Much of Kansas is still in the grips of a stifling drought, and even though the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s (KDWPT) pheasant hunting forecasts aren’t optimistic, upland bird hunting traditions will be honored this month. Pheasant and quail seasons open Nov. 10 statewide and remain open through Jan. 31, 2013. Annual Kansas pheasant and quail harvests usually rank among the top two or three states, and even though harvests will be down this year, Kansas will still rank high.
Two years of drought and extreme summertime temperatures have reduced pheasant and quail numbers, especially in the southwest portion of the state. Pheasant numbers are better in the northwest and northcentral regions, and quail numbers have remained stable or increased in the northeast, Flint Hills and southeast regions.
Kansas has long been a bird-hunting destination for hunters, who spend money on lodging, gas, food and other services while they’re here. Hunters provide many rural communities with an important economic boost each year. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s “2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation,” hunters spend more than $400 million annually in Kansas. Hunting trip-related expenses alone total nearly $150 million each year. Hunting is big business and important to the state economy.
Good pheasant and quail populations are important to attract hunters, but in the end, bird hunting is only part of the reason hunters anticipate opening day. Many avid bird hunters hunt each fall to renew friendships with other hunters and landowners and maintain family traditions. Many also return because of a connection with the land they’ve hunted for years. There is much more to the hunting tradition than killing birds.
So even though the forecast is less than stellar this year, hunters willing to travel and work for birds can find success. The best advice is to use the 2012 Upland Bird Forecast to locate a region with the type of hunting you’re looking for. Then pick up or download a copy of the 2012 Kansas Hunting Atlas, which includes maps featuring all public hunting lands, as well as more than 1 million acres enrolled in the Walk-In Hunting Access (WIHA) program. WIHA lands are privately owned and leased for public hunting. The atlas will provide information including location, size, dates open and primary hunting opportunities for each tract enrolled.
Officials with KDWPT remind hunters that landowner permission is required before hunting on private land, whether the land is posted or not. Land posted with purple paint on fence posts is the same as land posted with “Hunting By Written Permission Only” signs and both types require written permission before hunting. With conditions this dry, hunters need to also be aware of fire danger. Avoid driving vehicles in tall grass and never smoke in the field.
Image courtesy Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism