The outdoors has special meaning to me. I caught my first fish at age 4 and shot my first duck at age 9. Nearly four decades later I still get excited when I get to spend any time outdoors. A lot has changed during that time but the anticipation and experiences are still similar and just as exciting. It’s a great place to be....Read More
These days I enjoy many different types of hunting. I’m an avid, some might say rabid, waterfowler. I love to bowhunt and have traveled the country doing so for various big game species, although I’m fairly content with Kansas whitetails and turkeys now. And when it’s not hunting season I’m usually fishing. I love to fish for walleye, crappie and channel catfish. I’m at home on the front of my boat on a big reservoir or wading a small Flint Hills stream. It’s all good.
Throw in a recent bout with the trapping bug and decades of camping with family and friends and it’s obvious I have an addiction for the outdoors.
Many of my most memorable outdoor experiences in recent years have centered on those with my children. My 18-year-old daughter and twin 12-year-old boys have been a major part of my outings. Watching their eyes light up as they realize the wonders of Mother Nature and her bounty likely has even more meaning than my own personal satisfaction. Spending quality time with them outdoors carries significant and substantial meaning, no matter what we’re doing.
In this Blog I’ll attempt to relay some of the enjoyment and satisfaction I get from being outdoors. Topics covered will be broad in scope and run the gamut. It’s all fair game. If you can sit at your computer and read a particular entry and it stirs you to try it, or helps make your experience more enjoyable, I will be pleased. And if it does nothing more than make you smile or laugh that too, will please me. The outdoors is truly a great place to be!
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
You can bet any adult hunter remembers their first firearm and many of them likely still own it whether it's a beat-up, rusty old pump shotgun or something a little nicer. Even if it's been "retired" it likely still has a place of honor in a gun cabinet with fond memories recalled every time it's handled.
My first gun was a Savage over-and-under with a .22 rifle barrel on top and a .410 shotgun barrel below. It had a hammer and could only be cocked with my dad's permission. That made shooting at escaping pheasants or quail nearly impossible so bagging the occasional rabbit, squirrel or hedgeball was the highlight of many early hunts.
Up until this summer my twin boys and I shared a .22 rifle for squirrel hunting. Or more accurately, I'd tag along and supervise their use of the firearm and they'd try their hand at shooting squirrels. The boys turned 16 years old this spring and they were ready for their own firearm. So I bought a Savage Mark II bolt action .22 for them to share (another pitfall of being a twin) when we hunted as both boys don't often go on the same hunt. And frankly Cody's interest in hunting is higher than his brothers right now so in effect it became "Cody's gun."
Cody was excited about the new gun and helped sight it in. A nice scope was included and the combination would no doubt be perfect for squirrel hunting. The accu-trigger took a bit of getting used to in practice but it shot nice groups. Cody couldn't wait to try it out on a recent, muggy morning.
We eased into the timbered creek bottom right after first shooting light and hit the squirrel call. Immediately, we got a response from two different squirrels. Unfortunately, Cody was screened from them and couldn't shoot. I killed them both and we eased down the creek.
Ol' dad finished up with his 5-squirrel limit shortly and we shot a few photos. We cleaned all 10 squirrels at a low water crossing in a scenic Flint Hills stream and placed them in a cooler for the ride home.
The next evening both boys and I dined on fried squirrel, fruit salad and a big ear of fresh sweet corn. Everyone asks what squirrel tastes like and the easy answer is "chicken." But even more accurately, young squirrel tastes like frog legs although everyone says these also taste like chicken. It's a vicious circle, but good nonetheless.
Cody will continue to use this .22 on future squirrel hunts and it will likely become "officially" his at some point down the road. Regardless, he'll remember this outing and the gun he used for years...just like every other hunter that's been down the same path in the great outdoors.
Thursday, May 7, 2015
May is wonderful for lots of reasons, but one of my favorites is walleye fishing. And it doesn't get much better than right now. Walleye are done spawning and move to shallow water to feed making them readily accessible and often predictable. Many fish are caught in 4-18 feet of water and a variety of techniques produce well. Some anglers like trolling with crankbaits while others like fishing a nightcrawler, either associated with a jig, spinner or Slow Death rig of some sort. When it's really on, the nightcrawler is generally the common denominator for those fishing live bait.
The 2015 Kansas Fishing Forecast ranks the Top 3 reservoirs for catching walleye as Webster, Kirwin and Cedar Bluff. Marion, El Dorado, Cheney, Glen Elder and Wilson reservoirs follow in descending order. However, other reservoirs not near the top, and smaller Kansas waters, can often produce good catches of walleye so don't rule those out, either.
