Numbers appear good for firearms deer season

Good hunting should be ahead for Wednesday's opening of firearms deer season.

"The population looks to be outstanding. We've been basically stable since about 1999-2000, so there are a lot of deer," said Lloyd Fox, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks big-game program coordinator. "Our age structure is still holding up. Older-aged bucks are fairly prevalent in our population."

It's the older bucks that generally have the largest antlers.

Fox said he's seen plenty of the trophy-class bucks in the past two months.

He was one of several biologists canvassing Kansas at night, using spotlights to check fields for deer.

Fox said the surveys are done in each of Kansas' 19 deer management units.

Routes remain about the same from year to year and include private and public lands.

"We saw a lot of deer and a lot of nice deer on those surveys," Fox said. "I've also talked with a lot of people that were hunting with archery and muzzleloader seasons. Most of those hunters reported seeing a lot of deer and were happy."

Registration system

Deer hunters are urged to utilize a new online deer registration system this fall and winter.

"It's so we won't be moving carcasses or parts of carcasses from one part of the state to another," Fox said. "Doing that can spread diseases, like (chronic wasting disease) and parasites."

Many types of permits require the hunter to leave a deer's head attached until it's at a place of processing to determine gender.

Under the new system, hunters can take a photo of their permit on the deer and then another of the entire deer.

They'll go to www.kdwp.state.ks.us, fill out some registration materials, attach the two photos and get a registration number that makes transporting the headless meat legal.

"This way you can process the deer in the field as opposed to bringing everything home and finding a place that will take the waste later on," Fox said. "This can make it much easier and minimizes the possible movement of diseases."

In some states it's also illegal to cross the border with the skull and bones from a deer from a state with CWD, such as Kansas.

Sharing the wealth

Hunters are expected to again donate tons of venison that end in food banks and community kitchens.

"We had 1,010 deer donated last year and we're expecting more this year," said Tony De Rossett, Kansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry coordinator. "We figure that provided about 225,000 servings last year."

The program allows hunters to donate deer at any of the about 45 lockers that participate in the program.

The venison from donated deer is ground and distributed to local food banks and community kitchens.

De Rossett's program pays for the processing, though many hunters pay all or part of the costs to help the program. Funding comes from sportsmen, fund raisers, auto insurance companies and others.

Most donations will probably come in the 12-day general firearms deer season.

Roger Masenthin coordinates the program in south-central and southwest Kansas.

He works with five participating lockers and 22 food banks.

Last year hunters donated 150 deer throughout his region. He's expecting more this fall and winter.

"We're talking nearly 10,000 pounds of deer meat," Masenthin said. "Now some of our food banks can rely on having deer meat to distribute six months of the year."

He said many food banks have added large freezers to better utilize program donations.

To find participating lockers and get other information go to www.kshfh.org.