Turkey hunters looking for a prime spot have until Feb. 23 to apply for 100 special hunts sponsored by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. A recent press release said the hunts are fairly evenly divided between hunts for hunters of all ages, hunts where a mentor and child can both participate and those reserved for youth, though the youth (16 and under) must be accompanied by an adult.
Many of the hunts are on areas normally closed to general public hunting. For more information go to ksoutdoors.com/Hunting/Special-Hunts-Information.
This winter’s warm then cold, calm then windy, weather has been making things a bit challenging for fishermen. But those finding water open and calm enough to fish have been doing pretty well. Crappie have been the big thing at Oklahoma’s Kaw Reservoir, and the same have been caught in nice numbers and sizes at El Dorado and Toronto reservoirs.
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Birders report a bit of confusion with migrations. Some recent reports of ospreys and turkey vultures are several weeks ahead of schedule. Then again, a bird or two now means little compared to the many thousands that will probably come through Kansas at normal times.
Goose hunters are consistently pretty happy, which seems to be the way year after year once February rolls around. Most avid goose hunters I’ve visited with lately say some of their best hunts of the year come in February, as the birds begin to pair-up and think about heading northward to breeding grounds.
Sunday’s Outdoors page will have a preview of where anglers are expected to find the best fishing within about 100 miles of Wichita this year. The story is based on the annual fall test nettings by state fisheries biologists. Sean Lynott, a Wildlife and Parks fisheries supervisor, has helped translate the results of last fall’s testings.
Early next week we should have an online story about a special event that is drawing hunters from as far away as Texas to northeast Kansas for a fun competition. It’s the annual Tonganoxie Squirrel Scramble, a hunting contest started by a bunch of friends about nine years ago who were looking for something fun to do between deer and turkey seasons. It’s expanded annually, and now is even raising funds for local scholarships. The event is on Saturday, and won’t end until it’s too late to make Sunday’s Eagle. We’ll probably post in on kansas.com on Monday, and run the story on the following Sunday in print.
Down the road I’m hoping to do an article featuring some of the more unusual animals of Kansas, the ones most people don’t know live within our borders. Some that come to mind include flying squirrels, swift foxes, horned lizards and porcupines. It could be a fun story.
I’m also hoping to expand my horizons, and coverage, in a number of ways within the next few weeks. One goal is to get more videos attached to the stories I’m doing. We also want to do a series of how-to videos to help educate viewers and readers.
Last weekend was a busy, and successful one, at the Wichita Sports Show. For the 14th year the Wichita Eagle at a sizable booth promoting the Great Outdoors Photo Contest. Thanks to all who took the time to vote at the show, and to those who voted on kansas.com, too.
This year Bo Rader, our senior photographer, and I did eight wild game cooking demonstrations to help promote our “Taste of the Kansas Outdoors Cookbook.” We hit waterfowl and venison recipes pretty well, because those are the game animals that bring the most questions from the public. We also had demonstrations for fish and upland birds, including wild turkey, too. Bo manned a smoker/grill right outdoors from our booth while I did some cooking on a stove and oven set-up at the spot.
It was fun to see so many people get their best-ever experience eating wild game, prepared properly. A few who came to the 30 minute demonstrations hadn’t had good previous experiences with venison. They were pretty easy to swing around with some juicy, slow-cooked venison roast or teriyaki kabobs served with a piece of meat and a piece of fresh pineapple on a short section of skewer.
The book’s Peace Creek Duck recipe, which has marinated duck sauteed with fresh vegetables, was a hit, as was one of the grilled goose recipes. Probably the two most popular recipes were the Venison Hawaiian Sliders and the Jalapeno Catfish. The latter uses kettle cooked jalapeno potato chips, which stay crunchy when baked.
As always, it was great to see some familiar faces at the booth, and swap some hunting stories and talk about outdoors photography.
I’m hoping to make it up early enough to northeast Kansas to frost-seed some clover over a couple of food plots on our farm. Basically, that’s just spreading the seed on top of the ground and then letting the freezing and thawing of the soil work in the seed. It’s worked pretty well for me through the years, and sometimes is all I’ve needed to get clover growing on a food plot that was wheat or turnips the previous fall.
I’m trying to squeeze in a few goose hunts before the season ends on Feb. 15. Monday afternoon I had a fun, solo hunt near El Dorado in a corn field where the birds had been gathering for several days. I got my daily limit of six with a half-hour or so of daylight to spare. All were big geese. I have at least three more hunts planned, including a probably all day hunt on that last day of the season with Jake. Last year we planned on hunting all day, but the silly geese flew so well we both had our limits by about 11 a.m. We didn’t complain.
Ideally I’ll hunt a small pond near Walton at least one more time. It’s about the only place where I can take Hank, my old Lab. We can drive right to the water’s edge and there’s enough grass in the pasture to offer him some insulation as he waits with me. His favorite part, I think, is laying on a slight rise above the pond and watching me gather in the decoys at the end of the hunt.