Michael Pearce

Kansas Wildlife and Parks to vote on redbelly snake next week

The Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism commission will vote next Thursday in Salina on the topic of removing the redbelly snake from the state’s threatened species list. Earlier this year, the Kansas Endangered Species Task Committee had recommended the snake remain on the threatened list.

Redbelly snakes are thought to be creatures of mature oak and hickory forests. Their possible presence in such areas has hampered some development in the Kansas City area. There is ongoing debate if the snakes are rare in Kansas or just secretive.

At a previous meeting, Robin Jennison, Wildlife and Parks secretary, said that though redbelly numbers are thought to be low, and the species is in need of help, he wanted them removed from the list. One major reason, Jennison said, was to keep the state legislature from getting involved. During the last session, legislators debated if the state’s entire endangered species act should be revoked. At an August commission meeting near Great Bend, several people from the state’s wildlife community spoke against removing the snakes from the threatened list.

More details will be found in an article in The Eagle early next week.


Things should be good for the opening of the low plains early zone duck season on Saturday morning. Friends who had kids out for last weekend’s youth waterfowl hunt said their areas had picked up quite a few new birds.

As was reported on last Sunday’s Outdoors page, farmers are reporting improved quail and pheasants this year, especially as fall harvests progress. Wednesday morning a farmer in Reno County told me he was really surprised by the increase in pheasants on his lands, saying he didn’t even know it was possible to see such a sizable increase in one year. He said the population isn’t near what it was pre-drought, but there would be enough birds for decent hunting. He’s also seen an increase in quail numbers.

Not a lot of reports coming in from deer hunters the past week or so, though some photos are still straggling in from successful youth and muzzleloader hunters. It’s not uncommon for the deer to be more nocturnal during mid-October than earlier in the fall.

I keep getting photos from a local angler who really enjoys fishing in the fall. It’s interesting that he mainly does it from a float tube, and pretty much exclusively on heavily-fished public waters. It’s also interesting that one of his main targets are big flathead catfish that he catches on lures. I’m guessing there’s an article in there, somewhere.


Sunday’s Outdoors page will have a feature on John Wiebe, a local bowhunter. He’s taken whitetails scoring more than 160 inches the past three seasons, and had a good track record many years before that. But long before he started bowhunting, he was Kansas John Wiebe, a world-champion drag racer. Some of the similarities, and vast differences, between his two loves are interesting.

Probably next Tuesday I’ll have a preview with more information on next week’s Wildlife and Parks commission meeting in Salina.

A bit further down the road I’m hoping to do a feature on a lack of game wardens in Kansas, and why Wildlife and Parks has problems finding, and keeping, qualified people. I’m also hoping to have a story about an eastern Kansas girl and her hunting dog. Working together they’ve won some state championships and almost took the top spot at a national championship competition. It’s not the kind of hunting dog normally associated with young girls, either.

Plans are in the works for a story on a Kansas company that is now producing some of the most realistic hunting decoys on the market. They’re all hand painted and made right here in central Kansas. We’re going to try some on sandhill cranes, without a doubt the most wary, and sharp-eyed birds, we hunt in America.


I had a pretty fun time last weekend, staying with some friends, the Hale family, who live near Garnett. That’s about 30 miles south of Ottawa. The main purpose of the trip was to get out and do some squirrel hunting. The woods were loaded with mast-producing oak, hickory and walnut trees, and the population of gray and fox squirrels were both high. I missed a couple of shots in the morning I should have made. Richard Hale assured me it probably wasn’t the rifle.

He’d noticed I was carrying a Remington 541-S, a bolt-action .22 that went out of production in 1999. Richard, a quality gun guru, said the rifles are known for target-rifle accuracy and said they’d often out-performed better known target rifles. He predicted that with good competition ammo it could put bullet after bullet into a one-inch group at 100 yards. That, by the way, is a great accomplishment for a high-powered rifle. let alone a relatively light-powered .22 rimfire. He, of course, had such ammo and access to a nice 100 yard range a few minutes away.

Well, he was probably correct. He shot the rifle at the range and it grouped a tad more than one inch, but gusty winds were blowing across the range at the time. Richard promised on a calm day the gun would print three to five shots under an inch, and possibly well under an inch. At 25 yards three shot groups were just one slightly ragged hole. I find such accuracy amazing, and kind of addictive.

I got to spend about an hour fly-fishing a 20 acre lake on his property the next afternoon. The wind was again howling, but I got to catch six bass and a couple of nice crappie. That’s probably my last fly-fishing in Kansas for the year. I am, though, awaiting word on the annual autumn move of bit brown trout down at Lake Taneycomo in the Missouri Ozarks. I’d like to get down there for a few days.

It is getting to be that time of the year when I find myself with far too many things I want to be doing than there is time to do them. November and December are both especially packed. Fortunately I have a few weeks of vacation time remaining, and my job will let me out and about enough to enjoy some of the things.

This year’s highlights include several days with Jerrod bowhunting with friends in western Kansas. It’s been at least five years since we hunted any big game together. Well, actually, he’ll be the one carrying the bow and I’ll be carrying a camera. I’ll be doing that to increase his chances of success, and also out of respect to the landowner. He and his family are avid bowhunters, too, and I don’t want to get in their way, either.

It’s also looking like we may have both kids home around the Christmas holidays. That would include Jerrod’s fiance, Carilyn and Lindsey’s boyfriend, Lance. Hopefully it will include Lindsey’s dog, Lady Bird.

Speaking of dogs, Hank, my old Lab, is rallying a bit, and seems to be getting around a bit better than a few weeks ago. He’s cost us more in the past few months than probably the rest of his life combined. When I pay the bills and buy the meds, I just try to spread those hefty figures over his 13 1/2 years. It doesn’t look like he’ll have enough strength and balance for hunting this year, though.

So it goes, we had a heck of a good run together.


Michael Pearce