Sportsmen have the opportunity to log on to wildlifedepartment.com to voice their thoughts on a list of Oklahoma hunting and fishing related rule change proposals.
Most notable is a proposal to expand private lands elk hunting opportunity to statewide. For several years elk have been hunted on private lands in Caddo, Comanche, and Kiowa counties in southwest Oklahoma. More recently, Adair, Cherokee, Delaware, Mayes, Muskogee and Sequoyah counties in the northeast part of the state were added to the list of locations where these animals could be pursued by hunters. While elk were historically found in Oklahoma, the majority of the current private lands elk population found in the state is the result of animals that were either intentionally liberated or escaped from a captive facility. A recent survey showed that at least 30 of the state's 77 counties are home to elk. The proposal will allow elk hunting opportunity in every county of the state. The popular controlled hunts program will not be affected by this proposal and will continue to offer hunters lucky enough to draw a permit the chance to pursue elk on certain state and federal managed areas.
In fishing, a proposal to give the Wildlife Conservation Commission authority to set individual harvest limits on paddlefish annually would effectively lead to a two-fish harvest limit per angler next spring. Anglers would also be required to check in paddlefish through the Wildlife Department's online e-check system. These rules are currently in effect as emergency rules but must pass through the public comment period and be signed by the Governor before becoming permanent. Another fishing proposal would make it legal for noodlers to harvest blue catfish and channel catfish in addition to flatheads. Under the proposed format, noodlers would be able to harvest three blue, channel or flathead catfish, or three in aggregate, of which only one could be 30 inches or longer from May 1 through Aug. 31, annually.
A number of other hunting and fishing related rule change proposals that will affect sportsmen are being considered, and the public and view them and provide their comments through wildlifedepartment.com.
To view a complete listing of proposed rule changes or to complete an online comment form, log on to wildlifedepartment.com. The online comment period will remain open until 4:30 p.m., Jan. 10, 2014.
If comments cannot be made online, written comments will be accepted by mail untilJan. 10, 2014, at the Wildlife Department's main office in Oklahoma City (P.O. Box 53465, OKC, OK 73152).
The Wildlife Department also will be hosting a public hearing on proposed rule changes at 7 p.m., Jan. 7 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters auditorium in Oklahoma City (1801 N. Lincoln Blvd).