Nothing Lesser about the Lesser Prairie Chicken
Along with my son Jason, his friend Tanner, springer Rosie and lab Jazz we headed for Kansas to close out the 2009 bird season in pursuit of lesser prairie chickens. I’d never hunted LPC’s but had heard much about them the past few years both about their possible listing under the endangered species act and more positively as a species that has really responded to habitat provided by the Conservation Reserve Program. What I know now is that chasing LPC’s post-Christmas is a great way to burn off excess Holiday indulgences.
We hooked up with friends Barth and Tom and the five of us spread out across some incredible southwest Kansas prairie. Not the typical 10-15 yards apart to chase roosters, but more like 35-50 yards apart to cover ground – lots of it. We hunted some of the finest remaining native sand-sage prairie in southwest Kansas. Mixed grasses dominated by little bluestem with a fair amount of sand plum thickets (bobwhite quail magnets), a little yucca and prickly pear. And we walked, gentle hilltop and ridge to large flats and walked some more. Passing roost sites one after another kept us going and then a flush , if you can call it that. Seeing a brown dot glide away from 500 yards plus would soon become routine. But the dogs kept on working and we walked some more. Looking down from a small ridgetop I noticed Rosie and Jazz working pretty hard in front of Jason and Tanner. Finally a bird flushed chose enough to warrant a shot or two from Tanner and the next thing I saw was a bird going down. Success! It was a heck of a shot and we all gathered to admire Tanner’s trophy. A beautiful adult male lesser chicken in hand. Our first bird of the day and we’d been hunting for less than an hour. I had visions of a closer flush nearby me and we walked some more. Several hours later we’d seen a few dozen birds mostly at several hundred yards. I did try one quick shot at one of the closer birds but no luck. We picked up one more bird right before sunset and ended up with two for the day.
Honestly it was one of the finest hunts I’ve ever been on and I’m hooked for more. LPC’s are a tremendous trophy upland game bird. Walking that Kansas prairie and thinking about early settlers to the area makes you apprecieate even more the tremendous array of wildlife that benefit from prairie and CRP and how important they are to preserving a high quality of life in areas like this. Thanks to CRP, LPC range is expanding and the birds can now be found in counties where they haven’t been seen in decades.
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