Become an INSIDER to gain access to this article

Join now

APPLICATION STRATEGY 2016: Kansas Deer

 

Large whitetail buck in field
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Kansas mule deer and whitetail deer application overview

Jump to: New for 2016 State Information Draw System Mule Deer Breakdown Whitetail Deer Breakdown

The Sunflower state has long been known for excellent whitetail hunting. With habitat capable of producing trophy animals across the entire state, Kansas offers the deer hunter a myriad of hunting opportunities. Kansas is also home to a small population of mule deer in the western section of the state. Trophy potential for both whitetails and mule deer is outstanding and the hunting opportunities are vast.

Note: The Kansas application deadline for nonresidents is April 29, 2016 and the resident deadline is July 8, 2016. You can apply online here.



Why Kansas for mule deer and whitetail deer
 

Stephen Spurlock with his Kansas archery whitetail buck
Stephen Spurlock with his Kansas archery whitetail buck.

Consistent producer of quality whitetails

Every unit in Kansas is capable of producing trophy whitetails. Annually, Kansas ranks amongst the top three states in Boone and Crockett (B&C) production. For the serious whitetail hunter, Kansas is a must apply state.

Mild winter and improving moisture

2015 had improved moisture for much of Kansas. Coupled with the relatively mild winter of 2016 and the deer herds across Kansas should be stable going into the fall.

Units in the southern portion of the state (15, 16, 17, 18) are still very dry but are beginning to recover some from drought and Epizoodic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) kills.

Broad season dates

With archery season dates open from Sept. 12 to Dec. 31, Kansas is an archery hunter’s dream. With the option to hunt pre-rut, rut, and post-rut, archery tag holders in Kansas have the option hunt over three months.

Limited EHD in 2015

Epizoodic Hemorrhagic Disease or Blue Tongue is a virus transmitted from deer to deer by small biting flies. In prior years, EHD has plagued Kansas deer herds. Yet, in 2015, EHD did not have a major impact on Kansas deer herds, which hopefully means good numbers and improved harvest for 2016.



New for 2016

Proposed 2016 season dates

•  Early muzzleloader: Sept. 12 to 25
•  Archery: Sept. 12 to Dec. 31
•  Firearm: Nov. 30 to Dec. 11

Fee increase

•  Nonresident license price increase from $337.50 to $442.50.
•  Mule deer stamp price increase from $102.50 to $152.50.
•  Preference point price increase from $23.06 to $26.50.



State information

Kansas is home to a large population of whitetail deer. Overall, the trophy quality is good statewide and broad season dates make Kansas an excellent destination for whitetail hunters. Kansas is made up largely of private lands, but some walk-in and public state land hunting opportunities exist. Kansas is segmented into 18 deer management units. Many of these units are a 100% draw for nonresidents with zero preference points. As is the case in most private land dominated hunting areas, deer quality may vary from ranch to ranch as deer management practices vary by owner.

The mule deer population in the western third of the state is doing well and produces trophy class animals each fall. The state distributes just over 200 mule deer tags a year to nonresidents. Depending on the unit, the draw odds for these tags are in the 10% to 30% range.

Nonresident license cost

If you only want to hunt whitetail deer Cost
Nonresident whitetail deer permit fee* $442.50
Nonresident hunting license* $97.50
Preference point** $26.50
Total $566.50
If you want to hunt mule deer Cost
Nonresident whitetail deer permit fee** $442.50
Nonresident hunting license** $97.50
Mule deer stamp fee $152.50
Total $692.50

* Required to hunt either sex/species of deer in Kansas
** You are not required to apply for a preference point and most of the time one is not needed. There are only seven units that didn't have 100% draw odds in 2015.

 

Resident license cost

License type Cost
General resident
Either-species/either-sex firearm
$52.50
General resident
Any-season whitetail deer
$42.50
General resident
Either-species/either-sex archery
$42.50
General resident
Either-species/either-sex muzzleloader
$42.50
Preference point* $11.50
Total $54 or $64

* You are not required to apply for a preference point and most of the time one is not needed. There are only seven units that didn't have 100% draw odds in 2015.

