Monthly Archives: October 2012

Well,…a deep and possibly dangerous subject

My father, may he rest in peace, was really good about worrying and warning.

He once stood in his front yard and blew a whistle for 20 minutes. It had just gotten dark, and he was afraid I’d gotten lost walking out from a treestand…despite the fact that I know our small farm better than I do my current yard. Dad also suggested we put a strip of blaze orange tape down the side of our silver car because it too closely matched the color of  faded pavement.

And so many times he warned me to be extra careful when walking in the woods, especially around old homesteads, and to be sure I didn’t fall down some abandoned old well.

Well, it appears that some poor guy’s dad didn’t give him sufficient warning and he ended up in a well, and almost died.


That said, though, a buddy in Manhattan once showed me such an old well near Tuttle Creek Reservoir. It had been partially covered with old, mostly rotten boards when he’d first found it.   Sadly, the skeleton of several animals could be seen down in the well.  It’s since been filled in with assorted brush, rocks and chunks of trees.



More Casts and Blasts from the Oct. 18 Wildlife and Parks Commission meeting

The final installment of news from last week’s Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission meeting at Flint Oak -

– Lloyd Fox, Wildlife and Parks big game program coordinator, said the department is pursuing offering non-residents a combination permit that pairs a whitetail antlerless-only permit with an any-whitetail permit. The legislature mandated the creation of some sort of combination permit in hopes that hunters would shoot more whitetail does if they already have an antlerless-only  permit. Fox said non-residents were picked because of the 21,000 permits sold to non-resident whitetail hunters, only 5,600 non-resident whitetail antlerless permits were sold. Also, many areas with high deer populations are leased for non-resident hunting opportunities. Fox suggested the combo permit could sell for $315. Currently it’s about $300 for an any- whitetail permit and $50 for an antlerless whitetail permit. The concept will be discussed in greater detail at future meetings.

– At the department’s request, the commission approved a new creel limit of 20 crappie per day at Glen Elder Reservoir, down from the usual 50 fish per day. Doug Nygren, fisheries chief, said the request was made by area anglers hoping to prolong good fishing from several good year-classes. Nygren said such a daily creel limit change has never been proven to help a fishery, largely because crappie are a short-lived species.

– The next commission meeting is Jan. 10, in El Dorado.

Casts and Blasts from the Oct. 18 Wildlife and Parks Commission meeting

In addition to things mentioned on Sunday’s Ourdoors page on the recent commission meeting at Flint Oak, in Elk County -


– Robin Jennisson, Wildlife, Parks and Tourism secretary, told commissioners and the public he’s continuing to promote the idea of the state authorizing a resort/lodge at Clinton Reservoir. It would be owned and managed by a private company. Jennison said Milford, Perry and Wilson reservoirs were also considered. Clinton’s closeness to Lawrence and Kansas City could help a resort draw traffic beyond traditional outdoors months. Other Kansas departments are involved in the process.

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Fall foliage seems far better than average

Hickory tree, left, and an oak glow in Sunday's early light.

I’m certainly not a leafologist, and a small box of crayons will test my artistic knowledge.

But I know natural beauty when I see it, and I saw it Sunday morning at our farm north of Lawrence.

The steep hillsides thickly studded with  five species of oaks, two of hickory, walnuts and many others, were ablaze with the kind of color most think only occur in New England.

I’m guessing  it’s been at least 30 years since we’ve had these kinds of colors on our family farm.

Lemony walnuts and hickories are usually expected, but this year the oaks seem to be electrified, too.

Maybe it had something to do with the drought, or maybe it was at least two nights of temps in the mid-20s….all I know is that it is beautiful.



When the wind is from the north, the fish….

Old anglers will tell you that when the wind’s from the north, the fish come fourth.

The wind was hard from the north when this big blue catfish, and about 15 buddies, came forth at Milford Reservoir.

When the wind’s from the east, the fish bite the least.

When it’s from the west the fish bite the best, or from the south it blows it into their mouth.

But is it really like that? There are probably as many opinions on that as there are people who fish and have heard the old sayings.


Me? I kind of think there may be something to the sayings, though I’ve always thought it probably had more to do with pressure systems that cause the winds than the wind direction.

I’ll fish whenever I can, but I seem to have more confidence when the wind’s from the west or the north, and don’t put a lot of hope into east wind days.

That said, THE best day I’ve ever had crappie fishing was last February at Glen Elder Reservoir with guide Chat Martin. The wind was howling from the east, and we couldn’t have put fish in his boat any faster at the seafood counter at Dillons.

But that’s been the exception.

But as already mentioned, I go whenever I can go but pay attention to the conditions and the fishing success.

I’ve also noticed I usually catch more fish in the dark of the moon compared to any other phase, too…and if I’m catching fish, all the conditions must have been  perfect.

Autumn is time to hit the Kansas trails

For thousands of miles, you can walk amid autumn finery.

In eastern Kansas you can stroll beneath yellowing walnuts and hickories, then past reddening oaks as you pass along trails that take you up and down a rolling topography.

In the Flint Hills, you can hike by scarlet-colored sumac as you work through long stretches of prairie grasses that turn to gorgeous hues that rival those of  the legendary trees of New England.

As well as changing colors on trees and other vegetation, walking the Elk River Hiking trail takes you through scenic rimrock formations.

Most Kansans have no idea how many miles of really fine hiking trails are within our state.

