Outdoors Report

Derby taxidermy and processing business closing

Parsons Taxidermy and Wild Game Processing, in Derby, is no longer taking animals for either business, said John Parsons, business owner. The 59-year-old said they are still working to complete all taxidermy projects accepted before he decided to close the businesses. He plans to continue creating sculptures of wild animals and sporting scenes.

“We’ve been working to get caught up since I started this 35 years ago,” Parsons said. “Well, now I can see the end of my row. I can tell you it’s a lot harder to get out of this business than it was into it.”

Parsons took to taxidermy as a full-time occupation after a 1979 treestand accident left him with a broken back, and ended his career as a firefighter. He added the wild game processing aspect in 1994.

“They just seemed to go hand in hand,” he said. “It just seemed like a natural thing.” For more information, read a story on Parsons on Sunday’s Outdoors page in The Wichita Eagle and at Kansas.com/outdoors.

Last weekend seemed to go pretty well for about everyone in the outdoors. Migrations are rolling pretty good for birders, and fishing has been pretty steady, too, though patterns seem to be best in the middle of the day since the water is cooling.

Dove hunters did well, overall, and I’ve heard of several kids getting deer on the youth weekend.

For some reason the bucks seem to be keeping the velvet on their antlers a little later this year than most. People are generally impressed with what they’re seeing for quality and quantity, though deer may still be hidden by uncut corn where the harvest isn’t complete.

Wildlife and Parks is hoping for good success with this weekend’s opening of teal season for their new electronic check-in system at quite a few of their wildlife areas where hunters have been required to register by filling out cards in recent years. Some, though, say they’ve had problems with the telephone part of the registration system.

Gov. Sam Brownback is scheduled to do the official ribbon cutting at the Sandhills State Park north of Hutchinson on Thursday.

Theresa Vail, the previous Miss Kansas, continues to be on a roll in the outdoors world. She got a nice whitetail with her bow in Wyoming last weekend and has scheduled hunts for elk, deer, waterfowl and pheasants coming up in several states. They’re all part of her television program, Limitless, to be shown on the Outdoor Channel.

Away from the outdoors, she’s a co-host on a morning show on Wichita’s B98 radio show, when she’s not on the road for television. We had lunch this week and she said she’s been approached about doing a movie, too.

Sunday’s Outdoors page should have a feature on the opening of teal season at Cheyenne Bottoms. Most years when it has water it’s a madhouse out there on opening morning, but good to great water conditions at the McPherson Wetlands and the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge may spread the pressure. A major angle for the article will be on how great the prospects look for this year’s waterfowl seasons with duck numbers at record highs and so much great habitat.

The page should also have a smaller article on John Parsons closing the doors on his taxidermy and wild game processing business, too.

Down the road I’ll be heading to Cross Timbers State Park for the final installment of the six-part series that has featured a Kansas state park every month since April. I’m also hoping to have a fishing story from Toronto Reservoir that same weekend...hoping.

Wow, what a weekend with some of the highest of highest and lowest of lows.

Friday night Jake, the 12-year-old boy I’m mentoring, and I headed to eastern Kansas to spend the weekend with my friend Richard Hale, his wife, Shirley, and daughter, Abby. The main reason for the trip was so Richard could guide Jake on the youth deer season.

Jake killed a nice buck with me last year, as well as a doe, but I wanted him to have the opportunity to hunt with Richard. A dentist in Ottawa, and high-ranking official in the Boone & Crockett Club, Richard owns, manages and works some of the best deer habitat I’ve seen. He’s also taken more Boone & Crockett-class bucks that anyone I’ve met by a considerable margin. Also with his father dead, I like to get Jake around as many quality men as I can for role models.

Jake missed a close shot at a real trophy after an hour-long stalk in the morning, and then made a great shot on a nice 10-pointer that afternoon at a much farther distance. Richard had a lot more time to help Jake get set up for the shot the second time.

In between the hunts we fished a lake of 15-20 acres in Richard and Shirley’s backyard. Man, it’s been a while since I’ve had that kind of fishing. Jake with spinning gear and me with a fly rod, each probably caught five fish on our first ten casts. Many were bass from 13-16 inches, but I had a run on 11-12” crappie, too.

Abby, a 17-year-old high school senior also came down and was quickly into a run of bass. The fishing was so good it was almost silly, and mostly on a 30 yard section of shoreline. We saved around 10 combined bass and crappie and had a heck of a meal before Richard and Jake left for the evening hunt. I grilled up the limit of doves Jake had shot when the season opened, too.

As they were off hunting, I headed back down to the pond for more fly fishing. After many weeks of some high hours, it was good to slowly walk the shoreline, casting small streamers. There was a high concentration of fish along the dam. Many times I’d take a few steps, flush fish, cast into the middle of the wakes and get an immediate hit. I did the same thing at dawn the next morning.

As well as Jake’s buck, and a couple of soul-soothing fishing treks, another highlight was getting to finally see wild otters in Kansas. There were three young and one adult bouncing about near the corner of the lake’s dam. We also saw pileated woodpeckers and had a very close look at an osprey and repeated looks at a snapping turtle that was a yard or more from nose to tail tip.

The Hales were also extraordinarily nice.

As great as I felt through that trip, I was feeling equally low by late Sunday evening. About 9 p.m. I got a call that my good friend Bill Mills had died Sunday afternoon from a probable heart attack. Bill was my main goose hunting buddy for some property I manage near El Dorado. It was one of those friendships that just bonded quickly and deeply after we met a few years ago on the property.

I had a tremendous amount of respect for Bill, and always knew he felt the same about me. He was only 54, and had a lot of future hunting and fishing trips in his plans.

You should be able to find a blog I wrote about our friendship at www.kansas.com/outdoors.


Michael Pearce