Monthly Archives: March 2012

Free state park events, Discount to end soon on permits

All state parks in Kansas have special events planned for Saturday. Admission is free and assorted prizes will be given away. Most are camping-related.

Fishing contests and scavenger hunts are among the many things planned. The events are scheduled between 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Also a reminder that discount prices on state park passes and turkey permits ends after Saturday.

For more details on any of the above, go to

Searching for Bigfoot in Arkansas?

Have an extra $500 and a few free days? Here’s an outing like none in Kansas.

It also probably offers the world’s worst success rate, too.


Of course this is considering that the guide has purchased the proper licenses.

Worst-case scenario, it’s one of the prettiest areas in the Ozarks.

I wonder if  such guided trips to find and photograph mountain lions would work in Kansas? Hey, at least we have proof we occasionally have the big cats.

Nah, it seems about half of Kansas has already seen them. :-)


Morel Madness!

The place was about as close to being a jungle as you’ll find in this part of the world.

This spring's warm days, with last week's rains, has made for ideal conditions for morel mushrooms.

Saplings and poison ivy plants tall enough to be buggy whips grew thick on the forest floor. Skin and clothing-grabbing briars rolled through the area like World War I barbed-wire.

We sweated and I bled, and were often crawling on hands and knees to get from place to place or to pick some of the most coveted finds in the Kansas outdoors.

And pick them, we did.

Conservatively I’d say my host, Lonny, and I picked at least 200 morel mushrooms from a location I’m sworn to never divulge…like I’d do that to someone who takes me to their sweetest of spots, anyway.

Word around the state is that the morels are up early this year, and especially plentiful because of ideal amounts of warm temps and soaking rains. Lonny said it’s been one of the best years he’s had in several. In fact, he and his wife and already picked the jungle clean on Sunday morning.

I headed to The Eagle with an eight-inch tear in my shirt, scratches on several parts of my body and more than a gallon of morels. Every bite will be cherished.

After I left, Lonny headed to  a favored fishing hole with his father and caught about 60 nice crappie.

It’s a very good time to be out and enjoying the Kansas outdoors.

Some of the about 200 morels picked Tuesday morning, from a spot that produced more than 500 on Sunday morning.




New Utah law to encourage the killing of coyotes

The state of Utah appears to have declared war on their coyote population.


Their motive is to help reduce livestock losses and bolster a dwindling mule deer population.


There’s no doubt mule deer populations are on the downhill slide, even in some parts of Kansas. Here, it’s said they’re being forced out by more aggressive whitetails. In other states things, like major loss of habitat and competition with livestock and elk are being blamed.

There’s no doubt that coyotes kill fawns, and sometimes adult deer. Back when I first began deer hunting few considered coyotes a threat to Kansas deer. But with time ‘yotes have evolved into effective predators of whitetail and mulies. Some friends have video of two coyotes taking down a full-grown doe, with one holding the animal’s throat while the other frankly started eating the deer alive. That’s just nature, though. Animals eat other animals.

And people have a right to protect their livestock. A good friend in Elk County lost calves last year to coyotes. He saw them working cows with newborn calves and happened upon coyotes feeding on very fresh kills. In days of good beef prices every dead calf is like a loss of $500 or more for the rancher. Friends in Oklahoma lost more than a dozen young goats to coyotes within the past 12 months, too.

Can’t really blame the coyotes, though, meat is meat.

Still, in these days of politically-correct politicians, and so many people living in a Disney-fied world, seemingly favoring animals over humans,  it’s surprising to see a state government take such action as upping the bounty paid for coyote ears. (Wow, $50! I can remember when Leavenworth County paid $2 for a set of coyote ears.) You have to wonder if that will lead to some sort of black market for coyote ears taken in other states. You have to wonder if money paid for dead coyotes will put much of a dent in the population.

I do know that high fur prices lead to lower populations of things like raccoons, beavers and bobcats.

It will be interesting to see if the new laws do lead to more mule deer in Utah.

Stay tuned…



Crossbow regulations liberalized, become law

Hunters 55 and older, and those holding a youth big game hunting permit, will now be able to use crossbows during archery big game and turkey seasons.

