A serious quarrel has erupted among rifle and archery deer hunters in these parts. It began shortly after the column that appeared in this space last Dec. 19.
Elden Bailey of rural Lawrence criticized the way Kansas Wildlife and Parks schedules and manages the rifle season for deer. Bailey called it antiquated and a bureaucratic mess.
According to Bailey, when KWP is confronted with complaints about deer damaging farm crops and deer-vehicle collisions, which increased from 5,582 in 1993 to 9,116 in 1997, KWP says it wants to trim or at least stabilize the deer herds in Kansas.
Bailey believes the best way to accomplish that goal is to schedule the rifle season during the new moon in November, because that is when deer hunting is the easiest.
Bailey has been hunting deer in northeast Kansas since 1965. During those years, Bailey has watched deer populations grow in Leavenworth and Jefferson counties. The growth has been dramatic in the last 15 years.
Bailey says bow hunters, who are allowed to hunt from Oct. 1 to Nov. 30, haven't been able to stem the radical and menacing growth of the deer population hereabouts.
Bailey's comments raised the ire of scores of local archers, especially Howard Hasler of Lawrence.
Hasler is 52 years old, and he has been pursuing white-tailed deer around Lawrence for 10 years with a rifle and for the past five seasons with a bow. From that perspective, Hasler says Bailey is wrong.
Hasler feels Bailey's plan to move the rifle season into November rather than during the first 12 days of December won't solve the problems associated with the deer that menace the farmland and roadways.
But it will, Hasler says, wreak havoc with the world-class bow hunting that takes place every November in Kansas.
If KWP moves the 12-day rifle season to November, Hasler contends, the deer would be so wily and skittish after the rifle hunters exited the fields and woods that even the savviest bow hunter would have a difficult time luring a deer close enough to shoot with a bow and arrow.
Hasler adds that Bailey's proposed plan would so severely foul the hunting that it would also jeopardize KWP's current campaign to recruit new hunters and keep the old-timers coming back.
Moreover, Hasler says KWP has done a first-class job of managing deer populations, making Kansas a deer hunter's paradise. Before any changes are instituted, Hasler contends lots of research and planning should take place.
And when the deer population does get out of whack, KWP makes an appropriate move to remedy that problem. That's what the doe-only season, which started Dec. 31 and runs through today, is about.
During this spell, the deer are gamboling about in herds, which makes them exceptionally easy to hunt. The best way to control the deer population, Hasler says, is to kill the females.
Several other bow hunters responded to Bailey's ideas. These hunters noted that the safest way to control a wildly burgeoning deer population in a suburban area isn't with a rifle but with a state-of-the-art bow and arrow.
Suburban deer herds are plaguing many communities across the nation. Thus, as northeast Kansas becomes more suburbanized, the archers contend rifle hunting will ultimately become obsolete.
Hasler and other archers hope the folks at KWP will quickly dismiss Bailey's suggestions and maintain the status quo in managing hunting seasons and deer populations.