Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015, the opening day of the firearm deer season, is a big day for many Kansas deer hunters. But it’s also important for another reason. This year’s season marks the 50th anniversary of modern deer hunting in Kansas. And to borrow a slogan from a 1960s commercial, “We’ve come a long way, baby.”
The 2015 firearm deer season is Dec. 2-13, and all hunters with 2015 permits may hunt with any legal equipment, as specified on their permit. Anyone hunting deer during the 12-day season must wear hunter orange – an orange hat and a vest that has 100 square inches of orange visible from the front and 100 square inches of orange visible from the back. All deer hunters must have a deer permit and all nonresidents and residents age 16-74 must also have a hunting license, unless exempt.
Compared to other Midwest states, Kansas’ deer hunting tradition is relatively young. The first regulated season was in 1965, when limited firearm and archery seasons were opened. Just 50 years before that, deer may have been completely extirpated from the state, as a result of unregulated market and subsistence hunting. That first modern firearm season was five days long, Dec. 11-15, and just 3,975 firearm permits were issued. Hunters took 1,153 deer that first year for a 29 percent success rate. Compare that to 2014 when 123,000 hunters killed 93,939 deer (many hunters filled antlerless-only permits in addition to their either sex permit). We have come a long way, and anyone interested in the history of deer and deer hunting in Kansas should check out the November/December 2015 issue of Kansas Wildlife & Parks magazine. The entire issue is devoted to this species and the Kansas deer hunting tradition. Individual copies can be purchased for $2.75 by calling (620) 672-5911.
If you don’t already have your permit, many are available over the counter and online. Hunters with a lifetime hunting license can purchase statewide Any-season, Either-sex Whitetail permits through the end of December. A hunter may purchase only one permit that allows the harvest of an antlered deer, but once that is purchased, up to five additional Whitetail Antlerless-only permits, which are valid in units specified on the permit (no antlerless permits are valid in Unit 18), can be purchased. Nonresident hunters must apply for a limited number of Whitetail Either-Sex permits in April.
Hunters can ensure that the 50th anniversary of deer hunting in Kansas is safe and enjoyable by following common sense safety rules: be sure of your target and what lies behind it; always point your muzzle in a safe direction; transport your firearm unloaded and cased; hunt ethically and observe principles of fair chase; get landowner permission before hunting any private land, whether it’s posted or not; and be sure to validate and attach the carcass tag before moving a deer from the site of the kill. Let’s hope the next 50 years are as remarkable as the last 50.
Photo credit: David Beyer