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Deer Déjà Vu

Posted Apr. 1, 1998

"It's like déjà vu all over again" Yogi Berra. Once again, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) Commission has approved, and then reversed, the addition of seven days to the deer rifle season.

Much of the reported concern was the perception that increased season length would lead to a corresponding lengthening of landowner problems with trespassers and poachers. This is perplexing. How does increasing legal season affect poachers? Efficient poachers avoid open season, knowing there are more eyes and ears in the woods. Other landowners expressed their desire to limit hunters (only those with permission are hunters) to the current season.

Again, perplexing. Landowners can enforce any season length for hunters on their land; they can limit it to opening day if they desire. Another argument came from southeastern Oklahoma, where school is traditionally closed and many take off work during Thanksgiving week for rifle season. "How could we extend this another week?" The simple answer: Don't take off work or close school the extra week!

Oklahoma landowners and managers interested in improving their deer herds have their hands tied due to overrestrictive regulations limiting doe harvest. The addition of another week might have loosened the knots a little, if additional doe harvest opportunity was included.

Oklahoma landowners and managers interested in gaining income from lease hunting were also short-changed by this decision. Much of the potential revenue rests with nonresident hunters. A relatively short rifle season leaves Oklahoma at a competitive disadvantage to other states with more liberal seasons.

Finally, I recall a vocal group of farmers a few years back complaining about how unresponsive the ODWC was to deer depredation problems. It is ironic to now see this opposition to increased deer harvest opportunity from a similar interest group.