Monthly Archives: September 2013

Casts and Blasts from the Governor’s Paddle on the Kaw

– You can CLICK HERE to see the original article about floating the Kansas River, and how communities are working with state officials and a river preservation group to put more access points on the Kansas River.

Ten students from Wamego High School were part of the Governor’s Paddle the Kaw float on Thursday.

– Last year the Kansas River was designated a prestigious National Water Trail by the federal government. It was only the second river to get such a distinction at the time, and is still one of less than 15 rivers to qualify.

– The float started at the access point just of Highway 99, on the south edge of Wamego. It’s a very nice access point with a ramp, good toilets and decent parking. It’s also within walking distance of most of town. The float ended at the new access point just south of Belvue, which is about 3/4 of a mile from town.

–The float is about 10 miles, but the two towns are only about six miles apart, which would make dropping off a take-out vehicle very easy.

– Amid the estimated 100 people on the float, were 10 members of the Wamego High School Outdoor Recreation Class. Several adults commented that it was fun having the well-behaved youth along. Colton Brown, a sophomore, said of the float, “It was very awesome,” and that he plans on floating the river again.

– It was Gov. Sam Brownback’s first sustained float on the Kansas River…mine, too.

– On Thursday the river’s flow was moderate, but a southeast wind pushing upstream made for quite a bit of paddling. There was enough water that most people didn’t have to drag their canoe or kayak unless the purposely went too close to a sand bar.

– As far as I know, only two canoes or kayaks tipped. One included Robin Jennison, Wildlife and Parks secretary and Ron Kaufman, Wildlife and Parks director of information services. Kaufman is now two for two on dunking nice cameras in the Kansas River on float trips.

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback was impressed with floating on the Kansas River. He told other paddlers he’d like to see more people enjoy the river,

– That they were able to come up with enough canoes and kayaks to float about 100 people down the river was impressive. The Friends of the Kaw provided several. Brownback and Jennison both credited the river preservation group for being major players in opening opportunities along the Kansas River. They also said former governor and former Wildlife and Parks secretary Mike Hayden had been instrumental in getting the public better access, too.

–Roger Wolfe, Wildlife and Parks river access coordinator, said they have two locations picked for possible access points between Belvue and Topeka. If those ramps are built, it will give the public access about every ten or 12 miles the length of the Kansas River.

– The float was indeed very scenic and enjoyable, but I’m guessing I’d have seen more wildlife had the size of the flotilla not been so huge. I really had it easier than about anybody on the float. Charmion Harris, of Milford and very experienced paddler, took care of most of the paddling while I worried about photography. I had my cameras in a dry bag between my knees for most of the float.

– Wildlife and Parks now offers a really nice map for floating the Kansas River. You can CLICK HERE to go to a website for more information.


Central Kansas elk increasing

It’s OK, you can go ahead and tell people what you saw.

Ten years ago probably nobody would have believed you, but these days it would be hard for anyone to doubt that you’ve seen an elk in central Kansas.

Not only do we have elk scattered around, they are reproducing…at least in Reno County.

This bull elk, photographed recently by a trail camera, is one of at least two along a stream in Reno County. At least two cows, each with calves, are in the same area. Reports of elk in central Kansas increase annually.

A buddy recently sent me a couple of trail camera photos of a bull he has on some property he manages along a stream that runs through the county. As well as that bull, he’s seen another on the same property, as well as at least two cows with calves in the same area.

No clue where they’ve come from, but this is at least the third year elk have been seen, and shown up on trail cams, in the region of Kingman, Reno and Stafford counties. Last year a bull was poached near the Reno/Rice county line.

Casts and blasts for the 2013 Master National hunt test in Kansas

A Lab hits the water on a Wednesday practice retrieve. About 700 of America’s top retrievers are in Kansas for the 2013 Master National hunt test at Flint Oak.

Lovers of good working dogs need to give serious consideration to spending some time at the 2013 Master National hunt test at Flint Oak. The event that has about 700 of America’s top retrievers is scheduled to run from Saturday through Sunday, Sept. 29. Here is some more of what you need to know -

– Flint Oak is about eight miles south of the town of Fall River, which is about 90 minutes east of Wichita on Highway 400. Following Fall River’s main street south will take you to signs that lead you to Flint Oak. The address is 2639 Quail Road, Fall River. Signs should indicate parking areas and where the public can find gallery areas for watching the dogs at work.

