Heavy rains in Kansas have replenished parched wetlands along one of the continent’s most important migration flyways, brightening prospects not only for the birds that depend on them as a principal stopover but also promising a boon for the state’s upcoming waterfowl hunting season.
Nowhere is the impact more noticeable than at the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area in central Kansas. Its manager, Karl Grover, calls it “a wetland of international importance” because it is the major route for migrating ducks and geese and an integral part of the central flyway.
In the wake of recent rains that have deluged much of the state, all 10 pools at the Cheyenne Bottoms that are usually open for hunting now have water in them roughly 14 to 18 inches deep. During last year’s drought all were completely dry.
“In the short term, the big thing is you are going to have a waterfowl season,” Grover said. “And that is making people around here pretty happy.”
Waterfowl hunting season does not open until September but more people are already flocking to the reserve. Visitation was up 150 percent during the first eight days of August, he said, when compared to all of last month.
“A lot of it is people coming in and finally looking, enjoying having a marsh with water in it,” Grover said. “There are a lot of hunters coming out, just scouting to see how things are going. A lot of bird watchers are coming because we are starting, finally, to get some different birds that we haven’t had for 13 months.”
At the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge near Great Bend, most of the 7,000 acres of wetlands were dry or nearly dry last year, said Barry Jones, visitor services specialist for the refuge. The refuge now has “abundant water,” he said.
The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism wrote in a recent newsletter that the state is preparing for a “great hunting season” this fall. It cited reports of high numbers of waterfowl on the nesting grounds, a longer season and increased bag limits for several species.
The Jamestown Wildlife Area in northern Kansas, the Marais des Cygne Wildlife Area in east-central Kansas, McPherson Valley Wetlands Wildlife Area in central Kansas and the Neosho Wildlife Area in southeast Kansas were all reporting water levels full to flooding after days of rain across the state.