Michael Pearce

Kansas certainly belongs somewhere on this list

Personally and professionally, I've long enjoyed Outdoor Life.

I used to freelance for it in my pre-Eagle days. Two editors are longtime, highly-respected friends.

But I disagree with Kansas being omitted from its June list of America's top 15 places for upland bird and waterfowl hunting.

That's like leaving the Rolling Stones off a list of the best rock bands.

This is the third year the magazine has published a comprehensive list for best towns for a wide range of hunting and fishing. Cool concept.

Admittedly, I'm biased for my home state and not privy to the criteria used for Outdoor Life's selections.

But I am privy to some facts about Kansas bird hunting:

* Starting with doves and ending with geese, we have 5 1/2 months of wing-shooting in Kansas. I'm talking good to excellent hunting from start to stop.

* At more than 1 million acres, our Walk-In Hunting Program is at or near the nation's best.

* Kansas' annual take of pheasants, bobwhites, doves, lesser and greater prairie chickens annually rank from first to third in the nation despite lower numbers of hunters.

Last year many hunters saw hundreds of pheasants per day in some places.

* Western Kansas is about the only place in the nation where bobwhites have expanded their numbers in recent decades.

* Many times I've counted more than 100 doves flying within range the last few minutes of a hunt. Many times.

* The Dakotas hatch a lot of waterfowl, but through the main hunting seasons, millions of those birds are in Kansas. We've got the grain and we've got the water.

* Two areas, Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira, are world-class wetlands.

* The latter often holds about a million Canada, snow, and white-fronted geese, ducks and sandhill cranes in the heart of hunting seasons.

* Combination hunts are our specialty. I can easily shoot ducks, geese, pheasant and quail — and then head to lunch.

* Fall turkey season lasts more than three months, the limit is four over much of the state, and dogs are legal. Spring season is two months long and our success pushes 70 percent.

Some of the magazine's picks for the list make sense, such as three towns from South Dakota and a pair from North Dakota. Great bird country.

But Naples, Fla. and Ashtabula, Ohio?

It's easy to come up with a half-dozen Kansas towns that surely could have been better.

Great Bend is one, and Outdoor Life has it in their top-10 towns for hunting deer. It was 147th for all-around towns for outdoorsmen. That's Kansas' best overall rating.

The town sits near Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira. That's more than 40,000 acres of public wetlands.

Good to great pheasant hunting encircles the town. Good quail country is scattered about.

North of town are great numbers of greater prairie chickens. There are lots of lessers south of town and we're the only state with such a season.

And it's far from a secret.

Reading the license plates in Great Bend's motel and restaurant parking lots is like a geography lesson.

You probably won't have to look long to find hunters from Florida and Ohio.

Good luck finding a Kansan who's traveled to those states for good bird hunting. We've got it better at home.