Category Archives: Michael’s World

Hot temperatures – hot wiper fishing

The first wiper of the morning came within about the first 10 minutes of angling.

The first wiper of the morning came within about the first 10 minutes of angling.

I wasn’t surprised to hear from Mark Fowler last week. The extended forecast told me he’d probably be giving me a call, text or e-mail.

Every summer that we get a run of warm, stable weather, avid wiper fishermen like Mark find the fish hungry and in stable patterns. For Mark that means dragging big crankbaits and plastic jigs behind downriggers at Cheney Reservoir. Monday morning Mark and his father caught 10 wipers, the best of which was up to about eight pounds.

Tuesday morning he took Jacob Holem, a 12-year-old friend of mine, (and now Mark’s) and me.

Mark Fowler pilots the boat while Jacob Holem puts the finishing touches on rigging a downrigger.

Mark Fowler pilots the boat while Jacob Holem puts the finishing touches on rigging a downrigger.

Conditions were perfect when we met at 7 a.m. at Cheney State Park. It was already getting warm, the wind was about 10 m.p.h. and had been from the southwest for hours.

After a short ride, we put the downriggers down near a hump where Mark has caught wipers for years.  He’d just said they’d fished for an hour Monday before getting a fish when one of the rods started bucking and  Jacob was giggling and fighting his first wiper. When the fish measured 22 inches, it went into the livewell.

Ten minutes later we were trolling when Mark pointed to a bright blog on his electronics and said, “That’s a big blob of shad and we should catch a fish there.” Seconds later the left rod bent deep and the reel started spewing line. Rather than just one nice wiper, the line had one on the bottom crankbait and another on the swimbait a few feet up.

And so it went for the first 90 minutes of trolling. Fish after fish, Mark predicting when they would strike based on what he saw on his fish finder…and his few hundred mid-summer trips to Cheney through the years.

Since we hadn’t fished together in several years, Mark and I largely visited as Jacob took on more and more of the work with the downriggers. That included letting 80 feet of line from a rod, then attaching the line to a clip near the downrigger’s lead ball, and lowering the ball to the exact depth Mark wanted to be trolling.

A boat seeing our success at the original hump fouled things up by anchoring in the exact path Mark needed to keep us on the spot, which cut our

A pair of wipers that hit lures attached to the same line, at the same time.

A pair of wipers that hit lures attached to the same line, at the same time.

success. Still, the clicker on the boat’s dash showed we boated 17 fish, of which 14 were wipers, of which at least nine were over the lake’s 21-inch minimum length limit.

Mark Fowler's license plate leaves no doubt as per his favorite kind of fish.

Mark Fowler’s license plate leaves no doubt as per his favorite kind of fish.

At the cleaning dock we worked up our limits of two wipers, each, being careful to trim away every speck of strong-tasting red-colored meat. By then it was downright hot walking across the parking lot.

A little sweat seems a very small price to pay for fishing that’s even hotter than August in Kansas.

Short notice, short trip – great catfishing

Warren Kreutziger carries a channel cat to the cooler, one of many caught Friday morning.

Warren Kreutziger carries a channel cat to the cooler, one of many caught Friday morning.

I’ve spend as much as a year looking forward to a fishing trip. Planning them several months ahead of time is pretty common, especially for those out-of-state or out-of-country.

But I’ve noticed a lot of planning and anticipation does nothing to get the fish to bite. Nada.

Some very enjoyable trips, though, have had almost no planning.  A few hours early Friday morning at Marion Reservoir was a prime example.

Deadlines have been hitting me as hard and as fast as a BAR this summer. I’ve probably fished less this year than any of my life.

Warren Kreutziger, left, nets a channel cat caught by Marc Murrell. The fish was one of about a 15 Murrell caught Friday morning.

Warren Kreutziger, left, nets a channel cat caught by Marc Murrell. The fish was one of about a 15 Murrell caught Friday morning.

But heading home from work Thursday evening I realized I needed some catfish fillets to photograph for something I’m writing about cooking. Knowing I could spare a few hours Friday morning I called Warren Kreutziger, a friend who does a little guiding and a whole lot of fishing at Marion Reservoir. Warren invited me up, saying he had to go pour some soured soybeans in some of his chum spots in the morning, anyway. I told him I couldn’t fish long and he was fine with that.

Up at Marion, at Warren’s house about a mile from the lake, I met him and mutual friend Marc Murrell. Marc knows Marion as well as Warren, and he and his family were camping at the lake for a few days.

I told both of my hosts, what I needed was a fish or two for photos.

Marc had the first one in the boat within about five minutes of anchoring near one of  Warren’s chum holes. A few minutes later he caught an even bigger channel cat.

We were fishing about seven or eight feet of water, over some brush where Warren had been dumping raunchy-smelling, water-logged soybeans to attract the fish. Marc and Warren were using special dip baits they’d made themselves. The ingredients were varied, putrid and the cool part was how they used cattail seeds to help bind the gaggish, poo-like material on a treble hook.

Warren occasionally “freshened” the chum hole by dropping a few cups of beans overboard.

Rotten, putrid soybeans are used to attract channel catfish during the summer time.

Rotten, putrid soybeans are used to attract channel catfish during the summer time.

The morning was stunning, especially for early August. There was a bit of breeze but not too much. Long sleeves felt nice when we hit the water at about 7:30 a.m. And the fish were downright friendly.

Marc had the hot hand, catching 9 keepers before we packed up after about three hours of fishing. He also released several that were more than big enough for most folks. The limit is 10 per day, with no size minimum at Marion Reservoir.

As well as numerous, the channel catfish were pretty big. I’d say the average fish was probably around four pounds. We had a couple around six pounds, and one that may have passed seven by a cup of soured beans or so.

Catfish await cleaning in an old cooler.

Catfish await cleaning in an old cooler.

We…meaning Marc and Warren…cleaned 16 or 17 nice catfish. They were kind enough to let me take the fillets. I was back home in Newton before noon.

In a few weeks I’ll head to Montana for some fishing that’s been in the plans for more than a year. Even if it pans out, it probably won’t be any more fun than the unexpected success that came Friday morning.

So it often goes with fishing.

Attwater prairie chicken propagation program success does not bode well for lesser prairie chickens

Friday’s Wichita Eagle article on wildlife biologists disagreeing with Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan to raise and release lesser prairie chickens gave passing mention to a program that releases pen-raised Attwater’s prairie chickens  on the remnant prairies along the Texas gulf.

YOU CAN CLICK HERE TO READ FRIDAY’S ARTICLE.

 

A current plan to raise and release lesser prairie chickens, like these, is drawing criticism, even from Texas biologists releasing Attwater prairie chickens.

A current plan to raise and release lesser prairie chickens, like these, is drawing criticism, even from Texas biologists releasing Attwater prairie chickens.

— Below you’ll find more information gathered from two Texas biologists working with Attwater prairie chickens, one of the most critically endangered species in America.

— A propagation program in Texas for endangered Attwater prairie chickens, a close relative to lesser prairie chickens, costs about $1,000 per released bird, according to Terry Rossignol, Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge manager.

— Mike Morrow, a Texas biologist working with endangered Attwater prairie chickens, said the federal program of raising and releasing the birds is “a last resort” because of high mortality rates and costs.

— In 1900 it was estimated 1 million Attwaters lived across a wide swath of Texas and into Louisiana. By 1937 the population was in the tens of thousands because of loss of habitat. The low was in 2005 when only 40 birds survived, mostly on the Atwatter Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge.

— Since the mid-1990s, 200 to 400 captive-reared Attwaters have been released annually on about 70,000 acres of Texas coastal plain. Mike Morrow, a biologist at the refuge,  said the entire population was at about 100 birds prior to this spring’s releases.
– He also said Kansas lessers probably wouldn’t be as expensive to raise, but added, “ … it’s not going to be cheap.”

 – Morrow said the Fish and Wildlife Service started the Attwater propagation program with captive hens in 1992, when the wild population was about 500 birds, but dropping rapidly. Loss of habitat was a major reason, but they also learned that red imported fire ants, an invasive species, had been outcompeting chicks for the insects needed for food and, in some cases, had been killing the chicks.

—Morrow said the Texas release program has been making improvements over the past several years, and that about 16 percent of young Attwater prairie chickens released live at least one year. Adult birds have an annual mortality rate of about 50 percent.

— Treating areas to kill fire ants seems to be helping survival rates of the Attwaters that are released from six to 12 weeks of age. Some hens have raised broods the year after they were released.

— Still, he would prefer other options.

