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Commissioners may look to adjust some Kansas duck season dates

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, July 28, 2013, at 12 a.m.

Last August, the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission rejected the agency’s proposed season dates for one of three low plains duck hunting zones. Thursday, in Yates Center, they may reject two when the seasons go to a vote.

Commissioners Don Budd of Kansas City and Roger Marshall of Great Bend voiced opposition to department recommendations when seasons were discussed last month in Garden City. Both want later seasons and have suggested alternate season dates.

Last year Budd and commissioner Robert Wilson of Pittsburg engaged in sometimes contentious discussion with agency biologists, other commissioners and the public in hopes of having the 74-day southeast Kansas duck season run continually from mid-November through the last weekend of January.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt the opportunity to harvest more birds is there, then, especially in southeast Kansas,” Budd said during a recent interview. “If I wanted to shoot less ducks, I wouldn’t be doing it this way.”

Similar to last year, agency biologists on Thursday will recommend a Nov. 2- Jan. 5 and Jan. 18-26 season for the area that’s basically south of I-35 and east of Highway 77, and includes El Dorado, Fall River and Toronto reservoirs.

Budd is suggesting a Nov. 2-3, and Nov. 16-Jan. 26 season. Last year Budd’s request for Nov. 15-Jan. 25 season passed on a 4-3 margin.

Tom Bidrowski, Wildlife and Parks waterfowl biologist, said his recommendations are based on several factors. “We consider migration (trends), and want to time it when we think the birds will be here to maximize our harvest based on harvest records,” he said. “We want to provide the most opportunity and offer some early-season hunting rather than gambling on the weather.”

Some hunters in the northern part of the southeast zone have complained a mid-November opener may give them very little time to hunt, as the shallow marshes of that region may freeze-up at places like the Marais des Cygnes Wildlife Refuge and the Flint Hills National Willdife Refuge. Budd’s offer of Nov. 2-3 is to appease such hunters, as is his suggestion of an Oct. 26-27 youth season.

Last month in Garden City, several commissioners questioned the department’s recommendation when a recent survey of southeast zone duck hunters showed more than half preferred a season similar to Budd’s from last year. Bidrowski said Kansas sportsmen usually report they prefer the most recent season dates. “We had a similar survey after the 2012 seasons and they said they preferred that (earlier) season,” he said. “They seem to like familiarity.”

In Garden City, Marshall requested the low plains early zone season contain an extra week of late-season hunting, running Oct. 5-Dec. 1 and Dec.21-Jan. 05. Wildlife and Parks biologists are recommending Oct. 5-Dec. 8 and Dec.21-29.

Bidrowski will ask commissioners to approve a low plains late zone duck season of Oct. 26-Dec. 29 and Jan. 18-26. Suggested goose seasons will follow frameworks from the past several years.

New commissioner — Thursday’s meeting will be the first for new commissioner Gary Hayzlett of Lakin. The former legislator was appointed by Gov. Sam Brownback last week and will replace Debra Bolton of Garden City, after she served eight years as a commissioner.

"I got out of the legislature after 22 years, and had 16 years on the county commission, and now I'm a (Wildlife and Parks) commissioner," Hayzlett said in a Friday morning interview. "I've always had an interest in wildlife, and Wildlife and Parks ... I'm thrilled, make that very thrilled about it. I think it'll be a really neat thing."

Hayzlett is a life-long sportsmen who has hunted and fished across most of Kansas and many other states.

Robin Jennison, Wildlife, Parks and Tourism secretary, approved of Hayzlett’s appointment, saying he thinks Hayzlett’s legislative experience and connections can benefit the commission, the agency and those who enjoy Kansas’ wildlife and state parks.

Thursday’s meeting will be held at the Woodson County Community Building, 713 S. Fry. The afternoon session is slated from 1:30-5 p.m. and the evening session from 7 p.m. until completion. Public comment will be accepted at both sessions. The meeting will also be shown live at www.kdwpt.state.ks.us. For more information call 620-672-5911.

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