Outdoors

Hunting preview 2019-20: Where to go, and what to expect, if you’re chasing deer, fowl

It’s autumn at last, and the countryside will soon be speckled with hunters silhouetted against the Midwest sky.
It’s autumn at last, and the countryside will soon be speckled with hunters silhouetted against the Midwest sky. Special to The Star

It’s hard to believe, but 2019 is winding down into its final months. For many outdoor enthusiasts, this is the best time of the year.

Leaves are beginning to transition in color into the beautiful oranges, yellows, and reds we all love. Cooling temps bring a welcome change from the suffocating summer heat. Flocks of waterfowl and other birds are starting their annual migration south.

And most importantly, Kansas and Missouri’s favorite hunting seasons are finally upon us.

Let’s take a look at what to expect this hunting season for Kansas and Missouri.

KANSAS

Deer

Muzzleloader: Sept. 16-Sept. 29.

Archery: Sept. 16-Dec. 31.

Regular firearms: Dec. 4-Dec. 15.

Firearms-anterless only: Jan. 1-Jan. 3 (Units 6, 8, 9, 10, and 17); Jan. 1-Jan. 12 (Units 10A, 12, 13, 15 and 19 only); Jan. 1-Jan. 5 (Units 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 11, 14, 16).

Anterless pre-rut season: Oct. 12-14.

Outlook: More scouting may be needed due to deer displacement from flooding

It’s been pretty wet this year, especially on public lands. As a result, thick cover under the trees hasn’t had an opportunity to develop. Deer will return quickly to their home territories once flooding subsides but may not hang around long if the cover and food isn’t there.

“Folks will really need to get out and look because things might not be the same as they were last year,” Levi Jasper, Big Game Coordinator for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT), said. “A great amount of our public lands are still suffering from flooding around the reservoirs, so some places might not be huntable.”

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Tyler Mahoney Special to The Star

Overall, the population is stable and slightly up in a few places. Southeastern Kansas is definitely the hot spot for good numbers of whitetails. The Walk-In Hunting ground available to the public has increased with over one million acres available for hunters.

Quail/pheasant

Regular season: Nov. 9-Jan. 31.

Youth: Nov. 2-3.

Outlook: Upland bird populations are in good shape this year

“Statewide roadside estimates were essentially the same as they were last year,” Jeff Prendergast, Small Game Specialists for the KDWPT, said. “Both pheasants and quail are above the long term average overall.”

While heavy rain and flooding negatively impacted chick survival in the eastern units, there is a silver lining. More rain yields more growth in cover, which creates an abundance of insects. Although fewer nests hatched, the ones that did prospered tremendously, resulting in much larger broods.

“Surveys showed the highest density of quail are in north central Kansas in the Smoky Hills region,” Prendergast said. “The northwest had the highest pheasant densities, but the southwest showed some solid results as well.”

Ducks

Teal, High Plains Zone: Sept. 21-29.

Teal, Low Plains Zone: Sept. 14-29.

Ducks, High Plains Unit: Oct. 12-Jan. 5 and Jan. 17-26.

Low Plains Early Zone: Oct. 12-Dec. 8 and Dec. 14-29.

Low Plains Late Zone: Oct. 26-Dec. 29 and Jan. 18-26.

Low Plains Southeast Zone: Nov. 9-Jan. 5 and Jan. 11-26.

Youth seasons: High Plains Unit: Oct. 5-6; Low Plains Early Zone: Oct. 5-6; Low Plains Late Zone: Oct. 19-20; Southeast Zone: Nov. 2-3.

Canada geese: Oct. 26-27 and Nov. 6-Feb. 16.

Outlook: Flooding could produce mixed results.

“Like many states in the Central Flyway, an abundance of water on the landscape will make the 2019-20 waterfowl season an ‘interesting’ one,” Tom Bidrowski, Migratory Game Bird Specialist for the KDWPT, said.

Kansas experienced well above normal spring and summer precipitation, which caused a number of prolonged and sometimes severe flooding events. This affected moist soil production, as well agricultural plantings across Kansas.

