Category Archives: Hunting

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. 

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.

 

 

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.

Pheasant photography not easy

My toes felt like icicles, and my arms were starting to ache from holding a heavy camera and big telephoto lens out from my body, cocked at a funny angle, for what seemed like an hour, but was probably an honest minute or so. A rooster pheasant five yards away had heard the tiniest scratch of the lens against the side of the pop-up blind and was on full alert.

A rooster pheasant is on full-alert after hearing the hum of a camera's auto-focus.

A rooster pheasant is on full-alert after hearing the hum of a camera’s auto-focus.

He left the scene, tail arrogantly cocked in the air leaving me vowing to be even quieter the next time.

Tuesday afternoon I spent three or four frigid hours in a blind near a deer feeder in western Harvey County. Both were set in an overgrown pasture of hedge trees and cedars. The feeder is intended for deer, but pheasants and a variety of songbirds eat the yellow grain. I’d also poured some sunflower seeds next to a nearby cedar to sweeten the deal.

An assortment of cardinals and Harris sparrows flushed when I walked on to the scene, and most were back by the time I was in the blind, and had my cameras turned on and ready to go. Piece of cake, I thought, when the pheasants showed up I’d fill a few hundred frames of the brilliant plumage glowing the in the late afternoon light, standing in strict contrast to the thick, white snow.

Boy was I ever wrong. I’ve had days when it’s been a lot easier to shoot them with a shotgun, compared to the photography challenges on Tuesday.

Problems included the blind being too close to the feed, which was largely because the pasture is so thick I couldn’t get more than about eight yards away.

The wind had also totally died, which gave the pheasants super-sensitive hearing every advantage.  Also because of the cold, the blind’s fabric was stiff and incredibly noisy.

A rooster pheasant that finally sneaked from beneath a cedar tree, to grab some food in the open.

A rooster pheasant that finally sneaked from beneath a cedar tree, to grab some food in the open.

The first pheasant to walk in heard the hum of the camera’s auto-focus, then went into some fast high-stepping when the shutter started firing and was gone in seconds.

The snow-coated pop-up blind was stiff and noisy Tuesday afternoon, when used as a photography blind.

The snow-coated pop-up blind was stiff and noisy Tuesday afternoon, when used as a photography blind.

At least six different roosters came to the feed, and all stuck to cover as best they could. They, and several hens, liked to stay under a huge cedar where some food had been scattered. Occasionally one would sneak out, peck a few kernels of corn then retreat back under the boughs.

More than half of the roosters spooked before I even got them in the viewfinder. Three or four frames is the most I got of any one bird, and my camera fires at about eight frames per second.

I’ll be out for a few hours early Wednesday morning, in another blind that’s further from a feeder and where the birds and the blind should be in warming sunshine. No matter, I’m danged sure wearing heavier boots  this time.

Jake and Me – another chapter

Sunday’s Outdoors page carried a feature story about a mentoring friendship I’ve had with 11-year-old Jacob Holem. The article describes what we’ve both gotten from the friendship, and chronicled some of our adventures. YOU CAN CLICK HERE TO READ THE STORY, AND FIND THE PHOTO GALLERY

While some people were reading the story, Jake and I were out in a snow covered field of corn stubble, trying to get the personable boy is first goose. Our previous trips had resulted in not a shot, let alone a bird in the boy’s hand.

Jake Holem, left, and MIchael Pearce ended the goose season with a lot of bangs...and limits of six Canada geese, apiece.

Jake Holem, left, and MIchael Pearce ended the goose season with a lot of bangs…and limits of six Canada geese, apiece.

Funny what a difference timing and weather conditions can make. For each of the past five or so years I’ve had my best goose hunts of the season in February. Ditto on this cornfield when there’s snow on the ground, and the decoys are more visible.

At daylight we scattered about six dozen decoys.. Jake used a broom to clear several areas of open ground, like a flock had found a place where the wind had blown some snow away, and food was being found.

We barely had gotten into the goose pit when the first flock came over. In fact, Jake didn’t even have his gun loaded but I dropped a goose. We had to hustle because more were coming. I shot a bird and as I was pulling on another, it faltered and fell….Jake had his first goose. It wasn’t long before he had a second, and third, and fourth, and eventually sixth.

Sunday was one of those days when all seemed to be working. The birds were coming off parts of El Dorado Reservoir and assorted ponds, and their flight path had them passing within easy sight of our decoys. I doubt there was a total of 10 minutes all morning when we didn’t have geese in sight, and many wanted in on our spread.

