Category Archives: Breaking news

Ticks nothing to fool about

This may be April Fools Day and this blog is no trick, but anybody who ignores the threat of ticks is a fool.

YOU CAN CLICK HERE to read one of the dozens of articles and research papers published annually about the threat the world’s tiniest terrorists are spreading across the country.

This isn’t a scare tactic, it’s a fact of the outdoors for this millennium.

Coating clothing with permathrin is one of the best ways to avoid getting ticks, when used properly.

Coating clothing with permethrin is one of the best ways to avoid getting ticks, when used properly.

I’ve spoken with several people, including some in Kansas, who have survived Lyme Disease and all have said it’s taken them months for recovery.

A good friend, Luke Templin, contracted Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever while turkey hunting on our farm last spring. Even though the disease was detected before any serious symptoms set in, it took him several weeks before he felt totally over the bad experience.

I’ve heard of people who have basically been crippled for life from Lyme Disease.  A young woman who several in my extended family knew died from the disease several years ago.

As someone who is in the outdoors a lot, I’ve been guilty of not taking the threat seriously enough. I’ve found more than 20 ticks on my body several times, I used to go entire springs and summers with no real prevention because I didn’t want to put chemicals on my body, and still don’t relish the concept, but…

Like many, now my favorite alternative is to treat my clothing with permethrin. It lasts for a few months, even through a few washings. I coated my camo, from boots to cap, with it on Monday morning and it’s been given plenty of time to dry. (You don’t want the stuff on your body when it’s wet!) I, and millions of others, recommend it highly, but be sure to read the directions before you apply it.

YOU CAN CLICK HERE FOR MORE ADVICE ON HOW TO AVOID TICKS. 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists lesser prairie chickens as threatened

A male lesser prairie chicken displaying for hens in Edwards County. The species has just been listed as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

A male lesser prairie chicken displaying for hens in Edwards County. The species has just been listed as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Citing rapid population declines because of loss of habitat and an on-going severe drought over much of the bird’s range, Thursday afternoon the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced they’ve listed lesser prairie chickens on their threatened species list. In fact, populations had dropped by about 50 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to surveys done last spring in Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

A Fish and Wildlife press release estimated the range-wide population to be at about 18,000 birds, of which probably 80 percent, or more, are in Kansas.

“The lesser prairie chicken is in dire straits,” Dan Ashe, Fish and Wildlife director, said in the press release. “Our determination that it warrants listing as a threatened species with a special rule acknowledges the unprecedented partnership efforts and leadership of the five range states for management of the species.” Ashe was referring to an on-going working partnership that’s been formed between the five states, many conservation, ranching and energy groups.

In the past, Robin Jennison, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism secretary, said it was hoped the partnership, and its detailed plans for protecting millions of acres of lesser prairie chicken habitat, would be enough to keep the birds from being listed.

 

Wildlife officials concerned at attempt to revoke Kansas’ endangered species act.

Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism secretary, Robin Jennison, on Thursday spoke with concern about a recent legislative attempt to repeal the Kansas endangered species act. It currently protects about 60 species of assorted Kansas wildlife and has been in place for about 40 years.

At a Topeka Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission meeting, Jennison  said the concept of revoking the endangered species act had been added to House Bill 2118, a bill which removed the red-bellied and smooth earth snakes from the state’s threatened and endangered species lists. Fear of damaging populations of both species has hindered land use in the Kansas City area. Jennison said the even more restrictive amendment had been added Thursday morning, as the bill was being discussed within the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

Sen. Larry Powell, R-Garden City, the committee chairman, added the amendment for total revocation shortly before the bill passed from committee. The bill has already passed the Kansas house and now awaits action in the full Senate.

Jennison already had great concerns with species, especially those endangered or threatened,  being managed by legislative mandates. Currently, he said, only four states do not have endangered species acts.

“Science needs to have some basis in these decisions,” said Jennison, who also warned of possible federal interventions should the state’s endangered species act be revoked.

Powell, who has consistently opposed the department on issues including wildlife habitat improvement, providing more public lands and endangered species, surprised the agency when he made Thursday’s amendment to the existing bill.

