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On your mark, get set, gobble

 

Spring turkey season is about to kick off and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism knows the last thing you want to worry about is where you’ll be able to hunt this year. You don’t need to resort to begging, or even paying – KDWPT has nearly 275,000 acres open to the public for spring turkey hunting this year, and access is offered free of charge. It’s all at your fingertips in the 2017 Spring Turkey Hunting Atlas.

 

Available online now at ksoutdoors.com, and soon to be in print wherever licenses are sold, the 2017 Spring Turkey Hunting Atlas provides the locations of Walk-in Hunting Access (WIHA) areas, as well as state and federal public lands open to spring turkey hunting. Grab a paper copy for the truck, download a PDF (ksoutdoors.com) to your home computer, or download the files directly onto your Garmin GPS unit, and Android and iOS devices that can be used with Google Earth.

 

The 2017 spring turkey season starts with the youth/disabled season April 1-11, followed by the archery season April 3-11, and regular firearm (any legal equipment) season April 12-May 31. Spring turkey permits for Units 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 are available at ksoutdoors.com and at any license vendor, and hunters who have a spring turkey permit may also purchase a second turkey game tag. Buy the spring turkey permit combo by March 31 and save $7.50. A valid Kansas hunting license is required of all residents age 16 through 74 and all nonresidents, except persons hunting on their own land.

 

To purchase your turkey permit and optional additional game tag today, visit ksoutdoors.com/License-Permits.

 

“Where to hunt” is taken care of with the atlas. Now all you have to worry about is “When to hunt.”

Tuttle Creek State Park selected for BlueCHIP award

 

Tuttle Creek State Park near Manhattan was recently chosen to receive a $2,500 BlueCHIP Award by BlueCross BlueShield of Kansas (BCBSKS) and the Kansas Recreation and Parks Association (KRPA). BlueCHIP Awards are issued through a community health improvement program created seven years ago by KRPA and BCBSKS to recognize and reward Kansas communities that encourage and support healthy lifestyles through programs, initiatives, policies and/or community-wide events.

 

In addition to Tuttle Creek State Park, communities recognized this year include Baldwin City, Derby, City of Lindsborg, Shawnee County – Topeka, and Wellington. Each received $2,500 to assist with continued efforts to improve the health of their communities. The awards were presented at the 2017 KRPA Annual Conference and Trade Show in Manhattan.

 

According to Tuttle Creek State Park manager Todd Lovin, the BlueChip award will be used to purchase additional canoes, kayaks and paddling equipment. The state park sponsors several floats on the Kansas River each year, and boats and equipment are made available to those who don’t have their own.

 

Tuttle Creek State Park includes four units (River Pond, Fancy Creek, Cedar Ridge and Randolph) around Tuttle Creek Reservoir. In addition to a swimming beach, boat ramps, courtesy docks and dump stations, the park offers 159 water/electric campsites, eight electric/water/sewer campsites, 24 electric-only campsites, 500 primitive campsites and 11 rental cabins. Activities offered include hiking, biking and equestrian trails; disc golf; volleyball; horseshoes; a state-of-the-art shooting range; and archery range. Learn more about Tuttle Creek State Park at www.ksoutdoors.com or call the park office at 785-539-7941.

January brings Bald Eagles to Kansas

 

Seeing a wild bald eagle is always a thrill and thanks to conservation efforts, our nation’s symbol is more common than ever. However, if you want to optimize your viewing opportunities and learn more about eagles and other birds of prey, plan to attend Eagle Day at Milford Reservoir on Jan. 14, 2017. This is the best time of year to see bald eagles in Kansas, when large numbers of these amazing birds congregate around lakes and wetlands.

 

Eagle Day will feature a series of educational programs at the Milford Nature Center: “Raptors” at 9:15 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 1:45 p.m.; “Owls” at 10 a.m., 12:15 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.; “Nesting Eagles In Kansas” at 10:45 a.m. and 1 p.m.; and “Birds Of Prey” at 3:15 p.m. Live eagle programs will be conducted at 10 a.m., 12:15 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. at the Starbird Classroom. The Kids’ Tent will have activities and crafts for youngsters, and all visitors will be treated to hot chocolate and popcorn courtesy of the Milford Friends.

