Monthly Archives: April 2013

Help Conduct the Nightjar Survey

The 7th year of the Nightjar Survey Network is kicking off soon with survey dates in April for southern portions of the United States and later dates in May and June for other areas. This will be the first entire season with the new survey website The new website provides an opportunity for volunteers and the general public to work more interactively with nightjar survey data, adopt survey routes online, enter data, view past survey years, and receive noteworthy Nightjar Survey news items.

The Nightjar Survey Network is a program designed to collect information on the population distribution and trends of nightjars, such as whip-poor-wills, chuck-will’s-widows, common poorwills, and others. Data collected also provide clues to factors that influence their abundance and help to plot a course fir their conservation (see

Since 2007, 564 volunteers have surveyed 695 routes and have counted over 12,000 nightjars. We are always in need of additional volunteers to survey routes. Nightjar survey routes are composed of 10 stops, spaced one mile apart, and can be completed in less than 2hrs.

If interested in helping out collecting data that can help conserve nightjar species, visit website, see a map of available routes, log-in to adopt a route, and review and print survey instructions.

For more information, contact Michael Wilson, Center for Conservation BiologyCollege of William and Mary & Virginia Commonwealth University, at e-mail: [email protected]

Writer (once a troubled teen) Describes Need to Get Kids Outside

by Peter Brown Hoffmeister

After the Huffington Post signed me on as a blogger and allowed me to write op-ed pieces on any topic, for two years, ranging from books to sports to reviews to pop culture, something changed in our relationship. It was sudden.

I wrote this piece for Huff Po in late December, 2012. For some reason, the editors wouldn’t print it. Like every other article I’d written, I submitted the piece on their backstage for signed bloggers, but nothing happened. It didn’t go up on their site. I waited, and it didn’t happen.

A few days went by. Then a week. I contacted the editors, and they didn’t respond. Then I contacted again, and they let me know that they wouldn’t publish the piece.

I asked why.

No response.

I emailed again.

No response again.

And now they won’t let me write anything at all. I’m off the blogroll.

So I must have touched a nerve. And that made me ask, who’s paying salaries here?

Why is the Huffington Post’s Tech section so popular?

Who is advertising?

Who is vetting content?

What follows is an op-ed article on a piece of the school shooter puzzle. I don’t pretend that this covers everything, but here is a key component from my point of view. And as a current high school teacher and a former troubled teen, I have a strong opinion on the topic.

This is what the Huffington Post doesn’t want its readers to see.

My junior year in high school, I was caught with a loaded, stolen handgun on school property at my school in East Tennessee. Since the owner of the pistol didn’t want to press charges, I simply forfeited the handgun to the local sheriff’s deputy, then was promptly expelled from the school. No arrest. No counseling. No follow-up. I was never required to see a psychologist or explain my intentions. This was 1994, long before the famous shootings at Thurston High School, Columbine, Red Lake,Aurora, Clackamas, and Newtown.

Although I had some loner tendencies, I was also what psychologist call a “failed joiner.”  I tried to fit in at each school I attended. I tried to be cool, but I usually failed. I was gun obsessed. I considered killing myself, but more often I thought about killing others.

I carried a loaded pistol my junior year in high school. I stuffed it in my belt, ready for use.

The next year, I carried a sawed-off shotgun in my backpack. I liked guns and I had access to them. But I also carried a sheath-knife. I was obsessed with weapons of all kind. For a while, I carried a framing hammer.

Thankfully, I never shot or stabbed or bludgeoned anyone. Although I got in many, many fights, and although I thought about seriously hurting people with the weapons that I carried, I never did. And eventually, with the support of some incredible adults in my life, plus some maturing experiences, I moved past my tendencies toward violence, matured, got back into school, and grew up. After three high school expulsions, I have now – ironically – become a high school teacher.

As a teacher, I’ve spent a lot of time this past week [December 27, 2012] thinking about the Newtown shooting, school shootings in general, their causes and possible preventions.

