Kansas is known nationally for its spectacular pheasant and quail hunting, but the true icon of this prairie state is the greater prairie chicken. The tall and mixed-grass prairies still intact in Kansas provide one of the last strongholds of this prairie grouse, and the long tradition of hunting these unique birds will be renewed again on Nov. 19, 2016.
There is an early greater prairie chicken hunting season in Kansas, Sept.15-Oct. 15, which allows hunters the opportunity to hunt the birds behind pointing dogs. During the early season, birds are scattered in large pastures, and the small family groups are more likely to hold and flush within shotgun range than larger flocks found later in the fall.
During the regular Nov. 19, 2016-Jan. 31, 2017 season, the traditional hunting method involves pass shooting near harvested grain fields. When freezes kill insects, greater prairie chickens commonly fly from grass to stubble fields to feed just after sunrise and just before sunset. The first challenge is finding the right feed field, then selecting a position along the field border where birds might fly within range. The second, and perhaps greatest challenge, is hitting the birds, as they fly much faster than they look. The daily bag limit is two and the possession limit is eight. Anyone hunting greater prairie chickens must have a Greater Prairie Chicken Permit ($2.50) in addition to a hunting license, unless exempt by law. There is no hunting season for lesser prairie chickens, which are found in the southwest part of Kansas. Prairie chickens may only be hunted in the Greater Prairie Chicken Unit. A map of this unit is available on ksoutdoors.com and in the 2016 Kansas Hunting and Furharvesting Regulations Summary.
The best greater prairie chicken hunting should be found in the Smoky Hills region of northcentral Kansas. For more detailed information about hunting prospects for prairie chickens, as well as pheasant and quail, go to www.ksoutdoors.com and download the 2016 Upland Bird Forecast. There you’ll also find complete hunting regulations and you can buy your hunting license and permits online.