Greater and Lesser Prairie Chicken

Greater and Lesser Prairie Chicken

Upland Bird Forecast Brochure

Kansas currently harbors two species of prairie grouse. The greater prairie chicken ( Tympanuchus cupido) is much more abundant than the lesser prairie chicken ( T. pallidicinctus). A third species of prairie grouse, the sharp-tailed grouse ( T. phasianellus) disappeared from it’s historic western Kansas range during the droughts of the 1930’s. Attempts to restore sharptails in the 1980’s and 1990’s, while initially promising, ultimately proved unsuccessful.

Prairie chickens may be best known for their unique spring breeding behavior. Early in spring, groups of males assemble on communal mating grounds known to biologists as leks. The low, booming sounds produced by greater prairie chicken cocks accounts for the common reference to their leks as "booming grounds." Similarly, the higher-pitched, bubbly sounds made by lesser prairie chicken cocks has conferred the term "gobbling grounds" to their leks. On a quiet spring morning, these sounds can carry as much as two miles across the open prairie, serving as an audible beacon to prairie chicken hens. Males of either species compete with each other through a series of spectacular displays, calls, and sparring for the coveted inner-most territories on the lek. The one or two males most successful in attaining and defending these small territories typically perform about 90% of the matings that occur on the lek. Unlike the polygamous ring-necked pheasant or the more monogamous bobwhite, prairie chickens do not form lasting behavioral bonds between cocks and hens.

Greater prairie chickens currently occur in parts of 10 states, but by far the largest populations occur in Kansas and Nebraska. The traditional stronghold of greaters in Kansas is the Flint Hills, a roughly 50-mile-wide band of tallgrass prairie that extends from the Oklahoma border northward nearly to the Nebraska line in the eastern third of the state. The tallgrass prairie of the Flint Hills was saved from the conversion to cropland that consumed of most of North America’s original tallgrass prairie by its shallow soils and underlying limestone that resisted the plow. Strong greater prairie chicken populations also exist in the mixed prairies of the Smoky Hills in northcentral Kansas. Significant numbers of greaters can be found as well in the grassland breaks that parallel the streams of northwest and west-central Kansas. These western Kansas populations have increased and expanded over the last two decades, particularly with the addition of mixed grasslands seeded through the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

Lesser prairie-chickens are a bit smaller than their greater prairie-chicken counterparts. Prairie chicken hunting is not allowed in the Southwest Unit (see map) due to the lesser prairie-chicken being a species of conservation concern. Kansas currently provides habitat for the most extensive remaining range and largest population of the lesser prairie-chicken among the disjunct populations found in the five states where it occurs (Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado). Lesser prairie-chickens still occur in Kansas' mixed grass and sand sagebrush prairies but their greatest densities can now be found north of the Arkansas River in a matrix of native rangeland and CRP grasslands. Lesser prairie-chickens were thought to have been extirpated from this portion of their historic range as recently as 25 years ago. However, the addition of CRP grasslands restored missing habitat components and populations of both lesser and greater prairie-chickens responded with range expansions and large increases in numbers. This expansion of lesser and greater prairie-chicken populations in west-central Kansas has brought these two historically overlapping species back together in a zone ranging from 20 to 40 miles in width. Some mixed leks with individuals of both species occur in this overlap zone.

Two distinct forms of prairie chicken hunting occur in Kansas. In the early portion of the season, hunters with dogs take advantage of the tendency for young prairie chickens to hold well at this time of year. Later in the fall and winter, prairie chickens gather into larger groups, often making it more difficult for hunters with dogs to get within gun range. During fall and winter, many prairie chickens feed in cut sorghum, corn, or soybean fields. Since these birds often fly directly to specific fields when they leave their grassland roosts in early morning, hunters can get pass shooting opportunities by positioning themselves at the margin of the field closest to the roosting area. This pass shooting method is the more common way of taking prairie chickens during the mid to latter portions of the season. 

