Monthly Archives: January 2013

New senior hunting/fishing licenses going smoothly

Bob Snyder, of Hutchinson, shows his new, plastic senior combination hunting/fishing permit.

Less than a month into the new requirement that resident hunters and anglers 65-74 must have hunting and fishing licenses, and all seems to be going well.

Karen Beard, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism licensing chief, said 4431 of the senior hunting/fishing lifetime permits had been sold as of mid-afternoon on Monday. The combination permits sell for about $40. Annual senior hunting or fishing permits sell for about $15.

Those purchasing the senior lifetime licenses will receive a plastic license

For decades Kansans 65 and older had been exempt from purchasing hunting or fishing licenses. Last year the Kansas legislature honored a Wildlife and Parks request to remove the exemption because a growing percentage of Kansas anglers and hunters were over 65.  Also, since such Kansans weren’t purchasing hunting or fishing licenses the state was missing out on federal excise taxes charged on most types of hunting and fishing gear.

Beard said the rush for the combination licenses has subsided, but she expects it will grow again as fall hunting seasons get closer. She’s heard few complaints, especially when the sportsmen learn the new licenses will qualify the state for millions of dollars in federal funds.

“Some guys that have (already) have a lifetime hunting license don’t think should have to buy a lifetime combo. They  dont’ think it’s fair and think there should be a (senior) lifetime fishing license,” Beard said. “Unfortunately that option wasn’t offered. I don’t think it was cost-effective.”

State Convention to offer upland habitat/birds seminars

Upland bird hunters can attend a variety of presentations at Saturday’s Kansas Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever state convention in Wichita.

Friday and Saturday upland gamebird fans have the chance to meet  similar souls, and probably learn a lot about Kansas upland gamebirds and about everything associated with them.

This year’s Kansas Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever state convention is based in Wichita.

Friday evening will be registration at the Courtyard Wichita East, followed by a meet and greet reception at Jersey’s Grill and Bar.

The biggies come Saturday at the Great Plains Nature Center with presentations from experts on youth opportunities in Kansas, the state’s Quail Initiative, prairie chicken biology and habitat, predator management, dealing with drought and other topics.

YOU CAN CLICK HERE FOR MORE DETAILS.

Casts and Blasts From Photographing Eagles at Work

This shot shows the white is building on the head of this immature bald eagle. Probably less than 10-percent of the original frame, it also shows how well the images from the Canon 7D stood up to cropping, even when shot at 1,000 ISO.

A few more details from Sunday’s Outdoors page feature on photographing bald eagles and red-tailed hawks feeding on deer carcasses.

YOU CAN CLICK HERE, TO SEE THE ORIGINAL STORY AND PHOTOS.

– According to a trail camera near the deer carcasses, the immature bald eagle still feeds on the dead deer most days. Its longest stay, thankfully, was the cold day I spent in the photo blind.

– Twice I’ve added goose carcasses to the deer, and raptors seem to prefer them over the venison. That might because they’re smaller and easier to access than the thick hides of deer. Or, it could be because eagles naturally feed on healthy geese.

– The late afternoon light contributed greatly to the flavor of the photos of the bald eagle on the deer.

– I was shooting a Canon 7D, two of which I’ve had for several months. The ability to still get great details with high ISO settings has really helped with photography in low light. Many of the photos were shot with the ISO set at 1,000 but the images held up very well under serious cropping. The lens was a Canon 100-400 with image stabilization. All were shot from a tripod.

– Checking the trail camera a week after the shoot, it appears the red-tailed hawks have settled their disputes over the carcasses. Mostly they feed one at a time, with no more fights caught by the remote camera.

– Coyotes still haven’t really hit the carcasses. If a pack would hit the remains, all would probably be gone within a few nights. I continue to “saturate the area with human scent.” Yes, I’m actually marking the carcasses the same way a coyote would if it were claiming them. The scent doesn’t seem to deter the birds, obviously.

A trail camera photo of the immature bald eagle at the same time it was being photographed from a blind about 30 yards to the left.

– Unfortunately, I had the Bushnell Trail Cam set for the lowest pixel setting possible, so the photos aren’t as sharp as they could be. I did it to get as many photos as possible on a 4 GB card…unfortunately I had a 32 GB card in the camera at the time. Since, I’ve adjusted the pixels and gotten noticeably sharper images.

– Oh, there is one opossum feeding on the carcasses every night. A few nights ago it was photographed dragging off the carcass of a big Canada goose. It must have been so proud!

 

Falconer asking for help locating missing bird, related video.

