Monthly Archives: July 2013

“Spook” Spann sentenced to jail for violation of poaching-related probation

Professional hunter and outdoors television show host William “Spook” Spann has been sentenced to 30 days in jail, and has been banned from hunting anywhere in the world for one year.

Spann, 50, of Dickson, Tenn., received the sentence for violating conditions of a probation for a poaching violation he received last year in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo.

His jail time can be spent through assorted nights and weekends and must be completed by Feb. 28, 2014. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons will decide where Spann serves his time.

According to a court document, U.S. Magistrate Judge James P. O’Hara ruled Spann had violated a probation that forbid him from hunting anywhere in the United States for about the first half of this year. Federal game wardens obtained video footage and Facebook photos of Spann dressed in camoflauge and assisting other turkey hunters this spring in Tennessee. Though Spann was not carrying a weapon and did not kill a turkey, he was ruled to be hunting because he was calling to turkeys, carrying hunting equipment, carrying dead turkeys and illegally spreading bait to attract turkeys.

In November 2012, Spann  pled guilty to a 2007 violation of the Lacey Act, when he transported an illegally-tagged buck from Kansas to Tennessee.  In November 2007,  Spann shot a whitetail buck in Stafford County that carried non-typical antlers that gross-scored about 230 inches of antler on the Pope & Young scoring system, making it one of the biggest bucks killed in the world.

The buck was shot during the Kansas archery deer season, with proper equipment and where Spann had permission to hunt. The permit he used, though, was specifically restricted to land Spann owned and/or leased for agricultural purposes.

When Spann plead guilty in November to the Lacey Act violation, he was ordered to pay $20,000 in fines and restitution. He was then banned from hunting anywhere in the U.S. for six months and from hunting in Kansas for an entire year. He was also ordered to forfeit the antlers of the illegally-tagged buck, and any replicas that had been made of the rack.


Turkey vulture in a tux still not pretty

As is usually the case, Tuesday morning I was sticking to the backroads, spending most of my time watching anywhere but the road, when  I spotted a bunch of about 20 turkey vultures spread amid the top of a dead tree and a few fence posts. About 40 yards away, perched by itself, was a lone vulture. When I passed by it opened it’s wings and I saw the body was splashed with white.

This piebald turkey vulture was photographed between Sterling and the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge on Tuesday morning.

I’ve seen normally black birds splashed with white coloring before, but they’ve been crows that were obviously roosting on the lower branches of  of a communal roost tree.(Insert “ewwwhhhh” and wrinkled face, here), but I’d never seen a vulture like this.

Turning a quick, but careful U-turn in a soft spot down the road, I checked the bird first with binoculars and saw it was what I’d thought – a piebald turkey vulture, with most of its white plumage up around it’s neck.

As I let the car roll slowly down the road towards the bird, three birds from the tree pitched down into the middle of the road. The bird with the tuxedo feathering followed, landing amid them. As soon as he landed the other three vultures walked several yards away, and wouldn’t look back at the piebald bird.

When the birds flushed as a truck barreled towards them, (which I thought was fairly rude since I was obviously in the middle of photo shoot,) the white and black bird landed on a fence post about 50 yards from the others. I think there’s no doubt he’s being shunned.

Other vultures seemed to shun the piebald bird on the ground, and it roosted many yards away from the other birds when they were in trees or on fence posts.

Home after an afternoon of shooting pics at Cheyenne Bottoms and the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, I pulled up the shots of the off-colored buzzard first. The white plumage is kind of striking, but it still leads into what has to be the ugliest mug in the bird world.

But at least he looks better than the other vultures that were shunning him…I wonder if they were jealous?

Fishing with Riley or Fun fishing with a five-year-old

Five-year-old Riley with one of the white perch she caught. She let her dad reel in one, so she wouldn’t have to put down the “awesome” nightcrawler she’d just found.

CHENEY RESERVOIR – At 7:30 a.m. on Saturday mornings most kids aren’t even up, and if they are they’re watching cartoons. Not five-year-old Riley Everitt, she was watching a fish finder, occasionally yelling, “Daddy, daddy, there’s a fish on the bottom, a big one.” Sure enough, when I looked over there would be the inverted V that was the sign of a large fish on the bottom.

Most little kids, when they turn and see a three-inch-long bug near their face, one with raised wings and long pointy things coming from it’s behind, might scream or at least move away. Riley stared, pointed at it, asked what it was and if it could hurt anybody…then calmly reach over and picked the adult mayfly up by its wings and asked four or five more questions about the insect. She was good enough to trust me with the mayfly, while she went and caught another one, and another one, and…

Riley and her dad, Kacci Everitt, check the fish finder for wipers.

