Michael Pearce

Spring waterfowl migrations in full swing at Cheyenne Bottoms

As the longtime manager at Cheyenne Bottoms, Karl Grover know what it’s like to look out and see a lot of geese. Such is what he’s been seeing for several days.

“We’ve estimated we have 100,000 snows, and 30,000 each of Canadas and whitefronts,” said Grover. While he’s seen people driving the roads looking at the birds, he doesn’t think many hunters are trying for the snows out on the public hunting area.

On Monday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service opened their annual special conservation order snow goose season, when shotguns don’t have to be plugged, electronic calls can be used and there is no daily bag limit on white geese The season for Canada, whitefront geese, and all species of ducks, remains closed. The feds are trying to lower the snow goose population before they do further damage to their nesting grounds up on the Arctic tundra.

Grover said the area is holding quite a few ducks, mostly pintails and mallards, for those interested in some photography. As of Thursday afternoon the snowy owl was still in the area of pool 4, though it is often quite a ways from the road.

More updates

The Kansas Wildlife Federation has announced the winners of their Conservation Achievement Awards Programs for this year. The winners will be recognized at their annual convention in Hays this weekend. Locally, Jim Mason, Great Plains Nature Center director, won Conservation Educator award. The Harper County Youth Deer Hunt crew won the Conservation Organization award. The Wichita Eagle is to get the Conservation Communicator award.

It sounds like most people who spent much time afield last weekend, for the closing of the regular goose seasons, got into quite a few birds. I’ve talked with very few who didn’t do well on Canada geese.

Regular stockings into special trout waters continues to go on, and will almost to the end of trout season, which closed April 15. To find the special waters, and for a look at regulations, go to www.ksoutdoors.com.

Don’t forget, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday the Wichita Audubon Society will hold a special backyard birding workshop at the Great Plains Nature Center. Free materials, and staff, will be on hand for children who wish to make bird houses. Adults can also obtain advice from experts on how to improve the wildlife habitat in their backyards.

Upcoming coverage

This weekend I should have a feature story about the big egret and heron rookery a few blocks south of the zoo. Well, make that the big rookery that used to be south of the zoo. Last fall bulldozers cleared more than 90-percent of the trees that held up to 1,000 nests some years. The land was cleared for an upcoming duplex complex. While some homeowners in the area aren’t too keen on having duplexes in the neighborhood, nearly all are hoping the birds will be gone from the area for good. Some of the tales of challenges people faced when the rookery was functioning are pretty alarming.

I’m hoping Sunday’s Outdoors page will have a feature on the Wichita State Fishing Team, though I’m struggling to stay in contact with the team president. The club is only a few years old and hoping to get more interest and sponsors. The article will also take a look at how collegiate fishing is growing as a sport, and which Kansas colleges are now fielding, or floating, competititve fishing teams. Largemouth bass are the main target species for the college tournaments.

Down the road I’m hoping to spend a day fishing with an expert bass angler, and the system he uses to catch largemouth, spotted and smallmouth bass all year, in water anywhere from a few inches to dozens of feet deep. Hopefully I’ll have some video of how he rigs his fishing lines, too.

I’m still placing a lot of importance on some good, solid reporting about the possible problems tick-borne diseases can be posing to Kansans. Some medical professionals are saying the public, and many in the medical field, are taking the threats seriously enough.

Michael’s world

Life remains good. I had a few minutes on Saturday afternoon so I did a little work in my garden. OK, so maybe it’s work I should have done when we stopped getting veggies in September or October but we all know what I’m doing those months, instead. The plans are to expand things a bit, for garden size, this spring. I’m hoping to keep to my promise of no more plants. When I say such things, Kathy just rolls here eyes, knowing I can’t be trusted when it comes to buying vegetable plants at the garden stores in April.

Last weekend was certainly a busy one. My young friend, Jake, and I set traps for several days trying to remove some raccoons from some property near El Dorado. I did that Saturday morning with him, went home and watched the KU game with Kathy and then we went out for an early Valentine’s Day dinner at Town & Country. The place isn’t fancy, but the prime rib is outstanding and very affordable We went home and watched a few movies after that.

Sunday Jake and I were joined by his best friend, Kai Wernli. After running and removing the traps, we spent a few hours goose hunting near Jake’s house. Since the birds had been using an end of the field with little cover in the field, and no pit blind within 300 yards, we tried hiding in some Johnson grass and cedars, and placed a few dozen decoys on both sides of the grass patch.

It’s been my experience that geese normally avoid flying near such cover for fear it may be holding predators. Power lines running through that end of the field posed another problem. At least we had the wind from the perfect direction and blowing hard enough to keep the bird fairly near the ground. It was easier to hide from all those eyes because it was cloudy,too.

We had four or five nice bunches of geese fly well within shotgun range. I let the boys do most of the shooting. We ended up with seven geese, of which six were particularly huge. Three cleared 12 lbs. on good, digital scales. One of those was only a few soybeans away from reaching 13 lbs.

You can read more about the hunt, on a blog you should be able to find on www.kansas.com/outdoors.

Bests,

Michael Pearce

mpearce@wichitaeagle.com

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