NEW PLACES TO HUNT: Oklahoma hunters will have more public hunting options beginning Sept. 1, the opener of the statewide dove season
Oklahomans will soon get more public places to hunt and view wildlife.
Beginning Sept. 1, the statewide opening of the dove season, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will open new areas for public hunting that the agency is leasing from private landowners.
Jeff Tibbits, the agency's wildlife biologist for the new Oklahoma Land Access Program, said the Wildlife Department is still enrolling properties in the program. A few maps of the new areas were posted online Saturday and more will be added soon.
Sportsmen will be able to view the maps at www.wildlifedepartment.com/olap.
On Sept. 1, there will be new public dove hunting areas in both northwest and southwest Oklahoma as part of OLAP, and lease negotiations are still ongoing with landowners in north-central Oklahoma for new hunting spots, Tibbits said.
Also, the Wildlife Department is actively seeking to lease hunting land near the Oklahoma City metro in central Oklahoma in time for the dove season opener, Tibbits said.
Landowners can choose several lease options with the agency, but one option is for September hunting only. The Wildlife Department is looking for wheat farmers who would like to get paid to allow dove, teal and goose hunters on their land.
“It's a good deal for the landowners because it's a one-month lease, and we actually pay a bonus if they delay plowing until after the first weekend of September, because we place a lot of value on that opening weekend of dove season,” Tibbits said.
The Wildlife Department is using money from a federal grant to sign three-year leases with private landowners for recreational use of their land such as hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, etc. The $2.62 million grant must be spent by 2018, Tibbits said.
“We are going to continually enroll until we have obligated all of our funds,” Tibbits said.
How much money landowners will receive for the leases depends on the market rate and what they are willing to allow on their land, Tibbits said.
Interested landowners can apply online at wildlifedepartment.com/olap. They will usually receive a reply with a price quote within 24 hours, he said.
Most landowners are choosing a lease option which allows for archery and shotgun hunting only, Tibbits said.
Other lease options available allow for all legal means of hunting or just spring turkey hunting. Landowners can also lease their property just for fishing or for just wildlife viewing, bird watching and hiking.
The sizes of the new properties leased through the Oklahoma Land Access Program typically will be much smaller than the agency's Wildlife Management Areas that offer public hunting, so most of them will have walk-in access only.
An exception will be made on some of the larger properties, and the roads on those areas will be designated on the online OLAP Map Directory, he said.
State wildlife officials considered requiring a special permit to access the OLAP properties, but anyone with a valid state hunting or fishing license will be able to use them, Tibbits said.
As the fall hunting season gets closer, Tibbits said there have been many more inquiries from Oklahoma landowners about the program.
“The last two weeks, it was overwhelming almost,” he said. “There was quite a bit of interest. It's a good problem to have.”
Tibbits hopes to have all of the federal money the Wildlife Department received for OLAP obligated by Sept. 1.