An Oklahoma falconer is asking Kansans to be on the lookout for his bird that was last seen in northern Oklahoma, but last known to be north of El Dorado Reservoir.

Mark Waller, from the Tulsa area, said he was working his gyrfalcon/peregrine hybrid on pheasants when the bird suddenly headed north.

“Normally they just come back, but he didn’t,” said Waller, who started tracking the bird with telemetry equipment. “I ended up tracking most of the rest of the day. The last I knew he was north of the lake, when suddenly the signal just stopped. The signal I had on him, I figured he was within a mile but then I just got some static and it stopped.”

Waller has been flying falcons for about 40 years, and said the bird is bigger than a crow but a bit smaller than a red-tailed hawk and dark brown or black. He figures it may stay around the lake, hunting mallards as they fly out to feed in crop fields. It may end up in a town, hunting a favored prey.

“He’s caught quite a few pigeons,” Waller said. “If he sees those, he will be all over them when he gets pretty hungry.”

Waller asks anyone who sees the bird to call him at 918-629-3350.

He added that such problems aren’t unexpected. Falcons have flown into powerlines, hit fences and been shot while hunting. In some places, bigger birds of prey may kill them, too.

“There are a lot of bad things that can happen. I’ve had some eight or ten years, and you learn to appreciate that,” Waller said. “This was a first year bird. I’d be disappointed to lose him, but it happens.”

Speaking of falconry, YOU CAN CLICK HERE, to see a little falconry, the natural way. It involves a West Point student trying to do the right thing, but it goes wrong. Well, wrong for the student and his little friend, anyway.  :-)

Bald eagles help insure there’s no waste in the wilds

A mature bald eagle takes a break from eating on a deer carcass. So far only one eagle has been on the scene. Other set-ups have shown five or more eagles utilizing the remains of a deer.

Nature is a wonderful system, where so many different kinds of life forms rely on one another. It’s a system where everything has a purpose, and part of the purpose is meeting the needs of other animals…that eventually means providing them with food.

Having witnessed that thousands of times over several decades many of us who hunt have become dedicated to helping the process along. Rather it be ducks or deer, cottontails or wild turkeys, once we get the meat we need from the game we kill, the rest goes back to the wilds to complete the cycle.

No doubt many expected coyotes opossums, crows, turkey vultures, the occasional bobcat and badger have benefited from such leftovers.

Two red-tailed hawks spar for dominance at the deer carcasses. Best known for their killing ability, redtails will gladly take an easier meal.

Last week a trail camera placed on the boned-out carcasses of two whitetails does I shot Monday afternoon captured a bald eagle and red-tailed hawks, species some may not associate with playing clean-up crew, taking advantage of easy venison.

I’ll leave the trail camera on the carcasses for a few weeks to see what else happens, and probably add a few geese and another remnants of a deer to the spot.

We’ll see what else happens.

KDWPT wants statewide crossbows, liberalization of deer hunting cartridges

A few details from Thursday’s Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission meeting in El Dorado.

- The agency wants regulation changes to allow all hunters, statewide, to use crossbows through the archery deer seasons.  For many years crossbows have been allowed for those with physical limitations that won’t allow them to shoot a vertical bow. Last year the commission approved letting those 15 and younger,  and 55 and older, use crossbows during the statewide archery season. Legislative mandate also required the agency to start, last year, a two year pilot program to try crossbows for all ages in four deer management units through the archery deer season.

- Lloyd Fox, Wildlife and Parks big game program coordinator, also told commissioners and the public  the agency would like to liberalize regulations so all centerfire rifle and handgun ammunition could be used for legally killing deer in Kansas. Currently, only cartridges of at least .23 caliber, and 1.28 inches or longer     are legal. Fox said the department wants to liberalize crossbows and cartridges to give hunters more choices when going afield.

Both items saw considerable discussion in El Dorado, and probably will again before going to commission vote March 21 in Topeka.

- Tim Donges, of the Bluestem Quality Deer Management Association, again asked the department to consider regulations that would require hunters to keep their rifles in cases when on public roads. He said such a law could greatly reduce the problem of people illegally shooting at deer and coyotes from public roads, especially on to lands where they do not have permission to hunt.

- Commissioners drew the names of conservation or shooting organizations that won one of seven special commissioner big game hunting permits. The permits can now be sold to a hunter, often at inflated prices, to raise money for educational, habitat and hunting projects approved by Wildlife and Parks. This year 86 groups applied for the seven permits, of which no more than one can be for an elk or one for an antelope. Once sold, the permits are valid during any hunting season for the species, as long as the season-specific weapon is used.