– The public is asked to wear mellow, natural-looking colors so the dogs aren’t distracted. White is especially discouraged. As with golf, the gallery is also expected to remain relatively quiet when a dog is working.

– There is no charge for watching the tests. Food and drink can be purchased and toilets will be available.

– Daily tests are scheduled to run from about 8 a.m. until about 7 p,m. Testing will probably wind-up early on Sept. 29.

– Cell phone coverage is spotty on the Flint Oak grounds.

– Roughly 600 of the dogs at the event will be Labs, about 45 golden retrievers, about 14 Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, about 14 are flat-coated retrievers, two are Boykin spaniels, one is a Nova Scotia duck toller, and one a standard-sized poodle.

– The Kansas-based Sunflower Retriever Club is hosting the event, and have provided much of the organization and volunteers.The club is dedicating their efforts, and the greatness of the event, to the memory of member Marcia Traylor. An avid club and retriever supporter for years, Marcia was tragically killed in an auto accident about two years ago.

Personally, I’ll always owe a debt of gratitude to Marcia. Knowing I was looking for a quality Lab in 2000, she called me when she heard of a solid litter in Missouri. Marcia also put in a good word for me with the owners of the litter, who were very selective in where their puppies went for homes. Her kindness made my life far better than before.

– Look for three articles, and about 100 photos about the Master National hunt tests in Sunday’s Wichita Eagle and on

Looking back on 40 years of Kansas deer hunting

Back in ’73 any buck was a good one, and some people still thought bucks grew one antler point per year.

Monday’s opening of the 2013 archery deer season marks 40 years since I first had a Kansas deer permit. It was an archery permit, because at 14 I was too young for a gun tag. I really didn’t care, the main thing was that I was deer hunting IN KANSAS!

Some thoughts on how times had changed -

– The 1973 season was just the ninth in Kansas and I hadn’t even seen my first deer in the state until 1965.

– It was a time when seeing fresh tracks after a rain was exciting in eastern Kansas. People pulled to the side of the road if they saw deer in a field. Every sighting was reported to friends, family and quite often the first stranger who’d listen.

– Back then just seeing a deer while hunting was a major success. I hunted two years before I saw a deer while hunting.

– It was a time when anybody shooting a deer got their picture in the small town newspaper, and became somewhat of a hero in the local hunting community. Hanging a deer in the yard or open garage would stop traffic and pack the place for hours every evening.

– It was years before I ever heard the word “just” in front of a buck,…like “just” an eight-pointer, or just a three-year-old…Every buck was a trophy and the taxidermy shops were filled with basket-racked six and eight-pointers. Shoot, if someone shot a doe they at least had the hide tanned.

– Back then only about half of the landowners would let you hunt “their” deer because the animals were that special and some didn’t think there was enough to shoot. It was 25 years before they became “their” deer because they were worth money.

– Many of us took up bowhunting because we couldn’t draw a rifle permit every year, or often every-other year. Archery permits were unlimited, and got us into the woods year after year.

– The gear was so simple — recurve bows, maybe fiberglass arrows and either Bear Razorheads, Zwickeys or Pearson Deadhead broadheads. Most didn’t own camo, let alone grunt calls, rattling antlers, mock scrape materials, rubber boots, scent-free spray, scent-free clothing, deer decoys, trail cameras, feeders, food plots, portable stands, pop-up blinds, compound bows, release aids, sights, deer lures, outdoors television shows, videos, DVDs, specific magazines…you get the idea.

– The only “book” most of us cared about was B & C, …as in Betty and Crocker.  And back then few of us knew a thing about cooking venison, and much of it ended up tasting gamey and poor. (I’ve enjoyed those advancements more than the gadgetry, for sure…)

– The concept of getting to hunt with bow and rifle in the same year was not even a dream, nor was being able to  shoot up to six or seven deer per season. Most of didn’t see six or seven deer per year, including while we were driving down the road!

