Each year it is a guessing game as to what is the hot topic at the State Legislature. On the years that hunting and fishing are high up on the list, it makes for some interesting debate.
This year it seems that the Senate has had the most interest in hunting and fishing bills, and not many of those are controversial in nature.
While most of the bills this year seem to be of a housekeeping measure, tweaking laws here and there, there are a couple of bills that might draw some debate on the house and senate floors.
Also, there are bills that are being held over from last year’s session thanks to a change in the state procedures. So issues that did not receive a vote last year, can be brought back to active status. Several of such bills are on the books, but many will just die out. Many of these bills deal with specialized types of hunting or licenses.
Here are a few of the wildlife bills that have been filed:
• SB1312 – Authorizes the Wildlife Dept. to distribute traps to landowners for nuisance wildlife
• SB1636 – Requires the Wildlife Dept. to study and report to the Governor on SE elk populations.
• SB 1841 – Opens up the restrictions on hunting feral swine. No permits required to hunt at night.
• SB 1746 – Opens squirrel hunting year-round.
• SB 1952 – Allows individuals to breed quail for food use without a license.
Unfortunately, as with most legislation, the authors of these bills are only doing what the interest groups want. They usually have very little knowledge of biology or law enforcement.
Once a bill is introduced, it is assigned to a committee in the house of origin. From the committee, the bill can be tabled, modified or passed on to the house of origin for a vote. If the house of origin passes the bill, the bill then proceeds to the opposite house, where it is assigned to a committee. The committee can table, modify or pass the bill to the floor for a vote. If the bill passes both houses in its original form, it goes to the Governor for approval or veto.
If one of the houses has modified it, the other house can accept the changes or ask for a conference committee. The conference committee contains members from each house. If the conference committee agrees on how a bill should read, it is sent to both houses for a vote. If passed by both houses it goes to the Governor for action.
Light goose season approaching
Goose hunters have an opportunity to extend the hunting season and benefit Arctic waterfowl breeding grounds at the same time thanks to the Conservation Order Light Goose Season (COLGS), designed to reduce the mid-continent light goose population. The season opens Feb. 13 and runs through March 30.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has cooperated with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to establish the COLGS in Oklahoma because populations of light geese have grown to the point that they are causing serious damage to their arctic breeding ground in Canada. This over-population not only hurts the light geese, but it also impacts other migratory birds and arctic wildlife.
There are no daily or possession limits on light geese during COLGS, and shooting hours are extended for the season to one half hour after sunset. Waterfowlers also can use electronic calls and unplugged shotguns to increase their chances.
Hunters who participate in the COLGS must use only federally-approved, nontoxic shot as well as have all necessary licenses, waterfowl stamps and a Harvest Information Program (HIP) Permit in their possession while hunting. For complete license information, see the “Oklahoma Waterfowl Guide” or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
Federal law requires that the Wildlife Department estimate the harvest of light geese during the Conservation Order Light Goose Season. Hunters who plan to pursue snow, blue and Ross’ geese during COLGS are required to register for the season by registering a harvest survey online at wildlifedepartment.com.
For more information about snow geese over-population and the COLGS visit the US Fish and Wildlife Service Migratory Bird Office at www.fws.gov/migratorybirds.