It’s scary now to think that I ever had anything in common with school shooters. I don’t enjoy admitting that.  But I did have a lot in common with them. I was angry, had access to guns, felt ostracized, and didn’t make friends easily. I engaged in violence and wrote about killing people in my notes to peers.

But there is one significant difference between me at 16 and 17 years of age and most high school shooters: I didn’t play violent video games.

As a child, my mother taught me that all video games were “evil.” That’s the word she used. And although that word might be a little extreme, I grew up thinking that there was something very, very wrong with pretending on a video screen. My mother  also called playing video games “wasting your life” and “dumbing yourself down.” I thought my mother was ridiculous, but her opinions stuck with me anyway.

Thus, when it came to high school, when I was a social failure and very, very angry, I had no practice with on-screen violence. ”Call of Duty” didn’t exist yet, but even if it had, I wouldn’t have played it. I wouldn’t have practiced putting on body armor and I wouldn’t have shot thousands of people with an AR rifle. I have likewise never practiced “double-tapping” people. I have never walked into a room and killed everyone inside. My students tell me that it’s possible to “pistol whip a prostitute” in Grand Theft Auto, but I haven’t done it.

            But Jeff Weise did. He played thousands of first-person shooter hours before he shot and killed nine people at and near his Red Lake, Minn., school, before killing himself.

And according to neighbors and friends, Clackamas shooter Jacob Tyler Roberts played a lot of video games before he armed himself with a semi-automatic AR-15 and went on a rampage at theClackamas Town Center in PortlandOregon last week.

Also, by now, it is common knowledge that Adam Lanza, who murdered 20 children and six women in video-game style, spent many, many hours playing “Call of Duty.” In essence, Lanza – and all of these shooters – practiced on-screen to prepare for shooting in real-life.

Now I am not anti-video game crusader Jack Thompson. I’m not suggesting that everyone who plays a video game will act out that video game in reality. But I am saying that it is very dangerous to allow troubled, angry, teenage boys access to killing practice, even if that access is only virtual killing practice. The military uses video games to train soldiers to kill, yet we don’t consider “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3″ training for addicted teenage players? A high school boy who plays that game 30 hours per week isn’t training to kill somebody?

I am not surprised that school shooters love violent video games. As an angry, troubled teen, I would’ve probably loved to shoot hundreds of people on-screen. That might’ve felt nice.

But now, as a teacher, I worry about my most troubled male students playing games like “Halo 4″ and “Assassin’s Creed 3,” bragging about violent actions that they’ve never done in the real world. A scrawny, angry boy’s who’s failing socially is a scary video game addict.

I was walking behind two teenage boys in the hall at my high school the other day and I heard one talking about slitting someone’s throat. He said, “I just came up behind him, pulled out my knife so quietly and cut his throat.”

The other boy said, “Yeah, then I killed everyone else in less than, like, 10 seconds. Just slaughtered them.”

I looked at these two boys: Tall and awkward. Unathletic. I knew that they weren’t tied-in socially, that they both struggled in classes and with peers. Yet they were capable of incredible and sudden violence on screen. Together, they could slit throats and shoot everyone.  I asked one of them later, and he said that he played Call of Duty “an average of 40 hours per week, at least.”

Is this what we want angry, adolescent boys to do?  Do we want to give them this practice?  Do we want them to glorify violent actions, to brag about violence in the school’s hallways?  Or even worse, given the perfect equation of frustration + opportunity + practice, do we want them to do as Weise, Roberts, and Lanza did, and act out these fantasies in real life? Do we want them to yell, “I am the shooter” as they enter a crowded mall – as Roberts did? Or dress like video-game shooters – as Lanza and Roberts were – before heading into a murder spree?

