Monthly Archives: August 2013

McPherson Wetlands dove fields will be open

Brent Theede is amazed what a few weeks of consistent rains did to the McPherson Valley Wetlands, taking the area he manages from bone-dry to wonderfully full.

Now, he’s almost equally amazed at what a few days of heat and sun has done to dry an important portion of that area.

Not long ago the sunflower field he’d had planted for doves was under several feet of water, and he was telling the public and the media it wouldn’t have much to offer when the season opens Sunday morning.

Well, by Friday morning he had the field mowed and reported an estimated 500 to 1,000 doves were in the immediate area.

Theede said the plants don’t hold as many seeds as most years, but since the farmer is turning the field in for insurance all of the grain there is literally “for the birds.”

The field is the one that’s just about one mile north of 11th and Arapaho. Unlike last year, the Wetlands only has one sunflower field available this season.

Theede also reports good numbers of teal building through the area. The special teal season opens Sept. 7. This year’s limit for teal has been raised to six birds per day, with up to 18 in possession.

Annual archery shoot/picnic marks changing of the seasons

Ste. Kathy and I get a lot of invitations. Many are through her career as a psychologist or mine as a journalist. Having been in this area for 21 years we have a wide variety of civic causes that lead to invitations and we’re blessed with a nearly countless number of friends with whom we enjoy  some great social times.

But Saturday was one of our most anticipated events, and rather than a nice Wichita restaurant it’s “in the boonies” near the tiny town of Burns where we only know a small percentage of the people…and there are usually 150 or so in attendance.

For several years friends Pat and Janet Post have hosted a 3-D archery shoot/picnic at their home in Marion County the last weekend of August. It’s basically a gathering of area bowhunters, a chance to spend some time together before heading into months of solitary hunting.  YOU CAN CLICK HERE TO READ A FEATURE I WROTE ABOUT THE EVENT A FEW YEARS AGO. Since, I’ve attended as a participant.

Through the woods a trail leads archers to about 15 live-sized, foam targets ranging from small rats and raccoons to standing black bears, wild boar and about every imaginable shot at a foam whitetail buck possible.

I shoot, and Kathy just walks along, holding our drinks and maybe a quiver of arrows. We purposely avoid getting mixed in with another group, though a lot of people there are roaming the course in packs made up of hunting buddies. They have fun, and so do we.  It’s a welcome hour or so to just wander around outside, and enjoy each other.

This year the weather seemed perfect, with enough of a breeze and plenty of shade, to keep us from feeling to hot.

Last year the weather was even better, as a  downpour of about four inches of rain hammered the event.  In the midst of that tail-kicking drought, the rain was appreciated and most of us just walked around getting soaked, laughing and having a great times shooting, eating and visiting.

And eat, we do well, as appetizers and a great meal are spread on long tables.

There is also plenty of visiting with friends we mainly only see at the event, plus Pat and Janet, They’re dear friends we laugh with…A LOT…and need to see more.

One of my favorite things about the event is that most in attendance are coming as families. Kids aged from toddlers to teens stand in line and launch arrows from bows furnished at the shoot.

Nothing fancy, nothing expensive…but we’ll do our best to be there in 2014, too.

Maybe skill for Robin Hood, but just plain bad luck for me

One arrow entering the back of another is called a Robin Hood,…or luck, depending on the shooter.

They’re called Robin Hoods, when an archer shoots one arrow into the back of another. I have friends who have set out to shoot Robin Hoods, then placed the connected arrows on display amid 3-D shoot trophies and the antlers and horns of bow-killed big game.

In my case, they’re mainly called luck. Seriously.

One arrow has to perfectly split the nock of another for a Robin Hood. I contend it’s often a case of luck…at least when I’m shooting.

The way I see it, so many things have to go perfectly for the very tip of a target point to enter the very center of nock at the back end of another arrow. If I take a step to one side or another between arrows it can’t happen. If the target butt slides a few degrees, which can happen with most portable targets, it can’t happen. If the shot is off, maybe 1/8″, it can’t happen.

