Monthly Archives: June 2013

Casts and Blasts from June 27 KDWPT Commission meeting

More details from Thursday’s Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission meeting in Garden City.


– Most commissioners really seemed to feel they were in a “no-win” situation when they voted on the game warden’s request to make it illegal to use vehicles and/or two-way communications for hunting coyotes during the firearms deer season.

The request was made because game wardens regularly come across people illegally hunting deer with those two methods, and saying they’re hunting coyotes.

“The toughest thing for me is to not give our law enforcement guys the teeth they need,” said Commissioner Don Budd, of Kansas City.

“We need some baseline data….we’re not going to know if anything we do is really effective,” Commissioner Randy Doll, of Leon, said of wanting to now exactly how many complaints game wardens get annually about such illegal deer hunting.

B.J. Thurman, supervisor for about half of Kansas’ game wardens, estimated all of his officers get about two such complaints each firearms deer season, but indicated the problem could be more wide spread.

Every commissioner verbally expressed a fear that passing such a regulation would unfairly punish coyote hunters who are using vehicles and two-way communications legally.

Commissioners asked for more exact numbers of such complaints, and wish to discuss the issue further next year.

–Tom Bidrowski, Wildlife and Parks waterfowl biologist, said duck limits, and seasons and limits on geese, should closely resemble last year’s. Commissioners will vote on seasons at an Aug. 1 commission meeting in Yates Center. See the above link for possible conflict between staff and commissioner recommendations.

– Debate for setting the season for Kansas’ southeast duck zone was less “spirited” than last year. Budd said he didn’t want things to be as heated, and said his recommendation gives Kansas hunters three opening weekends.

– Keith Sexson, Wildlife and Parks assistant secretary, told commissioners the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced they’ll delay deciding if lesser prairie chickens should be placed on the threatened or endangered species list until around March 31. That means Kansas can have a season for the birds this fall and winter.

– Linda Craghead, tourism and state parks director, said the state’s new Park Passport program, which allows people to purchase annual state park passes at reduced rates when they register their vehicles, is doing fairly well.

She said the department’s goal is to get at least 5 percent of all vehicles to carry such tags. Currently, the rate is about 3.5 percent. About a dozen counties currently are getting more than 10 percent of their vehicles in the program. Butler County is one  of those counties.

Craghead said they need at least 4.5 percent to off-set losses in funding from the Kansas a legislature.

– Jim Pitman, Wildlife and Parks upland bird biologist, said about 73,500 turkey permits or tags were sold for the 2013 spring season. That’s an increase of about 10,000 from 2012. He said increased turkey numbers across eastern Kansas were probably responsible for the increase. Pitman predicted the 2013 spring harvest was probably also better than 2012.

– Mike Miller, information chief and Pass It On coordinator, said the department would like to decrease the costs youths pay for hunting permits in Kansas. Miller quoted figures from Missouri and Nebraska that showed youth participation can grow quickly when prices are lowered.

For instance, when Nebraska dropped non-resident youth deer hunting permits from $177 to $5  sales eventually went from 128 to 921 permits sold. Early discussion is that no youth permits would be cut by more than half in Kansas, like non-resident deer permits going from $300 to $150.

Miller hopes the decrease in Kansas prices will be made up for with the sale of more youth deer permits.

– All seven commissioners were in attendance. It was the last meeting for Commissioner Debra Bolton, of Garden City, who had served two terms.   Gov. Sam Brownback has yet to appoint her replacement


Coyote hunting regs unchanged. “Spook” Spann back in federal court to face charges.

A Wildlife and Parks request to make it illegal to hunt coyotes with vehicles and/or with the use of two-way communications during the 12 day firearms deer season was denied Thursday night in Garden City. Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission members said such a regulation would unfairly punish those who legally are hunting coyotes by such means.

Game wardens requested the regulation change to battle illegal deer hunters using vehicles and two-way communications, then claim to be hunting coyotes when checked by law enforcement officials. Commissioners Don Budd and Gerald Lauber said they did not like to turn down a law enforcement request but didn’t want to unfairly punish one style of hunter, largely those who pursue coyotes with dogs, who are not the source of the problem.

Commissioners also asked law enforcement officials to provide specific numbers of complaints so they can better discuss the issue in more detail next year.

