Western Kansas Quail Hunting Food First
Western Kansas hunting is distinctive for its open ground. Seemingly easy unobstructed quail shooting.
Western Kansas is characterized by a lack of water. Low level occurrence of sand burs in isolated spots of cut wheat and nothing as found in other states. The likelihood of snake encounters increases on warm early seasons. That is part of truth in advertising. The rest of the snake story is few are seen. No reported snake bit dogs. That includes the two Association partners who have more years on this ground than others.
Pictures Are Deceptive
It may appear the Kansas hunting pictures that quail occupy every type of cover. That is not true. It will take more than one hunting season on the ground to figure this out.
The picture above is of a Kansas cattle pasture adjoining a crop field and wooded drainage. Pasture is not prime hunting cover, a point we will agree. In western Kansas however on select years when cattle have grazed of the grass down to dirt by mid summer and late fall rains brings weeds with their seeds then pasture becomes good hunting land. A food first understanding of why quail are where they are.
Western Kansas Differences
Western Kansas is different than the best quail land in large grain, meaning corn and soybean, country. Western Kansas is the land of milo and wheat. Large grains of soybean and corn will be limited to irrigated fields that dot the landscape. When pasture is good for hunting it is only good for those that gain direct experience with this cover. They will learn to read when the pasture is good. No short cut on this. This is an example how the self guided hunter will spend non productive hunting time gaining this experience.
The debate as to just hunt the milo fields and pass on the difficult Kansas hunting covers of the brush filled draw or pasture weed is simply about getting more dog work. An entire week of good hunting may be attained from crop edge hunting. Or, on any of the the other cover types. Kansas has plenty of it, meaning variety. Those that spend more than a week Kansas hunting over more than a couple of hunting seasons will gain that extra enjoyment of his dogs by hunting a variety of cover. That includes on the right years hunting in cattle vacant pastures.
Western, dryer and more open, Kansas hunting is a different kind of quail hunt because of crops.
Kansas has fewer trees, fewer corn and soybean fields. More variance in covey counts based on milo and wheat distribution. These last two fields offer one more private land hunter challenge. One that is specific to western Kansas hunting. That is last year's hot spot milo field may turn cold when next planted to wheat.
Western Kansas hunters know full well he will be driving more following crop rotation. Better farms will be those with cover divided fields. This is when a pasture, drainage or scrub area separates two grain fields that are in opposing rotations. With one side or the other in wheat and milo makes that a spot for every season hunting. What is more common is that with large farm all fields are on the same rotations schedule. This crop influenced covey finds is a source of much complaint from the novice Kansas hunter. Experienced hunters find crop rotation a hunting advantage.
Another Western Kansas Habitat
A dog on point in the tumble weeds - somewhere.
The weeds the hunter is pushing trough is a variant of tumble weed often seen in movies. It is thick for the hunter and dog while easily traveled by quail. The thick canopy of branches prevents the quail from flying leaving only a run to escape. This is a no shot point. This patch is huntable, but not easily. These weeds can grow in excess of 6 feet tall and too thick to walk through. The hope is by pushing the covey to run they will run into the grass for point to hunter flush.
And they did. This picture is but 50 feet from the earlier one. Mixed grass and tumble weed. The background cover looks deceptively open and void of quail habitat, a mistaken observation.
This plum thicket is easily hunted. That is not always the case. Kansas Plum like tumble weed can grow too thick and tight to walk through tot eh point of no success hunting. Any dog on point in a thicket of plum or tumble weed brings a groan from the hunter.
Quail Hunter Frustration
Quail hunter complaints about western Kansas hunting typically follow that hunting has turned bad.
These hunters will cite that where they found coveys and limits the previous hunting season are not to be found during the current hunt. They will blame hunter pressure, bad hatch or bad hunting Association lease land. They will not see that which is right in front of them. That is summer harvested and fall planted wheat fields produce just a fraction of coveys compared to fall harvested crops that leave during quail season waste grain food. Hence covey holding power. Or, at the macro level the upland bird hunting forecast indicators decline in one region while improving in another.
This same hunter will demand of the Association to track crop field planting rotation. They believe it is a simple thing for landowners to report what fields have the better crops. To have such a belief is to demonstrate a difference between hunter preferences for reality over that which exists. This concept of what is a reasonable Kansas hunting expectation is a battle for those that have limited wild quail experience.
The same hunter will believe it is the Association's responsibly to only lease and provide access to the better fields meaning those with milo over wheat. If these two complaints seem unbelievable they are not. It is a reflection of some traveling hunters that believe in immediate and high quality results at minimum effort. Wild quail have never been easy.
The Association partner's reaction is to give the best Kansas hunting recommendations. Offer hundreds of actual, in the field, dog on point pictures showing cover, then as all good adults turn the hunter lose to learn for himself. Never will in any season will all hunters be successful.
Why Western Kansas Quail Hunting
In any one year there will be one region over another that will have better quail hunt quality. The hunting quality is a combination of good quail numbers, good protective cover and during season food sources. Rarely in any one year does the entire Kansas region that MAHA occupies all have the better hunt quality. Every so often it is western Kansas hunting that is the best quail population we have to offer. That includes the self guided private land hunter's responsibility of learning how to hunt the terrain where that better hunting is located.