KQWPT Signing walk-in hunting contracts

Pratt – Landowners interested in the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s (KDWPT) Walk-In Hunting Access Program (WIHA) — which pays landowners to allow public hunting access on their land — are reminded that the deadline for enrollment is July 15. The WIHA program, which began in 1995, has grown to include more than 1 million acres and nearly 3,000 contracts with Kansas landowners.

Almost anyone who owns, leases, or manages 80 contiguous acres of land with suitable wildlife habitat can qualify. A little more than half the land enrolled in WIHA is federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) grass, but other lands are also considered, including native rangeland, weedy wheat stubble, milo stubble, and riparian and wetland areas.

After receiving applications, KDWPT biologists evaluate wildlife habitat on the applicants' land. Payment rates are based on the size and location of tracts and the number of months the landowner will open the land to hunting. A 50-percent additional incentive payment is offered for WIHA in the following urban counties: Butler, Coffey, Cowley, Douglas, Franklin, Harvey, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Kingman, Leavenworth, Lyon, Miami, Osage, Ottawa, Reno, Saline, Sedgwick, Shawnee, Sumner, Wabaunsee, and Wyandotte.

Counties that have had historically low or are declining in program participation are also eligible for the 50-percent additional incentive payment. The following counties are eligible under this criteria: Allen, Anderson, Atchison, Barber, Barton, Bourbon, Brown, Chase, Chautauqua, Cherokee, Clay, Cloud, Crawford, Dickinson, Doniphan, Elk, Ellsworth, Geary, Greenwood, Harper, Jewell, Labette, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Marshall, McPherson, Mitchell, Montgomery, Morris, Nemaha, Neosho, Pottawatomie, Pratt, Republic, Rice, Riley, Stafford, Washington, Wilson, and Woodson.

Once enrolled, the property is posted with signs indicating access dates, and a map of the tract will be included in a free atlas provided by KDWPT. Natural resource officers periodically patrol WIHA properties. In addition, state law provides protection to private individuals who lease their land to the state for recreational purposes from liability for damages or injuries resulting from ordinary negligence.

Lease options include open periods running Sept. 1-Jan. 31 and Nov. 1-Jan. 31, with the option to run through March 31 in areas where habitat and hunt opportunities are appropriate. A popular spin-off is the Spring Turkey WIHA Program, with lease dates from April 1- May 31. For more information, phone 620-672-5911.

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