Michael Pearce

Lifetime licenses at old price through the month

Jim Barr, 92, casts for bass on a Flint Hills watershed lake Tuesday morning. He's been an avid bass angler since his dad taught him how before the Great Depression.
Jim Barr, 92, casts for bass on a Flint Hills watershed lake Tuesday morning. He's been an avid bass angler since his dad taught him how before the Great Depression. The Wichita Eagle

The 2016 hunting and fishing licenses are currently on sale online and at license vendors. With them, they’re bringing increased prices. Resident annual hunting and fishing licenses, for example. will increase from $18 to $25. Resident deer permits will raise from $30 to $40. Non-resident licenses and permits are seeing sizable price increases.

But those interested in purchasing a resident lifetime hunting or fishing license have through the end of the year to make those purchases at this year’s prices. That’s $440 for a lifetime hunting or fishing license. After Jan. 1 that price increases to $500. For the first time, residents will be able to purchase a combination lifetime hunting and fishing license for $960.

Other updates

The success of the firearms deer season, that closed on Sunday, seems to vary greatly. As always, it was the “worst ever” for thousands and “best ever” for about as many.

Overall, there were a lot of complaints about the weather being too windy, too wet and too warm. Last weekend’s rains hurt success, too. Still, I talked with one group of a half-dozen or more hunters who shot more trophy bucks on last Saturday afternoon than the rest of the season combined. That includes several scoring in the 160s and a 188.

On the other side, a good friend who hunts our farm never saw a buck all firearms season. He was close to does about every trip, feeding on our food plots, but has gone two seasons without seeing so much as a spike. We have no explanation.

Between up to four inches of rain and ice after Thanksgiving, plus two to five inches of rain last weekend, things are about as sloppy as they can be in December across Kansas this year. Some backroads will be closed for weeks, probably. I’ve seen lakes in farm fields between Newton and Hutchinson that haven’t been there in my 22 years of living in the area.

Quail reports continue to be pretty positive, especially in the Flint Hills. No, not like the ‘80s, but people are finding more coveys than they ever thought they would again during all-time lows a few years ago.

Pheasant hunters are pretty happy, though some said they were expecting a bit more success going in to the season. Most admit their efforts have been hurt by the warm weather and jungle-like cover.

Upcoming coverage

Sunday’s Outdoors page will have a column about a change I’d like to see in our state wildlife department, one that I’m sure every agency employ would agree to.

There will also be an article on the newest generation of knives, the ones with replaceable, scalpel-like blades. They’re a whole new kind of sharp, and I have the scars on several fingers to prove it.

On Dec. 27 the page will probably contain my “Best of 2015,” photos and story topics. Looking back, it was a pretty busy year in the Kansas outdoors.

Down the road I’m hoping for a feature on a style of duck hunting that’s becoming increasingly popular and mega-productive for hunters who know it well.

Michael’s world

Sorry we didn’t have a newsletter last week. I took a few days off for a cow elk hunt in northeastern New Mexico. Justin Bremer, a young friend, also went along. It was his first, but certainly not last, elk hunt.

It was up to about 60 degrees, even at 7,500 feet, but we still found quite a few elk. Justin got his cow from a herd of about 20 the first afternoon. It was a fun stalk, moving in on the herd as they grazed in a broad meadow. The closest cow was 258 yards from where we eventually got set up for the shot. Justin shoots a .300 Winchester short magnum. I knew he would easily make the shot, and he did.

An electric winch in the back of the guide’s truck made loading the nice cow a breeze.

The next morning I declined a chance to shoot an elk while leaning my rifle across the hood of the guide’s truck. Later that afternoon we saw a herd in the same meadow where Justin got his. This time there were 40 or 50 animals in the bunch.

In hindsight, I wish we’d have just sat and watched the gorgeous setting for ten minutes before I took the 230 yard shot. Doing that, though, would have taken a chance a shifting wind current could have spooked the elk.

It was a pretty easy shot and the cow was down in less time that it’s taken to read this sentence.

Since I’d sliced a knuckle pretty deep helping Justin quarter his elk, I was of limited use working up mine. For a guy who’s 26, Justin knows his way around most things to do with hunting, including the best ways to cup up an elk without cutting up himself.

I probably should have had stitches, but didn’t want to do the hour each-way drive to town. We packed the wound right and wrapped it with duct tape. I was sure to wear a cut-resistant glove when I processed the elk at home. I saved the best-looking stretch of backstrap for the Sunday after Christmas, when we’ll have the entire family together. Jerrod’s in charge of cooking the meat, so it’ll be great.

Speaking of cooking, this week Kathy and I tried fixing the huge breast slabs of giant Canada geese a new way. When I grilled those thick chunks in the past I’d often ended up with meat that was dry on the outside and still too rare on the inside.

This time I set my digital smoker at 225 degrees and cooked the meat for about 90 minutes, which is when its internal temperature hit 135 degrees. I’d marinated the goose in fresh lime, mesquite and liquid smoke. Just before cooking I stuffed it with finely-chopped sweet peppers, onion and a little jalapeno. The recipe is in my cookbook.

It will not be the last time I cook big goose like that, according to both of us.

Thursday I took a vacation day and went, of course, hunting. Five of us hunted a big pond in a prairie pasture near Quivira. A pump kept a patch of water open around the blind but most of the water was covered in thin ice.

It was the best duck hunt I’ve had in three or four years, and one of the best of my life. Birds kept coming and coming and came to the decoys and calling well. Most were mallards, but there were enough other species to keep us paying attention. Two of the hunters were unknown to our group but both were solid, safe and fun.

Cade had a great morning, fetching 28 of the 29 ducks we got. He had to bound through thin ice, over shallow water, for about half of the retrieves and located a couple of birds that fell well out into thick grass more than 100 yards from the blind. A couple of experienced hunters said he did better than any eight-month-old pup they’d seen work a duck hunt. I guess sometimes I forget just how young he is and take too much for granted. I know I’ve never seen a dog love waterfowl hunting as much.

We had his first quail hunt late Wednesday. He pointed a covey and did well working singles, fetching all four birds I shot before we left so the covey could gather before nightfall. That night I a had fresh fried quail breast chunks on a Caesar salad. Yes, Cade got a few scraps.

Have a good weekend, and be careful out there in all of the mud and goo. Rather than drive to a favored waterfowl pond, I now have to pack all of my gear in on ice-fishing sleds, about a half-mile each way.

In thick waders that isn’t a fun task.


Michael Pearce