Prairie chicken adults are exceptionally hardy birds and are seldom significantly threatened by severe winter weather. Should deep snows occur, their ability to dive into the snow for roosting helps shield them from cold temperatures and wind chills above the snow surface. More significant weather threats to greater prairie chickens sometimes come in the form of excessive, drenching rains during nesting or when chicks are very small and most vulnerable to chilling. Drought is probably the greatest weather threat to lesser prairie chickens. Normal conditions in the range of the lesser prairie chicken varies from arid to semi-arid, so significant droughts can severely impact their habitat and production.

Historically, conversion of native prairies to cropland has accounted for the greatest loss of prairie chicken habitat in Kansas and elsewhere. More recently, other forms of human land use and development have posed additional threats. Particularly in the Flint Hills, the thorough annual burning of vast areas of tallgrass prairie associated with intensive, early cattle grazing in May, June, and July leaves few places for ground nesting birds like prairie chickens to successfully nest. Greater prairie chicken populations in the Flint Hills have declined significantly since this grazing system became widespread. However, less frequent burning, ideally once in 3 years or twice in 5 years, is critical to the health of the prairie and for prairie chickens. Possibly a more serious threat to greater prairie chickens and other grassland birds is the spread of invasive trees like eastern red cedar, Osage orange, and others into parts of our Kansas prairies ( read more: Tree Invasion). Ironically, this has resulted from too little application of controlled burning in some regions and from failure of land managers to quickly recognize and respond to the threat tree invasion poses to prairie, livestock production, and grassland wildlife.

Recent radio-telemetry studies conducted by Kansas State University researchers in southwest Kansas has highlighted yet another threat to prairie chickens. These workers documented a distinct avoidance of man-made structures by lesser prairie chickens. Generally, most prairie chicken hens avoided nesting or rearing their broods within a quarter-mile of power lines and within a third-mile of improved roads. Buildings, including a power plant and gas booster stations, were avoided from anywhere between two-thirds of a mile to one mile, depending on their size. This information, coupled with similar avoidance behavior noted in other species, suggests there is cause for concern over negative impacts on prairie chickens of other types of structures as well, including communications towers, wind farms, and suburban homes. Fragmentation of the open grassland horizons preferred by prairie chickens appears to represent yet another man-made threat to these species habitats.

Maintaining extensive tracts of open, well-managed prairie is critical to the conservation of prairie chickens. In Kansas, where 97% of the land is privately owned, ranchers are, unquestionably, the most important stewards of the prairies. Wildlife conservationists can best help conserve prairie chickens by forming alliances with ranchers to assist them in preventing tree invasion, to help them resist economic pressures to sell their lands, and to test new, economically-viable management systems that could prove more friendly to grassland wildlife. One such system with great promise is the "Patch Burning / Patch Grazing" system developed and tested by researchers at Oklahoma State University. Traditional grazing systems remain very viable for prairie health, provided they incorporate periodic fire ( not annual burning) and light to moderate stocking rates.

Range Map
Greater Prairie Chicken Map
Season Information
Current Seasons
Greater Prairie Chicken Regular Season - Greater Prairie Chicken Unit

Dates: 09/15/2022 - 01/31/2023


Upcoming Seasons
Upcoming Greater and Lesser Prairie Chicken seasons have not been scheduled yet.
Regulations
115-25-01 (PDF - 84.84 kB)

Prairie Chickens - Open Seasons, Bag Limits and Possession Limits

115-25-01a (PDF - 8.88 kB)

Quail; open seasons, bag limits, and possession limits.

115-25-01b (PDF - 8.92 kB)

Pheasants; open seasons, bag limits, and possession limits.

Greater and Lesser Prairie Chicken

Greater and Lesser Prairie Chicken

Kansas currently harbors two species of prairie grouse. The greater prairie chicken ( Tympanuchus cupido) is much more abundant than the lesser prairie chicken ( T. pallidicinctus). A third species of prairie grouse, the sharp-tailed grouse ( T. phasianellus) disappeared from it’s historic western Kansas range during the droughts of the 1930’s. Attempts to restore sharptails in the 1980’s and 1990’s, while initially promising, ultimately proved unsuccessful.