Personally, I’d suggest checking out the Elk River Hiking Trail at Elk City Reservoir. As well as changing foliage, the trail winds through towering rimrock with some boulders literally the size of small houses.

Trails at Cross Timbers State Park have similar topography. Great prairie hikes can be had at well-maintained trails as close as El Dorado State Park.


Looking back on Kansas Salutes the Troops

I almost didn’t attend last weekend’s Kansas Salutes the Troops program at Flint Oak.

Bobby Connor, left, a sponsor for Saturday's Kansas Salutes the Troops event walks with wounded veterans Bryan Price and Mike Hall.

There, a variety of individuals, companies and corporations hold annual gatherings  to befriend and host wounded veterans on an amazing three days at the legendary hunting/shooting facility in Elk County.

Don’t get me wrong, every description that came with the invitation painted an amazing event. The problem was, I’d already done two stories on disabled people enjoying the outdoors within the past month. Salute the Troops was going to be a very high priority in 2013.

But I went, I watched, I wrote, and I’m still processing what I saw, heard and now feel…and wishing I wouldn’t have been on such a tight deadline so I could have better done the event justice.


The financial generosity of the sponsors, from as near and far as Wichita, Garden City, Chicago and Virginia, was really something. All expenses were paid and a lot of prizes awarded to the veterans. The best, by far, was an excellent, all expenses paid elk hunt in Colorado, which a sponsor bought and allowed to be given to a veteran via a drawing. We’re talking at least a $5,000 value.

The gifts of time, friendship, open ears and laughter were much more impressive, and valued by the veterans. These sponsors all had the financial means to be anywhere in the world, literally, but they spent a precious weekend away from family, friends, football games and favored hunting spots to just befriend  someone they’d never before met, but would keep in their lives forever.

Wounded veterans Bryan Price, left, and Alan Norton, talk during a break at their Kansas Salutes the Troops pheasant hunt on Saturday.

Phone numbers and e-mail addresses were exchanged, and promises made to help the veterans get through tough emotional and physical times, assist them in finding jobs and take them on future hunts at the sponsor’s private hunting grounds.

Here are some of the things I saw and heard that left the largest impressions.

–Most Americans have no clue the amount of emotional damage many of our vets bring when they’re quickly transferred from a brutal war to mainstream society in the U.S.

–”You can throw money at some things all you want, and still get nothing done,” one vet, a burn victim, said of his appreciation of the time spent by the sponsors. “They don’t care that my legs are three colors when I’m wearing shorts.”

–”It’s good to know that for guys like us, when we’re awake at 3 a.m., and wondering how in the (heck) we’re going to just make it through the next day, that we have friends, that we have people who care,” one veteran told the group.

– A chaplain on a long, therapeutic ramble talked about what it is like to be holding a soldier’s hand, when he awakes from surgery and asks the chaplain the extent of his wounds. Or, being bedside when a freshly  mangled soldier is calling home and telling his wife something like, “Hi honey, I didn’t have a very good day. We got hit hard and…”

–And let me tell you, brave men and women do cry in front of strangers, often quickly ,and they hug, and they say “I love you” to each other, even if they’re never met.

–There is a bond between these veterans that I will never be able to comprehend because I’ve never been where they’ve been,and  sacrificed what they’ve sacrificed.

–When one breaks down, others are there instantly there to help bring them back up. These are common people doing amazingly uncommon things for one another.

–And these people were often in harms’ way because of their love for America, but they’ll tell you the American government is seriously letting them down in so many ways.  That includes financially, physically and emotionally.

–They do appreciate things as simple as a handshake, pat on the back and very sincere “thank you” from strangers.

The pheasant hunting was fantastic, but the bonds made between wounded veterans and their hosts was far more important.

To the veterans, I give thanks  for their service, and my hopes and prayers that they get the help and support that they need.

To the sponsors, I say thanks for opening my eyes.




Unfortunately, lionfish have an appetite worthy of their name

Kansas isn’t the only place where native wildlife is suffering at the jaws, shells, claws and roots of invasive species.

In the Florida/Bahamas area invasive lionfish are gobbling up so many native reef fish it’s often hard to find the latter where they were once very common only a few years ago.


Complicating the problem of eradication are the fish’s long, poisonness barbs over much of their body.

Other research I’ve done has shown they are tasty, though. It’s also speculated they got their start in the Caribbean when  a hotel washed out a huge salt water aquarium and let the residue wash out to sea.

New trend – new hunters kill their own food, and write a book about it.

I’ve long tried to explain to non-hunters that providing my own healthy meals is one of the greatest satisfactions I find in hunting. I often compare it to the process to gardening

“There is no honor or true appreciation in any meal that’s killed or grown by others,” is one of my favorite lines.

A New York Times article states a growing number of noted young people have decided to hunt for their own food. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, is one of them .

Now, it appears that a growing number of young, previously non-hunters are giving it a whirl, too, and some are writing books about it.

The linked-to  review by the New York Times takes a look at several such books, some of which are written by men and women who were previously vegans. I’ve yet to read any of the books because I have a pretty good idea what they’re going to say, but I might load one or two on my Kindle for down the road.

I did learn, though, that famed Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg pledged for a year to only eat meat from animals he’d killed to achieve a greater appreciation for life and his meals…at least I assume he’s still able to afford to buy his own food.