Category Archives: Hunting

Wildlife and Parks to ask commission for later duck, goose seasons

Aug. 21, near Great Bend, biologists will ask the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission that many of the 2014-15 Kansas duck and goose seasons run a bit later than suggested in the past.

Tom Bidrowski, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism waterfowl biologist, said the department’s recommendations are based on migration trends, hunter participation in recent seasons, top duck and goose harvest dates and the results of a recent survey sent out to waterfowl hunters. Opening dates of the late plains late zone, southeast zone duck seasons, and goose seasons could open a week later, and have more January and February days than previous recommendations.

Retrievers may face colder conditions if the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission honors the department's requests for later duck and goose seasons.

Retrievers may face colder conditions if the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission honors the department’s requests for later duck and goose seasons. this fall and winter.

The following dates will be recommended -

Southeast duck zone – Nov. 8-Jan. 4 and Jan. 10-25.

Low plains late zone – Nov. 1-Jan. 4 and Jan. 17-25.

Low plains early zone – Oct. 11-Dec. 7 and Dec. 20-Jan. 4.

Canada and light goose – Nov. 1-Nov. 9 and Nov. 12-Feb. 15.

White-fronted geese – Nov. 1-Dec. 14 and Jan. 17-Feb. 15.

Bidrowski said the way weekends fell on the calendar this year played a role in pushing some seasons to their latest starting dates in decades. Traditionally the low plains late zone opened the last Saturday of October. He felt Oct. 25 possibly could be too early.

“We also did it to appease some of the interests in the later season dates,” Bidrowski said. “and it works very well with overlapping our dates for goose seasons, too.”

The last three years the August commission meetings have been the most continuous of the year because of debate over setting waterfowl seasons, particularly for the southeast duck zone. The past two years Commissioner Don Budd, of Kansas City, has countered with seasons that ran mostly from mid-Nov. through the last weekend in January, and gotten commission approval.

At the upcoming meeting at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center, Bidrowski will explain the results from a waterfowl survey sent to about 7,100 Kansas duck and goose hunters earlier this year. While statistically valid, he said the 2,100 responses means the survey had less than a 30 percent response rate.

“We believe we’re seeing some fatigue in our surveys,” he said. “I think some people are just getting tired with the battle of the seasons we seem to have every year.”

Lesser prairie chicken numbers increase about 20 percent

lesserprairiechickenblog _mp02An aerial survey conducted this spring found that America’s lesser prairie chicken population had increased about 20 percent since the same study area was flown in 2013.

A Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism press release said biologists were estimating  the population at 22,415 birds this year, compared to 18,747 last spring. The 2012 estimate was more than 30,000 birds. Several years of drought has greatly hurt lesser prairie chicken numbers by denying the grouse good nesting areas, safe places to raise chicks and cover from predators through the seasons.

Done during the early spring breeding season, the study only logs adult birds since the year’s chicks have yet to be hatched.

The press release credited good reproduction last year in the mixed grass prairie region of south-central  Kansas and some places in the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles. Reproduction was down again in the sand-sage prairies of southwestern Kansas and bordering regions in other states because of the drought.

Though it is too early to get a feel for this year’s reproduction, weather systems have dropped some impressive rains across most of the lesser prairie chicken’s range, including part of western Kansas. Some nice broods have been reported earlier in the west-central Kansas region that includes Gove and Logan counties, where some of the state’s best lesser prairie chicken populations thrived before the drought began about three years ago.

lesserprairiechickenblog _mp01This spring the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service placed lesser prairie chickens on their threatened species list. Since, a number of lawsuits have been filed by groups on both sides of the issue. Many agriculture and energy groups want the bird removed from all listing, stating populations only need rains to recover. They also complain the new federal regulations could greatly cripple the ways they do business and greatly hurt the rural economies with those areas.

Some environmental groups are pushing to have the birds upgraded to the endangered list, citing how the population fell by 50 percent during last year’s surveys.

A favored Father’s Day memory

Since it’s Father’s Day, and mine’s been gone for about 16 or so years, it’s only natural I’ve thought of my Dad.

What came to mind was our last hunt together, and probably the only time in my life I could honestly say, “Great shot, Dad!”

Michael Pearce's dad, Darrell, with a mule deer buck he shot on their last hunt. It was surely the best shot he'd made in his life.