Jennison said he would “be shocked” if the existing bill passes through the Senate, but added the bill would certainly have some strong support and needed organized opposition.

“I know there are people in the legislature who think we should not have threatened and endangered species lists,” Jennison said.

Several times Commissioner Don Budd, a Kansas City developer, asked questions about red-bellied and smooth earth snakes, stating the department needed to use caution because their action could trigger more extreme, over-riding action from the legislature.

Jennison insisted the agency should act on what science says is best for a species. Rep. Will Carpenter, R-El Dorado, attended the evening session. Carpenter spent many years as a Wildlife and Parks Commissioner, and agreed with Jennison.

“You guys are in charge of the stewardship of the wildlife of this state,” Carpenter said to the commission. “You’ve got to be the voice.”

3-D Archery, great afternoon…even if you do get beaten by a kid

Jake Holem removes a well-shot arrow from a 3-D target. Yes, it's the one I missed totally. PHOTOS BY MICHAEL PEARCE

Jake Holem removes a well-shot arrow from a 3-D target. Yes, it’s the one I missed totally. PHOTOS BY MICHAEL PEARCE

Should you be wandering around out west of Clearwater anytime soon, please keep your eye out for an arrow.  It’s a Carbon Express, probably with neon yellow and green vanes.

It might be anywhere from five to ten miles west of town and about two miles either side of  103rd. I can get you no closer than that. I just know it’s not sticking into a foam antelope target like it should have been. But hey, that I only lost one arrow out of 48 fun, hunting-like animal targets won’t have me complaining.

Saturday I spent the afternoon, and some of the evening, at the Ninnescah Bowhunters 3-D archery range. My 11-year-old outdoor buddy, Jake Holem was with me, testing out his new bow. Kimberly, Jake’s mom, was along to enjoy the day outdoors, keep score, congratulate Jake on his mostly great ones…and console me on my many failures.

Once a month the long-standing archery club tucked down near the Ninnescah River, hosts a day or two of shooting at 3-D targets. They include foam, live-sized likenesses of assorted deer, caribou, mountain goats, coyotes, mountain lions, bobcats, bears, turkeys, a wolverine a super-sized cobra target Jake loved and the danged antelope target that seemed to have some force-shield that deflected my arrows.

Some shots were on open prairie...

Some shots were on open prairie…

Throughout the property club members have placed the targets in hunt-like situations. Some are down in nice timber and some are on tall grass prairie. Most are shot at ground level and a few from high ridges or elevated platforms.

Some offer complete views of the target. At a few stations you have to be about half contortionist to lean out, in, up or down to thread an arrow through a tiny opening surrounded by really big trees.

(To the member who  placed the shooting spot on a side–hill only a billy goat could climb, and only offered a tiny fraction of the standing bear for the target…nice try, I did NOT put an arrow into either of the Sequia-sized cottonwoods my arrow had to pass within inches of…so there!)

Different classes of shooters shoot from different places on each target. I enrolled in the “hunter” class, because that’s what I am, a bowhunter and not an avid target archer. Most of the shots were from 40 shots on in, with a lot around 30 yards. Much of the challenge is estimating the shooting range. Range finders aren’t allowed for those keeping score.

Jake was in one of the three youth classes, and had shots from about five to 23 yards.

Others were in river bottom timber. All were a lot of fun.

Others were in river bottom timber. All were a lot of fun.

The crowd was light, but the members on hand were very helpful and supportive. (And hopefully one will find that wayward arrow, too!)

We walked the course mostly on our own, Jake and I shooting while Kimberly kept score and tried not to laugh, (loud enough for me to hear, anyway,) at some of my shots.

Saturday afternoon the weather was stunning, and I particularly liked the walks down along the Ninnescah. With nothing but open air and deep water behind those ten or so targets concentration was important.

It was also just a danged pretty view, especially when Kimberly noticed a mature bald eagle sailing down the stream (the first she’d ever seen) and the bird perched on a limb across the river.

