said, "and they can become completely weatherproof if the birds drop seeds in there so that blackberries and other plants will grow."
Ficken also seined sections of Lehmann's pond to check its fertility. He suggested adding grass carp and removing large catfish, which were roiling the bottom, keeping the water muddy. The fishing improved dramatically. This summer Lehmann caught an 8 1/2-pound bass less than 100 yards from his house, and he regularly catches eating-size catfish.
Lehmann had put in his own food plots, but Jennifer Batson, his Private Land Conservationist, helped him by providing seed and suggesting ways to make the food plots more productive.
"She advised me to cut the size of them by a third," Lehmann said. "Now I have one-third in clover and wheat, one-third in milo and one-third as a weed field, and I'm going to alternate them. It'll result in more wildlife-quail, rabbits, anything. I just like wildlife."
Lehmann said Jennifer has helped him and his wife, Bev, enjoy his farm more. "Her specialty is forestry," Lehmann said, "but she knows a lot about wildflowers and says we have an amazing variety of them on our property. She showed us a plant, and Bev jumped back when she called it rattlesnake weed. My wife was afraid it was going to bite her."
Next on the schedule for the Lehmann property is Timber Stand Improvement, or TSI, "Jennifer is coming out to help me ring some trees with a chainsaw," Lehmann said. "We're going to kill enough of the scrub and post oak to open things up for the white oak and walnuts and dogwood. I'll later cut the dead trees down and use them for firewood. I'll also receive a little money, about $65 an acre, which I'll put toward even more improvements."
Don Smith of Blue Springs purchased 33 acres of bottomland along the Fishing River in Clay County about six years ago. He's a research biologist at the Kansas University Medical Center, and he always found wildlife, including deer and turkey and waterfowl, fascinating to watch and photograph.
He also likes to hunt, and although his property often held standing water, it rarely attracted waterfowl. He said ducks and geese from nearby Cooley Lake Conservation Area frequently flew over his land, but they never used the area, except for a few wood ducks nesting in the trees along the river.
Several years after he purchased the area, he asked the NRCS for help in making his property more inviting to wildlife. "They couldn't help because it wasn't an active farm," Smith said, "so I didn't do anything until I read about the Private Lands Division in the Conservationist. I contacted Jeff Powelson and things really happened fast."
Within six months, Jeff, who served as Private Land Conservationist for Clay and Platte counties, had visited the Smith property several times and helped flag the area for bulldozers. The plan was to install a system of seven pools all connected by troughs. The pools would vary in depth. Some would remain flooded all year, and some would dry up, allowing new growth to resprout annually.
"It was a 3/4 cost-share on a $5,000 project," Smith reported. "The project took two bulldozers going at full tilt the better part of three days to complete. After the pools were dug, Jeff and I planted nearly 300 pounds of grass and other grain seeds."
Smith said the Conservation Department furnished warm-season grass seed and food plot material.
"This has all just come together," Smith said, "but I was out there the other day and saw 18 wood ducks-more than have ever been there before. I can't wait to see how many ducks we attract this fall and winter."
He's already gathered materials to build more wood duck houses and some geese nesting platforms. Future plans may include a pump to help manipulate water levels to further enhance the value of the property for wildlife.
Smith said he takes his family to the property several times a month. "My six-year-old twins just love the pools," he said, "and I like to hunt and take pictures. With the pools filled and the food plots nearby, it's really become an exciting place to visit. I couldn't be happier with the Conservation Department."