Deer management unit map
 

Mule deer units
 

Important dates and information

•  2016 nonresident deer permit application deadline is April 29, 2016.
•  2016 resident deer permit application deadline is July 8, 2016.
•  Apply online here.



Population and harvest trends

Total Kansas deer harvest 1994-2012

Kansas Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism (KDWPT) conduct a survey in October and November to estimate population trends in all 19 management units in Kansas. This survey provides information on important trends in each unit. The figures in this section hash out two things: 1) fawn recruitment has decreased statewide (attributable to drought) and 2) the southwest section of the state has been most affected by drought and EHD (see the Unit 2 and Unit 16 density graphs below). Unit 2 has not been affected by drought or EHD and Unit 16 has been affected by both and is on a downward trend. 

Kansas fawn recruitment

Ultimately, age structure should be okay this year due to good recruitment in 2009-2010. Where things will get shady is when we get 2 to 3 years down the road and number of mature bucks decreases due to poor recruitment in 2011-2012. 50.0% fawn recruitment is BAD news for whitetails.

Kansas deer per square mile examples

2016 Kansas weather update
 

Drought conditions continue to negatively affect much of the state. Nearly the entire state is under abnormally dry or moderate drought conditions. Drought negative impacts habitat quality, fawn recruitment, and antler growth. The units most affected by drought are in the southwest portion of the state. Moderate improvements in moisture in 2015 have helped bring these areas back to some extent, but a major moisture deficit still exists. What does this mean for hunt planning? The areas affected still produce quality animals but the overall densities have changed. Drought has also resulted in shifts in habitat selection. Properties strictly managed for age class are still producing quality animals, even in the areas most affected by drought.


 

The resident draw system

Kansas residents can purchase any-season whitetail deer permit over-the-counter. These tags are good statewide for whitetails. Residents can purchase either species/either sex permits for both the eastern and western mule deer zones. These permits can be purchased over-the-counter from Aug. 1 - Dec. 31.

Firearm either species/either sex tags are available to residents through a draw. Residents have the option to apply for either the West Zone Mule Deer Unit (units 1, 2, 17, 18) or the East Zone (units 3, 4, 5, 7, 16). In 2015 there were 1,425 resident firearm either species tags issued in the western zone and 600 issued in the eastern. Preference points are available for $11.50 to resident hunters that do not wish to hunt the current season.

Resident Deadline

•  2016 Resident either-species/either-sex firearms deer permit application deadline: July 8, 2016

The nonresident draw system

In Kansas, nonresidents may apply for three weapon options on the deer hunt (muzzleloader, archery, and firearm). Nonresident are only allowed to hunt mule deer with a bow or muzzleloader.

2016 proposed season dates

•  Early muzzleloader: Sept. 12 to 25
•  Archery: Sept. 12 to Dec. 31
•  Firearm: Nov. 30 to Dec. 11

Kansas issues a preference point to unsuccessful applicants who pay the preference point fee. The Kansas system is a true preference point system and applicants with the most points automatically receive a tag.

The Kansas preference point system only applies to the whitetail draw. In order to apply for a mule deer tag in Kansas, you must first draw a whitetail tag. No preference point weighing occurs in the mule deer draw.

2015 Kansas unit breakdown

Unit Permits Whitetail
apps
Simple WT
draw odds
Mule deer
stamps
MD
apps
Simple MD
draw odds
Unit 1 850 1,180 66% 50 424 11.7%
Unit 2 466 687 63% 40 202 19.8%
Unit 3 1,002 1,477 64% 20 163 12.2%
Unit 4 492 781 61% 5 42 11.9%
Unit 5 656 748 87% 10 30 33.3%
Unit 6 538 409 100% NA NA NA
Unit 7 1,602 1,843 86% 5 23 21.7%
Unit 8 1,940 1,995 100% NA NA NA
Unit 9 981 932 100% NA NA NA
Unit 10 1,252 931 100% NA NA NA
Unit 11 3,109 3,774 82% NA NA NA
Unit 12 2,076 2,278 91% NA NA NA
Unit 13 621 312 100% NA NA NA
Unit 14 1,856 1,850 100% NA NA NA
Unit 15 1,405 1,329 100% NA NA NA
Unit 16 2,103 1,743 100% 10 70 14.2%
Unit 17 562 562 100% 50 148 33.7%
Unit 18 304 193 100% 20 64 31.2%


