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

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


I can remember taking the Kansas Hunter Education Course in 1974 when I was 9 years old.  It was like a rite of passage into the hunting world and I held on to my hunter education card and accompanying patch like it was gold.  While the sewn-on patch likely got tossed when I outgrew my first hunting vest, I still have the original card nearly 41 years later. 

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
program began 42 years ago.  The success of the program isn't possible without the support of roughly 1,200 volunteer instructors who donate their time and share their passion for hunting.  Many have decades of experience teaching the course and all take pride in seeing students take the course and go on to enjoy  and participate in hunting, no matter the species pursued. 

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.

This option opened the door for kids to get started hunting at an earlier age and I took full advantage of it.  My twin boys were 7 years old the first time they turkey hunted and sat between my legs as we leaned against a tree with their gun resting on shooting sticks in front of us.  Over the course of the next 8 years they participated in deer and waterfowl hunting, too, and enjoyed it all and were successful some years, and missed opportunities in others. 

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.
The boys learned a lot and I was happy to sit through the class again (for the third time as I also went through it with my daughter when she was 9 years old).  I'm always amazed at the enthusiasm of the instructors and applaud their efforts.   

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


Anyone that knows history is well aware of the value of beavers and the fur trade to settlement.  Historically, trapping and beaver hides were instrumental in the culture and bartering of early life on the Great Plains.  Today, although we don't use beaver pelts in trade, their presence is still much a part of rural and even urban Kansas and they are quite common in many locations. 

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
scouting I found their lodge and got busy setting a 330 body-gripping trap on a tall, H-stand to reach the bottom in one of two runs in 3 feet of water.  No sooner than I got the second one in place I saw the top of the other stand twitch like something hit it.  I had never caught a beaver that quick, nor seen one get caught, but assumed there would be much more commotion when it happened.  But there wasn't and the 35 pound beaver died quickly and humanely. 

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.

He wanted to see it so he followed me down the creek bank.  The beaver's tail was floating at the surface and while my friend said, "That's awesome you already caught one!" I glanced over and saw the second trap stand was moved out of position a few inches from where I'd set it. 

"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.  

The check the next morning would be successful as well.  I caught three more beavers and two of them were similarly sized to the ones the day before.  However, the last one was CONSIDERABLY larger than the others and later weighed a whopping 55 pounds.  In just two days I had five beavers weighing nearly 200 pounds.  Subsequently, three days of empty traps told me I might have solved his problem, at least for now.
I skinned all of the beavers and I'm in the process of fleshing, stretching and drying the pelts to send with the rest of my other furs to sell at auction in a couple weeks.  Trapping beavers is hard work, but rewarding in the fact I helped out a friend, while at the same time realizing a small monetary reward for my efforts, much like early settlers did way back when.