— “The only reason we’re doing it is because we had no choice. We weren’t raising enough chicks in the wild to sustain the population,” Morrow said. “Ultimately such things are almost always a habitat issue.”

— “Maybe if you get a bump in the population it will make the captive breeding program go away,” said Morrow.

Father-in-law’s advice comes through, three decades after he’s passed

It’s been 30 years since one of the few times I fished with my father-in-law, Bill Johnson. He and his wife, Lois, were in Kansas after the recent birth of our daughter Lindsey. She turned 30 earlier this month.

Tiny black and yellow jigs have been a proven fly at Bennett Sprigs State Park for many years.

Tiny black and yellow jigs have been a proven fly at Bennett Sprigs State Park for many years.

We were talking fishing, and I mentioned I was just getting into fly-fishing, a sport he enjoyed well. Bill reached into his fly vest, pulled out a small fly box and plucked out three flies. They were all the same.

They were tiny 1/100th or 1/80th ounce marabou jigs, with equal parts of yellow and black in the feathering. He said they were his go-to fly when he fished for trout at Bennett Springs State Park in Missouri, a place he enjoyed several trips per year.

Bill died before we could fish together the following year. Several years ago I gave Jerrod, and my nephew, Brian Elliott, each one of the flies Bill had given to me. That was as close as they’d ever come to fishing with that grandfather.

Last weekend I finally made it to Bennett Springs to mix a little work with a lot of play. I took along Jake Holem, my 12-year-old outdoors partner. Back in October we’d agreed that if he could raise his then poor math grade to a B or better I’d take him on a fly-fishing trip. He ended up with an A in math and I ended up with an excuse to go trout fishing.

The first full day he attended, and I mainly photographed, a fly-fishing clinic given by Jim Rogers, an Ozark legend of trout fishing at Bennett Springs. At the end of the class Rogers handed everyone a tiny fly box with five or six recommended flies. Tiny black and yellow marabou jigs were in the selection of every box. When I asked Rogers about the selection, he said they’ve been a popular, and productive, trout fly at Bennett Springs for many, many years.

Sunday morning I shot a few photos early, then grabbed my fly rod and waded through the dozens of people and out to a spot in the stream. I caught two quick trout on a salmon egg pattern fly, then the trout went cold. After ten minutes with no takes I tied on one of the tiny marabou jigs. I caught, and released, three nice rainbows within a few minutes then grabbed my camera to take advantage of good photo light.

Jake Holem with a nice Missouri rainbow trout fly-caught on a tiny marabou jig.

Jake Holem with a nice Missouri rainbow trout fly-caught on a tiny marabou jig.

Monday morning Jake and I tried the angling at Roaring River State Park. It was crowded, and several times we had spin-fishermen step right up and start working the hole we were plying with fly lines.  Within about 20 minutes the fish seemed to get lockjaw, probably from watching their brethren writhing, panicking and jumping after eating something in the water.

After a few popular patterns, I tied on one of the black and yellow jigs and began letting it drift down with the current, then slowly jerking it back. I had two strikes on the first cast. and caught two nice rainbows in about 30 minutes.

I’d gone into the day largely wanting Jake to fend for himself. On Sunday some kindly elderly gentlemen – and that’s an accurate description of the very polite and helpful guys – had selected and tied on Jake’s flies. He’d caught five or six trout that morning.

But Monday morning was much more of a challenge to the kid, between difficult casting locations, nasty knots his line and the finicky fish. Finally at about 8:30 I heard him say, “Hey, Mike, I’ve got one.” Looking over his fly rod was bowed and his smile was wide. Eventually he led a very nice rainbow to the net, removed the hook, held it in the current until it was strong and watched it swim away.

Half-way through the fight I asked Jake what fly he’d been using when he hooked the fish. He flashed a huge smile, and said, “The black and yellow, of course.”

Of course.

 

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.

 

 

Farewell to a favored angler

Through the decades I’ve shared time outdoors with billionaires, Hollywood heavies, true television stars, All-American athletes, beauty pageant winners and world-class anglers and hunters.

Dorothy Jacobs catches fish, happiness and health at Wichita lakes.I just found out one of my all-time favorites died about two weeks ago. Dorothy Jacobs was from Wichita and seldom ventured beyond the city limits for her beloved fishing. She was the mother of 11 and once joked she almost had more grandkids than she could count.

