MONTEZUMA — With November upon us, many area hunters are getting ready for that traditional trek down Interstate 70 for the opening weekend of upland bird season.
Western Kansas, with its rolling prairies and acre upon acre of farmland, offers ideal pheasant and quail habitat that makes for some of the best upland bird conditions in the country.
Garrett Love, a former state senator and Washburn basketball player, now tends to his farm near Montezuma in Gray County and operates a hunting preserve, Western Kansas Pheasant Hunts. He says the bird numbers in his area so far this year have been encouraging.
“It seems pretty strong in our area,” Love said Wednesday. “Sometimes it feels like you don’t really know until you’re out in the field hunting them. Around the farm, in the field and driving the roads, seems like there’s a pretty good population this year.”
Those solid numbers are good for business, not only for him as an outfitter, but for the surrounding community, as well. With the steady tide of hunters from all across the country making the trip to the state’s fertile hunting grounds each winter, Kansas’ pheasant and quail populations make for a big economic boon for much of western Kansas.
“Whether it’s outfitters like myself or hotels, restaurants, folks in our communities, it has a positive impact to a lot of people,” Love said. “We’ll be welcoming people from northeast Kansas and all across the country.”
Love said he first got interested in guiding during college, when he’d take friends from Washburn to his hometown for some bird hunting. He’d grown up hunting pheasant and quail and had a passion for it, so it was a natural fit. He later got some sound advice from his father-in-law, Chad Onek, who runs C and S Whitetails.
“(My wife’s) dad is a big hunter and he came out a couple of times,” Love said. “He’s also a deer and turkey outfitter by El Dorado, and he kinda told me that I should start marketing it and selling a few hunts, because he said that’s a pretty valuable product to have that good of bird numbers. So that’s kinda where it started and it’s been slowly growing from there.”
Being a farmer, managing his land with wildlife in mind was second-nature to Love.
“That’s kind of the biggest part of it,” Love said. “Pretty much all of our hunting is on our own private farm that my dad started when I was little, so that’s kind of a fun thing to be able to do and it can go hand-in-hand.
“Dad’s always thought about wildlife when it comes to farming practices. We’re big no-till farmers, so we leave a lot of cover, lot of residue in the fields. We’ll go right into our wheat stubble and plant milos. We’ll have milo that has wheat stubble in it, too, a lot of great cover for the birds. We do a lot of corners with grass or CRP and that kinda works pretty well, also.”
Western Kansas Pheasant Hunts also was featured in August 2017 on the “SportingDog Adventures” television show on the Pursuit Channel. Love offers group rates of $299 per hunter per day for groups of four or more, with the daily price sliding up to $349 for groups of three, $399 for groups of two and $449 for single hunters. A 50-percent deposit is required at the date of booking.
The regular pheasant and quail season in Kansas runs from Nov. 10 through Jan. 31, 2019, while the state’s two-day youth season kicked off Saturday and will continue through Sunday. The bag limit for pheasants in Kansas is four roosters during the regular season and two during the youth season, while for quail the limit is eight birds in the regular season and four during youth season. The greater prairie chicken regular season also kicks off Nov. 17 and runs through Jan. 31, 2019, in the East and Northwest zones. The Southwest zone is closed this year. The bag limit for chickens is two of either a single species or in combination.
Many Kansas hunting preserves, however, are considered Controlled Shooting Areas, as defined by state law, which gives them an extended hunting season and control over bag limits on their property. A special CSA hunting license may be purchased that is valid only on Kansas CSAs, and hunter education certification is not required on CSAs.
For more information on Western Kansas Pheasant Hunts, call Love at (620) 869-4318 or visit their website at http://www.westernkansaspheasanthunts.com/.
Love, a Republican, served in the Kansas Senate from 2011-17 and was the youngest person in Kansas history to be elected to the state senate at the age of 22 after graduating with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from WU. In addition to being a two-year letterman on the basketball team and a student assistant coach for a year, Love was also the student body president at Washburn. He later married his former vice president, Caley Onek.
The Loves now have a growing family with two young daughters, which led to Garrett’s decision to step away from politics for the time being.
“I enjoyed serving,” Love said. “It just got a little difficult as we had a second little girl born and being five hours from the capital. It was either a lot of driving or a lot of time apart from family, so we decided to take a break, so I didn’t run for re-election there is 2016. It’s something where at some point in the future I may decide to get back in, but I guess this is more of kind of a break.”
Love notably had a 100 percent voting attendance record in his first year as an elected official.
As Tuesday’s 2018 general election draws near, Love is happy to be on the outside looking in for a change. With the increasingly divisive nature of politics, both nationally and at the statewide level, Love said the stress of a campaign is one thing he doesn’t miss.
“In a lot of ways, there’s definitely some things like that, you know, that I don’t miss,” Love said. “Life is a little less stressful, which is fun and is good for our family at this moment. There’s things I miss, but some of that stress is not the part that I miss.”
‘Wingshooting USA’ coming to Topeka
The television show “Wingshooting USA” will be on hand Nov. 7-8 at Topeka’s Ravenwood Lodge for its second “Fur Feathers Friends” event.
More than 100 fans and military guests from throughout the country have been invited to hunt ringneck pheasants at the preserve, according to a news release from the show. Lewis Toyota of Topeka also has invited area service members and veterans to join them in the field.
Scott Linden, show host and creator, said the goals of the event were to foster fellowship and gratitude while hunting with well-trained dogs.
“Dogs are incredible animals, we’ve been hunting partners for millennia,” Linden said in the release. “Working toward a common goal bonds us like no other experience.”
The event will ultimately air on an episode of “Wingshooting USA” in 2019.
Along with pheasant hunting, there also will be clay target shooting and a free lunch provided. Members of the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association are hunting and providing trained dogs for the event.
To schedule a hunt at Ravenwood Lodge, call (800) 656-2454.