Here's why that matters

In order for a nonresident to draw a mule deer tag in Kansas, they must first draw a whitetail tag. Preference points only apply to the whitetail portion of the draw.

2015 Unit 3 Example

Unit Permits Whitetail
apps
Simple WT
draw odds
Mule deer
stamps
 MD
apps
Simple MD
draw odds
Unit 3 1,002 1,477 64 20 163 12.2%

 



The draw system

Unlocking Kansas’s system

Kansas is a great state to plan to hunt every year or on an every other year schedule. As the draw odds table shows, the only whitetail tags you cannot count on drawing annually are in the units in the western section of the state (1, 2, 3, 17, 4, 5). Success in Kansas is all about locating well managed properties. Finding these properties will involve contacting outfitters or landowners. The archery season encompasses the peak of the rut and is the best time to hunt mature whitetails. Peak rut dates occur between Nov. 12 to Nov. 18.

The graph below shows an increasing trend in the percentage of permits given out to nonresidents. If you've ever wanted to hunt Kansas, there is no better time than now!

Percentage of Kansas deer permits given to nonresidents

Draw odds for mule deer in Kansas range from 10% to 30% depending on the unit. Some quality opportunities exist, but are generally controlled by outfitters. Should you be lucky enough to draw a Kansas mule deer tag, contacting a competent outfitter is suggested.

Access and private land

Kansas is over 95% private land. Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism has a walk-in hunting areas program to provide access to private lands for hunters. The state also maintains a number of State Wildlife Areas (SWA) that allow access to hunters. These walk-in and SWA’s typically receive a lot a of hunting pressure, but mature whitetails are harvested on them each year. The vast majority of the mature whitetails taken in Kansas each fall are on private lands, but some public hunting opportunities exist. If you are interested in public hunting opportunities, KDWPT provides maps of walk-in hunting areas. They can be found here.



Kansas mule deer breakdown
 

Giant Kansas mule deer taken by Sagebrush hunts
Giant Kansas mule deer taken with Sagebrush Hunts.

Kansas issues mule deer stamps in units 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 16, 17, and 18. Nonresidents are restricted to either archery or muzzleloader hunts for Kansas mule deer. To apply for a mule deer stamp you must apply for an archery or muzzleloader tag for whitetails in one of the units listed above. At that time, you must purchase a mule deer stamp, which then enters you in the mule deer draw after your whitetail tag is drawn. If you are unsuccessful in drawing a mule deer stamp, you will be refunded the fee for the stamp. The vast majority of Kansas is private land. Be aware that the best mule deer hunting opportunities in the western section of state are on private land that will require an outfitter or a substantial trespass fee to access.

Current mule deer herd condition

The mule deer population in western Kansas is stable entering into the 2016 season. A mild winter paired with last year’s improved spring moisture has left the mule deer herd in good shape. Drought conditions over the last four to five years have diminished herds slightly. Tag numbers have been lowered in units 3, 4, 7, and 16. Further drops in tag allocation are expected this year. While there are some great mule deer available in Kansas, they are certainly not behind every tree or in every canyon. Managing your expectations and contacting an outfitter with access to well managed private ground may be necessary.

Kansas estimated mule deer population

The mule deer seasons

Nonresidents can apply for either muzzleloader or archery mule deer tags. No rifle mule deer tags are given to nonresidents.