Prairie chickens may be best known for their unique spring breeding behavior. Early in spring, groups of males assemble on communal mating grounds known to biologists as leks. The low, booming sounds produced by greater prairie chicken cocks accounts for the common reference to their leks as "booming grounds." Similarly, the higher-pitched, bubbly sounds made by lesser prairie chicken cocks has conferred the term "gobbling grounds" to their leks. On a quiet spring morning, these sounds can carry as much as two miles across the open prairie, serving as an audible beacon to prairie chicken hens. Males of either species compete with each other through a series of spectacular displays, calls, and sparring for the coveted inner-most territories on the lek. The one or two males most successful in attaining and defending these small territories typically perform about 90% of the matings that occur on the lek. Unlike the polygamous ring-necked pheasant or the more monogamous bobwhite, prairie chickens do not form lasting behavioral bonds between cocks and hens.

Greater prairie chickens currently occur in parts of 10 states, but by far the largest populations occur in Kansas and Nebraska. The traditional stronghold of greaters in Kansas is the Flint Hills, a roughly 50-mile-wide band of tallgrass prairie that extends from the Oklahoma border northward nearly to the Nebraska line in the eastern third of the state. The tallgrass prairie of the Flint Hills was saved from the conversion to cropland that consumed of most of North America’s original tallgrass prairie by its shallow soils and underlying limestone that resisted the plow. Strong greater prairie chicken populations also exist in the mixed prairies of the Smoky Hills in northcentral Kansas. Significant numbers of greaters can be found as well in the grassland breaks that parallel the streams of northwest and west-central Kansas. These western Kansas populations have increased and expanded over the last two decades, particularly with the addition of mixed grasslands seeded through the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

Lesser prairie chickens are indeed a bit smaller than their greater counterparts. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added the lesser prairie chicken to the Threatened Species List in 2014, so prairie chicken hunting is not allowed in the Southwest Unit (see map). Kansas currently harbors the most extensive remaining range and largest population of the lesser prairie chicken among the disjunct populations found in the five states where it occurs (KS, TX, NM, OK, CO). Good numbers of lessers still occur in Kansas' mixed grass and sand sagebrush prairies but their greatest densities can now be found north of the Arkansas River in a matrix of native rangeland and CRP grasslands. Lessers were thought to have been extirpated from this portion of their historic range as recently as 15 years ago. However, the addition of CRP grasslands restored the missing habitat components and populations of both prairie chicken species responded with range expansions and large increases in numbers. This expansion of lesser and greater prairie chicken populations in west-central Kansas has brought these two historically overlapping species back together in a zone ranging from 20 to 40 miles in width. Some mixed leks with cocks of both species occur in this zone of overlap.

Two distinct forms of prairie chicken hunting occur in Kansas. In the eastern half of the state (east of U.S. Highway 281), an early season (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15) allows hunters with dogs to take advantage of the tendency for young greaters to hold well at this time of year. Later in the fall, chickens gather into larger groups, often making it more difficult for hunters with dogs to get within gun range. By fall, many prairie chickens will begin feeding in cut sorghum, corn, or soybean fields. Since these birds often fly directly to specific fields when they leave their roosts in early morning, hunters can get pass shooting opportunities by positioning themselves at the margin of the field closest to the roosting area. This pass shooting is the more common way of taking greater prairie chickens during Kansas’ regular season (3rd Saturday in Nov. to Jan. 31st, Daily Limit = 2).  Since 1990, estimated greater prairie chicken harvests in Kansas have varied from a high of 59,000 in 1991 to a low of only 9,000 in 2002.

Prairie chicken adults are exceptionally hardy birds and are seldom significantly threatened by severe winter weather. Should deep snows occur, their ability to dive into the snow for roosting helps shield them from cold temperatures and wind chills above the snow surface. More significant weather threats to greater prairie chickens sometimes come in the form of excessive, drenching rains during nesting or when chicks are very small and most vulnerable to chilling. Drought is probably the greatest weather threat to lesser prairie chickens. Normal conditions in the range of the lesser prairie chicken varies from arid to semi-arid, so significant droughts can severely impact their habitat and production.