Darrell Allen, a member I’ve known for years, said it would take about three hours to do the course. Not our group of slow-pokes. They have you shoot the same 24 targets, twice, but they change the location from where you shoot. It took us more than four hours, with only a minimal rest in between, but a fair amount of time looking for my lost arrows.

My range estimation was a bit off on the first round, and I just knew I’d shoot better the second. But a lost arrow, and a couple of other total whiffs say differently. The angles and distances offered were harder on the second round. Fatigue also played a factor, too. Yes, Jake shot better than I did but I did OK, though.

Jake’s ready to go again, maybe back to Ninnescah Bowhunters or maybe a range by Hutchinson. Kimberly is also showing an interest in giving archery a try, and she may be rigged up with a bow in the next week or so.

Great, that means next shoot I may have two beginners putting me to shame. Oh well, …

photo 4As for the matter of that lost arrow. If you happen to live anywhere within a five mail radius of the 3-D course, and you happen to find an adult-sized arrow stuck in, say, your house, a tire on a automobile or a piece of lawn furniture…you have my sincere sympathy and complete denial. :-)

Click here for more information on Ninnescah Bowhunters.

 

 

Frozen Dead Guy Days celebrates a death, with LIFE!

NEDERLAND, Colo. -

The mountain town of Nederland may be the quirkiest village in Colorado, or maybe the nation.

The 13th Annual Frozen Dead Guy Days featured a parade, that included the many coffin racing crews. PHOTOS BY MICHAEL PEARCE

The 13th Annual Frozen Dead Guy Days featured a parade, that included the many coffin racing crews. PHOTOS BY MICHAEL PEARCE

It seems to have more tattoos than Sturgis, more body piercings than an acupuncture college and brighter hair colors than the autumn leaves in New England.

A sign at a crosswalk says “Nedestrian Crossing.”If the town had an official song it would be loud laughter, and their official tree would be an over-sized hemp plant.

Nederlanders are always up for a good time, and last weekend they shared it with visitors from across the country.

The event was their 13th annual Frozen Dead Guy Days, where the Colorado town that’s left of Boulder on a map, and even more so politically, celebrates exactly that – their very own frozen dead guy.

The Polar Plunge has visitors pay for the privilege of jumping into an ice-covered pond, as fans cheer and pelt them with snowballs.

The Polar Plunge has visitors pay for the privilege of jumping into an ice-covered pond, as fans cheer and pelt them with snowballs.

For about 25 years Bredo Morstoel has been packed in ice in a Nederland shed. Bredo, affectionately known to locals as “grandpa” was born, lived and died in Norway. Hoping for the day when cryonics could bring the now 114-year-old back to life, his family in Nederland had his body shipped to Colorado. There, they kept him deeply-chilled.

Well, eventually the family in Nederland got deported leaving poor grandpa behind. National news crews descended on the unique mountain town, the government said poor grandpa had to be buried or cremated. Locals became involved in a debate about “the rights of the temporarily dead” and, well, Nederland still has a corpse packed in dry ice and a reason to party every March.

Since my wife, Kathy, spent most of her school years in Nederland, we’ve followed the events of grandpa and Frozen Dead Guy Days. Last weekend we attended for the first, but probably not the last, time.

We got there early enough Friday for Kathy to make a few runs on nearby Lake Eldora’s ski slopes, while I walked the few streets, had a few brews, some great barbecue and watched the town change.

By dark traffic on the streets and sidewalk had more than doubled since noon. Many came in costumes with a comical macabre theme, plus the amazing assortment of, well, “unique” characters such a weird event seems to attract.

The event got its official start that evening with the annual Blue Ball, where bands played, people danced, and beer flowed while an unofficial costumed king and queen of the event were named.

The coffin race is one of the event's biggest attractions.

The coffin race is one of the event’s biggest attractions.

Over the next two days was a parade that may have more participants than spectators, including those planning on participating in events…and oh, are there some events for those who love having fun.

The Costume Polar Plunge had people paying $20 to take a dressed up dip into a hole in the ice of a pond in a downtown park. An hour or so later six-person pallbearer teams, often in theme costumes, carried a living “corpse” in designer coffins around an obstacle course.

