KANSAS WHITETAIL DEER HUNTING
By Darrin Bradley
Over the past 3 years the State of Kansas has introduced some of the best trophy whitetail deer hunting in the nation. I distinctly remember my first experience with hunting Kansas Whitetail Deer. Having been raised in the serene woodlots of Northern Missouri, standard procedure was to locate big tracts of white oak timber funneling down and leading to healthy agricultural row crop fields, along some spooky riverbottom. Often times in periods of early season as a Missouri hunter I would even dedicate myself to hunting white oak orchards exclusively. The hunting of white oak orchards occurs successfully when the hunter scouts out a big track of white oak timber, following which the hunter will locate several mature trees that are producing fallen acorns or mast. The hunter should dedicate him or herself to hunting only mature oaks bearing acorns that are holding numerous big rubs under the shadows of their majestic branches. As a naturalist and a hunter there is just something special and scenic about hunting inside huge tracts of timber which almost lays hint to childhood stories of Little Red Riding Hood or the Gingerbread Man. To me there is just nothing like crawling up 30 feet into the air in a quality climbing treestand, and hunting in the heart of big white oak timber near a batch of big rubs. I love to wait in the hardwoods to ambush trophy whitetail bucks that are sneaking into the trees shadows to partake of the sweet white oak acorns that fall annually.
My first encounter with Kansas was quite the opposite and really quite frustrating as Kansas doesn’t present huge quantities of beautiful landscraped forests. A Kansas setup can often be in a fencerow 10 feet wide out in the middle of a field. Many times in Kansas whitetail setups, one will find himself literally “cooking” in the blistering afternoon sun early season, swatting mosquitos from striking distance, wondering where in the world any deer would be hiding out. Some huge landtracts in excess of 2000 acres often house only a few acres of any timber if at all. While some may like the terrain Kansas offers I found it drove me literally crazy to hunt little ditches, draws, and fingers of timber wherein I felt a herd of whitetails couldn’t possibly hide out. Boy, was I ever wrong. During my first encounter with the Kansas Whitetail Hunting I viewed dozens of deer over the course of just a few days, and arrowed a monster 150 inch plus bruiser which was no even close to being the biggest deer I saw during the Kansas Whitetail Hunt.
HISTORY OF KANSAS WHITETAIL DEER HUNTING
The State of Kansas Wildlife and Parks Department provides the following information regarding big game and whitetail deer hunting in Kansas, “Big game hunting in Kansas is a relatively new heritage because nearly all big game species were extirpated from the state by 1900. Prior to settlement, the prairies of Kansas were home to tremendous herds of bison, elk, mule deer, and pronghorn antelope. In the timbered areas of eastern Kansas, white tail deer are abundant. The first modern deer season was held in 1965, and permits were limited. Today, white-tailed deer thrive statewide and permits for residents are sold across the counter. Mule deer are still common in western Kansas, through permits to hunt them are limited. Pronghorn antelope are limited to far-western counties where large areas of native prairie are still found, and residents can hunt them if they receive a coveted permit in the annual drawing. Similarly, elk are hunted through very limited permits. The only free-ranging elk herd in Kansas is found on the Fort Riley Military Reservation in Riley County. Hunters can receive a Kansas Trophy Certificate if the antlers or horns from a deer or antelope they kill achieves a minimum score. The department also maintains an unofficial Top 20 list for deer and antelope.
Mule deer are restricted to the western one-third of the state, primarily on the High Plains, Smoky Hills, and Red Hills regions. As you travel west to east, mule deer are less abundant, and whitetail numbers increase.
Whitetailed deer numbers have increased dramatically in the last 20 years, and they can be found virtually statewide wherever suitable habitat exists. Highest whitetail densities are in the eastern one-third of the state. Whitetails have adapted well to Kansas’ modern landscape, finding cover in natural woodlands, shelterbelts, old homesteads and grasslands, and abundant food in cropfields. The selective management program has created a healthy deer herd, with excellent potential for trophy-sized bucks in all regions.” Source 1
KANSAS RANKINGS IN THE WHITETAIL RECORD BOOKS
Kansas whitetail deer hunting ranks as the #6 State in the Nation with Boone and Crockett and Pope and Young Record Books for most number of entries. Only the States of Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, and Minnesota proceed it surrounding gross number of entries in the record books.
Two of out of the top 10 bucks ever recorded in the Boone and Crockett Record Books are from Kansas. Remember that to qualify for the Boone and Crockett Record Books a whitetail buck must score over 17 inches of net antler to be displayed in the typical category. Nontypical whitetail bucks need be a minimum of 190 inches. Boone and Crockett recognizes rifle, shotgun, archery, and muzzleloader means of harvest.
