Hunters and anglers likely will soon be able to buy fishing and hunting licenses that will be good for one year from the date of purchase.
The Oklahoma House of Representatives on Thursday passed SB 1696 and the bill is now on its way to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s desk for signature.
If the governor signs the bill, it will create annual hunting, fishing and combination hunting / fishing licenses that are valid for 365 days from purchase. It will eliminate the fiscal year and calendar year licenses that are currently sold.
The state’s general hunting and fishing licenses now expire based on a set date – Dec. 31 or June 30 – regardless of when the license is purchased.
The bill, authored by Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 79-1 on Thursday. It previously passed the state Senate by a vote of 46-0.
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The price of a resident annual hunting license would be $ 32, the same as the current fiscal year hunting license. The price of a resident fishing license would stay at $ 25. The annual combination hunting and fishing license would be $ 53 under the bill.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is still hoping to consolidate more licenses before the 2022 legislative session ends in a month, said Corey Jager, the legislative liaison for the agency.
“We do have a couple of bills that are still alive that we may still be able to make some of those changes, like consolidating youth licenses, consolidating deer licenses,” Jager said.
“Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll see if we can work some of that stuff out in conference committee, but we don’t have language in any of those bills at the moment.”
The Wildlife Department had sought legislation that would have given the agency the authority to change licenses and fees through administrative rules, just as it currently does with the agency’s hunting and fishing regulations, rather than through the legislative process.
Presently, the Wildlife Department must get a bill passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor if it wants to change a license or fee. State wildlife officials argued it would be easier to consolidate licenses and streamline the licensing system through the agency’s administrative rules.
However, lawmakers had little interest as the legislation died in conference committees.
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Airbows for big game hunting?
Senate Bill 1571 would allow airbows for hunting during any rifle season. An airbow is an arrow-shooting air gun. It’s like a crossbow that uses air pressure to fire an arrow.
“They are not technically classified as firearms and they are not technically classified as archery equipment,” Jager said.
Because airbows are not subject to federal excise tax like firearms and archery equipment, Oklahoma hunters will have to buy a $ 20 permit to use the equipment for big game hunting if it is legalized, she said.
The $ 20 permit helps compensate for the loss of revenue the Wildlife Department would normally receive if the sale of airbows were taxed like firearms, she said.
The revenue from federal excise taxes on firearms, ammunition and archery goes into a Wildlife Restoration Account administered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The money is dispersed to state wildlife agencies based on the size of the states and the number of licensed hunters.
Airbows are currently legal in Oklahoma only for small game and hog hunting, Jager said. The bill is now awaiting action in the Oklahoma Senate.
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Controlled hunt changes
The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission approved changes to the Wildlife Department’s controlled hunts program at its April meeting.
The changes, which will be enacted next year for the 2023 hunts, include a hybrid application system that maintains the same hunt choice options as are currently allowed (up to 14 hunt choices across four categories for a $ 5 application fee) while also allowing extra hunters choices at $ 3 per choice.
Also new, half of all once-in-a-lifetime permits (elk and antelope) will be drawn from those with 20 preference points or more, while everyone who applies will be eligible for the other 50 percent of permits. Hunters earn preference points each time they apply but are not selected, increasing their chances of winning the next time.
The Wildlife Department each year, through its controlled hunts lottery system, offers special hunts on lands that are not normally open for hunting, such as the elk hunts on the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge and archery deer hunts at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant.
Hunters can apply for this year’s controlled hunts through May 20.
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The fishing will be Grand
The Grand Lake O ‘the Cherokees will be the site this week of the 2022 TNT Fireworks BASS Nation Central Regional.
Anglers from Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana will be competing May 4-6, launching from Wolf Creek Park each day at 6:15 am Weigh-ins at the park will be at 2:15 pm
Anglers from across the country qualified for this event through their respective state chapters, and the top boater and top co-angler from each state will qualify for the TNT Fireworks BASS Nation Championship Nov. 9-11 on Pickwick Lake in Alabama.
Jason Christie, the Bassmaster Classic champion from Oklahoma, expects the fishing to be good on Grand Lake.
“Generally, the first week of May is wide open,” Christie said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if someone won it deep or if someone won it in less than 2 feet or if someone won it somewhere in the middle.
“There isn’t a creek or section of the lake that will be dead. As an angler, that’s what you want. Guys can spread out.”
Along with the docks, there is also plenty of rock and wood in the lake. With plenty of cover and miles of fishable water to investigate, Christie believes a variety of techniques will play.
A Biffle Bug paired with a swinghead is a popular technique along with spinnerbaits around the shad spawn. Squarebills, jigs, Spooks and creature baits will play around docks as well.
“The water could be 3 feet high and they could be flipping willows,” Christie said. “The first week of May, if I had to put my finger on it, will probably be a shad spawn deal in the morning and then maybe in the afternoon they go sight fishing.”
Reporter Ed Godfrey looks for stories that impact your life. Be it news, outdoors, sports – you name it, he wants to report it. Have a story idea? Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @EdGodfrey. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.