By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

The first day aloft in the annual summer survey of pronghorn antelope didn't show a lot of promise for reproduction.

Furbearer biologist Matt Peek isn't entirely sure of the reason behind that poor reproduction, but he's thinking it might be a result of the drought.

But not for biological reasons.

Instead, he's thinking the drought reduced the amount of cover to hide fawns, increasing the chance for predation.

The summer flights by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism aren't designed to get a population count, but instead take a look at the buck-to-doe ratio, one of the factors involved in setting seasons and the number of permits available.

Peek said the first day's flight suggested that ratio was good.

"This year's hunt will be fine," he said of what might happen as a result of a smaller pronghorn production rate.

But two years from now, Peek said, there's likely to be a reduced number of permits available for hunting the fleet-footed animals.

The number of firearms permits are limited to about 200 due to the size of the state's pronghorn herd. While archery permits can be purchased over the counter, an average of only about 115 have been sold; with a 10-percent to 15-percent success rate, the effect has been minimal, according to KDWP&T.

Peek said the flights are run each year, but he's working to develop a new technique to collect samples.

"This time of year, we're trying to get 300 animals as our goal," he said of the survey.

Winter surveys are more expansive and attempt to make a count.

"The summer survey is not a count," Peek said. "We're trying to determine the buck-to-doe ratio."

Coyotes are the main predator of pronghorn, and he said it's likely reduced cover might make fawns more susceptible to predation.

Typically giving birth to twins, pronghorn does force fawns down on the ground.

"Kind of like deer," Peek said. "They leave them bedded down and come back to feed. For 10 days to two weeks, they're pretty vulnerable. Then after that, they can run."