The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will pay more to lease the Honobia Creek Wildlife Management Area in southeastern Oklahoma, but the boundaries for the popular hunting grounds will remain the same.
The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission on Monday voted to enter into a new three-year agreement with the owners of the Honobia Creek land – Hancock Forest Management, Rayonier Forest Resources and Molpus Timberlands Management. The previous three-year contract with the timber groups expired May 31.
Under the new agreement, the timber groups will continue to allow sportsmen public access to the 80,344 acres of the Honobia Creek Wildlife Management Area in Pushmataha and Le Flore counties.
For use of the land, the Wildlife Department will pay $1 an acre the first year, $1.50 per acre the second year and $2 per acre the third year.
It is the same lease price the Wildlife Department agreed to pay the Weyerhauser Corporation earlier this year for a new three-year deal for use of the adjoining Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area.
The Wildlife Department had been paying 50 cents an acre each of the last three years to lease the lands of Honobia Creek.
Even though the new price is higher, it is still cheaper than what the average price is being paid for private hunting leases in southeastern Oklahoma, said Alan Peoples, chief of the wildlife division for the Wildlife Department.
The Wildlife Department did not lose any land in Honobia Creek in the new deal as it did with the adjoining Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area.
The Wildlife Department only was able to lease 200,000 acres of land in its new three-year contract with Weyerhauser for public access to Three Rivers in McCurtain County.
The Wildlife Department was not able to renew its lease for 50,000 acres on the south end of Three Rivers as Weyerhauser opted to lease the hunting rights for that portion of it to private individuals or groups.
Sportsmen once had access to 250,000 acres in Honobia Creek but it has been reduced to 80,344 acres over the years as timber groups have sold land.
It is getting more difficult for the ordinary Joe to find a place to hunt. But even though public hunting lands in southeastern Oklahoma are shrinking, Oklahoma residents still can pay just $40 for a user permit and have access to more than 280,000 acres of timber country in Pushmatha, Le Flore and McCurtain counties.
“There are many other states that don’t have the opportunity that we provide,” Wildlife Commissioner Bruce Mabrey said Monday.
Honobia Creek shares 16 miles of its border with Three Rivers in McCurtain County. Honobia Creek also provides users access to 21 miles of Little River.