Turkey, Bear Hunters Affected by Coronavirus Restrictions, Closures

Hunters are feeling the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, with Nebraska wildlife officials halting sales of nonresident turkey licenses and some states' restrictions impacting travel.

Turkey, Bear Hunters Affected by Coronavirus Restrictions, Closures

Hunters are feeling the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, with Nebraska wildlife officials halting sales of nonresident turkey licenses and some states' restrictions impacting travel.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission announced on its site that sales of nonresident turkey licenses are suspended immediately. The state is popular with nonresident hunters for its public lands and opportunities.

From the NGPC site:

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is suspending the sale of nonresident spring turkey hunting permits in a proactive effort to prevent the potential for the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). This is being done by the Commission in coordination with Gov. Pete Ricketts Executive Order No. 20-11 to help protect the health of Nebraskans by discouraging unnecessary travel.

Game and Parks will stop selling 2020 nonresident spring turkey permits effective immediately. Nonresidents who have purchased permits will be able to use them, but will not be able to purchase additional permits. Nonresidents with Nebraska turkey permits will be contacted by Game and Parks through email in the next week with additional information, including potential refunds.

Nebraska’s spring turkey season opened March 25 for archers. The shotgun season opens April 11 for youth and April 18 for adults. All turkey seasons close May 31.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear on March 30 announced an executive order banning travel to other states with only a few exceptions for those who work out of state, have a court order or need to cross a border for essential items.

Other states have imposed restrictions that could impact hunters and anglers this spring and summer. Many include mandatory 14-day quarantines. Florida officials have checkpoints at its borders with Alabama and Georgia, and Key West essentially is closed with law enforcement checkpoints allowing non-residents who have proof of employment or property ownership.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has extended the spring bear tag sale deadline until May 1, making an exception to its normal tak purchase requirements due to the virus situation. This gives them more flexibility, "especially hunters who would have to travel to hunt as travel is limited to essential needs at this time."

Oregon's bear season opens April 1. The wildlife department has not closed fishing or hunting seasons due to the coronavirus, other than for salmon and steelhead on the Columbia River it shares with Washington.

Fishing access has been closed in multiple states due to emergency executive orders shutting down boat ramps, beaches, parks and other access points. The U.S. Corps of Engineers also has closed or limited access to its ramps and areas.

The federal Bureau of Land Management is recommending visitors check the BLM website for their state or district to see news updates on closures or other availability.

Washington DNR has closed its DNR-managed lands about 6 million acres due to the virus pandemic, effective through at least April 8. It also has canceled its spring youth turkey hunt and bear season. The agency will evaluate the situation to possibly open bear season. 

"This was not an easy decision. We treasure our forests and trails and beaches as places of rejuvenation and refuge from the chaos of daily life," said DNR Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz in a statement. "But, I cannot ignore the unfortunate reality of what we saw this weekend: crowded trails, people shoulder to shoulder, and large gatherings. This behavior undercuts the sacrifices that Washingtonians of all means and ability are making in order to adhere to social distancing. And it undercuts the heroic efforts of our doctors, nurses, and first responders who risk their lives each day responding to this unrelenting epidemic.”

Fishing Impacts North to South

In Minnesota, the Lake of the Woods Tourism Bureau's Facebook page has several updates on ramp closures in the area, one of the busiest in the state for multiple species during the year. The bureau posted the following on March 24:

A sad day for anglers looking forward to spring fishing for walleyes on the Rainy River.

This morning, the Lake of the Woods County Board of Commissioners met via teleconference with the Koochiching County Commissioners.  The Koochiching County Board voted unanimously to close the Kooch County owned Rainy River accesses which include the Upper Sioux landing, Frontier landing, Nelson Park landing and Vidas landing with concerns about large number of anglers coming into the area in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.  This decision will be reviewed April 14th at their next board meeting.

In addition, the Lake of the Woods County Board voted to close all county controlled right away landing that provide access to the Rainy River until further notice. This will be reviewed weekly.

Last night, the Baudette City Council voted to close the two river accesses in Baudette, Peace Park and Timber Mill Park, until further notice.

This is a challenging time for many.  Please keep the many small businesses and everyone who works at them, the resort community, guides, restaurants, bars, gas stations, hardware stores, bait shops, anglers, and others affected in your thoughts and prayers.

We encourage people to pull together during these tough times and look forward to open water fishing very soon and all of the enjoyment it will bring.

The Lake of the Woods area so appreciates everyone who visits and fishes the area. Looking forward to better times.

Thank you.

Kansas Suspends Sales of Nonresident Turkey Permits

Tthe Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism is suspending sales of general nonresident turkey permits effective immediately.

The suspension is made possible via Executive Order No. 20-21, signed on April 10 by Gov. Laura Kelly.

“During this unprecedented crisis, we must take every measure possible to protect Kansas lives,” Kelly said. “While turkey hunting is largely a solitary activity, the potential for inadvertent spread of COVID-19 due to travel associated with nonresident participation is something we simply cannot risk. Secretary Brad Loveless and his staff have done a tremendous job maintaining safe spaces for us all to enjoy, and I’m confident they’ll continue their good work as we encourage everyone to enjoy recreational activities locally this spring.”

Nonresident hunters who made their spring turkey purchase prior to the order’s effective date may still participate in Kansas’ spring turkey season; however, because Kansas’ regular turkey season has yet to open (April 15, 2020), only a small percentage of the nonresident permits normally purchased have been sold.

Hunters traveling from states listed on the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s “Travel Quarantine List,” referenced here http://www.kdheks.gov/coronavirus, must self-quarantine upon arrival for 14 days prior to hunting and/or checking into a state park cabin.

KDWPT is offering refunds and KDWPT gift cards in an effort to lower participation rates even further. Nonresident hunters may obtain a refund or KDWPT gift card by sending an email request to kdwp.sales@ks.gov.

Ohio DNR Suspends Hunting, Fishing Licenses

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife is temporarily suspending the sale of non-resident hunting and fishing licenses until further notice.

“People entering the state are being asked to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days, making recreational travel unfeasible,” said ODNR Director Mary Mertz. “We look forward to reopening license sales when hunters and anglers can safely return.”

This temporary suspension went into effect at midnight April 6, 2020. Sales will resume when COVID-19 guidelines change or are lifted.

While individuals who currently possess a non-resident hunting or fishing license may hunt or fish in Ohio, they are asked to abide by ODH guidance and self-quarantine for 14 days before they do so.

Note: This story will be updated with additional news of closures or restrictions.

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