Many of the state’s reservoirs are/were above conservation pools. The timing and extent of water withdrawals on those reservoirs will be an important factor in determining waterfowl capacity in Kansas this fall and winter.

“Scouting will be key for hunters,” Bidrowski noted. “Duck and goose hunters will have to be mobile and flexible if their normal haunts aren’t paying off.”

The KDWPT is soliciting waterfowl hunter input on season dates, duck zones and other waterfowl hunting regulations. Visit the KDWPT website for more information.

MISSOURI

Deer

Archery: Sept. 15-Nov. 15; then Nov. 27-Jan. 15.

Youth firearm: Nov. 2-Nov. 3; then Nov. 29-Dec. 1.

Firearm: Nov. 16-26.

Firearm (antlerless): Dec. 6-Dec. 8.

Firearm (alternative methods): Dec. 28-Jan. 7.

Outlook: Should be good hunting statewide.

Jason Isabelle, Cervid Program Supervisor with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), said things are looking very good for 2019.

“Although the later firearms season start date usually brings a reduction in buck harvest, we still expect great hunter success this year,” Isabelle said. “The herd has rebounded from the EHD outbreak of 2012. Populations have stabilized, and in many parts of the state, increased.”

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Tyler Mahoney Special to The Star

With some counties being removed from the CWD management zone, it’s important to familiarize yourself with updated regulations.

“Make sure to familiarize yourself with the deer regulations,” Isabelle added. “Anterless tags change by county sometimes, the CWD management zone has been updated, etc. You can find all the info you need in the fall deer/turkey booklet.”

Pheasant/quail

Youth: Oct. 26-27.

Regular: Nov. 1 -Jan. 15.

Outlook: Hunting looks promising despite adverse weather conditions in the past year.

The 2019 August roadside brood survey was just completed, and it showed a statewide increase in production for both quail and pheasants.

“We saw a 3 percent increase in the number of birds that were seen per route on a statewide level,” David Hoover, the Small Game Coordinator for the MDC, said. “It might not sound like a lot, but given the winter that we had and the flooding we had around the state, this is above what expectations were.”

The extensive flooding prevented many crop fields from being planted, resulting in a larger amount of broadleaf annuals. The north central and west central portion of the state did better than expected, and the southeastern portion showed improvement as well.

“We expect hunters to see a similar number of birds in the fields as last year,” Hoover said. “The best places for hunting will continue to be the north central, northwest, and western Missouri.”

Ducks

Youth (North Zone) and Youth (Middle Zone): Oct. 26-27.

Youth (South Zone): Nov. 23-24.

North Zone: Nov. 2-Dec. 31.

Middle Zone: Nov. 9-Nov. 15; then Nov. 21-Jan. 12.

South Zone: Nov. 28-Dec. 1; then Dec. 7-Jan. 31.

Canada geese: Oct. 5-Oct. 13., then Nov. 11-Feb. 6.

Outlook: Some uncertainty for upcoming duck season due to extensive flooding.

“It’s going to be a different ball game this year,” Andy Raedeke, Waterfowl Resource Scientist for the MDC, said.

A number of areas were extensively damaged from flooding and some may not have the same pumping capabilities this year. Cover and food will be limited around public areas as well. However, there just might be some new areas created from the flooding that hunters normally wouldn’t have hunted.

The Schell-Osage Conservation Area will allow some self-check open hunting, but some parts of it may be closed depending on work that’s being done. Habitat will still be pretty poor. The Bob Brown Conservation area has had extensive levy damage, so they won’t be doing a morning drawing. It will just be open hunting.

“I would really encourage hunters more than ever: don’t go to spots you hunt every year in the past and assume it will look like years past,” Raedeke said. “Do some extra scouting and be sure to check the MDC website to see if there will be morning drawings.”

The overall duck population is pretty similar to last year, so although flooding didn’t help, things are in decent shape. The season structure will be later this year, and hunters can expect first big push of mallards to be around Veteran’s Day.

Tyler Mahoney is a Rockhurst University-educated outdoors fanatic who works to support his hunting and fishing habits. Read more of his next-generation insight at mahoneyoutdoors.com.

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