By Gale Rose
Posted Mar. 25, 2014 @ 10:13 am
When turkey hunters in Kansas lace up their hunting boots for the 2014 spring turkey season, they will have more Walk In Hunting Area acres than ever before.
The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism has been working hard to get more WIHA acres and for the first time, turkey hunters will have about 200,000 WIHA acres available when the spring turkey season starts on April 1, said Jake George, KDWPT private land program coordinator.
“We’re pleased to have the extra acres this spring,” George said.
Besides the 200,000 WIHA acres, hunters will also have access to some of the 350,000 acres of land the state owns.
Spring turkey season is divided into two sessions. The first session runs between April 1 to April 8 and is for archery and youth and disabled. The next session is regular firearm season and runs from April 9 to May 31.
Turkey populations came out of winter in good condition so hunting should be good this year. George said he saw about 40 birds just north of KDWPT headquarters office and that got his blood going for the spring hunt.
The WIHA program started in 1995 as an effort to get more hunting options outside state owned properties. The spring turkey WIHA season started in 2001.
It may seem that since Kansas is a big state that it would have lots of acres available for hunting. But the reality is that Kansas has 52.6 million acres and 97 percent is privately owned. While some landowners permit hunting on their land, KDWPT wanted to expand the number of acres available to hunters.
The 200,000 acres is good but KDWPT wants to add more with an additional 300,0000 acres for the spring season.
The additional WIHA acres have reduced the pressure on the state owned hunting areas while increasing the opportunities for hunting.
Among landowners, there has been an increase in taking part in the WIHA program, George said.
“We have managed to pickup some large tracts of land,” George said.
Landowners are paid on a sliding scale depending on the number of acres they put in the program. Leases are can be on an annual or long-term basis and landowners pull out of the lease at anytime.
Mostleaseholders are very enthusiastic about the program and their leases continue year after year. The lease also includes limited liability in case of an accident while hunting.
A lot of the land involved in WIHA belongs to landowners that no longer live near the property and don’t want to have to deal with a private lease so a lease with KDWPT works well for them.
Kansas is split in terms of ease of getting acres in the WIHA program. The western half of the state starting in the Kingman to Wichita area traditionally has more available land for the program.