June 12, 2023
Waterfowl hunting in Kansas has become a longstanding tradition for both residents and non-residents alike. There has always been an abundance of public and private ground to motor, drive, or walk in to, with notable destinations like Cheyenne Bottoms, Jamestown, McPherson, Quivira, and others that have become synonymous with fantastic ‘fowling in the Sunflower State. When the migration heats up in the heart of the central flyway, it’s hard to pick a better place to be hunting waterfowl … that was, until now.
Much like what recently occurred in Manitoba, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) has expressed a growing number of concerns over their waterfowl populations and declining opportunities for its resident hunters. In a heated debate that is both a waterfowl and a public land dispute, the department is concerned that due to technological advancements along with ample post-pandemic free time, non-resident hunters are flocking to Kansas and outcompeting resident hunters, all while putting too much pressure on waterfowl. This is according to a presentation from Tom Bidrowski, migratory game bird program manager for KDWP, at a recent public meeting on April 27, 2023. After the Commissioners universally accepted the season dates and bag limits, the Public Lands staff raised some concerns about this competition conundrum and shared their recommendations for changing the regulations.
Pointing out the Problems
In his presentation, Bidrowski pointed out, “this increased hunting pressure can affect waterfowl distribution and behavior. Greater pressure can reduce hunting access and decrease waterfowling quality overall. This can lead to decreased hunter satisfaction, especially among resident hunters. Maintaining resident Kansas waterfowl hunters is a high priority and Kansas cannot maintain its waterfowl hunting heritage without strong resident waterfowlers.”
Bidrowski also stated a committee has been formed to examine the impacts of these pressures and they have begun to develop appropriate strategies to address the issues. Bidrowksi added, “their goal is to maintain Kansas waterfowl hunting heritage by providing quality waterfowl habitat and valued hunting experiences. Specifically, to assess impacts of waterfowl hunting pressure due to increasing non-resident hunters, guiding and outfitting activities, and crowding of public lands.”
To ensure the committee meets its goals, they’ve established five objectives:
- Improve and create additional waterfowl habitat and waterfowl hunting opportunities;
- Manage waterfowl hunting pressure and disturbance to benefit the waterfowl resources to improve waterfowl hunting;
- Ensure Kansas residents have waterfowl hunting opportunities and improved waterfowl hunter satisfaction;
- Evaluate Kansas waterfowl hunting license permits, pricing, and allocation;
- Engage Kansas waterfowl community, guiding and outfitting industries, and Kansas elected officials to improve Kansas waterfowl habitats, waterfowl hunting, and also to encourage waterfowl hunting ethics.
Roll with the Changes
Now that we’ve got your attention, what are the proposed changes and what should non-resident hunters expect to see from these recommendations?
KDWP is proposing a new Kansas Administrative Regulation (KAR) under the 115-8 series to potentially help alleviate the above-mentioned concerns:
- Non-residents waterfowl hunting on KDWP department lands and waters shall be restricted to Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays throughout the duration of the established Kansas waterfowl seasons, including September Teal season. (Non-residents would not be allowed to hunt waterfowl on department lands and waters Wednesday through Saturday. This includes WIHA and iWIHA properties.
- KDWP also plans to request that the Kansas Legislature amend KSA 32-939 (Waterfowl habitat stamp) and KSA 32-988 (Fees) to establish a non-resident Migratory Waterfowl Habitat Stamp and at a higher fee than a resident stamp.
No Rest for Non-Residents
Bradley Close, of Missouri, has been hunting Kansas as a non-resident for over 30 years. He lives just a mile over the state line but spends the majority of his time hunting in Kansas. He feels that in many places in Canada and the US, non-resident hunters are under attack. Despite the increased costs and loss of days, he plans to continue to chase waterfowl in Kansas but would have to adjust his strategies under the new proposals.
“I will still hunt Kansas because the season splits and the hunting is fantastic,” Close says. He went on to share that he and his hunting party will probably no longer take their weekend trips and spend their money on hotels, gas, and food for a one-day hunt over the weekend. “This will affect our late season hunting on Corps lakes when the marshes freeze up,” he adds, “but I do have a lease on private ground that I hunt in Kansas and they do not regulate private ground, thankfully.”
What’s Next for Non-Residents?
This news continues to develop while Kansas Wildlife & Parks is exploring options to alleviate the burden of non-resident hunters and outfitters by making changes to improve the quality of experience for its resident hunters and give waterfowl some breaks in the action. According to the meeting notes, additional considerations that were suggested included a “splash limit” law, decreased bag limits for non-residents, boating restrictions for non-residents, limiting the week between Christmas and New Year's and the last week of the season to resident hunters only, and more. KDPW has also asked the United States Fish & Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to implement these same restrictions to non-resident waterfowlers on federal refuges and federal waters.
So, what’s next? KDWP is scheduled to host their next public meetings on June 22, and August 17, 2023, and are expected to provide some additional updates and proposed regulation changes, specifically reducing the opportunity for non-resident waterfowlers. Head to the meetings to share your concern or join virutally at ksoutdoors.com
Stay tuned to WILDFOWL for the next round of updates!