Michael Pearce

Wildlife and Parks meeting coming to Wichita

The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism commission will hold its April 23 meeting at the Great Plains Nature Center in Wichita. Topics to be discussed by the department and commissioners include fishing regulations and waterfowl zones and seasons.

The public is invited to comment on those, and any outdoors-related topics at the meeting. Sessions begin at 1 and 6:30 p.m. Comments on topics not already on the agenda are welcome at the beginning of the afternoon and evening sessions. The commission is expected to vote on some state park cabin fee changes. All other issues are just up for discussion.

The Great Plains Nature Center is at 6232 E. 29th North. For more information on the meeting, call 620-672-5911 or to to ksoutdoors.com. The meeting is scheduled to be carried live, online at the same address.

More updates

Things continue to be challenging out at Wilson Reservoir. The lake remains low, eight below normal was the last I’d heard. There was recently a fish kill along the lake’s dam, too. A Wildlife and Parks press release said about 50 fish were found dead or dying, including smallmouth bass and walleye.

Some mushrooms have been popping up where rains have fallen in eastern Kansas. I’ve also gotten some reports of crappie in the shallows at smaller lakes and watersheds.

So far, so great as for reports from turkey hunters. The larger flocks are mostly dispersed, and birds are pretty well scattered. Success rates have been high for youth and archery hunters who’ve spent much time afield.

Spring migrations seem to be running a bit late for some species. I saw my first scissor-tailed flycatcher of the year late last week and some birders have yet to see one in south-central Kansas. A nice wave of Swainson’s hawks came through the area earlier this week. They’re about the size of a redtail. but are known to migrate in loose flocks that can contain a lot of birds. I saw one group of about 30 on a field near El Dorado.

Thursday’s Eagle had a pair of outdoors stories. The largest was on the 29th annual Kansas Governor’s Turkey Hunt, and all it’s done to help the El Dorado community. To date it’s raised more than $1 million dollars to help fund scholarships, and support other local causes.

The other was about three events that are free for the public on Saturday, including a float down the Verdigris River into Toronto Reservoir, a free family fishing day in Rose Hill and a crappie tournament at Harvey County West Park.

Upcoming coverage

Sunday’s Outdoors page in The Eagle should have an article from the Governor’s Turkey Hunt. As well as that article, the online Outdoors page will have a preview of next week’s KDWPT commission meeting at the Great Plains Nature Center. Not much will be put to a formal vote, but there will be early discussions on waterfowl seasons and possible duck zone boundary changes.

I’m trying to get plans finalized for a trip to a real oasis of great fishing in southwest Kansas. The lake may be as pretty as any public water in the state and the fishing has a pretty solid future there, too. Hopefully there will soon be enough time for an article on a unique state park we have in the sandhills. Not much water, but a lot of opportunity in other areas, especially for those who ride horses.

Michael’s world

Life’s good, as usual, in Michael’s world. I made it out for a few hours Wednesday morning and shot a tom with my bow. I saw a lot of birds, at least 40, fly down from a big roosting area and head out to pastures. Just last week most of the birds were staying around agricultural fields and feeding most of the day. I’m guessing some hens are starting to get into nesting.

We’ve been eating fresh asparagus from our garden for about two weeks and it’s really beginning to come up... but not fast enough. I ordered 25 more root buds to get into the ground sometime soon. It takes two years before you can begin any kind of harvests and nothing substantial until the third year. Most of my garden will probably go in the week of May 10, right after Jerrod’s wedding. I’m still promising myself, and Kathy, that I won’t add any more plants than last year. Really, that’s my goal. We’ll see.

We have a family vacation planned down the road, and are heading back to Kauai. This time I’ll be doing a little fishing for, surprisingly, four kinds of bass. The rivers and reservoirs of the island support largemouth, smallmouth, spotted and peacock bass. Obviously none are native, nor are the rainbow trout that inhabit some of the streams well up in the mountains. My big goal is to catch a peacock bass. I’ve never done that one, and have caught plenty of the others.

I’m looking into some cow elk hunts next winter in New Mexico. Unlike most states, they have several separate seasons for special cow-only hunts. Most are in the winter so keeping the meat cool isn’t a problem. They’re usually a fraction of the cost of a bull hunt, too. Kathy and I haven’t had a good supply of elk meat since 2004, and that was off the two big bulls I’d shot the year before.

I’m a huge supporter of getting kids into hunting. I’ve promoted special youth hunting seasons and opportunities. I’ve volunteered to help boys and girls learn to shoot and taken them on some of their first hunts. Most were somewhere around 11 or 12.

This week saw a photo of a father with his 4 1/2 year-old son and a turkey the kid had shot. Actually, the proud dad said he was almost 5, like that makes a big difference.

To me, that’s too young. Granted, it’s not my child so I don’t know the kid’s maturity levels, but I’m not sure there are many kids that age that can comprehend what it’s like to have taken a life. The dad was obviously with the child, and supervised gun safety and taking the shot, but does a child that age really comprehend the importance of gun safety and what can happen if something goes wrong?

You know, if he’s that young I wonder if that boy will be able to remember his first turkey when he’s an adult? What a loss that would be. What happens if a kid is so young they can’t legally sign their permit after they kill an animal?

I’m not for state-mandated minimum ages because all kids are different. Those raised within an outdoors lifestyle, and blessed with uncommon maturity for their age, will certainly be ready several years before the average child is physically and emotionally prepared to handle all that hunting brings.

I kind of think my kids were pretty advanced growing up, thanks to their mom’s brains and my immersing them in so many things in the outdoors. But at 4 1/2 they were still that many years away from being ready to shoot an animal. Their mom, a psychologist, was in full agreement.

It was important to both of us for Lindsey and Jerrod to be hunters before they were killers. I mean, we wanted them to have gone on plenty of tag-along hunts so they saw all that went into hunting and to learn that there was more to a successful hunt than coming home with a dead animal.

They weren’t any more ready when they were “almost 5,” either.

Bests,

Michael Pearce

mpearce@wichitaeagle.com

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