Apparently, the conventional thinking that “if it's brown, it's down” still prevails in Oklahoma.
On Monday, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission decided against the proposed deer hunting regulation that would have limited hunters to one buck during the combined gun and muzzleloader season.
Commissioners didn't vote on the proposal, but instead voted unanimously to withdraw it from consideration, perhaps to give them some cover when they face their constituents that supported it.
Commissioner John Zelbst of Lawton, chairman of the Wildlife Commission's rule committee, said afterward that the proposal is dead for this year. It could be reintroduced next year but, “I do not believe it will come up again for maybe two or three years,” Zelbst said.
The proposal to reduce the buck limit for gun hunters was very controversial and the majority of Oklahoma deer hunters didn't support it, he said. Based on the feedback that the Wildlife Department received, about 60 percent of the deer hunters were against it, he said.
“We want to look at it a little longer and see if we have good science,” Zelbst said.
Even though all eight wildlife commissioners voted unanimously to withdraw the proposal from consideration, Commissioner Dan Robbins of Altus expressed some disappointment. Robbins said 22 other states have laws that protect yearling bucks.
“We protect young fish with slot limits, but we do not offer that for our deer herd,” he said. “Why don't we do the same with the deer herd? It makes biological sense.”
Robbins admitted afterward having mixed feelings about the vote. Even though the majority of Oklahoma deer hunters did not specifically support the one buck limit, the majority of hunters did support some type of restrictions to improve the age structure of the state's deer herd, either through a buck limit, antler restrictions or requiring hunters to harvest a doe before they use their buck tag.
Of the 1,809 public comments received by the Wildlife Department, 744 people favored the one buck proposal, 702 were against it and 363 people were against it but supported and suggested other regulations for stricter management to improve the health of the state's deer herd and increase the number of older bucks.
“Everybody gets hung up on the trophy stuff,” Robbins said. “But it's about improving the health and age structure of the deer herd. Antler size is just a byproduct.”