Norton Wildlife Area

Keith Sebelius Reservoir/ Norton Wildlife Area News

SPRING HABITAT PROJECTS

Department staff has been busy this spring!  The fight against the endless sea of smooth brome is in full swing!

Visitors to the Norton Wildlife Area have probably noticed a few new residents on the south side.  An early intensive grazing system has been introduced to approximately 200 acres of grass.  Grazing is being utilized as another tool to help in the fight against smooth brome!  The animals will be on the property until the middle of June. 

Approximately 140 acres of smooth brome was treated with glyphosate in the fall of 2013.  Glyphosate is used to set back the brome grass to allow for the release of existing native grasses as well as beneficial forb species.  

90 acres of treated brome grass were seeded back to native grass in early April.  With any luck, some much needed moisture will come to our area and help the new grass establish.  All seed was purchased by the local Norton Longspur chapter of Pheasants Forever!  The National Wild Turkey Federation also provided funding for the project through a superfund grant awarded in the fall of 2013.

Grass buffers will be making a comeback on the property as well!  One buffer was planted on the west end of the property on a field bordering the Prairie Dog Creek.  Plans are being drawn up for more buffer work in the fall.

Some new firebreaks have been established on the property this spring.  The firebreaks will be used to help with controlled burns.  Plans were made to conduct a couple burns this spring, but Mother Nature and burn bans did not allow that to happen!  With any luck we will come by some moisture this summer and fall which will allow for controlled burning in the spring of 2015.   

Norton Wildlife Area –Fall Hunting Forecast

Waterfowl Water level is currently holding just over 13.2' low. This has left a vast majority of the shoreline exposed and will make hiding from ducks a difficult task. The best option for cover will be wading out in shallow water in the exposed brush.

Generally, the first large flights of ducks can be expected in late October. Weather fronts in November usually bring more Canada geese and mallards to the area. The early season goose hunter should have some decent opportunities at resident honkers on the Wildlife Area.

A seasonal waterfowl refuge is in effect from November 1 through January 31. During these dates the area designated as refuge is closed to all activities (special hunts only). Maps showing refuge boundaries are available at the Area Office and are posted at all of the information kiosks around the lake. Weekly waterfowl updates can be viewed on the agency’s website or call the Norton Area Office at 785-877-2953.

Millet has been planted on the mud flat below and east of the bluff. Decent germination has occurred and could provide some excellent food for waterfowl. Look for birds to concentrate in that area when hunting pressure is low. Also, several canada geese have been banded and released on the property again this year. Get out and try to harvest one of these local trophies!

Pheasant & Quail Pheasant and quail numbers are once again down. The few birds in the area had to deal with poor nesting/brooding conditions again this year. Expect to find few birds this year than years past.

Turkey Turkey numbers a slightly down from 2012. While they have not been hit as hard by the drought as the upland birds, they have seen a reduction in brood success. May-July was very dry and hurt the recruitment of turkeys, but August did bring some lower temps and limited rain fall. A few jakes and young hens will be found on the area this fall. Best hunting opportunities in the fall come with the season opener. Most turkeys will be pushed off the property by mid November.

Deer Deer numbers on the wildlife area have been increasing since 2001, mostly due to the availability of habitat with declining reservoir levels. The Wildlife Area is primarily home for white-tailed deer, some mule deer stay on the area during the summer but move off the property in the early fall. Expect moderate hunting pressure during muzzle loader and high pressure during archery and firearms season. All archery hunters are required to wear blaze orange if archery hunting during a firearms season, including muzzleloader season. Most of the deer hunting is concentrated on the west end of the area.

Rabbit Rabbit populations are high and should provide good opportunity for those who choose to hunt them. A cotton tail hunt after a fresh snow is a great way to introduce kids to hunting.

Coyotes & Furbearers Pressure for fur harvest has been extremely high the past two years. Higher fur prices have more people out trapping and calling. Always use good judgment when setting a trap or snare. Remember, you are sharing the area with other users. Please try to stay away from areas that are frequented by upland bird hunters and their dogs.