If you're an outdoorsman, you need to be part of the conversation that is taking place right now at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Rule changes have been proposed and the time for public comment is now.

What's being changed? Here's the rundown.

Hunter Education:

The current mandatory hunter education class new hunters must take is eight hours of brutal common sense. It's mostly about hunter safety, proper gun safety, archery safety, fair chase, etc...

It's geared towards the youngest hunters out there, under 10 years old. I had to take it my first year hunting in Oklahoma at 22 in Lawton. It was brutal. Eight hours of little-to-no relevant information, just a "cover our butts" liability release from the state much similar to the laughable average basic concealed carry course.

The new proposal is for Oklahoma's hunter education to be shortened to six hours, and for the information you get during the course, the state could skip it altogether... but on the positive side, included in this change, specified hunter education instructors will be hired to handle the shorter courses, which I can only assume will be infinitely more beneficial than being red the law by a game warden that so obviously doesn't want to be there anyway.

Public Lands Use:

There is a blurb in the proposed changes to add Keystone State Park to the list of public hunting lands for deer and waterfowl. Being a huge and sprawling wild lake in NEOK, it's only natural to do so, but it's not without worry.

It's not the hunter risk to people that enjoy the hiking trails and outdoor living there during our mild fall and winters, it's the probability this will close one of the great public off-road parks from October 1st through January 15th each year.

My family is from Northcentral Oklahoma, our local reservoir is Kaw Lake. When I get time with my nephews, we load up the motorcycles and ATV's and hit the trails. Unfortunately, when the state opened the lake up to public hunting, this caused the trails to be closed during the full hunting season each year, which is a bummer since winter features the best trail conditions throughout the year. This same closure will be the likely result of the winter trails around Keystone Lake.

It's been a contentious thing, trails use vs hunting use. The way I figure, it's public land available to the full public. Do you want to hunt it? Go ahead... but don't mind my putting around on the four-wheeler.

The proposals also open new public lands around even more reservoirs, most notably Fort Gibson. Other blurbs will re-zone current hunting grounds or close them permanently. You'll be the first to know if they're your hunting grounds.

The Hunt:

Soon, all waterfowl hunting blinds on state reservoirs shall be daily-only-blinds only. No more building blinds for the season. Pack it in and take it out each day... good news for Bass Pro I suppose.

The squirrel hunting season is being extended to May 15th through February 28th statewide. The six weeks you're not allowed to harvest is when squirrels birth and raise their youth.

While Oklahoma had an emergency addendum to allow air-powered arrow rifles as legal means of harvest for 2022, there is a permanent addition of this method added to the rule changes. They've also removed the length requirement for handguns to clarify the rule, focusing instead on caliber.

Since bears have had such a successful reintroduction now thriving in Oklahoma, ODWC is easing the rules for those being forced to kill nuisance animals in regard to agricultural depredation. This is protection not only for cattle and livestock but for bee populations too.

If you'd like to read the full text, click here.

As a citizen of Oklahoma, you have until January 6th to let your opinion be heard. Here are the different ways you can do so.

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