When I’m shooting well, like all archers, I’ll occasionally shoot the nock off one arrow, or slide a shaft in so close to another that a fletching is pierced or torn. Those things may happen several times a year….as may shots that unexpectedly strike the target two or three times the normal distance from the previous arrow.

But in 45 years of archery, including more than 30 years of serious bowhunting, this is only the second “Robin Hood” of my life.

Proud? Not really, or not nearly as much as I’d have been of shooting four or five arrows well enough that the shafts were all touching at the same 20 yards.

And to be honest, I’d be happier with making such a spot-on shot this November on a whitetail or mule deer buck.

Besides, that was a $12 arrow that got ruined in the deal!


Limb Chicken (squirrel) time again!

OK, it’s time for my annual campaign to get hunters to recognize a fine game animal that’s going more and more ignored as people concentrate on things with antlers or webbed feet. (Don’t get me wrong, I spend far more time hunting deer, ducks and geese than all other species of game combined, but…)

The makings of a fun hunt Monday morning — an old, scoped .22 rifle, the distress squirrel call, the tails of fox(left) and gray squirrels and the partially-eaten pignut hickory nuts that showed where the Limb Chickens were active.

– Squirrel season is the longest true season in Kansas, running June 1-Feb. 28. (Yes, I know rabbits and coyotes are year-around…but is that really a season?)

– Some of the best hunting is on public ground, especially on the public hunting areas in the eastern half of the state.

– These days when public land deer hunters have to shop for parking spots on public lands because of their sport’s popularity, may see a squirrel hunter going years before he sees someone afield after the same game. (About a decade ago I got an elderly guy from Wichita started hunting squirrels.  He went at least once per month of the season, only hunted public lands, and it was in his third year before he saw another squirrel hunter.)

– No real need for fancy, and expensive, equipment. Technically a cheap, old hand-me-down single-shot shotgun or .22 and a handful of shells will do. Me, I’m a gadget guy so I have a call that replicates a squirrel in distress and another that imitates one chattering. Total cost for the calls?  About $20, and I’ve had them for more than 10 years and called in a lot more squirrels per day afield than deer or wild turkeys.

– If you  could ask anybody on my grandmother’s side of the family, especially back two to five generations, they’d flat tell you squirrel is fine on the dinner table. Living poor and so deep in the Ozarks they only got sunlight every third day, they grew up calling them “Limb Chickens” because they ate so many . Fried squirrel, with fresh mashed potatoes, and homegrown green beans and sliced tomatoes was one of my grandfather’s favorite meals. We fix them a variety of ways, often simmering the meat from the bones and substituting it for chicken with pastas and other recipes.

Squirrel helper anyone?…don’t laugh, buy a box of chicken helper and try it. It’s good.

As well as tasty, they’re also pretty danged healthy and clean to eat, too. Both species of Kansas squirrels – fox and gray — are almost exclusively vegetarians and live most of the year on things like walnuts, hickory nuts, acorns, corn, (wild or domestic) sunflower seeds and tree buds. That’s a lot cleaner living than a lot of the “healthy” commercial meats. Shoot, a free-range chicken might follow a cow around all day waiting for a hot lunch…not that that doesn’t mean the chicken is still not fine to eat.

–  The main thing I like about squirrel hunting is that it’s just fun, especially this time of the year when the squirrels are busy looking for some of the first ripe walnuts and hickory nuts of the year.

Monday morning I took a couple of hours to do a slow, relaxed walk through our farm north of Lawrence. It’s an annual event as I walk our place’s main deer trails, check on treestands, creek and fence crossings.  More than two years of serious drought had impacted acorn and other nut production so I knew our number of fox and gray squirrels would be down. They were, but the hunting was still good.

I walked up on one and called in another before I saw the first sign of freshly-opened walnut or pignut hickory hulls. Stopping to call there, the woods lit up as six to seven squirrels started barking, chattering and racing through the tree tops. I took a nice gray, but moved on to see more of the farm instead of waiting for the others to again become active

The last two squirrels came minutes apart from a small area where I found hickory hulls littering the ground like sunflower hulls below the bleachers at a ball game. Both came to calls and offered easy shots as they were working, and chattering, their way down the tree upon which I was leaning.

