Monthly Archives: September 2012

Derby wildlife artist John Parsons continues to excel

John Parsons, who got into taxidermy after a hunting accident left him with a broken spine, continues to place bronze sculptures in high-profile places.

Over the weekend Parsons, of Derby, announced a larger than life monument of a fly fisherman landing a trout at a new Cabela’s in Union Gap, Washington.

This larger than life sculpture is one of John Parsons' most reent works. It sits at A Cabela's in Washington.

Parsons has placed numerous wildlife sculptures at Gander Mountain and Cabela’s stores around the country. A statue of several whitetail bucks sits directly across from the Gander Mountain store in downtown Wichita.

In addition to life-sized works, Parsons has done smaller projects, including some he donated to the Wichita-based Pass It On-Outdoors Mentors program. Auctioned at Pheasants Forever banquets, those bronzes have annually raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the groups for several years.


When raccoons invade

Don’t complain the next time you’re dealing with a nuisance mouse or two in our garage. It could be much, much worse.

One of the 27 raccoons live-trapped from a garage in a nice neighborhood east of Great Bend within the past few months.

Since mid-summer my friends Andy and Erin Fanter have been dealing with raccoons invading their garage east of Great Bend.

To date, they’ve live-trapped 27 raccoons from inside their garage.

Oh, and they’re getting into the garage with the main garage doors closed, by entering through a pet door. And the Fanters live in a very nice house, in a clean neighborhood. Food in the bowls left in the garage for the cats are what’s drawing the ‘coons.

In their about six years in the place, the Fanters have seen few raccoons in the past. Even mid-winter corn piles put out for deer and pheasants didn’t attract a lot of ‘coons.

Andy figures the severe drought may have displaced a lot of raccoons living at Cheyenne Bottoms, which is only a few miles away.

Even for such a brazen species, the Fanters have been amazed how bold the raccoons have been the past several weeks. When spooked, many have simply waddled to beneath the nearest vehicle. Once, when all the live-traps were filled with trapped ‘coons, the Fanters opened a pet crate, put in a little cat food and a few minutes later walked back out into their garage and simply shut the crate’s door on a raccoon that had crawled into the crate.

The trapped raccoons have been moved and released on private property, with the landowner’s permission, more than 10 miles away.


When paybacks are Heaven

So ,maybe the old saying about good things happening to good people is really true.

At least it seems that way for Ryan and Brent Dugan.

Ryan Dugan's great non-typical seems only fitting after he invested so much time helping paralyzed Carl Hall get a nice buck during the disabled deer season. (Dugan had removed the orange cap and vest he was wearing during the hunt, so better photos could be taken.)

The brothers had spent much of their free time the previous three weeks getting ready to take Carl Hall on a deer hunt. Hall, a former Wichita State baseball star, is now mostly paralyzed from the neck down.

The Dugan brothers and their dad, Mark, had their hands full – scouting properties, running trail cams, selecting places that could be accessed by Hall’s special-needs van, and building a cabin-size blind of hay.

The work paid off, and Hall shot a dandy 10-pointer on their second hunt. YOU CAN CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT CARL HALL’S HUNT.

Beginning with the Sept. 17 opening of archery/muzzleloader season, the Dugans began hunting another property. Their goal was a cool looking non-typical they’d nicknamed Swamp Donkey because it bedded near a swamp on one of their properties.

Though trail cam pics originally showed the great buck feeding in the daylight, its travels got progressively later and later.

At least one evening last week the Dugans saw the buck come to the field just after legal shooting time, and they wondered if they’d get a chance at the deer during proper time.

Finally last Thursday evening, as dusk was spreading, Brent Dugan caught a glimpse of the buck back in some timber near the crop field, hanging back and probably waiting for darkness before entering the open field.

Fearing they might get the buck confused with others in the field, he kept it centered in his binoculars as time ticked away.

With one minute of shooting time left, the buck stepped into the field and Ryan Dugan followed is brother’s verbal directions to make sure the buck in his sights was the buck he was after. The shot of about 170 yards with the family muzzleloader was dead-on, and the buck was down.

Swamp Donkey  carried a nice droptine, bases almost as big as a soda can and a total of 18 scorable points. They rough-scored the buck at about 185 gross non-typical points.