To say fishing was slow was to say that Riley had perfect hair, which she knew, but she managed to stay entertained. A box of nightcrawlers was as good as a box of toys as she dug a finger with the remnants of pink fingernail polish in the bedding until she found the ‘crawler of her dreams. In fact, the worm was sooooo impressive that when a white perch grabbed the bait on her line she refused to reel it in because she didn’t want put put down her ” So awesome, Daddy” nightcrawler.

She did gladly use him for bait the next time the hook was empty…who said five-year-olds are good at commitments?

Riley never met a mayfly she didn’t like, and want to hold, but she did share her insects well.

And though the little blonde did have some tomboy actions, she did have the perfect hair and enough of the fashion gene to say, “Let me see,” faster than the shutter speed, when she heard a camera’s click. (Also, she never met a photo of herself she didn’t seem to like, either.)

This five-year-old, though, was good at patience. Well, she wasn’t really that patient with the fishing but she was patient with her father, Kacci, who was determined to catch a nice wiper. Several times that morning Riley told her dad she was ready to quit, and he’d tell her they’d fish one more spot and be done…and she wouldn’t argue. One more spot turned into three or four, and Kacci never caught the nice wipers he’d been on by the scores for much of the summer.

I certainly didn’t get bored, thanks to Riley.

The boat was stopped for about 3.82 seconds when Riley decided it was time for breakfast. She set the donut on the boat’s dash, and took bites in between catching fish and capturing mayflies and nightcrawlers.

So, we have someone who can get up very early to go fishing, can read a fish finder, isn’t scared of fish, or worms, or bugs, or getting cold, or waves and is happy to share anything she has from donuts and bait to good-bye hugs…and she caught the most fish and didn’t brag about it!

The fishing world needs a lot more Riley’s,…no matter what the age.


Former longtime legislator appointed to wildlife commission

Gary Hayzlett, a retired longtime member of the Kansas legislature, has been appointed to the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission by Gov. Sam Brownback.

“I got out of the legislature after 22 years, and had 16 years on the county commission, and now I’m a (Wildlife and Parks) commissioner,” Hayzlett said in a Friday morning interview. “I’ve always had an interest in wildlife, and Wildlife and Parks…I’m thrilled, make that very thrilled about it. I think it’ll be a really neat thing.”

He will be replacing Debra Bolton, of Garden City, who recently ended eight years on the commission.

The 71-year-old from Lakin was born and raised in the community where he previously owned a grocery store and Dairy Queen. A lifelong upland bird hunter, Hayzlett said he drew a permit during Kansas’ first deer season in the mid-1960s, and shot a trophy whitetail in Wallace County. He’s since traveled to a number of states hunting assorted gamebirds, wild hogs, deer, elk and antelope. He’s also an avid prairie dog shooter and has hosted fund-raising hunts in western Kansas.

Robin Jennison, Wildlife, Parks and Tourism secretary, lauded Gov. Brownback’s choice and hopes Hayzlett’s close connections to the legislature will help the department and commission work better with those in Topeka.

“I’m not really going  with an agenda, I’m really interested in going to watch the process and see what it is,” Hayzlett said of being a commissioner. “I can see there can be a need for a connection between the commission, the secretary and the legislature.”

During his legislative tenure, Hayzlett largely supported the agency but was sometimes at odds with Wildlife and Parks, and sportsmen, on the topics of deer populations and landowner’s rights.

His first meeting will be in Yates Center, on Thursday.

Wichita’s purple martin show uncertain

For several years Kansans gathered at a parking lot south of Via Christi St. Francis, to marvel at up to about 50,000 purple martins that gathered in a communal roost just east of the hospital. Many families of several generations gathered for the last hour of daylight show, and several friendships were made between wildlife watchers who repeatedly found each other at the event.

The popular little insect-eaters gather in such locations in several sizable cities shortly after most of their young are fledged, before making August migrational runs towards wintering areas in South America.

A tiny percentage of the purple martins that roosted in a line of trees at Via Christi St. Francis the past few years. The roosting area has been altered, and the birds are looking for an alternative site.

I know people came from at least 70 miles to see the show. Many couples had made it an annual event to have a fun dinner in Old Town, then catch the purple martins on their way home. Many brought lawn chairs and picnic dinners, too.

But things have changed, as they often do when wildlife is involved. The line of trees at the edge of the seldom used evening parking lot have had a sizable manicure. A hospital source said it was done to remove branches damaged in wind storm, and to remove others for the health and beauty of the trees. With only about half as much foliage as in the past, this summer the purple martins are trying to form a communal roost just west of Via Christi. Some of the trees are in a crowded parking lot and some over an entrance often used by employees. Fearing disease could come in via bird poo tracked in from the parking lot, Via Christi staff has been trying to spook the birds from the new roosting area.

So far, the purple martins don’t seem to want to leave. The species that nests almost entirely in man-made structures also finds comfort in well-lit areas with dense trees that offer protection from predators. Via Christi has the best of both in the area.

Hopefully the birds will settle into a roosting area with less human activity, and one where the public can again enjoy the great show.


