Those leading conservation efforts might be the last type of people you expect to keep herds alive‚ they are in fact, hunters.
Lloyd Fox, big game program coordinator with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, explained that hunters tend to conserve populations subconsciously.
Deer hunters have a vested interest in the future of deer, so if too many are taken they are the driving force to bring that population back, Fox said. When we increased the number of available permits, hunters bought fewer. They won’t hunt to extinction in today world.
Species not previously hunted in Kansas are now available, thanks to conservation efforts.
The Kansas deer population has remained stable for the past decade with roughly 630,000 deer in the state. That’s a vast improvement from virtual extinction in the 1950s. Fox predicts that this year’s hunting season will reach between 95,000 to 100,000 deer. It seems like a large number, considering conservation efforts, though annual hunting seasons regulate populations and work to reduce deer-vehicle accidents or crop damage.
The KDWPT determines the number of permits for individual units based on items like crop damage and accidents, hunter satisfaction and complaints from land owners.
The same goes for turkeys, waterfowl and even coyotes, the limit reflects how many animals of a species are available.
Given the increased production of upland birds, Kansas should have good upland bird hunting this fall. Kansas has almost 1.5 million acres open to public hunting
The best areas this year for pheasant will likely be in the northwest and southwest regions. While the 2015 pheasant harvest remained low, the average daily bag per hunter was above the 10- and 20-year average, suggesting we could have supported a near average harvest with greater hunter participation.
In addition to the hunters, those providing hunting ground impact harvest numbers. Over 95 percent of hunting ground in Kansas is privately owned, so those with the most say in who hunts are the landowners.
Many landowners become more conservative when they feel that the population is declining so they become the determiners in who buys a permit, Fox said. We set the season dates, but the big items are landowners and accessibility to private land.
Those that do hunt, do well. Over half of hunters in Kansas finish the season with at least one deer.
Kansas success rates are astounding, Fox said. Only about five percent don’t use their permit, which is phenomenal for North America.
Developments in weaponry have changed the hunting season for some that may not have participated otherwise.
Kansas recently allowed the use of crossbows during archery season. This means that hunters that are physically unable to use traditional or compound bows can hunt outside rifle season.
Fox explained that the old KDWPT system for selling hunting permits discouraged non-residents from taking more than a trophy buck and did not address a growing doe population.
We had some problems with land conflict, where one landowner wants more deer while neighbor complains about crop damage from increased number of deer, Fox said. Non-residents wouldn’t purchase an antlerless permit because it was expensive so we changed the system to require it and dropped the price. Now they tend to harvest antlerless whitetail deer in greater numbers and we’ve had fewer problems. It puts harvest pressure on the range we needed.
This system has been in place for a handful of years, but Fox reports that the steady success so far is a great improvement for those in deer-dense environments. Now 20 percent of hunters in Kansas are non-residents, a stiff increase from only 5 percent 20 years ago.
Our system is very liberal in number of deer a hunter can take on whitetail deer and conservative on mule deer, Fox said. The deer population increases when hunters only take antlered deer, so when don’t take antlerless, it builds up deer density. It’s working better than it was in the old system.
Contact Cheyenne Derksen Schroeder by email at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @DerksenSentinel.
Greater Prairie Chicken Early Season through Oct. 15
Deer-Archery, through Dec. 31
Elk, outside Fort Riley, archery, through Dec. 31
Dove (mourning, whitewing and exotics) through Nov. 29
Rail, through Nov. 9
Snipe, through Dec. 16
Bullfrog, through Oct. 31
Squirrel, through Feb. 28, 2017
Running, through Nov. 8
Rabbit, through Dec. 31
Coyote, through Jan. 1,
Antelope, Early Season, archery, through Oct. 2
Fall Turkey, Oct. 1-Nov. 29
Elk-Firearm, Oct. 1-Dec. 31
Antelope-Muzzleloader, Oct. 3-10
Antelope-Firearm, Oct. 7-10
Ducks, Oct. 8-Dec. 4
Deer, antlerless, Oct. 8-9
Woodcock, Oct. 15-Nov. 28
Antelope-Archery, Oct. 15-31
Ducks, Oct. 29-Jan. 1
Canada Geese, Oct. 29-Jan. 1
White-fronted geese, Oct. 29-Jan. 1