Meanwhile, on the main drag people were bowling with frozen turkeys to knock down the pins. There was also a frozen t-shirt contest, a brain-freeze contest for those downing slushy drinks, a frozen salmon toss and a snowy beach volleyball tournament.

Frozen Dead Guy Days is obviously a big deal to Nederland businesses, giving them a serious shot of income before the quieter time between winter ski and summer tourist seasons. Much of the proceeds also go to local public service groups, like the fire department.

We certainly didn’t see it all, nor did we hear all the assorted live music from about 20 bands. But one thing we also didn’t see were any fights or even any serious arguments.

Done up specially for the event? It's never easy to tell in the quirky town of Nederland.

Done up specially for the event? It’s never easy to tell in the quirky town of Nederland.

“Dude, bad place to stand, we can’t see,” at the Polar Plunge was about as hot as things got. (“Dude,” by the way, smiled and knelt down in the snow.)

Meanwhile, up in a shed, grandpa Bredo rests at about 100 or so degrees below zero, waiting for the day when science can bring him back to life.

Imagine the celebration if in some decade to come he is able to lead the parade for the event that’s held annually in his honor?

Until then, every March more and more people will gather at a small, quirky mountain town to celebrate the death of a man they never met, by getting as much as they can out of life for at least one weekend.

YOU CAN CLICK HERE TO SEE A PHOTO GALLERY OF FROZEN DEAD GUY DAYS.

 

 

 

Casts and Blasts about feral hog eradication

A few more points of interest to go along with Sunday’s Outdoors page story on how Kansas-based biologists are taking their war against feral swine into parts of northern Oklahoma.

YOU CAN CLICK HERE TO READ THE ENTIRE STORY, AND ACCESS THE PHOTO GALLERY.

– Sport hunting for feral hogs has proven to be one of the least effect methods for reducing the population. Such hunting pressure scatters populations and often makes the pigs become nocturnal. Of the 385 feral hogs eradicated at Fort Riley, only 15 were shot by sport hunters, despite several years of hunting.

– -The population of feral hogs in the U.S. is estimated to be at least 5 million animals, of which Texas has about 2.6 million.

– Kansas biologists have seen feral sows with up to about 12 piglets, and most all litters have had at least six piglets. Like domestic swine, feral sows can have two litters per year.

– Within about three generations, domestic pigs turned feral take on the looks of wild swine with smaller hams, bigger shoulders, longer and stronger snouts, longer tusks…

– Some herds of feral pigs date back to the 1500s, when Spanish explorers brought herds of domestic swine for a food source as they explored what’s now the southern U.S.

– The average Kansas adult feral pig weighs about 100 pounds. Some have been documented close to 500 pounds.

– Declines in many kinds of wildlife have been documented when feral hogs invade an area, destroying habitat, competing for food and, at times, eating the eggs of endangered species.

– Biologists  usually suspect illegal releases by humans when a population suddenly appears with several animals, including sows. Most natural colonization by feral hogs is first done by boars.

– Feral hog control biologists annually kill about 20,000 wild pigs in Texas. Some aerial gunning projects have killed up to about 400 in a single day.

– Texas studies indicate each feral pig may be doing about $200 damage to the state’s agricultural practices annually.

– Shotguns with magazines large enough to hold eight to ten rounds, loaded with 00 buckshot are the preferred weapon when shooting from a helicopter. All shooting is done by specially-trained government personnel.

– Dogs have contracted illnesses and died from contacting feral hogs. Some hunters have gotten severely ill from diseases after such contact, and human deaths could be possible.

– In many states, domestic swine have developed diseases when feral hogs come into their area. A wide-spread outbreak of some diseases carried by feral pigs could cause millions of dollars in damages to the domestic pork industry.

– More than 650 Kansas landowners have given U.S.D.A. eradication crews access to more than 1 million acres to eliminate feral swine. The compliance rate of more than 99 -percent is probably the highest in the nation.

– U.S.D.A. biologists in Kansas use some modern tools to help with their war on feral swine. They have used night vision equipment to look for nocturnal herds. Recently, they’ve used cameras in traps that contact the biologist when something is within the trap area, and shows the biologists how many hogs are in the enclosure. The biologist can then push a button on his phone and the gate closes.

