Area News

Fall 2013 Highway Access/Closures

Hunters should be aware that traffic will be switched to the new north lanes September 4, 2013. This will mean that almost all access points on the south side of highway 54 will be closed this winter. No vehicle access will be allowed across the south lanes to hunt. All vehicles will have to park north of the north lanes in parking areas and hunters will have to walk to use the south side of the area. Violators will be ticketed and vehicles in unauthorized areas will be towed.

Access to the Byron Walker Wildlife Area office requires turning off 1/2 mile west of SW 80th avenue on the milling crossover in the median, then taking the old lanes west to the office drive.

Deer Surveys:

2013 is the first year we have conducted spotlight deer surveys on Byron Walker. Concern for the deer population on public ground has been building in light of the overly liberal doe harvest allowed in unit 15 and the significant influx of hunters seen in the past 3-5 years. The spotlight surveys, in many ways, confirmed our suspicions. Yes, it is difficult to draw many conclusions from the first year, but the results this year were: 1st run of 8 miles on 4 transects produced 2 adult does, 4 yearling does, 2 fawns, and 1 unknown. The second run results were: 1 adult buck and 3 unknown sex/age deer. Add to these results the fact no antlered deer have been seen during work in 2013, and it becomes fairly certain that the fall herd size is significantly smaller than just a few years ago and the age structure too has been significantly shifted toward younger animals. Hopefully, these surveys will result in regulation changes that reduce the pressure on public land herds in unit 15.

Kansas Muzzleloaders Association conducts work day!

On April 20-21, the Kansas Muzzleloaders Association conducted a work day on Byron Walker Wildlife Area. They worked with the Manager to remove feral cedar trees in the area pastures. Six hearty souls donned loppers, axes, chainsaws, and hand saws and removed hundreds of cedars that had escaped our prescribed burning efforts. This work will make mechanical removal of these trees in the future unnecessary, saving the area significant expense and reducing habitat for nest predators. I thank the KMA for their dedication to the management of Byron Walker Wildlife Area. They have provided over a decade of similar work days on the area and it is hard to look far without seeing their fingerprints. I also want to thank Grahm for seeing the notice on this website and joining in Saturday morning!

Coming in 2012-2014!

The Kansas Department of Transportation will be upgrading highway 54 to a 4 lane through the Byron Walker Wildlife Area from 2012 to 2014. With this project, our hunters and fishermen will encounter difficulties with access due to that construction. We ask for you patience through this period! Hunters and fishermen need to understand that there will be significant restrictions on access and normal access points will not be accessible during construction. The construction will result in significant hazards to our users should they try to use historic access points. The entrance to Kingman State Lake will be moved to NW 70th avenue and the entance to the Byron Walker headqarters will be moved to SW 90th avenue. Some access points will be permanently removed! New/improved parking areas will be constructed during this period. During construction, much of the fence bordering the highway will be removed. Unauthorized access through missing fences and the construction site will not be allowed. Vehicles making unauthorized access will be subject to tickets and towing. Hunters and fishermen are advised to use NW 10th street as much as possible for access to the area when significant portions of the highway are closed to side access. Phase 2 of the operation will begin August 23, 2013 focusing primarily on the original or now south lanes. This will result in significant access loss on the south side of highway 54 this fall and winter. If you have questions about access, call the area office at 620-532-3242.

Refuge Boundary Changes for 2012

There are two changes in the refuge boundaries on Byron Walker Wildlife Area for this fall. The first is 1 mile north of highway 54 just north of 10th street NW at State Lake Road. The small triangle of ground north of 10th street used to be public hunting, but is now part of the refuge. The second is just west of the headquarters. The west boundary of the headquarters refuge has been extended west to SW 90th avenue to encompass the coming change in access to the headquarters off of SW 90th avenue.

New acres added to Byron Walker Wildlife Area in 2012

As part of the KDOT highway project, 122 acres have been added to the Byron Walker Wildlife Area. Tract 1 is just northwest of the headquarters on the north side of highway 54. Approximately 29.5 acres formerly belonging to the Cole family has been purchased by KDOT to mitigate property taken in the highway expansion. Tract 2, 92.79 acres, is on the south side of 54 highway just east of the former east boundary of Byron Walker, extending the property line further east to SW 70th avenue. Hunters will have to be careful on this tract as KDOT has yet to install the south boundary fence and the property does not extend south to the river. A limited number of boundary signs will be posted to aid hunters in staying on public property.