Michael Pearce’s dad, Darrell, with a mule deer buck he shot on their last hunt. It was surely the best shot he’d made in his life.

My Dad could do a lot of things very well. No matter what I broke he could fix it. Hallmark made millions off his ability to wade into one of their production machines and somehow find ways to make them safer, more productive and less costly.

Had it not been for the dyslexia that had many teachers calling him things like “stupid,” I have no doubt he could have been a world-class mechanical or electrical engineer. The cost also would have kept him from going to college, though. The Walton’s looked like the Koch’s compared to how my dad grew up. One of his favorite sayings, “What Depression, we never had anything to lose.” Dad had to leave home at about 16 so his family wouldn’t have to feed and care for him.  When he had an extra few dollars, he gave it to his mom.

I think that’s why he was so good at stretching dollars out of dimes. (Boy, do I wish I had that ability!)

Anyway, one of the few things my dad could not do was shoot well. I remember averages of a dove per box of shells, and ending a day with a high of three quail, despite a dozen or so solid points by my Brittany, Rose. He was probably worse with rifles.

Upon his retirement, Hallmark gave dad a fine pension and other savings…really generous…and some kind of carved crystal bowl. That seemed an odd thing to give someone like my dad. So, I joking told him for a retirement present I would either get him an even bigger crystal bowl or take him on the best deer hunt in Kansas with a dear friend of mine.

Yes, you know what he selected.

We were in the rugged ranch country of Logan and Gove counties the opening day of rifle season, and saw a few nice bucks early. I’d already told my friend, Stacy Hoeme, that we’d need to get as close as possible for dad to have a chance of making a good hit on a buck.

Dad, far from a trophy hunter, liked every buck we saw and Stacy and I joked we wouldn’t give him any ammo until we saw a buck we thought was fitting the occasion. Eventually we saw a herd of mule deer with a very good buck head into some canyons. We started our stalk on the unseen deer, hoping we could stay high and crawl up to a ledge and get dad a slam-dunk shot.

Nope.

We’d just entered the rough country when that very buck up from a canyon about 180 or so yards away. That’s not a long shot for a lot of people, including my children and me, but I never really considered it for dad. But in less time than it takes to explain, he dropped to one knee, fired and put a .280 bullet through the buck’s chest. Mortally hit, it staggered a few seconds as dad emptied the rifle. I have no idea where those other four shots went, but they didn’t look to be anywhere near that deer.

No matter, the buck fell, and Dad got to bask in the glory of making a really nice shot on a trophy buck that would make him the envy of all the hunters around Tonganoxie, and all his old friends at Hallmark in Leavenworth.

The cancer that killed Dad came within a few months of that hunt, and though he lived for about another two years I think that was the last time we hunted together.

The day meant enough to Dad that he kept a photo of the two of us, and his buck, handy most of the time. The mounted buck, and a framed enlargement of the photo, sat where he could see both from his deathbed at his home. The enlargement was placed by his casket, as my step-mom wanted people to see Dad when he may have been at his happiest.

There comes a time, I guess, when all sportsmen have their own last hunt. I’m hoping mine is still 20 or so years away, but you never know.  I’m 56. I think Dad shot the buck when he was 65. That’s not much of a difference. We’ll see.

But a great hunt for a great animal, and being out with someone from my family wouldn’t be a bad way for me to go out, I guess.

 

 

Casts and Blasts about the Hausermans, world champion pistol shooters

As is often the case, there was more to the story on Sunday’s Outdoors page about Dakota and Daniel Hauserman than space to print it. They’re the Wichita niece/uncle team that won world championships at the 2014 World Action Pistol Championship in Kentucky last month.

YOU CAN CLICK HERE TO READ SUNDAY’S OUTDOORS PAGE FEATURE.

Wichita's Dakota Hauserman, 25, won a championship at the 2014 World Action Pistol Championship at Park City, Ky two weeks ago.

Wichita’s Dakota Hauserman, 25, won a championship at the 2014 World Action Pistol Championship at Park City, Ky two weeks ago.

– While they only shot about 250 rounds of ammo during the actual competition, many competitors may have fired up to 2,000 practice rounds.

– Not Dakota, she passed up several chances to go to the practice range with her uncle and father, Dhon. “I told them I was there on vacation, so I was going to just sit around and relax at least part of the time,” she said.