Historically, conversion of native prairies to cropland has accounted for the greatest loss of prairie chicken habitat in Kansas and elsewhere. More recently, other forms of human land use and development have posed additional threats. Particularly in the Flint Hills, the thorough annual burning of vast areas of tallgrass prairie associated with intensive, early cattle grazing in May, June, and July leaves few places for ground nesting birds like prairie chickens to successfully nest. Greater prairie chicken populations in the Flint Hills have declined significantly since this grazing system became widespread. However, less frequent burning, ideally once in 3 years or twice in 5 years, is critical to the health of the prairie and for prairie chickens. Possibly a more serious threat to greater prairie chickens and other grassland birds is the spread of invasive trees like eastern red cedar, Osage orange, and others into parts of our Kansas prairies ( read more: Tree Invasion). Ironically, this has resulted from too little application of controlled burning in some regions and from failure of land managers to quickly recognize and respond to the threat tree invasion poses to prairie, livestock production, and grassland wildlife.

Recent radio-telemetry studies conducted by Kansas State University researchers in southwest Kansas has highlighted yet another threat to prairie chickens. These workers documented a distinct avoidance of man-made structures by lesser prairie chickens. Generally, most prairie chicken hens avoided nesting or rearing their broods within a quarter-mile of power lines and within a third-mile of improved roads. Buildings, including a power plant and gas booster stations, were avoided from anywhere between two-thirds of a mile to one mile, depending on their size. This information, coupled with similar avoidance behavior noted in other species, suggests there is cause for concern over negative impacts on prairie chickens of other types of structures as well, including communications towers, wind farms, and suburban homes. Fragmentation of the open grassland horizons preferred by prairie chickens appears to represent yet another man-made threat to these species habitats.

Maintaining extensive tracts of open, well-managed prairie is critical to the conservation of prairie chickens. In Kansas, where 97% of the land is privately owned, ranchers are, unquestionably, the most important stewards of the prairies. Wildlife conservationists can best help conserve prairie chickens by forming alliances with ranchers to assist them in preventing tree invasion, to help them resist economic pressures to sell their lands, and to test new, economically-viable management systems that could prove more friendly to grassland wildlife. One such system with great promise is the "Patch Burning / Patch Grazing" system developed and tested by researchers at Oklahoma State University. Traditional grazing systems remain very viable for prairie health, provided they incorporate periodic fire ( not annual burning) and light to moderate stocking rates.

Upland Bird Forecast
Upland Bird Map

Figure 1: Map of the seven small game management regions within Kansas. Areas in gray are closed to prairie chicken hunting.

Forecast Factors

Two important factors impact availability of upland game during the fall hunting season: number of breeding adults in the spring and the reproductive success of the breeding population. Reproductive success consists of both the number of hatched nests and chick survival. For pheasant and quail, annual survival is relatively low; therefore, the fall population is more dependent on summer reproduction than spring adult numbers. For prairie chickens, reproductive success is still the major population regulator, but higher adult survival helps maintain hunting opportunities during poor conditions.

In this forecast, breeding population and reproductive success of pheasants, quail, and prairie chickens will be discussed. Breeding population data were gathered using spring calling surveys for pheasants, quail, and prairie chickens. Data for reproductive success were collected during late-summer roadside surveys for pheasants and quail, which quantify both adults and chicks observed. Reproductive success of prairie chickens cannot be easily assessed using the same methods because they do not associate with roads like pheasants and quail.

Habitat Conditions

Rainfall in Kansas varies greatly, from more than 50 inches of average annual rainfall in the far east to less than 14 inches in the far west. The amount and timing of rainfall plays a major role in reproduction for upland birds. In the west, wet years typically improve the available cover and increase insect availability for chicks. In the east, dry years are typically more optimal, as heavy rains during spring and summer can reduce survival of nesting birds and young chicks. In 2022, Kansas was plagued by limited precipitation and high heat for an extended period of time.  This favored production in the eastern third of the state, while production in the western third of the state was limited.  

2022 Statewide Summaries

Pheasant  Drought conditions intensified in Kansas over the past year and had a marked impact on pheasant production across much of their primary range. This was most noticeable in the High Plains region of the western third of the state where there were widespread declines. In portions of the North Central Smoky Hills region, spring precipitation was enough in select areas to support a strong initial nesting attempt resulting in an overall increase for the region. However, this was not widespread and was not enough to offset losses in other regions. The statewide pheasant index has dropped to levels similar to the previous drought cycle. These declines will be exacerbated by the loss of huntable habitat, as the CRP program has continued to decline in enrollment and drought conditions opened much of the remaining CRP to be used for emergency forage for cattle across the entire Kansas pheasant range. This has the potential to artificially improve hunter success initially by concentrating birds in the remaining cover but will also likely concentrate hunting pressure. Despite declines, Kansas continues to maintain one of the best pheasant populations in the country and fall harvest will again be among the leading states. Simply note, hunters are likely to find challenging conditions and should be prepared to work for birds this season.

Quail  Kansas has continued to support above-average quail populations with spring densities remaining similar to 2021. This included significant increases in spring densities in the central regions of the state this spring. The peak nesting for quail is later than pheasants, which led to concerns about chick survival and nest initiation rates with mid-summer conditions; However, quail have a longer nesting season and can take advantage of quickly-changing conditions. The drought conditions reduced production in the southwest region of the state, but quail increased on brood surveys through much of Northcentral Kansas and eastward. The modest increases across these regions offset the decreases observed in the southwest resulting in statewide densities equivalent to 2021. Kansas maintains one of the strongest quail populations in the country and, given our abundant access, harvest will again be among the highest in the country. Drought conditions will impact huntable cover throughout the range and will likely be more noticeable as hunters travel further west in the state. The best opportunities will be in the Flint Hills and Smoky Hills regions of the state this season, with quality hunting opportunity scattered across the remaining regions.

Prairie Chicken Kansas is home to both greater and lesser prairie-chickens. Both species require a landscape of predominately native grass and benefit from a few interspersed grain fields. Greater prairie-chickens are found primarily in the tallgrass and mixed-grass prairies that occur in the eastern third and northern half of the state. Greater prairie-chickens have recently expanded in numbers and range in the Northwestern portion of the state, while declining in the eastern regions. Hunting opportunities will be best in the Smoky Hills Region this fall where populations have been stable, public access is more abundant, and the drought was less intense than further west. 

 The Southwest Prairie Chicken Unit, where lesser prairie-chickens are found, will remain closed to hunting this year. Greater prairie-chickens may be harvested with a 2-bird daily bag limit in the Greater Prairie-Chicken Unit. All prairie chicken hunters are required to have a Prairie Chicken Permit, which allows KDWP to track hunter activity and harvest to better inform management. 

2022 Regional Summaries
Northern High Plains (Northwest)

Public Land: 12,849 acres

WIHA: 378,089 acres 

Pheasant – While this region boasted the highest density during spring surveys, drought conditions reduced production, creating significant declines in the roadside survey this year. In fact, all routes in the region declined from last year. Hunters may find some success in areas where there were good bird numbers in 2021, as there is the potential for more “carry over” birds. Given this, targeting grasslands adjacent to irrigation where there was a higher potential for moisture could also prove successful. The highest densities will be found in the Western counties of the region where densities were greatest last year.

Quail – Quail are limited and typically harvested opportunistically by pheasant hunters. Weather patterns have facilitated a population expansion into the area where appropriate habitat exists, providing hunters with increased opportunity in recent years. While densities on the summer roadside survey decreased this year due to drought conditions, opportunity will still exist, especially in the eastern most counties of the region.

Prairie Chicken – Prairie chicken populations have expanded in both numbers and range within the region. Only portions of this region are open to hunting (see map for unit boundaries). Production in the region was likely poor this year based on other upland bird production. Within the open area, the best hunting opportunities will be found in the northeastern portion of the region in native prairies and adjacent CRP grasslands.