Especially with teenage boys, we have to decide what we want them to do, what we want them to love, what we want them to emulate.  Even if they don’t end up shooting people in a school, if they’re practicing car-jackings, knifings, and putting on body-armor as first-person shooters, what are they preparing to do with the rest of their lives? Will these video-game practice sessions make them better husbands or fathers? Will these boys become patient and understanding friends? Better co-workers?

Please support the bill introduced Wednesday by U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller, directing the National Academy of Sciences to examine whether violent games and programs lead children to act aggressively.  Please lobby with your local representatives as Rockefeller presses the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission to expand their studies.

But I have another idea beyond important political action. Something positive to think about:

Get kids outside. Take them out and let them wander around in the woods. Let them canoe across a lake. Let them backpack  through a mountain range. Give them a map and compass assignment. Give frustrated youth an opportunity to challenge themselves in the natural world.

Have you ever heard of a school shooter who’s hobbies are kayaking, rock climbing, and fly-fishing? If that seems absurd – and it does seem absurd to me – we might be onto something.  I don’t think that those hobbies can create a school shooter. There’s just something abut the natural world that defuses anger.

I know this because the outdoors helped saved my life. An outdoor diversion program for troubled teens started the process when I was sixteen. Camping and hiking and climbing helped me mature further as a nineteen and twenty year old. And now, as the director of a high school outdoor program, one of my student leaders said recently that “the outdoor program saves lives.”

That’s not me. That’s nature. Kids need the outdoors.

Help the young people. Get them outside.

PETA Aims to "Spy on Hunters" with Aerial Surveillance Drones

by Daniel Xu

Outdoor Hub Reporters

The animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) announced plans on April 8th for a drone program that will use remote-controlled aircraft to keep an eye on hunters. According to a press release, the group is actively shopping for drones to include in the program. The top contender is Aerobot’s state-of-the-art CineStar Octocopter, although it remains to be seen which particular drone type the organization will choose.

“The talk is usually about drones being used as killing machines, but PETA drones will be used to save lives,” says PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk. “Slob hunters may need to rethink the idea that they can get away with murder, alone out there in the woods with no one watching.”

The program will fly drones over popular hunting and fishing spots, although specific locations have not been released. PETA intends on using the devices to record illegal activity and combat those that “gun down deer and doves.” The drones will not have any weapon capabilities.

The reaction from sportsmen to this program has been overwhelmingly negative. While a number of hunters approve of anti-poaching drones such as those supplementing conservation forces in Nepaland Kenya, some say that based on PETA’s past history with hunting, law-abiding outdoorsmen will be targeted. Many worry that the drones will accomplish nothing more than to harass hunters and anglers.

“While hunters disguise themselves as trees and pretend they are ducks, it is only fair to give animals something to fight back with,” wrote activist Alisa Mullins on PETA’s official blog.

NRCS Announces Water Quantity and Drought Pilot Opportunity in Kansas

In response to the drought faced by Kansas producers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is providing financial and technical assistance in a new Water Quantity and Drought Pilot funded through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) announced Eric B. Banks, State Conservationist. While NRCS accepts applications for financial assistance on a continuous basis, NRCS will use two application cutoff dates for this pilot:  May 17 and June 21, 2013.

“NRCS will work with producers to address water quantity-related natural resource concerns using the conservation planning process,” Banks said. Under this new pilot, NRCS will conduct a site assessment with the producer, identify alternatives to meet the producer’s natural resource concerns, develop a conservation plan, and if priority criteria are met, EQIP funding may be available. EQIP assistance may be provided for costs directly related to removal of accumulated sediment from a pond, provided sediment removal is the best and least cost alternative. Ponds must have been originally constructed to NRCS standards and specifications.

Additional conservation practices, as they relate to structures approved for sediment removal, include: cover crops, critical area planting, fence, mulching, pipeline, prescribed grazing, and watering facility. “I would encourage producers who are impacted by the drought to visit their local NRCS field office to learn more about the assistance available,” Banks stated. Applicants who do not qualify for funding through the Water Quantity and Drought Pilot may be eligible through alternate funding sources, including Drought Recovery Initiative.

