A true hunting story
In the extreme southwest corner of the state of Kansas you will find the Cimarron National Grassland, the home of the Lesser Prairie Chicken, Tympanuchus pallidicinctus. The grassland covers 108,175 acres of prairie and other vegetation types in Morton and Stevens counties. The Cimarron River flows through the grassland and always looks dry I am told because it flows underground. But you can tell there is something unusual happening because it looks like a river with no water.
The Santa Fe trail also ran through the grassland in it’s hey day. I can say that I have hunted Prairie Chickens on the Santa Fe trail.
Being an admirer of birds from early on I was amazed with the number of birds that inhabit this area. Birds such as the Long-billed Curlew, Short and Long-billed Dowitcher, Cassin’s Kingbird, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Violet-green Swallow, Rock Wren, Townsend’s Solitaire, Loggerhead Shrike, Dickcissel to name a few. It is a birders paradise, especially a birder from Virginia.
We traveled to Elkhart, Kansas and got a motel room. There weren’t many motels in the western town of Elkhart. It was a very typical western town where most farmers/ranchers congregate to gossip over their breakfast at this one restaurant which was next door to our motel. It reminded me of Hardee’s in Timberville. That’s where we also ate. They were amazed that anyone would travel from Virginia to that section of Kansas just to hunt a couple of Prairie Chickens. They don’t know me! But I’m sure they have their own idiots out there too.
Kay and I ate our breakfast, then loaded up the shotguns and magazines for her to look at while I was out hunting and drove out in the rolling hills of the Grassland. There were dirt roads to follow but you didn’t want to get off them. There were hundreds of freshly pushed up mounds of dirt from underground burrows made by mice or voles. We had our Kansas hunting license but we never saw a warden.
You had to be careful where you parked or you could get stuck in the sandy soil. It was like driving on a beach. You also didn’t want to wander too far (out of sight) from your vehicle. You could easily get disoriented about how many hills you passed over or in what direction that you walked and wind up getting lost. I did that once and that is an eerie feeling not knowing where your vehicle was. It would have been a long walk back to town. All the hills looked alike. No trees except along the dry Cimarron River.
The first day I probably walked 20 miles and flushed only 2 chickens, a double at that, and I hit them hard. I could tell because I knocked the feathers out a plenty. I was sure when I reached the spot I would find them waiting to be picked up. WRONG!
That’s when I found out that to hunt them right, you need