One of the perks of moving to Colorado is that I’m only 5 hours from Kansas; my favorite state to hunt whitetail deer. Kansas is loaded with millions of acres of public land and big bucks, making it a deer hunters dream. I was working in Denver for the latter half of my week so I decided that I would take advantage of the closer proximity and make the 3 hour (normally 5 hour) drive to Kansas to do some early season scouting.
Kansas is one of my favorite states to hunt whitetail deer for a number of reasons:
- It is a draw tag that is relatively easy to acquire for non-residents.
- The hunting pressure is significantly less than Michigan and other parts of the midwest.
- Kansas grows lots of big bucks.
- There is an abundance of public land that holds quality deer.
- Other wildlife such as grouse, bobcat, badger, pheasant, and hawks are abundant.
- My hunting property is only a five-hour drive from where I live.
For all of these reasons combined is why I LOVE to hunt in Kansas!
Putting On The Miles
I woke up last Saturday morning feeling a bit tired and groggy after a two-day event in Denver but knowing that good hunting land opportunities were on the horizon, I crawled out of bed and pushed on. I had done a bit of homework prior to this trip and located a general area (three counties) where I wanted to hunt so I headed out to the open prairie.
Since I already had a tri-county already in mind, I resorted to using the Arc GIS app for iPhone, developed by ESRI. This shows you on a real GPS map where Walk-In Hunter Access (WIHA) properties are in proximity to your location. The cool feature is that it is an interactive map so you can click on various properties and it shows you how much acreage the property is, what species can be hunted and what dates they can be accessed. Click HERE to find out more information about WIHA maps and related software programs.
After I had a general area picked out, I started to key in on areas with concentrated WIHA property. My next step was to then start zoning in on river bottoms with trees in close proximity (within a mile) to crop fields for optimal travel routes and food. Once I had located a property with these characteristics, I drove to the area and put the binoculars to work!
After spending some time glassing fields, river bottoms, and ravines, I decided that this particular section was worthy of trying to get additional private land access so I set out to start knocking on doors. It never hurts to have more options! “I have way too much hunting property” said NO ONE EVER!
The First House
First off let me start by saying that the people in Western Kansas are some of the nicest people I have ever met in my life. By the time I pulled up to the first driveway it was already 95 degrees outside with about 90% humidity and it takes by breath away when I leave the comforts of an air-conditioned truck. After knocking on the door I was greeted by a young guy about my age named John. I explain why I am there and he invites me out of the blazing sun into their cool air-conditioned house. I thought to myself “Wow, you don’t find people too often these days who just let you in to their house after 10 seconds of conversation”
I get to talking with him and his family and next thing I know he gives me permission to hunt the family farm. He starts explaining all of the property in the area and he offers to ride along in my truck to show me exactly where each parcel is, where to park and the best access locations. His family doesn’t really hunt and John is moving to Illinois to move in with his fiancé. I seriously can’t thank him enough for him letting me access 5,000 acres of good hunting property. John, I owe you big time!
My Secret Scouting Weapon
Below is a quick 30 second video of me using my QuietKat to quickly scout potential ground. It came in useful after gaining access to some new property!
The Next Attempts
After leaving John’s house I headed up the road to talk to the neighbors to the East because the property had good characteristics and was hoping for more success. Upon talking with the owner, he stated that his son-in-law hunts the farm, meaning no hunting privileges for me. It was still really good to talk with him because he said there are some big ones in the area and he had a pile of shed antlers in the yard to prove it! I thanked him for his time and headed on my way.
My next move was to head to the neighbors to the West. After speaking with him I was also denied access due to other people already hunting the property. Once again, I received great info from talking with him and he too had a bunch of fresh sheds lying around the yard. He said he doesn’t actively look for them but instead picks them up out of the pastures when he lays an eye on one.
After leaving the last farm I chose to head further East. After a few miles of driving I spotted a few good farms mixed with river bottoms and crop fields so I had to stop. I too was denied access to these properties because they already had hunters. Both guys mentioned that there were a lot deer in the area and how they wished there weren’t so many!
Below are a few pictures from the open prairie of Kansas. The photo of the building is actually an old school-house. One of the neighbors I talked to said he actually attend school there as a young boy.
My Luck Strikes Again
After many failed attempts I connected on another farm about 5 miles from the first property. This parcel is much smaller at 500 acres, but when you are coming from Michigan, 500 acres is still a lot of hunting ground! Although smaller in size by Kansas standards, I really like the way this property is laid out.
This piece of property is located where a river bottom and a ravine intersect in to each other; both natural funnels. The other reason I really like this piece is because it has a water tank on the property, making it very attractive to thirsty whitetail deer! The river bottoms in the area are dry which could mean great success if I can set up a stand or ground blind along the travel route to and from the water tank.
Scouting Trip Recap
All in all I was very pleased with my results for the trip. I scouted thousands of acres of public land and picked up approximately 5,500 acres of solid private land to hunt on this fall. To say I’m excited for the season to begin is an understatement!
Already, I have learned a lot about the area by seeing it in person and talking with local land owners. In the coming weeks I will write a blog post showing how I will hunt these properties and how my tactics will change as the season progresses. Hopefully in a few weeks I will be able to get back out there with some trail cameras and really begin scouting.
In closing, if you are actively looking for private hunting land this Fall don’t be afraid to knock on doors. Sometimes it can be intimidating but the more you do it, the easier it becomes. It’s a numbers game; meaning the more houses you approach, the more likely you will be able to gain access. Keep going and never give up.