One June 23 the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission voted to ban commercial guiding on property and water managed by the department.
Mike Miller, public information officer for the KDWPT operations office at Pratt, said action was first discussed at the commission meetings in March and April. The commission’s action revoked a previous rule that allowed guides to obtain free permits.
The proposal to end guided hunting came from local hunters, Miller said.
“They expressed concern that commercial guiding was interfering with their hunts,” he said. Cheyenne Bottoms was specifically mentioned. “There was a long list of complaints.”
Complaints ranged from the fact that guides were taking the best spots to the fact that they were profiting from a free public resource.
Keeton Kelso, president of the Kansas Outfitters Association, said he would like to see the permits restored. He added that no guided tours on Cheyenne Bottoms means fewer hunters will travel there to hunt.
“Local businesses probably don’t know,” he said. “This ruling probably affects Great Bend more than any city in the state.”
Kelso said he’s guided tours at the Bottoms for years. He believes the actions of a minority of tour guides prompted the complaints, and that other action could have been taken to address the issues.
Tom Gillingham lives in Florida and hunts at Cheyenne Bottoms every other year while visiting his daughter in Wichita. He said he won’t be able to hunt there this year.
“This year I was calling to book five hunters. We were going to come out and hunt over Thanksgiving. We stay in the hotels three or four nights. It’s just a shame that the Bottoms are no longer available to outfitters.”
Because he lives out of state, Gilllingham said he relies on guides to provide the equipment – boats, dogs, decoys. “I hunt a lot with guides. I think most do a good job,” he said.
Commission chairman Gerald Lauber, Topeka, noted during the June meeting that neighboring states have already adopted similar measures.
“I think universally the elimination of guiding on public lands has been accepted and embraced,” he said.
According to a news release from the KDWPT, the result of the commission’s revocation, effective Aug. 1, 2016, means that commercial guiding of hunters is not allowed on land owned or leased by KDWPT, including federal land the department leases around reservoirs and private land enrolled in the Walk-In Hunting Access program. While commercial guiding of anglers on state fishing lakes, which are owned by KDWPT, is still prohibited, this change does not impact commercial fishing guides operating on federal reservoirs.
In other public hearing matters, the commission approved deer season dates on Fort Riley, which include several special seasons for authorized individuals in addition to statewide deer seasons.
The next KDWPT commission meeting is scheduled for Aug. 11 in Clay Center.