Hunters work to bag wary pheasants in Kansas

Nov 23 2010 - 5:20pm

KIOWA COUNTY, Kan. -- Class was in session, and Greg Wyrick had his students' full attention.

"Let's keep it quiet and spread out about 15 to 20 yards in the field," Wyrick said. "Go slow, and let the dogs work. Remember: The quieter we are, the better we'll do."

Seconds later, the three students loaded their shotguns and quietly stepped into one of the top bird-hunting classrooms in the nation.

Their timing was good -- it was only a few minutes into Saturday's opening day of Kansas pheasant season.

"I'm pretty excited about the number of birds we've been seeing this year," said Wyrick, a Bucklin, Kan., schoolteacher during the week and a hunting guide on weekends.

"I went for a drive the other evening and counted about 75," he said, "that was in about a mile-and-a-half" of his rural hunting lodge.

So it is across much of central and western Kansas.

But good hunting and easy hunting aren't the same.

Saturday's hunt started at three weedy areas of about 15 acres each. The first two each held a rooster pheasant that flushed well out of range.

The third held three roosters that seemed straight from the pages of a bird hunting magazine, rising only a few yards in front of the hunters -- neon in the early sunlight and eventually retrieved by a happy dog.

Guests Charles McCorkle, Jared Thomas and Mark McCloskey each shot one.

By day's end, all had their limits of four roosters.

They earned them all.

Much of Wyrick's hunting acreage consists of hair-thick Conservation Reserve Program grasses that often rise high above a hunter's head.

"We'll just spread out, go slow and do the best we can," Wyrick said as he led the hunters into a broad field of tall CRP grasses near his lodge.

Already a bit tired, the group waded into the field of dense switch, Indian and bluestem grasses, often having to lift their knees straight up to clear dense vegetation.

Birds were there, but not many wanted to reward the hunters for their efforts.

"They're sure spooky for opening day," Wyrick said as he watched several roosters flush more than 100 yards away.

After walking for about 30 minutes, Wyrick and his hunters reached a back road, where the dogs immediately headed to a puddle for a drink.

Only two birds had flushed within range on the walk.

After a short rest, Wyrick headed to the lodge to make lunch while his son, Jordon, and friend, Cody Davis, led the three hunters on another walk.

This time, the roosters were more accommodating.

Halfway through the walk, a rooster flushed about 20 yards out. A small cloud of colorful feathers drifted off as the bird fell hard to Thomas' second shot.

A few minutes later, Thomas cleanly killed another rooster about 40 yards out.

McCloskey and McCorkle doubled on another bird a few minutes later.

Their six birds gave the hunters a half-limit in a half day of hunting.

"That's not too bad, considering," Wyrick said.

The group jumped at the chance for an early lunch at about 11:30 a.m.

After a little post-lunch rest, the group attacked more dense fields and found a mother lode of pheasants on one great walk.

Even after missing several shots, each of the three hunters had their daily limit.

And there's little doubt the rest of the season looks bright, too.

"I think it'll be a good season," Wyrick said. "I'm really looking forward to when we get some snow. That's when I really like it. They hold a lot better then."

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