Monthly Archives: October 2013

Kansas produces its first official 300-inch whitetail

Most hunters think a whitetail scoring 150 inches is pretty special. Well, now Kansas has produced a giant non-typical that was recently scored at  312 1/8 by an official Boone & Crockett scorer. The buck was found dead last year, a probable victim of EHD in northeastern Kansas.

YOU CAN CLICK here to see photos of the buck, and read about the history one local outdoorsman had with the animal before he found it dead.

Boone & Crockett is unofficially declaring it the new Kansas state record, easily beating the old record non-typical of  280 1/8, gun-killed in Shawnee County i 1987. The record keeping club does recognize bucks found dead, hit by cars and even poached bucks confiscated, and entered, by a state game agency. Boone & Crockett’s top typical for Kansas, a buck netting 199 2/8 inches, was poached near Liberal in 1999.

The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, generally considered the official keeper of state record animals, only lists animals legally taken by hunters.

There now have been five whitetails officially scoring more than 300 inches entered in Boone & Crockett. The largest, a buck netting 333 7/8 inches, was found dead near St. Louis several decades ago. If the score holds through the official Boone & Crockett process, the Kansas buck will rank as the third largest of all time in the world.


Quivira will be open for hunting this weekend

Wildlife officials have announced the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge will be open when duck season opens this weekend. The area is holding about 97,000 ducks, many of which are pintails.

Wildlife officials have announced that the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge will be open to hunting Saturday and Sunday, the opening weekend of Kansas’ low plains late zone duck season.

Mike Oldham, refuge manage, made the announcement this morning after staff members toured the area.

A similar tour Thursday morning located a lone whooping crane at the Big Salt Marsh wetland. Refuge regulations currently state that all hunting must cease if whooping cranes, an endangered species, are staying on the area.

Many years the refuge has been closed the first few weeks of duck and goose seasons as whooping cranes migrate through the area. Sometimes up to a dozen or more may spend many days at Quiriva, flying out to feed in nearby cropfields.

The whooping crane spotted Thursday morning wasn’t found on Friday.

Hunting has been poor to below average at Quivira that past two seasons because of the serious drought. Mid-summer rains this year flooded thousands of acres of  habitat at Quivira, and ducks are currently there in good numbers.

Oldham put the current duck estimate at about 97,000 birds, one of the highest opening weekend totals in history. Many of which are pintails and other “big” ducks. Up until recently most of the ducks in central Kansas have been tiny blue-winged and green-winged teal.

“It should be a good Saturday and Sunday hunt,” Oldham said. “On Monday we’ll take another look and make an assessment (if whooping cranes are present.)”

YOU CAN CLICK HERE for a link to more information about the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.

Timeless pic of boy and his dog, now means more than ever

In this great photo of boy and dog, a nine-year-old Zach Tuttle gets a drink while his two-year-old Lab, Buddy, slurps up the leftovers at a Wichita park. Zach is now a grown man and, unfortunately, Buddy has recently passed. PHOTO BY JEFF TUTTLE


When Jeff Tuttle, a friend and former Wichita Eagle photographer, showed me this photo many  years ago I labeled it a “day-maker,” and one of my favorites of all times.

It means a lot more now than ever before. Buddy, the happy dog in the photo, had to be put down over the weekend.

In the photo Jeff’s nine-year-old son, Zach, is getting a drink from a fountain at a local park while his two-year-old Lab  is slurping up the leftovers after a rousing, and unique, game of fetch. Jeff had taken the inseparable pair to the park and pitched tennis balls to Zach to hit with a bat to work on the boy’s swing, and to wear some steam from what seemed a nuclear-powered puppy.

Buddy came to the Tuttle family after they’d just lost another dog. It was love at first sight, lick, wiggle and pounce for boy and dog. Jeff and I used to joke that we wondered who was happier when they got together, the kid thinking “I gotta Lab puppy!”  or the Lab puppy thinking “I gotta a kid!”

True “dog people,” the Tuttles thankfully let Buddy hit their household like the hurricane Lab puppies can be. Of course that included muddy footprints on the floor and furniture, an aerated lawn, missing food from the counter, chewed up clothing and keepsakes, expensive vet bills….and more love, laughter and fun than a winning Powerball ticket could ever purchase.

Zach, by the way, is now off at college and doing very well as a student, as an athlete and, more importantly, as just a good young man. That’s to be expected, of course, because I’ve never met a child raised by a fun-loving dog that hasn’t turned out to be stellar.

Having Buddy in his life surely taught Zach life lessons on responsibility, persistence, the true meaning of unconditional love, that laughter heals and that the best things in life are often the simplest things in life…you know, like the joys of a baseball bat and a tennis ball.

Though he’s gone, Buddy is still teaching Zach that it’s OK for men to cry, that love and memories never really die, and that sometimes we have to endure painful choices to ease the pain of those we love.

Tears are in high supply within the Tuttle family, but they’ll eventually be replaced by laughter. Some will be because of memories of a goofy dog now past. Many more will be from whatever puppy they next bring into their lives. While he said it’s hard to think about life without Buddy, I was happy  to hear Jeff say it’s even harder to think about their lives without a dog’s love.

Somewhere out there is probably a puppy with no idea just how good his or her life is about to get. If life is fair to all, hopefully the dog will even end up with a few of its own grandkids that’ll need training, too.

Rest well, Buddy,…you set the stage for many generations of joy.


More on upcoming Wildlife and Parks Commission meeting

Space limitations on Sunday’s printed Outdoors page required a few paragraphs be removed from the end of the article on Thursday’s Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission meeting in Hutchinson.


October season for antlerless whitetails this weekend

In response to legislative mandate, Wildlife and Parks has authorized a special, statewide firearms season for antlerless whitetails this weekend, Oct. 12 and 13.

This weekend, Oct. 12-13, firearms deer hunters can shoot antlerless whitetails. Bowhunters can shoot bucks or does, with the proper permit, since archery season remains open.

The legislature hopes the special season will encourage deer hunters to take more does to reduce the state’s deer population, though such special seasons have seen limited success in the past.

Kevin Jones, Wildlife and Parks law enforcement chief, said the new season has caused some confusion with hunters. Below are some facts that should clarify the season for most sportsmen.

– The season is open in all 19 management units.

– Those hunting with a firearm are restricted to only shooting whitetails without antlers.

– Archery deer hunters may shoot a buck or a doe, as long as they have the proper permit, because archery season remains open.

– All deer hunters, including bowhunters, must meet the state’s blaze orange hat and vest requirements since a firearms deer season is open.

– No special, season-specific permits are required. Hunters may  tag an antlerless whitetail deer with an “any-season” permit that allows the taking of buck or does, but they will not be issued another permit for that allows the taking of a buck.


Training to fetch utilizing instincts and pack desire

Over about the last year, several people have tried to teach Lindsey’s dog, Lady Bird, to retrieve. As well as fun, our daughter hoped it would be a way to burn some energy off her beloved Australian shepherd.

Two days before this photo Lady Bird cared nothing about retrieving. A little training utilizing her instincts now has her fetching very well.

Since I have “a way” with dogs, a couple of times Lindsey had mentioned it was my job to get Lady Bird trained. Well, a  week ago the probably three-year-old dog that came from a shelter would chase anything thrown, then just stare at it before trotting off.

Now, Lady bird is fetching tennis balls with as much enthusiasm, and style, as some Labs or golden retrievers…we’re talking charging out and back, holding the tennis ball until it’s taken from her mouth, then prancing up and down with an obvious “throw it again, throw it again,” look on her face.

The proverbial light bulb clicked on in both of our heads last Saturday afternoon. I noticed Lady Bird in our backyard, tossing the ball in the air, then trying to pounce on it as it bounced around. If she inadvertently knocked it a few yards she really charged after it.

So I took the ball, slammed it down and watched as she pursued it until it was caught. The next time I did it, I started running away and calling to her excitedly a split second after she had the ball in her mouth. Bingo. Her desire to chase, especially a member of her “pack,” kicked in and she caught up in a hurry.  I eventually ended up on the ground with her, lavishing the dog with praise and petting. (It helps that she may be the most affection-craved dog I’ve ever met.)

