Monthly Archives: December 2012

License Reminder, New Year’s Float Changed

It was always fun hunting with Mark Schulte, especially one trip when he had to leave the hunt while the rest of us were laughing. You see, it was just about the time the geese should start flying when our buddy Larry asked if Mark had a new hunting license for our first goose hunt of the new year. Nope, and New Year’s morning isn’t the easiest of times to find a license vendor, either.

So, here’s a reminder that you’ll need to renew hunting, fishing and furharvesting licenses before doing either of the three. Ditto for a trout stamp if you want to do some trout angling, third pole permits, too.

Your deer and turkey permits are still good, as are your waterfowl and HIP stamps.

Of course, you can JUST CLICK HERE and buy any of the above online.

ANNUAL ARK RIVER FLOAT CHANGED

The Arkansas River Coalition has announced their annual New Year’s Day float, at 2. p.m., has been changed to the Arkansas River because the Little Arkansas River is mostly covered in ice. Participants are now asked to meet just below the new Lincoln Street dam.  A press release said the river is shallow, and the use of kayaks is advised. The group can loan kayaks to those in need.

For more information, contact - Vince Marshall. Contact- email: marshallfam@prodgy.net,  Cell 316-680-9669Home 316-755-1473.

Guided hikes offered on New Year’s Day

Huge rock formations are important parts of hiking in and around Cross Timbers and Elk City State Parks.

At least five Kansas state parks are taking part in a national trend to encourage hiking on the first day of the year. The hikes are at Kaw River, Eisenhower (Melvern Reservoir), Tuttle Creek,  Cross Timbers (Toronto Reservoir) and Elk City State Parks. Most are only about a mile or two in length, and could probably be handled by most members of a family.

Usually starting in the early afternoon, interested hikers could make a day of it and at least scout the other trails in and around those state parks.

Personally, I’ve hiked a fair amount around the Elk City and Crossed Timbers State Parks and really love the country. The trails are a mix of giant rimrock boulders, mature forests and grasslands.

Take your binoculars if you go. The chances of seeing bald eagles around these reservoirs is very high this time of the year.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE DETAILS.

Casts and Blasts from the article about GPS Collars

Some of the things from Tuesday and Wednesday spent researching Sunday’s article about how GPS collars allow hunters to keep full-time track of their dogs.

Ted Gartner where he most likes to hunt — the wide-open prairie.

- Ted Gartner, of Garmin International,  is very addicted to hunting birds with bird dogs. Given a choice, he’d much rather walk open expanses of prairie for things like bobwhites or sharptail grouse than milo rows or fencelines for pheasants.

- There’s not much middle ground when it comes to English pointers. It seems like they’re either out-of-control, bird-flushing headaches or some of the most beautiful and effective working canines on the planet. It was fun to watch three-year-old LuLu, Gartner’s pointer, doing what she was born to do. The bloody tip from her always wagging tail smacking wild plum and other brush shows she was having a great time, too.

- Gartner was one of several bird hunters who have trekked to western Kansas to hunt lesser prairie chickens last week. News that the feds will probably close the season when they list the birds as “threatened” means time is running out for those that want to experience the great gamebird.  Most have seen quite a few lessers on their hunts, and succeeded in getting a bird.

- Quail were pretty plentiful, with Gartner and host Tom Turner averaging about five coveys per half-day hunt.

LuLu, an English pointer, with a solid point on the quail that’s visible in the leaves.

- The photo of LuLu on point, with the quail visible a few inches in front of her face is one I’ve been hoping to get for many years. Most people don’t realize how difficult it usually is to see the well-hidden birds. This male quail was probably a bit more visible because it felt secure with a small cedar above its head. It was impressive that LuLu held the point for several minutes, and didn’t budge as I literally crawled in to take a series of photos.

- There’s no question that walking in the rolling, foot-grabbing sandhills for lesser prairie chickens or quail is far more physically challenging than any other kind of habitat in Kansas. My hips hurt more than having spent as much time wading through thick CRP grass.

Two great days after five years of waiting

For more than five years two friends and I had been trying to get schedules to align for some duck and goose hunting in south-central Kansas. My schedule, of course, wasn’t much of a problem because I do both a time or three dozen most years.

It took five years for it to happen, but a long-awaited goose hunt for Wayne Simien, Jr., Michael Pearce, Bill Mills and Wayne Simien, Sr. went well.

On Sunday my friends finally made it down from northeast Kansas for not one, but two days.

