Monthly Archives: February 2012

Eight active eagle nests in the area, no sign of reproduction at Twin Lakes.

The number of reproducing bald eagle nests in south-central Kansas continues to grow.

Wichita’s famed Twin Lakes eagles again don’t appear to be bringing on a new generation.

“We don’t know what to think of the Twin Lakes birds because we’ve been watching them for three years and nothing,” said Charlie Cope, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism wildlife biologist. “I don’t really refer to it as a nest,but we don’t know if it’s a feeding platform, a play nest or what.”

Tuesday things looked better at eight other eagle nests when Cope and another biologist did an annual survey, finding birds in incubating positions. They checked 13 possible nests.

Last year seven active nests were found in the area basically from Marion County southward, and as far west as Kingman County.

Cope said Tuesday’s survey showed five active nests in Cowley County and one each in Sumner, Kingman and Sedgwick counties. The active Sedgwick County nest is near Derby, on the eastern shore of the Arkansas River.

Another eagle-built structure in Wichita, near I-235 and West Street, was ruled inactive. Cope said this is the first year he’s heard of possible structure building by eagles at that location.

Based on current reports and past growth rates, about 55-60 active eagle nests are expected to be found in Kansas this year, according to Dan Mulhern, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist in Manhattan. He said Kansas had about 50 nests last year.

The birds are actually doing too well to have completely accurate information. “It’s not the rarity it used to be, not as big a deal,” Mulhern said. “We like to find out about them, just to keep them in our data base.”

Forty years ago bald eagle sightings were rare across most of Kansas. Some recent years  up to 1,000 bald eagles spend the winter in Kansas, feeding on migrating waterfowl, fish and carrion.

An active nest at Clinton Reservoir, near Lawrence, was first documented in 1989. The number of active nests has been growing since.

Mulhern said there’s no historic proof bald eagles nested in Kansas, though he thinks it occurred based on historic summer accounts along the Kansas and Missouri Rivers.

Highest modern nest densities are in eastern Kansas, like about 17 active nests along the Kansas River. Mulhern said most major reservoirs have at least one active nest. Clinton’s four is the most known for one lake.

Mulhern regularly sees non-nesting, immature eagles along several rivers and lakes through the summer. They may nest in Kansas when they reach breeding age.

Many of the newer nesting pairs have at least one eagle that was hatched in Kansas. It’s usaully the male.

“The male decides where they’ll be nesting,” Mulhern said. “If a bunch of eagles are gathered in the winter and start pairing up, if she’s from North Dakota and he’s from Kansas she’s probably going to nest in Kansas.”

Cope said he welcomes public reports of eagle nests. Some nests have been active for several years before a biologists hears about it and documents the location and reproduction. Some reports aren’t actually eagle nests.

“We get some reports of redtail (hawk) and squirrel nests,” Cope said. “There’s no doubt when you finally see an eagle’s nest. They’re big. People can drive by Twin Lakes and look there for some size perspective. Most are bigger than that.”

He can be reached at 316-683-8069.




New Cabela’s store offers more than just hooks and bullets

Wichita’s new Cabela’s ended more than a year of anticipation since its announcement by showing itself to the media Tuesday morning.

The store will open at 11 a.m. March 14 and be followed by about five days of grand opening events.

Familiar with the Kansas City store’s space of about 180,000 square feet, I was curious what the local store could do with its 80,000 square feet. Basically the store near K-96 and Greenwich is just a smaller version of the store in K.C. and the famed headquarters store in Sidney, Neb.

On each side of a wide center aisle that leads to a trademark rising mountain with animals mounts, are aisles of everything from basic fishing bobbers and camping lanterns to a wide range of clothing and five-figure firearms.

Most of the popular brands and items appear to be available, though not always in high numbers on the shelves.

Unique to retail stores in this area will be -

- A  4,000-gallon aquarium that’s void of fish now, but should someday hold many local species.

- More than 250 animal mounts, ranging from a gerbil-sized ermine to life-sized moose.

- Located in a private nook, the Gun Library holds scores of collectible firearms including original Winchesters that helped settle the West, and new custom-made guns for everything from doves to elephants.

- There’s a pick-up location where people can get items they’ve ordered online or over the phone from the company, and not pay shipping charges.

Check The Eagle’s Outdoors page on Sunday for a more detailed review.

Accused poacher’s hearing postponed, and linked to 2007 tragedy

The man accused of poaching a whitetail buck that could break a long-standing state record has been granted a continuance for his first day in court.

It’s also been confirmed he was at the scene of one of Kansas’ most notorious poaching-related crimes in 2007.

David Kent, Topeka, was to appear in Osage County District Court on March 1.  Brandon Jones, Osage County attorney, said his first appearance will now be March 29 so his attorney can prepare for the hearing.

