Kansans to receive more shots at elk hunting

Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks commissioners created more opportunities for elk hunters but shelved a plan to add more for firearms deer hunters at Thursday's meeting at the Great Plains Nature Center.

Beginning this fall, Kansas will offer unlimited over-the-counter elk permits for residents and landowners.

The move is being made to help western Kansas landowners deal with isolated elk populations.

No elk hunting will be allowed in Morton County to protect a small herd on the Cimarron National Grassland.

Elk hunting in Clay, Geary and Riley counties will adhere to season and permit restrictions issued for elk hunting on Fort Riley.

Commissioners also decided not to pursue a possible pre-rut firearms deer season.

Commissioner Gerald Lauber said he had heard from several sportsmen who wanted seasons left as-is.

He referred to the uproar that came several years ago when the commission went against public and landowner requests and changed pheasant seasons.

Lauber predicted that would "pale in comparison" if deer seasons were changed.

Also at the meeting:

* Deer seasons will be nearly identical to last year. One difference is that the entire state will be open during the special January season for antlerless whitetails.

* Archery hunters can now possess practice points while hunting for deer, turkey or elk. Only broadheads may be used to kill such animals.

* Commissioners decided to not pursue a regulation change that would allow Kansans with concealed-carry permits to possess handguns while hunting during seasons when such weapons can't be legally carried.

Archery deer hunting is one such case. Carrying a handgun not of legal size for deer hunting during the firearms deer season is another.

* Shane Hesting, Wildlife and Parks wildlife disease coordinator, gave an update on the spread of chronic wasting disease. Of note was that five of 11 cases found in Kansas last year were in whitetails along Sappa Creek in Decatur County.

Hesting said the department tested 57 whitetails in the county.

He said the department is watching to see if localized massive herd reductions in other states is slowing the spread of CWD.

Commission chairman Kelly Johnston asked if baiting deer helped spread the disease. Hesting said there's currently no evidence to suggest that it does.

* Department biologists will investigate the possibility of extending pheasant season into February. Joe Donnelly, of Lawrence, asked the commission for a season change.

The next commission meeting is June 24 in Herington.