Group requests public input before final deer recommendations are made
TOPEKA -- The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) presented a report on deer-related statute review to the Kansas Legislature Feb. 1 and 2. During the legislature’s 2005 session, the House Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism Committee requested that the department review statutes and bring recommendations to simplify them. Last fall, the Deer Task Force Committee, a 10-member group of department employees, was assembled to begin that process.

The Task Force began meeting in November, charged with reviewing not only deer-related statutes, but also regulations, permitting processes, and management. The group soon discovered that it couldn’t change one aspect of the package without affecting two or three other areas. And it realized that with potential changes affecting so many hunters, landowners, and nonhunters, public input was necessary.

The Deer Task Force’s report to the legislature highlighted important issues and preliminary recommendations, but it requested that any final department recommendations for changes to deer-related statutes be delayed until the 2007 legislative session. The group has already begun receiving public input and plans to solicit more input before final recommendations are written.

Key issues which guided task force efforts include the following:

  • Permit allocation and distribution should be a function of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, and opportunity to obtain permits should be fair and equitable.
  • Comments from hunters, landowners, and outfitters indicate an overwhelming dislike for the current transferable permit system.
  • The deer resource, especially mule deer in the west, must be conserved. Deer populations should be maintained within levels sustainable by the habitat and within tolerance levels of people for the damages and conflicts that deer may cause. Animal health issues must be addressed as they pertain to wild deer and captive cervid operations. Deer herd characteristics must be maintained within aesthetic and quality standards desired by people.
  • Kansas’ deer hunting tradition must grow. The complexity and restriction of current permitting procedures and regulations have kept the Kansas deer hunting tradition from being what it could be.
  • Stakeholder input is necessary.
  • The permitting process and hunting regulations can be simplified.
  • Deer hunting opportunities can be improved.

Preliminary recommendations generated by the task force include the following:

  • Based on nonresident permit demand, it appears that unlimited Whitetail Either Sex firearms permits could be provided with minimal impact in eastern Kansas. If demand can be met for nonresident Whitetail Either Sex permits, transferable permits will be unnecessary. The current system forces landowners to depend on the luck of the draw, not knowing if they or their hunters will have permits. Outfitters must recruit landowners to apply for transferable nonresident permits, hoping to draw enough permits for their clients. And in some units, a secondary market has been created where permits may sell for thousands of dollars.
  • In western Kansas, where the resource is more limited, the task force favors a cap of 25 percent of firearms Whitetail Either Sex permits sold to residents the previous year made available to nonresidents. The recommendation is to issue them on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • To simplify the permit process and provide better hunting opportunities, the task force recommends reducing the number of deer management units for Whitetail Either Sex permits from 19 to two -- an East Unit and a West Unit. This would make the process of applying for a permit easier and give hunters more freedom to explore new hunting areas. The current 19 DMUs would be retained for the distribution of whitetail antlerless permits and special harvest considerations.
  • Another way to simplify permits and provide more hunting opportunity is to establish a Whitetail Either Sex Any Season permit. This permit would allow the holder to hunt anywhere in either the east or west unit, during any season with the legal equipment. This has been a common request from hunters in recent years.
  • Re-establish a statewide Any-Deer (either species, either sex) Archery permit. This would be unlimited to residents and a cap of up to 25 percent of what was sold to residents the previous year would be available to nonresidents.
  • Establish two units for Any-Deer (either species, either sex) firearms and muzzleloader permits in western Kansas. These permits, which allow mule deer harvest, are available in limited numbers to residents. The task force recommends making a percentage of these permits available to nonresidents.
  • Allow members of a landowner’s immediate family to qualify for Hunt-Own-Land permits, regardless of their residence. Currently, all members of the immediate family residing in the home qualify, as long as at least 80 acres is owned for each family member purchasing a Hunt-Own-Land permit. Hunt-Own-Land permits may be transferred to lineal or collateral relatives, and about 900 of the 10,000 Hunt-Own-Land permits issued each year are transferred. However, law enforcement staff reports that it is nearly impossible to verify blood and collateral relatives. This change would be proposed to replace the transferable Hunt-Own-Land permit. It would allow a landowner/tenant’s children or parents to qualify for a hunt-own-land permit, whether they lived in the home or not, even if they were nonresidents. The task force also recommends that the definition of a landowner/tenant be strengthened to include examples of proof and a clause stating that when applicants sign the permit they agree to provide such proof on request.
  • In an attempt to make deer hunting more attractive to young hunters, the committee recommends half-price youth permits. This regulatory change was presented to the Kansas Wildlife and Parks Commission in January to consider for implementation during the 2006 season.
  • Another recommendation that addresses quality hunting opportunities is moving the muzzleloader season opener later. The special muzzleloader season has traditionally opened in early September (the 2006 season is proposed for Sept. 9-Sept. 22). Muzzleloader deer hunters have asked for a later opening day because hot weather, likely during the current date structure, makes the season unattractive. The task force proposes opening the deer seasons with a youth season the last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in September. This special season was established for hunters 16 and younger to hunt with adult supervision, as well as hunters with disabilities. It was specifically scheduled for September to avoid extreme and cold weather. Currently the archery season opens on Oct. 1. The committee recommends a concurrent opener for archery and muzzleloader hunters on the Monday following the youth and disabled hunters season. The muzzleloader season would continue for two weeks. The archery season would continue until December 31 as it currently does.
  • To maintain balanced age structure and quality deer, the task force recommends retaining the current one buck per hunter limit. It also favors keeping the current firearms season dates, which are after the peak of the deer breeding season.

To view the complete report or comment on the recommendations listed above, click here . The Task Force will schedule public meetings across the state later this summer. A complete listing of these meetings will be posted on the department’s website as soon as they are final. Public input and discussion will also be accepted on the KDWP blog .