Program provides landowner income, uncrowded hunting; signup deadline July 13
PRATT -- In a joint effort between private landowners and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP), a number of special hunts will be conducted on private lands this fall. Called the Special Hunts On Private Lands Program, these hunts are the result of 2008 surveys of landowners and sportsmen who live in urban areas of Kansas. One of the objectives was to determine a way to increase hunting access in more urban portions of the state. The survey revealed that providing a program that controls the number of people using private land would be desirable to some landowners who may consider enrolling in an access program. A more controlled environment with less crowding was also preferred by hunters.

For a number of years, KDWP has conducted special hunts on public land as part of the agency's Hunter Recruitment and Retention Program, or "Pass It On." Special hunts offer a less crowded experience with better harvest opportunities, but because approximately 98 percent of Kansas land is private, opportunities for such events are limited. KDWP staff see access to private land for these events as a way to expand hunting opportunities while providing landowners with both personal and monetary benefits.

Under the Special Hunts On Private Lands Program, landowners work with district wildlife biologists to determine how many days and what type of hunting they will allow on their property. Random drawings determine which hunters are allowed to hunt properties on specific dates. Successful applicants are provided with permits to be placed on the dash of their vehicle and carried with them so that both the landowner and KDWP officers can easily verify that each person hunting has permission.

Resident landowners, absentee landowners, tenant farmers, estate managers, trust managers, and others who manage privately-owned land in the eastern half of Kansas are eligible to apply for enrollment in the program. This past spring, six private landowners and the Kansas University Endowment Association enrolled in the program, providing special turkey hunting opportunities, primarily for youth.

The area targeted is a portion of the state where additional hunting access can be made available if participants have more control over the number of people using their property. This area was chosen as a priority for the program because of a lack of public access to private land and proximity to urban centers. Any private land with high-quality habitat and hunting opportunities will be considered for enrollment. To allow time to post property and publish a special hunts brochure prior to the hunting seasons, the deadline for the fall signup is July 13.

Benefits to landowners are both personal and financial. State law provides that private individuals who lease their land to the state for recreational purposes have a defense against damages or injuries resulting from ordinary negligence. In addition, landowners know who is on their property, and they may select specific species, dates, and hunt types that meet their desires.

Maximum payments to landowners may be as high as $2,300 or more, depending on the time of year, number of acres, species to be hunted, and number of hunting days negotiated in the lease agreement.

Access to lands enrolled in the special hunt program will be limited to foot traffic only, unless agreed to in the lease and posted otherwise. Each property will have special restrictions for species of harvest, access dates, and type of hunt that will be listed on the application.

For more information on the program or applications, write Jake George, Private Lands Coordinator, KDWP, 512 SE 25th Ave., Pratt, KS 67124; phone 620-672-5911, ext. 160; or email jakeg@wp.state.ks.us.