State wildlife commissioners on Monday criticized a bill that passed the House of Representatives on Thursday which requires hunters to first get permission of a landowner before retrieving a lost hunting dog.
HB 1249 passed the state House of Representatives 80-11 on Thursday and now goes to the state Senate.
Commissioner Ed Abel of Oklahoma City, an avid coon hunter, said the bill threatens honest sportsmen with fines and possible jail sentences.
At the end of the monthly meeting of the Oklahoma Wildlife Commission, Abel asked his fellow commissioners to pass a resolution voicing their opposition to the bill and send it to each lawmaker in the state Legislature.
The commission chose not to vote on a resolution, fearing it might be a violation of the state’s open meeting laws since HB 1249 was not listed on the agenda for Monday’s meeting.
However, most commissioners agreed the bill is bad for Oklahoma sportsmen.
“If the real point (of the bill) is cattle rustling, there is no reason to include hunting dogs,” said Commissioner David Riggs of Sand Springs, who suggested an amendment to HB 1249 that would exclude hunting dogs from the legislation.
Authors of HB 1249 contend the measure is to crack down on cattle rustling, but Commissioner Harland Stonecipher of Centrahoma on Monday called that a lie.
“It’s really about hunting dogs,” said Stonecipher, a longtime houndsman.
Hunters presently have the right to retrieve their dogs when they have wandered on another person’s land. However, it would be considered trespassing under HB 1249.
Coon hunting is a deeply rooted tradition in Oklahoma. National competitions in coon hunting are often held in Oklahoma but that would end if HB 1249 becomes law, Abel said.
State wildlife commissioners discussed the possibility of calling a special meeting to address the legislation.