Michael Pearce

Duck seasons set without drama

In a matter of simple minutes, what had taken many continious, complicated hours the past four years, this year’s duck seasons were set Thursday evening, near Great Bend, by the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission.

“This will be a first,” Gerald Lauber, commission chairman, said when they prepared to vote after little debate. In past years season dates for the southeast Kansas duck zone had been highly debatable as those wanting an early opening day and those wanting the season as late as possible stated their cases. This year’s season opens about as late as possible for that area.

Major seasons

Low plains early duck zone - Oct. 10-Dec. 6 and Dec. 19-Jan. 3.

Low plains late duck zone - Oct. 31-Jan. 3 and Jan. 23-31.

Southeast duck zone - Nov. 14-Jan. 3 and Jan. 9-31.

Canada and snow goose - Oct. 31-Nov. 1 and Nov. 4-Feb. 14.

White-fronted goose - Oct. 31-Jan. 3 and Jan. 23-Feb. 14.

Other updates

Wednesday night a good friend sent out a report that the purple martin roost in Old Town, in the heart of Wichita, is still holding a lot of birds. She estimated more than 30,000 martins came in to the small line of about six trees at about 8:30. The trees are between First and Second streets, just west of Washington. They’re most easily watched from a tiny parking lot just west of Joe’s Bar and Grill, or the parking lot west of Old Town Law Offices and north of the Wichita Police Department sub-station.

You’ll notice the “white wash” under the line of trees that run east to west. Please be courteous to the birds and stay well back from the trees as the birds fly in to roost. Keep in mind Wednesday’s great show could have been a big push of birds moving through with the cold front, and they may move right on south towards Brazil. When it’s getting a lot of use, it is one of the most impressive displays of wildlife in Kansas.

Speaking of that cold front, several of us saw or first flocks of blue-winged teal early this week. I had a half-dozen buzz the pond where I was working my Lab puppy earlier this week. I don’t think I’m seeing nearly as many doves as I did before the cold front, but that may have been in the few places where I was looking. Several friends have reported the same.

Whites and wipers are the main fish I’ve heard of being caught lately, especially at Marion and El Dorado reservoirs. At Marion some anglers have found them chasing shad to the surface, though it’s been hit and miss. At both lakes they’re up on the flats and being caught on slab spoons and by trollers. Marion has the numbers. El Dorado is getting to have the best size.

Sorry, no reports from Cheney Reservoir but I’m pretty sure both species of fish should be working there, too. Channel cat have been pretty strong at quite a few places. Tuesday morning three of us fished over a chum pile at Marion and action was slow, though it was heating about the time we left just before noon. A friend has been doing pretty well on catfish at McPherson State Fishing Lake, too.

Upcoming coverage

Sunday’s Outdoors page should have a feature on a new fish habitat program that’s going in to about 30 public waters in Kansas, ranging from county fishing lakes to our major reservoirs. Rather than piles of brush, Wildlife and Parks is adding piles of plastic. The hope is the “fish cubes” will last much longer than traditional heaps of cedar or hedge trees. Several local fishing clubs have been helping place the fish cubes. Eventually anglers should be able to go online and get the GPS coordinates to find the structures.

I’m also planning on an article about what resident and non-resident hunters are thinking about Wildlife and Parks proposed fee increases. Some are in favor of the increases, but only if the extra money goes to the right places. Others think the department may be hunting the future of hunting in Kansas and the fee increases may actually lead to less money down the road.

If there’s room, I’m hoping to have more information on Thursday’s Wildlife and Parks commission meeting near Great Bend, at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center.

A bit further down the road I’m planning on a full page dedicated to looking back to a time when simply seeing a deer was a huge deal in most of Kansas. I’ll have a column about my first sighting in 1965. Several other avid outdoorsmen will be sharing their memories, too. Those memories are as far back as 1959, but remain very vivid to those who had their first sightings of a live deer in Kansas. Amazing how times have changed.

Michael’s world

Like many people, I’ve greatly appreciated the cooler mornings this week. I got out my favorite camo hoodie before working Cade, our Lab puppy, at daylight Wednesday morning. Ok, so maybe it wasn’t quite that cold but it still felt good, and helped me look towards this fall’s hunts with even more enthusiasm.

Speaking of Cade, we did a few new things in training this week. One of the most interesting was introducing him to decoys so he wouldn’t be distracted by them during teal season or want to fetch them as we placed them on the water. It only took one easy correction to get him to ignore the plastic birds on land. He is, though, intrigued by anything that sits atop the water that’s not a retrieving dummy. It took a half-dozen tosses amid the floaters, but he quickly figured things out.

Though it had nothing to do with training, he gave Kathy and me one of our more memorable “puppy moments” this week when he followed Kathy to the basement for the first time this week. When she flipped on the light his head pivoted slowly and his eyes widened as if he was thinking, “Whoa, who knew there was another whole world down here?”

His mood changed after looking up, after running around with his nose near the carpet, and finding himself nearly nose to nose with a mounted bull elk. He took off so fast it’s a wonder he didn’t turn inside-out. He spent several minutes barking at the mounted elk, sneaking close before again heading to the middle of the room in panic.

I’ve said he’s smart, athletic, and super-personable, but I’ve never claimed he is brave.

Late next week I head to southern California to spend the weekend with Lindsey, her dog, Lady Bird, and her boyfriend, Lance. Kathy and I each take a solo trip out to see them annually to make sure we get plenty of time with them. While out there I’m sure I’ll be watching Lindsey cling to the side of some vertical cliff doing her beloved rock climbing.

I’ve always known Lindsey is athletic, super-personable and brave. She’s super-smart, too, but I’ll never understand her passion for climbing cliffs with the tips of her fingers and toes. I just understand that she loves it dearly, and that’s all I need to know. (And that Lance preaches safe climbing on a regular basis.)


Michael Pearce