Entries are coming in at a steady pace for The Wichita Eagle’s 14th annual Great Outdoors Photo Contest, though an earlier entry period may be leading to fewer entries than past years. The deadline for photos submitted by e-mail, mail or dropped off at The Eagle is 5 p.m. on Jan. 22. That’s next Thursday.
Last week’s cold and snow led to some pretty impressive pheasant hunts in some areas of central Kansas, as the birds were forced into the best habitat they could find for food and shelter. I heard of several limits being taken, and some larger groups getting 20 or more birds per day. Quail reports remain pretty strong, too, over much of the southern half of Kansas, from the Chautauqua Hills out to the Red Hills and westward.
Waterfowl hunters are largely a bit befuddled, reporting the populations seem to come and go. Many are hoping the forecast of a significant warm up brings some ducks and geese northward, from wintering areas in Oklahoma and Texas. Old waterfowl logic from decades ago in central Kansas has said it takes three days with highs in the 50s to get the birds heading back this way. Several times I’ve seen that old adage ring true, though.
Sunday’s Outdoors page will take a look at some of the good to great things that have happened during the on-going pheasant and quail seasons. Most of the story will be based on a good quail hunt a friend and I had Wednesday afternoon. How good? Would you believe eight different coveys in three hours of hunting? Honestly, I might not have believed it had I not been right in the middle of it.
I’ve been gathering material for a species-by-species fishing forecast for some Sunday down the road. I’ll be limiting it to public waters within about 100 miles of Wichita, but the report will include federal reservoirs, state lakes and even a few community lakes, if that’s where the fishing is the most promising.
Next week I’m hoping to combine some hunting and fishing in southeast Kansas, doing mallards in the morning and crappie in the afternoon. There are a lot of “ifs,” though. The ice needs to melt from the lake, ducks need to return to the area and the wind can’t be howling for us to get out to where the crappie live. It could be a fun story, though, if it works.
I’m also looking into a possible story about warm-water bass fishing in the middle of the winter and a small town that celebrates an often over-looked outdoors pastime - squirrel hunting.
We’ll have the winners from this year’s Great Outdoors Photo Contest on the Feb. 1 Outdoors page.
Life is good, but not quite as good as it’s been for my 12-year-old outdoors buddy, Jake. Last week he found out he’d gotten all As for the first semester at El Dorado Middle School. That was a first for him, as was participating in a dance Friday evening at the school. (He seems to be looking at girls quite a bit differently than he did last year.)
Then Saturday morning he shot a nice turkey while hunting with me and Saturday evening got to help serve a variety of wild game meats at Ed Markel’s wild game dinner for about 150 people in Pretty Prairie. Jake had furnished much of the venison and half of the goose.
Wednesday’s upland bird hunts with Tom Tuner were a lot of fun, and took me back to several decades when pheasants and quail were the most important quarries I pursued, except for wild turkeys. In a year or so I’ll probably be getting a little more into the upland bird side of hunting. It’s a lot of fun, and I always need the exercise.
Believe it or not, some of my worst physical conditioning of the year comes at the end of hunting seasons after months with few, if any trips to the gym, and an often irregular diet and sleep patterns. This is probably the first time in my life I’ve been ready for the seasons to end so I can get to other pastimes and back into the gym and get my body back into some kind of physical shape.
No doubt one reason why I’m not as enthused as most seasons is because of the lack of a dog. Hank, my Lab, is still around, but he can’t do much afield. Basically he’s just there and doesn’t have the eye sight left to mark a bird’s fall or the physical ability to travel far for a retrieve. I’ll take him out a few more times for abbreviated hunts over the next few weeks, and that’ll probably do it for him. Great career, though. As long as he’s happy to just hang around the house, the house and yard will be there for him.
I’m also spending quite a bit of time getting ready for the Wichita Sport Show, Jan. 29-Feb. 1. As well as manning the booth where the public can vote on the Great Outdoors Photo Contest, I’ll be doing several wild game cooking demonstrations, and promoting our outdoors cookbook. It’ll be a busy, but fun time, I’m pretty sure.