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Kansas combating declining wild turkey numbers with new regulations

PRATT, Kan. – Wild turkey populations are in decline across the Midwest and Kansas isn’t immune.  Even though Kansas has one of the of strongest wild turkey populations in the region, surveys show that action is needed to slow down the decline.

Leading the fight is Kent Fricke, small game coordinator for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT).  Fricke chairs the Department’s Wild Turkey Committee and has been keeping the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission up to date since earlier this year.

“Our primary concern is declining nest and brood survival rates, which are influenced by habitat availability and weather,” Fricke said.  “In recent years, we’ve observed declines in both habitat quantity and quality, as well as significant weather events that have negatively impacted nesting and brood rearing seasons.  Collectively, these factors are likely contributing to turkey declines.”

Spring flooding is believed to be the leading cause for 2019, but Fricke and others continue to examine other potential causes.

In an effort to give the wild turkey populations a chance to recover from this year’s hard-hit and decrease the long-term declines, the staff has come up with recommendations for the 2020 spring and fall seasons that have been approved by the commissioners.

Here are the approved recommendations:

  • Bag limits in Turkey Management Units 3, 5, and 6 (Northeast, Southcentral and Southeast) will be reduced from two turkeys to one turkey beginning with the spring 2020 season; bag limits in Units 1 and 2 (Northwest and Northcentral) will remain at two turkeys.  Hunters will still be able to purchase a permit, game tag or combo; however, game tags (which allow the take of a second turkey) will not be valid in Units 3, 5 and 6.
  • An amendment to reduce the fall 2020 season to 41 days for all open Turkey Management Units.  Currently, the fall season runs October 1st, 2019 through January 31, 2020; however, under the new regulation, the 2020 fall season will run from October 1 through November 10, 2020.  Unit 4 remains closed to fall hunting.
  • Spring 2021 turkey season dates.  Youth and hunters with disabilities – April 1-13, 2021; archery – April 5-13, 2021; and the regular season – April 14 – May 31, 2021.

“The Wild Turkey Committee continues to refine and update our Adaptive Harvest Strategy, which provides a consistent and transparent method of developing staff recommendations for spring and fall season bag limits,” Fricke said.  “Our goal is to maintain a robust turkey population that provides high hunter satisfaction.”

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