They were Wayne Simien, Jr. and his father, Wayne, Sr.

Back in my college days, summer jobs allowed me to form a very close friendship with the woman who is now Margaret Simien – Sr.’s wife, and Jr.’s mother.

I got to know the Waynes several years ago while writing a Father’s Day story on the very tight bond they’d formed through a deep dedication to fishing, and how they both worked to enjoy their rare times afloat while Wayne, Jr. was working his way towards basketball All-American status at KU.

Sr. and I talk on the phone a few times a year, while Jr. and I mostly use texts and e-mails to communicate several times a month. As well as rooting for KU sports, and rooting for whoever is playing the Missouri Tigers, talks and texts have often been on trying to get together for a waterfowl hunt. It took at least five years of trying, but we eventually succeeded.

A week ago my confidence was pretty high that we’d do well. Our duck season had been pretty solid, with a lot of limits for up to five people together. A landowner was kind enough to keep other hunters out of a cropfield near El Dorado so Canada goose numbers would build for our planned hunt with the Simiens.

But just prior to  the two days my confidence took a quick dive when Mother Nature threw out some serious problems. We normally don’t do well on ducks when temperatures get down to single digits, like early Monday morning. Though my friends pump to keep water open on their ponds, local ducks often head to area rivers. But Monday morning the Simiens, Andy Fanter and Bob Snyder totalled 17 ducks. Not great, but pretty good.

(I wasn’t shooting because I was whipping up breakfast burritos over a camp stove in the concrete blind. Good thing –  the guys fired nine shots into the first flock of mallards and got nine ducks…I’d surely have messed up that average.)

Monday the landowner with the goose field also sent word that virtually no geese had used the field that morning, and we feared they’d moved on. Tuesday’s forecast also predicted virtually no wind, which means birds have to work harder to land and our decoys would be standing motionless.

Former All-American KU basketball player Wayne Simien shot ducks and geese about as well as he did jump shots while playing for the Jayhawks or Miami Heat.

The forecast was spot-on for wind. My forecast of being lucky to get two birds under such conditions was way off.

Early the birds were very skittish. Bill Mills, the best shot of the bunch, scratched down two Canadas on long shots. My fear the Simiens might head home without a goose ended at about 9 a.m. when flocks of big Canadas started working us pretty well. Wayne, Jr. downed a triple from a flock of four birds. His dad made the shot of the day on the other bird as it offered a fast target at long range.

We didn’t get our collective limit of 12 for the four of us. I was probably the poor shot that let us down, but the Simiens took home 11 geese from the morning.

Better than the birds, were the memories we all took away from the long-awaited two days. There was laughter probably louder than some of  the gun shots a few times. We shared a true feast on duck and goose Monday evening.   Both of the Simiens shot their first geese on the trip and had probably the best duck hunt of their lives. Plans were made for the future.

After he and his father had both made nice shots of passing geese from the same flock, I asked Wayne, Jr. if it would take another five years to get them back for more hunting. His wide smile seemed to say they’d  be back next year, at the latest.

 

Weapons of feathered warriors

Most people know rooster pheasants carry some amazing colors, but many may not know they carry some impressive weapons, too.

Both legs of the male birds come with spurs they mainly use for springtime turf wars, or battles over some hot-looking hen. (Hank, my Lab, has a small scar on his lip from a spur wound inflicted by an old rooster on one of his first upland hunts.)

For hunters and biologists, the length of the spurs can be an indicator of the bird’s age. Pheasants hatched just the previous spring or summer normally have just pimple-sized, dull spurs on their legs. Older birds have longer spurs that can literally be sharp as needles.

A few duck hunts back Hank got side-tracked by the scent of a running rooster as we walked along. After some work, he got a gorgeous rooster to flush. Somehow, I hit the thing. The happenings were made even better when I saw the bird carried wicked,  5/8″ spurs that were sharp and curved downward. I’m guessing it was probably a three-year-old bird, which would make since because of the great hatch of 2010.

This year about half of the pheasants my friends are shooting are longspurs…that’s about 4-5X what it should be in years when there’s been good reproduction.

Long, curved spurs indicate an old rooster pheasant. These were 5/8″ long. The best I’ve ever gotten was 3/4″ of an inch.

Different location, same photo, same mountain lion hoax

The widely circulated photo of a mountain lion dragging a buck is back again, said to be north of Ellis. It’s a hoax that’s been in at least a dozen states, and a half-dozen locations in Kansas. The original is from Texas.

