Michael Pearce

New grass emerging on burned praire

A week to the day after a massive wildfire swept through much of Barber County, the first green specks of new grass began peaking above ground Wednesday morning. Bo Rader, the Eagle’s chief photographer, and I saw scattered specks of green when we got to the area at around 10 a.m.. By the time we left a little after 5.p.m., it was like the blackened pastures were wearing a green, 5 o’clock shadow.

Most of the region recieved three to four-inches of snow early Sunday morning, which helped extinguish many areas still burning and brought some needed moisture to get the prairie growing again. As of Wednesday afternoon Barber County fire fighters were being called to put out a few areas that were flaring up, like downed trees and stumps. For the most part, though, the fire that burned about 400,000 acres is considered extinguished.

More updates

The first reports of morel mushrooms popping up have come from eastern Kansas, though the up and down temperatures may hinder things for a while. At least most areas have gotten enough moisture to get some mushrooms growing.

Fishing reports are spotty, as they often are this time of the year. I’ve heard better reports for fishing the walleye spawn at Cheney Reservoir than at El Dorado, though no really huge fish.

Speaking of huge walleye, there’s a photo of a guy with about a 16-pounder that’s allegedly the new state record caught at Cheney. It’s a hoax, and a fish that was caught in Nebraska last year. It is a heck of a fish, though.

Turkeys are getting spread out across the countryside. I took a few hours off on Tuesday and put a blind by food plot near Leon, where I hope to be doing some photography and maybe an article. Things looked good when there was a lone tom there when I arrived, and two more headed in that direction as I was leaving. But that evening the ranch biologist saw 30 to 40 in one group on the plot, which would indicate they’re still in some big flocks. I checked another property I help manage near El Dorado that evening and saw from one to six toms at the three places I checked. It looks like there’s a pretty good crop of two-year-old toms, which always helps hunting success. They’re the turkey world’s equivalent of 15-year-old boys. They’ll fall for about anything if girls are involved.

Upcoming coverage

Sunday’s Outdoors page feature will be on Jack Mull’s attempt to create the best private fishery in Kansas. He has about 45 acres of ponds and lakes in southern Rice County, that’s north of Hutchinson. As well as ideal habitat, and plenty of great water, he’s really pouring the food to the fish. One of favorite things to feed them is fathead minnows, which is commonly done, and a particular kind of tropical fish. Mull said the warm-water species reproduces quickly, but can’t survive a Kansas winter so there’s no threat that they’ll over populate his waters. He also likes experimenting with some species of fish not normally associated with Kansas ponds and private lakes.

Sunday’s page may have an article on how some buffalo in the Gyp Hills did when faced with last week’s on-coming fire. As the rancher said, “You know, it’s not the first time in history buffalo have had to deal with a prairie fire.”

Down the road a bit I’m hoping to take a look at some of the waters in the state’s Fishing Impoundments Stream Habitats program that leases private waters for the public to fish. They range from ponds not much bigger than puddles to 50-acre watershed lakes, with several streams and rivers. It should be some fun “research.”

Michael’s world

Sorry for the lack of a newsletter last week. I was just getting into it on Thursday when we decided to head to Barber County, largely to see what the fire had done on Wednesday. I can honestly say, without exaggeration, that it was unlike anything I thought I’d ever see in Kansas. For the first time in my life I’d seen true “scorched earth,” since most things were burned to the soil and the wind and taken away any ashes.

While there were unfortunately losses in the hundreds of head of cattle, maybe thousands, I was surprised last week to see some herds on burned areas. Talking with ranchers, and others in the area, I was impressed with how much wildlife people were seeing even the morning after the fire passed. The most common reports were of coveys of quail. I’ve had numerous reports of deer and some ranchers say they’ve flushed lesser prairie chickens from their burned pastures. We had an article in Saturday’s newspaper on how wildlife deals with such fires.

I’ll kick off this spring’s turkey hunts when I take a Big Sister/Little Sister pair on a hunt near Leon. Since it’s youth season, only the girl will be holding a shotgun. I guess they’ve been on several turkey hunts but have yet to get a shot. Unfortunately the Big Sister is getting a job transfer out of state so they won’t have a lot more time together in the field. I’m pretty sure I can show them turkeys, but nothing is guaranteed other than I’ll do my best to show them a great time. Where we’re hunting is very pretty, and they should see deer, too.

I need to shoot my bow this weekend to make sure I’m ready when archery turkey season opens on Monday. Since my shoulders are giving me a twinge of trouble I’ve backed the poundage down on my bow to 55 pounds. That will be more than enough to take down a turkey, if I do my part of putting the arrow where it belongs.

If the weather is nice, I’m hoping to get a lot of work done in our yard on Saturday. I’ll watch the basketball games, and pull for OU to win it all. I’ve always liked Lon Kruger as a coach, especially his Kansas roots. That Buddy guy is a heck of a player, too.

Of course I’d rather KU at least make it to the Final Four, but all teams, and coaches, are due a bad game. When that bad game comes in a tournament, you’re done. As well as winning some prestigious tournaments, they ended their regular schedule first in their conference and the nation.

That takes a pretty impressive effort to accomplish, the occasional bad game or not.

Bests,

Michael Pearce

mpearce@wichitaeagle.com

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