That’s a great buck that both brothers can be proud of.

Now it’s going to be Brent’s turn, and after helping his brother score on Swamp Donkey, he’s even more deserving of a great buck this season.

Some of the best hunting of the fall seasons is yet to come.

A truly cool morning

The temperature inside Bob’s pick-up said it was 43 degrees when we arrived at the marsh at 6:15 this morning. Lights on our head showed it was very, very easy to see our breath.

Sunrise this morning was 43 degrees...a perfect morning to be at a marsh.

It truly felt like the first day of fall had come about five days early.

Thanks to the luck of the rains, and some hard work managing habitat by Bob and Andy, it has been one of our best teal seasons ever. Monday morning Bob and I coasted through fun limits of four apiece, despite clouds of mosquitos.

The highlight was when we saw our first northern harrier of the season, come gliding over the pond. The bird flushed a big bunch if ibis and a nice flock of teal that passed close enough even I was able to drop a double.

Walking to the blind this morning, though, we wondered if the recent cold front had brought more teal to the area, moved existing birds southward or both.

It was 45 minutes before sunrise when the first flock of teal buzzed us once, then landed near the blind. Small groups of pintails and wigeons, birds we’d seldom seen before this season, were next.

Things looked promising, but flights slowed quickly.

We ended up with six between the three of us. All bluewings.

That meant we got half-limits, which is never bad,…and we didn’t have to deal with a single mosquito.


Court overturns penalties in Butler brothers poaching case

The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver has overturned penalties leveled against Texas brothers, James and Marlin Butler.

The Butlers operated Camp Lone Star in Comanche County, the scene of what may have been the largest trophy deer poaching operation in U.S. history.

Federal and state wildlife officials dubbed their efforts “Operation Cimarron” and confiscated about 120 illegally-taken deer. Charges were leveled on about 30 men from Texas and Louisiana that illegally hunted with the Butlers. Most have entered guilty fees for a variety of poaching crimes, including illegally transporting illegally taken wildlife over state lines.

For his part, James Butler , Camp Lone Star owner, was fined $50,000 in fines and restitution and sentenced to 41 months in jail. Marlin Butler, a guide, was fined $20,000 in fines and restitution and 27 months in jail.

The 10th Circuit Court took issue with how the U.S. District Court in Wichita had placed a financial value of $3,500 for each deer of which the Butlers faced charges. U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown had established the value based on prices paid for guided hunts by Camp Lone Star clients.

The case has been sent back to U.S. District Court for re-evaluation and resentencing.

Since Brown has died since the sentencing, a new judge will probably be appointed to the case that will see prosecutors trying to strengthen their case. Brown was 104 years old at the time of the sentencing and his death. Prior to then, he said he’d never had a case win an appeal.

State and federal wildlife officials said appointing a new judge increases the chances the Butlers could face much lighter fines. Also, assigning a lesser value per deer could also lead to lower fines and restitution payments.



Working for a special first deer

Carl Hall smiles and jokes as he gets ready for a deer hunt Sunday evening.

It’s taken Carl Hall more than 40 years to get around to hunting for deer.

The former Wichita State baseball stand-out from the 1990s spent some his most memorable days following bird dogs for quail and calling turkeys for family, friends and himself.

Adding a slight complication to this week of deer hunting is that Hall’s now confined to a wheelchair,  following a car accident in 2010.

But a special bracket that attaches to his chair lets Hall aim a .270 with a joystick that’s activated by his chin. Sipping on a straw fires the specially rigged rifle.

A nice eight-pointer was one of about 15 deer that passed Carl Hall's blind Sunday evening.

Sunday’s hunt in Barber County was one of those memorable times when about everything went right except for a shot being fired as Hall and four others peaked through cracks in a blind of hay bales big enough to feed  a big herd cattle for a month.

Bucks were seen, and a nice eight-pointer offered a slam-dunk opportunity while a bigger nine-pointer teased the hunters for a half-hour before simply walking off.

Stay tuned for updates, and probably a complete feature on Sunday’s outdoors page.

Celebrity hunter Spook Spann charged with transporting illegal deer

A well-known professional hunter has been charged with illegally transporting deer antlers that were taken in violation of Kansas hunting laws, according to court records.

