Wild Times: Are deer numbers declining?

In the last five years, I can count on one hand the number of pheasants I have seen in my neck of the woods. In fact, I can count them on one finger!

Before this year, I could count on one hand the number of coveys of quail I had seen in the prior five. In the last year, it would take two hands to count the coveys.

Unlike the non-existent pheasant numbers, the quail have rebounded slightly. This past fall, I have seen more quail coveys than I can remember for a long time. It is wonderful.

I have noticed smaller numbers of turkeys in my hunting area. Yes, they are still around, but not like they were before.

It seems that the numbers of birds that we enjoy hunting is declining. Yes, the quail have bounced back slightly, but let’s see what next year brings before we get all giddy. There are so many theories out there as to why this phenomenon has happened, and that is not where I am going with this article.

For a while now, I have noticed the deer population in my area is declining as well. I mentioned this to a friend of mine who patrols the same area at the start of this year’s deer season and he agreed. I asked him if he was seeing as many deer when he was out hunting, and he emphatically said no.

Last fall, I was regularly in contact with several bowhunters, who gave the same report. I am sure you will find areas that still harbor great numbers of deer but in the same areas of woodlands that I used to spot deer, they have disappeared. A couple of years ago, our deer in this section of the state were ravaged by disease. Couple this with another problem that we have had, and you get less deer. The problem we have had is overly liberal harvest limits. There were seasons when a hunter could take up to five or more deer. I think that is ludicrous!

I may be wrong on this, but it appears to me that the number of deer and vehicle collisions in our area have declined. I have not checked with Brown and Nemaha County Sheriff’s Offices on that possibility but it sure seems like it. I was in conversation with the owner of a meat locker processing plant, and I inquired how this year’s intake of harvested deer was. He informed me that the numbers were down significantly. That is all I need to know.

Now, I know that there are fewer deer hunters out there, and there are several reasons that we could go into on that issue. The bottom line is that where we were seeing deer previously, we are not seeing them now! I do not want to see the population of the deer plummet to the extent that the bird numbers have.

It is time for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism to stand up and take note of what is happening. The disease from a couple of years ago coupled with the liberal limits during hunting seasons have taken their toll.

I have heard for years the rumors that the insurance companies in our states wield great power when it comes to setting harvest limits on deer hunting. Is it true? I would hope not. I have hit a couple of deer over the years, and so has someone in my immediate family. I understand that side of the argument for deer numbers in our state, but I would sure hate to see me counting on one hand the number of deer I see in a year like I do with the pheasants. It seems we are heading in that direction.

Our wildlife is a valuable resource for our state and brings a lot of income to our towns besides the hours of enjoyment it provides. Now, I know that certain areas of our state still have burgeoning numbers of deer just like certain areas have great pheasant numbers. With that being said, maybe it is time to restrict the number of permits for our neck of the woods much like they did when I was a youngster.

When I was a budding young hunter, each unit only got so many permits according to the population numbers. It obviously worked great, as our deer numbers increased yearly to the point that there was no longer a restrictive number of permits in any unit. I can recall putting in my application every year and hoping I would draw an antlered permit. It was exciting! I think it is time to do that again for our area. I really enjoy seeing deer from the road as I drive to town. I hope I can again.

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