New Public Lands Regulations Enacted:

In June of this year the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission approved new regulations relating to hunting on public lands. Designed to provide hunters with equal opportunities on limited public lands, the following regulations have been enacted:

  • Baiting, and hunting over bait is now illegal on public lands. Bait is considered any grain, fruit, vegetable, nut, hay, salt, sorghum, feed, or other food or mineral capable of attracting wildlife. Liquid scents and sprays are not considered bait.
  • Only two portable blinds or tree stands are allowed per hunter on public lands.
  • Portable blinds and tree stands must be marked with the owner’s name and address or KDWPT number. Portable blinds may not be left unattended overnight on public lands.
  • Decoys may not be left unattended overnight on public lands.
  • Commercial guides must have a permit to guide on public lands. The permit is free and must be specific to the land where guiding takes place.

Attention Fishermen, boaters, and waterfowl hunters!

Some time in 2002 the aquatic nuisance species (ANS) White Perch were introduced into the lake by unknown means. In the past 3-5 years white perch have had significant reproduction years and now dominate the fish population. Common carp and gizzard shad also make up significant proportions of the current fish population. The game fish population has been largely replaced by these species during that time and this has resulted in increasingly meager fishing success. Fisherman use at the lake in 2011 dropped to about 1/3 of the use seen in 1999.

As a result of these population trends at Kingman State Fishing Lake, the lake was drained and rehabilitated. Starting in August 2012, the lake was slowly drained and the existing fish population eliminated. The lake is refilling and has already been stocked with approximately 6000 Largemouth Bass 6-12 inches and 1500 Channel Catfish 8-10 inches. Bluegill and redear will be stocked in the fall of 2013 with some bluegill possibly being stocked in the spring of 2013. Northern Pike will be stocked somewhere around May or June and more Largemouth Bass will be stocked in the fall. Additional Channel Catfish will also be stocked this coming fall.

As of April 1, 2013, the lake is within 7 inches of being full. The boat ramps are both useable and the entire lake should be accessible to boats. The new brush piles added to the lake while it was down are now being inundated

2010 Projects - New Burning/Grazing System:

New in 2010 we are trying a different grazing system on the area. As with any system, it is good to change things up from time to time in order to not select for or against the various habitat components the same way for too long. The new system is modeled after the Oklahoma State University style Patch Grazing/Patch Burning system. This system utilizes fire to move cattle impacts from unit to unit within a given pasture. Each year approximately 1/8-1/4 of the pasture will be burned in March/April. The cattle will graze that unit heavily due to the grass being most nutritious and free from thatch after the burn. Then, in July/August, another 1/8-1/4 of the pasture will be burned, moving the cattle from the first burn to the newly burned unit. In successive years additional units will be burned in the same pasture until in 3-4 years the entire pasture has been burned and the cattle impacts have been moved across all of the acreage.

The benefits of this system are many. First, there will not be entire pastures burned at one time, leaving large portions of nesting habitat unuseable for 1-2 years. Smaller tracts will be burned, leaving larger nesting components untouched through the nesting season and requiring less staff to conduct a burn. Second, the increased animal impact within the burned units will improve the forb component in that unit for successive years, reducing the need for the disturbance disking that is currently being done. Third, the ungrazed units will have increased cover for game and will also have improved fuel when they are burned resulting in improved brush control. Fourth, this system will result in 8 different stages of succession within a grazing unit after the first full rotation which should take 4 years. This should provide improved habitat for deer, turkey, quail, and other grassland wildlife. This change will also allow the staff to spread the burning acres over two burning seasons instead of one, reducing the impacts of weather, staff shortages, and burn bans over time.

There are also many benefits for the cattle producer with patch burning. First, by late July and early August, cattle are down to grazing forage that is in the 6% protein range. Patch burning in July/August promotes new growth subsequent to the burn that will provide forage with approximately 16% protein, improving cattle gains when they would be slowed otherwise. Second, the patch burning promotes plant diversity, which provides additional nutritious plant species (forbs) often absent in continuous systems. These plants also aid in nutrient cycling in the soil and add nitrogen at higher concentrations than found in traditional grazing systems. Third, for those land owners with Sericea Lespedeza infestations, patch burning sets back this invasive plant and shuts off its chemical defenses, allowing cattle to graze the plant and prevent it from seeding. This is the only method of grazing that has shown the capability to stabilize Sericea populations. Fourth, because growing-season burns provided access to high quality forage during the fall months, the patch burn cows do not need any supplement until the first of January each year. This is in contrast to the traditionally managed cows where protein supplement is provided starting the first of November. Fifth, the spring burning season is often shortened by bad weather or burn bans due to weather. The summer burning season is characterized by more stable weather conditions and burns are less volatile due to green growth. Using the patch burning/patch grazing system, landowners can spread their burning operations over two seasons that offer more burning days overall, increasing their ability to accomplish burning over more acres safely. Other benefits of patch burning include: uniform utilization of forage over the entire pasture over a period of years; ease of checking cattle, deferring grazing before or after burning is not required and livestock can be left in the pasture while burning the next patch; forage accumulated in rested patches is a form of grass banking, which is holding forage in reserve for drought years; and better brush control is achieved because fire in rested patches is more intense than in pastures managed traditionally.

