Friday morning Joyce and I joined dignitaries from the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism
(KDWPT) and representatives from numerous Kansas tourism related groups at Horse Thief Reservoir
in Hodgeman Co. for the 2014 Kansas Hunting Showcase. Shining like a jewel in the otherwise empty
western Kansas landscape, the 400 acre lake sort of sneaks up on you, suddenly appearing from out
of nowhere as you top a hill about 10 miles west of Jetmore. Horse Thief Reservoir is a recreation and
water management project of the Pawnee Watershed Joint District #81, which by the way is the largest
watershed district in the United States, encompassing over 1.5 million acres in 9 southwest Kansas
counties. Besides pleasure boating and water skiing, Horse Thief has 42 campsites with full hookups
and many primitive campsites, plus 2 cabins and a yurt that can be rented. There are also hiking and
bicycling trails and an archery range that’s open 24-7 for the public to use. The fishing at Horse Thief is
coming into its own, with good catches of largemouth bass being reported. Walleye were stocked this
past spring and crappie and channel cat numbers are growing steadily with time. The hunting showcase
was held in a very nice, large heated/air conditioned multi-purpose building which is available to rent
along with the rest of the facilities for church functions, concealed carry classes, etc.
The 2014 Kansas Hunting Showcase promoted the quality of our state’s hunting (and fishing) and
highlighted the importance of hunting (and fishing) to the Kansas economy. Here are some astounding
figures shared with us by Assistant Secretary for Parks and Tourism, Linda Craghead;
• Hunting brings in over $401 million to the Kansas economy each year.
• Fishing brings in over $211 million.
• Non-resident hunting and fishing license sales bring in $10.7 million each year; while accounting
for less than 16% of total license numbers, this is 60% of the total license revenue.
• Resident hunting and fishing license sales bring in $7.8 million.
• Hunters and anglers coming to Kansas spend on average 32% more during their stay than
traditional leisure travelers.
We also heard the forecast for this year’s pheasant, quail and waterfowl seasons.
• Pheasant – Conditions throughout the spring and summer have reflected a statewide increase in
summer brood counts by 70%. Remember the past 2 or 3 years pheasant populations have been
paltry at best, mainly because of the drought, so numbers are just now rising again to where
they had been prior to the drought years.
• Quail – Roadside surveys reflect a statewide increase of 50% compared to 2013. The drought
years affected quail numbers also, but 50% is a nice increase.
• Ducks – American fall flight estimates show breeding duck populations up 8% since standard
surveys began in 1955. Kansas is situated smack in the heart of the Central Flyway where
breeding ducks surveyed this spring showed numbers up 68% above the long-term average.
• Geese – While I wasn’t able to find specific percentages or numbers, everything I read placed
goose populations as a whole above objective numbers.
Isn’t it amazing how rainfall or the lack thereof affects wildlife? Many parts of the state have gotten
good rainfall amounts this year and wildlife in those areas has responded. Our trail cameras are
recording many nice young deer this year, pheasant and quail numbers are up dramatically, there is
water in most of the waterfowl “honey-holes” again and even though wild turkey populations state wide
are just considered “stable,” turkey populations around us are booming; all good reasons to Explore
Kansas Outdoors. And while you’re at it, check out Horse Thief Reservoir in Hodgeman County just west
of Jetmore and on their website www.horsethiefres.com.
Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected]