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Wildlife and Parks commission considers season changes, price reduction

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013, at 7:13 p.m.

Young hunters, particularly those from other states, may be getting a sizable discount for Kansas deer and wild turkey permits. The price reductions will be up for vote at Thursday’s Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism commission meeting Thursday in Hutchinson.

Mike Miller, Wildlife and Parks information chief, said the agency hopes reducing prices could get more young hunters afield. At past meetings he’s showed how Nebraska and Missouri reduced the price of resident and non-resident deer permits and saw sales and participation climb significantly.

Wildlife and Parks’ proposal would change resident youth deer permits from $15 to $10 and turkey permits from $10 to $5. Non-resident youth deer permits would decrease from $315 to $90, which would allow the killing of a buck and an antlerless whitetail. Non-resident youth turkey permits would decrease from $30 to $10.

Youth permits are for 15-year-olds and younger.

It’s estimated the fee reductions could initially cost the agency about $190,000 annually.

“We see it as an initial revenue loss, but only in the short-term because it’s a recruitment tool,” said Miller. “If we can get those kids into hunting, they’ll eventually be buying adult permits. In Nebraska, they sold more adult permits as more parents took their kids hunting when those youth permits became more affordable.”

If passed, the price reduction would begin with the 2014 seasons.

Commissioners will also vote on a proposal to allow youth spring turkey hunters a weekend to themselves. The change could take opportunities away from other hunters by delaying the opening of the regular (shotgun) spring season by a week some years.

Currently the youth/disabled season opens April 1, the same as the archery season. One segment may be crowding out the other.

“The archery season has exploded, and that’s a good thing,” said Jim Pitman, Wildlife and Parks turkey biologist. “but we’re starting to run into some competition on public areas where we have sponsored youth hunts.” The special youth/disabled and archery seasons currently run until the general season has been opened the second Wednesday of April.

The special youth season would run April 1 until the regular season opens. The archery season would open the Monday after the first weekend of the month, and run until the regular season opens. The regular season would open the Wednesday after the second weekend of April. He didn’t predict a drop in hunter success.

Pitman said the number of youth/disabled turkey hunters using that special season has dropped about 60 percent since 2007, while archery hunters in that special season have grown by about 50 percent in that same time. Many non-residents come to Kansas for the archery season, which is often before turkey seasons open in their home state.

Youth and bowhunters are allowed to hunt through the regular season that ends May 31. If approved, the new spring season dates would begin in 2015.

The department will also ask commissioners to reduce the fall season bag limits from four to one turkey in northeast, southeast and south-central Kansas beginning with the 2014 fall season. Based on lower spring hunting success rates, Pitman said the agency feels the fall kill may need to be reduced to improve spring hunting. He said they use two consecutive years of resident success rates below 55 percent as a barometer. Last spring the success rate was about 53 percent, which was still one of the highest in the nation.

Pitman said eliminating a hunter’s ability to shoot more than one turkey per fall could reduce the fall kill by about 20 percent. Kansas turkey hunters normally shoot 6,000-10,000 birds in the fall and about 35,000 birds in the spring.

The request is noteworthy because it is a rare time Wildlife and Parks has indicated hunting is detrimental to a gamebird’s population. Several times they’ve told the public, commissioners, conservation groups and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that hunting has no negative impact on quail and lesser prairie chicken populations. Lessers are currently considered for the federal threatened and endangered species list.

“They have a different biology,” Pitman said, “(Annual) turkey survival is 50 to 70 percent, for quail it’s 20 to 30 percent. When you shoot a turkey there’s a lot more likelihood you’re shooting a bird that might have survived until spring.” He said lesser prairie chickens have a survival rate of about 40 to 50 percent.

Thursday’s 1:30 p.m. meeting is at the Cosmosphere, 1100 N. Plum in Hutchinson. For more information go to www.kdwpt.state.ks.us.

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