Bottoms Up Outdoor Showcase, noon to 9 p.m. June 15, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. June 16, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 17 at Great Bend Expo Complex, 455 W. Barton County Road:
· Fishing and hunting vendors; outdoor activity seminars all weekend
· Craig Morgan concert on Saturday with Burns & Poe opening; Second Nature concert Friday night
· Benefit CPBR bull riding Friday night
· Horseback riding offered by Healing Hearts Ranch
· Rattlesnake show with Joe Martin
· Swamp People R.J. and Jay Paul
· Benefit sporting clays tournament and dinner
· Big buck contest, 3-D archery, laser tag
· Mudcats TV show with live noodling in 60-foot aquarium, Buckventures TV show, Top Shot TV show winner Chris Reed, Fired Up Outdoors TV show
· Testicle Festival on Saturday
· $30 for Craig Morgan tickets ($5 off if purchased through May 31), $10 for Second Nature, $8 daily for 12 and up, $5 for 5 to 11, and free under 5 (weekend pass with all three days and both concerts is $60), $20 beer and bull fries.
Hunting seasons for various species can be found at: http://kdwpt.state.ks.us/news/Hunting/When-to-Hunt/Sportsmen’s-Calendar
Hunting regulations can be found at:
When hunting waterfowl at Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area northeast of Great Bend, Manager Karl Grover recommends getting your feet wet with teal.
“Teal season is early in September. The weather isn’t too bad yet. If you just want to test the waters, that’s the one to do it in,” he said. “They’re a small duck and some of the best eating you can imagine.”
Grover estimates between 40,000 and 60,000 people visit the Bottoms in a typical year. Of that, about 45 percent are bird watchers and 45 percent are hunters. The other 10 percent are likely fishermen, he said.
Of the group that hunts, 23 percent come from Barton County and the rest from other Kansas counties and other states.
“There is some good goose hunting and pheasant,” he said. “They principally come here to hunt water fowl.”
Grover said a few turkeys and about half a dozen deer are also taken in any given year. Of 28,000 acres owned by either the state or The Nature Conservancy, 13,000 are open to hunting.
The best way to get information on hunting conditions at the Bottoms is to meet with one of the staff, Grover said.
“You don’t really have to have a guide to hunt the Bottoms,” he said. “We can usually fix a guy up with enough information to have a fine hunt without paying extra. We have a much better idea than they would on water depth and where the ducks tend to be hanging around.”
He recommends hunting on a weekday and planning to spend the morning getting the lay of the land and watching more experienced Bottoms hunters. The best bet is to call the office at 793-3066 and set up an appointment to meet with a staff member.
Mike Miller, Chief of Information for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism also pointed to Quivira National Wildlife Refuge – 25 miles southeast of Great Bend with 8,000 acres of hunting – as high quality hunting.
“We’re situated in an unusual area,” he said. “It’s nationally known for waterfowl hunting. I’ve hunted ducks most of my life, but when you hunt on a big marsh, it’s a whole different experience.”
Quivira alone can have close to a million geese at one time, Miller said.
“We’re talking about spectacular,” he said.
Beyond the refuges, the department leases more than a million acres statewide for walk-in hunting.
“Kansas, relatively speaking, has a low amount of public access. Most land is privately owned,” Miller said. “The walk in program is sort of an answer to that.”
Outdoor expo coming to town
Great Bend resident Shawn McReynolds enjoyed hunting so much he started guiding others and opened Xtreme Hunting in 2009. And that led to bringing what has become a larger-than-expected event to Great Bend.
“I’ve been to numerous shows as a vendor myself,” McReynolds said. “When I moved back to Great Bend, I thought ‘Why not here?’”
McReynolds said there isn’t a large outdoor expo outside of Denver, Tulsa and Kansas City.
“We have all these hunting resources here,” he said.
He and his wife, Jenni, have been organizing the event which has grown since its inception in September of last year. Stars from at least five television shows – Mudcats, Swamp People, Buckventures, Top Shot and Fired Up Outdoors – will be in town for the expo as well as singer Craig Morgan.
“It’s been overwhelming,” said McReynolds, who has been hunting this area since age 9 with his father.
His wife agrees.
“He came home from work one night and said, ‘I’d like to do this.’ Small turned into big, and big turned into huge,” she said. “It’s taken on its own personality.”
A five-day African safari hunt will be given away at the expo as well as other hunts and fishing trips, the couple said. Organizing the first show has drawn so much interest, the couple is already planning for the future.
“I’m already three years out,” Shawn said.
Big game, here and abroad
Sixteen miles southeast of Great Bend is a 260-acre, 8-foot-tall high-fence hunting preserve with elk, mouflon sheep, transcaspian urial sheep, fallow deer and whitetail deer.
The preserve’s owner, Stan Christiansen, said his was the first high-fence hunting operation to open in the state of Kansas back in 1988. It was a natural byproduct of his love of hunting.
“I started carrying a rifle when I was 5 years old. I’ve been chasing whitetails (deer) basically all my life,” said the 70-year-old Christiansen.
In addition to hosting about 100 hunters per year – most from out of state – at his farm, he also leases 100,000 acres for guided deer hunts in season.
“During deer season, we have two camps here and two camps near Oakley,” he said. “I’ve got hunters on the way in from Wisconsin right now to hunt turkeys.”
A few television shows a year film at the preserve, including Kristy Lee Cook from Goin’ Country, Larry Weishuhn of Mr. Whitetail and the show Hunt Wicked.
Christiansen also farms the land, but the family farmhouse is now decorated with countless mounted animals Christiansen has hunted from around the world – places like Africa, Australia and Umnak Island in the Aleutian chain. In March of this year, he hunted elephant in Africa and has video of an angry elephant charging him and the guides he was with.
He says he’ll be hunting as long as he’s able to.
“I’ve been real fortunate. God’s been good,” he said. “You’re not old until you’re 100. I’ve never done anything halfway.”