May is a great month to chase these tasty perch. So whether you hope to set the next state record, or just enjoy fishing for fun, now is the time to get your 'eye on and give it a try. But you better hurry because there's only three more weeks left in May! If you can't make it now, the good news is June isn't too bad, either!
Friday, April 17, 2015
|Hurry up, Dad, these things are heavy!|
Cody's first outing a couple days prior was a bust. I consider it a good day if we can at least hear turkeys on the roost, see a few and if we get to work a bird that's a bonus, even if we don't kill it. We had none of that his first hunt but Sunday would make up for it.
We eased up to the blind and were barely inside when we heard the first gobble of the morning. It would be followed by dozens and dozens more until it got light. The gobblers sounded off, occasionally, once they hit the ground but it was apparent they had the real-deal girlfriends in their midst.
Undaunted, Cody and I both kept calling. It wasn't long and we got the attention of a raucous, rowdy hen, possibly the most audible one I've ever heard. She yelped, non-stop and LOUD, from a couple hundred yards all the way into our blind location. It was fun to watch and cool to listen to her before she flew across the creek.
A short time later we heard something fly back across to our side of the creek. I assumed it was her as she'd gone silent, but we heard another fly across followed by others. I called softly and got a thunderous gobble just to our left. I peaked out the window and saw four longbeards and two jakes in full-strut and a few hens just out of range. Unfortunately, the hens were feeding away from us and the gobblers followed.
|Wow, that was a poke! Two, actually!|
The two jakes were content to stay mostly in one spot wondering if they should come check out our lone hen decoy. It didn't take any convincing for them to come do battle with five more jakes, none of which were colored up or strutting, that were headed to our decoy from the other direction. Unfortunately, on their first pass they didn't venture by close enough for a shot.
After the dust-up, the two jakes, still strutting, eased back towards their group and skirted our decoy. I asked Cody if he wanted to shoot one and he said, "YES!" He got lined up and he shot a bird in full strut and it dropped in its tracks.
"Awesome!" he hollered.
|This is better than an Easter egg hunt!|
That turkey hunt will be Cody's last as an official "youth" as next year he'll be too old. The youth season for turkeys and other species has created more wonderful memories than I ever could have imagined. Each and every hunt was as magical as finding an Easter egg filled completely with M&M's!
Thursday, April 9, 2015
My boys were off of school that day and Cody was game for an early morning turkey hunt as this is the last year he qualifies as a "youth." However, I would start second-guessing our plans in the middle of the night when the storm came rolling through. Wind gusts of 80-90 mph and hail the size of quarters found me nearly waking all of my family to head to the basement. But a couple of them heard the racket (while two slept through the entire event) and we checked the radar and didn't see any warnings.
Undaunted, we arrived to find the wind still howling, but actually not too bad in the blind's location and it was indeed still standing. However, after three hours of calling, hearing nary a peep, we were about ready to leave when Cody spied a couple birds off in the distance. Confirming them as hens we picked up and chalked one up to next time.
But by afternoon the Kansas weather had moderated and turned into a wonderful spring day. I was scheduled to assist with our KDWPT youth turkey hunt in Hutchinson and the evening promised to be a good one.
I was guiding an 11-year-old youngster named Jaggar. He had participated in the KDWPT youth deer hunt in Harper County last fall and I was with him then when he killed a nice doe, his first deer ever. This would be his first turkey hunt, too.
We arrived at our blind location to the sounds and sights of turkeys. Jaggar's eyes were wide as we sneaked into position and got into our blind unseen. A few calls and less than 5 minutes later we had turkeys headed our way.
The first one was a bearded hen, followed by another hen, sans the "facial" hair. I told Jaggar to try
It wasn't too long and more hens came by. Jaggar kept asking if any of them had beards and I told him that wasn't too likely as his first bird, the bearded hen, was somewhat unique. But a group of hens this time of year doesn't stay lonely long and a tom came over the hill from our left and sidled up to the quintet of hens.
Jaggar got repositioned to shoot left and he would have to shoot through the blind's mesh. Once he got in position and ready he shot.
"I got him!" Jaggar hollered.
The big bird flopped a couple times and was still. We had been in the blind less than 90 minutes and Jaggar had a hunt many kids, or adults for that matter, could only dream of.
The two hunts I got to witness that day were night and day different. It just goes to show you that you have to be in the woods for anything good to happen. And if it doesn't go according to plan, it makes those times when it does all that much more memorable and that was certainly the case this day.
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
During that time there have been few changes to the curriculum of the Kansas Hunter Education Program. It still focuses on creating a safe, responsible, educated and ethical hunter and gives any student all the information they need to enjoy hunting and the outdoor world.
