The same rainy spring that could set Kansas up for a good pheasant and quail seasons may end up costing hunters some of their best dove spots - the sunflower fields on public hunting areas. Some fields got planted too late to be ripe by the Sept. 1 opening day and some mostly drowned-out. Jason Black, McPherson Valley Wetlands manager, is doubtful the usually popular fields about an hour north of Wichita will have good hunting this year. I’ll try to have a feature on the subject in late August, including how other public areas are looking.
Fish are being caught, but there don’t seem to be a lot of solid patterns at most reservoirs and lakes. That’s probably because of rain lowering lake temperatures, raising the water levels, then those levels lowering quickly when the spillway gates are opened.
Still getting nice reports of people seeing pheasant and quail chicks. One land manager said he’s seen some of the biggest coveys of chicks he’s ever seen west of Hutchinson.
I haven’t heard of many extraordinary bucks showing up on trail cameras, but it should be a good year for antler growth because of all the lush food supplies that are out there for deer to get healthy on.
Sunday’s Outdoors page will have a feature on Emporia angler Bill Hartman. The retired Emporia State University administrator has fished in a lot of states, including Alaska and Hawaii, from a lot of nice boats. His favorite vessel, though, is a $215 inflatable float tube, with a pair of $30 kick fins. Fishing a friend’s watershed Wednesday morning in the Flint Hills he demonstrated why with a nice mixed bag catch of bass, bluegill and crappie. The bluegill were mostly around nine-inches long. The best crappie was 16 3/4 -inches. (No, that’s not a typo.)
Sometime within the next week I’m hoping The Eagle runs a story about how Kansas fish farmers are hustling to keep up with the high demand from landowners wanting to re-stock ponds and lakes that went dry during the drought. It’s pretty interesting, now they run the businesses.
I know it’s sounding like a broken record that’s been playing for about a year, but I’m still hoping to do a feature on Sandhills State Park. I’ve been ready for months, but continue to have problems getting the state to get some things organized for a tour and interview. Maybe next week - again. I’m sure if I stay persistent, it will eventually come.
To be honest, this has been one of my toughest seasons for having lined-up articles fall-through or get postponed. Summer is always tough because of heat concerns. This one has had some insane amounts of rains in some places, too.
I am convinced, if we could find a way to harness the energy within a few hundred 3 1/2-month-old Lab puppies, we would not need fracking, we could put an end to the debate of wind farms and nuclear power. America would would have plenty of energy, even despite our wasteful ways.
Obviously, I’m referring to the activity of our black Lab puppy, Cade. Yesterday, for instance, he spent two hours playing hard with our 13-year-old friend, Jake. We then took him to a pond and did a half-hour of nearly non-stop retrieves in the water and on land. Many of the land retrieves were in pretty heavy cover so Cade had to really lace back and forth until he hit the scent.
We came home, and Jake and Cade continued to play hard and fast. Even after 3 1/2-hours of non-stop, often full-out activity, I looked in the living room and 30 pound Cade was literally dragging 100-pound Jake across the floor in a tug-of-war game. While Jake and I ate some fresh fish, Cade continued to chase on of his favorite toys - a beat up old empty plastic jug - across our wooden floors. When we were done eating, he went back to playing with Jake for about another half-hour.
As friend/chief photographer Bo Rader said of harnessing that power, it’s never ending. If it’s dark outside, we’d still have full power. If the wind stops blowing, Lab puppies are going under full power. Just amazing amounts of energy for things so young.
I guess I have myself partially to blame. As well as young, and from a good bloodline, I’ve worked Cade into incredibly good shape by taking him about every day to the country. This morning we did 40 minutes of land and water retrieves, including a pair of 60-yard swims, then went for about a half-mile walk. Cade was bouncing all around and up and down almost as much at the end of the walk as at the beginning of the retrieving session.
Over about the past week I’ve been working him with a dummy launcher that uses a blank .22 cartridge, like used in nail guns, to propel retrieving dummies about the size of a large can of fruit. The purpose is to get him used to hearing gunfire, and looking into the air for something to retrieve. By the second shot he was on to the game, and of course at this age all of his training is just an on-going game to him.
Next I hope to start working him with some live, wing-clipped feral pigeons. Just the sound of the .22 has gotten him even more excited about retrieving, I think putting the flapping and scent of live birds into the mix will really get him concentrating even better on marking where the bird is thrown or fall. He’s more than ready for that next step, but I don’t want to buy and keep pigeons outside in this kind of heat. I can usually get several weeks out of a live pigeon if it doesn’t get too stressed by the weather.
I think he’s listening well, especially when I remind myself of his age. Most of the time he stays on a sit in our kitchen and watches me scoop up, and serve food to our dachshund Ruby Tuesday. I think put food in Cade’s bowl and walk out of sight before I set his food bowl down where he can see it in his crate. I then walk back to the pup and wait 5-15 seconds before I release him by saying his name. That’s pretty good self-control, especially when I remember how food crazy he was the first day we got him. Actually, he’s still as excited about food. He hits his bowl going full speed and sends the kibble flying.
I’m pretty sure such games at home, two or three times per day, are making him used to listening to me, controlling himself, and will help me train him not to break on falling birds if I’ve put him on a sit.