The Pope and Young Record Books record archery harvest only. To qualify for Pope and Young Record Books, a white tail buck must score a minimum net of 125 inches of antler for typical animals, and 155 for non typical white tailed bucks. 7 of the top 20 deer recorded in the Pope and Young Record Books are taken from Kansas. Further 60% of all non typical whitetail entries from Pope and Young of the top 20 non typicals ever harvested are from Kansas. Kansas is definitely the location to pursue trophy non typical whitetail bucks. Of course non typical characteristics must be a hereditary trait of the Kansas whitetail herd.
To follow is a chart of the top 20 non typical scoring Kansas deer taken with gun in the State of Kansas:
FIREARMS NON-TYPICAL (Whitetail) Reference 2
KANSAS TOP 20 DEER RECORDS
Name Score Year Co. of Harvest
Joseph Waters, Topeka, KS 280 4/8 1987 Shawnee
Chris Theis, Shawnee, KS 279 1/8 1992 Leavenworth
John O. Band, Courtland, 258 6/8 1965 Republic
Jamie Remmers, Marion, KS 257 1/8 1997 Marion
Theron E. Wilson, Beloit, KS 251 1/8 1974 Mitchell
Joihn Payne, N. Huntington, PA 245 0/8 2003 Washington
Don Roberts, Emporia, KS 239 0/8 1987 Lyon
Randy Clarke, Yates Center, KS 233 2/8 2004 Woodson
Jim Larcom, Eureka, KS 229 6/8 1991 Butler
Merle Cleve Beckman, Mound City, KS 229 2/8 1984 Linn
Ron Wilt, Pratt, KS 229 0/8 1986 Barber
Lance Ringler, Clinton, MS 228 3/8 1993 Kiowa
Gary A. Smith, Paola, KS 227 0/8 1970 Miami
Jerry Hampton, LaCygne, KS 226 4/8 1988 Linn
Russ Swingle, Zenda, KS 225 6/8 1993 Kingman
Linton Haresnage, Lebanon, KS 225 5/8 1997 Smith
Terry Alsup, Ardmore, OK 224 4/8 2004 Sedgwick
Dave Haeusler, Olathe, KS 223 3/8 1990 Jefferson
Roy C. Wilson, Concordia, KS 223 1/8 1995 Republic
*Micheal Letourneau, Burlington, CT 222 4/8 1999 Barber
Obviously Kansas lays claim to being quite possibly the best area in the world to harvest a trophy non typical whitetail deer. Its always been my dream to harvest a Boone and Crockett Non typical Whitetail Buck, however in 2006 I discovered not every hunter appreciates non typical whitetail bucks.
In November of 2006 I was guiding an older gentleman who was hunting with us in the State of Missouri for its fall firearms season which occurs during the rut. I placed him in on a farm where I knew several big deer were hiding out. Upon picking up the hunter at dark I asked the commonplace question any guide asked his hunter at the end of the day. I stated, “What did you see while you were hunting?” To which he replied, “I had a big non typical 190 inch buck at 50 yards. I had him right in my riflescope.” With excitement I asked the hunter, “Did you bag him?” The hunters stated, “Nope, I don’t really like non typical racks so I let him walk off.” It was all I could do to keep from strangling him on the way back to the lodge as I knew he had let the buck of a lifetime walk off. Not to worry, we have seen the deer several more times since that day last year and hunters who hunt with IMB Outfitters in Missouri in 2007 may have a chance to bag this non typical monster whitetail buck. My hopes are this particular buck will even be larger yet in 2007. Irregardless, of this unique scenario it is a true story and most whitetail hunters do dream of harvesting a non typical trophy whitetail buck during their hunt career.
KANSAS DEPARTMENT OF WILDLIFE AND PARKS TAG, SEASON DATES, ETC.
The State of Kansas allows hunting with rifles during their firearms season. Tags are very tough to obtain through one of two processes:
#1, Lottery Process. This process is a stringent one wherein non residents build preference points until they are awarded a firearms tag. This process normally takes three years or more or the accumulation of 3 preference points. The lottery application occurs in July with the results posted in August. Costs include $321 application fee. All but $21 will be returned if you’re unsuccessful in the draw. You may also apply for a preference point only. The fee for this act is $20.
#2, Non residents also have the opportunity to purchase transferable landowner tags from Kansas residents. These are County specific and normally are very hard to obtain. Sales of these occur directly from the landowner, or even via internet on various auction sites. The costs of these tags run from $750 to $1500.
Kansas gun seasons are as follows: Season 1, Nov. 28 to Nov. 31 Season 2, Dec 4 to Dec 7.
Kansas Whitetail Archery Hunting: Non-resident Archery Tags are obtained through the same system as aforementioned. Like prices and deadlines. Season dates are October 1st through December 31.