– Dakota made the trip with her favorite pistol partners, but not her favorite hunting partner. That would be her pint-sized pomeranian, Hans, who mostly just keeps her company. One time hunting geese near the edge of her family’s rural Sedgwick County home, Dakota dropped a big Canada that hit with just a broken wing. She tried to get Hans involved in fetching the bird. “He just took a look and headed for the house,” Dakota said, shaking her head and laughing aloud as she remembered the hunt.

– Hans will not be making the trip to Florida when Dakota heads south to start law school later this year. He’ll stay with her parents, which is a great way for them to insure she’ll come home over school breaks.

– Dakota also won’t have a boyfriend following her to Florida, either. “I’m just too busy to mess with a boyfriend,” she said.

She’s also found that too many young men are intimidated by her favorite pastime and her scholastic success. “If it’s not when I start talking about guns, it’s when I start talking about law school,” she said. “Either one, they’re usually gone. That’s really too bad.”

Daniel, left, and Dakota are all smiles after winning world pistol championships. Well, Dakota is smiling, anywa.

Daniel, left, and Dakota are all smiles after winning world pistol championships. Well, Dakota is smiling, anyway.

– As for hunting, Dakota said she likes ducks the best because, “That’s where the action is. I like doves, too.” She and her family hunt often around Fall River. Her deer rifle is a .243 Browning semi-automatic.

– Cameras make Dakota more nervous that gunning for world championships. Thursday, it took her “several” tries to make a perfect run of six steel plates while being videoed.

– In the article, Dakota said she enjoyed shooting shotguns more than handguns or rifles. She’s won some clay target championships, too. Her greatest prize, “I think we got something like 200 pounds of sausage,” she said with a laugh.

– Dakota is currently working as a clerk and assistant in the office of Judge Phillip Journey, an experience she said will be hugely beneficial to her goal of being an attorney.

 

Quivira National Wildlife Refuge to allow deer and turkey hunting, eventually

After about three years of discussions, research and gathering public input, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced limited deer and turkey hunting will be allowed at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.

 After about another three years of discussions, research and gathering public input, the first seasons may be held.

A whitetail buck photographed at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge last November.

A whitetail buck photographed at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge last November.

“Very basically, we have the opportunity to put on a deer and/or turkey hunt based on this plan,” Mike Oldham, refuge manager, said of the refuge’s recently approved Comprehensive Conservation Plan. Such plans are designed to give federal refuges management directions over about the next 15 years. Most segments have to undergo a federal approval process, and the public most be given chances to comment at about every stage.

The plan also states that no changes will be made in regards to what parts of the about 22,000 acre refuge can be hunted. Also, the entire refuge will remain closed to all hunting when endangered whooping cranes are present.

As per the deer and turkey, Oldham said Quivira will follow federal guidelines for designing hunting opportunities that should allow for some herd control, offer some recreation for hunters while not interfering with wildlife watchers, photographers and those hunting private lands that border Quivira. He hopes to work closely with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism and will not rush into any actions.

“We know we don’t want to start with a big hunt. We want something like where you have to draw a special permit,” Oldham said. “We also probably won’t allow unlimited hunting days. It could be something like where the hunters come for an orientation meeting on Friday, then maybe get to hunt Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday.” Oldham said the hunts, which could start with less than 10 hunters at a time, could include the September’s youth season and the January season that’s held to hunt only antlerless whitetails. Permit numbers and hunting days could expand quickly should the need arise to harvest a significant number of deer, such as because of a disease outbreak.

Dogs training for the 2013 Master NationalDue to long-standing complaints that all hunting has been stopped when whooping cranes are present, the refuge had considered just permanently closing the hunting areas where, or near where, the whooping cranes usually congregate near the Big Salt Marsh. To make up for the loss, Quivira considered opening new areas in the eastern part of the refuge. With such a change, hunting could have possibly been allowed in those areas when whoopers were present elsewhere.

Losing access to the North Lake area, a favored hunting area north of the Big Salt Marsh, didn’t fit well with hunters.

“The vast majority, probably around 80 percent, of the public we heard from asked us to not close North Lake. They said if they had to choose, they’d rather have less hunting time than not get to hunt that area of the refuge,” Oldham said. “We also heard from non-hunters and they all said we shouldn’t do anything that would risk a whooping crane getting shot by leaving all hunting open. We really did take the (public) comments to heart.”