To date, the Kansas Hunter Education Program has certified nearly 536,000 students since the
There have been several changes related to the Kansas Hunter Education Program and the first one happened about a decade ago. It allowed any youngster to go hunting, provided they were supervised by an adult, without having to complete the course. And the minimum age to become certified as a student was 11 years old.
However, since they turn 16 years old today, they had to take the Kansas Hunter Education Course and they did this past weekend. I chose the Internet-assisted course where they studied and tested online and then participated in a field day followed by the final test to complete the rest of the course and receive their certification. The Internet option is also relatively new (rather than the standard 10 hours of classroom instruction) and a great way for busy families to complete the course.
When we got home I gave each son a Kansas lifetime hunting license I'd purchased in 2005 (before they increased in price from $300 to $440) as an early birthday present for their 16th birthday. They were thrilled and proud as they stowed this and their Kansas Hunter Education card in their wallets.
Who knows, maybe they'll hold on to theirs for the next four decades and be able to tell their own kids, my grandkids, about the Kansas Hunter Education Program and its success. Regardless, I'm proud to know they'll get to enjoy the great outdoors. Here's hoping they enjoy it even half as much as I have since I was their age.
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
However, North America's largest rodent can cause substantial tree damage and their dams can flood agricultural and other prime land holdings making a giant, sometimes monetarily-significant, mess. Like other furbearers, the control of their populations is necessary and beneficial in ordinary situations, but absolute where they're causing damage.
So when a friend e-mailed me complaining of beaver problems I was eager to assist. It seems beavers had built a couple dams and were backing water up where it didn't belong and worse yet, they were chewing down trees nightly. While most of the seasons for other furbearers ended in mid-February, the beaver season runs through the end of March. So I loaded up a few beaver traps last weekend to see if I couldn't help him out and get rid of a few beavers.
The tree damage was easily visible along the creek and the dams were substantial. After a little
I had to go back to my vehicle to get my setters/tool to reset the trap with the beaver in it. In the meantime, I saw my friend driving by and asked him if he wanted to see how quickly I had worked on his beaver problem.
"Did you catch one already?" he asked in disbelief.
"I did!" I replied.
"I might have another one," I said as I walked over to it.
My suspicions were confirmed when I pulled that stand up and another 35 pound beaver was dead in that trap. In a matter of minutes I'd caught more than 70 pounds of beaver and I was off to a good start in removing the animals causing the problems.
Friday, February 27, 2015
You have to be a little dedicated, or a little crazy, or some of both, to fish year-round, in Kansas. But that's all I know and some of the best fishing trips of the year, especially for crappie, take place in December, January and February.
Granted, I'm not as die-hard as I once was as I used to fish in snow and sleet, provided the wind didn't howl. Wind is the biggest limiting factor and too much is exactly that in the winter. Now that I'm older and wiser (maybe tired and lazy), I don't fish in those conditions any more. But in Kansas, even in the middle of winter, we have enough nice days to pick and choose and find at least a couple a month to hook up the boat and head to the lake. Granted, we're often bundled up in full winter gear of coveralls, coats, stocking hats and gloves, but you have to when the temp's are still in the 20's and 30's. I prefer 40's and 50's, but you have to work with what Mother Nature deals you.
Ice is also a limiting factor. While some anglers love ice fishing, I'm not a fan. Actually, I'm not a fan of BAD ice fishing. I love GOOD ice fishing, but when it's not it's far-fetched for me to believe something good is going to happen in that 8-inch column of water I'm covering. That's why I'd rather be sitting on the front of my boat. It's comfortable and way more mobile.
That's exactly what a few friends and I decided to do recently just prior to this round of winter weather. We loaded up a couple boats and headed out to a nearby reservoir shortly after lunch. My buddies had been catching plenty of crappie and this would be my first trip out in a month or so. I would soon be glad I made the trip.
We had to break rotten ice much of the way to our intended destination in the upper end. Our plan was to fish river channel breaks and finding a brush pile on said location would be a bonus. We hit a couple spots where they'd caught them previously and caught only a handful of smaller crappie with one decent-sized 11 incher.
It wasn't long and my buddies in the other boat managed to find some hungry fish. They didn't mind sharing and we eased up and started catching crappie, too. We were fishing 13-17 feet of water as we dropped 1/8-ounce jigs to the bottom and reeled up one crank. The color of plastics didn't seem to matter as black and pink, blue and chartreuse and several other combinations produced fish.
Each boat had dozens of crappie to clean and a mess for everyone to take plenty home. None of the fish were huge and my boat had nothing over 12 1/2 inches. Most crappie were 10-11 1/2 inches and in my book those are perfect eaters. One small fillet, dipped in Andy's Yellow or Shore Lunch batter and deep-fried, is a bite-sized morsel fit for a King. I'll have to savor the flavor of these last few fillets until I get another chance to go as it's always fishing season!