 

Bus tours to view wild eagles will leave the nature center every half-hour, beginning at 9 a.m. and continue through 2 p.m. There is no charge to attend any of the programs and the bus tours are free, as well, thanks to B&B Busing. Entrance to Milford State Park is also free on January 14, so Daily Vehicle permits are not required. For more information, contact the Milford Nature Center, 785-238-5323 or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Milford Office, 785-238-5714.

 

Other eagle day events will occur at various locations during the month of January, including the Kaw Valley Eagle Days at Lawrence Free State High School, Jan. 21, 2017. Go to www.kawvalleyeaglesday.com for more information. And be on the lookout for notices of other eagle day events at lakes near you.

Last chance for venison backstraps

 

Time is running out for Kansas deer hunters. But unfilled 2016 deer permits can still be used to put venison in the freezer this January. On Jan. 1, 2017, all 2016 unfilled deer permits convert to Whitetail Antlerless-Only (WAO) permits; however, unit restrictions listed on the permits are still in effect. Additional WAO permits can still be purchased, and after Dec. 30, hunters are no longer required to possess a permit that allows the taking of an antlered deer to purchase antlerless permits.

 

In addition to an either-sex permit, hunters may purchase up to five additional WAO permits with unit and public land restrictions. The first WAO permit a hunter purchases is valid statewide (except Unit 18) on private land with landowner permission and on public lands. A hunter can purchase up to four additional WAO permits valid in Units 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 10A, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 19 on private land with landowner permission, on Walk-in Hunting Areas, and on Cedar Bluff, Glen Elder, Kanopolis, Kirwin, Lovewell, Norton, Webster and Wilson wildlife areas. Season lengths also vary based on unit location. See your 2016 Kansas Hunting and Furharvesting Regulations Summary, or visit ksoutdoors.com and click “Hunting/Big Game Information/Deer,” for details.

 

2017 Extended Firearm Season dates, by deer management units, are as follows:

Jan 1-2, 2017 – Units 6, 8, 9, 10, 16, 17

Jan. 1-8, 2017 – Units 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 11, 12, 13, and 14

Jan. 1-15, 2017 – Units 10A, 15, and 19:

No WAO permits are valid in Unit 18 (southwest).

 

There is also an Extended WAO Archery Season in DMU 19 Jan. 16-31, 2017.

‘Tis the season to go birding

 

Winter weather – we’ll wait outside stores in it for great deals, drive around in it and view Christmas light displays, we’ll even cheer on our favorite teams in it, so why not bundle up and go birding in it? Christmas Bird Count traditions provide a great way to spend time outdoors with friends and family, learn about the birds of Kansas, and enjoy the camaraderie of other nature enthusiasts. All you need to participate is clothing appropriate for traipsing outdoors on a mid-winter day, a pair of binoculars, and a good field guide. Add in a little adventurous spirit and you’re ready to go.

 

The Kansas Ornithological Society (KOS) has compiled a comprehensive list of Christmas Bird Counts occurring throughout the state on their website, www.ksbirds.org. There you’ll find a list of events scheduled to date, along with locations and contact information. Birders of all skill levels are welcome to the events, where groups will spend time canvassing established circular census areas, recording species and numbers of birds observed. Information recorded at events is entered into regional and national databases and can show population and migration trends.

 

So this Christmas, gear up, get out, and see what birds are out and about for the count.

Electronically register deer before leaving the field

 

You’ve been lucky enough to have a deer come within range. You take the shot, and it’s a good one. You take a moment, delight in your efficient and ethical shot placement, and breathe a sigh of relief. You did it. But your work isn’t over. Before rolling up your sleeves and unfurling your trusty field-dressing knife, use your clean hands to electronically register your deer. It’s voluntary, will just take a moment, and it will keep you legal during transport if you don’t have an either-sex permit and want to bone your deer out in the field.