CLICK HERE TO REVIEW THE ENTIRE CONSERVATION 

Another great hunt with “our Wounded Warrior”

For a few seconds Irona Cliver was bouncing her head and shoulders back and forth like she was grooving to a favored tune.

Later, for more than a few seconds, no part of Irona was moving, including her lungs.

Marine veteran Irona Cliver, right, with Ed Markel and her first turkey.

Marine veteran Irona Cliver, left, with Ed Markel and her first turkey.

“Irona, you need to start breathing, just don’t move your head around,” I told her through a soft giggle. The Marine veteran later admitted  the excitement of watching three turkeys come to calls and decoys had frozen her for a while.

We met in October at the Kansas Salutes the Troops event at Flint Oak. It’s an annual Wounded Warriors type of event that honors American military personnel who served well, but were somehow injured along the way. Her out-going personality probably made the 33 year-old Wichita businesswoman the most popular vet at the event. About five days after I handed her a business card at the event, and told her to contact me if she ever wanted to go hunting she did.

Back in December four of us hosted Irona at Ed Markel’s ranch in Elk County. Wow, what a hunt and what an amazing welcome locals put on for us. She got a nice 10-pointer, her first buck, and we all gained a great friend we instantly began to admire.

YOU CAN CLICK HERE TO READ A BLOG ON THE DECEMBER HUNT. 

During that hunt on a cold, snowy day, Irona and I watched a flock of about 35 turkeys work through a big foodplot. I mentioned the birds were fun to hunt in the spring. In a split-second the woman who knowns nothing about shyness hit me with something like, “Ok, so when are we going?”

It took a while to get our schedules to mesh, with her running a successful business selling motorcycle-based clothing and accessories and heading off to win awards at shooting events for veterans. Last Thursday, we finally got things to jell.

Ed again volunteered his properties, which are all managed for wildlife. Justin “Boomer” Bremer, Ed’s wildlife biologist, had scouted the areas well. As Boomer predicted, turkeys came to one of their food plots at about 8 a.m. that morning.

They were three jakes, and with only a very windy day to hunt we’d agreed that Irona shouldn’t be picky.

When I first called her attention to the coming birds she zipped, dipped and raised her head from one of the shooting blind’s windows to another. She took it literally when I hissed, “You have to hold still.” She used my three-inch magnum 12 gauge to drop a bird at about 25 yards. She probably would have taken another of the surviving pair, but they never got far enough apart of insure a shot would just kill one.

Good thing, in the long run.

From left, Irona Cliver, Ed Markel and MIchael Pearce, minutes after getting the Marine veteran her first turkey.

From left, Irona Cliver, Ed Markel and MIchael Pearce, minutes after getting the Marine veteran her first turkey.

No, she didn’t fill her second permit but she came very close at several of Ed’s other properties. Actually twice she could have just stepped from the truck and killed a big longbeard, but that’s turkey shooting and not turkey hunting.

As we were packing up to head in at about 5 p.m.,  Irona was all smiles and high fives.

“It was a lot of fun and we got to see so much wildlife today, every place we went. It was just amazing,” she said, her blue eyes shining with excitement. “We got to see a lot of deer, and turkeys about every place we went, and just a lot of really neat things.”

She’s right, had she shot a second jake in the early morning we might not have gotten to hunt the other properties, and see the things she mentioned as well as yellow warblers, scissortails, eastern and western kingbirds, watch and listen to rooster pheasants cackling and drumming a few yards away.

One bird for the kitchen, a mindful of great memories for all involved and a very happy veteran.

Mission accomplished.

 

 

Small turkey, huge appreciation from a deserving hunter

Roger Dakin lost his legs in a fire-fighting accident, but not his desire to hunt. He shot this turkey Saturday morning.

Roger Dakin lost his legs in a fire-fighting accident, but not his desire to hunt. He shot this turkey Saturday morning.

Odds are a lot of wild turkeys were called in and killed Saturday morning. A lot of those toms were probably trophy-class gobblers.

But I doubt any were as appreciated as a young jake I watched get taken in Butler County. I assure you none in the state were more deserved.

“I’m either going to have to shoot one of those birds or have a heart attack,” Roger Dakin said, trying to calm himself after watching some Rio Grande jakes attack a Dakota jake decoy 15 yards from the blind. “I can’t believe how hard my heart’s pounding.”

