Kansas bird farm gives teen girl chance to fulfill hunting wishes after COVID-19 cancellations
Travis Burch, of Linn Valley, had big plans to take his daughter, Lillian, on her first hunt this month.
So when seven members of their hunting party backed out of their planned trip to western Kansas at the last minute because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Travis knew he had to think fast if he wanted to get his daughter, a Gardner-Edgerton senior, on some birds during the holidays and make some great family memories.
So he instead booked a two-day trip Nov. 19-20 to the Eckman Hunting Preserve, 988 E. 1800 Road in Baldwin City.
“Wasn't about to let my daughter miss it when she was so excited,” Travis said.
And she had reason to be excited, as in addition to her dad, she was going with a pair of well-seasoned hunters — her childhood dog, Denali, an 8-year-old chocolate lab, and her grandfather, Danny Burch, who turns 66 on Monday. Also along for the ride were her great-uncle, Kevin Burch, and her boyfriend, Brayden Ratcliffe.
“I couldn’t sleep much the night before, I was so excited,” said Lillian, 17. “I know that I’m the only girl in the family that really enjoys this kind of stuff, and so it was a pretty big deal to the men in my life.
“I love the outdoors and nature that hunting brings. I knew that Denali, our bird dog, wasn’t getting any younger, so I had to go this year to hunt with her. She is such a good bird dog, and she gave me two amazing shots less than five minutes apart.”
During the two-day hunt at the Douglas County bird farm, the trip quickly became extra special as they took down an elusive black pheasant — a melanistic mutant of the common pheasant, initially bred in Europe — on Day 1. Travis said the group shot 24 birds on the first day, which wasn’t bad considering the windy conditions.
But the hunt was special for other reasons besides the birds themselves.
Lillian’s grandfather, Danny, said the trip was a great bonding experience for him and his family. Danny is newly retired this year after 47 years working for the US Postal Service.
“It was a real proud couple of days getting to be shut out by Lilly on Day 2,” Danny said. “Two great points by Denali, then Lilly took each one down using my spare Remington 1100 in 20 gauge before I could shoulder my 12-gauge 1100. She's been saying for about three to four years she was wanting to go with us to see bird dogs in action.”
Danny stressed to her that she would need to go take her hunter’s safety course before she could go on a hunt.
She was glad she did.
“The feeling and rush you get when you first shoot the gun and actually hit your target is such a powerful feeling,” Lillian said. “I got to shoot my great-grandpa’s gun for my first hunt, too, and it was really special. It was so exciting and tiring at the same time. I loved the family time I got to spend with the men in my life. I know it meant a lot to them, too.”
Her father was pretty happy, as well.
“Was really glad she got to share that time with us and my uncle Kevin,” said Travis, who co-owns K-Guard Heartland, a guttering company in Kansas City, and is the youth director for the Kansas BASS Nation. “Those family memories mean more than anything to me.”
After high school, Lillian plans to go to Johnson County Community College and Concorde Career College to get her associate’s degree to become a dental hygienist.
The 10th annual Kansas Governor’s Ringneck Classic also took place last weekend in Colby, with hunters from around the state participating in the banquet and hunt.
Washburn Rural’s Ryleigh Abrams and Stockton’s Cappi Hoeting were the youth essay winners out of a record number of applicants this year.
More information about the Ringneck Classic can be found at http://www.kansasringneckclassic.com/.
A Kansas hunting guide is losing his hunting privileges for three years after violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister.
Zachary B. White, 35, of Ellinwood, pleaded guilty on Friday, Nov. 20, in federal court in Wichita to violating the law while acting as a waterfowl guide in December 2015 to a party of 13 hunters in Barton County.
White helped the hunters kill 31 white-fronted geese, violating the daily bag limit in place at the time of two per person. White is a co-owner and operator of Prairie Thunder Outfitters, located near Ellinwood.
White was sentenced to three years on probation, during which time he is prohibited from hunting and fishing or acting as a guide, according to the release. White also was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine to the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund, as well as $10,000 in restitution to the Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks and Tourism-Law Enforcement Division Restitution Fund.
In addition, White forfeited approximately 148 ducks and geese seized from the PTO Lodge during a federal search warrant conducted in December 2016.
Bryan Boxberger, who assisted with a PTO hunt involving hunters taking waterfowl in excess of the daily bag, was sentenced in August 2020 and ordered to pay $12,500 in fines and restitution.
Eight other PTO guides, clients and associates also previously paid fines related to misdemeanors charged by violation notices.
White's sentencing is the final conviction related to a joint investigation of Prairie Thunder Outfitters by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and the KDWPT, according to the release.