Category Archives: Outdoors photography

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Golden eagle predation on big game not “a first”

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

Not quite.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another Wichitan on the Appalachian Trail

Megan Taylor shared this photo from her recently completed hike along the Appalachian Trail. Rayana Adra, another Wichita native, is currently about 1,700 miles into the 2,100-plus mile hike from Georgia to Maine. COURTESY PHOTO

Sunday’s Wichita Eagle ran a sizable feature on Megan Taylor, a native daughter who just finished the 2,100-plus mile Appalachian Trail. YOU CAN CLICK HERE TO READ THE STORY, AND LOOK AT THE ABOUT 50 GREAT PHOTOS TAYLOR SHARED.

It turns out another young female Wichitan is currently on the trail, having already logged about 1,700 miles since she began her hike in Georgia this spring.

I got an e-mail from Jeremiah Griffith, telling me about 27-year-old Rayana Adra, a Northeast Magnet High and University of Kansas graduate. (Rock Chalk, Rayana, be sure you’re done by the start of basketball season!)

Griffith sent me a link to an impressive blog Adra is keeping of her hiking and experience. It is very good reading. As well as what she’s seeing along the trail and the people she’s meeting, Adra writes about what the long trek is doing to her mind and body.

YOU CAN CLICK HERE TO ACCESS HER BLOG.

Spend some time there, you won’t be sorry.

Time for the trail cams

This buck obviously feels at home on this food plot, showing up about every day for the past two weeks. He’s put on about 15 to 20 more inches of antler since last year.

It’s kind of like running a trotline, only you have the chance to catch a lot more than just five or six fish.

I ran a set recently  that had more than 1,600 “catches” in about two weeks. I’m talking, of course, about running a string of trail cameras.

What used to be bulky units the size of cigar boxes, that used size D batteries and a roll of 36 exposure film are now about as little as about one-third the old size, run on a few AA batteries and I have some memory cards that store more than 4,000 images.

Photos of young, spotted fawns are always a pleasure to see. This doe actually appears to have triplets, though the camera never got all four in the same frame.

The main thing those with trail cameras…and note it’s plural, because once you have one you realize you need many more, are placed for is to get photos of deer. The main goal is often trophy bucks but I get a kick out of the shots of little spotted fawns, or a pair of does reared up on their hind legs, slapping hooves in a power struggle over a source of food.

 

Tulsa’s purple martin majesty…400,000 strong!

It’s no secret I’ve enjoyed the Wichita purple martin show near the Via Christi medical complex on St. Francis for several years. It seemed so special to be in such a setting and have 40,000 or so of the birds swirling about overhead, then pouring themselves into a tiny line of trees under the glow of street lights.

Well, I just found out I’m going to be making a road trip next year, to see a much better purple martin show in downtown Tulsa. I’d read online that it is not uncommon for 250,000 of the great little birds to gather there.

Mark Schuyler, a local dentist who I’ve spend some great times with at the Wichita roost, went to Tulsa last week and estimated their flights at closer to 400,000 birds. Even my limited math skills shows thats 10-times better than the best show I’ve seen in Wichita. Another person at the same event, an Oklahoman, assured me there were at least 300,000 birds at the Tulsa roost.

Schuyler was kind enough to SHARE SOME FINE VIDEO of what he and his family saw last week. When you click this link, you should go to a page that shows you three other videos “Docshu” shot that same evening.

As well as numbers,the Tulsa birds seem to be openly embraced by local businesses, unlike Via Christi which altered much of the bird’s habitat this summer.

In Oklahoma, a downtown hotel allows parking on the top floor of their parking garage, which puts viewers directly in the bird’s flight patterns as they descend into the trees below. The Audubon people in Tulsa offer educational evenings for the public, and keep martin updates on their website. They also have link so viewers can express their appreciation for the birds to the Tulsa mayor’s office.

While the birds will probably be around another week or so in Tulsa, our schedules won’t allow us time to go down for a viewing this year.

But I’m danged sure seeing a road trip a few hours to the south and east coming in August, 2014.

Wow,…400,000!

Turkey vulture in a tux still not pretty

As is usually the case, Tuesday morning I was sticking to the backroads, spending most of my time watching anywhere but the road, when  I spotted a bunch of about 20 turkey vultures spread amid the top of a dead tree and a few fence posts. About 40 yards away, perched by itself, was a lone vulture. When I passed by it opened it’s wings and I saw the body was splashed with white.

This piebald turkey vulture was photographed between Sterling and the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge on Tuesday morning.

I’ve seen normally black birds splashed with white coloring before, but they’ve been crows that were obviously roosting on the lower branches of  of a communal roost tree.(Insert “ewwwhhhh” and wrinkled face, here), but I’d never seen a vulture like this.

