The rifle whitetail season in north-central Kansas has been slow, but some huge bucks have been taken in the state. The hunters and outfitters of Washington County, Kansas have largely been frustrated in finding the big bucks that this country is known for. Most of the hunters say they are getting skunked.
But, those who have scored, have scored big. I have seen a deer that was green scored at 190″, and I’ve seen two excellent bucks with 11+ total points. Another hunter at the hotel took a medium-sized 4×4, but most hunters are holding out for trophies.
Personally, I’ve only seen 4 bucks, including a 2×2, a medium-sized 4×4, a small 4×4, and a 4×4 that I regret not trying harder to take.
He was pushed on to the property I was hunting from a drive the neighbors made. He was moving very fast, from the minute I saw him jump the fence 60 yards away to the time he topped the hill across from me and disappeared.
I was hoping for a 5×5 or better, and by the time that I figured out that this high-racked deer was one I should take, it was too late.
Rain fell across much of the state this morning (saturday), making most dirt roads impassable. This complicated the already tough season. Hunters are speculating that deer are still widely dispersed due to mild temperatures and plentiful feed, and are hoping that the deer may become more concentrated in key woodlots before the season ends after next weekend.
Many, many deer that had been seen before the season on trail cameras have still not been season by hunters.
There are still signs of rutting activity, with swollen necks, some cruising bucks, and some bucks still fighting. The 2007 Kansas deer season runs from November 28 to December 9.
More on Deer Hunting in Kansas
Keith Balfourd of Missoula, Mont., has hunted for whitetail deer in 10 states and Canadian provinces — some of the best trophy destinations in North America.
But at this time of the year, he has only one place on his mind — Kansas.
“If you’re a trophy hunter, Kansas is certainly one of the places to go,” said Balfourd, who is the director of marketing for the Boone and Crockett Club, the official record-keeping organization of deer hunting. “It is clearly in the top five or six. Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Alberta and Saskatchewan are up there.
“But Kansas isn’t far behind. The records bear that out.”
Take a look:
•Kansas ranks No. 6 all time in the number of nontypical deer (bucks with asymmetrical racks) that measure up to Boone and Crockett record-book standards.
•The Sunflower State also is No. 10 in the number of typical deer in the record book.
•A buck taken by Joseph Waters in 1987 ranks as the No. 12 nontypical deer ever taken in North America. Four other Kansas bucks rank in the top 50.
•Four other Kansas deer are included in the top 50 in the typical all-time standings.
With the Kansas firearms deer season set to open Wednesday, statistics like those give hunters plenty of reason to dream.
Balfourd is one of many who are dreaming. He hunted in Kansas for the first time two years ago, and he took a big 10-point buck. He will return this year with the goal of taking one even bigger.
“I’ve hunted deer long enough that I’m realistic,” he said. “Taking a big buck is not an every-time situation.
“You can hunt hard on good land and still not even see one of these big bucks. Still, in a state like Kansas, you always have a chance.”
Lloyd Fox, the deer biologist for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, agrees. He is quick to point out, “There isn’t a trophy buck behind every tree.” But he adds that the state still has a good population of the big deer many hunters dream about.
“The key is that our region has a healthy deer population that is in balance with the environment,” he said. “In some parts of the country, there are too many deer and not enough groceries.
“But that’s not the case here in Kansas, northern Missouri, Iowa and Illinois. In this prairie region, there is rich soil, plenty of food, and good, but not huge, populations of deer.
“In Kansas, when you add the large size of farms and ranches, the limited access, and moderate hunting pressure, that’s a formula for big deer.”
The age structure of the deer in some parts of the state only adds to Kansas’ reputation as a trophy whitetail destination, Fox said.
“In some of our units, 30 percent of the antlered bucks taken are 3½ (years) and older, and that’s phenomenal,” he said. “You compare that to some states that get heavy hunting pressure. There, the average antlered buck is 1½.”
Fox already has seen many photos of trophy bucks taken during the archery hunting season. And in recent surveys, he observed many nice-sized bucks.
That’s why he can say with confidence that Kansas still has the big bucks to justify its national reputation. He fully expects some impressive deer to be taken during the firearms season, which will run through Dec. 9.
But at the same time, he is encouraging hunters to take antlerless deer, not only the ones with big racks.
“It’s great that Kansas has a reputation for big bucks,” he said. “But we’re disappointed by a trend we’re seeing where Kansas hunters are taking less antlerless deer.
“Our population is growing again, and we have to take a fair number of antlerless deer to keep things in balance.”
Learn about the range and habitat of white-tailed deer.