Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Fight for Deer Tag Transfers Shifts to Senate

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Fight for Deer Tag Transfers Shifts to Senate

Article excerpt

Hutchinson resident Lauren Sill recalls hunting deer with her dad decades before rule changes turned the joyous excursions into a nightmare.

Sill told a state Senate committee about the access she and her dad enjoyed in the 1980s on 15,000 acres of a Kiowa County ranch.

“I loved the land,” Sill said. “I loved the challenge of the pursuit. And I loved the times with my dad.”

By the late 1990s, they were paying for access to just a 5,000-acre stretch. They paid for each point on a buck’s antlers, and the farmer paid them for each doe they killed.

When the state moved to a system 20 years ago that allowed landowners to sell deer permits to out-of-state trophy-seekers, the cost of hunting the same piece of land increased from $120 or less to $5,000 in one season, Sill said. She and her dad found it was cheaper to drive to Wyoming to hunt.

The state ended the transfer system a decade ago, but the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism made more permits directly available to out-of-state residents as a trade-off. Today, 24 percent of Kansas deer permits are sold to non-residents.

As a result, Sill said, the access to hunting in her area remains crowded. She fears a return to the transferable system will worsen the situation.

“It’s not a theory or a possibility,” Sill said. “It’s a reality.”

Controversy over proposed legislation to legalize the transfer of deer permits has shifted to the Senate following narrow passage in the House. Supporters see the bill as a mechanism for bringing tourists to the state and providing revenue to rural landowners.

Others remain wary of the consequences of such a system. Brad Loveless, the secretary of KDWPT, said history shows the ability to sell deer tags will lead to poaching, manipulation by unscrupulous middlemen and unintentional mistakes by landowners.

“I’m officially a biologist — I’m not a wildlife expert. We hire those,” Loveless said. “But still, I remember a lesson that my grandma taught me many years ago, and that lesson is if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. …

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