Turning a quick, but careful U-turn in a soft spot down the road, I checked the bird first with binoculars and saw it was what I’d thought – a piebald turkey vulture, with most of its white plumage up around it’s neck.

As I let the car roll slowly down the road towards the bird, three birds from the tree pitched down into the middle of the road. The bird with the tuxedo feathering followed, landing amid them. As soon as he landed the other three vultures walked several yards away, and wouldn’t look back at the piebald bird.

When the birds flushed as a truck barreled towards them, (which I thought was fairly rude since I was obviously in the middle of photo shoot,) the white and black bird landed on a fence post about 50 yards from the others. I think there’s no doubt he’s being shunned.

Other vultures seemed to shun the piebald bird on the ground, and it roosted many yards away from the other birds when they were in trees or on fence posts.

Home after an afternoon of shooting pics at Cheyenne Bottoms and the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, I pulled up the shots of the off-colored buzzard first. The white plumage is kind of striking, but it still leads into what has to be the ugliest mug in the bird world.

But at least he looks better than the other vultures that were shunning him…I wonder if they were jealous?

Mastery of the art of fishing, rod building, writing and photography

Do me a favor, and yourself as well, and read what I’ve attached to the link a few lines down.

It’s fairly long, but whatever you think you have to get done can wait. The story is moving, the writing masterful and the photography better than artistic paintings.

Dang, I wish I could do anything as well.

It’s an ESPN story about one of the finest custom fly rod makers in the world, despite the little fact that he’s largely paralyzed about from the neck down.

Those of you who fly fish will admire the man for his craft, and how well he understands our way of life.

Those of  you who don’t, may get a hint of why some otherwise sane people become so insane about things like taper, weight, tips, tippets and finding the perfect fly.

So, pour a fresh cup of coffee, grab another can of Coke or pop the top of a a favored beer and enjoy.

CLICK HERE TO ENJOY OUTDOORS JOURNALISM ABOUT AS GOOD AS IT CAN BE.

Yet another problem from ticks

Just this week my family learned that a friend hunting turkeys on our wooded lands north of Lawrence picked up a few ticks on his April hunt. At the Dr. for another matter, they ran a blood test and found he’d tested positive for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Fortunately, they got treatment started  before symptoms arose and all should be well.

About the same time I started hearing about a disease spread by the Lone Star tick, or at least that’s what the disease is named. We had an article about the disease in today’s Wichita Eagle. YOU CAN CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT IT. I’ve also heard several reports lately of the disease being found in Missouri.

And, unfortunately, Lyme Disease is still too prevalent in many areas, including Kansas. Some groups are also claiming America’s health industry isn’t giving tick-borne diseases enough attention, or treating them properly when diagnosed.

Personally, I’ve had a lot less ticks since I started treating some of my garments with Permethrin, a spray you put on your clothing and let it dry before wearing. It lasts up to six weeks, even through a few washings.  YOU CAN CLICK HERE FOR A LINK TO THE PRODUCT.  Several brands of spray contain the chemical. As per the directions, do not get it on your skin while the spray is still wet!

Nebraska turkeys not as friendly as the people

We went, …we called, …we saw…and my 33 seasons of experience, and  $300 worth of decoys and calls, got kicked around by a bunch of birds with penny-sized brains.

Only in the turkey woods.

A rainbow over the South Loup River was the consolation prize after a failed afternoon of turkey hunting. Photo by Ed Schulte.

Last weekend longtime friend Ed Schulte and I headed to his boyhood home amid the cornfields, pastures and meandering South Loup River of central Nebraska.  No stranger to the Merriam’s/Rio Grande hybrid turkeys of the Nebraska and Dakota prairies, I was confident.

We’re talking hit the baseball off the top of the tee with three swings confident.

I was to take care of the calling and equipment, while Ed took care of lodging and hunting grounds. That meant staying with Ed’s relatives, Don and Diana Axmann.

With a feed and seed business, and a lifelong resident of the area, Don had us set to hunt three great properties along the South Loup. When we showed interest in another place, Don’s quick call got access there, too. That’s the way we were treated, both by Ed’s large family, friends of the family and complete strangers.

The people were as refreshing as the weather was blustery on two of our four days.

The first evening we just scouted properties, located several groups of gobbling toms at sunset and I got to know the Axmann’s. Judging by the dominance of red and Husker memorabilia in his basement, it was quickly obvious that Don was addicted to anything Nebraska football. Quiet on the outside, his dry since of humor  is appreciable.