The commission learned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is raising the limit of teal from four to six per day for the upcoming September teal season.

Also, television hunting show host William “Spook” Spann spent much of Thursday in federal court in Kansas City, answering to charges he violated a probation he has been serving for illegally shooting a huge whitetail buck in Kansas several years ago.


More details from Thursday’s Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission meeting will be on the Outdoors page of The Wichita Eagle and at on Sunday.


Arkansas River Float Thursday evening

As they have sooooooo many times in the past, the Arkansas River Coalition wants to share the river they care so much about Thursday evening. I’ve copied their entire press release below.
If you’ve never been on a ARC float, I can promise you they’re a great bunch of volunteers who are passionate about  getting more people interested in the Arkansas River.
Note the part below that says they an furnish equipment for those without. Also, no experience necessary.
Arkansas River Coalition Twilight Float for Thursday, June 27, departing by 6:30 p.m.


Contact Info: Contact Vince Marshall, e-mail:, home: 755-1473 or cell: 680-9669 to RSVP or for information.
Float Description:  On the Arkansas River in South Wichita, this is about a 3-mile course  that includes passage beneath several road bridges and a railroad bridge.  We will paddle along some mostly wooded river banks.  At this time, the river has more water available for a rather decent float.  The paddler will still need to search for that elusive deeper channel.  It probably will be a hot day with some wind.

Float Starts:  On the Arkansas River, accessed from near the Water Center at Herman Hill Park in South Wichita.  This park can be accessed from a north entrance on Pawnee west of the intersection with Broadway.

Float Ends:  Below the S. Hydraulic Street bridge over the Arkansas River.  The landing point is in the Chapin Park which has an drive entry south of the bridge.

Timetable:  Gather at the launch site around 5:30 p.m.; at about 6:00 p.m. run a shuttle on Pawnee and down Hydraulic St. to park vehicles at the landing site; back to the launch site and on the water by 6:30 p.m.; land boats and be off the river by sundown.

Suggested supply items:  Bring drinking water, a snack, sun protection, bug repellent and the usual safety and essential gear.

FootwearTo protect against sharp rocks, broken glass and other debris is case you need to exit your boat in the water, wear sandals, sneakers or boots- no flip flops.
REQUIRED- Bring a completed waiver of liability forms can be downloaded from the ARC web site,,

Need a kayak to participate in this float?  Contact Vince Marshall as soon as possible to make arrangements.  In any case, let Vince know byWednesday, June 26, if you are going on this float………

 CostThere is no cost for joining our floats which are made possible by voluntary, tax deductible, donations from friends, supporters and participants like you- $15 donation suggested when using ARC supplied equipment.  Please make donation checks payable to The Arkansas River Coalition, Inc.  In case of cash donation, write the amount of donation on the back side of your waiver of liability form.
The Arkansas River Coalition is much more than just a paddle club.  If you are not a member of ARC, please consider joining to support it’s mission to protect, restore and improve the entire watershed and enhance the well-being of all life it sustains.  Membership forms may be downloaded from our web site,

Casts and Blasts on Theresa Vail -Avid Bowhunter/Miss Kansas

A few details that didn’t make the Sunday Outdoors page feature on Theresa Vail, the current Miss Kansas that’s loved the outdoors for most of her life.


–Theresa actually got her start squirrel hunting in Germany, where she claims they have “huge fox squirrels.”

– The family squirrel recipe is a stew that includes sauerkraut and beef broth. (Yes, I will be getting that recipe.)

– Like many women, she’s left eye-dominant and shoots a left-handed bow. Theresa said her success shooting military weapons improved greatly when she started shooting left-handed several years ago.

– Her right forearm holds a slight scar from where the bowstring often slaps her skin after the shot.

– She’s successfully hunted wild turkeys with a shotgun, but wants to hunt them with a bow.

– Though her schedule is very busy with Miss Kansas duties, she hopes to try bowhunting for mule deer this fall near Pratt.

– One of her dreams is to hunt bears with her bow and arrow.

– She has no photos of herself  and the 150-class eight-pointer she shot last fall in Ohio. She said the shot was made late in the evening, and she had to catch a flight early the next morning. That’s when her friends recovered the deer. She does have a video clip of the hunt and her voice can be heard after the shot.

