By MIKE CORN
CHEYENNE BOTTOMS -- Karl Grover was facing a first as manager of the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area: Two years of back-to-back waterfowl seasons.
Rain in late July and August let him narrowly escape that fate, and now he's hoping for one of the best waterfowl hunting seasons on record.
For two reasons, he said.
"We've got water," Grover said. "Last year was bone dry."
And there are plenty of birds all but ready to start drifting southward as part of the annual fall migration.
Already, there's been a number of teal showing up at the nearly 20,000-acre wetlands northeast of Great Bend.
Just in the nick of time for teal season, which begins Sept. 7 -- the first Saturday in September.
The daily bag limit is six, with a possession limit of 18.
Grover said there's a few geese hanging around and a fair number of egrets are lounging in shallow areas, taking advantage of the water and the available food.
Combining water, a strong supply of waterfowl and plenty of food will be a winning combination, Grover said.
To its south, Quivira National Wildlife Refuge isn't quite full, but it has more water than what it would prefer for shore birds, refuge manager Mike Oldham said.
But they don't plan to dump any of the water out of fear it might stop raining.
Cheyenne Bottoms isn't full by any means, but it has the water to attract birds, and there's an ample supply of food.
From the roadway, however, much of that weedy growth can blot out the water.
Ducks and geese flying overhead, Grover said, will be able to readily see the pools of water, swooping down to take advantage of what the site has to offer.
Hunters, on the other hand, might have to sit and watch where the ducks land and then go to the birds.
It's going to be plenty of work to reach the birds, he said, but it will be worth it.
Grover would be happy to have more water, but he'd like to see it flowing in a bit slower than it has.
Otherwise, it's going to back up onto private land and that's not such a good thing.
It's been a long 13 months, however.
Grover said the wetlands area went dry in July 2012.
"We've been dry before," he said. "I have never had two dry back-to-back hunting seasons."
That record, Grover said, remains intact.