Kansas is all about quality deer. Always has been. "We initially started that way back in the '60s and '70s, and what it did was create a tradition within the hunters," said Kansas big game coordinator Lloyd Fox. "That's what they wanted. They liked what they were getting, which was less of an opportunity but always a good opportunity if they got one."
The state's deer population remains steady. "Our deer population grew rapidly until 1999-2001, when we intentionally put a great deal of hunting pressure on the herd to reduce population growth," he said. "It's been stable or slightly increasing since that time."
Deer Population: 600,000
Economic Impact of Deer Hunting: $280 million (numbers unclear)
Areas with the highest deer densities are the Arkansas River valley and also the Chautauqua Hills/cross timbers area (deer management unit 12).
"You can find trophy-level deer throughout the state," Fox said.
Current Status of the Deer Population: > 1-5 scale with 1 being poor and 5 being optimal
"It's a 4.5 or 5 – it's pretty darn good," Fox said. "We have a drought in the southwest [part of the state], so I would say there it's a good solid 4.
"Kansas is a great place to hunt deer. It's hard to get something to perfection, but this is a very good place to hunt."
Status 5 Years From Now
He thinks five years from now Kansas will still be a 4.5 or a 5. "I don't see a dramatic decline in numbers or quality in the near future," he said.
Biggest Factors Over the Next 5 Years
For the foreseeable future, Fox is most concerned about "a phenomenal increase in [deer] feeding – intentional feeding, artificial feeding. Frequently it's with the wrong type of material, meaning corn, and this year people are buying corn of very low quality and putting it out there for feed. This corn is unfit for sale to livestock or humans, but there aren't regulations that prohibit its sale as deer corn."
"Corn is a very poor food for deer," he said. "A little is good, but it can do a lot of damage to a ruminant animal when you give it too much.
"Nothing good can come from concentrating deer and feeding them corn. Corn can't do anything good for the deer, and it can do many things really bad for turkeys, quail and birds" via aflatoxins produced by fungi.
Any Doom and Gloom?
To the question of whether he can foresee any areas of his state having a large population decline or crash at some point, Fox said not in the near term, but maybe in "the distant future," as in 60, 80 or 100 years hence. "The effects of Chronic Wasting Disease – we have it in a small portion of our population in the northwest corner of the state, but we can't stop it and given enough time it will have an impact."