Two outdoors bills await governor’s signature

Two outdoors-related bills are headed to the governor’s desk and are expected to be signed into laws. Though both have changed significantly since being introduced by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, Chris Tymeson, department attorney, said the agency supports both.

Most components would become law Jan. 1.

End of senior exemptions — Part of what Tymeson called “the mega-bill” would end the long-running regulation that exempts residents 65 and older from purchasing hunting and fishing permits.

The new regulation would make those 65-74 buy annual permits at half-price, or purchase a one-time combination $40 hunting and fishing permit good for the rest of their lives.

The initial bill asked seniors to pay full price for annual permits.

As well as creating extra direct income, the sales of additional permits would annually qualify Kansas for about $1 million in extra federal funding. The money would come from federal excise taxes already being paid by Kansans on assorted hunting and fishing gear.

Tymeson said increasing numbers of hunters and anglers reaching 65 means less funding for years to come with the current exemption, and seniors are making up more and more of those using fishing and hunting resources.

By legislative mandate, Wildlife and Parks will start a two-year pilot program this fall that allows unlimited use of crossbows during the archery season in up to four deer management units. Tymeson said the four units will be named at the June 21 meeting of the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission in Kansas City.

Earlier this year, commissioners had approved allowing those 55 and older and those with youth deer permits to use crossbows during the archery season.

Also by legislative mandate, the agency will begin a two-year pilot program on a pre-rut firearms season for antlerless-whitetails in 2013, and create a combination permit that could allow the hunter to shoot a buck and a doe for the same price.

There will be an increase in fines paid by those that illegally shoot a trophy-class deer, antelope or elk. The new law would require financial restitution to Wildlife and Parks, based largely on antler or horn score.

Parks pass — Kansans could purchase an annual state park permit when they register their vehicles with county authorities for about $15.50. The cost would be about $25 for the same permit when purchased at a state park or other traditional vendor. Seniors and the disabled could purchase permits from vendors for about $14.

Tymeson said it is hoped the ease of purchase and reduced rate could encourage more Kansans to purchase permits and utilize state parks.