Kelly Bostian: Deer limit proposal scrapped, baitfish rule modified
BY KELLY BOSTIAN Outdoors
Tuesday, February 05, 2013
2/05/13 at 6:06 AM
Go to Kelly Bostian's blog
Find everything you need to know about the Bassmaster Classic, which
comes to Grand Lake and Tulsa on Feb. 22-24. This site will be home to
news, videos, maps, schedules and guides to follow the event.
Original Print Headline: Deer limit proposal scrapped
Public participation in the wildlife regulation proposal process led the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife and the Conservation Commission to modify one of the more controversial new regulations proposals it entertained this winter and to entirely withdraw another at its regular meeting Monday in Oklahoma City.
A proposed one-buck combined limit for firearms seasons was withdrawn and a proposal to control use of baitfish was modified and adopted.
Commissioners said a proposal to limit deer hunters to just one buck killed with a firearm was one of the most controversial they've seen in years with nearly 2,000 public comments received. Oklahoma hunters are allowed a combined limit of six deer per season, only two of which may be bucks. Archery hunters may arrow two bucks, but firearms hunters are limited to one buck in muzzleloader season and one in modern rifle season. The proposal would have limited hunters to taking a second buck with archery equipment only.
"It is the most deeply divided issue that's come before us since I've been on the commission," said District 1 Commissioner M. David Riggs of Sand Springs.
District 6 Commissioner John P. Zelbst of Lawton, chairman of the commission's rules committee, said that withdrawing the proposal rather than putting it to an up-or-down vote seemed the best course.
"We thought we were not really in a position where we have any science that would back up that proposal, although obviously there is some science out there on this subject," Zelbst said.
Zelbst said he is not aware of any set plans to revisit the proposal in the near future.
The rules committee voted unanimously to withdraw the proposal, as did the full commission, Riggs said.
Both commissioners said comments for and against the proposal were roughly split down the middle, "perhaps 60-40 against," Zelbst said. The robust public comment boosted their faith in the system.
Public participation early in the process also led to modification of a proposal that would have prevented anglers from collecting bait in one body of water and using it in another. Department officials worked to modify that plan and presented a re-worked idea to the commission Monday and it passed.
The proposal was made with the intent to halt the spread of invasive silver and bighead carp. Those species, which are plankton feeders, have invaded waters in other states and ruined fisheries.
"When fish are little that's what they all eat. If a population of these invasives explodes like they have in some Illinois and Upper Mississippi fisheries, there is a very real chance of them outcompeting not just other filter feeders but everything else," said Gene Gilliland, assistant chief of fisheries.
Instead of restricting use of bait statewide, the compromise proposal limits use of baitfish from listed waters where invasive species have been documented. Currently that includes the Grand River system from Hudson Dam upstream including the Spring and Neosho rivers to the state line and the Red River system from the Denison Dam (Lake Texoma Dam) downstream to the Arkansas state line.
The new rule is constructed so that, if in the future the Asian carp species are found in other rivers or lakes, then those places would be added to the list of restricted waters.
Gilliland said as a general rule it always is best to catch bait and use it in the same body of water where it is captured and that extra surviving bait never should be released into another water body.
The baitfish proposal and others passed by the commission on Monday now will go to a state legislative review committee for a vote and then go to Gov. Mary Fallin for signature. New proposals would go into effect in 2014.