PRATT – Wild turkey populations are declining across the Midwest and Kansas isn’t immune. Though the Sunflower State still boasts one of the strongest wild turkey populations in the region, statewide surveys suggest immediate action is needed if Kansas is to have any measurable impact on slowing the decline.
Leading the charge is Kent Fricke, small game coordinator for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT). Fricke, who chairs the Department’s Wild Turkey Committee, has presented on the matter to the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission since June 2019.
“Our primary concern is declining nest and brood survival rates, which are influenced by habitat availability and weather,” said Fricke. “In recent years, we’ve observed declines in both habitat quantity and quality, as well as significant weather events that have negatively impacted nesting and brood rearing seasons. Collectively, these factors are likely contributing to turkey declines.”
While Fricke and others continue to examine potential causes behind the widespread decline, spring flooding is believed to be at the forefront for 2019, as Kansas’ estimated statewide turkey production was the lowest on record.
In an effort to give populations an adequate opportunity to recover from this year’s hard-hitting spring and reduce long-term declines, staff developed progressive recommendations for the 2020 spring and fall turkey seasons. Though not all staff recommendations were approved as presented, Commissioners approved the following at their Nov. 14 meeting in Scott City:
Bag limits in Turkey Management Units 3, 5, and 6 (Northeast, Southcentral, and Southeast) will be reduced from two turkeys to one turkey beginning with the spring 2020 season; bag limits in Units 1 and 2 (Northwest and Northcentral) will remain at two turkeys. Hunters will still be able to purchase a permit, game tag, or combo; however, game tags (which allow the