Feral Cedar Control:

Feral cedars (cedars that have sprouted and are growing wild) are a serious problem across Kansas. Byron Walker Wildlife Area has the same problem. These trees often sprout in disturbed places or under existing timber where they slowly grow and increase in density and distribution. For a time, they are good cover for wildlife. However, too much of anything can be bad and this is the case with cedars. From a wildlife standpoint, when the cedars are crowding out other beneficial cover and food types and closing in on 100% ground cover, they have become detrimental to wildlife. In addition to negatively affecting wildlife, these dense stands of cedars are a fire hazard, use valuable groundwater, and produce tons of irritating pollen. In 2010, working with a Kansas Forest Service grant, the staff at Byron Walker Wildlife Area are cutting understory cedar trees that have become a fire threat as well as a problem for wildlife production. Cedars close to highway 54, that would likely aid a wildfire jumping the highway, are being cut and stacked. The stacks will be allowed to dry and drop their leaves for a couple of years, then burned or chipped. The resulting habitat may look thin for a time, but it will eventually fill in with more beneficial plants that will provide better and more sustainable habitat for our wildlife populations. Problem cedars will also be removed outside of the Forest Service project as a normal habitat management activity.

Manager's Ramblings:  Realistic Expectations

In the past 30 years, I have been privileged to work on over a dozen wildlife areas in Kansas.  In that time, I have talked to literally thousands of hunters and anglers.  With that many discussions, many trends tend to show up.  One that occurs regularly is that of unrealistic expectations.  Sportsmen come to our public wildlife areas to enjoy their passion- hunting.  All too frequently they come with expectations that the area they have chosen to hunt can’t provide.  Many call before planning a trip with those types of expectations and are disappointed by the forecast they receive.  Still others arrive to hunt for species that may not even exist on the area or find the population is so low that their expectations will never be met.  Almost no wildlife area holds every game species indigenous to Kansas.  Game species are often regional and many are adapted to specific habitats that not every wildlife area possesses.  However, many sportsmen flock to areas with signs that read: Public Hunting, Wildlife Area, or Hunting/Fishing/Furharvesting, and expect all species, full bags, and trophy class animals.  Can these expectations be fulfilled?   Sometimes they can, but often they cannot for a variety of reasons.

 

Let’s discuss the wildlife areas themselves.  Many Kansas wildlife areas are centered on riparian corridors.  The habitat on these wildlife areas lend themselves towoodlandsand the associated transitional habitats between the woodlands and the surrounding upland habitats.  The quality of these woodlands also varies with better mast producing timber found in some areas and lower quality tree species in others.  Even the age of the woodlands affects their capability to produce game.  Many wildlife areas also havecroplands.  These may be planted in a variety of agricultural crops ranging from forage crops, cereal grains, and row crops; all managed to produce or attract game.  The quality of the cropland and its capabilities also varies from area to area.  Some areas have the best cropland in the county, others the poorest.  Knowing what the area can produce weighs in to what your expectations should be.  Many wildlife areas also offer a variety of upland habitat types that may includegrasslands, shrublands, or other habitat types that will support their own wildlife communities.  Visitors must know what those habitat types in this specific part of the state are able to support in order to judge what their expectations should be when planning a hunt.  Another habitat type found on many of our wildlife areas iswetlands.  These wetlands are managed for waterfowl attraction and often support “bonus” species that add to the attractiveness of these habitats.  Wetlands vary in their ability to attract waterfowl due to their size, location, available water, and food availability.  Some wetlands are filled by pumping ground water; others are filled by natural surface flows.

