The antelope, or more accurately, the pronghorn, is a unique species to North America. Historically pronghorn ranged throughout the western three-fourths of Kansas and were considered nearly as numerous as bison. But by the late 1800s and early 1900s, unregulated harvest reduced pronghorn to the western border of the state. Trap and transplant efforts were initiated in 1964 in Wallace and Sherman counties. Later (1978-1983) pronghorn were reintroduced into Barber, Comanche, Ellsworth, Saline, Gove, and Morton counties. A Flint Hills population of pronghorns was also established in Chase County with releases in 1978 and 1979, 1982 and 1983, and 1991 and 1992.
The western Kansas reintroductions were successful. There are about 2,000 pronghorn in the westernmost two to three tiers of counties. A few pronghorn roam Barber County, and 50 or so remain in the Flint Hills, which was the eastern edge of the historic pronghorn range in the U.S. None remain in Ellsworth and Saline counties.
As the landscape becomes more intensely developed and modified, it becomes more and more difficult to find space for larger animals like pronghorn, and landscape changes such as the loss of native prairie (to agriculture, urbanization, and tree growth resulting from fire suppression) have not been favorable for pronghorn. Even fences can present a significant barrier to pronghorn movement and survival. As a result of these things, the amount of good pronghorn habitat is limited in Kansas. Even areas with extensive native grassland like parts of central Kansas that might appear to be suitable for pronghorn have seen reintroduced animals dwindle or dissappear. There is a healthy population of pronghorn in Kansas, but they are primarily restricted to the west.
The first pronghorn hunting season in Kansas occurred in 1974. Nearly 500 hunters applied for the 80 permits available. Seventy pronghorns were harvested. Today, hunting is restricted to three management units that include parts or all of Sherman, Thomas, Wallace, Logan, Gove, Trego, Greeley, Wichita, Scott, Lane, Ness, Hamilton, Kearny, Finney, Gray, Hodgeman, Ford, Stanton, Grant, Haskell, Morton, Stevens, Seward, Meade and Clark counties. Firearms and muzzleloader permits are limited to residents only, and about 170 permits are authorized each year. More than 1,000 applications are received, and hunters who are unsuccessful in the drawing receive a preference point. It currently requires six preference points for a general resident to draw a firearms permit, or three or four preference points to draw a muzzleloader permit. Archery hunters can purchase pronghorn permits over the counter, and nearly 200 are sold each year.