Stitt's veto of guide bill pleases most hunters
Most Oklahoma hunters were celebrating Gov. Kevin Stitt’s veto of Senate Bill 566 on Monday, which would have legalized commercial hunting guides on public lands managed or leased by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
The bill passed the state House of Representatives by just two votes, so supporters of the bill do not have the votes to override the veto.
“I vetoed SB 566 because the use of ODWC lands for private monetary gain violates the Oklahoma Constitution,” Stitt said in a statement to The Oklahoman. “This veto is also a result of a large constituent base that voiced their concerns against the bill.”
Baylee Lakey, communications director for Gov. Stitt, said 230 people contacted the governor’s office opposed the bill and only five who supported it.
T.J. Goodpasture, regional director for the National Wild Turkey Federation in western Oklahoma, said he was pleased the governor listened to the sportsmen and women in the state and vetoed the bill.
The Wildlife Department uses hunting license revenue to buy and lease land for public hunting. Many conservation groups like NWTF and Quail Forever pay for habitat work on the state’s wildlife management areas which benefit hunters, Goodpasture said.
“We just didn’t feel like it was right for someone else to come in behind us after doing all of that and be able to profit off of it,” Goodpasture said.
The bill’s authors, Rep. Kevin McDugle (R-Broken Arrow) and Sen. Casey Murdock (R-Felt) argued the bill’s intent was to regulate hunting guides who are already illegally operating on the public lands. Felt said it could have benefited the state economically.
“What I see in this bill — why I pushed it so hard — is I see an opportunity for people in rural Oklahoma to start a business,” Felt told NonDoc.com.
Most Oklahomans who hunt on public lands, however, feared the areas would be overrun by hunting guides and their clients and game would diminish.
Oklahoma Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever regional representative Laura McIver said the governor’s veto was “ethically the right thing to do for our Oklahoma public lands that are set aside for outdoor recreation and harvests of wild game.”
Goodpasture said it is important that Oklahomans stay diligent about their hunting rights. He expects more legislative battles in the future and urged Oklahoma sportsmen and women to consider joining a wildlife conservation group such as NWTF or Quail Forever.
“It’s going to be my soapbox going forward,” Goodpasture said. “It’s going to be more important than ever to join conservation groups who have the resources to stay on top of this stuff full time.”
Turkey season coming to an end
Spring turkey hunting season ends Monday and by most accounts it has been a down year, especially in western Oklahoma.
“It’s been tough,” Goodpasture said. “Western Oklahoma has really suffered the last couple of years with some pretty poor hatches. Even where I am hunting out in Major County it is very evident by the lack of jakes.”
Before spring turkey season opened, Wildlife Department biologists were reporting the population had declined from last season, and Goodpasture said poor hunting reports throughout the season were "pretty widespread" in western Oklahoma.
“It’s not a sky is falling situation, I don’t think, but if we don’t have a good hatch this year it’s not going to be any better next year,” he said.