Paul Fuller is the gun dog columnist for Northwoods Sporting Journal. The Journal has granted permission to re-print Paul’s articles. Thank you Northwoods Sporting Journal.
Kansas immediately brings memories of heroic Matt Dillon swatting out the bad guys from Miss Kitty’s Long Branch Saloon in the forever-running TV giant, Gunsmoke. Matt Dillon was everything good and that’s how I pictured Kansas.
And, everything was good. Our last major bird-hunting trip of the season was to Stockton, Kansas. A 35-hour drive from New Hampshire’s seacoast, our travels to Kansas took us through ten states. The trip, however long, presented us with superb hunting for wild ring-necked pheasant and bob white quail. We couldn’t have been more pleased.
My wife, Susan, two shorthairs and I arrived in Stockton late afternoon on Sunday, November 13th. We stayed at the very pleasant Under The Son’s B & B, just a few miles south of Stockton. Preparing to meet Steve Ries and Cindy Findley of Iowa and John French of Kansas on the 15th, we took the 14th to scout the area. We soon discovered that their WIHA (Walk-in Hunting Access) program had numerous acres within just a few miles of Stockton. I should mention that Stockton is in the North Central region of Kansas and did not suffer from the summer’s drought as badly as other areas may have. Having said that, when we cast the dogs the morning of the 14th, we soon discovered the dry scenting conditions facing the dogs. Nevertheless, Susan and I, with the two shorthairs, scouted hunting areas until the remainder of our party arrived.
To set the stage appropriately, this is really an annual hunt we have with Steve Ries. Steve is a professional dog trainer and a field specialist for Native Dog Food. We know we’re going to have good dog work and serious hunting when we join up with Steve and his friends.
The first morning after Steve, Cindy and John arrived, we were absolutely thrilled to wake up and find an inch of snow on the ground. The fresh snow brought superior scenting to the fields and took the running shoes right off the ring-necks; they actually held for a point. And hold they did; we had at least one dozen pheasants hold perfectly for a point. If you’re looking for the 100 bird flushes one might see in South Dakota, then this isn’t your hunting. If, however, you’re a pointing dog advocate and looking for up to four or five flushes per point, and often singles, then Kansas is the right spot of you.
The terrain is fairly easy walking in Kansas but that doesn’t mean you won’t wear out some shoe leather. We walked about six miles per day. The cover we hunted was corn, sorghum and CRP (Conservation Reserve Program). With the snowfall, the dogs found the birds on the edges of both cover and feed. Since everyone was cold and wet from the snow, we quit hunting early afternoon with a harvest of five roosters and two bobwhites. Dogs and hunters were happy.
The next day, we concentrated our efforts on Mr. Bobwhite. Wild quail hunting was totally new to your scribe…and his wife and shorthairs. Fortunately, however, joining us this day was Dave Dahlgren, small game specialist for Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism. Dave knows quail. He helped us tremendously with locating cover and, therefore, locating quail. Every pointing dog enthusiast would enjoy this hunting. You couldn’t ask for a more cooperative bird for a pointing dog. Hunting until late morning, we located five coveys with each covey averaging 15 birds. For a New England grouse hunter, that’s a lot of birds during a morning of hunting.
If you might consider Kansas, let me offer some food for thought. We were very lucky with the snowfall. The snow improved scenting conditions substantially. In fact, the snow made our trip a success. Without the snow, the dogs would not have found all the birds that were pointed. We arrived in Kansas one day after the opening of bird season. If I were to make this trip again, I might consider a post-Thanksgiving trip when the chances of snow and/or rain might offer far superior hunting.
Here’s another suggestion. Not all of our hunting was on WIHA acres. We arranged to hunt some leased land through Mike Spielbusch of Mikey’s Outfitting. He can offer property that has not been pressured.