 

Kansas regulations require a hunter to tag a deer before it’s moved from the kill site. Unless a hunter possesses an either-sex permit, the head must remain attached to the carcass while in transit to a residence, or to a place of commercial processing or preservation. For hunters who want to bone out their deer onsite prior to transport, the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) offers a voluntary electronic deer check-in system that hunters can access using their smartphone. You’ll just need some basic information and photos taken at the harvest site. To access the electronic deer check-in system, go to www.ksoutdoors.com and click “Deer Check-in.”

 

The electronic registration process requires hunters to submit two photographs — one close-up clearly showing the completed tag attached to the deer and a second showing the entire body of the deer with the head still attached. Once in the system, and registration is complete, a confirmation number will be issued by e-mail. This confirmation number must be retained during transport.

 

Hunters need the following information when electronically registering their deer: KDWPT permit number, time and date of kill, and county where deer was taken.

 

If Internet access is unavailable at the kill site, hunters can retain the photographs while in transit and a registration number can be obtained later.

 

This system can be especially convenient for nonresident hunters who will take deer meat across state lines. Because chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been detected in Kansas deer, some states may have special regulations limiting the parts of the deer that may be brought in. Boning a deer out in the field is the best way to prevent spreading diseases such as CWD.

 

For more information on Kansas’ big game regulations, consult the 2016 Kansas Hunting and Furharvesting Regulations Summary, or visit www.ksoutdoors.com and click “Hunting,” then “Hunting Regulations.”

Hunters: Ask permission

 

Hunting on private land in Kansas requires permission from the landowner, whether the land is posted or not. While Kansas ranks near the top among states for the deer, pheasant and quail hunting opportunities found here, it ranks near the bottom when comparing the amount of public hunting land available. It’s a fact that Kansas land is 97 percent privately owned, and although there are 1 million acres enrolled in the state’s Walk-in Hunting Access (WIHA) program, most hunting occurs on private land.

 

Getting permission before taking a single step on private land is one of the most important things you can do as a hunter, not only to keep you and your group from being charged with trespass, but also to ensure the future of our hunting heritage. Landowners fed up with trespassers may eventually close their land to all hunters. It’s simple: if you want to hunt, ask; if you’re not sure of a boundary, ask; if you don’t see Public Hunting or WIHA signs, ask.

 

Landowners may post their land with signs requiring written permission for hunting access, or they may simply paint posts or signs with purple paint, which also signifies that written permission is required. On this land, hunters must have a written permission slip from the landowner. This can be more convenient for landowners because they don’t have to press trespass charges. If a game warden encounters hunters who don’t have the required written permission, a citation can be issued onsite.

 

Hunters who treat Kansas landowners and their land with respect will enjoy some of the best hunting in the U.S., and they’ll likely create friendships that may last a lifetime. Hunters and landowners who witness any illegal activity, including trespassing, should call the toll-free Operation Game Thief number, 1-877-426-3843 or the local game warden, whose phone number can be found on Page 49 of the 2016 Kansas Hunting and Furharvesting Regulations Summary.

The great late pheasant season

 

While the opening weekend of pheasant season is a highly-anticipated tradition, it may not provide the best hunting of the year. Hunting can actually be better later when winter weather arrives and fewer hunters are in the field.

 

The big groups of hunters are usually gone after the second weekend of the season, leaving only dedicated bird hunters, who have Walk-in Hunting Access tracts and other public lands to themselves. And it’s often easier to get permission on private land after opening weekend, especially after the firearm deer season, which ends on Dec. 11 this year.

 

Colder weather and a little snow on the ground can dramatically improve hunter success because pheasants often congregate in heavy cover in these conditions. The cool air temperature and moisture will also help bird dogs find more birds.

