Set between Toronto Lake and Fall River Lake in southeast Kansas is a stellar waterfowl guide service called Ranch Country Waterfowl. I had the opportunity to do a 3-day hunt with Matt on his family’s 10,000-acre working cattle ranch.
Now with this being my first time hunting with a guide, I was still determining exactly what I needed to pack for this trip.
Flying from Idaho into Kansas City, I knew I would be restricted on how much I could take with me without taking out a second mortgage to pay extra baggage fees. After checking the forecast, I knew I would need some cold-weather clothing. I started packing the essentials that I knew I would need. Shotgun shells, waders, both light, and heavy camo.
Needless to say, the oversized suitcase was filling up fast. I managed to fit all that, plus my blind bag, basic clothes, Danner pronghorn boots, and a small duffle bag. My gun case held my Weatherby Element shotgun and a Weatherby 25-06 for an evening hunt for a predator or two.
I flew into Kansas City with minimal delays and met up with my buddy Bob to make the 2 ½ hour trip to the ranch. After a quick stop at a gas station, we were on our way.
We were excited about what the next three days would bring and chatting to pass the time.
We pulled up to the house a little after 10:00pm. Matt walked outside to greet us in the driveway and was eager to show us to the lodge where we would be staying. After we figured everything out, Matt talked with us about what the plan was for the next day.
He was planning to take us to one of over 90 ponds on the ranch holding a bunch of birds. After getting settled, going to sleep was the last thing on my mind. All I could think about was the pictures Matt had sent out the days leading up to the hunt. I get excited before a hunt, but this was a new level of excitement. After tossing and turning for a couple of hours, I finally got to sleep, only to wake up at 3:00am and stay wide awake.
After a few cups of coffee, we walked outside to meet Matt at the truck. After we all said our good mornings, he mentioned we wouldn’t need to take our waders if we didn’t want to. This surprised me because I figured we would help get the decoys set. We all piled into the truck and made our way into the dark.
I’m glad Matt knew where he was going because I was lost after we pulled out of the driveway.
A couple of turns and through a field, and we were at the pond. We got our gear out as Matt showed us to the blind. Lo and behold, everything was already set up. The decoys were already in place, and an ice eater was running to keep the water open. We even had hot coffee in the blind.
Matt left to park the truck and walked back in right before shooting hours.
After probably one of the best hunts I will ever be a part of, we left to head back to the lodge to get some lunch. After getting a bite to eat, the lack of sleep quickly caught up with me. I kicked my feet up on a stool and drifted off to sleep.
Later that evening, Matt let us know dinner would be ready soon. We ate some fantastic homemade chili, had a few laughs, enjoyed a few choice beverages, and discussed the plans for the next day. Now being the public land hunter that I am, my mind was still thinking about the setup from that morning and when did Matt have time to deal with that. He told me that he set the ice eater the night before, refilled the generator around 3:00am, and then went back out to assess the decoys before coming to take us out. All while still getting enough sleep and helping with chores around the ranch.
The next day we met up with Matt and his friend Chase, and we headed out to another pond close to the lodge.
The morning started out the same as the first day. We had good numbers of birds coming in; unfortunately, our shooting didn’t start out the same. We did manage to scratch out a limit of ducks and geese. The best part of the hunt was everybody cutting it up and having a good time.
Unfortunately for one of us, the chili from the night before was talking in his waders. Because we were hunting on a working cattle ranch, Matt had to step away from the blind to help with a first calf heifer.
Late morning came around, and we packed it up and headed back to the lodge. I felt terrible (even though I shouldn’t) about Matt doing all this work setting everything up for us to hunt and not helping with any of it. This time we did wear our waders and helped pack up all the decoys and the blind.
After heading in for lunch and relaxing for a few hours, we loaded into the truck again. This time we went out on a scouting mission to find more ducks for the following day. Matt gave us a tour of the ranch and gave us some history on certain areas while we bounced from pond to pond.
Unfortunately, with the sharp change in the weather, many of the ponds were locking up, and the ducks were few and far between. We did make a detour by the big lake to see what we could see there. Sure enough, it was loaded with ducks and geese that didn’t want to travel very far due to the blowing winds.
Before dinner, we headed out again. I was carrying the rifle this time, and we were looking for a different hunt. We set up in a field and took cover by a downed tree along the fence line. Matt set up his electronic call, and we waited to see what would show up.
After 15 minutes of nothing, we quickly gathered everything up and headed to the truck. We had just enough light for one more set.
Matt pulled into a field, dropped us off, and then pulled out into the middle to set up his call. He quickly drove out of sight and parked the truck around the corner, hidden by some trees. When I heard his door shut, the call started squeeling with a rabbit distress call.
After what seemed like seconds (actually 4 minutes), a coyote popped up on the other side of the call. It stopped broadside, trying to catch the smell of whatever it was hearing. I got a good rest over my knee, estimated about a 200-yard shot, and squeezed the trigger. The next thing I know it is doing, the popcorn spins and disappears.
I was excited as we walked out to where we saw it go down. I haven’t done a lot of coyote hunts, but this was by far the best set I have ever had. My excitement quickly dwindled as we approached it. It had mange so badly that, unfortunately, not much hair was left on it. I was hoping for a nice dog full of fur, but I realized I had done this thing a favor. There was no way it would make it through the winter without suffering.
As darkness set, we headed back to the lodge for dinner. Once again, having a good laugh while we ate a fantastic meal prepared by Matt on the grill, drank a little bourbon, and talked about what the plan would be for the following day.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.
The third morning was very slow, and even with the ice eater running all night, we had ice forming around the decoys. The cool, clear morning produced very few birds, but we made the best of the ones that committed. I witnessed Bob’s lab, Ivy, make an impressive retrieve through ice and return with a gadwall full of pride for the task she had just completed. It’s the great memories that are made with great people that make the most of hunts like this.
I will forever be grateful for the 3 days I spent with Ranch Country Waterfowl, and I am already making plans for another trip in the coming year.
Ranch Country Waterfowl is unique because Matt only takes one group of hunters at a time.
Two to six hunters are ideal, but he will take up to eight. This way, he can put them on the best hunting opportunity possible. Our trip was just 2 hunters, and we didn’t have to worry about any other duck hunters on the property. They will never mix groups, so whoever you bring is who you will hunt with.
You are welcome to bring your own hunting dogs; if yours is anything like mine, they are included in the family. If you want to leave them at home, or you don’t have a dog, you don’t have to worry. Matt has an awesome young pup named Bosco that can handle just about any retrieve you can send him on.
With over 80 ponds, watersheds, and creeks on this 10,000-acre ranch, you will have plenty of opportunities to get on birds. If field hunting is more your style, they have plenty of dry fields, but they mainly hunt over water.
Call these guys if you want to book a hunt you won’t forget. Let them know you heard about it from the Hunt Bums.
For Waterfowl, turkey, or predator hunts, you can give Matt a call @ (620)687-2650
For Whitetail, and turkey hunts, you can give Trevor a call @ (620)583-2934