Source – Curran Salter, Mike Bodenchuk and Tom Berding

 

Video shows locked-antlered buck saved by Wichita hunter/Another by Pratt County Students

CLICK HERE TO ALSO READ AND SEE how Pratt Community College instructor Luke Laha, and his students, also worked to free a whitetail buck that had been locked with another for up to two months.

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Evan McAnally spent days afield last deer season, as much to gather good video as to eventually put venison in his freezer.

But it was weeks after the season and McAnally, of Wichita, didn’t have his regular video camera along when he got footage of “a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

On Feb. 10 the 29-year-old used his cell phone to video himself freeing a trophy-class nine-point buck that had locked antlers with another nine-pointer several days earlier. Coyotes, it appeared, had already eaten the other buck down to its skeleton. McAnally could have left and come back a few days later, after the coyotes probably would have returned to eat the second buck alive, and the avid bowhunter could have had both sets of antlers for his wall. He said that wasn’t an option.

“We’re hunters, not cold-blooded killers,” he said. “I hunt to harvest an animal to eat, and to share a connection with the wildlife.” McAnally , who bow-killed a 24-point buck in November, added the thousands of hours he’s spent afield scouting, videoing and hunting whitetail bucks has also given him a deep respect for the animals.

“It was quite the sight, what that one buck had endured,” said McAnally, “and I tried to put into perspective what that deer had already gone through, being locked with the other buck and then the coyotes eating it right there. I really wanted to free it if I could.”

McAnally had driven 90 minutes to a family-owned pasture in Stafford County to check on his remote trail cameras and put out some food for deer and assorted birds.  He was walking across the brushy pasture when he saw antlers on the ground. A closer looked showed it was two sets of antlers locked together. To one set he saw the mostly eaten remains of a buck, to the other he thought he saw the complete body of a dead buck. Then, that “dead” buck stood up as McAnally walked near, and the deer began walking away, dragging his dead combatant slowly along.

Whitetail bucks often put their antlers together for light sparring matches, or sometimes in full-fledged fights. Occasionally they push with enough force that antler tines (points) from the two bucks bend enough to become interlocked. Most such fights happen during the November breeding season, as bucks battle over a doe. “I’m not sure if there was a doe coming into late estrous or what happened,” McAnally said. “Something had them really going at it.” He also finds it unique that the antlers withstood such pressure at a time of year when antlers are naturally falling off must bucks so another set can begin growing.

McAnally recognized both bucks from his trail cameras, which are left in the field and triggered by motion. The dead buck had lived on the property for at least three years. The live buck had shown-up during the past season. The bucks were last seen independently on trail cameras on Feb. 2. “They easily could have been locked like that for five or six days,” McAnally said. “You could tell by the looks of things it had been a while.”

Rather than call his cousin, Heath Getty, for assistance, McAnally decided to not waste any time getting the live buck untangled. He set his cell phone in the branches of a plum bush and went to the rescue.

“I spent a lot of the 30 minutes just easing in, trying to keep the buck calm,” McAnally said. “It kind of kept pulling away and I kept kind of talking softly and petting its neck a bit. I’m not sure if that really helped.”

After trying to free the locked antlers with his hands, McAnally walked back to his truck and returned with a saw and cut one antler tine from the live buck and two from the dead buck. Not realizing what had happened, the live buck kept his head down until McAnally lifted its antlers a bit so it could feel that it was free. That left McAnally a bit nervous, wondering if the buck might charge him. It didn’t.

“It kind of stomped the dead buck a couple of times, backed up and then took off,” he said. “You could tell it was kind of week and off balance, but that’s probably because of all it had been through for several days.”

As he was leaving the property later, McAnally saw the buck about 300 yards from where it had been freed, walking towards a creek for water. “I’m pretty sure he made it,” McAnally said. “He was kind of gaunt, but he was really in pretty good shape. I hope I see him again this fall when I’m out hunting.” If he does, McAnally said he probably won’t reach for his bow.