– Though she likes to hunt deer with a bow, and squirrels with a 20 gauge, Theresa said she has a 12 gauge with a red dot scope for her home defense weapon of choice.

– Theresa is at least the fourth Miss Kansas, including both the Miss America and Miss USA pageants, to enjoy shooting and/or hunting in about the past 15 years.

Kansas pheasant harvest, spring population near all-time lows

First, for the bad news.

Last fall and winter Kansas pheasant hunters shot about 230,000 pheasants. That’s the lowest since about 154,000 in 1957, the first year harvest records were kept.

A rare sight last season…a hunter with a rooster pheasant. Last season’s harvest was the lowest in about 55 years because of severe drought.

Second, for the really bad news – this coming season could be worse in some areas, according to spring surveys.

Jim Pitman, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism upland bird biologist provided the harvest estimates.  He also furnished the results of the agency’s annual spring pheasant counts. It’s an annual event where agency staff run prescribed rural routes, stopping at prescribed locations to listen for rooster pheasants crowing.

“This is horrific compared to where we were just a few years ago,” said Pitman. “When you’re as low as we are this year, it means you’re pretty much going to have (very low populations) this fall, even with good production. We just don’t have many bird out there.”

As a comparison, Pitman said hunters shot about 900,000 rooster pheasants back during the 2010-2011 season. That was one of the highest of all time, and the highest in about 25 years. Two to three years of severe drought across much of Kansas’s top pheasant country, and record-setting heat, killed a lot of adult birds and made it almost impossible for chicks to survive.

As low as crow counts were last year, many are far, far lower this spring. Northwestern Kansas still has the best numbers, but…

“…from the spring of 2012, the counts are down 40 percent region-wide,” Pitman said. “That’s just a one year change. It’s probably 75 to 80 percent down from 2010.”

Some figures of interest – southwest Gove County had a 90 percent decline from last year. Thomas County is down 72 percent from last year and Gray County down 71 percent. As a region, south-central Kansas was down 27 percent from last year and the entire state was down 37 percent.

“It’s just an example of of how quickly things can fluctuate,” Pitman said. “It can go the other way just as quick, too…if it ever rains.”

Wildlife and Parks will do brood counts this summer, and have a better idea of this fall’s populations.



Yet another problem from ticks

Just this week my family learned that a friend hunting turkeys on our wooded lands north of Lawrence picked up a few ticks on his April hunt. At the Dr. for another matter, they ran a blood test and found he’d tested positive for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Fortunately, they got treatment started  before symptoms arose and all should be well.

About the same time I started hearing about a disease spread by the Lone Star tick, or at least that’s what the disease is named. We had an article about the disease in today’s Wichita Eagle. YOU CAN CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT IT. I’ve also heard several reports lately of the disease being found in Missouri.

And, unfortunately, Lyme Disease is still too prevalent in many areas, including Kansas. Some groups are also claiming America’s health industry isn’t giving tick-borne diseases enough attention, or treating them properly when diagnosed.

Personally, I’ve had a lot less ticks since I started treating some of my garments with Permethrin, a spray you put on your clothing and let it dry before wearing. It lasts up to six weeks, even through a few washings.  YOU CAN CLICK HERE FOR A LINK TO THE PRODUCT.  Several brands of spray contain the chemical. As per the directions, do not get it on your skin while the spray is still wet!

News from lesser prairie chicken country

A day-old lesser prairie chicken fitted with a tracking device for research in Gove County Monday morning. MICHAEL PEARCE/THE WICHITA EAGLE

As the federal government moves closer to putting lesser prairie chickens on their threatened or endangered species lists, state agencies, colleges, wildlife and agriculture groups are working together to learn more about the grouse of the short grass and sand/sage prairie.

Here are a few bits of information. Sunday’s outdoors page in The Wichita Eagle and will have more complete details. A photo gallery about 50 photos will also be posted online.

– Biologists are currently studying the birds in all five states with lesser prairie chicken populations, – Kansas, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado.

– Three teams of biologists have been studying Kansas lessers in extreme southwest Kansas,  the Red Hills region northwest of Medicine Lodge and the Gove/Logan County Smoky Hill country south of Oakley.

– The further south and west you go, the worse the drought and, generally, the worse the conditions for good lesser habitat. The Colorado population, small for a long time, may have really taken some serious damage from five or so years of on-going drought.