Thanks to a long-sleeved shirt, knee-high boots and bug spray I exited the woods without a single chigger, tick or mosquito bite. As well as squirrels I got to watch a red-shouldered hawk hunting not far away, jumped a few deer and saw a flock of wild turkey toms scratching away in a patch of prairie grass we’d burned just the afternoon before. Several species of curious songbirds came almost within touching distance to add their two cents when I was using my distress call, too.

A great morning to be alive in the wildlife-rich woods, a total of about 36-cents in ammo (I missed once), and a fine few, very good and healthy  meals awaiting to come later in the week.

I love this time of the year.

OK, now I’m off my Limb Chicken soapbox for another year.


Time for the trail cams

This buck obviously feels at home on this food plot, showing up about every day for the past two weeks. He’s put on about 15 to 20 more inches of antler since last year.

It’s kind of like running a trotline, only you have the chance to catch a lot more than just five or six fish.

I ran a set recently  that had more than 1,600 “catches” in about two weeks. I’m talking, of course, about running a string of trail cameras.

What used to be bulky units the size of cigar boxes, that used size D batteries and a roll of 36 exposure film are now about as little as about one-third the old size, run on a few AA batteries and I have some memory cards that store more than 4,000 images.

Photos of young, spotted fawns are always a pleasure to see. This doe actually appears to have triplets, though the camera never got all four in the same frame.

The main thing those with trail cameras…and note it’s plural, because once you have one you realize you need many more, are placed for is to get photos of deer. The main goal is often trophy bucks but I get a kick out of the shots of little spotted fawns, or a pair of does reared up on their hind legs, slapping hooves in a power struggle over a source of food.


Tulsa’s purple martin majesty…400,000 strong!

It’s no secret I’ve enjoyed the Wichita purple martin show near the Via Christi medical complex on St. Francis for several years. It seemed so special to be in such a setting and have 40,000 or so of the birds swirling about overhead, then pouring themselves into a tiny line of trees under the glow of street lights.

Well, I just found out I’m going to be making a road trip next year, to see a much better purple martin show in downtown Tulsa. I’d read online that it is not uncommon for 250,000 of the great little birds to gather there.

Mark Schuyler, a local dentist who I’ve spend some great times with at the Wichita roost, went to Tulsa last week and estimated their flights at closer to 400,000 birds. Even my limited math skills shows thats 10-times better than the best show I’ve seen in Wichita. Another person at the same event, an Oklahoman, assured me there were at least 300,000 birds at the Tulsa roost.

Schuyler was kind enough to SHARE SOME FINE VIDEO of what he and his family saw last week. When you click this link, you should go to a page that shows you three other videos “Docshu” shot that same evening.

As well as numbers,the Tulsa birds seem to be openly embraced by local businesses, unlike Via Christi which altered much of the bird’s habitat this summer.

In Oklahoma, a downtown hotel allows parking on the top floor of their parking garage, which puts viewers directly in the bird’s flight patterns as they descend into the trees below. The Audubon people in Tulsa offer educational evenings for the public, and keep martin updates on their website. They also have link so viewers can express their appreciation for the birds to the Tulsa mayor’s office.

While the birds will probably be around another week or so in Tulsa, our schedules won’t allow us time to go down for a viewing this year.

But I’m danged sure seeing a road trip a few hours to the south and east coming in August, 2014.


Casts and Blasts from Aug. 1 KDWPT commission meeting

As well as what was listed on SUNDAY’S OUTDOORS PAGE, the following also happened at last week’s Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission meeting in Yates Center.

The following waterfowl seasons were set -

Low Plains Early Zone – Oct. 5-Dec. 1, and Dec. 21-Jan.5.

Low Plains Late Zone – Oct. 26-Dec. 29, and Jan. 18-26.

Low Plains Southeast Zone – Nov. 2-3, and Nov. 16-Jan. 26.

Youth seasons are the weekend before the regular season openers.

