Deer gun season ended Sunday but hunters may get a longer rifle season in the future.
State wildlife officials are considering a longer deer rifle season than the current 16 days of hunting. They are not officially advocating a longer gun season yet, but it appears they are laying the groundwork to do so in the near future.
The state Wildlife Department is holding town hall meetings across the state this week and one of the topics being raised by state wildlife officials is the possibility of a longer deer gun season.
Richard Hatcher, director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, said state wildlife officials are not ready to seek a longer gun season yet, but they are trying to do determine how much support there would be for one.
Most hunters favor a longer deer gun season, but some fear it would cause lease prices to increase. No question there is enough deer in Oklahoma to justify a longer season.
“We are not running out of deer,” Hatcher said.
Another topic of discussion during the town hall meetings is allowing all hunters to use crossbows. Presently, only hunters age 60 and above or with a physical disability may legally hunt with a crossbow in Oklahoma.
Hatcher said he expects there will be legislation introduced this year to legalize crossbow hunting for all.
“We don’t care,” Hatcher said of the state Wildlife Department’s position on the issue. “It wouldn’t hurt anything and it might provide some more opportunities.”
Expect opposition from some bowhunters who favor only the traditional means of bowhunting.
State wildlife officials also are considering ending its fish stocking program for private ponds. Commercial fish farmers have objected to the state Wildlife Department providing this service for free as they consider it unfair competition.
Ending the program would provide more money to stock fish in public lakes, Hatcher said.
Town hall meetings are scheduled tonight (Dec. 9) in Muskogee (public library) and Clinton (senior citizens center) and on Friday in Oklahoma City at state Wildlife Department headquarters, 1801 N. Lincoln.
The town hall meetings are open topic and less formal than the public hearings on proposed rule changes.
The official public hearings on next year’s rule changes that are being proposed by the state Wildlife Department are scheduled next month.
The most controversial regulation changes on the list are the restrictions on paddlefishing in northeastern Oklahoma.
State wildlife commissioners passed emergency rules earlier this year to limit the fishing for paddlefish to catch and release only on two days of the week, Friday and Monday.
Commissioners also voted to make snagging for paddlefish illegal in Spring River above Grand Lake to protect it as a spawning ground.
Those rules, however, must be made permanent through the public hearing process. To see a complete list of proposed rule changes go to www.wildlifedepartment.com. A link also is provided to leave a comment on any proposal.