 

And while it’s easier to predict where you’ll find late-season pheasants, you can’t pull up to a likely-looking weed patch and start slamming doors and hollering at dogs. Late-season birds didn’t survive a month of hunting season by being stupid, and success requires some strategy and stealth. In fact, a single hunter quietly following a close-working dog in heavy cover may have the best chance of surprising birds for close flushes. A small group of hunters will increase their odds of success if they park some distance away from the heaviest cover and approach quietly. Strategically-placed blockers will also add birds to the bag on late season hunts.

 

Hunting birds on a crisp morning in fresh snow is every pheasant hunter’s dream. New snow provides great tracking conditions, providing sign of not only where birds are located, but also of where other hunters have already been.

 

Watch the weather and make plans to hunt after the first winter storm passes through. Revisit the heavy weed patches that made you sweat on opening day and you’ll likely find your best hunting of the year.

Free entrance at Kansas State Parks on Black Friday

 

The best deals in stores can usually be seen on Black Friday, but the best price of all will be seen at Kansas State Parks: free. Spend Black Friday outdoors, hiking, biking, or just relaxing at a Kansas state park and you’ll not only find yourself a little happier and healthier, you’ll also be able to give your wallet a rest. That’s a win-win. Kansas state park daily vehicle permits are not required on Nov. 25, Black Friday, as Kansas joins REI in celebrating “OptOutside.” REI, a Seattle-based outdoor recreation and sporting goods giant, is going to close on Black Friday and encourages everyone to spend the time outdoors. Be a part of this movement by posting a picture of you or your family at one of the 26 Kansas state parks on Black Friday to Instagram or Twitter with the hashtags #myksstatepark and #optoutside and be entered into a drawing for a free cabin stay. Think you can find a better deal than that?

 

Learn more about Kansas state parks at ksoutdoors.com/State-Parks, including information on facility updates, directions and how to make reservations. Kansas state parks are open year-around, though water is available only at camping areas with frost-free hydrants during winter.

 

On Black Friday, park offices will be closed, as well as over the weekend, but weekend visitors can pay user fees at any self-pay station. Hunting and fishing licenses can be purchased online at www.ksoutdoors.com and wherever licenses are sold.

Driver’s license, wildlife checkpoints planned

 

Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism (KDWPT) game wardens, Kansas Highway Patrol (KHP) troopers and county sheriff’s officers will conduct joint highway checkpoints at various locations on Sunday, November 13, 2016. Upland bird, deer and migratory bird seasons will be underway, and these checkpoints are intended to help enforce state and federal wildlife laws, as well as the state’s driver’s licensing laws.

 

Depending on the location, KHP troopers or county sheriff’s officers will operate the first stage of the checkpoints to be sure drivers are properly licensed to be driving. If a driver does not have a valid license, appropriate enforcement actions will be taken. Travelers should not expect major delays from this portion of the checkpoints.

 

Occupants of vehicles in the first check lane will be asked if they are hunters or are transporting wildlife. Travelers answering yes in either case will be directed to a nearby KDWPT check lane where game wardens will check for required licenses and permits, count the game and gather biological, harvest, and hunter success information. This portion of the checkpoints should also cause minimal delay.

 

The following locations may be used if weather conditions and manpower allow:

Central Kansas – game wardens and KHP troopers

US-81 near milepost 161, Ottawa County

US-56 & K-46 intersection, McPherson County

K-156 near milepost 165, Ellsworth County

US-36 & K-14 intersection, Jewell County

K-156 & US-56 intersection, Pawnee County

US-281 & K-4 intersection, BartonCounty

 

Southeast Kansas – game wardens, KHP troopers, Woodson and Greenwood County sheriff’s officers

US-54 rest area near the Greenwood/Woodson county line, Greenwood County

US-400 rest area near the Greenwood/Butler county line, Greenwood County

US-75 rest area north of Yates Center, Woodson County

 

Western Kansas – game wardens and Ford County sheriff’s officers

US-50 near milepost 127.5, Ford County

US-400 near milepost 127.5, Ford County

US-400 near milepost 139, Ford County

US-54 near milepost 88, Ford County

US-283 near milepost 37, Ford County

 

Additional wildlife checkpoints will occur around the state during the fall and winter hunting seasons.