Things are looking good for the firearms deer season that opens Wednesday and runs through Dec. 11, according to Lloyd Fox, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism big-game program coordinator.
“We had that downward trend in about 2011 and 2012, but we’ve been pretty stable since,” Fox said of the extreme drought that killed some deer through disease and decimated young fawns in most areas. “Last year’s harvest was around 96,000 deer. We should be able to do about that this season, too.”
Kansas’ record deer harvest was around 110,000 in 2001. That was when higher speed limits resulted in higher numbers of deer/vehicle accidents, and legislative pressure to lower the deer population led to high numbers of permits for shooting whitetail does.
Hunters can again shoot one whitetail buck and up to five does in some areas this season. Fox said few hunters want to kill more than two deer.
Fox said there are still some localized populations that remain low. In some parts of western Kansas, mule deer don’t seem to have rebounded from the lowered populations of the drought years. Some areas of northeast Kansas, where disease was especially damaging during the drought, also haven’t increased to pre-drought levels.
He and other biologists have almost finished their annual fall deer surveys, where they accumulate thousands of driven miles on established routes, looking for deer at night with spotlights. Quality looks good, again.
“There are some really nice deer out there,” Fox said. “The great thing about Kansas is there’s always going to be some of those big deer, with the combination of so much private land, some of it big holdings and some landowners are managing for big deer. Bucks can get the time to grow.”
He credited the large amount of Conservation Reserve Program grasses for giving bucks places to hide during seasons, so they can grow another year.
Fox and others did find a surprise during their fall surveys – a noticeable shortage of fawns. That could impact hunter success immediately and the number of trophy bucks three to six years down the road.
“I thought with the moisture levels we had this year, all across the state, we’d see outstanding fawn recruitment,” said Fox. “But so far all of the surveys I’ve done have not shown that. I’ll have to wait until I can get all of the data analyzed, but for some reason it appears we may not have had what should have been a good fawn crop.”