A few minutes later Dakin was heading towards his dead bird, going as fast as his hands cold  push the wheels on his chair across the prairie. At the bird he swung his body to the ground and continued his wide smile.

Mine was probably as big.

Two of the four jakes that came to calls and the Dakota jake decoy, giving Roger Dakin a great show for about 20 minutes.

Two of the four jakes that came to calls and the Dakota jake decoy, giving Roger Dakin a great show for about 20 minutes.

Dakin,  56, was a Sedgwick County firefighter when he  lost his legs while fighting a grass fire in 1989. A car came through the blowing smoke too fast, struck Dakin and pinned him against a fire truck.

“Just the wrong place at the wrong time, really” he told me about a year ago.

We met last year when he was part of the Hunting Heroes program for the Governor’s Turkey Hunt in El Dorado.  The program honors military, fire or law enforcement personnel who have been injured while serving. Dakin didn’t get  a bird on the hunt last year, but I got a look at a man who hasn’t let life pass him by despite the accident.

YOU CAN CLICK HERE TO READ LAST YEAR’S STORY ON DAKIN.

We’d tried to make it out after the Governor’s Hunt last year but couldn’t get schedules to mesh. He fired back an affirmative reply when I sent him a text last week, asking if he’d still like to go. We met Saturday morning in El Dorado, to hunt a special place minutes from town.

The place was a hilltop food plot with a solid farm trail leading right to a pop-up blind. Dakin was able to put his pick-up in four-wheel-drive and pull up within a few feet of the blind.

I lifted the blind, Dakin wheeled inside and I went to park his rig below the ridge.

Except for a bit of  a riot from a dozen or so wasps inside the blind when we arrived, getting settled wasn’t too hard. I’d placed carpeting in the blind to make it easier for Dakin to maneuver his wheelchair.

It sounded like about  dozen toms were gobbling from a hardwood valley about 150 to 200 yards away. They answered my calls, as well as getting into gobbling arguments amid themselves as daylight arrived. When the first bunch of gobbles sounded a bit more muted I told Dakin they were on the ground. When some gobbles sounded closer I told him we had birds on the way. A few minutes later four jakes sprinted on to the food plot, and right to the Dakota jake.

We had about five hours to hunt, and I told Dakin I thought there was a high chance a longbeard would come to calls or wander by in that amount of time. If nothing else, we could come back again until he got a bird. He put his 20 gauge down, and agreed we’d wait and enjoy the show as we waited for a bigger bird.

And brother, what a show…

Jakes are the undisputed class clowns of the springtime woods. They’re totally lacking in experience but totally filled with raging hormones. They pecked at the decoy. The strutted around the decoy. They gobbled. They yelped. They purred…they drove Dakin crazy.

“Ooo, that would be a perfect shot right there,” he said, looking at one jake with it’s head and neck flagpole straight. “He’d be just perfect.”

“Hey, I think that ones a little bigger, isn’t it? He’d probably be a good one to shoot,” he said as he studied the four body sizes.

“Look at that, how pretty they are in that sunlight,” he added. “I had no idea their feathers reflected those colors like that. They’re gorgeous.”

Several times he commented how excited he was getting watching the birds.

“I’ll kick myself forever if I don’t and up not getting a bird,” he said as he lifted his shotgun. “I’ve got to shoot one.”

Roger Dakin pushes his wheelchair to a turkey he shot Saturday morning.

Roger Dakin pushes his wheelchair to a turkey he shot Saturday morning.

When the birds separated a bit Dakin  made a great shot that centered the bird’s head and neck and didn’t put a pellet into edible meat.

“That’s only my second turkey,” he said as we watched the other three jakes beat up on their fallen comrade. “I’ve always been more of a deer hunter but I can see I’m going to have to start getting more into this turkey hunting. It’s exciting.”

I called the landowner, and he came out to meet Dakin and offer him congratulations. We talked with him a bit and I gave Dakin a quick tour of some neat property along the Walnut River. It was about two hours after taking the bird that he dropped me off at my SUV.

“I’m telling you, I could really feel my heart pounding when they were at the decoy. It’s still pounding pretty hard and that was a long time ago,” he said before offering a handshake of appreciation. “I won’t say I don’t get buck fever, because deer get me excited, but it’s been a long, long time since I’ve felt anything like this morning on a hunt. Man, that was fun and exciting.”

Glad we made it happen, Roger. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve been happier to see someone shoot a bird.