Smoky Hills (Northcentral)

Public Land: 106,558 acres

WIHA: 298,283 acres

Pheasant – This region showed an increase on the roadside survey index, boasting the highest roadside density this year. The region maintained the highest regional harvest last year, as well. Given the observed increase, this region will again be a major contributor to overall harvest this season. Despite early rains contributing to production, habitat conditions have continued to deteriorate and will likely mean areas may be better than they initially appear. Hunters should target remaining cover in areas where good spring cover would have been present, especially in the western and southern portions of the region where the highest roadside densities were this year.

Quail – This region has enjoyed several years of well above average quail densities. The spring whistle survey increased this year, maintaining above average spring densities. Brood survey estimates also increased across most of the region. Given increases in both spring and summer surveys, hunter success rates are expected to improve compared to 2021. However, drought conditions will impact cover across all land types. Densities appear best in the west half of the region but several other areas across the region maintained good estimates, as well.

Prairie Chicken – Prairie Chicken hunting opportunities in the region should remain good. Production was likely improved as other upland birds supported greater production in the region. This region has maintained relatively stable densities, paired with the greatest access in the state to appropriate habitat. Greater prairie-chickens occur throughout the Smoky Hills where large areas of native rangeland are intermixed with cropland. The best hunting opportunities will be found in the central portion of the region, with several other areas supporting huntable densities of birds in appropriate habitat, as well. The southwestern portion of the region is within the closed zone (see map for unit boundaries).

Glaciated Plains (Northeast)

Public Land: 51,469 acres

WIHA: 67,430 acres

Pheasant – Opportunities will remain poor with pheasants occurring only in pockets of habitat, primarily in the northwestern portion of the region or areas managed specifically for upland birds. Roadside densities decreased with pheasants only being recorded on two routes this year. Pheasant densities across the region are typically low, especially relative to other areas in central and western Kansas.

Quail – Summer roadside surveys showed good improvements with densities approaching those typical for the central regions of the state. Like many regions, the last five years have provided above-average opportunity for quail. While densities will still be lower than many regions to the west, the increased densities will provide better opportunities for hunters spending time in northeast Kansas this winter. With limited nesting and roosting cover throughout much of this region, targeting areas with or near native grass will be key for hunter success. Roadside counts were highest in the northeastern portion of the region.

Prairie Chicken – Very little prairie chicken range occurs in this region and opportunities are limited. Opportunities for encounters will be highest in the western edges of the region along the Flint Hills, where some large areas of native rangeland still exist. 

Osage Cuestas (Southeast)

Public Land: 109,883 acres

WIHA: 31,905 acres

Pheasant – This region is outside the primary pheasant range, therefore hunting opportunity is very limited. Pheasants are occasionally found in the northwestern portion of the region at very low densities.

Quail – Opportunities will be poor this year. While roadside estimates trended upward again this year, the modest improvements have still not mitigated several years of consecutively poor production. Roadside surveys remained depressed within this region, having the lowest regional density for quail. While overall hunting opportunities will be slightly improved, the best opportunities will be on areas specifically managed for upland birds and/or the western counties in grasslands extending east off of the Flint Hills.

Prairie Chicken – Greater prairie chicken populations have consistently declined over the long term in this region. Fire suppression and loss of native grassland has gradually reduced the amount of suitable habitat. Hunting opportunities are limited, but chickens can occasionally be found in large blocks of native rangeland, primarily along the edge of the Flint Hills.

Flint Hills

Public Land: 196,901 acres

WIHA: 77,353 acres

Pheasant – This region is on the eastern edge of the primary pheasant range in Kansas and offers limited opportunities. While pheasant densities have always been low in the Flint Hills, the highest densities will be found on the western edge of the region. There were no roadside routes where pheasants declined this year and routes on the western portion of the region saw some large increases. Therefore, the best hunting opportunities will be in the northwest portion of the region along the Smoky Hills. 