Started in 2006, the commission permit program has raised about $265,000. The top was about $23,000 paid for an elk permit the first year.

For more information, including the names and contact information of the winning groups, call Sheila Kemmis at 620-672-0702 or sheila.kemmis@ksoutdoors.com.

More details will be available on Sunday’s Wichita Eagle Outdoors page and at www.kansas.com/outdoors.

 

 

 

Hunter peeved about fine print, big fine

Don Copley said he headed out on a deer hunt to have fun with friends, but came home feeling like a criminal. Copley, of  Haysville, also thinks the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Toursim could have helped prevent the offense that lead to a ticket, and thinks the legal system came down on him excessively.

Don Copley thinks the tiny font on Kansas deer permits contributed to his placing the wrong permit on a mule deer he shot. His mistake cost him nearly $1,300.

Copley plead guilty to putting an improper permit on a mule deer buck he shot near Colby in late November. He paid nearly $1,300 in fines, restitution, court costs and is serving six months probation.

“I did it, but I just made a simple mistake. There was no intent to break the law,” Copley said. “I’m fully convinced  if the print had been larger, I would have caught my mistake.”

He’s referring to the tiny font that identifies what can legally be taken with a permit. It’s tucked in between a variety of legal information, and in a font so small six or seven lines could go across the face of a dime.

Copley, a friend, and the friend’s young son were coming back from a “great hunt” when a Kansas Highway Patrolman stopped them near Great Bend, wanting to check the deer that were visible in the back of their truck. The trooper spotted the problem quickly.

“I was dumbfounded when the officer asked to see the tag, and said we had a problem,” Copley said. “I was really embarrassed.” Copley said he dug through his wallet, and found the proper tag amid a variety of hunting and fishing-related green cards.  “I kind of sabatoged myself,” he said. “I had so many tags in there and really thought I had the wrong one.”

The 60-year-old hunter offered to destroy the permit only good for an antlerless whitetail that was illegally on the buck, and replace it with the one that was legal for the mule deer buck. The trooper instead called a game warden, Copley made the offer, and was given a citation and his buck was confiscated.

He investigated fighting the charges with an attorney, but the costs would have been equal to or more than the fine, with no gurantee of success.

Since, he’s contacted several people within Wildlife and Parks, hoping to at least make the type on the permits at least easier to read. “I’ve had several people tell me they’ve had issues with the fine print, including a game warden,”  Copley said. He’s yet to find a sympathetic ear within the agency.

When he returned to the Colby area to take another friend deer hunting, he got little support from the county legal system. He maintains nearly $1,300 in penalties is too much for what he insists was a simple mistake.

Karen Beard, Wildlife and Parks licensing chief wasn’t aware of Copley’s situation, but said she gets very few complaints about the font, or know what could be done about it. “I just don’t think we have any more room (on the permits),” Beard said. “We’re just pretty much out of room with all that needs to be on permits.”

Chris Tymeson, Wildlife and Parks attorney, had heard of Copley’s situation, but said he’s heard few complaints about the font, but knows of other cases involving improper tagging. In the past, state game wardens have had a traveling display with more than a dozen trophy bucks illegally tagged with antlerless-only permits. Many times the hunter was hoping to keep their buck tag in hopes of shooting another buck. Other times, the antlerless-only permit had been the only one purchased.

No doubt, plenty of purely simple mistakes, as claimed by Copley, have occurred.

“I understand how you could do it, but it’s also how people commit fraud,” Tymesoon said. “They get caught and just say they put the wrong one on, and then want to  put the right one on. How do we know when it’s an honest mistake?”

Arkansas River among waters with a fish consumption warning

Local anglers won’t want to be feasting on fish from a few local waters.

Largemouth bass are one of several species of predatory fish that should be eaten in moderation because of possible high levels of mercury, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment recently released their 2013 Fish Consumption Advisory.

Locally, they recommend no bottom-feeding fish be eaten on the Arkansas River, from the Lincoln Street dam down to Cowskin Creek near Belle Plaine. The warning is mainly for fish like buffalo, carp and catfish (except for flathead catfish). The say PCB levels are too high in that stretch of water. It’s the same for Cow Creek from in Hutchinson all the way to the Arkansas River.

Those fishing the Little Arkansas River, in Wichita, from Main Street west of Valley Center to the Arkansas River in Wichita are advised to eat no more than one meal per month from the river.

The public is also being advised to not eat more than one meal of predatory fish, like black bass, walleye, wiper, crappie,  per week from anywhere in Kansas. Only once a month if you’re pregnant, nursing a child or age 17 and under.