            EQIP offers financial and technical assistance to eligible participants to install or implement structural and management practices on eligible agricultural land. Conservation practices must be implemented to NRCS standards and specifications. In Kansas, socially disadvantaged, limited resource, and beginning farmers and ranchers will receive a higher payment rate for eligible conservation practices applied. 

            For more information about NRCS and its programs, stop by your local USDA ServiceCenter or go to the Web site Follow them on Twitter @NRCS_Kansas.

The Hunt Equation: When a Hunt is Not a Hunt

By Dan Pedrotti, Jr.

Ethics Column editor for Fair Chase magazine
Taken from the Spring 2013 issue of Fair Chase

I had the opportunity to share a campfire recently with one of my relatives, Lifetime B&C Associate David Bradford. We could not talk our way around the notion that somewhere along the way a fellow produced an outsized white-tailed buck in a pen, and a “hunter” agreed to pay him a ridiculous sum to shoot the buck. The deed done, we wondered what he thought and what story he told his friends and relatives. We could not, for the life of us, come up with a reasonable answer as to why anyone would want to participate in, much less pay for, such an experience. We decided to write about it so you would contemplate the same question, and perhaps you would share the story with your friends in the hunting community and they with theirs, in hopes that we could all work together to make the question moot someday.

It all starts here—uncertainty is the denominator of the hunt equation. There are many factors that comprise the balance of the equation like knowledge, skill, effort and plain old luck. But uncertainty is the wondrous, magical element of the hunt that compels us to spend remarkable amounts of time and money and, more importantly, heart and soul. It is the spontaneous quality of hunting that distinguishes it from any other pursuit in life and it is why the trophy means so much to us. Nowhere does the proper calculation of the hunt equation include human manipulation of the animal or the circumstance. Why anyone would want to diminish any part of this magnificent endeavor is incomprehensible.

We are hunters, not collectors. We are knowledgeable, serious, responsible and committed. We take pride in the effort spent, experience earned and challenge met. We do not look for shortcuts, easy outs or manufactured outcomes. When the hunt is complete and we reflect and analyze, inches are not the final measure of success in our adventures afield; they are the lagniappe—but only if everything goes exactly right, particularly those things beyond our control.

If the winner of the Super Bowl, the World Series, the Stanley Cup or the NBA Finals were predetermined, would we have the party and invite our friends? If the outcome of the Masters, the Daytona 500 or the Rose Bowl were known before the competition, who would spend the time to watch? What if we knew that money could be the determining factor in the result? I submit that these iconic events would have played out years ago and the sports themselves would not hold their lauded place in our culture as they have done for generations. They have risen above the misbehavior of their athletes and managers, and they continue, despite the setbacks and misdeeds. They are each a long-lived institution, because next year things might be different; because the season-ending contest has an uncertain outcome; and because there is always a chance, despite the odds, that our team might come out on top.

This analogy is particularly relevant today when anyone with the financial means can shoot a 300-inch whitetail with guaranteed success. Let’s be clear as crystal here: when the circumstance is contrived and/or the animal has been “manufactured,” it is not a hunt. Webster defines contrived as having an unnatural or false appearance or quality. David and I would define it further as an unacceptable substitute lacking in the fundamental qualities from which it would otherwise derive its value, such that investing time and effort into acquiring it is foolishness. It is undignified, unworthy and trivial. Ultimately, eliminating or manipulating the elements of uncertainty reduces the pseudo-hunt to an arranged shooting of livestock. It is the antithesis of fair chase, and it is simply not hunting.

More than undignified, man’s intervention into the natural development of game animals is an erosive, irreverent, biologically unsound practice, and it has dire long-term consequences. Beyond reflecting negatively on our way of life as hunters, this manipulation has led to the spread of chronic wasting disease, has developed specimens that cannot survive on their own and ultimately derives a greater damage to our wildlife on a genetic scale as it undermines the North American Model. To paraphrase the words of Jack Ward Thomas, big antlers do not mean better deer. This bigger-at-all-costs-approach with such significant financial backing is an extraordinary threat to our culture.

