allow the use of up to five of the permits on the Cedar Bluff, Norton, Webster, Kirwin, Kanopolis, Glen Elder, and Wilson wildlife areas this fall.

Fox assured commissioners such a move would not lead to over-harvest of deer because so few hunters purchase more than one antlerless-only permit.

— The debate on the legalization of crossbows for youth and those 55 and over during the archery deer season was polite but impassioned. Several bowhunters more than 55 stated they had no problem drawing a compound bow, some up to 70 pounds.

Jerry Viera was one of several to refer to the weapons as “crossguns,” saying they shot like rifles. Charlie Stevens noted a National Rifle Association magazine had reviews on crossbows.

Kyle Adams questioned if it was wise to get a child started on a crossbow and then make them start over with archery gear when they turned 17. He thought the current proposal was just the beginning for more liberal regulations to come.

—There was little opposition to possible rule changes on public lands as presented by Brad Simpson, public lands chief. Changes still to be discussed and voted upon include limiting hunters to two treestands per wildlife area, removing pop-up blinds and decoys at night, end baiting and requiring guides to register to use public lands.

Commissioner Don Budd suggested guides be charged $2,000 for using public lands and a regulation that required waterfowl hunters to remain at least 200 yards apart.

Donges did question  the treestand limitation proposal, saying he sometimes had more than 20 stands on a public area.