Muzzleloader Hunts: Kansas offers a muzzleloader only hunt from Sept. 15 to Sept. 28. Hunters may choose any 3 days to pursue trophy whitetails with muzzleloader only during these times. The tag is obtained through the same system as all other tags in Kansas. If one is not successful in harvesting a buck with the early muzzleloader tag, he or she may return and use that tag during the regular firearms season.
The State of Kansas also offer a late season antlerless only season for both archery and firearm to properly manage the Kansas Whitetail herd.
The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks may be contacted at Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks Operations Office 512 SE 25th Ave., Pratt, KS 67124 (620) 672-5911 or online at http://www.kdwp.state.ks.us/
It seems the toughest thing about getting a trophy whitetail buck from Kansas’s fine whitetail deerhunting is tag obtainment. Personally I feel states which discourage non resident hunting should be liable for suit, as it is this authors opinion the state is discriminating against person or persons based upon their primary location of residence. I feel certain that in years to come through the proper legal channels that the State of Kansas as well as similar states that discriminate against non resident hunters will be forced to sell tags over the counter. Until that day all we can do is hope tag obtainment becomes less stringent.
WHAT MAKES KANSAS DEERHUNTING SO EXCEPTIONAL?
Unfortunately the very thing that may make Kansas such a great state to pursue trophy whitetail deer in is the fact it is so hard to get a tag. Obviously if the quantity of hunters are minimized then the harvest rates of deer are also minimized. Therefore, it would be apparent that the lifespan of the whitetail deer in Kansas is longer thereby providing more animals of mature age to select from when hunting there.
In fact other than the gene pool the limits on tags may be the only thing that maintains such a high quality whitetail herd in the State. While there is some row crop farming, Kansas is not a State that is known for its production of row crops or vast amounts of hard wood timber or forests.
KEY LOCATIONS IN THE STATE OF KANSAS FOR TROPHY WHITETAIL DEER
Throughout all states there are some “honeyholes” or good locations to hunt trophy deer. For example private ground near refuges, etc. Primarily the key location to pursue Kansas whitetail deer would be the Southeastern portion of the State, with the best County in the State of Kansas being Butler County, Kansas. Other counties which produces the most number of entries in the record books include bordering counties of Butler including Sedgwick, Sumner, Cowley, Greenwood, Chase, Marion, Reno, and Harvey. Key towns and cities to seek accommodations relative to those areas would be Wichita, Hutchinson, Augusta, Winfield, and Pratt, Kansas.
KANSAS WHITETAIL HUNT OUTFITTERS
I have always said the best place to be taken advantage of by a hunt outfitter is in the State of Kansas. I have heard many a story about Kanas Hunt Outfitters promising the booking client a deertag, collecting the money for the hunt, and then being unable to deliver on a tag when season arrived. I am in no way insinuating this would occur with any particular Kansas Hunt Outfitter or group of Kansas Hunt Outfitter, however I have heard many stories similar to this one. When booking a Kansas hunt I would always book with a nationally known or credible outfitter and never submit a great portion of the hunt price in advance or prior to obtaining the tag. It isn’t unheard of to buy a hunt in Kansas, be promised a tag, pay for the hunt, and not get a deertag nor a refund or transfer of your hunt to another state with the same hunt outfitter.
This is the reason I prefer and recommend hunting with IMB Outfitters as seen online at www.imbmonsterbucks.com IMB Outfitters doesn’t promise a tag and only takes a $500 deposit. The balance is due upon arrival after you know you have the tag. IMB Outfitters is located in 6 States which include Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Kansas, and Nebraska. IMB refund policy indicates if you don’t get a tag for Kansas you may simply transfer your hunt to one of their other states or they will credit your deposit towards a hunt with them anytime in the next 3 years. The choice is up to the hunter. By booking with IMB Outfitters you can afford to try and get an Kansas tag and if you don’t get one then you will be awarded a preference point, and be able to still go hunting in another premium state the same year. It’s a “win/win” situation with IMB Outfitters.
TERRAIN OF KANSAS DEERHUNTING
As aforementioned the State of Kansas is composed mainly of ditches, draws, and small fingerlings of timber. The State is primarily flat or of one elevation and be a tad boring to the true naturalist. The good news regarding Kansas whitetail deer hunting terrain is that the less big timber that is available the less area the deer have to hide in. Deer are forced to travel in closer confines to the hunter, for example a fencerow can serve as primary means of travel for the entire herd. In short its just pretty easy to ambush Kansas deer if you pay attention to topographical advantages and wind directions.
Rest assured if you head for Kansas to pursue trophy whitetail deer your in for sparse amounts of timber, dust in your eyes, very difficult tag obtainment procedures, and you must pay close attention to what Kansas hunt outfitter you select, but if you do your homework your in for the whitetail hunt of a lifetime with a greater chance at taking a non typical record book buck.
#1. Kansas Wildlife and Parks Department
#2. Kansas Wildlife and Parks Department