Having said all this, the business of creating these artificial opportunities is legal in our country, and it is not our place to condemn or even judge a legal business. The hardworking people and their financial backers are doing a good job of meeting the demand for their product. And the demand has grown and continues to grow. This is now a $3 billion industry! When you collectively spend that much in an effort, you can fool a lot of people. This wrongful association is threatening the public’s continued support of legitimate, fair chase hunting and its longstanding value to the conservation and proper management of publicly owned wildlife. And so goes, to the highest bidder, the North American Model.

Closer to home, because these scenarios are typically traded based on B&C inches, we need to ensure there is recognizable distance or separation between them and us. Because their product is packaged and sold as a “hunt,” we need to make sure everyone sees the stark difference. This is not a subtle, close-enough issue, although their marketing pitch needs and wants it to be “just like the real or natural thing.” The point is that it has become a business proposition, not a vocation or a passion. When that happens, there is a shift in the ethics, and most of what we hold so dear is left on the cutting-room floor.

But this is just an ethics column. And after all this ranting, what the breeders and their customers are doing is perfectly legal, and we have determined that it is not a hunt. So, that should be the end of the discussion, right?

Not so fast. We didn’t start it, but there is a fight here, and we are obligated to get in the ring. We have to help our brothers and sisters understand that the pseudo-hunt product is not worth the price, and it damn sure is not worth the consequences. There is tremendous exposure and marketing in place that says the pseudo-hunt is the real thing. We must put that to bed. Ethically, we have to engage, explain and emphasize the facts and ultimately devalue the product. When the pseudo-hunt is exposed as unworthy and undignified, it will be less acceptable at the campfire and eventually it will lose its legs. If not, someday we will not recognize the animals or places that future generations hunt—if they hunt—and if there are any healthy animals left.

Angling Couple Holds Records after Catching Tournament-winning Blue Catfish

by Daniel Xu

Outdoor Hub Reporters

Stefanie Stanley hooked a giant-sized blue catfish at the Catfish Chasers Tournament inKansas last Saturday, securing her first place on the podium and the biggest catch recorded in any of the state’s lakes. According to, the Olathe resident was fishing in Milford Reservoir when the catfish took her shad bait.

“We knew he was nice, but then he came up and barrel-rolled beside the boat,” Stefanie said. “We were like, ‘Holy cow, this is a whopper.’ It has shoulders on it like a linebacker.”

It weighed in at a little over 82 pounds and needless to say, she won the tournament by a sizable margin.

“These blue catfish are really growing, they’re making a world-class fishery here inKansas in a lot of our lakes,” said David Studebake, co-owner of the tournament. “It won’t be long before the new state record comes from Milford. It may only be a couple of years.”

Perhaps that new record will come from the same fish. Stanley’s stunning catch was released back into the water after spending some time in a tank while officials weighed it. According to the tournament owners, it is the largest catfish ever caught in Milford Reservoir, and the biggest from any Kansas lake.

Still, it wasn’t entirely unexpected for Stefanie. The Stanleys are known for hauling big fish. Last summer Stephanie’s daughter BayLeigh caught a 70-pound catfish from the Kaw River, which seems small next to her husband’s 102.9-pound catch out of the Missouri River.

“She has the biggest ever from a lake, and he has the biggest from a Kansas river,” said Studebake’s partner Rich Witt. “Those are some nice fish.”

Stefanie’s husband, Robert Stanley, currently holds the state record for the largest blue caught not only in a river, but anywhere in the state.

When FOX4 asked him if he thought his wife was trying to one-up him, Robert replied, “more power to her. I was excited she did it and by herself too.”

Stefanie’s previous personal best was a 48-pounder.

