It might be known as the Sunflower State, but Kansas also grows monster bucks by the bushel.
More than 50,000 archers hunted deer there last year, harvesting nearly 27,000 whitetails. Of these, roughly 15,000 were bucks.
Archery season begins in mid-September and runs through December, providing plenty of time for hunters to identify and pattern deer carrying trophy antlers.
When most hunters think of Kansas, they picture unending flatlands. But the state actually has surprisingly diverse topography, ranging from the Great Plains in the West to the Smoky Hills in the center, to the Flint Hills and Arkansas River Lowlands in the southern and eastern reaches.
"There are fertile soils and a good mix of natural vegetation and croplands that provide deer with ample nutrition," explains Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism deer biologist Lloyd Fox. "The state also has many acres of tall grass and CRP fields [Conservation Reserve Program] that provide perfect fawning areas."
Kansas has long had a reputation for growing monster bucks — and for good reason. The No. 6 and No. 8 non-typicals in Pope & Young both came from here.
At 264 1/8 inches, Dale Larson's non-typical has occupied the top of the Kansas records since 1998. Dale arrowed the buck during the rut in Pottawatomie County, one of the top counties for big deer. This giant, widely known as "Dagger," has 31 points, an impressive 24 2/8-inch inside spread and a long, spiraling drop tine.
Three years after that buck fell, Brad Henry of Topeka bagged a typical state record scoring 193 7/8 inches. Brad was hunting in Wabaunsee County when the largest deer he'd ever laid eyes on walking within bow range. The buck is currently No. 13 in P&Y.
Just about every county in the state has produced at least one P&Y buck. Many have produced dozens. The counties with the most all-time entries include Butler (129), Barber (107), Comanche (87), Greenwood (74) and Sumner (73).
But what's happened recently? Entries made from 2010 until now reveal bowhunters in the eastern and south-central parts of Kansas are taking the most P&Ys.
In that time span, Bourbon and Marshall counties have produced the most (17 each), with Kingman (16), Comanche and Pottawatomie (14 each), Barber (13), Butler and Coffey (12 each) not far behind. In all of these counties, adequate escape cover, ample nutrition and low hunter densities combine to provide ideal behemoth buck prospects.
"Anywhere in the eastern third of the state has potential for producing a buck that breaks the (state) record," says Marvin Whitehead, president of the Kansas Bowhunters Association. "I green score for a lot of guys who have no intention of entering their buck into the record books, so there are a lot more trophies taken than hunters realize."
Despite the fact more than 95 percent of the state is privately owned, there are some good options for public bowhunting. In northeastern Kansas, Tuttle Creek's 12,000 acres of walk-in hunting provide plenty of room to find mature whitetails. This area is prone to flooding in the fall, creating temporary islands where big bucks like to hide out.
Also, 7,684-acre Marais des Cygnes Wildlife Area to the southeast is a public-land whitetail haven. Thick wetlands and oak and hickory stands give deer there cover and food.
With some areas having experienced herd decline as a result of drought and/or epizootic hemorrhagic disease several years ago, it shouldn't have much overall effect on 2015 prospects, according to Lloyd Fox. But there figures to be some tweaking.
"We will make some minor adjustments in shortening or eliminating antlerless-only seasons in some units, and reduce the number of antlerless permits in other units," he notes.
Kenny Fowler Buck
Taken in south-central Kansas, Kenny Fowler's 23-point monster buck is a spectacular whitetail which demonstrates the state's trophy potential. Check out this Big Buck Profile segment from NAW TV:
For updated deer-hunting rules and regulations, including information on seasons, bag limits and quotas, visit the KDWP website. For more information on P&Y bucks taken in Kansas and the rest of North America, check out pope-young.org.
For More Information
Check out the September issue of North American Whitetail, available August 25, for more on Kansas' trophy potential, as well as new gear, giant bucks and bow setup tips. Enjoy print, digital, or both!