Michael Pearce

Stormy forecast may impact Walk With Wildlife, Kids Fishing Clinic

Jim Mason will be checking the forecast a lot through Friday afternoon. That’s when the Great Plains Nature Center director hopes to make a decision concerning Saturday’s annual Walk With Wildlife at Chisholm Creek Park. The Wichita Eagle Kids Fishing Clinic is held in conjunction with the event.

“A lot depends on what they’re calling for Friday night going into Saturday,” Mason said as he checked the forecast. “Right now they’re calling for a 90-percent chance of storms in the wee hours of Saturday morning. That’s not good.”

As well as making it messy and difficult for the public to access the dozens of wildlife-related displays at the park, Mason said rains would make it impossible to park many of the cars that attend in a grassy field that borders the main parking area. Mason said they’ve gained permission to park cars at Jackson Elementary across 29th Street, but that also has him concerned.

“The problem then becomes getting the public to know that’s where they need to be parking,” he said. “Then, we have to get all of those people across the street safely, too.”

Several years ago, the event was canceled just a few hours before it opened on Saturday morning because of severe lightning in the area.

Mason said they will not reschedule the Walk With Wildlife if it is canceled.

The Wichita Eagle’s Kids Fishing Clinic has a rain date of June 20. All assigned times will remain the same for enrolled kids if that happens.

More updates

At Fort Hays State University next Thursday, the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism commission will be debating this year’s waterfowl seasons and possibly changing the boundaries for some duck zones in 2016.

I’m getting some first reports of people seeing pheasant chicks while they’re out and about in the country. It’s a little early to be seeing many, and all of the great cover is going to help hide the birds, too.

Some of Kansas’ most popular state parks are on reservoirs that are anywhere from 18 to 30 feet above normal pool. That includes Perry, Tuttle Creek, Fall River, Cross Timbers and Elk City state parks. The last I checked, El Dorado Reservoir is about five feet above normal.

Monday morning, people saw the first significant concentrations of blue-green algae at Milford Reservoir, one of the hardest-hit lakes with problematic algae the last several years. Officials from the lake met with the state a few months ago trying to come up with a solution for the blue-green algae problem at the lake. It’s been bad enough a few times in past years that access to the lake was stopped. That can be a multi-million dollar hit to the area’s economy.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has agreed to re-word and relax the warnings they issue when blue-green algae is present in Kansas waters.

Upcoming coverage

Sunday’s feature story will be on going worm-dunking with Mike Harris, a fishing guide at Milford Reservoir. As a boy in central Kansas he used the popular bait for bluegill and green sunfish in ponds and creeks. Monday morning he was using them on Kansas’ largest lake, for one of the state’s most exciting fish.

Harris’ spring tactic for catching wipers is “Let the bait fall to the bottom, give the reel two cranks then put the rod in a rod holder,” Harris said. “You don’t even have to watch the rod. You’ll hear the drag when a wiper hits.” We did as he said, and we heard a lot of what he described.

As well as on the success of the day, the article will largely be about what all kinds of baits and lures you can catch wipers on. Basically, if people put it on a hook, and move it through the water wipers may well hit it.

Sunday Outdoors page will also have a preview of next week’s Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission meeting in Hays.

I’m about done with an article on a relatively new way of attracting a gorgeous songbird to feeding stations. I’ll give you a couple of hints – the males are black and brilliant orange. The food that attracts them is often paired with peanut butter on sandwiches.

Further down the road I’m hoping to do a story on a fun way to fish in the Flint Hills and possibly a story on bowfishing. I haven’t written about the latter subject in several years. It’s about time, I think.

Michael’s world

OK, the bad news is that we had to have Hank, our 14 year-old Lab, put down on Wednesday.

The good news is that we had a great dog for 14 years. We were more than happy with what he gave us at home and in the field. He probably got to live a life about as good as any Lab could have in terms of hunting, companionship, lots of friends and so many years of great health. More on that, later.

Just in case you’re wondering, should you ever be fly-fishing with a nine-week-old Lab puppy, it is not a good idea to just let your fly line fall at your feet as you’re stripping in the fly. Trust me, I learned that lesson the fun way at a pond near Newton before work one morning this week. When the fly was almost all the way in, I looked down and saw Cade had a double loop of fly line around his snout and all four legs tangled. I caught quite a few fish in about 45 minutes, including bass to about three pounds. Cade made 20 or so retrieves, including about 10 times when he had to swim out to get the pheasant wing.

Our garden started showing some real signs of life in this week’s heat, especially the assorted squash plants. We could start eating yellow squash any day now, and the green beans are climbing all over about anything within a few yards of where they’re planted. Tomato plants are looking fair to good. I sent off a soil test and found out my dirt is lacking in nitrogen, so I need to figure out what I can add to help the situation.

OK, now for Hank.

For about the last year or so we’d hoped the old dog would go on his own. Ideally, it would have been something had we gotten home from a hunt and he’d passed in his sleep along the way. Several times Kathy and I had discussed making “the call” but we weren’t sure Hank was ready. Monday, I became very sure.

When I returned from fishing at Milford he really struggled to get up to greet me. For the first time I saw fear and confusion in his eyes. That was it. First I called Kathy. Then I called the vet and set-up an in-home appointment. Wednesday morning the vet checked his body, mainly his back legs, and confirmed it was time and nearly a miracle he’d continued to function happily as long as he had.

The hardest time for me was Monday afternoon, right after I called to make the appointment. I was sitting on the floor, my head on folded arms and had gotten pretty emotional. A few seconds later I felt something crawl into my lap, then a tiny tongue start lapping at the tears as they ran down my cheeks. Cade sensed something was wrong, and he wanted to help the only way he knew how.

Life goes on after such losses. It’s always easier for me because it still goes on with a good dog in my life.


Michael Pearce