“It’s kind of like giving birth, that feeling you’re just shaking, you’re in awe. It’s an amazing feeling!” Stefanie said. Her team also bagged $2,000 in the tournament.

Part of their success can be attributed to the catch-and-release policies of tournaments like the Catfish Chasers as well as a boom in the species’ population. Although native to Kansaswaters, new regulations and abundant food have led to an increase in the blue catfish. They also serve to decrease the number of invasive zebra mussels, which they munch down on with zeal.

Cornell Labs’ ‘Merlin’ to be a Bird ID Wizard

Krishna Ramanujan

Soon, when you see a bird you can’t identify, Merlin, a new online bird ID tool from Cornell, will be able to help.

When sent a photo, Merlin’s visual recognition system will help ID the bird. If a photo is not available, Merlin will play “20 questions,” asking the inquirer about the location and date of the sighting among other questions before suggesting which species is most likely.

The developers seek the public’s help to train the program, now under development at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (with plans for a prototype later this year). Like a child learning new skills, this artificial intelligence program needs lots of input to become more accurate.

“Right now, the algorithms are being trained to help Merlin understand how people see, remember and describe birds,” said Scott Haber, the project’s digital content manager. “It starts with data, such as observations from the eBird citizen-science project to narrow down which species are most likely to be found at any given location and time of year. But Merlin also learns from interactions as users play with it. We want the public to participate to help make Merlin smarter.”

People can contribute through six activities at While bolstering Merlin, users also become better birders by learning which features are important. “Mark My Bird” shows users a photo of, say, a cardinal and then asks them to click on graphics to indicate the bird’s color patterns, size and shape. Another activity, “Bird Color Challenge,” flashes a photo of a bird, then asks users to select the most prominent colors they remember.

Some of the activities help the computer-vision program recognize birds in photos. “Image Share” enables people to upload photos for Merlin’s database; “Best Shot” asks users to choose which of two photos has the highest quality; “Bird Crop” asks people to outline the bird’s image to help the computer discern birds from the background; and “Hot Spot” teaches Merlin to recognize bird anatomy when users click on body parts in a photo.

“Each year, thousands of people try to identify birds by typing descriptors into the search box on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds website,” said Miyoko Chu, the project’s principal investigator and the lab’s senior director of communications. “But search engines sometimes return confusing and even outlandish results,” she said. “Our goal is to enable someone to describe a bird and get intelligent guidance, the same way they might if they asked a knowledgeable friend.”

If the technique is successful, future products could be developed, such as binoculars that help ID the bird in the viewfinder.

Merlin is a collaboration between Cornell, Northeastern University, Caltech, Universityof CaliforniaBerkeley, and the University of CaliforniaSan Diego, including visiting researchers Serge Belongie and Grant Van Horn at the Cornell NYC Tech campus.

The project is funded by the National Science Foundation.

April and Morel Mania is in the Air!

                         Photo Credit:

                                 April and Morel Mania is in the Air!
                                                by Phil Taunton

Puffball, Shaggy Mane, Bearded Tooth, Inky Cap and Oyster!  No, these are not the names of the guys I hang around with at the golf course, or wasted many a rainy day with down at the old Mitway pool hall on Commercial Street. These are not even nicknames of any BNSF-Santa Fe railroaders I know–even though some of my co-workers bear a close resemblance. These are the names of edible mushrooms.

Each spring when the weather gets warm and humid, my mind gets to wandering toward “rooning” and eating a mess of those tasty morels.  The gentle sport of mushroom hunting is a fine excuse to walk in the woods.  When the leaves on the red bud trees are about the size of squirrel’s ears, or when asparagus starts to emerge is prime time for morels if you believe in folklore.

I must warn you though, because a few wild mushrooms are deadly and many more are mildly poisonous, mushroom hunting is not a hobby for the careless or uninformed.  On the other hand, neither is it the death-defying feat that many people imagine.  There are a number of good edible mushrooms that are easy to recognize and hard to confuse with anything poisonous.

