Michael Pearce

A covey of bird seasons end Sunday

Hunters who value being afield the closing day of some favored seasons could find themselves pretty busy on Sunday. That is when seven major bird hunting seasons close in Kansas. That’s mostly because of how the calendar falls for 2016.

For years, the high plains, late zone and southeast zone duck seasons have ended the last Sunday of January. Likewise pheasant, quail, prairie chicken and turkey seasons have ended Jan. 31.

Well, this year January 31 is that Sunday.

After Sunday’s closing of those seasons, the only major hunting seasons open will be for all species of geese through Feb. 14. Squirrel season ends Feb. 28 and rabbit season remains open all year.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s special order season for snow geese, which has increased bag limits and reduced limitations as per equipment, will open Feb. 15.

There is also no closed season for hunting coyotes in Kansas.

Other updates

Some really good reports have come from several parts of the state for when the second segments of duck seasons opened again last Saturday. Many areas with open water, like rivers, streams, large reservoirs and private marshes with pumps, had stock-piled some sizable rafts of ducks.

Goose hunters are still saying it’s been a season of hits and misses. Geese are flocked up in huge numbers in some areas, while places that have held thousands of birds in past winters are all but barren of the birds.

No explanation is readily available, since there’s great habitat in most areas.

Still good reports for pheasant hunting, though the birds are getting more and more difficult to get to flush within shotgun range. Several hunters, especially those in the southern half of the state, have complained about not having at least one weekend of snow within which to pursue the birds.

It figures that significant snow is in the forecast for Monday

Don’t forget that entries are being taken for The Wichita Eagle’s 15th annual Great Outdoors Photo Contest. You can find more details at kansas.com/outdoors.

Oh, things have started to get a bit more interesting as per the outdoors in the Kansas legislature. There’s a bill in the system that would charge state park users and waterfowl hunters an extra $10 per permit or stamp. If approved, the money would go to help pay some things normally funded by general tax money.

Among problems with such a tax, is that such money would put federal subsidies in jeopardy. Also, hunters were just given a pretty significant price increase for about all of their permits and stamps. No doubt it would hurt state park attendance, too.

We’ll probably have more coverage of the bill if it gets additional traction in Topeka.

Upcoming coverage

Sunday’s Outdoors page is scheduled to have a hunting story about a pretty unique species of game bird in Kansas. They are scaled quail, and they live in some of the most arid portions of southwest Kansas. Friday, and maybe Saturday morning, I’m hoping to be afield with a native to that area who has hunted scaled quail for decades.

Down the road I have a couple of columns in mind, both of which I’ve thought about writing for several years.

One would be about finding big time outdoors experiences from some relatively small pieces of real estate or waters. Some of my best fishing trips have been on waters I could cast across. Some of my best deer, turkey an pheasant hunts have been on properties of around 20 acres or less.

I’m also wanting to do a column on how my mind wanders when I come across an ancient, abandoned homestead while out and about in Kansas. Since a child I’ve been fascinated by such ruins, and have spent many hours wondering what stories such places could tell.

Michael’s world

I continue to live a life better than I deserve, and I’m old enough to appreciate it that fact and thank many who’ve helped make it possible. All days are good, but some are even better.

Speaking of old enough, I’m now old enough to not totally dread the ending of duck and pheasant seasons. I guess it goes back to that old saying that’s something like “when one door closes, another door is opened.”

When those season close it will be time to start enjoying some early fishing and getting ready for gardening. Heck, spring turkey season begins only about six weeks after goose seasons end.

And there’s never a shortage of things I could be working on with Cade, our Lab puppy. Later this spring or summer he’ll spend a couple of months with a trainer, to learn a couple of things I don’t feel confident in teaching.

Six of us had a stellar duck hunt on Saturday morning in Reno County, with each of us shooting five drake mallards. We also got a few non-mallard ducks and a couple of Canada geese.

As well as lots of birds, one thing that made the hunt so memorable to me were the rugged hunting conditions. Don’t ask me why, but hunts when it’s seriously cold and windy usually mean more to me than if the sun was shining and it was calm.

Maybe it’s because I feel like I earn success more. Maybe it’s because the cold, and the chill it brings, just seems to make me feel more alive.

On my way to southwest Kansas I stopped in to see some friends and work on some photography for our files, and spend a little time looking for swift foxes. They’re about the size of a large domestic cat, but are amazing secretive. Many avid outdoors people I’ve met in western Kansas have never seen a live swift fox, though roadkills aren’t too uncommon.

One special memory from the stop was walking a patch of milo about as large as our lawn and shooting a true double of rooster pheasants, meaning both birds were in the air at the same time. As Cade worked them to hand, it occurred on me I hadn’t done that in quite a few years.

Not too surprisingly, I pulled it off with my favored pheasant gun, a 12 gauge Ruger Red Label over/under. I got the gun in 1985, when Ruger had an amazing disccout on the guns. Not long after I bought mine, which has fixed improved cylinder and modified chokes, they made the same guns with changeable choke tubes.

It patterns a particular brand of magnum fives very well. I shoot sixes when quail maybe in the area, too.

While my main goal on Friday and Saturday morning is to get good photos and material for a story on hunting scaled quail, I’d sure like the chance to take a bird or two. I haven’t done that in more than 25 years.

As I recall it was a limit of eight, and all were shot with a then much prettier Red Label.

No matter, I have wrinkles and it has scratches. Both just show we’re living good, active lives.

Bests,

Michael Pearce

mpearce@wichitaeagle.com

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