“I don’t think I could shoot him,” he said. “We kind of have a connection.”

 

 

The war on feral swine continues

A U.S.D.A. helicopter works a heard of feral swine found in northern Oklahoma this week.

A U.S.D.A. helicopter works a herd of feral swine found in northern Oklahoma this week. MICHAEL PEARCE/PHOTO

For yet another year, the tide of feral pigs trying to spread across Kansas has been stemmed. That’s thanks, mostly, to on-going efforts by the state of Kansas and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Here are a few facts to hold you over until a March 9 Outdoors page feature on the subject.

– Feral hogs are the descendants of domestic pigs gone wild. The first appeared with Spanish explorers in the 1500s.

– The current U. S. population is estimated at more than 5 million feral hogs, of which about one half live in  Texas.

–  Feral hogs have been documented doing $10,000 or more damage to a farm field in one night.

– They are known to carry diseases that can be lethal to domestic swine, dogs and humans.

– Conservative estimates state each pig can do at least $200 in damage to crops, annually.

– Texas officials think feral swine do more than $100 million in damage to the state’s crops and other agricultural interests annually.

– Though Kansas only currently has a population of a few hundred within its borders, about 4,000 feral pigs have been killed in Kansas, or from herds just across the border in Oklahoma and Colorado in about the past seven years.

– Almost 1,000 pigs were killed over about a five year period in the Red Hills region west and north of Medicine Lodge. Biologists and ranchers feel that population has been wiped-out, except for a few scattered boars.

– Biologists credit outlawing sport hunting for feral pigs, which can scatter populations and encourage people to import and release pigs to create huntable populations, for greatly helping with eradication projects.

– Trapping has had a significant impact, with up to 42 feral hogs caught in a single night.

Part of 42 feral pigs recently trapped near the Kansas/Oklahoma border. COURTESY PHOTO

Part of 42 feral pigs recently trapped near the Kansas/Oklahoma border. COURTESY PHOTO

– More than 100 feral hogs per day have been shot via aerial gunning from helicopters several times by Kansas crews. Though impressive, that’s far below the many instances of 300 to 400 pigs aerial gunned per day in Texas.

– Earlier this week about 224 feral hogs were killed by aerial gunning just across the Kansas border, in Kay County, Oklahoma, including a herd estimated to be about 80 animals in one pasture. Further north, just across the Kansas border in Cowley County, only one lone boar was found and killed.

Again, for more details, check the March 9 Outdoors page of The Wichita Eagle.

More charges filed against celebrity hunter, Spook Spann

Television and video personality Spook Spann is again in trouble with wildlife law enforcement authorities. This is the third time in less than two years, for those who are counting.

Spann was originally charged and convicted in 2012 for illegally tagging a world-class, non-typical whitetail deer he shot in Kansas about seven years ago. Last year he was again in federal court for violating the part of his probation that stated he couldn’t hunt for up to a year in Kansas, and less time in other states.

YOU CAN CLICK HERE for a link to details about his recent arrest.

State park utility rate hike approved

WINFIELD – Kansas state park user rates for electricity, water and gas were increased at Thursday’s Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission meeting in Winfield. Linda Lanterman, state parks director, said the increase is needed to off-set the higher rates the parks are paying for the same utilities.

The commission approved at $1.50 increase on daily utilities, no matter if the campers are using one or all three. That means daily rates increased from $7.50 to $9 for one, from $9.50 to $11 for two and from $10.50 to $12 for all three utilities.

Also approved was a $30.50 rate increase for monthly utility rates. At most state parks that means rates increased from $240 to $270.50 for one, $300 to $330.50 for two and $360 to $390.50 for all three utilities.

At El Dorado, Milford and Tuttle Creek State Parks, three of Kansas’ most popular, monthly utility rates increased from $280 to $310.50 for one, $340 to $370.50 for two and $400 to $430.50 for all three utilities.

The rate increases should go into effect within a few weeks.

Check Sunday’s Outdoors page in The Wichita Eagle, or at Kansas.com/outdoors for more news from Thursday’s commission meeting.