Nov. 13, 2014

Annual prairie chicken season opens with changes for 2014

PRATT –The regular prairie chicken season opens on the third Saturday in November, which is Nov. 15, 2014. However, this year, hunters will see a significant change in where prairie chickens may be hunted. Kansas is home to two species of prairie chickens. The greater prairie chicken is common in the Flint Hills of east-central Kansas and the Smoky Hills of northcentral and northwest Kansas. The southwest region of the state is home to the lesser prairie chicken, which was listed as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last March. Three years of severe drought resulted in poor habitat and declining numbers of lesser prairie chickens.

As a result of the listing, the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission established two prairie chicken units. The Southwest Prairie Chicken Unit, where lessers are found, is closed to all prairie chicken hunting. The Greater Prairie Chicken Unit, which includes northwest, northcentral and eastern portions of Kansas, is open to greater prairie chicken hunting. A map may be seen at or in the 2014 Kansas Hunting and Furharvesting Regulations Summary.

The greater prairie chicken hunting season is open Nov. 15, 2014-Jan. 31, 2015. The daily bag limit is two and the possession limit is four times the daily bag limit. During the regular prairie chicken season, hunters commonly pass shoot birds early in the morning and late in the afternoon as they fly from grasslands to feed fields. The challenge is finding the right field and getting into a position where birds may fly within shotgun range. Perhaps the biggest challenge is hitting the birds that are always flying “faster than they look.”

Greater prairie chicken numbers are highest in the Smoky Hills region of northcentral Kansas, and numbers should be improved compared to last year in the Flint Hills. In addition to a hunting license, prairie chicken hunters must purchase a prairie chicken hunting permit, which is available online and wherever licenses are sold for $2.50. The permit allows biologists to survey hunters and gain more accurate harvest information for management purposes.