I could say the same for the times she made me smile during a few phone conversations, and a few hours fishing the north lake at Chisholm Creek Park.  She had me smiling, she had me laughing and she had me thinking “wow,” so many times.

We’d met through Paul White. One day at his multi-purpose store I’d mentioned I’d wanted to do an article on someone who really fished the urban lakes a lot. Preferably, I was hoping to fish with a female to add even more uniqueness to the story. He mentioned Dorothy, but mentioned she could be pretty private. I called her that afternoon and the talk was a bit hesitant for a few minutes, and then it flowed and flowed.

I learned that she fished almost daily when the weather was decent, but also that catching fish was only part of the reason why she went to the water so often. To Dorothy, fishing and all it entails, was better therapy and medicine than could have been administered by the best of hospitals, and the woman had plenty to heal.

At the time she was 68, had survived cancer as well as a broken back. She’d buried two beloved husbands and nine family members, including a daughter and grandson, had died the year previous to when we met in 2008. She was also caring for a very ill granddaughter at the time. Her family, unfortunately, has had more than their share of sickle-cell anemia.

“I always do my best praying when I’m by that water,” is one great quote she gave me.

“Old age doesn’t mean you have got to act old. I’m going to get all the joy I can out of my life.  All I need is my poles and a lake,” was another gem.

PLEASE, CLICK HERE TO READ THE ORIGINAL STORY ABOUT DOROTHY. 

That morning at the park hardly anyone was catching fish, but Dorothy caught about 20. She had this beat-up old car, from which she pulled-out a beat-up old shopping cart that she packed with aged equipment. I found out later her loving family had offered, several times, to buy her better gear. She laughed as she told me that, and said newer stuff wouldn’t help her catch more fish or make her any happier at the lake.

As I watched, it was obvious Dorothy caught more fish from experience and intelligence than most people with fancy gear. She kept her baited hooks close to shore, and said, “I don’t know why people think they should cast way out to the middle of the lake. Most of the fish are feeding by shore.”

Dorothy Jacobs catches fish, happiness and health at Wichita lakes.Time after time she’d watch her bobber start to dance, and accurately predict the species of creature below by the way it was taking the bait. She was right 100 percent of the time on a day of bluegill, green sunfish, bass, small channel catfish and a turtle.

“Just to see my line tighten up, or that bobber moving, it’s something I love to do,” she said. I don’t see how people can’t.”

According to her daughter, Janet Radig, Dorothy enjoyed a lot of both the day before she passed when she caught, cleaned and ate some of the 60 fish from that morning.

I’m glad her last trip was a great one.

Riding and hiking the trails at Kanopolis State Park

Doje Kosek did a two hour trail ride to reach Red Rock Canyon, one of her favorite places near Kanopolis Reservoir. PHOTO BY MICHAEL PEARCE

Doje Kosek did a two hour trail ride to reach Red Rock Canyon, one of her favorite places near Kanopolis Reservoir. PHOTO BY MICHAEL PEARCE

It is the land once roamed by Carson, Cody, Custer and the Cheyenne.

It is a place where a famed frontier fort once stood past the edges of civilization and where native people battled hard to protect their way of life.

Kirk, below is this week's e-letter. Sorry, for some reason my computer won't accept my password to get into the system. I think I already have a storyfolder, with recipe attached. If not, just run this if you can. I'm at Kanopolis again today, and will be in for a long day on Friday. Solid cell service on the lake if you need me. Riding the trails in around Kanopolis State Park can include several well-marked water crossings, like this one being forded by Paula Avery, left, Ashley and Lacey Bowles. PHOTO BY MICHAEL PEARCE


Riding the trails in around Kanopolis State Park can include several well-marked water crossings, like this one being forded by Paula Avery, left, Ashley and Lacey Bowles. PHOTO BY MICHAEL PEARCE

It’s a landscape of caves, clear streams, jagged bluffs and vertical cliffs, sparse cactus and lush ferns, all  once bisected by herds of Texas longhorns headed to Kansas railroads.

And it’s only about 90 miles north of Wichita, and belongs to the public.