We repeated the same sequence with the same result a few more times. After three or four throws it seemed obvious she’d figured out that if she brought the ball back she’d get lathered in love and eventually get the joy of chasing it down again.

We stopped after a few more throws to keep up her enthusiasm, and I made sure she couldn’t reach the ball inside to keep it special. Early the next morning, when her energy and enthusiasm were both high, we went out again and she again retrieved like a pro.

The next day I bought a tennis ball launcher to give me more leverage in my throws. She did probably a dozen 60 to 70 yard flawless retrieves at a park this morning.

No doubt she’s got the hang of it, and Lindsey has found a way to exercise the dog on days she doesn’t want to take Lady Bird on a five mile run.

It was all a matter of utilizing her instincts to chase the ball as prey or an animal to be herded, to run with members of her pack (me) and a big desire to please the pack leader.

And her pack leader certainly enjoyed the chance to train a good dog while pleasing his daughter.


Good luck and bad luck on a Kansas pronghorn hunt

My long-awaited pronghorn hunt has come and gone, and it was a trip that contained  a lot of luck…and most of it was good.

– Twenty years ago I was very lucky to have met a rancher who is now a great friend ,…which opened about 23,000 contiguous acres for my muzzleloader hunt.

Pronghorn hunting is usually a game of spotting the animals in the distance, then sneaking close for a shot. Heavy fog made hunting challenging last Thursday morning.

– That the milo crop ripened a bit late was a bit of bad luck because it meant he’d be eye-deep in harvest during my hunt.

– Out in the area in June, I noted that the pastures were about totally without cover because of drought, and I wondered how I’d get close to a pronghorn. I got lucky and we had summer rains and the pastures quickly greened and grew. I got unlucky when they grew too much, and for the first time in 35 years of antelope hunting I was dealing with too much cover. It was hard to spotted bedded bucks in some tall meadows. Four times in about 90 minutes I tried to get a shot at the best buck on the ranch, only to have too much grass in the way when I knelt down to use my rifle’s bi-pod.

– The one set appointment I had all week was when my friend could have taken off a few hours from harvest, and the weather was perfect for hunting.

– He had some bad luck later that afternoon when his combine broke, which was good luck for me because it would be mid-morning the next day before it was fixed so we headed to the ranches. As well as fun to hunt with, my odds of getting a buck went up considerably because of his amazing vision and knowledge of the ranches.

– Fog that limited visibility to no more than 100 yards was our bad luck at sunrise, when it’s easiest to spot pronghorns in the distance. That the soup lasted until 11 was my friend’s bad luck because it meant the milo was wet and he couldn’t head in for harvest. That was lucky for me because that meant he could stay and hunt a few more hours.

After a couple of blown stalks on Thursday, I lucked on to this buck watching me at about 150 yards. The delayed fire in the muzzleloader was unlucky, that I still hit the buck where I was aiming was probably mostly luck.

– An old doe thwarted us with her eyes as we tried to move in on one herd that had two excellent bucks and another that was danged nice. She busted us with her nose when we tried to move in on the herd as they trotted over a hill. A half-hour later we arrived at a place where we hoped to intercept the herd a half-second late and got busted again just out of muzzleloader range.

– Next we lucked into finding a herd  we’d spooked earlier in the morning, but the second time they were in a good enough place we figured we had  at least a 50/50 chance of sneaking to within range.

– Half-way to the herd  I looked up and saw a nice buck watching our stalk, not sure what we were. As luck had it he was at about 150 yards, a range at which I was very confident. The rifle picked  a bad time to have its first hang-fire, that’s when there’s a half-second or so pause between when the cap ignites and the powder takes off. I was extremely lucky that the sights stayed solid through the hang-fire and I still hit the buck where i was aiming.

– The buck died instantly, on my favorite ranch in the world, while hunting with one of my best-ever friends. There was no added mess or complications getting the buck to town and cooled, and the meat looks and smells like it will be amazing to eat. No doubt, I’m a very lucky guy.