– Nor did we think people would someday pay $8,000 or more to hunt for a Kansas deer…nor did we think a time would come when it would be tough for kids from even small towns to find places to hunt.

– While the opportunity, success, and equipment have all increased, I honestly can’t say the enjoyment has…it was just such a great deal to be deer hunting back then. I still think the first set of antlers you wrap your fingers around, that you’ve shot, is the biggest buck of your life…I know they were for me.

– I often miss the simplicity of those old times, and think of those days when deer was a trophy, and the main enjoyment was just knowing we were actually getting to hunt deer in Kansas.

Return of native grass coming nicely

In its third complete year, native grasses planted on the Pearce farm are lush and tall. Wildlife has responded to the habitat well. too.

Sunday at the family farm may have been the hottest I’ve ever worked on the 180 acres north of Lawrence. The temperature was right at 100 degrees and the humidity not terribly far behind.

But I swear, the temperature seemed to drop 20 degrees every time I drove past the stands of native grass we planted in the spring, I think, of  2010. Looking at the fields was that refreshing.

Where once had been stagnant acres of brome and fescue now feather-topped Indian grass  and stately big bluestem reach to about seven feet high and are as thick as hair on my Lab.

Honestly, the fields have grown three feet or more in the past month and that part of Kansas has had a pretty dry summer compared to around Wichita.

Back in the spring of 2010 Jerrod, our friend Luke Templin and I literally combined hundreds of hours spraying the old pasture three and four times to get the old junk grass killed-off and the mix of seven grasses and 13 forbs planted.  Most people familiar with re-establishing native prairie told us to be patient, it could take years before we saw much.

The past three years haven’t been too bad.

We’ve enjoyed some nice patches of colorful wild flowers and the grasses have done well when rains allowed.  As hoped, wildlife has responded.

Some of the Indian and big bluestem grasses are pushing seven-feet tall in some places. Seven kinds of grasses and 13 forbs were planted in 2010. This wasn’t a good year for wild flowers.

Deer hunting one January afternoon I watched a pair of northern harriers work back and forth over the six or so acres of grass for more than an hour, a species of bird I don’t think I’d ever seen give our farm more than a fly-by in the past. After seeing a total of one over the previous 35 or so years, rabbits are commonly seen on the place, as are woodchucks.

And as a side benefit, while many of the pastures and farm fields in the area have dealt with a problematic crop of musk thistles the past two years there are none where we have the prairie grasses. (Guess what’s going to be planted in a one-acre meadow that’s been prone to thistles for years?)

That so much has happened even after two years of the worst drought our family has seen on the land since we got it in 1942 is impressive. I can hardly wait to see what the wildflowers could be like next spring if this fall and winter have even average amounts of moisture.



Another Wichitan on the Appalachian Trail

Megan Taylor shared this photo from her recently completed hike along the Appalachian Trail. Rayana Adra, another Wichita native, is currently about 1,700 miles into the 2,100-plus mile hike from Georgia to Maine. COURTESY PHOTO

Sunday’s Wichita Eagle ran a sizable feature on Megan Taylor, a native daughter who just finished the 2,100-plus mile Appalachian Trail. YOU CAN CLICK HERE TO READ THE STORY, AND LOOK AT THE ABOUT 50 GREAT PHOTOS TAYLOR SHARED.

It turns out another young female Wichitan is currently on the trail, having already logged about 1,700 miles since she began her hike in Georgia this spring.

I got an e-mail from Jeremiah Griffith, telling me about 27-year-old Rayana Adra, a Northeast Magnet High and University of Kansas graduate. (Rock Chalk, Rayana, be sure you’re done by the start of basketball season!)

Griffith sent me a link to an impressive blog Adra is keeping of her hiking and experience. It is very good reading. As well as what she’s seeing along the trail and the people she’s meeting, Adra writes about what the long trek is doing to her mind and body.


Spend some time there, you won’t be sorry.

South Dakota pheasants down more than 60 percent

Kansas hunters aren’t the only ones who will have to work hard for pheasants this fall.

