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Okla. commission approved hunting, fishing changes for 2012

From Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

-- An increase of youth deer hunting opportunities and expansion of the state's black bear season to allow hunters more time to hunt were among more than 30 proposed hunting, fishing and wildlife-related rule changes voted on at the March Wildlife Conservation Commission meeting.

The Commission also changed rules pertaining to the use of bait on Department lands and the use of ATVs on Honobia Creek Wildlife Management Area in southeast Oklahoma.

Youth hunters participating in the youth deer gun season will be allowed to harvest two deer, which may include no more than one buck. This allows them the option to harvest two does, whereas in previous years the season limit for the youth deer gun season was one antlered and one antlerless deer.

The Commission also voted to change the black bear archery season to Oct. 1 through the third Sunday in October with no quota. A bear muzzleloader season with a quota of 20 bears also was guaranteed, set to run concurrent with the deer muzzleloader season. Two of the three black bear seasons that have been held in Oklahoma since its inauguration in 2009 have closed within 48 hours due to quotas being met early.

Effective in July, the use of bait will be unlawful on all lands owned or managed by the Wildlife Department. What is considered baiting was clarified as the placing, depositing, exposing, distributing or scattering of shelled, shucked or unshucked corn, wheat or other grain or other feed.

The use of ATVs on Honobia Creek Wildlife Management Area in southeast Oklahoma will be changed to reflect rules requested by the landowners of the area. Full details will be printed in the 2012-13 Oklahoma Hunting Guide, available this summer.

The Commission also clarified responsibilities for enrollees in the Department's Deer Management Assistance Program as well the Department responsibilities for operating the program.

The Commission was informed of a change to spring turkey season harvest limits in central and northeast regions of the state that will go into effect for the 2013 spring season.

To address low reproductive success of wild turkeys in recent years, the harvest limit is being changed from a two-tom limit to a one-tom limit in Osage, Kay, Grant, Pawnee, Creek, Payne, Logan, Canadian, Lincoln, Okfuskee, Okmulgee, Hughes, Seminole, Pottawatomie, McClain, Grady, Pontotoc, Garvin, Johnston, Murray, Carter, Love, Washington, Nowata, Craig, Wagoner, Cherokee, Adair, Muskogee, McIntosh, Sequoyah and Haskell counties. The change will not affect the 2012 spring turkey season.

"While we cannot control the weather and nesting success of our state's wild turkeys, this is one measure we can use to help the birds recover from a few years that were not ideal for nesting success," Peoples said. "Wild turkey populations in these regions have declined somewhat, and we want to do what we can to ensure they continue to thrive. Many of our sportsmen feel the same way."

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