By MIKE CORN
KIRWIN NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE -- It's been talked about many times, but never -- until now -- tried before.
Faced with a growing deer herd, the Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge -- open only to archery hunters -- implemented a "doe-first" policy for the 40 permits issued through a lottery.
The feedback has been mixed, according to refuge manager Craig Mowry, with those actually receiving the permits satisfied with how it turned out.
Ironically, the only complaints came from non-residents who didn't receive one of the permits.
"Our doe, our whole deer population is going up," Mowry said, a similar tale that's been told in other locations, including Cedar Bluff, Webster and Keith Sebelius. "People come here to hunt trophy deer."
Just last year, one non-resident spent 60 days on the refuge trying to get a deer.
But the population kept growing.
So Mowry started talking to archery hunters. He also checked in with food banks and was told they would accept the venison if the hunters wanted to donate it rather than put it in their freezer.
"I think most of them are going to keep it," he said of what hunters are planning to do with the venison from the doe they killed.
Except for the hunters who didn't get a license, the idea has been well-received.
"Everybody else has been neutral to very positive," Mowry said.
The biggest concern stemmed from hunters who didn't want to shoot a doe, and then be in the middle of field dressing it just when a big buck comes by.
So the hunters, for the most part, got their does early on, and then started hunting the trophy animals soon thereafter.
"I didn't know what to expect," Mowry said of what the response would be.
Talk of the deer problem has been ongoing across the state for several years.
"They did tell me with all the habitat we do have, our deer population has greatly increased," Mowry said of what he was told by wildlife biologists with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.
He saw that first-hand himself.
Last winter, he said, there were herds of 200 deer in one spot, followed by herds of about 100 in other locations.
"So we haven't done a comprehensive survey of the refuge," he said. "We know we've got a lot of deer."
Nearby landowners also have complained, receiving depredation permits from the state.
Mowry also looked at car-deer accidents on nearby Kansas Highway 9, but was pleasantly surprised to find it wasn't a big problem there. But, he said, the Kansas Department of Transportation is reviewing where to place deer-crossing signs because the animals might show up anywhere.
Mowry considered but quickly discarded the notion of bumping up the number of permits issued.
"A few years ago, it went up to 60 and that was kind of a circus," he said. "Too many people running around."
Exactly how the new rule has worked won't be fully known until hunters send in surveys after the season ends on Dec. 31.