Steve Wood, Hays, teaches Debra Bolton, Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism commissioner, how to shoot a crossbow at a commission meeting last summer.

Thursday evening the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission passed the regulation 7-0 at a meeting in Topeka.

Chris Tymeson, Wildlife and Parks attorney, said legal protocol will not have the regulation in place before the April 1 opening of archery turkey season. The regulation will make it legal by the time archery antelope, deer and elk seasons open this fall.

Though the vote was unanimous, some commissioners said they somewhat favored the regulation to avoid legislative action that could make crossbows legal for all during archery seasons.

“I think some may have underestimated the momentum of crossbows in this area,” said Gerald Lauber, commission chairman. “I’d rather control our own destiny.”

Tymeson said two bills legalizing crossbows for hunters of all ages had moved quickly through the legislature with widespread support this year. He said some legislators seemed to be awaiting commission action Thursday before finally approving the more liberalized legislation.

He said passage of Thursday’s regulation by the commission did not ensure the legislature would still not pass more liberalized laws next week.

Crossbows have long been legal for those physically unable to hunt with traditional archery equipment in Kansas. They are currently legal for all sportsmen in many other states, following a widespread push from sportsmen and crossbow manufacturers.

Commissioner Frank Meyer asked the age be pushed back to 65 but got no support.

Several requested the regulation not include those with youth permits, which are sold to those 15 and younger before an archery season begins. Though they said they supported getting more kids afield, opponents feared a push will be made for the youth to keep using crossbows once they outgrow the regulation.

“If you’re not talking crossbows again in a few years I’ll eat my dirty, old camo hat,” said Marvin Whitehead, of the Kansas Bowhunters Association,”…and it’s pretty dirty.”

Many who oppose crossbows fear it will lead to too much pressure on vulnerable trophy bucks during the rut in November, which has largely been during Kansas’ archery season for decades. They say it could also increase competition for hunting areas as increased numbers of longtime firearms hunters try crossbows.

Few question that crossbows are easier to use than compound bows, though some doubt the new regulation will see widespread usage in Kansas or hurt that state’s deer population.

At previous meetings Lloyd Fox, Wildlife and Parks big game program coordinator, told commissioners crossbows have had minimal  impact on harvest figures in other states.

Some say the current debate reminds them of another several decades ago.

“There was fear of compound bows back when about everyone else was using (traditional bows),” said Doug Peterman, a 63-year-old Topeka hunter who uses a crossbow because of physical issues. Based on his own success, Peterman predicted the new regulation would not hurt Kansas’ deer population.


Like strutting turkeys and the arrival of purple martins, asparagus says spring is here

Daffodils are nice. Tulips, too.

And it’s nice to see tom turkeys strutting around and purple martins cruising about. But probably my biggest “it’s here” smile came last Friday when I found a few spears of asparagus sprouting in our garden. Since, the number as gone up from six to nine or ten. Some of the spears seem to double in height every day.

Part of the joy is simple relief that something survived last summer’s desert-like heat and drought. Much of the happiness is that things will be growing and feeding us for the next five or six months…I hope.

The sight of a half-meal’s worth of asparagus popping up made it a lot easier to dedicate half of Saturday to spreading mulch, some farm-based fertilizer and do this spring’s roto-tilling.

It’ll be another month before I add much to the garden, and closer to two months before we get serious with things like tomatoes, squash, egg plant and others.

But at least now I can head out every day with some hope that something else may be growing.







Preparation for prairie chicken photography much of the fun

A male lesser prairie chicken looks around on a lek in Edwards County.

You know those “perfect” wildlife photos you see from time to time, the ones with razor-sharp focus, outstanding lighting and the animal’s image captured at an ideal moment?

Some are luck, but most take a lot of preparation.

Tuesday morning I was amid Edwards County ranchlands, preparing for what might be a chance for some good wildlife photography.

Tom Turner and I were scouting for male lesser prairie chickens displaying on leks. The goal was to watch from a distance to see where most of the males had staked territories, then place photography blinds there after the birds had left the lek at mid-morning.