William “Spook” Spann, of Tennessee, was charged in U.S. District Court in Kansas City on Thursday. Charges revolve around crimes allegedly committed in 2007, the same year Spann shot a non-typical whitetail buck that grossed about 230 and netted about 224 Pope & Young inches in Stafford County. The deer was shot with archery equipment, during the state’s archery season.

At the time it was believed to be the largest whitetail buck shot on video. Spann’s hunt for the buck was featured in magazines, videos and television shows.

The case involved the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and wildlife officials from Tennessee and Kansas.


Not as many hogs wild in Kansas

It’s not easy being a feral hog in Kansas…Curran Salter is out to get them. Salter, a U.S. Department of Agriculture biologist, has the job of working to eradicate Kansas’ wild pigs. The Hoisington resident offers the following facts.

- Nationwide there are an estimated 5 million feral hogs, and the population doubles about every 6-8 years. It’s estimated they do at least $1.6 billion in damage every year.

- Texas has the most of any state, with an estimated 2.6 million hogs, where they do an estimated $52 million in annual damage.

- Damage includes destruction to cropfields and pastures, wildlife habitat, lawns, golf courses and by diseases passed to domestic animals.

- Today’s wild pigs are basically domestic swine that have gone feral. Within about three generations in the wild, domestic swine will have the characteristics of wild pigs – slim hams, powerful shoulders, straight tails…

- Spanish explorers are responsible for the first domestic hogs escaping into the wild in the 1500s. People trapping and transplanting live feral hogs to new areas, hoping to create populations for hunting, has lead to some major range expansion. Currently most states have wild hog populations.

- Kansas is the only state successfully controlling their wild hog population. Salter estimates the state has less than 1,000 feral hogs. Most of those are in Bourbon County, where a few landowners aren’t allowing Salter and others to work at reducing populations on their lands. Still, they do at least $250,000 in damage annually in our state.

-Since 2006, about 2,500 wild hogs have been killed in Kansas. About half were shot by aerial gunning from helicopters, the others were trapped or shot from the ground by Salter or other biologists. About 300 feral pigs were killed at Fort Riley about 15 years ago. None have been seen on the property since 2000.

-Salter credits Kansas laws that forbid sport hunting for wild hogs for reducing the numbers of pigs released by individuals. It’s also helped eradication efforts since sport hunting generally scatters wild swine and makes them difficult to find for aerial gunning or trapping.

-About 550 Kansas landowners , with about 750,000 acre,s have given access to U.S.D.A. biologists in the eradication process. That’s some of the highest rate of cooperation in the nation.

-Salter said other states are now studying the success Kansas has enjoyed in controlling their feral hog population, with many other biologists referring to our system as “the Kansas model.”

Whitewings a welcome surprise for dove opener

White-winged doves, not usually common in Kansas, were surprisingly common Saturday morning in McPherson County.

Seeing a pair of doves flying over a sunflower field isn’t such a big deal.

It made my weekend, though, when a pair over the McPherson Valley Wetlands jetted by with obvious white stripes on their wings.

It was the first time I’d seen white-winged doves this side of about Dodge City, and maybe the third time I’d seen the species in Kansas.

At the parking lot I learned the pair were far from alone. Probably at least 24 whitewings were shot over the 30 acre field that was reserved for youth dove hunters and their mentors.

They were the first many of the veteran dove hunters had seen in central Kansas. Brent Thiede, the wildlife area’s biologist, had only seen one on the area in about ten years of working the combined wetlands and uplands west of McPherson. Some serious Kansas ornithologists, including Max Thompson, were also very surprised to have that many whitewings in the area. Thompson said he’d heard of some whitewings being shot by hunters south of Wichita last season.

Whitewings are normally associated with the deserts of south Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, but they’ve been gradually moving their range northward. They make up a significant portion of the overall dove harvest in southern Oklahoma.

Delbert Johnson, left, holds the shotgun while his grandsons Gage Schneider, right, and Landon Schneider, watch for doves. Hunting success was good, overall, for the first three days of the season.

Saturday morning some hunters at the sunflower field had mourning, white-winged and Eurasion collared doves in their game bags.

Dove hunting success was mixed, but generally pretty good over the opening weekend. Despite Saturday’s success, the hunting was pretty slow at the McPherson Wetlands by Monday morning.