Michael Pearce

Kansas state park fees not expected to increase, despite possible funding cut

Thursday in Bonner Springs, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism secretary Robin Jennison told the said he does not expect to raise state park rates despite the possible loss of $500,0000 in state funding. Gov. Sam Brownback has announced he’d like to withhold the $500,000 of lottery funds from the department in an attempt to overcome state budget problems.

If Brownback’s request gets legislative approval, about $1.7 million in lottery funds will still help fund Kansas state parks this year. Jennison said the department can probably absorb the reduction with little impact on services at the state parks. Kansas state parks have an annual budget of around $10 million. Jennison was in Bonner Springs for a Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission meeting.

Other updates

Also at the commission meeting Lloyd Fox, Wildlife and Parks big game program coordinator, said he’s advising the department to continue their reduction in opportunities for shooting antlerless whitetails. For the 2014-15 seasons Kansas deer hunters saw season dates shortened, and the number of antlerless-only permits a hunter could buy reduced in several deer management units. He’s currently wanting to be more restrictive in at least three more units, including Unit 16 which for years had some of Kansas’ most liberal antlerless seasons and limits. Fox said the Kansas deer herds are still suffering from several years of drought.

Now’s a great time for watching bald eagles and other wildlife along the Arkansas River in Wichita. The birds have been forced into town so they can catch fish from the few open spots along the river. Most lakes and reservoirs have recently frozen. Thursday, Wichita Eagle photographer Travis Heying got some nice photography of bald eagles and other birds feeding near the Lincoln Street Dam.

Reports from pheasant and quail hunters continue to be mixed. At Thursday’s commission meeting a sportsman talked about being out three days and the only pheasant he saw in north-central Kansas was flying across the road. Tuesday a friend sent me a photo of 20 dead rooster pheasants atop his dog box. His hunting party of five gunners, and two dogs, had limited out by about 3 p.m. south of Great Bend. I am, though, getting better quail reports than pheasant reports. Some southeast Kansas hunters have had some decent quail hunts for the first time in about 20 years.

Upcoming coverage

Sunday’s Outdoors page will feature a pair of Wichitans who went crappie fishing amid Wednesday morning’s Arctic-like weather. They headed to the heated fishing dock at Melvern Reservoir. Their action wasn’t fast, but it was enough for them to get a nice mess of crappie and for me to get a nice story. Mission accomplished for both.

The Outdoors page will also have coverage from Thursday’s Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission meeting in Bonner Springs.

Down the road I’m hoping to have Outdoors page features on both good pheasant and quail hunts, and what’s made that area so productive this year. I’m also hoping for an ice-fishing story, if the weather holds cold enough. I may do a column on a Christmas gift I got from my daughter. It’s becoming one of the most functional pieces of outdoors gear I’ve ever owned.

I’m also planning on doing a blog within the next few days about a particular rifle I took on a doe hunt Wednesday morning. I’m eating my words along with the venison.

Michael’s world

Unlike a lot of bowhunters, I really enjoy the January season for antlerless whitetails. While I have no desire to shoot a buck with a rifle I have no qualms about doing it with does. Fortunately I have several friends who have a serious over-supply of deer.

Last weekend my 12-year-old friend, Jake, and I went to Elk County and shot five from Friday afternoon - Saturday afternoon. I shot my sixth doe of the year, the legal limit, Wednesday morning in Anderson County. I saw at least 60 deer between those four individual hunts and 90 percent were does.

It’s been at least five years since I’ve filled all of my possible deer permits. This year I needed to get a couple for my step-mother. The friend who hunts our farm, and keeps her in venison, totally blanked this season. I’m also needing some extra venison for some wild game cooking demonstrations.

I’ve been hustling a bit lately to get ready for the Jan. 29-Feb.1 Wichita Sports Show. We’ll have a booth there for our Great Outdoors Photo Contest and I’ll probably be doing a wild game cooking demonstration there a time or two each of the four days.

As I do every January I also find myself staring at the rapidly approaching end of the hunting seasons. I’ve yet to spend more than a few minutes trying for a turkey, so that’s a major goal. Since Hank, my ancient Lab, so loves the birds I’ll probably spend some time scouting a big flock and set-up a pop-up blind. The toms and jakes are becoming more and more susceptible to calling and submissive jake decoys with spring approaching. Last week Jake and I heard a lot of mid-morning gobbling and watched seven or eight mature toms strutting around.

OK, so I know it doesn’t make any difference and I know being superstitious makes no sense, but I could make the case that the KU Jayhawks owe at least part of their current season success to me, and a crusty old red KU sweatshirt I own. Three times this year the team has been trailing at half, after playing miserably, and I’ve put on the sweatshirt and things have turned around and they’ve won. No, I was not wearing it during the embarrassing loss to Kentucky.

Bests,

Michael Pearce

mpearce@wichitaeagle.com

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