Deer and antelope play on the Kansas range, including mule deer, white-tailed deer and pronghorn, a species unique to North America. Elk, common in presettlement Kansas, virtually vanished by 1900 but have since made a comeback in free-range herds.
If birds are more your game, the ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) may well be the most popular game bird in the state of Kansas—annual harvests put the Sunflower State among the top pheasant-hunting states in the United States. Kansas ranks high in its bobwhite quail harvest too. And don’t forget the greater prairie chicken (Tympanuchus cupido). They’re hard to ignore: Males’ loud mating calls can carry 2 miles across the open prairie—not-so-subtle opening lines to prairie chicken hens. Just one or two male prairie chickens do about 90 percent of the mating in a given territory.
Several migratory birds flock to the state, too, such as crows, doves, ducks, geese and rail. Though they’re not long-distance flyers, two subspecies of wild turkeys call Kansas home. They can fly about 100 yards, which is just far enough to escape trouble, but not necessarily a well-aimed shot.
Game Times and Rules
Fall is prime hunting season in Kansas—deer, antelope, elk, migratory birds, upland birds and turkeys are all fair game. Check with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks for specific dates. Special and extended seasons for certain species take place in winter and spring. For example, spring turkey season runs from mid-April to the end of May for shotgun hunters, who can buy two turkey tags each. All out-of-state hunters, regardless of age, must have a nonresident hunting license. Purchase licenses online from ksoutdoors.com.
The Playing Fields
More than 275,000 acres of private land draw hunters in the spring, and more than 1 million acres beckon in the fall. Here’s what you can hunt and where.
1) About 2,000 pronghorn roam the westernmost two or three tiers of Kansas counties.
2) Mule deer stick to the western one-third of the state, mostly in the High Plains, Smoky Hills and Red Hills regions.
3) As you head east, you see more white-tailed deer. They like the Kansas landscape, taking cover in woodlands, shelter belts, old homesteads and grasslands, and feeding on field crops.
4) Elk hunting is best around Fort Riley, though you can find some lone rangers or smaller herds in other spots.
5) Among the smaller Canada geese species, the tallgrass prairie population flies the eastern two-thirds of the state, while the short-grass prairie population soars in the western third.
6) For quail, the southeast region is the hot spot, with the northeast a close second.
7) The Flint Hills are a favorite habitat for greater prairie chickens, as are the Smoky Hills and grassland breaks paralleling streams in northwest and west-central Kansas. Greater numbers out west have grown quite a bit in the last two decades, thanks to the creation of more mixed grasslands.
8) Pheasants like to cluster in northwest and southwest Kansas, with the north-central counties a good bet too.
Aim for more on-target experiences and explorations in the 2022 Official Kansas Travel Guide.