All edible mushrooms are distinctive in some obvious way or another.  Once you learn their distinguishing features, they will be hard to confuse with any dangerously poisonous types.  Remember that where and when a mushroom grows can be very important in identifying it.

The most popular wild mushroom in Kansas, easy to recognize and delicious to eat is the morel.  They are also called the sponge, pinecone or honeycomb mushroom. The surface of a morel is covered with definite pits and ridges, and the bottom edge of the cap (this is very important to remember) is attached directly to the stem.  Size may vary from 2″ to 12″ tall and most will be pear or pyramid shape, although I once found one that was round and as big as a softball!

There are three common species of morels: the common, the black or smoky and the half-free.  In order not to confuse a beginning “rooner” and to be on the safe side, I only deal with the common.  When young, this morel has white ridges and dark brown pits and is known as the “white morel.”  As it ages, both the ridges and the pits turn yellow-brown, and it becomes a “yellow morel.”  If conditions are right, the “yellow morel” can grow into a “giant morel,” which may be up to a foot tall provided a deer or some other critter doesn’t eat it first.

Morels can be found from spring to early summer.  I found the softball sized morel on May 8, but I forgot where. Imagine that! Mushrooners are secretive about where they roam!  Morels are found on the ground, not on logs or growing on trees and in a variety of habitats, including moist woodlands and in river bottoms.  I found a great number of them in a pasture around some dead cottonwood trees after the grass had been burnt off. Wifeus once dragged me off on a mushroom hunting expedition that turned into a death march.  This trek took us across most of Morris County and wasn’t very fruitful until we returned to the cabin on Council Grove City Lake.  There, we stumbled into a big mess not 100 yards from my favorite sofa. “They are where they are!” 

Some experienced rooners claim they can smell them.   Pigs are used to find and root up truffles in France.  Does anyone have a mushroom dog?

Morels are quite distinctive, but there is a small chance they could be confused with false morels.  Some people can eat the false morel, but for others, it causes serious illness and even death. 

To prepare morels for the table, you should half or quarter them and check for insects.  Wash carefully.  They can be stewed, baked, creamed or stuffed with dressing.  I like to dip them in egg and milk, then dredge the pieces in seasoned flour and fry until crispy. Contrary to what a lot of people think, mushrooms can be frozen and used at a later date.  Clean them just like you would for the table, flash freeze on a cookie sheet, and then store the pieces in a zip-lock freezer bag.  Dip, batter and fry while they are still frozen.

Your lips will think they fell in love. “I garontee you!”

To avoid mushroom poisoning, you should follow these five rules:

1.  Identify each and every mushroom you collect, and eat only those whose identification you are sure of.  When in doubt, throw it out.

2.  Strictly avoid any mushroom that looks parasol-shaped with white gills.  Also avoid all little brown mushrooms and all false morels.

3.  Some people are allergic to even the safest mushrooms.  The first time you try one, eat only a small amount and wait 24 hours before eating more.

            4.  Eat only firm, fresh, undecayed mushrooms.

5.  Most wild mushrooms should not be eaten raw or in large quantities, since they              are difficult to digest.

What is a mushroom?  Mushrooms are actually the fruits of a fungus.  The fungus itself is simply a net of threadlike fibers, called a mycelium, growing in soil, wood or decaying matter.  I liken them to potatoes on a vine.

The function of a mushroom is to produce spores, which are the “seeds” of the fungus.   Some kinds of mushrooms produce their spores on gills, some in pores, some inside a leathery pouch(the puffball) some on the inside of shallow cups (the morel) and some simply on the surface of the mushroom.  The spores form on these various structures, then fall off to blow away on the wind or be carried by animals, water or insects.  If a spore lands in a suitable spot, it germinates and grows into a new mycelium. 