Here we go again with the tried, but far from true, photo of the mountain lion dragging a deer by a feeder.  This time the e-mail I got said it was from a place north of Ellis, Kansas, with the usual garbage about proving those wrong who’ve said Kansas doesn’t have mountain lions.

First, the photo is from Texas several years ago, according to the Cougar Network, a science-based group that tracks the expansion of mountain lions. Since, the photo has been credited to at least a dozen states, including Pennsylvania, Alabama, Maine, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa…and at least a half-dozen places in Kansas. (Poor cat must be sooooo tired of dragging that buck all those thousands of miles, and never stopping for a venison snack.)

And in 31 years, I’ve never heard anyone from Wildlife and Parks deny we might have mountain lions in Kansas…but they used to say they had no proof. That changed in 2007 when a rancher near Medicine Lodge shot a mountain lion on his property. Since, we’ve had a total of nine confirmations. Most have been from good trail camera photos,…though none showed a cat dragging a deer by a feeder in the desert.

Kansas Photo Safari part of the prizes

An opportunity to photograph displaying lesser prairie chickens is one of the options for the Outdoors Photo Safari to be given away at today’s Wichita Eagle Christmas Open House.

A chance for a guided outdoors photographic safari is one of the prizes to be given away at this evening’s Wichita Eagle annual Christmas Open House. As well as tours of the The Eagle, visitors can meet and visit with staff members.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE DETAILS ON THE OPEN HOUSE.

I’ll be guiding the outdoors photo trip. trying to customize the day towards the winner’s preferences.

A solid possibility would be a morning in a blind at the edge of one of the better lesser prairie chicken leks in Kansas in Edwards County. There, good numbers of male birds will have gathered to call, dance, display and fight for their right to breed and keep the species going. As well as a great opportunity for photography, it’s one of the most coveted birding events  in the nation. Lesser prairie chickens are on the cusp of being classified as “threatened” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Kansas probably has about 90 percent of the world’s population, and this section of sandhills holds some of Kansas’ top densities.

Another option would be a fall afternoon at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. Photo opportunities should include big whitetail bucks chasing does across the prairie, assorted songbirds in thickets and a variety of birds of prey at work. If all goes well, there could be some neat sunset photos at Quivira’s legendary Big Salt Marsh, where hundreds of thousands of ducks, geese and sandhill cranes gather when conditions are right.

The winner is allowed to bring a guest. Photo equipment can be loaned, if needed. The winner is responsible for their own transportation to the general area.

Bum leg, leads to odd antler

Most whitetail bucks are unique if they’re sporting antlers. Kind of like fingerprints, most sets are unique with assorted twists, turns, colors, lengths, massiveness and numbers of tines.

But not many are as recognizable as a buck that ended up about 18 yards from my ground blind Saturday evening, trying to get lucky amid a group of eight does and fawns headed to a cornfield.

One side of the buck’s antlers held five classic points on a nice wrap-around beam. The other side twisted off at a funny angle and carried just three points.  The real oddity, though, was that the deer was missing about the botton 12 to 15 inches of its left rear leg.

Your guess is as good as mine how he lost it. Caught in a fence? Broken by a predator while a fawn? Hit by a car? Hit be a poorly aimed bullet? We’ll never know.

But we do know that deer with such leg injuries often have deformed antlers on the opposite side of their body. I’m sure there’s a good reason, though I don’t know what it might be.

It didn’t make any difference. The landowner asked that I take the buck if possible to insure a humane end. It got around fairly well, but he worried a pack of coyotes could run it down….and they’re not polite enough to kill their dinner before they start eating.  I’d already hoped to shoot some kind of oddity, or mature buck with small antlers. It’s kind of a personal protest to how the quest for huge, perfect antlers has so polluted deer hunting.

No clue how the buck lost much of his back left leg, but it’s certainly the cause for a deformed right antler.

When the buck paused a bit from worrying does, I made a good shot with an arrow. (It’s legal to use archery gear during the firearms season, and the place I was hunting wasn’t condusive to safe shooting with high-powered rifles). I hope it’s as quick when it’s my time to go.

Two friends and I examined the buck’s bum leg, and saw it was totally healed at the end.  I noticed the buck was a bit thin for it’s age and frame, but it’s still a lot of venison for our freezer.

That one antler isn’t quite as pretty as the other doesn’t diminish my appreciation or pride in the least.