CLICK HERE TO READ KDHE’S COMPLETE PRESS RELEASE.

Mike Miller, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism information chief, said the waters in the advisory are largely the same as in 2012. Miller reminds the public to read the fine print. For some waters listed, the advisory is only against eating shellfish from those waters.

Great video look at a unique hybrid prairie chicken

Since lesser prairie chickens, like this male, were found in parts of Kansas frequented by greater prairie chickens, hybrids between the two species have been found. Now, there’s video of such a “guesser” in full display.

Several times I’ve written about the recently documented hybridization of lesser and greater prairie chickens. It’s a natural occurrence that’s become possible as lesser prairie chickens have increased their numbers and range northward from southwest Kansas, into areas with greater prairie chickens.

Such birds have also had my attention since they were first documented on a ranch I know very well in Gove County. When we’d flush ‘chickens on deer or antelope hunts I always wondered if it might be a hybrid, which are known as “guessers.”

So I felt like I’d gotten an extra Christmas gift when I stumbled on to some neat online video footage of such a bird displaying somewhere in western Kansas. The footage was taken by Noppadol Paothong, a great wildlife photographer with the Missouri Department of Conservation. He’s the photographer of Save the Last Dance, a great book with some amazing images of assorted prairie grouse.

YOU CAN CLICK HERE TO SEE THE FOOTAGE.

It’s especially neat because you can see hints of both greater and lesser prairie chickens in the bird’s plummage, calls and displaying ritual. For comparison, you can click on the lesser and greater prairie chicken links at the right of the page.

It’s cool stuff, for sure. Also notice the mention that neither pure lesser or greater prairie chickens seem interested in the hybrids for mates.

Casts and Blasts from the 2012 in review

Sunday’s Outdoors page feature on top outdoors news stories for 2012 had what I rated as the top four topics for the year. Here are some more that warranted consideration, but in no particular order.

– SOUTHEAST DUCK SEASON – For the second year, the southeast zone opened later than the regular low plains late zone. In 2011 it opened a week later and basically lasted one week later. This year the season opened about three weeks later, after some very spirited debate at some Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission meetings. In more than 25 years of attending meetings, missing only a few within the past 12 years, the topic brought out the most contentious comments I’ve heard between commissioners, commissioners and staff, and commissioners and the general public. Eventually Commissioner Don Budd, of Kansas City, got his way, and a season that goes through most of January, against the wishes of the agency and many sportsmen.

- BRENT CHAPMAN AWARD- Kansas’ main professional bass fisherman nabbed the very prestigious BASS Angler of the Year award. Chapman, of Lake Quivira, earned the title by having the best overall BASS tournament season of all the fishing pros.

- INVASIVE SPECIES SPREADING – Zebra mussels and white perch continued their spread across Kansas lakes, and numbers of Asian carp climbed considerably in the Kansas River and its tributaries before the fish were stopped by  stopped by assorted dams.

Hoping to stem the accidental spread of Asian carp by anglers mistaking them for bait species like gizzard shad, Wildlife and Parks implemented a regulation that basically made it illegal to  transport angler-caught bait from the water where it was caught. The issue wasn’t popular with catfishermen, who rely heavily on green sunfish they catch for bait on setlines for flathead catfish. The law was eventually amended late in 2012 to allow anglers to transport bluegill and green sunfish for bait.

– MO’ MOUNTAIN LIONS – The obvious image of a mountain lion on a trail camera in Stafford County in November was news because it hardly made much news. This is the ninth confirmation of mountain lions in Kansas since 2007. Prior to that, none had been documented in more than 100 years.  Kansas’ documentations go along with those in other prairie states as the cats spread from the Rockies and Black Hills.

On a related note, the e-mail hoax of a mountain lion dragging a whitetail buck by a feeder, allegedly in Kansas, made the rounds at least twice in 2012.  The image is several years old and has been mistakenly linked to at least 12 states, and six or more Kansas counties.

– LESSER PRAIRIE CHICKEN LISTING – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a desire to list lesser prairie chickens as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. They’ll be working with state agencies, agriculture groups and taking public comment for several months before their official decision is made. Reports say Kansas has more than 75-percent of the nation’s about 40,000 lesser prairie chickens. Numbers and range in Kansas had been increasing until two years of recent drought. Loss of habitat in Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas has greatly reduced range and numbers in those states. If listed, the Kansas lesser prairie chicken season would end and Kansas landowners, energy companies and other land users could see related restrictions placed on their activities.