Five-State Lesser Prairie-chicken Conservation Plan Submitted

Range-wide lesser prairie-chicken conservation plan submitted to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in hopes of precluding a listing under the Endangered Species Act

The lesser prairie-chicken is a grassland grouse species native and once common to parts ofColoradoNew MexicoTexasKansas and Oklahoma. However, declining lesser prairie-chicken populations have brought state and federal agencies together in an attempt to better manage this iconic prairie species and its habitats. The result is a comprehensive range-wide lesser prairie-chicken management draft plan.

Through a multi-state collaborative effort, with funding provided by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) grant and support from the Great Plains Landscape Conservation Cooperative, the five state wildlife agencies completed the draft plan and submitted it to the USFWS. The federal agency is currently deliberating its proposal to list the lesser prairie-chicken as threatened and states hope the conservation plan will influence the final decision and preclude listing, according to the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) Grassland Initiative.

The lesser prairie-chicken has been considered a candidate under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) since 1998, and USFWS proposed it for listing as threatened in December 2012. A final rule for the lesser prairie-chicken is scheduled to be issued September 30, 2013.

The WAFWA Grassland Initiative collaborated with the Lesser Prairie-chicken Interstate Working Group, which is composed of biologists from the five state fish and wildlife departments within the species’ range, and other partners to develop the range-wide conservation plan. This management plan describes population and habitat goals to secure the species into the future and identifies voluntary conservation programs and practices to be applied to accomplish these goals throughout the lesser prairie-chicken’s range (

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service commends the Lesser Prairie-chicken Interstate Working Group and the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies for their tireless efforts to develop a range-wide conservation plan for the lesser prairie-chicken.” said Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, regional director for the USFWS’s Southwest Region. “In the next few weeks, the Service will reopen the comment period in order to allow the public the opportunity to provide additional comments on the lesser prairie-chicken listing proposal and the range-wide conservation plan as it relates to the USFWS’s listing proposal.”

“While we do not need a chicken on every acre, we do need to have the right acres to conserve the species,” says Bill Van Pelt, WAFWA’s Grassland Coordinator. “We feel we have created a plan under which we can partner with landowners and industry to incentivize good land management practices.”

Throughout the planning process, which started in April 2012, the state wildlife agencies have reached out to the public. The states have received feedback about two previous draft plans and are encouraged to hear the support for a state-led effort to conserve this species. Prior to finalizing the management plan, the state agencies are requesting additional public input. TheRange-wide Conservation Plan for the Lesser Prairie-chicken is found on and the states will be accepting written comments on this third draft of the plan. Please send comments via email to [email protected] or by mail to Jan Caulfield Consulting, 

114 S. Franklin St., Ste. 205JuneauAK 99801

. The states are also exploring the use of webinars to reach the public. These webinars and the closing period on the comments will be announced on the WAFWA website and other media outlets.

“Historically, we saw habitat conditions like the ones we are observing now back in the 1930s, and we thought the species went extinct,” Van Pelt added. “However, it is our opinion that with existing habitat conservation programs being implemented through various Farm Bill programs and enrollments in existing conservation agreements, we are seeing lesser prairie-chickens maintaining themselves on the landscape and even expanding into new areas in some parts of their range. By coordinating these existing efforts and others proposed under this range-wide plan, we are confident we will be able to conserve this species into the future. This plan is written broadly enough to allow anyone interested in conserving the lesser prairie-chicken to assist the states with conserving this grassland icon.”

For more information, contact WAFWA Grassland Coordinator Bill Van Pelt at (602) 717-5066.

Kansas Retiree Honored for Work Gettings Kids Outdoors on the Prairies.

                                                                    Photo Credit: Brent Frazee, Kansas City Star.

Phil Taunton is a board member of the Kansas Wildlife Federation for good reason. His tireless efforts to get kid outdoors to experience all phases of nature, wildlife & wildlife habitat is inspiring to everyone who knows him. Recently an article in the Kansas City Star extolling his extensive and dedicated involvement with kids & nature was picked up by the Denver Post. You can read this interesting article by clicking here.