Early muzzleloader: Sept. 12 to 25

Early September bucks will still be in their summer bachelor groups. Locating good food sources is the key to success on this hunt. Summer scouting can be critical to success since bucks most likely will not range far from their summer hangouts. Key food sources during this period include alfalfa and milo.

Archery: Sept. 12 to Dec. 31

These broad season dates have it all: the summer bachelor period; the pre rut as bucks disperse once they lose their velvet; peak breeding; and post rut. With this wide expanse of dates, your approach should vary based on whatever mode the deer are in. During the early season, finding food sources is key. Once late October hits, seek out doe groups to locate mature bucks. During the late season, focus on good food sources since rut depleted bucks will spend much of their time feeding in preparation for the coming winter.

Muzzleloader: Nov. 30 to Dec. 11

These dates will typically catch the tail end of the rut. Mature bucks will still be keyed in on doe groups as they wait for the last few does of the year to come into estrus. With cold weather, grain food sources become critical and deer tend to congregate near cut cornfields. During warm years, winter wheat is the go to food source during this period.

The goHUNT hit list units for Kansas mule deer

All of the units along the western border of Kansas are capable of producing quality bucks. As the record books show, there isn’t a specific county or unit that clearly leads the race in B&C records. Once again, identifying good landowners and outfitters can be the key to success.

Top hunting districts to consider for 170” or better mule deer
(not in order of quality)

Unit Trophy
Potential
Unit 1 170"+
Unit 17 170"+
Unit 3 170"+
Unit 2 170"+
Unit 18 170"+

 


 

How to uncover hidden gem deer hunting districts

Much of western Kansas has the quality habitat needed to grow large mule deer. Locating the right property under the right management regime is the key to success. Spending the time researching individual ranches rather than units can help you locate great mule deer opportunities.

Five year B&C entry trends for Kansas mule deer

Kansas's top B&C producing
counties since 2010 for typical mule deer

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Cheyenne 1 1
Decatur 1 1
Gove 1 2, 17
Rawlins 1 1
Sherman 1 1, 2

 

Kansas's top B&C producing
counties since 2010 for nontypical mule deer

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Norton 1 1, 3
Thomas 1 1, 2

 


Managing expectations

At this time, Kansas does not apply preference points to the mule deer stamp draw. The only way to draw is by applying. The risk in Kansas is, of course, drawing a whitetail tag and not a mule deer tag. If Kansas mule deer is on your radar, accepting that you will be drawing a lot of whitetail tags before you ever get a mule deer tag is necessary. Most of the units in the western portion of the state are home to healthy populations of whitetails. As with mule deer, access to private whitetail ground can be difficult. Use whitetails as your backup plan if you fail to draw a mule deer tag.

Kansas mule deer unit breakdown

Unit Mule deer
stamps
2015
Apps
Simple draw
odds %
Unit 1 50 424 11.7%
Unit 2 40 202 19.8%
Unit 3 20 163 12.2%
Unit 4 5 42 11.9%
Unit 5 10 30 33.3%
Unit 7 5 23 21.7%
Unit 16 10 70 14.2%
Unit 17 50 148 33.7%
Unit 18 20 64 31.2%


While there are some great bucks in western Kansas, they can be hard to find. Most of these western units have many access points and hunting pressure can be high. Make sure you do your research before applying for these tags. Contact outfitters and landowners prior to applying.



Kansas whitetail deer breakdown
 

Giant nontypical kansas whitetail taken by Russell Marshall with Sagebrush Hunts
Giant nontypical kansas whitetail taken by Russell Marshall with Sagebrush Hunts.

Kansas has long been known for excellent whitetail deer. With plenty of habitat, liberal season dates, and big bucks across the state, if whitetails are on your list, Kansas is a must apply state. Historically, the southern portion of the state has produced a number of record book entries. Yet, every unit in the state is capable of producing a record book size whitetail.

Much of the good whitetail ground in the state is leased by outfitters. Contacting outfitters or seeking out private landowners prior to drawing a tag can be helpful.

