Josh Rouse: New Year still offers many hunting, fishing opportunities ahead of spring

First deer, palomino trout among notable recent milestones for area outdoors enthusiasts

Josh Rouse
Topeka Capital-Journal
Seaman High School junior Mackenzie Doud, 16, of Topeka, shot her first deer on the last day of the Kansas regular deer season Dec. 13, 2020, in northeast Shawnee County.
  • New special coyote season kicks off on Jan. 1
  • Youth trout permits now required at certain waters in Kansas

The year may have ended, but plenty of good hunting opportunities are still available in Kansas for early 2021 ahead of the spring seasons.

For starters, a new hunting season kicked off Friday, with a special coyote season from Jan. 1 to March 31 allowing for the use of night-vision equipment and artificial light.

Hunters of all ages will need to purchase a Night Vision Equipment Permit in order to hunt coyotes with artificial light such as spotlights, scopes and equipment that amplify visible light (night vision) or thermal imaging equipment. The use of vehicles when hunting with this equipment is prohibited and this season and equipment are not open or allowed on state-owned lands and waters.

A regular coyote season runs yearlong for those hunting without the use of this equipment. A furharvester license is required to trap and sell pelts, while a hunting license is required to hunt and sell.

An extended firearm whitetail antlerless-only deer season runs throughout much of Kansas for those who haven’t filled their tags yet.

The season runs from Jan. 1 to 10 in Deer Units 6, 8, 9, 10 and 17; Jan. 1-17 in Units 1-5, 7, 11, 14 and 16; and Jan. 1-24 in Units 10A, 12, 13, 15 and 19. An extended whitetail antlerless-only archery season also runs from Jan. 25-31 in Units 19 and 10A.

Waterfowl hunting also continues throughout the winter and spring, though the second segment of duck season wraps up Sunday in the Low Plains Early Zone. The first segment of the season also wraps up Sunday in the the other three duck zones, but the second segment kicks off Jan. 9-31 in the Low Plains Southeast Zone, Jan. 22-31 in the High Plains Unit and Jan. 23-31 in the Low Plains Late Zone.

The first segment of the white-fronted goose season also ends Sunday, but the second segment runs Jan. 23 to Feb. 14.

The second segments of both dark and light goose seasons also run through Feb. 14, with the light goose extended season running Feb. 15-April 30. During the extended season, there is no daily bag limit and hunters are allowed to use unplugged shotguns and electronic calls.

Bird numbers have fluctuated with the weather across much of Kansas in recent weeks.

On Dec. 22, Jeffrey Energy Center near St. Marys noted erratic numbers of snow geese in the surrounding area, with reports of less than 10,000 to more than 100,000 depending on the day and weather conditions.

Cedar Bluff Wildlife Area in Ellis noted solid duck numbers in Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism reports on Dec. 26, with between 20,000 and 25,000 ducks, including 18,000 mallards, as well as approximately 3,000 snows, 3,000 Canada geese and 1,000 white-fronts.

Webster Wildlife Area in Stockton noted 30,000 to 40,000 snow geese on Dec. 22, with 4,000 to 6,000 ducks and 1,000 Canada geese.

John Redmond WA in Toronto spotted 9,500 mixed ducks, 3,500 dark geese and 3,500 light geese on Dec. 28.

Sandhill crane season also runs through Jan. 7 in the Central Zone.

For the upland bird hunters out there, you have until the end of January to hunt pheasant and quail, as well.

First deer

Sixteen-year-old Seaman High School junior Mackenzie Doud, of Topeka, took down her first deer on the last day of the regular Kansas firearm season on Dec. 13.

And what a deer it was!

The 10-point buck was shot and killed in northeast Shawnee County during a hunt with her cousin, Cole Schmidt, who served as her guide and mentor.

The photo was submitted by Mackenzie’s “proud grandma,” Barb Doub.

Great job, Mackenzie!

Tim Schumacher, of Hays, caught this "golden" rainbow trout, also known as a palomino trout, from the Webster Stilling Basin at Stockton during a recent fishing trip.

Palomino trout caught

Hays' Tim Schumacher also pulled a pretty nice "golden" rainbow trout, also known as a palomino trout, from the Webster Stilling Basin at Stockton. He caught the trout while fly fishing recently. 

These "golden trout" are actually a mutated strain of rainbow trout that originates in West Virginia and takes on a bright-yellow coloring. A separate species called golden trout, which is native to California and is the state freshwater fish, also exists and looks quite different. Because of this, golden rainbow trout are also known as palomino trout to avoid confusion.

The stilling basin, located below the Webster Reservoir dam in Rooks County, was stocked just a month ago on Dec. 3 and was scheduled to be stocked again on Friday, according to the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.

All anglers, including youths under 16 years old, are now required to purchase a trout permit to fish the basin — regardless of what species they are pursuing — during trout season after a rule change made in the middle of November. Trout season this year runs from Nov. 1, 2020, to April 15, 2021.

However, youths under 16 can purchase a new youth trout permit at about half the cost of a regular permit — $7 compared to $14.50 for adults — after the KWPT Commission voted to do away with an exemption for youth anglers from having to purchase the permits in order to establish the reduced-price youth trout permit. Both trout permits allow anglers to keep five trout per day. 

Anglers younger than 16 were previously allowed to fish the basin free of charge all year long. Youth anglers will still be allowed to pursue any species without needing to purchase a trout permit on the main lake and can fish the basin for free again when trout season ends in April. Anglers over 16 must also purchase a fishing license.

Glen Elder Park Pond in Mitchell County also was recently stocked with palomino trout and will also require youth anglers to purchase a permit as of Jan. 1. For a complete list of which Kansas waters will now require a trout permit of all anglers during trout season, go to https://tinyurl.com/y9r2v3ee/.

Eagle Day on tap

Eagle Day at Milford Reservoir is scheduled for Jan. 9 this year, giving bird-watching enthusiasts a chance to see the powerful birds of prey up close.

No more than 10 people will be allowed in the room with the eagles at a time because of COVID-19 this year. Rather than having a formal presentation as in years past, this year event goers will be able to visit with staff about the birds in a more personal setting.

There will be no bus tours this year, but spotting scopes for viewing wild bald eagles will be set up around the lake.

Sign up for a free timed ticket at https://tinyurl.com/yd9pyla9. All ages are welcome, but each person must have a ticket. Pre-registration for each person in your group is required, including babies. Each vehicle must obtain a State Park vehicle pass to enter the state park to use the spotting scopes. The location of the scopes may change during the day as the eagles move. Watch the Nature Center Facebook event page for updates on the location of the spotting scopes.

Face masks are required at all stations and within the buildings.

Admission is free, but donations are welcomed by the Milford Friends Group, which helps provide the event and refreshments.