Outdoors

Wildlife officials will oppose proposal in House

State wildlife officials will oppose a bill that could cost millions in federal funding.

Chris Tymeson, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism attorney, said House Bill 2295 would force the agency to charge hunters an extra $2 every time they purchase a deer permit.

Money from that charge would go to the Kansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry program, which helps pay for the processing and distribution of donated venison to needy people.

Tymeson said Wildlife and Parks encourages hunters to donate to the program, but federal law says they can't force them to do so.

" (The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) says all license dollars we get from wildlife fees can only be used for wildlife management purposes and we have to have control of it at all times," he said. "This clearly is a social service issue and the money would not go toward wildlife management."

Tymeson said such a move could be seen as an illegal diversion of funds and cost the department some or all of the about $12 million they get from federal excise tax programs annually.

Rep. Joe Seiwert, R-Pretty Prairie, sponsored the bill. He was unavailable for comment Wednesday, but has repeatedly expressed concern about the number of deer-vehicle accidents in the state.

The department plans on opposing all parts of the bill that is scheduled for a hearing at the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee at 9 a.m. Friday.

The bill would also lengthen Kansas' special season for antlerless whitetails to Jan. 23 statewide.

That season closed Jan. 9 over most of Kansas this year and Jan. 16 in a few areas.

Unit 15, which includes most of Seiwert's district, had the later closing date.

Tymeson said the department is not in favor of the legislature setting deer seasons.

Biologists say lengthening seasons doesn't lead to increased deer harvests.

Lloyd Fox, Wildlife and Parks big game program coordinator, referenced years when part of southeast Kansas stayed open through Jan. 31 due to legislative pressure.

Each year the department authorized about 385 permits, each of which allowed the killing of four antlerless deer.

Fox said the kill during each of the two years was well under 100 deer. Long seasons, he said, often lead to procrastination.

It doesn't appear the extra week this year led to much added harvest in Unit 15.

"The doe season was real slow, especially that last week," said A.J. Meyer, Wildlife and Park's game warden for Reno County.

Wildlife and Parks studies show difficulty for hunters getting access to private lands is the main deterent for increasing the state's harvest.

The bill would also allow the use of crossbows for all hunters during the archery deer season.

Currently, only those with specific physical conditions are allowed to use crossbows during that time.

Tymeson said the department is against the use of crossbows because it could lead to added pressure on the state's buck population when they're vulnerable during the rut.

The bill would also relax regulations that allow family members to hunt on land without a license or to purchase a deer or turkey permit at a reduced price.

Tymeson said proof of relationship could be hard for game wardens to determine. The change could also put more financial pressure on other sportsmen.

"Such a law could cost us a lot of money," Tymeson said. "We'd have no choice but to shift that financial burden to fewer hunters who are paying full price."

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