Kansas 2020 report
This is the fourth year I have traveled to Kansas in early January to bird hunt on Walk In Access Areas (WIHA's) and other forms of public access. Like previous trips, this year's experience was a great success on several counts. We burnt a lot of calories, the dogs and I, walking great expanses of prairie grasses, stubble fields and abandoned farmsteads looking for bobwhite quail. We re-affirmed old friendships and made some new ones. We saw vistas, wildlife, and a rural culture different from what we enjoy at home. Most importantly, we were immersed in the experience with several other Ryman type English Setter breeders and their dogs. That... that experience with other breeders and their dogs, is the real reason for the trip. Several of us have known each other at various levels over the years, be it joint breeding efforts, travel/hunting together, correspondence or the like. Others are new to breeding or perhaps new to our group. As a group, we have a low key but important emphasis on spending time afield with each other to see and experience each other's dogs. We all love to hunt, but its not a hunting trip. Its a dog trip in a hunting context. Rest assured the dogs are not concerned with parsing out such obscure differences. They are there to hunt. Evenings focus on discussion of breeding topics commonly identified in the weeks prior to our gathering. For me, it's incredibly constructive. I wish this experience was available when I bred my first setter 30 years ago. So far, the time of year and location has been very conducive to our purposes. It does not displace everyone's individual fall hunting traditions. Kansas, sometimes with special effort, is in traveling range of everyone in the group. The winters are fairly open, with mild temperatures and little snow. Wild birds are there on land open to hunting. The areas we frequent offer bobwhite quail, pheasants and prairie chickens. Nothing in this is a gimme though. More than half of the roads are unimproved dirt. If there is a little rain, or an inch of snow melts, those dirt roads are impassable. Kansas mud sticks to everything. By January the birds have been pressured hard and feeding or roosting in WIHA's. Last year's trip yielded the best numbers of quail, this year's trip, the worst. Like other hunting and fishing trips, this one owes the participant only two things, the opportunity to be there, and the opportunity to try. The trying was great, I can't wait to go back. Thanks to my friends Fran Thompson and John Nagel. They let me use their photos for this post. They both have a great eye for composition, as well as good logistical skills. They took some great photos, while I took note not to forget the camera charger for the next time!