Mastery of the art of fishing, rod building, writing and photography

Do me a favor, and yourself as well, and read what I’ve attached to the link a few lines down.

It’s fairly long, but whatever you think you have to get done can wait. The story is moving, the writing masterful and the photography better than artistic paintings.

Dang, I wish I could do anything as well.

It’s an ESPN story about one of the finest custom fly rod makers in the world, despite the little fact that he’s largely paralyzed about from the neck down.

Those of you who fly fish will admire the man for his craft, and how well he understands our way of life.

Those of  you who don’t, may get a hint of why some otherwise sane people become so insane about things like taper, weight, tips, tippets and finding the perfect fly.

So, pour a fresh cup of coffee, grab another can of Coke or pop the top of a a favored beer and enjoy.


Fall 2013 Duck Forecast Promising


Duck Species 2013



Better put that Lab, Chessie or golden on a serious work-out program. And it might be wise to start stocking up on a few more boxes of steel shotgun shells,…and not because they’re being hoarded like handgun and rifle ammo.

The number of ducks sliding down the fly-way could be impressive this year. Ducks Unlimited and Delta Waterfowl both recently sent press releases that site U.S. Fish and Wildlife figures showing the number of breeding (adult) ducks on the northern breeding ducks are high again.

Overall numbers are down six-percent from last year’s very high population, but the number of ponds available for breeding was up about 24 percent across North America’s “Duck Factory” of the northern U.S. and Canada.

The attached chart is courtesy of Delta Waterfowl. YOU CAN CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THEIR RECENT REPORT.


4th of July Celebration, Canadian style

I celebrated the 4th of July closer to the Arctic Circle than the U.S./Canadian border, spending about an hour fly-casting for Arctic grayling in shallow rapids.

I’m a patriotic sort of person. The Star-Spangled Banner means something to be at sporting events. I get a bit defensive when I hear others running down our country.

But last week I spent the 4th of July not with family at our home or family farm or even a nearby lake. I was in northern Canada, closer to the Arctic Circle than the U.S./Canadian border. I was actually up there most of last week, and on the 4th I spent the hot and very windy day casting flies for big northern pike and grayling.

Arnold Stene with a big northern pike I caught on a fly-rod on a 4th of July trip to northern Canada. Other 4ths have been spent fishing in the Yukon, Alaska and Panama.

Somewhere during the trip  I took a few seconds to count up the number of July 4s I’d been out of the U.S., usually fishing and visiting old friends I’d made during my feral days as a full-time freelance outdoor writer.

There was a trip to Alaska to fly fish for rainbow trout the size of salmon, and Jerrod was with me once in the Yukon as we fly-fished for lake trout, grayling, pike and a few other species. He was also along about five or six years ago when we headed to Panama to fly fish for 100 pound sailfish and mahi-mahi and use big, conventional tackle for tuna and marlin.

Three or four times I’ve been in northern Canada, fishing with guide/friend Arnold Stene from a lodge where we first met 25 years ago.

It’s not like I make one of these trips every year, let alone several per summer. I don’t request the 4th of July, though it is nice because it saves me a day of vacation. Dunno, it’s just when the airlines, and my friends, usually have some space and time.  When I can pair an invitation, with some funds to buy airline tickets,…I just go.

This year I celebrated the 4th of July flying to an outpost lake with Arnold, and making about a 20 minute boat ride to one of his favored spots, a line of aquatic weeds near a steep drop-off at a mid-lake reef.  Fish #2 of the morning was a northern pike of 40-inches that came up from within the weeds to take a quail-sized streamer.

Heavy winds, and 90-degree temperatures, made fly-casting difficult and tiring, especially after three days of the same. We took our lunch break at the base of some swift, shallow rapids where I got out of the boat and cast dry flies for very gullible grayling. More pike followed in the afternoon, including a 38 or 40-incher I worked on for 15 minutes, drawing three for four short-strikes, before it finally committed, inhaled the streamer, then took off for Alaska.

The famed over-sized dorsal fin of an Arctic grayling. Some are three times as big. The fish are suckers for about any dry fly floated down the rapids.

(Biggest fish of the trip was a 43-incher that pulled hard but put up no speed. Most memorable fish was a 38-incher that was using the boat’s shadow for cover and rushed out to take the fly as I was lifting it from the water, showering me at the strike. That fish had power and speed, taking me around the boat several times, and three times pulling “I don’t think so, see you later!” runs as I was pulling it to the net. Another good memory was fly-catching a dozen 18″-22″ walleye in about an hour.)

Sure I’d liked to have been home, with my All-American family in our All-American city for the cook-outs and the fireworks. But I guess being able to make such a trip was, in a way, celebrating our great nation.

There aren’t many places in the world where someone can take a career dream that started when they were six-years-old and turn it into a living, and then work hard enough to have the finances and personal freedoms to so enjoy the rest of the world.

God Bless America.