Commission Considers Extended Deer Gun Season and Special Youth Hunt

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The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission heard at its regular December meeting that the Wildlife Department will be proposing a variety of hunting regulation changes for next year at public meetings to be held in January across the state.

Most prominent on the list of changes are proposals to add seven days onto the regular deer gun season, and create a special three-day antlerless only youth deer gun season in mid-October.

"We are proposing these changes for two reasons," said Alan Peoples, wildlife chief for the Department. "First, we want to provide additional opportunities to Oklahoma sportsmen, and second, to allow us to better manage our wildlife resources across the state."

The statewide youth deer gun season proposal is modeled after similar seasons in other states.

"It is important that we do what we can to introduce young hunters to the sport," Peoples said. "This youth deer season would provide a great opportunity for youth to spend time afield."

Other proposed rule changes include: making muzzleloading pistols legal for deer hunting during the muzzleloader season, closing rabbit season February 15, and several housekeeping items affecting wildlife management areas and the Deer Management Assistance Program.

In other business, Commissioners saw an online license sales presentation from Melinda Sturgess-Streich, chief of administration for the Department.

"We feel this will be a great resource for the sportsmen of the state, as well provide an additional way to sell licenses which will be both efficient and cost-effective," Sturgess-Streich said.

Targeted to debut in 2003, online license sales will provide both residents and non-residents alike the ability to buy a hunting or fishing license from the comfort of their home. Commissioners approved a $3 convenience fee to help defray the costs of accepting online credit card orders.

Commissioners approved a single elk hunt, to be sold by sealed bid auction, on Cookson Hills Wildlife Management Area. The proceeds will again go to sponsor the Hunters Against Hunger program.

Commissioners voted to accept a $17,000 donation for the Hunters Against Hunger program. The funds were from an auction last August to benefit the successful program, which the Department now administers. Since 1991, this program has continued to grow through the generosity of Oklahoma sportsmen. In the year 2001 alone, Oklahoma hunters donated more than 25,800 pounds of venison to the Hunters Against Hunger program, which facilitates the distribution of the deer meat to needy families in the state. The unique program helped to provide 103,000 meals during the past year.

Commissioners accepted a donation of $3,880 from the Oklahoma Game Wardens Association to be used for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Youth Camp.

"This is a great program the Department offers," said John Streich, law enforcement chief for the Department. "It is great to see these kids interact with wildlife professionals in a positive environment."

Held near Ponca City, the four-day camp offers approximately 40 youths the opportunity to learn about wildlife conservation and the responsibilities of game wardens, biologists, and other wildlife professionals.

Commissioners accepted a donation of $500 from Dennis Byrd, former New York Jets professional football player. The donation will go to pay for aircraft rental time to patrol several areas in northeast Oklahoma.

A 25-year lease between the City of Antlers and the Department for a radio tower in Pushmataha County was approved by Commissioners.

In other business, Director Greg Duffy commended Jamie Cole, Oklahoma Game Warden for Pawnee County, for his 20 years of service to the Department.

"Jamie has been a valuable employee for the Department in both the Fisheries and Law Enforcement divisions," Duffy said.

Cole originally started work at the Durant Fish Hatchery where he became the assistant hatchery manager; he has been in law enforcement since 1987.

Earl Groves, district manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, presented a certificate of appreciation to Harold Namminga, federal aid coordinator for the Department.

"For over 30 years the Corps of Engineers has had an excellent working relationship with the Department," Groves said. "Harold's work on a variety of projects has been invaluable and it is employees like him who have made this working relationship such a success."

Namminga and fellow Wildlife Department personnel played an integral role in the recent completion of a boat launch complex on Keystone Lake near Mannford. The project was a cooperative effort between the Department, the City of Mannford, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The Wildlife 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 Senate.

The next scheduled Commission meeting is January 6 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters (auditorium), at the corner of 18th and North Lincoln, Oklahoma City at 9:00 a.m.