During its regular February meeting, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission approved the entire slate of proposed regulation changes as recommended by Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Communication and Education Chief Nels Rodefeld and Wildlife Chief Bill Dinkines, with the exception of one proposal dealing with season-long waterfowl blinds.
Commissioners had considered all public comments on the rule change proposals before voting. The changes will become effective later this year upon legislative and gubernatorial action, and they will be reflected in the annual 2023-24 Oklahoma Fishing and Hunting Regulations to be published around August.
Some of the new regulations approved Monday will:
- Extend squirrel hunting season through Feb. 28 annually.
- Decrease the state hunter education course from eight hours to six hours.
- Extend the closing time to one-half hour after official sunset on shooting ranges at ODWC-managed properties.
- Establish archery range rules for ODWC shooting ranges with archery facilities.
- Add beehives to the list of agricultural crops subject to wildlife depredation complaints, and add black bears to the list of big game animals covered under the Nuisance Wildlife Control Program.
Commissioners tabled a proposed rule change that originated from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to change waterfowl hunting on Corps land to daily blinds only. Currently, season-long “permanent” duck blinds are allowed on four Corps lakes in eastern Oklahoma. Commissioner James V. Barwick, Rules Committee Chairman, suggested that alternatives to this proposal could likely be found and that the Commission could revisit the issue in a future meeting.
In other business:
- ODWC Big Game Biologist Dallas Barber reported on the Department’s successful deer management strategies and announced that hunters this year will set records for total deer and total antlerless deer harvested.
- ODWC Education Supervisor Colin Berg reported on the success of the Department’s shooting sports programs, including Archery in the Schools, Oklahoma Scholastic Shooting Sports Program, and Varsity Archery. He also spoke about ODWC's role in the FFA Sporting Clays Program.
- In his regular Director’s Report, Wildlife Department Director J.D. Strong provided updates from ODWC’s various divisions since the previous meeting. He said this year’s Rack Madness public antler-scoring event is set for Feb. 24 at ODWC headquarters at 1801 N. Lincoln Blvd. in Oklahoma City; registration is underway at www.GoOutdoorsOklahoma.com. The free event will culminate with a drawing for a lifetime combination hunting/fishing license provided by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Foundation.
- Legislative Liaison Catherine Appling-Pooler reported that about 35 bills potentially affecting ODWC have been filed for the state legislative session that opened Monday.
- Commissioners recognized ODWC Wildlife Biologist Clay Barnes and Wildlife Biologist Russell Perry for 20 years of service.
The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The Commission establishes state hunting and fishing regulations, sets policy for the Wildlife Department and indirectly oversees all state fish and wildlife conservation activities. Commission members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Oklahoma Senate.
The next scheduled Commission meeting is set for March 6, 2023.
To view a video recording of the Feb. 6 meeting, go to the Outdoor Oklahoma YouTube Channel at https://www.youtube.com/live/5-3gVSEBQ4w.
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