SUBSCRIBE NOW

KDWPT to testify on bill seeking to allow transfer of landowner, tenant deer permits to nonresidents

Separate bill would allow prosecution of those who shoot wildlife simulated devices

Josh Rouse
Topeka Capital-Journal
A pair of deer hunting-related bills will be heard by the Committee on Commerce, Labor and Economic Development on Monday.
  • HB 2331 allows for limited transfer of Kansas landowner, tenant deer tags to nonresidents
  • HB 2336 lets state prosecute those who shoot simulated wildlife devices the same as real animals
  • Executive order to reorganize state's tourism division under Commerce Department, change KDWPT's name

The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism will provide testimony Monday on a pair of deer hunting-related bills that could have an effect on poaching in Kansas.

The first bill, introduced by Rep. Ken Corbet, R-Topeka, among other legislators, would require the KDWPT secretary to establish a system to approve and administer the transfer of regular landowner or tenant hunt-your-own-land whitetail deer permits to a nonresident, which could take place only after all nonresident hunting permits have been filled in each management unit where the regular landowner or tenant permit was issued.

The bill, officially titled House Bill 2331, was introduced Feb. 10 and initially referred to the Committee on Agriculture, where it was withdrawn Thursday and referred instead to the Committee on Commerce, Labor and Economic Development. The hearing for that bill will now take place at 1:30 p.m. in Room 346-S of the Kansas Statehouse.

The proposed change has faced opposition in the past from KDWPT Secretary Brad Loveless, who said similar rules passed years ago led to violations of transfer rules and poaching.

“We believe this proposed bill today would do little or nothing to remedy those problems that occurred with the first bill, and there are significant changes in our circumstances since 1999,” Loveless said in a Topeka Capital-Journal article about the 2019 bill.

Corbet introduced similar legislation in 2019, which passed the House 63-60 but effectively died in the Senate when it was substituted for a hemp bill. It was unable to be brought up again in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic shortening the session.

“It gets people coming to this state, and they’ll come back for other things,” Corbet said of the bill in 2019. “This state has to grow both in population and economics. We need something, and this will cost nothing. There’s no cost to this bill.” 

Alongside Corbet, who owns and operates Ravenwood Lodge in Topeka, sponsors of the bill included Reps. John Barker, R-Abilene; Randy Garber, R-Sabetha; Ron Highland, R-Wamego; Kyle Hoffman, R-Coldwater; Joe Newland, R-Neodesha; Joe Seiwert, R-Pretty Prairie, and Sean Tarwater, R-Stilwell.

Stopping poachers

HB 2336 also will be discussed at 3:30 p.m. in Room 112-N. That bill would make it unlawful to take a wildlife simulated device — for instance, a robotic deer decoy — being used by a law enforcement officer for the purpose of enforcing the wildlife laws of the state.

If the legislation becomes law, the penalty for violating it would be "the same as prescribed for the unlawful taking of the actual wildlife being simulated," according to the bill's text.

El Dorado's Tim Donges, president of the Bluestem branch of the National Deer Association, said the organization opposes the permit transfer bill, HB 2331, but favored and actually helped write the latter bill, HB 2336. The NDA is a national organization that came into fruition in November 2020 when the Quality Deer Management Association joined forces and resources with the National Deer Alliance. Donges said one of the goals of the group is to lobby policymakers on behalf of deer conservation and hunters.

"It is important for hunters to get involved in protection of deer and deer hunting here in Kansas," Donges said. "We have two choices as deer hunters here in Kansas. One is to do nothing but complain and let others control our future. The other is educate ourselves about the issues and do something about it and get involved."

Other legislation

There are several other outdoors-related items up for consideration during this legislative session, one of the more noteworthy being an Executive Reorganization Order passed last month by Gov. Laura Kelly that will relocate the state's tourism division from the KDWPT to the Kansas Department of Commerce. The agency would then become the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, which it went by for many years before Gov. Sam Brownback moved the tourism division to the purview of the wildlife agency in 2011.

“This move will create a more robust, centralized effort to attract tourism to the state of Kansas,” said Lt. Gov. David Toland, then the Commerce secretary, in a statement following the move in January. “I appreciate the work that the Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism has put into this vital program, and I’m excited to see our team pursue new possibilities to increase tourism to Kansas.”

That order will take effect July 1 unless the Senate or House adopts a resolution disapproving it.

Other legislation in the House includes:

• House Bill 2032, which is a response to recent action taken by the KDWPT to allow the use of artificial light and thermal-imaging equipment when hunting coyotes at night.

The bill would make the use of artificial light for the purpose of spotting, locating or taking wildlife unlawful. It was introduced by Rep. John Carmichael, D-Wichita.

• HB 2284, which seeks to reduce certain camp site and cabin fees at Kansas state parks by 50% for senior citizens. 

The Senate didn't feature many noteworthy outdoors-related bills, although one bill — Senate Bill 145 — would authorize the KDWPT to purchase land in Kingman County.