Geese responded to calls, both Jake’s and mine, and we passed up probably a dozen opportunities at birds that were in range of my 12 gauge magnum, waiting for geese to come in close enough for Jake’s 20 gauge,…which was quickly going through his partial box of ammo. One of the highlights was a lone white-fronted goose, the first I’d ever seen over the field, that came down from way up in the sky, wings cupped until it was about 20 yards out.

Had the limit still been three Canadas per hunter, like last year, we’d have been done by 10 a.m., or about 90 minutes of hunting. Thankfully, the limit is six per person.

When Jake was getting cold, and down to about a dozen shells, his mom, Kimberly, came and brought more yellow shells and cups of hot cocoa. As we warmed in Kimberly’s pickup, a flock of about nine worked within 25 yards of where we sat.

Four groups, from one to a dozen or so in a bunch worked the spread the 30 minutes we were away from the blind, including a nice flock that flushed from near the blind when we headed back at about 11 a.m. At about straight up noon four new birds worked in from the east. Jake hit one hard and Hank, my Lab, closed our season with the retrieve.

Guns unloaded, we were only about half-way through picking up the decoys when Kimberly arrived at the blind again, with a large, steaming cheese pizza and other snacks.

So Jake and I mostly stood outside the truck, reaching in for piece after piece of probably the best-tasting pizza I’ve ever had, watching more geese come and go, while talking about the morning’s hunt. We got a few photos, finished picking up the decoys and headed to a spot out of the wind to clean Jake’s birds. As we were beginning the process, Jake looked up and saw a bald eagle barely clearing the trees above the river.

“I could see his yellow beak he was so close,” Jake said a few minutes after the bird flew from sight. “That was really exciting to see him that close.”

All in all, the entire day was pretty exciting, and a great way to end our hunting seasons together. Now, come on spring turkey seasons and fishing!

Casts and Blasts from Gumbo-thon, 2014

Some smells are just meant for certain seasons….the smell of freshly-cut grass the first time in the spring. Those of us old enough, remember the smell of burning leaves in the fall. Yesterday the smell of simmering gumbo filled our house, a sure sign that we’re in probably the coldest week of the winter. I call it gumbo-thon. Here are a few bits about it -

About four gallons of gumbo that includes turkey, pheasant, venison and, unfortunately, store-bought sausage.

About four gallons of gumbo that includes turkey, pheasant, venison and, unfortunately, store-bought sausage.or the coldest week of the year, and make it early enough that it can sit and season for a few days and take us through the weekend. A few facts -

– I learned how to make gumbo from Margaret Simien, mother of Wayne Simien, Jr., past KU All-American. She’s been like a big sister to me since we worked together in Leavenworth when I was in college. She learned it from her mother-in-law, a Louisiana native.

– She taught me how to make it per “batch.” though the least I’ve ever made is a double batch. A batch contains, roughly, one onion, one bunch of celery, the meat of about two chicken breasts and a package of tube sausage and, of course, shrimp.

– Tuesday morning I really intended to just make a double batch, but ended up making a quatro-batch, which is about all my large plug-in roaster will hold. I have that problem of stopping once I get started making gumbo. No matter, it freezes well and we always seem to have plenty of friends wanting to help reduce the load.

- I started with the legs and thighs from a mature tom turkey shot last week. I separated them at the joint, placed them in a tall stock pan and added about a gallon of water, one chopped onion and one chopped bunch of celery. With the lid on, I let them simmer for about five hours. The meat was tender enough to be easily shredded with my fingers and I had a great starting stock for the gumbo.

- I added all that to the roaster, with three more onions and three more bunches of celery chopped. The water was sprinkled liberally with seasoned salt, garlic powder and Creole seasoning, and tasted for testing. I like my stock to be almost too spicy for me to handle. That will make it about right when more meat is added and the gumbo is put on rice when eaten.

Gumbo is an excellent destination for the thighs and legs of wild turkeys, simmered with onion and celery for about five hours.

Gumbo is an excellent destination for the thighs and legs of wild turkeys, simmered with onion and celery for about five hours.

- As for other meats, I kind of went to the “beer and worm” fridge in the garage, and found what hadn’t been frozen yet from hunts the past week or so. That included all the thigh meat from six pheasants, and one slab of turkey breast meat. From the freezer I added a loin and roast of venison, too. All was cubed, of course, and added to the gumbo that was not at a high simmer.

– I hate to admit it, but I had to buy four packages of sausage (oh, the shame!). I used to take elk or wild pig into Parson’s in Derby, and have them make it into brats, but not this year.  I also used to use Johnsonville New Orleons style sausage but I can’t find it any more and I refuse to pay the shipping on the real stuff from Louisiana.

