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Outdoors: Deadline nears for public input on proposed rule changes

State wildlife officials are wanting to extend deer gun season by a week next season and to increase antlerless deer bag limits. [ODWC PHOTO]
State wildlife officials are wanting to extend deer gun season by a week next season and to increase antlerless deer bag limits. [ODWC PHOTO]

Oklahomans only have a few days left to offer their two cents, and have them officially counted, about proposed changes to hunting and fishing regulations for next year.

The biggest proposal on the table is to extend the deer gun season for an additional seven days at the end of the current season.

State wildlife officials say it won't make a huge impact on the overall harvest as history shows a very large majority of the deer taken during the deer gun season occurs in the first few days, particularly opening weekend.

"From the beginning to the end it's a pretty good downward trend as far as the number of deer harvested (during the gun season)," said Dallas Barber, big game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

The new proposals also would increase the bag limit for antlerless deer in both the rifle and muzzleloader seasons in certain areas, but remain restricted in deer hunting zones such as southeastern Oklahoma.

Since 2014 there has been a decline in the doe harvest, dropping from 40 percent of the total harvest to 36 percent, Barber said. State wildlife officials say a higher doe harvest would improve the health of the herd.

"All of these proposals are really built to up our antlerless harvest," Barber said.

Other regulation changes being proposed include:

• Opening all of Osage County to pheasant hunting.

• Establishing restrictions on importing cervid carcasses or carcass parts to help prevent potential chronic wasting disease infectious materials from coming into Oklahoma from out of state.

• Expanding the Lower Mountain Fork River Trout Area boundaries and revise trout size limits, bag limits, and tackle restrictions.

• Remove the minimum length limit for blue and channel catfish at Lake Texoma.

There also is a "discussion item" among the proposals about reducing the split between the first and second half of waterfowl season to five days from its current 12-day split. State wildlife officials are also considering having the same season dates for duck hunting zones one and two.

The public comment period for this year's proposed rule changes will close at 4:30 p.m. on Friday.

All of the proposed changes can be read in full at wildlifedepartment.com. An online public comment form can be completed at www.wildlifedepartment.com/public-meeting.

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation also will accept public comments by letters that are addressed to Re: Public Comment, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152. The letter must be postmarked by Friday.

Also, there are two public hearings scheduled Thursday where people can comment in person on the proposals, one in Broken Bow at the public library and the other in Oklahoma City at Wildlife Department headquarters, 1801 N. Lincoln. Both hearings begin at 7 p.m.

All public comments are forwarded to the commissioners on the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission, who will ultimately vote on the proposals.

Take a hike on New Year's Day

Oklahoma State Parks will again host First Day Hikes on Wednesday. The free, guided hikes on New Year's Day will be held at 19 state parks.

Park staff and volunteers will lead the hikes. Most of the hikes range from 1 to 2 miles, although Great Plains State Park is offering a 5-mile hike.

In the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, Lake Thunderbird State Park in Norman is offering three different hikes. Participants should meet at 11 a.m. at the Discovery Cove Nature Center. The first hike will take guests on the Nature Trail while the second will take guests on a paved, accessible trail. The third hike will go across across the dam.

Hikers should remember to wear weather-appropriate clothing and comfortable shoes. Bring a camera or binoculars for wildlife viewing, and don’t forget water and snacks. Pets on leash are welcome at most hikes.

For more information on the Lake Thunderbird First Day Hikes, call 405-360-3572. For information about hikes at the other parks, visit TravelOK.com.

Ed Godfrey

Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more... Read more ›

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