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Special permits bringing big $$$

A program designed to raise added funds for big-game animal conservation programs in Kansas seems to be working.

At least four of seven 2010 special commissioners permits have already sold, bringing a combined $34,500.

The permits are annually awarded to conservation/sporting groups lucky enough to get their names drawn at a January Wildlife and Parks Commission meeting. Seven are offered, one to honor each of the Kansas Wildlife and Parks Commissioners. No more than one of the permit can be for elk or antelope.

This year one group selected the elk option and the others deer.

The commissioner permits are then re-sold and are valid during any season with the appropriate weapon, anywhere in the state.

Already deer permits sold by the Ark Valley Chapter of Ducks Unlimited and the Tri-County Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation sold for $5,500 each.

A permit auctioned by the Mule Deer Foundation at their annual convention brought $14,000. A permit to hunt elk at Fort Riley also brought $9,500 through the Kansas National Wild Turkey Federation.

Sheila Kemmis, who monitors the program for Wildlife and Parks, said the organziations get to keep about 15-percent of the money they raise. They must put the remaining 85-percent towards a conservation project approved by Wildlife and Parks.

The record amount raised was about five years ago when an elk permit sold for $23,000 at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s annual convention. The hunter who bought the permit did not get a Kansas elk.

Some permits have only sold for face-value – about $300- in the past.

The permits are popular with some non-resident hunters because it’s the only way they’re guranteed a permit to hunt mule deer. It’s also the only way they can legally shoot a mule deer with a centerfire rifle under current Kansas laws.

The elk permit was purchased by a Kansas hunter who had a commissioners elk permit in 2007. Regular permits for hunting bull elk at Fort Riley are very hard to draw and are once-in-a-lifetime.

Last year a Missouri hunter with a commissioners deer permit shot a western Kansas mule deer that grossed about 255 inches of antler. It was one of the biggest mule deer shot in the world last fall.