Jon Kocan

Jon Kocan

If you want it to be easier to deer hunt with a handgun or not have issues bringing back an animal harvested out of state, your opinion matters when it comes to changes in regulations. Just be sure you don’t harvest a bear with a collar.

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation recently sent out an email “highlighting” proposed rules changes for the upcoming year. I went through and found a few more things that should also be considered “highlights.”

The comment period for proposed rules changes is set to run through Jan. 4, and the wildlife department wants to know what you think.

Proposed in the changes is eliminating many restrictions on handguns that can be used for hunting deer. Currently, there are caliber, bullet weight and barrel length regulations. If the proposed changes are approved, the only language for defining a legal handgun for hunting would be, “Any centerfire handgun firing a single projectile. Minimum barrel length is four inches. Fully automatic firearms are prohibited.”

This would be a dramatic reduction in the regulations that define what a legal handgun for deer hunting is.

The biggest changes proposed center around the import of cervids (deer, elk, ect.) and a framework for responding to an outbreak of Chronic Wasting Disease in our state. Proposed regulations would suspend import authorization of animals that originate from states or provinces where CWD has been identified in free-ranging herds.

It goes on to state that imported animals from states or provinces where CWD has not been identified will be required to participate in a CWD surveillance and certification program. At least two states are currently dealing with outbreaks of CWD, which is a topic for next week’s column.

To go along with the concern about bringing CWD into Oklahoma is the need to make changes and additional rules concerning the import of live cervids or parts of their carcasses.

Proposed will be a new requirement that, “No person shall import, transport or possess any cervid carcass or part of a cervid carcass from outside the boundaries of Oklahoma. The following items are the only exceptions: 1)Antlers and or antlers attached to clean skull plate or clean skull – all tissue removed; 2) Animals quarters containing no spinal materials or meat with all parts of the spinal column removed; 3) Cleaned teeth; 4) Finished taxidermy products; 5) Hides or tanned products.”

The quick interpretation is that it will be against the law to bring back a whole carcass of a deer, elk or any other cervid from another state. You will have to quarter the animal to eliminate “spinal material,” and either leave your antlers at a taxidermist out of state or boil the skull or skull plate in a hurry before you cross the state line. Once again, this and CWD are going to be a great topic for next week. But more changes have also been proposed.

The language used to define a legal firearm for deer hunting is set to eliminate minimum bullet weight and cartridge case length.

Opening year-round raccoon hunting has also been proposed, along with opening all areas south of Interstate 40 and east of US Highway 69 to bear hunting. If you do bear hunt, be sure and note that it’s proposed to make it illegal to harvest a bear that has a collar.

These are just a few of the proposed wildlife rules changes that are open for public comment. Be sure and speak your mind.

Jon Kocan is the Stillwater News Press outdoors writer and a longtime hunter. He can be reached at jkocan@stwnewspress.com.