South Dakota, long THE place to chase the long-tailed birds, looks to be facing a serious decrease in pheasants when the season opens this fall. A Pheasants Forever news release reports the state’s annual pheasant brood surveys show the state’s population to be down about 64 percent. That’s bad news to  everyone in the state that picked the ring-necked pheasant as their state bird.

Pheasant hunting is estimated to be a more than $300 million business in South Dakota, with about 4,500 jobs linked to pheasant hunting.

Pheasants Forever biologists say some extreme weather conditions have contributed to the reduction in bird populations, but put more blame in habitat changes as increased acres of CRP or natural grasslands get converted into croplands. Like Kansas, some of South Dakota’s best pheasant populations in 30 years occurred within the past five years.

While the official summer brood survey results haven’t been released by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism,  you can CLICK HERE to see how populations looked heading into the Kansas nesting season.


Even a broken shotgun can’t stop a great dove opener

Trey Turner swings on an opening evening dove, using a borrowed shotgun. Three hunters got their limits of 15 doves each, while sharing two weapons.

EDWARDS COUNTY – Basketball, football and bullriding may be great spectator sports

. Dove hunting, is not, but that’s what Trey Turner was doing with only 45 minutes of shooting light remaining on Sunday’s opening of dove season.

The 20 gauge pump he’d brought was out of commission with an empty shell jammed in the chamber after Trey, of St. John, had shot his first bird.

No problem. Turner shot his 15th and limit-filling bird with a minute or two to spare, while his gun remained jammed.

The hunting was that good.

Hunting waterholes in the rolling pastures of Edwards County has become  a Turner family tradition I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to many times. It’s a long drive from home, and worth every minute and gallon of expensive gas.

This year Tom Turner, Trey’s father, had assembled a group of nine hunters ranging from seven to…well, much more than seven years-old. Trey’s girlfriend, Amber Stimatze was along, as was his brother, Tyler. Bill Eberhardt, of Augusta, brought sons Dalton, 14, Ethan, 7, and friend Jack Wirths, 14.

Tom Turner, right, loads a plate for a pre-hunt picnic, with Bill Eberhardt, center, and Tyler Turner.

Rather than straight to the waterholes made by solar pumps, we first spent a half-hour breaking a few clay targets and eating a picnic supper of hot links and chips.

I was assigned a waterhole with Trey  and Amber. We set-up in a line about 40 yards long, with Amber at one end and me at the other. Trey jabbed a spinning-wing decoy at the edge of the waterhole nearby.

The first hour was a bit slow, though we could hear Tom Turner and the two teens banging away to the northeast. At 7 pm I had five or six doves and Amber about the same. Trey had one, and a shell jammed in the action of an ancient Winchester pump.

But then the birds started to come, and come and come and come. Most came from the north, following a ridge to the south end of the pond where they’d cut sharply towards the decoy. Many landed just out of range. Others passed over knee-high ragweed, where I opted not to drop birds since we didn’t have a dog.

No matter.

Even being selective on my shots, downed birds added up quickly. At 7:22 pm I dropped #15 in the pond, and handed Trey my side-by-side Hatfield 20 gauge. Also being selective in his shots, not taking any too close or too far, he dropped nine more doves in about 20 minutes. By then Amber was limited, too, and handed Trey her 28 gauge.

Amber Stimatze finds one of 15 doves she shot with a 28 gauge on opening day in Edwards County.

The next 20 minutes the doves came from the prairie in nearly non-stop numbers, from one to a dozen in a bunch. I sat nearby and photographed the action while Amber marked downed birds, and handed Trey more of little red shells about the size of tubes of Chapstick.

Trey passed up at least a dozen easy shots as we counted and recounted his pile of doves, and searched for birds not recovered.

Legal shooting time ended about 8:06, and Trey had his 15 birds with several minutes to spare. It was a very good hunt, and Trey needing to borrow shotguns added another half-hour of enjoyment, and a “remember the time” memory.

You know, if we got to the pond a little earlier next year, and the birds are really flying, I’m wondering if all three of us could shoot our limits with just one shotgun between us?

Probably but I’m guessing that’s something we’ll never know, and that old shotgun is something Trey, who has a safe full of better equipment at home, won’t be carrying on a dove hunt again.