– In the past, I’ve also added duck, spoonbill catfish, bison, elk roasts, moose roasts, limb chicken (squirrel), cottontails, a lot of wild pig, and several things I can’t remember, I’m sure.

– Yes, I can make a roux from scratch but no, I don’t. Every couple of years I’ll order several large jars of what’s basically a concentrated roux from cajungrocers.com.  This batch used about a cup, first dissolved in boiling water, then added to the gumbo.

– The entire conglomeration simmered together for about four or five hours before I moved the entire roaster to the cold garage. One of the secrets of making really good gumbo, is to not eat it until it’s set for at least a day or two.

– I’ll share about half of this year’s batch with some friends living west of Newton (Yes, PJ, that includes you!). They’ve had several people sick and were very kind in letting me enjoy some of the best pheasant hunting of my life, on their lands.

– Oh, I don’t like to add the shrimp until just before the gumbo is re-heated and served. This year, though, high shrimp prices may mean quite a few bowls without shrimp. Ste. Kathy, my wife, actually prefers her gumbo without shrimp.

– No, I don’t use okra, but I sometimes add peanuts or cashews to a bowl to give it some crunch.

Sometimes, pheasant planning works

Pheasant hunters are some of the greatest planners in the outdoors.

There were WWII island invasions with less details than some of the pheasant drives I’ve been on, with hunters coming towards a cover from all directions, a push with wingmen to be exactly 41.237 yards ahead of the other hunters. Unfortunately, pheasants are really bad and falling such plans and normally find plenty of ways to run, flush wild, hold tight, fly the wrong direction….of the scheming gunners.

Friday, on Kansas’ last day of the season, all went as planned for me and my ancient Lab, Hank.

For about the past three weeks we’ve been dibbling and dabbling on some pheasant hunts at some fantastic spots in Harvey County, normally only hitting a covert for  a half-hour to an hour, taking a bird or two and then heading home happy. Even as late as Thursday morning,  we only hit a patch long enough to take a pair of roosters, including one with Boone & Crockett tailfeathers, before resting the field in advance of Friday.

So for Friday, the season’s last day, and possibly Hank’s last pheasant hunt (he’s about 13) we went for broke, heading to  the best spots I have in Harvey, Reno and Stafford counties.

Hank, with the four rooster limit from Friday's hunt the last day of the Kansas pheasant season. The photo was taken Sunday afternoon.

Hank, with the four rooster limit from Friday’s hunt on the last day of the Kansas pheasant season. The photo was taken Sunday afternoon.

About 8 a.m. we did an early raid on a roosting area that’s basically at the edge of a friend’s yard. The first rooster was holding tight, flushed close and fell dead. The next took a little trailing by Hank before the flush, then a lot more after the shot. With super-dry conditions, it took the old dog about 20 minutes to catch up with the wing-hit bird. With a self-imposed two bird limit on that property, we headed west.

Grass where I’d seen five or six roosters a month ago held just a hen in Stafford County. After lunch in Sylvia, I passed on a chance to hunt some CRP in Reno County because of the field’s immense size and thickness. I could tell Hank was already tired, so we headed back towards home and Harvey County. We got to the property, which was across the road from where we’d hunted that morning, with about 90 minutes of daylight left. Basically I was counting on the final 20-30 minutes.

For most hunters the pheasant season that closed Friday was the worst of their lives, but there were some good pockets of birds scattered about. Michael Pearce found his best hunting of the past several seasons in Harvey County.

For most hunters the pheasant season that closed Friday was the worst of their lives, but there were some good pockets of birds scattered about. Michael Pearce found his best hunting of the past several seasons in Harvey County.

Hank and I took a seat near the field’s north end, where pheasants often traveled back and forth between the lush grass and a neighbor’s soybeans. We’d seen three roosters sail into the grass when we got up with a half-hour of season remaining, quietly walking along the field’s western edge, so we could work it into the northeast wind.

Two more roosters sailed in about the time we started the season’s last push.

Most longtime hunting  dog owners will tell you scenting conditions improve greatly just before sunset. Friday was no exception. Hank hit scent where we’d seen one of the birds land and started trailing, and 50 yards further it came out of the grass cackling. It’s partner had landed about 60 yards away, and Hank was hot on its scent when it flushed and also fell.

With a limit of four filled, my first in several years, I set the gun and vest along a farm trail and just followed the dog as he worked out the rest of the grass. He was still pushing up hens as grayness  settled over the field, including a cluster-flush of about a dozen brown birds at the field’s northeastern corner.

I hated to see the season end, since there’s no promise Hank may be around for the next or at least be healthy enough to hunt.

Well, if there is a perfect hunt for ending a season, or possibly a hunting career, a rare day when all the pheasant planning comes through is certainly it.