Quivira National Wildlife Refuge to allow deer and turkey hunting, eventually

After about three years of discussions, research and gathering public input, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced limited deer and turkey hunting will be allowed at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.

 After about another three years of discussions, research and gathering public input, the first seasons may be held.

A whitetail buck photographed at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge last November.

A whitetail buck photographed at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge last November.

“Very basically, we have the opportunity to put on a deer and/or turkey hunt based on this plan,” Mike Oldham, refuge manager, said of the refuge’s recently approved Comprehensive Conservation Plan. Such plans are designed to give federal refuges management directions over about the next 15 years. Most segments have to undergo a federal approval process, and the public most be given chances to comment at about every stage.

The plan also states that no changes will be made in regards to what parts of the about 22,000 acre refuge can be hunted. Also, the entire refuge will remain closed to all hunting when endangered whooping cranes are present.

As per the deer and turkey, Oldham said Quivira will follow federal guidelines for designing hunting opportunities that should allow for some herd control, offer some recreation for hunters while not interfering with wildlife watchers, photographers and those hunting private lands that border Quivira. He hopes to work closely with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism and will not rush into any actions.

“We know we don’t want to start with a big hunt. We want something like where you have to draw a special permit,” Oldham said. “We also probably won’t allow unlimited hunting days. It could be something like where the hunters come for an orientation meeting on Friday, then maybe get to hunt Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday.” Oldham said the hunts, which could start with less than 10 hunters at a time, could include the September’s youth season and the January season that’s held to hunt only antlerless whitetails. Permit numbers and hunting days could expand quickly should the need arise to harvest a significant number of deer, such as because of a disease outbreak.

Dogs training for the 2013 Master NationalDue to long-standing complaints that all hunting has been stopped when whooping cranes are present, the refuge had considered just permanently closing the hunting areas where, or near where, the whooping cranes usually congregate near the Big Salt Marsh. To make up for the loss, Quivira considered opening new areas in the eastern part of the refuge. With such a change, hunting could have possibly been allowed in those areas when whoopers were present elsewhere.

Losing access to the North Lake area, a favored hunting area north of the Big Salt Marsh, didn’t fit well with hunters.

“The vast majority, probably around 80 percent, of the public we heard from asked us to not close North Lake. They said if they had to choose, they’d rather have less hunting time than not get to hunt that area of the refuge,” Oldham said. “We also heard from non-hunters and they all said we shouldn’t do anything that would risk a whooping crane getting shot by leaving all hunting open. We really did take the (public) comments to heart.”