Michael Pearce

Kansas firearms deer season slower than average

Words being passed from hunters to two of the area’s largest wild game processors don’t paint a particularly bright picture for success rates for the ongoing firearms deer season, which began Dec. 3 and ends on Sunday.

“Things are a little better than last year, but most of the guys I’m talking with still aren’t seeing a lot of deer,” said Mark Tittle, owner of Mark’s Meats, in Halstead. “We are seeing some small deer being brought in, so some of the yearlings are surviving.”

He’s referring to when several years of severe drought greatly lowered reproduction and fawn survival rates across most of Kansas. This is the first full-year since those severely dry years ended.

Vince Stroot, Stroot Meat Locker, Goddard, said he’s hearing about the same from his customers as per numbers being improved from last year, but not as good as four or five years ago.

Both processors said they aren’t seeing as many trophy bucks being brought in by hunters this firearms season. Stroot said that might be because they simply aren’t getting as many deer as in years past. Tittle said many hunters are removing the heads from their bucks before bringing them in for processing, so they can make European (skull) mounts as apposed to more expensive shoulder mounts.

Both also reported good archery seasons for quality and quantity of deer. Tittle said their business was up 50 percent over previous archery seasons. Stroot said the increased of crossbows also could be leading to a higher harvest during the archery seasons.

He also said conditions haven’t been ideal for a great gun harvest.

“The full moon might have something to do with it, and it’s been warm,” Stroot said. “Now they’re saying this Sunday it’s supposed to rain. That might keep things down, too.”

More updates

Waterfowl success has been mixed for much of the seasons, but are mostly good at current times. Freezing and thawing of major marsh areas has contributed to hot and cold cycles. Goose hunters are doing particularly well for early December. Many have commented on the high percentage of small-bodied geese, like cacklers or lesser Canadas.

Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism officials are still trying to figure out what the proposed $500,000 reduction in lottery money the agency gets from the state will do to upcoming budgets. This week Gov. Sam Brownback announced the reduction as part of his plan for handling budget problems that are the results of his tax cuts.

Pheasant and quail success reports continue to be spotty, but some nice spots are being reported. I’ve heard of one group of five hunters, without dogs, shooting 13 roosters in one 160 acre patch of CRP grasses. Sunday morning I talked with a hunter who had shot a few limits up near Russell.

I don’t know what it is about the subject, but last week’s article about the North Carolina hunter shooting an antlered whitetail doe in Sedgwick County drew some serious hit numbers on Kansas.com. A similar story in 2008 was also one of our best online stories for that year.

Upcoming coverage

Sunday’s Outdoors page will probably have a feature on Ryan Myer. He’s a disabled veteran injured in Afghanistan in 2012, and now living near where he was raised in southeast Kansas. For many long months after his severe injuries to his mind, back and legs, Myers didn’t know if he’d ever be able to hunt again.

Earlier this week, I took some vacation and we went to hunt a friend’s ranch in Elk County. Ryan got a 15-point trophy buck with double droptines. We both got a trophy experience from the event. Even though doing a story on the hunt was not why I took Ryan, things worked out so well I’m going to try to work it into a column.

Down the road I’m planning an Outdoors page feature on a guy who has lived all over the world, and why he wanted to retire in central Kansas. Actually I’ll give you the main two reasons - pheasant and quail.

I’m also hoping to cover the Wichita Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count on Dec. 20. This will be the group’s 60th consecutive year for the event.

Though it’s certainly not outdoors related, I’m also finishing up a feature on a great Italian Restaurant in, of all places, tiny Toronto. We’re talking a place with food that experts say will compete with the best of the bigger cities, in the skeletal remains of town that almost too little to even be considered a small town.

Michael’s world

Sorry the e-letters has been a bit inconsistent the past month or so. I’ve been gone several Thursdays for vacation days, and have had several sizable stories break late in weeks, too. I’ll try to do better the rest of the year, I promise.

Cookbook sales appear to have really picked up the past couple of weeks, probably because people are in the midst of buying Christmas presents and it is a pretty good gift. They can be ordered at customercare.kansas.com/books or by calling 316-268-6462.

It looks like this is my year to bring people great deer hunting, but not really take a buck myself. We had great success when I took Jerrod to western Kansas to hunt with good friends, and he got his best-ever bow-kill, as did one of the landowner’s sons.

The buck Ryan Myer got is probably the most impressive deer I’ve ever been associated with on a hunt. I was hoping to get him something wall-worthy, and we certainly did.

It’s humbling to spend time with someone like Ryan who is working so hard, to overcome so much at such, a young age.

Hopefully I’ll get to bowhunt twice more before the season closes the end of the month, though that’s only if my schedule goes perfectly and that rarely happens.

I’m counting the days until we start getting family coming in for the Christmas holidays. We have Jerrod and Carilyn coming in on the 23rd, and Lindsey on the 27th. That will be the first time in more than a year, I think, since we’ve all been together.

Then, however, we’ll all be together in Kansas City for Jerrod and Carilyn’s wedding in May, followed by a family vacation in Hawaii.

I hope time between then and now passes as quickly as the hunting seasons have this fall.

Hey, quick question. For the first time in my life I’ve grown a beard. One thing I’ve noticed is that the gray hairs are growing faster than the brown one. Shouldn’t they be growing slower?

Well for years, Kathy has said I don’t act my age. Now, with a bit of gray in my beard I’m at least starting to look my age.

Bests,

Michael Pearce

mpearce@wichitaeagle.com

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