One of the most anticipated events in Kansas is the rifle season for deer. White-tailed deer across the state, and mule deer primarily in Western Kansas are harvested for excellent meat and bragging rights related to large racks. Most of us that bow hunt take a break if we haven’t harvested our deer, and the game wardens are working 24/7 during this intense 10 day event. Lots of good and bad things happen and sometimes normally sane people do some unusual things in relation to deer hunting. I am stunned at some of it. One day a game warden will write his story about some of these events. Maybe my friend Mike Miller who has managed the Wildlife/Parks Magazine so very well (every Kansan should read that magazine — it is a wonderful reflection of our state) for many years will contemplate that project.
I write this column on Wednesday to meet the deadline for the Sunday edition of the Tribune. I saw the picture of Dale Phillips holding the road sign with huge holes in it on the front page. This has to be youngsters being thoughtless and wanting to target practice. Discuss this issue at home and see if we can’t prevent someone from being injured or dying from this bad behavior. Maybe someone could do a couple of school programs. It is a ugly part of our rural family life, and I hope we find a way to change their attitudes.
The rut is over. The deer in this picture was on a dike at the Bottoms. One can see his damaged eye which probably occurred during a fight in the rut. Those are very serious confrontations.
I have reviewed some information on deer/vehicle collisions. It is fairly amazing. About 1.5 million collisions occur in the U.S. annually, and about 200 people are killed each year. Bears are considered the most dangerous North American animal and about 10 people are killed each year. If the number of deaths is the benchmark, deer are far more dangerous than bears. Each collision costs about $1,000.00 for a total of 1.5 billion dollars which the insurance companies notice a lot. Most occur in states with large suburban populations(Pennsylvania is number one, Michigan is number two) and Kansas is not in the top 10. Over-population is one of the factors. There is a huge increase in deer populations in the suburbs where people are at risk with rifle hunting, and a lot of people are against harvesting deer. The destruction of suburban plants is huge, and the number of vehicle encounters increases dramatically. Trophy hunting does not impact deer populations. One buck can service about 20 does, and there are plenty of bucks in line(even young bucks that aren’t hunted can breed effectively) when a big boy is taken. Does have to be harvested to impact population. Over half of the does in one study had twins. Special hunts with “doe only” restrictions occur in most states. Land management with plants that repel deer(In Defense of Animals) is used in some suburbs. In a controlled herd in New York’s Fire Island National Seashore, the does were injected with a temporary contraceptive call PZP that lowered birth rate by 72 percent and population by 60 percent (Kirkpatrick). But when the air is crisp, and the family is together, and our children are eager to join us in the hunt, and we bundle up with our blaze orange and get out the door before daylight to get to our stands and blinds with beating hearts and high hopes — life is good in Kansas.
Doc Witt is a retired physician.