Nine public hearings scattered throughout the state from Jan. 8-11 are intended to provide deer hunters and other interested parties with an opportunity to provide their input on a number of recommended deer hunting regulation changes, many of which are focused on increasing antlerless hunting opportunities.
The hearings constitute the public input phase of the process, and are a critical step in helping the Department finalize hunting and fishing regulation change recommendations that are both biologically sound and sociologically acceptable. According to Alan Peoples, wildlife chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, most of the proposed changes originated from a lengthy process involving a diverse group of stakeholders called the 21st Century Deer Stakeholders Committee.
"The committee was made up of wildlife professionals, hunters, farmers and ranchers and was formed to make recommendations on managing Oklahoma^s deer population," Peoples said. "The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Department^s policy-setting body, approved sending most of that slate of changes to public hearings. Once we have the public^s input, we^ll review our proposals, make changes where appropriate, and present them to the Commission.
"Ultimately, the Wildlife Commission will decide whether or not to implement the changes based on their review of the Department^s recommendations, available biological information and feedback from the public. Once approved by the Wildlife Commission, they must then be approved by the House and Senate Rules Committee, then be signed by the Governor. Those changes that are ultimately approved will take affect in the fall of 2001."
Peoples added that harvest data from this year^s deer season makes it imperative that the Department look to implement additional population controls. The combined 2000 deer harvest is expected to top 100,000 ñ a record harvest that is 25 percent more than the previous record of 82,724, established only last year. Despite the record harvest, biologists expect the state^s deer herd will continue to increase.
"Hunters are the key to curbing population growth and creating a healthier deer herd," said Peoples. "Many of the recommended changes focus on antlerless deer, which are the key to population management."
Proposed deer hunting regulation changes include:
reducing from three to two the combined buck bag limit for all seasons. This proposal is an attempt to improve herd health by balancing the harvest between bucks and does.
creating new deer management zones based on habitat types and social considerations.
establishing a Jan 1-15 statewide antlerless-only archery season.
establishing antlerless-only, post-Christmas firearms hunts as needed in management zones determined by the Wildlife Department.
increasing to two the antlerless deer bag limit in management zones determined by the Wildlife Department.
creating a statewide Landowner Deer Permit (LDP) for private landowners or lessees with at least 100 acres that will allow much greater flexibility in harvesting antlerless deer on property covered by the LDP.
making it legal to use an unfilled buck tag to take an antlerless deer on the last day of primitive and/or rifle seasons.
prohibiting antlerless mule deer harvest statewide during the modern rifle season.
A number of changes are being proposed to the Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP), including:
allowing the seven days following the close of the statewide gun season to be either-sex.
establishing a nine-day, antlerless-only firearms hunt in mid-October on DMAP properties.
restructuring DMAP fees and participant requirements to encourage people to enroll in the program and facilitate record keeping.
Those who would like to provide input about the recommendations, but are unable to attend one of the scheduled hearings, may send comments by Jan. 17, to Attn: Deer Season Proposals, Wildlife Division-ODWC, 1801 N. Lincoln, Oklahoma City, OK 73105.
Schedule of Deer Stakeholder Public Hearings
Date: January 8, 2001; Time: 7:00 pm; Place:
TULSA - Tulsa Technology Center, 3420 S. Memorial
IDABEL - Kiamichi Technology Center, 3 miles North of Idabel on Hwy 70
ADA - Pontotoc Technology Center, 601 W. 33rd St.
WOODWARD - Northwest Electric, 2925 Williams Ave.
Date: January 9, 2001; Time: 7:00 pm; Place:
OKLAHOMA CITY - Wildlife Dept. Headquarters, 1801 N. Lincoln Blvd.
CLINTON - Clinton Sr. Citizen Center, 323 South 8th.
MUSKOGEE-Indian Capitol Technology Center, Turnpike Service Rd NW of Hwy 62
Date: January 11, 2001; Time: 7:00 pm; Place:
LAWTON - Lawton Public Library, 110 SW 4th St.
ENID - Fire Department, 301 W. Owen K. Garriott