The Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission made decisions on two recommendations to limit future turkey harvests during its Nov. 14 meeting in Scott City.
One of those regulations passed unanimously. The other recommendation ended up being rife with controversy before evolving into something entirely different, leading to a shortened fall season in 2020-21.
The commission first approved 7-0 a recommendation from Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism biologist Kent Fricke to reduce the spring 2020 turkey tag limit from two birds to one in Units 3, 5 and 6 based on the adaptive harvest strategy state biologists have in place to determine what harvest recommendations to make.
The second recommendation from state biologists, to eliminate the fall turkey season in Units 3, 5 and 6 beginning in 2020, was also part of that adaptive harvest strategy. However, it was met with strong opposition from Commission Chairman Gerald Lauber, of Topeka. Lauber, who contended eliminating the fall turkey harvest in those units "wouldn’t make a difference," introduced a written amendment that would strike out the original proposal and instead leave the fall season in place, but shorten the season by two-thirds to 41 days across all turkey units, excluding Unit 4. That includes Units 1 and 2, where no action to reduce turkey harvest was being recommended by state biologists.
During public comment on the amendment, Iola resident Don Erbert, who serves as the Kansas state chapter president for the National Wild Turkey Federation, asked Lauber what he based his assertions on, to which Lauber replied, “What I consider some common sense and what I believe is my best judgment.”
Erbert responded that he, too, had common sense, and it told him to listen to the experts.
Another member of the NWTF also voiced support of the staff’s original recommendation, with NWTF district biologist Jim Pitman saying the organization’s stance was to either approve the recommendation as written or reject it, not to add arbitrary amendments. Pitman is a former KDWPT biologist and was instrumental in introducing the adaptive harvest strategy in Kansas.
However, after more discussion, a second amendment was proposed as a compromise that would have banned the harvest of hens during the fall turkey season during the proposed 41-day fall season. That amendment fell 4-3, with Lauber the deciding vote, while his own amendment was approved 6-1, meaning the fall turkey season would remain in place but the season length would be shortened by two-thirds.
The next scheduled KWPT Commission meeting is Jan. 9, 2020, at the Riverside Community Building, 510 Park Ave. in Iola.