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

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Birthdays mean different things to different people.  As I get older, they don't have the same meaning as they used to, although I'm certainly glad to keep having them as the alternative isn't good.  Youngsters are always glad to celebrate a birthday as that often means presents, cake and ice cream, usually in that order.

While many birthday presents for youngsters these days often center around electronics or video games, there are still a few kids who cherish those gifts related to the outdoors.  I remember getting a few during my adolescence and they were some of the most memorable, both big and small.  I met a youngster recently, Hunter, who will likely have a similar memory after a winter crappie ice fishing trip on the docks at Pomona's Lighthouse Bay Marina. 

"I'm 12 but I'll be 13 in three days," Hunter said at the time.  "I got this fishing pole from my mom and her boyfriend and they gave it to me early so I could use it."   

And use it he did.  The youngster caught several nice crappie and took them to the adjacent dock to put in his other family member's bucket.

"I got another one!" he hollered as he walked. 

After a half-dozen fish, Hunter's family was quick to follow him back to his honey hole, or actually holes.

"I caught one in this hole, that hole and that one, too," he pointed.

Hunter's enthusiasm was contagious and entertaining. 

"Fish ON!" he'd holler as he set the hook. 

Adult anglers around him were smiling and laughing each time he caught a fish.  Hunter was eager to share his secrets with his family and other anglers.  And the youngster was willing to share the wealth, too.  As he took off his most recent fish, he turned back around to see another youngster, much older and larger, fishing the hole where he just caught the fish.  The older kid began to reel up and was about to give the hole back when Hunter said, "That's okay, you can fish there.  I'll just fish this one over here."

The fishing rod and reel he'd received as an early birthday present was being put to good use.  His mom and her boyfriend signed the cork handle with loving birthday wishes.  The youngster will likely remember his 13th birthday for many years.  He was obviously enjoying the moment and it reminded me of my youth, too.  I smiled just watching him.

Here's hoping, Hunter, that you catch many more fish with that birthday present.  Happy Birthday, Hunter!

Thursday, January 9, 2014


The food chain is an interesting connection of all things natural.  Some animals eat plants and are in turn eaten by other animals that eat meat.  Generally, bigger animals eat smaller ones and the food web is often varied.  It's a unique relationship that's worked well for centuries, for the most part. 

But there's never been any doubt that many animals are opportunists, eating dead or decaying carcasses, and nothing in nature goes to waste.  After field dressing deer I've tossed the gut pile aside, only to return a day or two later and find it completely gone with nary a trace of anything left.  Mother Nature's animals are efficient beyond imagination.

I've always wondered about what animals are capitalizing on these offerings.  Over the past few years I've tried to find out just who or what is responsible for slicking up similar offerings of nasty leftovers and remnant scraps.  In order to do that I've placed trail cameras, both those that shoot video and still photos, on various carcass piles. 

On my most recent experiment I had a dozen or so cleaned goose and duck carcasses and the rib cage and legs of a deer carcass.  I wired all of the waterfowl to a stake and did the same with the deer leftovers.  It didn't take long for the pile of leftovers to be reduced to a pile of nothing but a few feathers. 

While coyotes are obviously an efficient scavenger and commonly observed, I've been absolutely amazed at the skunk activity.  One photo shows five skunks contentedly chowing down on venison and fowl.  I shouldn't say contentedly as some of the videos show in detail how skunks don't play well with others, even with other scavengers that could and do eat them.  Several videos show skunks, tails high in the air, bluff-charging both bobcats and more than one coyote on occasion.  And these apex predators want nothing to do with the black and white attitude and turn tail and run.  A honey badger has nothing on a skunk. 


There's only been one common denominator in all of these experiments.  Within a week or two, rarely more, the pile is reduced to absolutely nothing save a few traces of feathers or hair.  Mother Nature's garbage disposals are efficient.  It's kind of fun to watch, too, and I'd never really know how it worked without the cameras.  Nothing goes to waste and the food chain continues to function as intended.       

Friday, January 3, 2014


The new year is here and the 2013 duck season is history.  It was a great one for sure as both water and ducks returned to the Sunflower State once again and all was good in the duck hunters' world.  And so it was last weekend on the final days of the Kansas duck season I found myself ringside once again to send the 2013 duck season out with a bang.

I joined several friends, Jim, Matt and Ty for a big river hunt.  The morning was a brisk 23 degrees with a relatively fresh coating of snow blanketing the countryside.  The river had just opened back up after a stint in the deep freeze.  Conditions looked favorable for a wonderful morning with bluebird skies and a decent breeze.

But someone forgot to inform the ducks of our plans that morning.  Save a loan honker scratched from a group of geese flying the river at daybreak our pickings were relatively slim for the first two hours.  We saw a couple small groups of ducks but they were off in the distance and apparently had definite plans.

We had just got done discussing the "good ol' days" when huge flocks of greenheads, sometimes numbering in the hundreds would descend from the heavens and land in our spread.  It had been quite some time since we've seen that but our luck was about to change when Jim spotted a flock of mallards and they looked interested.  Soon, several smaller flocks became one and it numbered nearly 100 birds. 

Plenty of calling and several passes later some finally got close enough to go.  Guns blazed and ducks started falling.  Five greenheads floated in front of us as Trav, Jim's yellow Lab, hustled to get them slicked up.  Although we should have killed more from the flock we were in awe of the spectacle they just provided.  The mere site of those birds cupped and committed is still vividly etched in my mind.   

A short time later we had a flock of big Canada geese that acted interested in the full body goose decoys we had sitting nearby on the sandbar.  Jim and Matt started pleading with them to join us and the sounds of their calls convinced them to venture too close on one pass and we killed three nice honkers from the bunch.

And we weren't done with the ducks, either.  We were blessed with a repeat performance from another nice flock of mallards.  Although not quite as large, the results were the same and five mallards splashed down belly up.  We added another single a short time later and ended the morning with 11mallards and four big Canada geese. 

The morning shoot wasn't hot and heavy by any means.  Those two flocks of ducks really saved the day.  But the experiences of what few birds we worked will be enough to tide us over until our duck segment opens back up for a week at the end of this month.  We'll be back after them hoping more bluebird skies are filled with big greenheads and they're locked up.  Here's hoping the 2014 duck season starts the way the 2013 one ended.