Tom knew the probable location of two leks, which we found holding displaying birds. We heard birds calling on two others we lacked the time or conditions to precisely find.

Tom Turner pounds in a long t-post to anchor a photography blind beside a lesser prairie chicken lek.

By 11 a.m. we had blinds on both active leks, staked down with full-sized t-posts to hold them in the wind- – hopefully.

I logged GPS coordinates so I could find them well before daylight in the future.

Along the way we watched prairie dogs scoot from hole to hole and jackrabbits do their ears-back streaks across the prairie. Several times we spotted herds of mule deer or whitetails watching us from the skyline. It was a bit surprising that some bucks were still carrying antlers.

Mule deer bucks watch from a sandhills ridge Tuesday morning south of Kinsley.

The preparation is over, and now we wait for a couple of days of photography when the weather and my schedule permit.

The anticipation is much of the overall enjoyment, too.

Even the best preparation doesn’t assure great photos. You always wonder ahead of time if luck will be on your side.

Calm, warm afternoon deserves fly-fishing trip

An angler can only take so much before he or she has to go.

One of nine or ten bass caught on a three-inch streamer fly-fished Friday afternoon.The fish were very shallow and ranged from about 12 to 19 inches.

Seriously, Friday’s temperature was perfect to be outdoors. The rare lack of gale-force winds sealed the deal for me. I had to get my fly rod out for the first time this year.

The column I thought I could finish in two hours Friday afternoon took four, sending me to a friend’s watershed at about 5 p.m.

My gut reaction was that the fish would be in the shallows along the north shoreline, soaking up as much heat as possible from the sun-warmed waters.  My laziness got me to waste 45 minutes on the south shore, where I’d parked.  I got just one hard strike and a swirl.

As soon as I slogged my way around the pond’s mucky western end I started getting into fish. The first was a foot-long bass that came from less than a foot of water 30 feet from shore.

Fish #2 was a day-maker, pushing 19 inches and four pounds, I saw the swirl when it took a three-inch chartreuse streamer near shore. Another bass about 15 inches took the same fly, in the same basic area, two casts later.

The fish were indeed right up next to the shore. Hank spooked some when we walked within a few yards of the water’s edge. I had to watch my shadow as I walked east, too.

Several times I saw wakes coming before bass struck within a yard or so of shore. I landed nine or ten and had three or four come unhooked after several seconds of a good fight. Most were bigger than two pounds and at least three topped three pounds, including one that raised it’s head partially out of the water to take the fly as it skimmed the surface.

The fish were still working the shallows when dusk, and a KU basketball game on the radio, sent us to the truck.

It was a pretty good start for my fly-fishing year. Hopefully days with fishable winds will become more common.


The artistic beauty of sharks – seriously!

OK, this video clip is just plain cool to watch…unless you’re totally freaked-out by sharks.

You can CLICK HERE to see a very well-done video that’s matched with some great music. OK, so it’s in Spanish and I can’t understand a word of it, but maybe that just makes it better.

Be sure you watch all the way to the end to see how well this trainer works with sharks.

Great stuff…that I’m really glad I never saw first-hand in Hawaii last year.

Geocaching class at Exploration Place on Saturday

Geocaching 101, a beginners-level course on geocaching, will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at Exploration Place.

The event is free, should last about two hours and will be taught by members of the Wichita Geocaching Society.

Geocaching is a rapidly growing outdoors pastime, with several million participants worldwide, that came about after the wide-spread availability of personal global positioning systems.

Many refer to it as a high-tech treasure hunt, where people go online for gps coordinates and clues to help them find hidden caches. There, they often exchange trinkets and sign a log book of those who’ve found the hidden cache. The cache may be contained in anything from an old can, a rotten log or some elaborate form of camouflage. Most “cachers” take great pride in the creativity of the caches they’ve hidden.

Charlie Fair, one of the instructors, said there are currently about 9,400 caches hidden in Kansas, including about 200 within two miles of Exploration Place.

Exploration Place is also featuring a geocaching exhibit through April 15, including a maze where the public follows GPS coordinates to find the exit.