 

Management also has a significant impact on whether a sportsman’s expectations may be met.  However, even the best management cannot change what an area is capable of producing beyond a certain point.  Management on Kansas Wildlife Areas may include timber stand improvement, prescribed fire, cropping, disking, planting, chemical applications, mowing, roller-chopping, brush control, grazing, and even harvesting.  A Wildlife Area Manager has responsibility for making management decisions on each wildlife area and his/her decisions are generally framed by the capability of the habitats and location of the wildlife area.  A single manager may control 4,000 to 20,000 acres.  Their ability to manage those acres is affected by the manpower, budget, time, and equipment available to them.  Often, weather events affect their capability to manage an area.  Frequently decisions must be made as competing demands on their time limit what techniques may be used, how often, and to what extent.  All of these managers also have responsibilities like: administration, wildlife surveys, maintenance, construction, law enforcement, public relations, and training.  I’m sure there is not a manager in the State of Kansas that has too much time on their hands.  Management goes on year-round on wildlife areas and, if you hunt public land often enough; you will sooner-or-later have a hunt disturbed by management activities.

 

Expectations!  First, when you hunt a public hunting area in Kansas, the first thing to remember is it is PUBLIC!  You will generally not have the area to yourself and you will have your hunt affected by other hunters in the field.  Sometimes this will be accidental and will be resolved respectfully, other times it will not.  Everyone should be respectful of the other users and do their best to not negatively affect each other.  However, it is inevitable that interactions will occur and your expectations may not be met due to competing hunters’ activity.  Another perspective on this “public” aspect is that the very nature of the pressure put on game populations on public areas is much higher than that associated with private land and one can expect that game populations will frequently be below the carrying capacity of the habitat due to heavy annual harvest.  Further, the age structure of many species will be reduced due to that heavy hunting pressure and trophy animals will be rare.  Animals just don’t get to grow to the age needed to acquire trophy class.   Secondly, you need to know, before going to a wildlife area, what its wildlife production capabilities are. It will do you no good to hunt a wildlife area for a species that doesn’t occur there.   You can do this by studying the habitat, distribution, and density of the wildlife species you intend to hunt and it’s availability on the wildlife area you intend to hunt.  You can also call the local wildlife manager and ask what your expectations should be for that game species on his/her area and what part of the area is best targeted for that species.    You might also ask if there are areas that would be best avoided due to management activities going on or traditional heavy hunter use.  Third, remember that all of the non-migratory species of game are a finite population and your expectations later in the season may need to be lower than what they were on opening day.  As populations dwindle, game contacts will become fewer and success rates will decline.  When you look at a public wildlife area, it is often a good idea to understand what habitat exists on adjoining private land.  Wildlife do move back and forth on and off the public land and sometimes you may be able to time your hunt to correspond with those animals being on the area vs. when they are off.   This applies to waterfowl, deer, turkey, and upland game among others.  On some areas, game moves off the area during periods of high pressure only to move back on later in the season presenting good opportunities for harvest after the opening day pressure has passed. 

 

In summation, many of our public hunting areas in Kansas provide quality opportunity for hunting recreation.  However, they are limited in some ways as well.  Do your homework before leaving on your hunting trip and you can expect better results than if you had arrived uninformed.  If you arrive with reasonable expectation, you will rarely be disappointed in the eventual results!  Finally, bring a kid!  Your enjoyment will be multiplied if you are providing a bunch of “FIRSTS” to a new hunting buddy!!!  

New Water Canal:

A new canal was built in November to take water from the primary water source for Kingman State Lake directly to the lake, bypassing the marshes that usually have to be flooded in order to move water to the lake. This canal should significantly improve our water efficiency during the dry part of the year by bypassing those marshes and reducing tree transpiration of this water, improving the water levels in Kingman State Lake. The associated water control structure enhancement is going out to bid and will be completed in the coming months. This new system should be inplace for use in 2011.

 

2010 Archery 3D Shoot Calendar:

The South Fork Archers will hold their 3D shoots with an 8:00-10:00 a.m. trickle start.

 

Archery shoots by the South Fork Archery Club:

  • Feb 09 - Fun Shoot
  • Mar 09 – String Shoot
  • April 13 – 3D Shoot
  • May 11 – 3D Shoot
  • June 8 – 3D Shoot
  • July 13 – 3D Shoot
  • Aug 10 – 3D Shoot
  • Sept 14 – 3D Shoot/Raffle & Feed (2nd Sunday)

All shoots have a trickle start from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. Concessions will be available.

Jayhawk Retriever Club:  Hunt test scheduled May 30, 31, and June 1.