(Duck limits are up to six ducks, of which no more than five can be mallards, with no more than two hens. Included within the six daily ducks can be no more than two redheads, three wood ducks, three scaup, two pintails and two canvasbacks. The limit will be six birds daily during the special September teal seasson.)

This year the possession limit on all migratory birds will be three times the daily possession limit.

White-fronted goose season – Oct. 26-Dec. 29, and Feb. 1-Feb. 9, daily limit of two.

Canada goose season – Oct. 26-Nov. 3 and Nov. 6-Feb. 9, daily limit of six.

Light goose season – Oct. 26-Nov. 3, and Nov. 6-Feb. 9, daily limit of 50.

– Jim Pitman, Wildlife and Parks upland program coordinator, expressed a desire to reduce the fall turkey limit from four birds to one in turkey management units 4, 5, and 6 during the fall of 2014 fall season. Pitman said spring success rates aren’t high enough to warrant liberal fall limits, though only a very small percentage of fall turkey hunters annually shoot more than one bird.

– Linda Lanterman, state parks director, introduced the current Miss Kansas, Theresa Vail, and said Vail was working with some state park promotions.

Commission approves waterfowl seasons, raises Canada goose limit

YATES CENTER – Jim Chappell thought he had strength in numbers, bringing five liked-minded hunters and a petition with about 80 signatures to Thursday’s Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission meeting.

Chappell, and friends were hoping to persuade commissioners to follow the recommendation of state biologists when setting the southeast zone duck seasons. His fear was the commission, as they did last year, would honor the request of Commissioner Don Budd, of Kansas City, and set the season to run about as as late as possible, – Nov. 2-3 and Nov. 16-Jan. 26.

Tom Bidrowski, Wildlife and Parks waterfowl biologist, recommended a Nov. 2-Jan. 5 and Jan. 18-26 season. Budd contended the best hunting isn’t until later in the season, hence his version.

Chappell, of Chanute, said Budd’s season was to placate those with access to managed private waters and rivers, and who mainly enjoy shooting late season mallards. He said the early November days were important for those who enjoy hunting earlier migrants, like teal, gadwall, widgeon and wood ducks.

“It’s a duck season, not a mallard season,” said Chappell, who manages a lease near one of Budd’s. “You hunt ducks, why set the season for a few?” Chappell and others told commissioners those who could only hunt public land, like many youth, really enjoyed the early season, before the marshes froze and pushed the ducks to private waters.

About five hunters spoke in favor of Budd’s season dates, or at least a season that allowed them as much of January as possible.

Commissioners voted 6-1 to approve Budd’s season.

Chappell shook his head after the meeting ended. “I had a petition with 80 people who wanted some early season, and five people who spoke,” he said. “They had five people who spoke for (Budd’s) season. “It’s not fair that he’s a commissioner and gets what he wants. I guess we don’t need a (Wildlife and Parks) staff.”

Also at the meeting -

– Commissioners approved two waterfowl season dates requested by Commissioner Ron Marshall, of Great Bend. Marshall’s low plains early zone duck season dates of Oct. 5-Dec. 1, and Dec. 21-Jan. 5 allowed for more late season hunting than Wildlife and Parks’ recommendations. His Canada goose season dates of Oct. 26-Nov. 3, and Nov. 6-Feb. 9 allowed for more early season Canada goose hunting than staff recommendations. Both passed 7-0.

– The daily bag limit on Canada geese was raised from three to six. Bidrowski said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had just approved allowing a limit of up to eight Canadas per day, but the biologist recommended six per day saying some hunters might think eight would be a limit too hard to obtain. The department had asked for a limit of five Canadas per day for several years. The federal agency is also going to allow hunters a possession limit of three-times their daily bag limits, compared to two in previous years. The daily limit on snow geese was raised from 20 to 50.

– Commissioners and department staff discussed possibly reducing the costs of resident and non-resident youth hunting licenses and permits. Possibilities include lowering resident youth deer permits from $15 to $10, and non-resident youth deer permits from $300 to $75. The reductions could cost the department about $190,000 or more in lost fees. Mike Miller, Pass It On coordinator and information chief, said increased sales could help make up much of that loss, and said similar reductions in other states have gotten more kids afield.