Kansas boasts healthy populations of both lesser and greater prairie chickens. In fact, it’s probably the only place in the world where a hunter could harvest a greater prairie chicken, a lesser prairie chicken, a ring-necked pheasant and a bobwhite quail in the same general area. While Kansas pheasant and quail hunting traditions, which kick off November 10, overshadow prairie chicken hunting, a loyal cadre of bird hunters will open the regular prairie chicken season on November 17.
Traditionally, Kansas bird hunters needed only a Kansas hunting license, unless they were exempt by law. However, in 2012 a prairie chicken hunting permit is required for anyone who hunts lesser or greater prairie chickens. The permit is $2.50 and is available online or wherever licenses are sold. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) will see no revenue from this permit, and the fee is the minimum charge for vendor and automated service fees.
The purpose of the permit is to allow KDWPT to learn more about prairie chicken hunters, harvest numbers and distribution. A random sample of permit holders will be sent a survey after the season to gather data, which will be used for future management decisions.
The lesser prairie chicken is being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS). This is despite an increase of both species in population and range in western Kansas over the last 15 years, largely due to voluntary landowner enrollment programs included in the federal Farm Bill, primarily the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). KDWPT opposes the proposed listing and is concerned about landowner participation in future conservation programs, which benefit prairie chickens and other grassland wildlife should they get listed.
“Collecting this data will provide us with the best chance to continue hunting lesser prairie chickens in the face of pending threatened or endangered species listing by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Jim Pitman, KDWPT small game program coordinator. “The greater prairie chicken is not currently a candidate for federal listing, but we included them in the permit requirement because in parts of Kansas, their populations are struggling much more than those of their smaller cousin. We are being proactive and are attempting to avert a similar situation to the one we face now with lesser prairie chickens.”
Season dates for the regular season in the Northwest and East units are Nov. 17-Jan. 31, 2013. The daily bag limit is two birds, in single species or combination. The Southwest Unit season runs Nov. 17-Dec. 31, 2012 and the daily bag limit is one.
The prairie chicken boundary units have been modified slightly for this season, so hunters should consult the 2012 Kansas Hunting and Furharvesting Regulations Summary for further details. A map of prairie chicken units is available online on the KDWPT web site at http://www.ksoutdoors.com/news/Hunting/Hunting-Regulations/Maps/Prairie-Chicken-Unit-Map.
Image courtesy Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism