Clearing the mind in Kansas

I'm in Kansas this week with my brother-in-law, Russ Campbell, for more hunting. We lease land there with some other friends, and it gives us a change of scenery. Don't get me wrong. I love hunting in Michigan with family and friends, but there's something special about doing hunting trips like this in the late season. It's fun to hunt new places.

I've hunted all over Canada, in Montana, south Texas and Kansas and hope to do some more. Before I turned pro, I'd plan fantasy fishing trips to places like Bull Shoals, Ark., Lake Eufaula, Ala., and Sam Rayburn, Tex. Now that I fish for a living and am fortunate to fish all over the country, hunting has become my favorite recreation during the offseason. My passion for hunting helps me purge my mind for the next fishing season. Although the tournament schedule ended in late summer, I've been very busy with sponsor appearances, doing TV fishing shows and other promotions.

Kansas gets me out of the office and away from the phone. I'm not thinking about fishing; I'm totally focused on hunting. This helps me clear my mind. So, when January arrives, I'm ready to fish. The Bassmaster Classic is just around the corner, and I'll be ready to defend my title once we hit New Orleans in mid-February. Meanwhile, it's all about the hunting. Russ and I have been discussing this trip for weeks, studying weather patterns and trying to determine when the rut will peak.

We arrived Sunday night. Kansas' season doesn't open until Wednesday, so we'll spend time scouting, setting up tree stands and doing some duck hunting in the mornings until the season opens. I don't do a lot of duck hunting, but I really enjoy it. Kansas doesn't get a lot of attention as a waterfowl state, but believe me, it's a sleeper. The biggest buck I've ever killed, which scored 173 under the Boone and Crockett scoring system, came from Kansas.

I like hunting there because it's different from Michigan. The terrain is different. We hunt woods and bottomlands at home, while Kansas offers more CRP ground and brushy draws that create deer funnel areas that we don't have around my house. Food sources are different, too. Our deer feed on crops and some acorns, whereas Kansas' deer eat persimmons and acorns. Another interesting difference is the wind always seems to blow in Kansas. When the wind blows in Michigan, you might as well stay home, as the deer don't move as much.

But in Kansas, they've adapted. If they didn't move when the wind blows there, they'd starve. The differences make the experience more challenging, and I like that. It's just like fishing unfamiliar lakes where the structure and forage can be different from what you're used to at home. It makes you spend time studying maps and learning the nuisances of the fish that live in that area. Learn the subtleties, and you'll become a better angler and hunter. Like I say, it's all about the attitude.

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