Kansas pheasant and quail

This story actually began in September, 1999, when I drew tags
to hunt elk in New Mexico and whitetail deer in Kansas during that
state’s September muzzleloader season. After completing my elk hunt
I drove to Liberal, Kansas, which is in the southwest part of the
state, to meet with Jeff Louderback, a young rancher who was just
entering the outfitting business.

I was fortunate enough to take a dandy buck on that trip, but
being a bird hunter, I could not help but notice the number of
roosters I heard crowing each morning and evening as I sat on my
deer stand. I asked Jeff about it and he said that both pheasant
and quail numbers were very high in the area. I’ve encountered
these situations before, only to find that most of the birds are on
private property where either no hunting is allowed or a high
trespass fee is required to hunt.

“Any chance of a guy like me coming down from Minnesota,
knocking on doors and getting permission to hunt these birds,” I
asked.

“No need to ask,” Jeff replied. “Most of the roosters you hear
cackling are on walk-in- hunting-areas. Anyone can hunt them. And
the hunting is good, too.”

I tucked that information away in my brain for future
reference.

This year I drew a Kansas archery tag and made my way to Jeff’s
place on Thanksgiving Day. In addition to my bow and all of my deer
hunting gear, I had my well-traveled 20 gauge Model 12 Winchester
behind the seat and Meg, our 10-year old Brittany riding shotgun.
Just in case I got lucky and tagged a buck early in the trip, I
wanted a crack at some of those Kansas birds. As it turned out I
was fortunate enough to take a beautiful buck on the fourth evening
of my hunt, which left me with a day and a half for bird hunting.
Meg and I made the most of it.

The Kansas Walk-In-Hunting-Area (WIHA) program is one of those
simple government programs that really works. Farmers who have
idled acres under the Conservation Reserve Program and have seeded
the idled acres to good wildlife grasses are paid a few dollars
more per acre to allow the public to hunt on these acres. The
fields are well marked and maps of the location of the fields are
available from the Kansas Department Of Wildlife and Parks, and are
usually available from license outlets, although the Wal-Mart store
in Liberal, Kansas, where I bought my license was out of them.

Such easy access had me concerned that the WIHA’s had been
hunted hard, since the season was already a couple of weeks old
when I arrived, but this was not the case. I only saw one other
hunter during my stay; he was from Minnesota as well.

The fields I hunted showed no sign of having been hunted hard.
There were no dog or human tracks in the pocket gopher mounds, no
empty shell casings and no litter along the roads where hunters
would have parked, all signs I monitor to indicate the amount of
hunting pressure an area has received. When I mention this to Jeff,
he just laughed.

“I’ve got a 450-acre WIHA right next to my house,” he said.
“Once in a while you see someone walk the edge of it along the
road, but most years I don’t see anyone actually hunt the whole
field. The fields are so big, most hunters just hit the edges and
go to the next field.”

Jeff was right about the size of the fields. Meg and I hunted
three of them, all within a few miles of Jeff’s, and the smallest
field was over 300 acres in size; the largest covered nearly an
entire section. For a Minnesota hunter accustomed to making do with
small sloughs, skinny ditches, and even skinnier fencelines, having
that cover stretching in front of us was a wonderful sense of
freedom.

The pheasants and quail are not thick, but there are just enough
of them to make for excellent hunting if you don’t mind walking for
your birds. On that first day, Meg and I hunted alone, and in four
hours of hunting we saw eight roosters. Three of the roosters
flushed out of range, one I missed, and the other four ended up in
the cooler for the ride back to Minnesota.

We also had a trio of bobwhite quail in the bag. I quickly
learned that quail like to hang out around brush. When I would spot
a plum thicket growing in the CRP, I would direct Meg in that
direction and about half of the time we would find a covey of quail
either in the plum thicket or nearby. When I got back to Jeff’s
that afternoon, Joe Ballew and his pointer, Tom, joined Jeff and I
for a late afternoon quail hunt. Although we did not fill our
limits of eight each, we came close and managed to blunder into a
couple of bonus roosters as well.

The season on quail and pheasants is open until the end of
January in Kansas. From what I saw regarding the number of birds
and lack of hunting pressure, I would expect January to provide
excellent opportunities.

Jeff Louderback has a spacious trailer home in which you and
your buddies can stay. You can hunt on your own and do your own
cooking, or if you wish, Jeff will guide you and provide a cook.
Just let him know what you are looking for and he will accommodate
you. His phone number is (620) 626-5333.

More information

Daily bag limit is four pheasant and eight quail. Possession is
four times the daily limit.

License cost is $65.50

Season dates: Nov. 11 to Jan. 31.

Kansas Department Of Wildlife and Parks (316) 672-5911. Web:
www.kdwp.

state.ks.us

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