Quail – This region had the highest regional roadside survey index this year after a slight regional increase. In fact, estimates on the quail whistle survey have steadily increased over the last two decades. Increases in this region should produce above-average quail densities and the highest regional density heading into fall.  Quail production can be impacted in the core of the Flint Hills with annual burning practices limiting nesting cover. Therefore, hunters will find the best success in areas that maintained nearby nesting cover and have retained shrub cover that has otherwise been removed from large areas of the region during invasive species control efforts. The highest densities will be found in the southern half of the region this year.

Prairie Chicken – The Flint Hills is the largest in-tact tallgrass prairie in North America and has been a core habitat for greater prairie-chickens for many years. Management changes resulting in both areas of too little and too much prescribed fire have gradually degraded habitat quality, and prairie chicken numbers have declined as a result. Burning was near average in 2022, limiting nesting cover in the core of the Flint Hills. Hunting opportunities will likely be similar to last year throughout this region.

South Central Prairies

Public Land: 41,125 acres

WIHA: 59,705 acres

Pheasant – Roadside survey estimates were slightly lower than last year. There were a few routes that maintained relatively good densities within the region. While roadside estimates are lower than the other major pheasant regions, last year this region boasted the highest hunter success rates. The highest pheasant densities will be found in the west-central portion of the region this year, with good opportunities in the northern part of the region as well, near higher densities to the north.

Quail – The spring whistle survey and summer brood survey both trended downward, however neither saw significant declines. Because harvest rates for quail were also highest in the region last year, opportunities should remain strong this year with marked improvements in key areas. The intermixing of quality cover types in the region provides more consistent opportunities across the South-Central Prairies compared to other regions. Roadside counts were highest in central portion of the region.

Prairie Chicken – The large rangeland areas in this region are almost entirely closed to prairie chicken hunting (see map for unit boundaries). Chickens occur in very limited areas in the remainder of this region at very low densities. Encounters are possible in the few remaining large tracts of rangeland in the northeastern portion of the region.

Southern High Plains (Southwest)

Public Land: 116,821 acres

WIHA: 157,426 acres 

Pheasant – While this region saw a slight increase during spring crowing surveys, the summer brood survey showed significant declines. All routes in this region declined from last year. Carry-over birds may provide the best opportunity for success in areas where there were good bird numbers in 2021. Additionally, targeting undisturbed grasslands adjacent to irrigation may increase the likelihood of encountering birds where moisture may have facilitated some production. The highest densities were found in the Southcentral counties of the region where densities were greatest last year.

Quail – The quail population in this region is highly variable and dependent on weather. The roadside estimates were down this year due to poor production conditions. Densities were greatest in the Southcentral portion of the region, with the highest densities found along riparian corridors and/or where adequate woody structure exists. This association with riparian corridors makes surveying the region for an accurate density of quail challenging; therefore, hunting opportunities may be better than the roadside surveys suggest. Scaled quail can also be found in this region but make up a small proportion of total quail.

Prairie Chicken – Prairie chicken hunting is closed in this area. 

Other Information

Conservation Reserve Program

Under the 2018 Farm Bill, the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage cap will gradually increase each year. Kansas currently has 1.7 million acres of CRP statewide. During the 2022 signup, however – with 294,815 acres expired and only 218,974 acres enrolled – there will be a net decrease in CRP acres again this year. Decreased interest in enrollment is currently attributed to reduced rental rates combined with high commodity prices. In addition to loss of CRP acres, the quality of habitat on remaining CRP acres will be reduced. A total of 86 counties in Kansas were released for emergency Haying and Grazing of CRP. A large portion of properties in the WIHA program include CRP, and expirations/haying can reduce habitat quality or exclude properties from the program altogether. Given this, Kansas’ WIHA program still has nearly 1.09 million acres enrolled for 2022 (atlases are available at ksoutdoors.com/wiha and at all license vendor locations).   

Kansas has almost 1.7 million acres open to public hunting (Wildlife Areas and WIHA combined). There are more than 50 million acres of private land that also provide opportunity where permission can be obtained.