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Legislature approves bill to bundle Oklahoma hunting and fishing licenses, increase fees


A bill to streamline Oklahoma’s hunting and fishing licenses is headed to the governor’s desk after a multiyear journey through the legislature. The measure also hikes hunting license fees for the first time in two decades.

“We're combining 46 licenses into 14,” Sen. David Bullard, R-Durant, said when he presented the bill to the Senate last year. “And it simplifies the code and system, making it easier to purchase a license in the state of Oklahoma.”

Bullard said he introduced Senate Bill 941 at the request of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, which oversees hunting and fishing rules and licensing. The measure has broad bipartisan support.

In an interview last year, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation spokesperson Micah Holmes said confusion about rules and licensing is the “No. 1 barrier,” to people getting involved in hunting or fishing.

SB 941 would also raise licensing fees. A year-long hunting license for adults from out-of-state will increase from $175 to $208. That’s the average price for similar licenses among Oklahoma’s neighbors, according to Rep. Rick West, R-Heavener, who wrote an amendment to the bill.

The bill also calls on the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife to evaluate licensing fees every 5 years.

“It's been 20 years now since we have done any kind of fee increase,” Bullard said last spring. “So this was at [the ODWC’s] request — to go back in, analyze it, see what our inflationary costs have been, to reanalyze the need — so that we don't wait another 20 years.”

The bill has had a long journey. Last year, the measure made it through the Senate and the House Wildlife Committee, but the full House of Representatives didn’t vote on it before the end of the legislative session.

An amended version of the bill has nearly crossed the finish line this year. The House made some tweaks and the Senate approved those changes this week. All that awaits is the governor’s signature.

During a House Wildlife Committee meeting last year, Rep. Eddy Dempsey, R-Valliant, questioned whether the bill would drive away out-of-state money. Most youth hunters come to Oklahoma for one weekend to hunt deer, Dempsey said. This measure would roll all youth licenses into one catchall, year-long license for $100 — technically a better deal than before, but more expensive than a short term deer license.

“I would remind you, it is not the responsibility of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife to set season dates, bag limits and license fees to provide financial benefits to Oklahoma businesses,” Rep. Rick West said during that same committee meeting. “The Oklahoma Department Wildlife has two main responsibilities: to protect the resources and to provide the best hunting opportunities possible for Oklahoma hunters.”

If Gov. Kevin Stitt signs the measure, it will go into effect on July 1.

This report was produced by the Oklahoma Public Media Exchange, a collaboration of public media organizations. Help support collaborative journalism by donating at the link at the top of this webpage.

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