By comparing addresses and birthdate from legal reports, Jones also confirmed David Kent was in the vehicle when his brother, Thomas Kent, fired a shot that killed 18-year-old Beau Arndt in Lyon County on Dec. 15, 2007.

David Kent was not charged in the case.

Thomas Kent fired a high-powered rifle shot into the goose decoys where Arndt was hiding while hunting, and was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and other crimes in  June 2008. He was released from prison in November 2010. David Kent testified at the trial.

David Kent first brought the antlers of a big 14-point whitetail to public attention at January’s Monster Buck Classic in Topeka. The antlers were scored at 198 7/8 typical inches on the Boone & Crockett measuring system. The existing state record is a 198 2/8-inch buck shot in 1974 in Nemaha County by Dennis Finger.

Kent told officials at the event he’d shot the buck in Nemaha County in December, during the firearms deer season.

At the show, someone produced photos that showed the buck alive and in Osage County earlier in the fall. That’s a distance of about 80 miles. Wildlife officials compared the antlers and the photo and determined it was the same deer.

Kent was arrested and the antlers confiscated just after receiving an award for having the largest typical buck at the event. A law enforcement source said he confessed to killing the deer illegally.

On Feb. 1, he was charged with eight counts, including hunting deer at night with an artificial light, hunting during a closed season and hunting without the proper permit. He’s accused of shooting the deer in Osage County on Nov. 11.

Mike Miller, of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, said the antlers will not be recognized as a state record if it’s determined Kent did not kill the buck legally.


Bill through house could cost KDWPT plenty

A bill dealing with deer hunting has passed through the house and has the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism hustling to oppose several aspects within the bill. One part, in particular, could cost the department a lot of money and mean even fewer game wardens in the fields.

A deer-related bill that passed the house could mean trouble for Wildlife and Parks game wardens.

As it was being worked in the house recently, HB. 2295 received an addition that would require the department to check at least 25-percent of those buying landowner, tenant and hunt-your-own-land permits to insure they qualify properly.

Chris Tymeson, department attorney, said such a requirement would greatly overload a law enforcement staff and budget that has little of either to spare. “That would mean at least 80 people would have to be checked by everyone in the (law enforcement) department,” Tymeson said. “It would mean a 12 1/2 -percent shift in (services).”

The department estimates the requirement could cost the agency many thousands of  man-hours, and keep game wardens tied-down instead of working other cases or patrolling. Tymeson said Wildlife and Parks already has a system for random checks.

The bill passed the house 101-22 Wednesday. Tymeson didn’t know when it would begin working through the senate.

The bill was already controversial for the following components -

- Mandating crossbows be legal for all hunters during the archery deer season.

-The creation of a pre-rut firearms season for antlerless whitetails.

-The creation of a double-permit that allows the taking of one buck and one doe.

Wildlife and Parks opposes many such bills in the legislature, preferring their time-honored traditions for regulating the Kansas outdoors.

Four-foot fly rod casts like a dream

Most of my fly-rods are nine-footers. The shortest I’ve ever used is  6 1/2 feet and it seemed like a toy.

So I had to do an audible double-take when Neal Hall talked about doing a casting demonstration with a rod that was 4 feet, 2 inches. A well-known fly-angler and custom rod builder, Neal knows his stuff so I picked his brain for more details.

Made of woven bamboo, this 4' 2' fly rod casts like a rod twice its length.

He’d borrowed the rod from friend Cody Rolph, who was at the Sports Show promoting his Bighorn River Lodge in Montana. Somewhere in his travels he’d found the short rod of woven bamboo.

I walked to his booth and he gave me a  look at the three-weight rod. It’s called a Braided Creek Rod and looked even shorter than a section of my favored two-piece rod.

Cody talked of making 60-foot casts with the rod, which I didn’t doubt because he’s basically a professional trout outfitter. We headed outside so I could try the pygmy fishing pole.

It took a little flailing, but I was working out casts of about 50 feet after a very few casts. Pretty cool.

Cody said the price was $650, which certainly isn’t bad for high-quality fly rods…but it’s not something I can justify spending with so many regular rods on hand.

But I danged sure learned something new…

You can click here for  more information on Braided Creek Rods.

Boat taxation issue to go to voters, and other legislative happenings

Thursday the Kansas Senate passed legislation that will allow Kansas voters to decide if the taxation rates on boats and other water vessels should be lowered. Currently Kansas has some of the highest such rates in the nation.

That’s lead to thousands of Kansans registering their boats in neighboring states, mainly Oklahoma.

Those favoring a law change state more competitive tax rates could lead to much better law compliance, increased boat sales and all without a major loss of revenue because of the increased boat sales and compliance. The issue is expected to be a tough sell in November.