Diana reminded me of her sister, Ed’s wife, Ronda – friendly, talkative, positive, perpetually happy, and very talented in the kitchen.

Goal #1 was to call in a tom for Ed, who’d only ambushed turkeys in the past. With plenty of mouth, slate and box calls along, and a pair of ultra-realistic, decoys, I figured no problems.

Hunters plan, turkeys laugh.

And really, the first day went well enough.

The morning’s hunt never had a chance thanks to a guitar string-tight barbed wire fence that probably dissuaded enthusiastic toms from coming our way. It happens when you’re hunting an area for the first time

No biggie. That afternoon I lured in a nice tom that came in at a bad angle and was probably within the fringe of shotgun range. Figuring he’d come on in and give Ed a shot, I held off the trigger. The tom simply turned and slowly strutted away. Coward.

Ed Schulte and the prairie tom that played by the rules, and came to calls and decoys.

Towards evening, Ed got to see a nice tom come to calls and decoys. He made the shot, which left us a day-and-a-half to get me at least one  bird.

We had two hunts at some of the prettiest prairie turkey habitat I’ve ever seen. Amid the mile-long stretch of timber along the South Loup was a 20 acre or so plot of alfalfa totally hidden from any roads. About 20 turkeys, including at least five longbeards, were in the field when we checked it. Farm trails seemed perfect travel routes to and from the field for turkeys in the area.

The first afternoon at the spot we set-up along the edge of one of those trails and had a hen in our decoys within 10 minutes, but the toms in the area showed up late and didn’t want to play. We moved our blind to where they’d been that evening.

The next morning, our last of the hunt, the air was filled with gobbles when the birds were scattered amid three roosting places. When they hit the ground, though, – silence.

We had two henlesss longbeards pass along the field oblivious to the decoys and calls. A mixed flock of about two dozen hens and toms showed no reaction, not even  yelp, gobble or strut to my calls, an hour later. Even four lone jakes, probably the most gullible creatures in hunting, totally ignored calls and decoys that had fooled so many birds, through so many seasons.

I did a made move-and-call dash through the woodlands during the final minutes of the hunt. Nada, but tt least I went down swinging.

We wondered if it was the weather, or hunting pressure we didn’t know about, or just turkeys being turkeys that day and flipping me the feather.

No problem, really. The beards and spurs will be a bit longer next spring, Ed and I know two properties better and still have at least two more to explore.

Hopefully next year the turkeys of central Nebraska won’t again be so  rude.

The people and the country won’t let us down.

Go Huskers!

 

 

Casts and Blasts, Quivira’s management plans

YOU CAN CLICK HERE TO READ SUNDAY’S UPDATE ON PROPOSED MANAGEMENT PLANS FOR THE NEXT 15 YEARS AT THE QUIVIRA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE.

You read below for a few more details.

Mike Oldham, the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge manager.

- Mike Oldham, refuge manager, said a total of 45-50 people attended their three public meetings in Stafford, Wichita and Great Bend last week.

-Ron Klataske, Audubon of Kansas director, commented in Wichita that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife  staff  promoting the meetings didn’t do an adequate job of notifying the public. I also expressed concern that The Wichita Eagle didn’t appear to have been notified. Fish and Wildlife personel at Wichita’s gathering said they followed normal procedures.

- After the three meetings, Oldham indicated he’d heard only from hunters more interested in keeping the North Lake region open to  public hunting, than keeping other portions of the refuge open for hunting when whooping cranes are present. Under a current proposal, the refuge could remove the North Lake area from places open to public hunting.

As a trade, some areas previously closed to public hunting could be opened, thus allowing hunting when whoopers are present because they’re seldom in the proposed new areas. Oldham said the wetlands habitat within those units has been improved recently.

Several years ago, sportsmen at early planning meetings expressed a desire to keep the refuge open to hunting when whooping cranes are present. Since, U.S. Fish and Wildlife planners have been working to  implement a plan for such desires.

- Oldham said federal regulations limit how much of Quivira can be opened to public hunting at about 40 percent.

My personal perspective -

- It appears that Oldham and other Fish and Wildlife staff members are indeed trying to include public desires into the 15 year management plan, though the good of the wildlife on the 22,000 acre refuge will come first…as it should be.

- Because of the small turnout at the meetings, it appears that a vocal minority may have the opportunity to help set the refuge’s future.

- It’s good to see consideration be given to the wildlife viewing quality at Quivira. In my opinion, it’s the top viewing/wildlife photography destination in Kansas, by far. On a good November afternoon I can shoot 300-700 frames of deer, wild turkeys, ducks, geese, sandhill cranes and, if I’m fortunate, whooping cranes.