– Researchers in the Smoky and Red Hills were impressed with the numbers of adult birds they found when they started studying the birds late last winter and early this spring. Drought the previous two years had impacted the populations some, but probably not as much as with the greater prairie chickens in the Smoky Hills.

– Probably the best lek in that Smoky Hill region consistently held about 21 displaying males. Researchers were downright shocked to find 17 hens on the lek one morning earlier this spring. Normally it’s a good morning if 10 to 20 percent of the birds on a lek are females, since most only come a time or two to get bred.

Male lesser prairie chickens are still attending leks in some places, as they’ve been doing for about the past four months. MICHAEL PEARCE/FILE PHOTO

– Overall grassland habitat is fair to poor across the Smoky Hills because of grazing and the drought. CRP fields, many of which have been hayed or grazed the past two summers, offer little habitat. Some biologists have claimed CRP is why the birds have done so well across western Kansas the past 20 or so years.

– Nest survival hasn’t been as good as hoped in some areas, probably because the lack of good habitat makes the nests and nesting hens more vulnerable to predation.

– Chicks began hatching in the Smoky Hills late last week. At least one brood of chicks has already perished to the 100-plus degree heat of the past few days.

Researchers are studying lesser prairie chickens in three locations in Kansas, like these biologists Monday morning in Gove County. MICHAEL PEARCE/THE WICHITA EAGLE

– Males are still attending leks in some fairly impressive numbers. Monday morning researchers in Gove County counted 14 males and 3 females on a lek on the Fleming Ranch. At least one of the females was known to be a bird that had lost her eggs earlier. She may try to renest if she’s been bred again.

Legislature leaves park fees, approves new public area

The Kansas legislature ended up not taking $500,000 from state park earnings, according to Chris Tymeson, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism attorney.

In March the House Appropriations Committee recommended taking that much from fees gathered from renting state park cabins. Rep. Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, the committee chairman, said they looked into many department funds as a way of coming up with the about $400 million lost to the state budget because of Jan. 1 tax cuts.

The proposal drew the ire of many Kansans, many of whom noted that the state parks had been working hard to become self-sufficient for many years.

The proposal would have taken the $500,000 from money earned from state park cabin rentals.

Also during the recently ended legislative session, according to Tymeson –

– The legislature OKed a Wildlife and Parks purchase of about 800 acres in Jefferson County. It will be used largely as a public hunting area. Federal funds gathered from excise taxes on hunting and shooting equipment will pay for most of the about $1.2 million paid for the land.

– Boating under the influence laws have been changed to more closely mirror similar laws for driving automobiles.

– Wildlife and Parks game wardens have been granted to power to help the state agriculture officials when it comes to laws pertaining to domesticated deer.

– Tax rates on boats will gradually be reduced until they are about 1/6th of what Kansans are currently paying.

– Wildlife and Parks can legally issue up to 10 deer permits to “Wounded Warrior” hunters who have had at least 30 percent disability from military-related injuries. The permits will be sold at regular costs, and are for soldiers who sign up for such a hunt after the general state non-resident deer permits have been sold.


Casts and Blasts, June 3

A few things of outdoors interest.

- A month or so ago Tuttle Creek Reservoir was about 10 feet below normal pool. Over the weekend it was about 10 feet above normal pool. Even my limited math skills knows that’s a 20 foot change in water levels. That can happen at Tuttle Creek, which probably has the largest drainage area of any reservoir. (Fishing was very good at both extremes.)

- Meanwhile, Cheney Reservoir only gained about 1 1/2 feet with last week’s rains, and is still about 5 feet below normal. That’s a lot at a lake built as shallow as Cheney. It’s surprising such a short raise came after much of the drainage got three to four inches of rain one night last week.

- Thomas Warner, K-State’s Wildlife Outdoor Enterprise Management director, returned a call from last week. I’d hoped to ask Warner about Pratt Community College’s new Wildlife Enterprise Management program. Monday Warner said he supported junior colleges, and the service they provide for students across America, and wished the best for the Pratt program.

Warner’s program is in about its fourth year, and admission to the program is highly competitive. Those who graduate from the two year Pratt program will have to go through the regular application process if they hope to be accepted into the K-State program.