Also in the legislature,  a deer-related bill was passed from the house committee on agriculture and natural resources. The portion that would allow the use of crossbows during the archery season was deleted while regulations that would require Wildlife and Parks to offer a pre-rut rifle season for antlerless whitetails and a combination permit that allows the taking of a buck and a doe per permit remained.

Action to add crossbows back to the bill is expected when it’s debated by the house.

A bill that would remove the exemption Kansans 65 and older have had from purchasing hunting and fishing licenses is expected be in the senate natural resources committee this morning.

Outdoors bills push on through legislature

Even with their plates crowded with tax and budget-related issues, the Kansas legislature is working through several outdoors-related bills -

- A bill that would ease taxation rates on boats and other water vessels is expected to see final action in the senate today. With a 2/3 majority the issue could go to Kansas voters in November.

-A house bill that would allow wide-spread use of crossbows during the archery deer season and establish a pre-rut, firearms season for antlerless whitetails could go to a vote in the house today, then on to the senate natural resources committee.

- A senate bill that would have allowed the use of crossbows during the archery season appears to have died.

- A Wildlife and Parks-sponsored bill to remove the exemption for those 65 and older from buying hunting and fishing permits could be before the senate committee on Friday.

- A bill that would allow hunters to carry handguns for personal protection during other weapon-specific seasons easily passed the house recently and has moved to the senate.

-A bill that would raise the fines paid for poaching deer, especially those with trophy-class racks, has been presented to the house agriculture and natural resources committee.

- A bill that could allow state park annual vehicle permits to be sold at the time of the payment of auto registration fees and taxes is in the house agriculture and natural resources committee.

Topeka to allow limited youth/mentor hunting in city

Tuesday evening Topeka city officials voted to allow regulated hunting opportunities for youth and their mentors within their city limits.

At issue is allowing hunting, mostly for birds, like doves, on a 120 acres of property owned and managed by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.


Hunting is also allowed within the city limits of Leavenworth and some Kansas City suburbs to control deer numbers. Such are usually for archery deer hunts for a limited number of bowhunters who have passed special qualifications.

Goldens – A real bird of prey

Say the word “eagle” and most locals think of our newspaper, thankfully, or those birds that come to town every winter  – bald eagles.

When I think of eagles, though, my mind goes to golden eagles. They’re simply amazing.

Unlike their white-headed counterparts golden eagles are amazing hunters. Yesterday I got a photo series e-mailed to me that showed a golden eagle eating and killing – yes, in that order – an adult pronghorn in Wyoming.

As they’ve been documented doing many times, including in western Kansas, goldens attach themselves to the back of a deer or antelope and start eating. Most times their razor-sharp talons kill the animal by puncturing a kidney, nerve or main artery. I’ve had Texas ranchers relay horror stories of golden eagles putting a major hammer on their lamb or kid-goat crop, even taking the occasional adult.

Kind of makes the fish-grabbing, carrion-eating bird that’s our national symbol seem pretty wimpy, huh?

The pics of the golden eagle taking down the antelope are a bit too graphic for me to post a link, though it is just nature at work. You can google a few words and find the shots if you’re so interested.

You can, though, click here to see some neat footage of Mongolian hunters using trained golden eagles to hunt wolves.

Milking the most from the seasons

It’s always better to end something good on a great note, and it so it went Sunday afternoon with the 2011-12 hunting seasons. Yesterday was the last day of goose season.

After a hunt fell-through at the scene 90 miles west of home Sunday morning it was a hustle to head home, grab some needed equipment and head to a field 45 miles east of home.

Goose numbers had gone through the roof since we’d hunted the field mid-week, but the birds wanted little to do with the part of the field where I’d set a small spread of decoys.

Finally two birds skirted the edge of the decoys, which was within shotgun range. And then the skies became empty of waterfowl for several long minutes as the wind began to increase with the appearance of the new weather system.

Hank and I were sharing a bag of goose jerky when I heard a single honk way overhead. Looking up I saw a lone goose about 200 yards up, dropping quickly on cupped wings.

It took a decent shot and some nice dog work on the goose that may have been the largest of the season. No other geese flew over the field during the remaining 45 minutes of legal shooting time. Wow, talk about taking it to the end.

I took my time gathering four dozen decoys and assorted gear, and parked the truck amid the spread so I could hear the radio. The work paused several times for a little ear-scratching, glove-fetching and remembering of hunts that began nearly a half-year ago with the first daylight of September, when the state was still getting blasted by 100-degree days and a nasty drought.

A few weeks ago I was hustling to line-up more hunts but as I packed the decoys into Ol’ Red I realized I was ready to move on.

There’s a garden to get readied, many fish to catch, lesser prairie chickens to photograph, spring gobblers to call  and lots of exercise so aging two-legged and four-legged hunters can be in the best shape possible for September’s opening of dove season.