Wow, imagine my excitement when I learned that Oklahoma would have its first Bear Season! I found out when I picked up the new wildlife regulation booklet at Wal-Mart about two weeks ago. I noticed that Oklahoma's Bear Season would coincide with the Black Powder season and that got me into a planning mode. I was making plans to head down to the mountains and do a little Deer hunting with the hopes of getting one of the first Black Bears in Oklahoma.
Last weekend I had a cookout for family members. My cousin and I got to talking about the new Oklahoma Black Bear hunting season. He caught me off guard when he said that he wouldn't be going Black Bear hunting. I asked why and he said he wasn't going to pay the $101 for a Bear Tag.
"But you have a Lifetime License, you don't have to pay those fees" I said
"Better go read the regs, Lifetime license holders are not exempt" he said
So I went into the house and grabbed my regulations. I couldn't believe it! He was right!
I simply could not believe that the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation was going to make Lifetime License holders pay to hunt Bear. Hell, some of the same public land that is open to Bear hunting was bought with money from the Lifetime Hunting funds! How dare them!
Needless to say, my plans for a Camping/Deer/Bear hunting trip quickly vanished. It's not that I can't afford the $101, it's that I'm not going to pay it!
What Is Happening At The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife?
My Dad bought my Combination Lifetime Hunting & Fishing license for my 16th birthday. I can honestly say they've paid for their self many times over. He paid $225 back then. A bargain by any stretch of the imagination.
Over the years, I've been a supporter of the Wildlife Department. I use to buy the WMA Atlases and still buy the Habitat patches. Each year I stop by their booth at the Tulsa Boat and Travel show and buy cookbooks and other items for gifts for friends and family. I've made many donations over the years as well.
I think they've done an outstanding job in managing our State's resources. But for the last 10 years or so, I've noticed a change in policies and the mindset of the Department. It seems more and more that they're worried about revenue generation. It seems all they've been doing in Oklahoma City for a while is sitting back and dreaming of ways to increase their revenue off the backs of Oklahoma Sportsmen.
I understand times are tough. But increasing the revenues off of people who got you where you are today is not the way to do it! The funds from the Lifetime Hunting and Fishing license is suppose to go into a pool to help buy more land. So every lifetime license holder can say they helped the ODWC purchase many of the State's public lands. In return, we get these Lifetime license where we do not have to buy a hunting or fishing license and tags. Or at least that's the way it was originally set up and the way it has been for many, many years.
My cousin wrote the Department stating that he thought making Lifetime license holders have to buy a Black Bear license was unfair. Their reply in a nutshell was that "We told you when you bought the lifetime license what they would be good for. We've even upped the bag limits and added other game animals to the license making these license more valuable" Yeah, you may have stated what would be covered, but 25 years ago, hell, just 10 years ago you were still saying there were no appreciable populations of Black Bears in Oklahoma! For that matter, the Department said the same thing about Mountain Lions!
If you ask me, the letter had some major attitude with it.
Still, Lifetime means Lifetime doesn't it? Apparently not to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
As I said earlier, I believe that the ODWC has been taken over by Bureaucrats and Bean Counters. It hasn't happened overnight, but gradually over a period of time as to not raise suspicion.
Time was when our Lifetime license covered trapping, but now they have an additional "Trapping License". We now have a host of permits and fees we have to pay that we were excluded from at one time or another or that simply didn't exist in the past. This year they started licensing guides and hit them with a big license fee as well as require them to carry liability insurance (thank your insurance lobby for this). Now we have to buy an outrageously priced Bear hunting license. And the kicker is the Season will close after 20 bears have been harvested.
If the Oklahoma Bear Season is closed after a week because the 20 bear quota being met, do those who've bought a bear license get a refund because the season was closed early?
I didn't think so!
It's time we started putting people back in the ODWC that has our best interest at stake, not the bottom line or the special interest groups. It's time to get rid of the Bean Counters and pencil pushers and get some people who know what the hell they're doing. If the ODWC needs revenue, then raise the price of the Lifetime License! It's still only $775 for a Combination. Most of the surrounding states that I'm aware of, Texas, Arkansas and I believe Kansas, start at $1000 for their Lifetime License.
Don't make your revenue off the backs of the people who brought you to the dance!
If even one cent of the Lifetime Hunting funds were used to buy or manage property and habitat for Black Bear, then Oklahoma Lifetime License holders should be exempt from the Bear hunting license fees!
I'd recommend that noone buy these overpriced Bear license. If you really want to have a decent chance at killing a Bear, go to Arkansas. This way you don't have to worry about the season being closed on you, leaving your holding a piece of paper you paid $101 for if you're a Resident or $506 for if you're a non-resident, even if you're a Lifetime License holder!