Michael Pearce

Reports from wheat harvest say Kansas pheasant population improved

It may be months before groups like Wildlife and Parks and Pheasants Forever give their official predictions for this year’s pheasant population.

But from what I’m hearing from the wheat harvest, things are looking improved over much of the state. In some areas, drastically improved.

“Honestly, and I know how this sounds, I’ve never seen as many young pheasants as I saw (Wednesday),” said a harvester near Stafford. “Not only did I see a lot, but most were big. They weren’t having any problems getting away from equipment.”

“I think I saw more broods the past two days than I did all of last year,” a farmer near Scott City told me. “The best brood I saw was a hen with 12 chicks, and they were bigger than quail.”

“I drove the combine for a few hours and saw four nice broods,” said a harvester near the Reno/Rice county line. “They averaged eight (chicks) per brood. That’s pretty impressive.” He, too, noticed the birds were big enough to fly well and to be able to handle heat better than smaller chicks.

Some early quail broods have been reported, too, though the chicks are small. That’s to be expected since the quail hatch is usually a few weeks later than pheasant. Quail generally spend their summers further from things like the wheat harvest, so broods aren’t as easy to detect.

More updates

I’ve still gotten very few reports of turkey broods being seen in south-central Kansas, though I’ve been seeing a lot of solo hens running about. It’s possible all of the rain and cold killed some young chicks and some may have been washed away in floods since hens often nest in riparian areas. If a clutch of eggs got washed away the hen will probably try to nest again. If the birds hatched, then were killed, she’s probably done for the year.

Fishing reports are mixed, with some of the best stories concerning catfish. A buddy and his wife caught a 40-plus pound flathead while trolling for walleye and wipers at Marion Reservoir recently. Largemouth bass fishermen have done well in lakes and ponds.

At reservoirs, lakes and ponds, people walking the shorelines are seeing a lot of fry in flooded weeds and grasses. That bodes well for fishing over about the next four or five years.

Kansas state parks staffs are working to recover from damage done by floods over the past few weeks. Some, like Fall River and Elk City, are hampered because release rates at the lakes have been greatly reduced because rivers are full from recent rains in Oklahoma.

No word this week from the three rafters wanting to float from central Kansas to the Mississippi on the Arkansas River. They cleared Wichita last Friday with no problems. They were aided greatly by the fact that the fish ladder at the Lincoln Street dam had just been opened. Vince Marshall, a Arkansas River Coalition member who assisted the rafters, estimated they’re carrying around 800 pounds of equipment in their raft. That’s a lot of lifting and carrying anytime they have to portage around a dam somewhere along the river.

Upcoming coverage

Friday or Saturday’s Eagle should have a feature on the recent flooding damage at Kansas state parks, and how the staffs are coping when they have very limited budgets. The story is based out of Fall River State Park, which was about 25 1/2 feet high earlier this week. That meant some popular boat docks were still more than 100 yards out in the water.

Sunday’s Outdoors page is expected to have a story on a gathering of the Flatland Fly Fishers club, at a local sand pit. It’s a pretty community-minded group of people who had done a lot to help all kinds of angling in the Wichita area.

A secondary story is planned on the new manager of the McPherson Valley Wetlands. He’s Jason Black, a transplanted Texan who fell in love with central Kansas so much he left a better-paying job to pursue a career in wildlife biology, first at Emporia State University and eventually at Fort Hays State University. He doesn’t lack for enthusiasm when it comes to all things that deal with wetlands.

We’re still trying to gather enough photography for a feature on putting grape jelly at backyard feeding stations to attract Baltimore orioles. The birds seem to be especially camera shy, but downright abundant when we don’t have cameras.

Michael’s world

I was really impressed with how well things went at last Saturday’s Wichita Eagle’s Kids Fishing Clinic at Chisholm Creek Park. Attendance was down compared to what was registered for the previous Saturday, when the event was postponed. But that’s to be expected.

Despite only one from Wildilfe and Parks, we had a good-sized crew of volunteers to work with the kids. Flatland Fly Fishers played a huge role, again. Several members of Fishing’s Future, a group of trained angling coaches, provided some welcome assistance, too. Thanks to the parents and grandparents who braved the heat to get their kids to Island Pond.

My only disappointment with having the clinic postponed until the day before Father’s Day was the Jerrod and his wife, Carilyn, had made plans to come for that weekend. That means I missed about half of the time they were in the area. What we had together, though, was fun.

Sunday morning Jerrod and I headed out early and fly-fished a sizable pond I helped a friend re-stock after the drought about four years ago. It was full, with water up in the grasses and bass fry swimming all over. Jerrod probably caught at least 20 largemouths and I added 12 to 15 in 90 minutes of fishing. The best, which Jerrod caught, was probably about three pounds, which is fun on a fly rod.

I had as much fun playing with Cade, our Lab puppy then, on is 11th week birthday. He enjoyed carrying around any bass we dropped in his mouth, and actually fetched a few that I tossed back into the weeds.

Cade’s still a bit confused about where they go when we toss them back in, though. He swims to the spot, sticks his face totally under water and sometimes just follows with the rest of his body. At least twice he was totally submerged as he swam around looking for the bass underwater.

His training is coming along pretty well. I’m about completely confident he’ll be ready for doves and teal when those seasons open.

Many times I think he has the ability to learn faster than I have the ability to teach.

Kathy and I are both happy to have him along, even with the added challenges a puppy in the house brings.


Michael Pearce