Current whitetail deer herd condition

The past 5 years have been hard on the Kansas deer herd. Drought conditions ranging from severe to moderate have plagued much of the state. The southwest corner of the state has be been hardest hit. Units 16, 17, and 18 have been the most affected. While drought has led to fawn recruitment issues in these units, big bucks are still found their.

Epizootic hemorrhagic disease has also affected many units in the state in the past 5 years. Pockets of EHD across the state have lowered the deer density in localized areas. These localized populations continue to rebound.

Kansas estimated whitetail deer population

Despite these drought and disease issues, Kansas has continued to produce excellent whitetails.

The whitetail deer seasons

Early muzzleloader: Sept. 12 to 25

Bucks will still be in pre-rut patterns during this season. Expect to find large bachelor groups utilizing early season food sources like alfalfa, milo and soybeans. If you locate the food, you should locate mature bucks.

Archery: Sept. 12 to Dec. 31

These season dates encompass everything from the pre-rut to the post rut. Expect peak rut dates to occur between Nov. 10 to 18. The rut is typically the best time to harvest a mature whitetail with archery tackle. During the rut, focus your efforts on locating doe groups — the mature bucks won’t be far behind.

Rifle: Nov. 30 to Dec. 11

These dates will encompass the tail end of the rut. Most bucks will be on a post rut feeding pattern. Expect to see a lot of broken up bucks during this season. Focus on locating cut grain field or winter wheat to locate mature bucks.

The goHUNT hit list units for Kansas whitetail deer

As with mule deer, locating great whitetail hunting opportunities in Kansas comes down to identifying specific outfitters and landowners that restrict access and actively manage their properties. Every unit in the state is capable of producing trophy class whitetails. The key is locating well managed properties. With a little luck and a lot of research, you can identify hot spots throughout the state.

Top units to consider for 150” or better whitetail deer
(not in order of quality)

Unit Trophy
Potential
Unit 16 150"+
Unit 15 150"+
Unit 11 150"+
Unit 5 150"+
Unit 9 150"+

 

 

 


 

How to uncover hidden gem units

Jason Hart with his Kansas whitetail buck

Photo credit: Jason Hart

With excellent habitat, a mild winter, and improved moisture in 2015, every unit in Kansas has a chance to produce a giant buck in 2016. Finding gems in any unit comes down to locating a landowner, outfitter, or out of the way walk-in hunting area that has been either diligently managed or a de facto home for mature bucks.

Five year Boone & Crockett entry trends for Kansas whitetail deer

Kansas's top B&C producing
counties since 2010 for typical whitetail deer

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Coffey 5 11, 14
Linn 3 11
Pawnee 3 5, 17
Riley 3 8
Barber 2 16

 

Kansas's top B&C producing
counties since 2010 for nontypical whitetail deer

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Nemaha 5 9
Lyon 4 14
Marshall 4 8, 9
Pottawatomie 4 9
Reno 4 5, 6, 15

 

Note: the past five years, Kansas is slowly gaining ground on the total number of nontypical B&C bucks taken. All-time typical B&C entry state rank is 10 and nontypical state rank is 5. See the graph below.

Top B&C nontypical whitetail state rank since 2010

 



Managing points and expectations
 

Kansas archery whitetail buck
Photo credit: Stephen Spurlock

Most of the deer units in Kansas are 100% draw with zero points and resident whitetail tags are over-the-counter. The exceptions to this rule are the units located in the western section of the state. While odds in the western units are not bad, it is hard to anticipate drawing year after year. If you are unsuccessful in the draw, you are automatically rewarded a preference point. With a preference point, you are guaranteed to draw any tag in the state. You may also purchase a preference point without applying in the draw. If you envision a western Kansas hunt in the future, purchase a preference point this year. Every unit in the state is a guaranteed draw with one preference point. Kansas allows the use of a preference point for up to 5 years. After that period, if you have not applied, you lose your preference point. There is no reason to build more than one preference point in Kansas.

Comments

50 States for 50 Bucks
Save 25% During Our Flash Sale!
Get Hunting Gear for Less