Area News

New Public Lands Regulations Enacted

The Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission approved new regulations relating to hunting on public lands. Designed to provide hunters with equal opportunities on limited public lands, the following regulations have been enacted:

  • Baiting, and hunting over bait is now illegal on public lands. Bait is considered any grain, fruit, vegetable, nut, hay, salt, sorghum, feed, or other food or mineral capable of attracting wildlife. Liquid scents and sprays are not considered bait.
  • Only two portable blinds or tree stands are allowed per hunter on public lands.
    • Portable blinds and tree stands must be labeled with the owner’s name and address or KDWP number. 
    • Portable blinds may not be left unattended overnight on public lands.
  • Decoys may not be left unattended overnight on public lands.
  • Commercial guiding is prohibited on public lands and WIHA!
  • There is no fall turkey season in 2023. 
  • Camping at our state fishing lakes is now limited to 7 days.  Must leave the area for 5 days before returning to camp again.  
  • Trail cameras are also prohibited on public lands.  
Pheasants Forever at Byron Walker

There has been a new position funded at the Byron Walker Wildlife Area. In a partnership between Pheasants Forever and KDWP, a new Habitat Specialist has been brought in to help complete some more in-depth, habitat focused projects. There are several positions like this across the state and now it will benefit the Byron Walker Wildlife Area also!

My name is Steve Carnduff and I’m excited to step into the position as the new Habitat Specialist for the Byron Walker Wildlife Area. My professional career began after graduating in 2016 from SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry in central NY. Since that time, I have taken many seasonal positions around the country as a wildlife technician working with different species. Several of the jobs have been focused on avian surveys, some of which were endangered species or recently delisted species. I’ve worked to reintroduce Chinook salmon in the San Joaquin River in CA; assisted a PhD candidate with spotted skunk research in SD; and feral hog management on a military base in TX. I’ve also held two positions at environmental consulting companies, mostly performing regulation compliance, environmental health and safety, and hazardous material regulation compliance. Beginning this position at Byron Walker has introduced me to more of the management side of wildlife work, where most of my previous experience has been research driven and data focused.

Almost every time I have moved to a new job I needed to learn the area, all the wildlife and native plants in the ecosystem, invasive species, unique job difficulties, along with many other new things; and coming to south-central Kansas was no different. I’ve learned about the native plants and animals, the many invasive species that cause problems on BWWA, along with those plant species that benefit quail, pheasants, and other wildlife. The experience I bring with me along with new skills and techniques acquired here will help us at Byron Walker to accomplish our wildlife management goals.

These goals will be achieved mainly through habitat improvement and management projects. Since arriving in August, we have tackled many projects already, but as always there’s still so much more to be done. Projects include timber stand improvement, through invasive woody plant removal, where Siberian Elm, Eastern Red Cedar, and Honey Locust are the main culprits. Invasive species are controlled, with chemical applications on herbaceous plants like Old World Bluestem, or Sericea Lespedeza. These and other invasives must be controlled to maintain great prairie habitat for wildlife. We will also use fire as a management tool, this is done through planned, prescribed burns. Fire is used in tandem with a rotational cattle grazing strategy. This combination of techniques achieves the natural cycle of prairie ecosystem.

The habitat improvement projects mentioned above along with several other techniques are what will be used to increase the habitat quality for wildlife and improve hunting opportunities. Now that I have many of these skills under my belt I’m confident we can safely complete many of these projects and facilitate others to help accomplish our habitat goals at Byron Walker.

Drones

Drones, also known as unmanned aircraft system (UAS), have become popular in recent years.  They are an excellent way to accomplish a variety of work and recreation tasks.  However, there are places that they are prohibited.  Our public wildlife areas are one of those places!  Under Kansas regulations (KAR 115-8-13), the use of drones over KDWPT lands is prohibited except in specific UAS areas located in some state parks.   

Refuges (new in 2019)

There seems to be some confusion concerning refuges and how they need to be treated.  There are two refuges on Byron Walker, one encompassing the eastern 2/3 of the lake, and one surrounding the headquarters.  New in 2019, the refuge surrounding the headquarters has been upgraded to "Refuge Area, Closed to All Activities"!  These are wildlife refuges, so all wildlife residing in them are protected.  That means that sportsmen using Byron Walker cannot enter into these refuges for any purpose associated with hunting.  This can include scouting, driving, setting stands, or even blood trailing.  Further, all wildlife residing within those refuges must not be disturbed or induced to leave the refuge.  This can be most problematic on the lake where the boat ramps are located in the refuge, and one must travel through the refuge to reach the hunting area.  This can be mitigated by avoiding waterfowl until you have passed out of the refuge.  Further, giving the refuge a reasonable buffer while you hunt will help protect against wounded game making it into the refuge and creating a dilemma for the hunter as to whether to pursue it.  At the headquarters, hunters cannot park inside the refuge and then walk through the refuge to initiate a hunt outside the refuge.  Further, with the new designation being closed to all activities, activities like mushroom hunting, bird watching, and training dogs are also prohibited.  Hunters need to understand that a refuge violation can lead to fines, jail time, loss of equipment and game, and revocation of licenses or hunting privileges. If you have questions about our refuges, please call the headquarters and talk to the manager at 620-532-3242.   

Seasonal Job Opportunities

Each year Troy Smith hires 3-5 seasonal employees to help with habitat, construction, maintenance, and other work on the area.  Smith tries to get individuals either in the wildlife program in college or having graduated with a degree in wildlife.  Employees gain valuable experience that will flesh out their resume's once they have a degree in hand.  This experience may include prescribed burning, food plot establishment, moist soil management, range management, exotic plant removal, noxious weed spraying, water-level management, pest trapping, electrofishing, fish sampling, and a variety of necessary maintenance duties.  This experience is invaluable in interviews.  It also helps you understand how many of the topics you study in college relate to actual work in the field.  Having served on several interview panels myself, it is often easy to determine which applicants have "in field" experience and understand the specific management direction of the Public Lands Division.  If you are now in college or have your degree in hand but need this kind of experience, call the Byron Walker Wildlife Area office and see if there is a job waiting for you! 

2023 NAWCA Marsh Construction

After our successful completion of Prairie NAWCA II (North American Wetland Conservation Act grant) project in 2019, we planned additional wetland development.  I worked up plans for 5 potential new marshes/wetlands to build.  It became apparent that more funds would be needed to accomplish those projects.  I approached Mike Clover, District Conservationist for the NRCS in Kingman County and county Ducks Unlimited President, to ask if he had knowledge of any habitat projects completed in the county in the past 2 years.  Between pond construction projects and grass plantings, he, and Pam Stasa (Conservation District Manager) came up with $120,000 worth of completed projects that we could use as match in a new NAWCA grant proposal.  We have received official word that the application was accepted as part of Kansas Prairie Wetlands 8. 

Update:  Due to increased costs, the NAWCA will now only work on 2 of the original 5 wetlands.  Work started on these wetlands December 10, 2023.  The East Oxbow Marsh dirt work was completed February 9, 2024.  The Youth Marsh dirt work has been suspended temporarily due to wet conditions and will restart later this summer with completion scheduled for September 30, 2024.  The Phillips 66 money will now be put into a Wetland Grant and used to complete 3 wetlands on the 493 new acres purchased in 2022.   

Tree Cutting Projects

Our invasive tree control efforts have continued since 2020.  Contractors cut trees in the two western-most sections on Byron Walker, concentrating efforts on removing invasive Honey Locust, Siberian Elm, and Eastern Red Cedar.  They cut both young trees invading our grasslands as well as the adult trees that were the seed source of those invaders.  This should create improved structure in the native timber left standing as well as reduce the spread of these species in those sections.  We plan to continue this work using both contracted operators and agency staff and equipment with a goal of getting these species controlled on Byron Walker.

Update: Ducks Unlimited contacted me earlier this spring and gave us a grant for tree cutting in support of our existing wetlands.  Eight sites were selected and work began March 11, 2024.  Again, the same invasive tree species are being targeted with the hope of terminating the seed source on agency property and improving the hydrology by eliminating the competing plants.  Overall some 500 acres stand to be improved if all 8 tracts are completed. 

 

2024 Archery 3D Shoot Calendar:

The South Fork Archers will hold their 3D shoots with an 8:00-9:00 a.m. trickle start.

 

Archery shoots by the South Fork Archery Club:

Mar 10 – Fun Shoot

April 14 – Hide & Seek ShootFirst Sunday

May 12 – 3D Shoot

June 9 - 3D Shoot

July 14 – 3D Shoot

Aug 11 – 3D Shoot

Sept 8 – 3D Shoot

All shoots have a trickle start from 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. Concessions will be available.  No Crossbows.  No Alcohol on State Grounds.

Jayhawk Retriever Club:  Hunt test scheduled September 15-17 on private ground.