Kansas Department of Wildlife: Deer season is ‘box of chocolates’

by Marc Murrell, Capital Journal  |  published on December 3, 2012


Kansas has one of the most noted deer populations in the country. Home to both mule deer in the western one-third of the state and whitetails statewide, the Sunflower State generates plenty of interest when talk turns to deer hunting.

The regular firearms deer season opened Wednesday and ends 30 minutes after sunset Dec. 9. Hunters can expect good or great things in most areas, with a few possible exceptions.

“It’s a box of chocolates if there ever was one,” said Lloyd Fox, big game program coordinator for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. “We’ve had two years of exceptional drought in parts of the state so we’ve got poor escape cover, especially from our traditional CRP grassland areas as they were allowed to be hayed or grazed and as a result those fields don’t allow much escape cover compared to normal.”

In short, deer will be easier to see. Fox figures they’ll be bunched up, too.

“The areas with good habitat will have concentrations of deer,” Fox said. “That can be good for some hunters and not so good for other hunters.”

While lack of escape cover is good news for hunters chasing deer, it may not be good news for the future.

“That same thing had an effect on fawn recruitment and it’s been reduced and will have an effect down the line,” Fox said.

Another couple of strikes against the Kansas deer herd has been two years of more-severe-than-normal problems with hemorrhagic disease.

“There are areas of the state where deer numbers are going to be down compared to historical levels,” Fox said. “It appears to be worse in the northeast part of the state through the Blue River Area from Lawrence, Ottawa and up towards Marysville and that seems to be some of the hardest hit areas.”

Fox admits some hunters may see far fewer deer than in the past in certain parts of Kansas although no widespread die-offs have been observed or reported. Other factors may influence where the remaining deer are found, outside of historical areas where they’ve been observed.

“The crops where we normally have waste grain scattered all over the county, many of these might have been cut for hay or they’ve been plowed already,” Fox said. “Hunters may not see deer in those areas and they might have to use more of their options (as far as places to hunt) than they have in the past and look beyond their favorite spot.

“There will be hot spots and cold spots, like there always are, but they’re going to be more noticeable than normal this year,” he said.

While hemorrhagic disease is nothing new and likely happens to some extent in parts of Kansas each year, two really bad years back-to-back may be cause for concern and influence future deer management decisions.

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