Golden eagle predation on big game not “a first”

Many news services have recently run photography of a golden eagle taking a small deer in Russia. Most claim it’s the first time such a thing has been documented. YOU CAN CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE RECENT PHOTOS.

Not quite.

Golden eagles have been documented preying on fawn and adult antelope, even recently in Kansas.

Golden eagles are the real warriors of the bird world, unlike bald eagles which would just as soon feast on a dead carp as go catch and kill something. Goldens have caused problems for some ranchers for years, taking lambs, sometimes sheep, and calves.

They’ve been documented killing bighorn sheep lambs, antelope and mule deer fawns and occasionally adults of both species of deer. CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO OF A GOLDEN EAGLE TAKING DOWN A SMALL DEER.

A few years ago I blogged about a friend who happened across a Gove County golden eagle on a pronghorn fawn it had just killed. A few days later he and his father found a dead pronghorn doe with exactly the same kind of wounds — signs of talons on the backbone and feeding up high on the animal as the eagle held on. YOU CAN CLICK HERE TO RE-VISIT THAT BLOG.

In fact, in Wyoming a study was done documenting what golden eagles often kill. CLICK HERE TO READ THE STUDY IN WYOMING’S GREAT DIVIDE BASIN. Big game aren’t their main prey, that’s normally jackrabbits, but it’s certainly not too unusual.

A little more checking online finds videos of golden eagles preying on assorted mountain goats and even wolves in Asia.
Like I said, the true warriors of the bird world.

Dogs’ expressions better than a polygraph

If only dogs played poker maybe I could win a hand or two. You can tell everything they’re thinking just by looking at their face, especially if it’s not looking at you.

Home from work Monday afternoon I found a set of whitetail antlers in the middle of our living room floor. They’d been in the basement that morning.

Lady Bird’s face seems to be saying “What deer antlers? Oh, those deer antlers…what makes you think I brought those hefty things up from the basement? I think the miniature dachshund did it!” Like most dogs, her face is a dead give-away that she’s guilty.

Lindsey’s, our grown daughter, dog, Lady Bird was bouncing all over the house, happy someone was home when I came in the door. In and out of the pet door she went two or three times, around “the circle” of the living room, dining room, breakfast room and kitchen she pranced….until she saw me stop and pick up the antlers.

She instantly shrank down and wouldn’t look at me. I hadn’t said a word, I was just holding the antlers.

The Australian shepherd couldn’t have looked more guilty if I’d have caught her coming up the basement stairs with the eight-point antlers in her jaws.

When I said her name, she rolled on her back, put her paws in the air as if she was holding them up to be paw-cuffed.

Many dogs are like that, especially Labs. I can walk in the door and Hank, my black dog, will cower a bit when he’s done something wrong.

If I walk over to a shredded paper or whatever, I’ll soon here the tell-tale slaps of the pet door as he’s headed outside. If it’s really something big he’ll trot out to the kennel he hasn’t been confined to in ten years. There he’ll crawl inside the dog house with just his snout showing. It’s like he’s put himself in solitary confinement, and is waiting for someone to slam the door on a life sentence.

Ruby Tuesday, our very miniature dachshund tells on herself with her other end. When she’s guilty she runs to hide under a bed, often leaving the back half of her very guilty body sticking out into the room.

The look on some dog’s faces is as much proof of innocence as guilt. If there’s a mess, and Hank sits beside it as I walk up, and looks at me with a lowered face I know he didn’t do it. We call it his, “Please don’t blame me for this one…” expression.

Location of the crime scene is also as good as an eye witness to the crime, it seems.

Ruby takes her bounty to the intersection of two hallways. Find a ripped-open baggie of dog food I foolishly left in open luggage on the floor between two specific trees in our backyard and you’ll see Hank’s tail tucked as he slinks into his kennel.

Lady Bird shreds paper right in the living room, but is kind enough to carry out her dozen or so toys to all parts of the yard while we’re away.

Hank, by the way, is actually pretty excited when I walk out side and see the toys so well scattered….he knows it’s his job to fetch them all to me on the porch, one playful retrieve at a time, while Lady Bird bounces along beside him.

Watching them, the look on my face probably shows all is forgiven.