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Outdoors: Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation scraps proposal to lengthen deer gun season

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is no long considering adding a week to the 16-day gun season as previously proposed. Instead, the agency is hoping hunters in the future will take more does through increased bag limits and by extending the holiday antlerless season. [PHOTO BY BOBBY HINES]
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is no long considering adding a week to the 16-day gun season as previously proposed. Instead, the agency is hoping hunters in the future will take more does through increased bag limits and by extending the holiday antlerless season. [PHOTO BY BOBBY HINES]

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will not recommend to the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission on Tuesday that deer gun season be extended for a week.

Instead, the agency wants to increase bag limits on does during the rifle and muzzleloader seasons in certain areas of the state and add more hunting days to the holiday antlerless season.

Adding a week to the deer gun season — making it 23 days instead of the present 16 days — was under consideration during the agency's annual review of hunting regulations and the most controversial topic among this year's proposals. Deer hunters were divided on the issue and the Wildlife Department is withdrawing the proposal.

"In response to public comments regarding increasing deer gun season to 23 days, the staff is proposing withdrawing it at this time, keeping deer gun season at 16 days, and instead maintaining the proposal to allow the Commission by resolution to extend the holiday antlerless season and to increase antlerless deer bag limits for muzzleloader and gun season within certain zones where additional antlerless deer harvest is needed," state wildlife officials wrote in the agenda for Tuesday's meeting of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission, the governing body for the agency.

Bill Dinkines, head of the wildlife division for the Wildlife Department, said on Friday that the agency received the most public comments it ever has on the proposal to extend deer gun season. The agency is now looking at other ways to increase the antleress harvest "across the state where we need it" instead of adding seven more days to deer gun season.

"We are not talking about buck changes at all," Dinkines said. "A balanced herd is a healthy herd and right now around 36 percent of the total harvest is antlerless deer. There are places we may need it up to 50 percent right now because we are not keeping up."

Even though the Wildlife Department is no longer suggesting adding another week to the deer gun season as a way to get more does harvested, commissioners on Tuesday might still choose to take action on it.

The proposal before the commission on Tuesday would change the rules so commissioners could later by resolution increase bag limits on antlerless deer in regions of the state where it is needed, Dinkines said.

"They are not going to make any changes Tuesday to the actual seasons or bag limits," he said. "It is just giving the commission a little more flexibility down the road."

Other hunting proposals on Tuesday's agenda would open all of Osage County to pheasant hunting and allow many of the wildlife management areas to be open for all of archery deer season.

Another rule proposal is an attempt to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease in deer and elk by not allowing hunters to transport carcasses into Oklahoma. Hunters could bring into Oklahoma the clean skull, antlers and boned out meat from the animal.

"This (regulation) gets us in line with pretty much the rest of the nation," Dinkines said.

On the fishing side, the Wildlife Department is proposing reducing the daily trout limit on the Lower Mountain Fork River in southeastern Oklahoma from six to three and increasing the minimum length limit on rainbow and brown trout.

"We are trying to reduce out trout costs," said Barry Bolton, head of fisheries for the Wildlife Department. "The costs continue to go up. We got to do something. We are not getting additions to the budget."

The Wildlife Department buys hatchery-raised trout and puts them in Oklahoma rivers and lakes for fishing. The Lower Mountain Fork is Oklahoma's most popular trout stream.

Another proposed fishing regulation would require anglers to e-check alligator gar as hunters presently due for game. Currently, anglers who snag an alligator gar are supposed to notify the Wildlife Department by phone, but not many people were doing so, Bolton said.

"This will make it real simple and we will get a little more compliance, I think," he said.

The agency also is proposing removing the minimum length limit for blue and channel catfish on Lake Texoma to make it the same as the Texas regulation. Oklahoma and Texas share Lake Texoma and it can be confusing for anglers which side of the lake they are on.

All of the proposed 2020 hunting and fishing rule changes are scheduled to be voted on at Tuesday's commission meeting in Oklahoma City at Wildlife Department headquarters, 1801 N. Lincoln Boulevard. The meeting begins at 9 a.m.

Noted fly fisherman and author to appear in OKC

Fly fisherman and author Charlie Craven will be in Oklahoma City on Tuesday to speak and give fly-tying demonstrations of his many signature fly patterns.

Craven is the owner and operator of Charlie’s Fly Box in Arvada, Colorado, and was named by Fly Fisherman magazine as one of the most 50 most influential in fly fishing.

A columnist for the magazine, Craven has written three books about fly fishing. He will be signing copies Tuesday in Oklahoma City at the joint meeting of the local 89er Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Prairie Fly Fishers conservation organizations.

The program will be from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. at Wildlife Department headquarters, 1801 N. Lincoln. It is free to the public.

For more information, call 89er Chapter president Kevin McHaffey 405-596-0108.

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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