Opening day in Kansas occupies a sacred place for me since this is the territory where my upland obsession really took hold years ago. The bulk of the state has a dismal bird forecast like much of the rest of the Midwest this year. There are some bright spots which have been deemed the north central and northwest portions of the state.
My dad has joined this leg of the hunt which centers around a small town where the residents and the public hunting grounds have become familiar friends. For the last five years this has been where dad and I reunite and share the love of the outdoors and hunting which he sparked in me as a youngster. I have hunted in this part of the state for over 15 years either solo and with other hunting buddies.
We are in the north central part of the state and contrary to the predictions, pheasant numbers are low this year. So hunters chasing forecasts who selected this area will likely be sorely disappointed.
The locals have been convinced that pheasant numbers are down due to the thriving coon population. Last year the pheasant numbers were low due to the “damn redtail hawks” if you buy the area gossip. But if you ask a few questions of local farmers a much more likely scenario becomes obvious. There was an extremely wet Spring . The rains started the beginning of May and according to most National Weather Service reporting stations in the area they received nine or more inches of precipitation for the month. So declare war on raccoons if you must, but the truth is the nests were flooded, abandoned or just generally soaked.
A bright spot is that the Bobwhite have made a small comeback from previous years. Why did quail nests not get sogged? I believe they choose to lay in areas less susceptible to the rain, under trees and in better shelter.
The bulk of the Roosters in the area are the educated two-year olds. Hunting has been challenging but we’ve seen our share of birds. Our black lab Wyatt continues to work really well and give us opportunities, albeit less frequent than years past.
The cooler won’t be full when we leave the state, but the memory bank certainly will be: we’ve gotten an assist from hawk, dad has gone ass over elbows in a hole with his untested knee replacement, he had safety “issues” and missed a gimme rooster at 10 yards, we located and patterned a big new covey of Prairie Chicken, more safety fumbling when he stumbled into a covey of quail, nearly crapped his pants when stepping on a hen this morning, AND there still are six days left to hunt.
It’s gonna be a great week and no amount of coons or rain can change that.
My partner and I are driving from Virginia for the first time to hunt birds in Kansas the first week of the season. We both have GSP’s trained on quail. Any suggestions?
The good news is for the last several years the Bobwhite numbers have been rebounding in Kansas. The state’s forecast in Kansas are generally fairly accurate compared to many other states. The Southeast portion of the state has historically been considered the area where numbers are densest. Coming from VA, I’d say the biggest thing you and the dogs will encounter will be the different habitat. You can expect plum thickets and heavy juniper culverts to shelter birds……I’d look for those types of cover near food and water. Now, if you’re going to go after pheasant instead, understand the Kansas birds don’t play a gentleman’s game, they are runners. It can take quail dogs a bit of adjusting to understand that if they lock down on first scent there is a good chance that bird will have run out the end of the field. Try to help your dogs by trapping birds, hunting to hard edges.
Have a great time. Kansas residents are salt-of-the-earth, always a good time, wonderful upland state.