Pioneers say Oven Cave got its name because Native Americans used it as a place to smoke bison meet. It's now a popular hiking destination at Kanopolis State Park. PHOTO BY MICHAEL PEARCE

Pioneers say Oven Cave got its name because Native Americans used it as a place to smoke bison meet. It’s now a popular hiking destination at Kanopolis State Park. PHOTO BY MICHAEL PEARCE

Kanopolis State Parks is a vast place with nearly 30 miles of trails for horseback riders, hikers and mountain bikers who could get a Rocky Mountain-class workout.

Amid the trails is a very family-friendly trek less than two-miles round-trip, where young and old can scramble up and over and around a rocky trail used for centuries, and see visible signs of where buffalo once wore an obvious trail through solid rock through the millenniums.

Nearby you can sit in a cave, as ancient people once did, and see where they once drove buffalo over a nearby cliff to feed their people.

It’s a place where the earliest pioneers scratched names, dates and sometimes messages more than 150 years ago into vertical rock. Though now mostly covered by more recent scratchings, in some places the soft sandstone may still bear signs of markings left before the first European-Americans came through the land.

It’s the only place within a Kansas state park where trail rides can be purchased and enjoyed across that western landscape. For those with their own horses, there is the first state park campground designed to be very equestrian friendly. There are also about 200 primitive campsites and more than 125 with utilities for those who like living life easier.

A row of cabins overlook a lake with some of the best fishing in Kansas.

Check Sunday’s Wichita Eagle and/or kansas.com for more details on Kanopolis State Park.

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.

 

The crappie spawn is on!

ELK CITY STATE PARK – Born about 40 years apart, and one deep in his  aviation career and the other not far into her educational process, veteran angler J.R. Dunn and nine year-old Taylie McKlintic wouldn’t seem to have much in common.

J.R. Dunn fishes for crappie after a storm passes at Elk City Reservoir.

J.R. Dunn fishes for crappie after a storm passes at Elk City Reservoir.

But Monday evening both were wearing smiles equally wide, and both owed them to a favored rite of spring – the crappie spawn at Elk City Reservoir.

Dunn had spent much of the afternoon at a wide cove within the state park, a place he said he’d fished for about 40 years. He waded a few steps into the lake with waterproof boots, then used a pole about 12 to 14 feet long to lower a dainty crappie jig down into brush in a few feet of water.

“They haven’t been along the banks like they were before the snow hit (last week), but I hope they start doing a little better.,” Dunn said. “It’s time.” Others fishing along the shoreline agreed, it was down to a “could break loose at any hour” time of the spring.

Dunn caught five nice crappie within the first few minutes of his Monday trip to the lake, then things slowed down. A small, but intense thunderstorm on the horizon sent him to his home in Sycamore with nine. He was back as the storm passed, trying for more.

Taylie was fishing with Beau Schultz, coach of the baseball team at the local community college, and four year-old Bryor Schultz. She and the boy played in the mud and grass while minnows swimming below bobbers did the work. Schultz called one child or the other when one of those bobbers disappeared below the surface, and helped them get the fish to shore. Their first two crappie were gorgeous females about 14 inches long.

After a lull of about an hour after the storm, fishing action picked up all around the broad bay, and smaller bays that reached into the state park.

Kaylie McKlintic, left, shows a nice crappie she caught, while Bryor Schultz hides from the camera. They were fishing with Beau Schultz, center.

Kaylie McKlintic, left, shows a nice crappie she caught, while Bryor Schultz hides from the camera. They were fishing with Beau Schultz, center.

Dunn caught several more fish along a section of shoreline, while his friends did well with long rods from a fishing dock surrounded by brush.

J.R. Dunn lifts a crappie from the shallows at Elk City Reservoir.

J.R. Dunn lifts a crappie from the shallows at Elk City Reservoir.

Across a small cove from where Schultz fished with the two kids, Jon Nagel and a friend were doing well fishing close to shore and further into the cove. At one point they hollered to ask Schultz if he could spare a few minnows. He said he could, adding, “The guy at the bait shop in town is pretty generous. I know he gave me way more than I paid for, but he said it was important since I was taking the kids.”

Nagel and his friend ended up with about 20 crappie. He was back at about dawn the next morning. Dunn figured a lot of the same anglers would return Tuesday afternoon, too.

“A lot of people camp out here, but usually most of the crappie fishermen are locals,” Dunn said.  “I seem them out here every year. There’s a lot of crappie in this lake. It can be pretty danged good when everything gets right.”