 

Video highlights program that creates four-legged game wardens

Since about everybody hates poachers and about everybody loves dogs, this video of the Indiana K-9 Resource Protection Program.

YOU CAN CLICK HERE TO SEE THE VIDEO.

The video may be from Indiana but it has some close ties to Kansas. The very successful Kansas K-9 program is modeled after what’s been done in Indiana for quite a few years. In fact, the wardens within our program, and their dogs, get much of their training in Indiana. Several other states use the Indiana training program, too.

Kansas’ four-legged game wardens have played key roles in hundreds of cases, ranging from finding key bits of evidence used to help convict poachers to tracking down felons on the run.

Kansas game warden Chris Stout, of Wellington, makes an appearance on the video and furnished the link.

 

Blasts and Casts from hunting with Theresa Vail, Miss Kansas

I wasn’t surprised when I got the text on Sunday morning.  When I saw the name, I was pretty sure it would have a photo of Theresa Vail with a nice tom she’d shot just minutes before.

I was right on both counts. Knowing she didn’t fill her second turkey permit on Saturday’s second, and last, day of the Governor’s Turkey Hunt, I figured she’d be somewhere hunting for at least a while Sunday morning, even though she’d tagged a great bird on Friday.

Our current Miss Kansas really isn’t very good at failure. Then again, that’s not something she’s very familiar with.

Theresa Vail, Miss Kansas, didn't like not getting a turkey on Saturday, so she went out Sunday morning and called one up on her own. COURTESY PHOTO

Theresa Vail, Miss Kansas, didn’t like not getting a turkey on Saturday, so she went out Sunday morning and called one up on her own. COURTESY PHOTO

I’ve met a lot of 23 year-olds in my many more years. Probably none have been as impressive as Vail, for a wide variety of reasons. Obviously she’s very attractive, but that’s well down on her long list of attributes. I mean that very honestly.

Most people know she’s been an honor student majoring in chemistry and Chinese at K-State, while serving in the Kansas Army National Guard. She’s been into boxing, sky-diving, motorcycle riding and serious hunting. It was widely publicized, after she won the Miss Kansas pageant that she did all those things proudly, learned to sing opera off the ‘net for her talent and basically said, “This is who I am,” when she refused to cover her tattoos in the Miss America pageant.

I was blessed to be the first member of the media to really spend some time with Vail in her element.  A few days after she won the Kansas crown we met at a Wichita archery range for an interview and to talk bows and hunting. There was NO doubt the woman was serious about both. When I mentioned the Governor’s Hunt in El Dorado she was very interested and eventually jumped at the chance when an invitation was sent.

I spent Thursday evening, Friday and much of Saturday with Vail and her father, Mark at the hunt. YOU CAN CLICK HERE TO READ THE STORY ON SUNDAY’S OUTDOORS PAGE, AND SEE A PHOTO GALLERY FROM THEIR HUNT.  Some of the things I learned -

- She’s far more comfortable in hunting boots and camo than anything she’s worn on a runway or other photo shoot.

- She has a great sense of humor, and takes kidding well  but gives it back with just a bit more spice, most times.

- Like most intelligent women, Vail doesn’t like to judged by her looks and her title. She tensed up, but held her tongue, when a man basically suggested someone should help her load a shotgun.

- Don’t tell her she can’t do something unless you want to stand there and watch her do it…especially if you say she can’t do it because of her gender or age.

- You can tell by the way she looks at him that she truly idolizes her dad.

- When she makes a mistake, which doesn’t happen often, she owns it and fixes it with no excuses.

- She’s tough and dedicated. To get her to quit hunting you about have to carry her to the truck, which wouldn’t be easy if she really didn’t want to go. Years of serious physical fitness have her stronger than most men that outweigh her by 40 pounds. She belly crawled when asked to belly crawl and would have waded a deep, cold creek, if we thought it would have gotten her a better chance at a bird.

- She’s pretty strict about her Paleo diet, which basically means she only eats pure, unprocessed meat and the same with fruit and veggies. Ask, and she’ll tell you the many benefits the healthy diet have brought to her. The main one is that she simply feels better and gets better performance from her body. She will always stress that’s it’s not, in any way, to help her lose weight.

- Vail holds a grudge. When a flock of gobblers didn’t come to calls Saturday morning there was no doubt she’d be back, with guide/friend Pat Post, Sunday morning, if even only for a few hours.

