Crossbows approved for some Kansas hunters

Kansas hunters 55 and older or those with a youth permit may use crossbows for archery big game and turkey seasons beginning Sept. 17.

The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism commission approved the regulation 7-0 Thursday. Trying to head off legislative action was part of the commission’s motivation.

“I’d rather control our own destiny,” commission chairman Gerald Lauber said of the need to get a commission-approved crossbow regulation passed. “We have no idea what might come out of (the legislature) if we don’t.”

The Kansas house and senate have worked bills this session to open crossbow hunting to all ages. Chris Tymeson, Wildlife and Parks lawyer, told those at Thursday’s meeting that many legislators seemed to be waiting to see if the commission took action before they proceeded with the bills. He said it’s still possible the bills could be pushed by those wanting more opportunities.

The topic has brought spirited debate at past meetings, with some hunters fearing the wide-spread use of crossbows could make it too easy to kill bucks during archery season and put more hunters afield, making it harder to find good places to hunt.

Nobody spoke against the upper limit of the commission’s new regulation, but some feared allowing youth to use crossbows could have them pushing for more liberal regulations as they got older.

“If you’re not talking crossbows again in a few years I’ll eat my dirty, old camo hat,” said Marvin Whitehead of the Kansas Bowhunters Association, “… and it’s pretty dirty.”

Also at the meeting:

•  Deer seasons were announced for the 2012 hunting seasons, with no major changes from past frameworks. Deer management units 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 11 will allow hunters to have up to five antlerless whitetail permits this season, compared to two in past seasons. Units that allowed up to five of the permits last season will again this year.

The department will offer an additional 926 non-resident deer permits, spread across 12 units. Units 1, 3 and 7 will see a 15-percent increase from last year. In south-central Kansas, Unit 16 will see a 5-percent increase. Big-game program coordinator Lloyd Fox said the increases were made because of demand for permits and growing deer populations in those regions.

The department also continued discussion of limiting hunters to two treestands or ground blinds per public area on state-owned lands. Ground blinds would also have to be removed nightly from the area, as would waterfowl decoys. Brad Simpson, public lands chief, said they also would like to end the process of baiting with corn and other food for deer and other animals on public areas.

Jim Pitman, upland game program coordinator, proposed expanding hunting seasons and daily bag limits in the portion of western Kansas north of the Arkansas River, where lesser and great prairie chickens are increasing their range and populations. Pitman also asked for the creation of a special permit for those who want to hunt prairie chickens. He said the data gathered by surveying prairie chicken hunters would be worth the trouble they would endure to get a permit.

The commission’s next meeting is April 26 at the Great Plains Nature Center.