For the 14th year the public will be asked to help select the winners of the Wichita Eagle’s Great Outdoors Photo Contest at next week’s Kansas Sport Show. They will also be able to attend eight wild game cooking demonstrations I’ll be hosting at the event. For times, and topics, check Sunday’s Outdoors page.
The recent trend towards much warmer weather has been a plus for local waterfowl hunters. Mallards are a bit more scattered than a week or so ago, but about everybody is getting into some action. No shortage of geese around, either.
Reports are still pretty impressive from quail and pheasant hunters, though the latter will struggle as the birds are more apt to run and spread out when it’s this warm. It’s kind of like springbreak for the birds as they scatter from heavy cover where they stayed when the weather was tough.
Fishing was good pre-ice this month, but the ice-fishing reports weren’t overly impressive for most reservoirs. I have had some good reports of people making the trip to Coffey County Lake, and fishing the warm discharge waters of the Wolf Creek Nuclear Power Plant. They’ve been doing well on white bass and blue catfish. I’m sure they’re catching some nice smallmouths, too.
Bald eagle numbers remain strong in Kansas, though they’ve spread out as ponds and lakes have thawed. With some impressive snow goose concentrations at Cheney Reservoir, some good eagle numbers have been spotted around that lake.
There has also been a report of a snowy owl in Butler County, though exact locations haven’t been shared at the request of the landowner. The birds do have a way of drawing crowds.
Sunday’s Outdoors page will have a feature column about just how far avid crappie fishermen will go to get to their favored fish. Finding Big Hill Reservoir coated in ice Wednesday morning two groups of anglers launched their boats, and busted right through the cold crust to get to their favored fishing hole. The effort paid off, too, in the form of some shiny, great-tasting fish.
The page will also have information on what The Eagle will offer to people at the Sport Show.
Down the road, I”m planning on covering an outdoors festival that’s bringing hundreds of visitors, from as far away as Texas, to celebrate, of all things, hunting for squirrels. It’s the annual Squirrel Scramble in Tonganoxie. Yep, that’s my hometown. It’s evolved from a few buddies looking for something to do after deer season to a fund-raising event that donates money to local scholarships and gathers food for needy people in Kansas and Missouri.
I’m hoping to find a group of dedicated goose hunters with whom I can get on a good hunt just before the season ends on Feb. 15, too.
It’s a pretty darned busy few weeks for me, trying to get in a few duck, goose and pheasant hunts before those seasons end within the next few weeks. I’m also making sure I have the meats I’ll need for the cooking demonstrations at The Sport Show, too.
I filled my “fall” turkey permit last Friday on a bowhunt in Butler County, shooting a big tom that was pulled in by my Dakota jake decoy. It’s a gorgeous bird. To see a photo, and read about the hunt, you can go to www.kansas.com/outdoors.
After the turkey hunt my young friend Jake came to help me set some traps on the same property. The landowner is really wanting the raccoon population kept in check so they don’t do too much damage to turkey and quail nests. In two nights of setting we got seven raccoons, two oppossums and, thankfully, no skunks. We’ll try trapping the place again in a few weeks. Fur prices are low this year, but I have a buddy who is collecting all he can to sell. I gladly gave the animals to him to skin, treat and sell for himself. I’m just glad they’re off the property and not going to waste.
My tough luck in duck hunts this year continues. Four out of the first five days of the recent late season my friends have had great mallard shoots, either getting their limits or lacking only a duck or two. The one day it was off was when I was there when four of us got six ducks and five geese. It happens and in some ways is fair. I’m a pretty versatile hunter and pursue a lot of different kinds of game in Kansas. My buddies are mostly waterfowlers, so I’m happy they’ve had some great days.
I’m hoping the ice is gone from a pond I hunt near Newton for a Friday or Saturday morning waterfowl hunt. I have a lot to do but I can be at the place in about 15 minutes, and drive right to the edge of the pond. It’s handy and usually good for a flock or two or ducks and geese. I’ve actually shot a few limits there and it is where I had my most productive duck hunt of this season.
I’ve hunted it enough through the years that Hank knows where I’m going to set my lay-out blind so he just slowly walks over, lays down and watches me put out the decoys. He was on the turkey hunt last week and got to trail the bird after I hit it with the arrow. Having not heard a gun shot, and because the birds came from downwind, he didn’t know a bird had been shot. He was just trailing happily along behind a moving flock, as he’s done scores of times, and suddenly there was a dead turkey in the trail.
His pounce was kind of comical, with his front paws getting about four inches of air as he came down on the bird. Two years ago he was able to pick up a mature tom and carry it back. Last year he was able to drag them back to me, pausing a couple of times. On this bird he picked it up mostly off the ground, looked at me, then put it back down and stood there wagging his tail.
This is the first year he hasn’t insisted on carrying any turkeys we’ve gotten all the way to the truck. On Friday I didn’t mind the extra weight.