- She prefers as much of a challenge as possible. When she and Post returned on Sunday, Vail insisted on doing all the calling, something she’d never done before. Like most of the challenges she’s faced and conquered, she said doing her own calling brought her great pride. She shot the tom at about 20 yards, with a new 3-inch magnum 12 gauge Franchi.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling, to go out and doing all of the calling,” she said. “I was way, way more excited than when I shot my first turkey (called in by Post) Friday morning.  I don’t have any more permits, but I just want to go out and call in some more birds. That was so exciting!”

- She’s excited about going on three elk hunts this fall, to film episodes for her upcoming series, “Limitless,” on the Outdoors Channel. She says she’ll kill an elk. That means out there somewhere, at least one nice bull is enjoying it’s last Rocky Mountain spring. Like I said, Theresa Vail really isn’t very good at failure.

- Finally, to the elderly many from Georgia who repeatedly acted and talked inappropriately to Vail at the Governor’s Hunt, I’d suggest you don’t do it next year when she’s not under Miss Kansas response restrictions. On second thought, go ahead…but make sure I’m there to watch the outcome. :-)

Patterning shotguns for turkey hunting important, fun

Jake Holem counts how many pellets from his 20 gauge made it into the kill zone of a wild turkey target. Five was considered a safe minimum.

Jake Holem counts how many pellets from his 20 gauge made it into the kill zone of a wild turkey target. Five was considered a safe minimum.

Preparation for most kinds of hunting and fishing are a lot of the fun in both activities.

For turkey hunting, that can include making sure you have permission on private lands and heading out to scout for birds and their daily patterns. My favorite way is to head out a few days before the season and listen for where the toms are gobbling from roosts, then try to check fields for travel patterns. I like to do the latter with binoculars from the distance, to keep from spooking birds from their routines.

Practicing with calls is fun before the season, though most who’ve been at turkey hunting for a few seasons have no problem picking up from where they left last spring with their calls. Buying a few new calls, or decoys, is about mandatory, too.

Trying new loads in shotguns can be a big deal, too.

A 2 3/4" magnum 20 gauge shell loaded with1 1/8 oz. of buffered 7 1/2 shot patterned extremely well.

A 2 3/4″ magnum 20 gauge shell loaded with1 1/8 oz. of buffered 7 1/2 shot patterned extremely well.

Last weekend my main hunting buddy this season, 11-year-old Jake Holem, and I set out to experiment with a few loads from his new turkey choke for his Tri-Star 20 gauge and I wanted to run a few new loads through my well-used Benelli. We printed a few special turkey head and neck targets we found online, the ones that show the location of the brain and the spinal column. A few empty pop cans also gave us an idea of pattern densities and where our patterns were hitting.

Our goal on the paper targets was to get at least 5 pellets in the spinal column and/or brain.

Some of the things we learned -

– Jake’s 20 gauge shot low, which means he had to aim at a bird’s head to insure the pattern was well distributed in a tom’s head and neck.

– As with many 20 gauges I’ve worked with, a Winchester 2 3/4″ shell, loaded with 1 1/8 oz. of #7 1/2 shot, with buffering in the shot column, patterned better from Jake’s gun than any three-inch load we tried. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find those loads in about 15 years, and I’m down to about 40 rounds.

– We also learned that Jake’s gun patterned well enough at 30 yards to easily make lethal shots at that range.

– Also, though my shotgun with a Carlson imp/mod. choke throws great patterns with 3″ #2 steel, it does very poorly with #3s of the same exact shell. Go figure?

– My shotgun is best with Hevi-Shot, 3″ #5s, followed by the old stand-by of 3″ #2 steel. I’m good to 40 yards, but would sure love to keep the shots under that distance, which normally isn’t a problem.

Having spent the time trying several loads in his shotgun, and practicing shooting left-handed, greatly helped Jake Holem make a great shot on this longbeard near Leon early Saturday morning.

Having spent the time trying several loads in his shotgun, and practicing shooting left-handed, greatly helped Jake Holem make a great shot on this longbeard near Leon early Saturday morning.

– Jake also learned that if he took his time, and shut his right eye, he could shoot his shotgun accurately left-handed…which was a good thing to know. Saturday morning the right-handed kid had to do just that when a flock of toms came in from our right.  The shot was 27 yards, and the shotgun, the choke, the load and the kid were on the money.