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The spring turkey season will start later and the bag limit will be lower for hunters next year.

After much debate Monday morning, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission voted to move the opening of the spring turkey season to April 16 statewide and lower the bag limit for turkeys. ‘a one-tome hunter statewide.

The bag limit for the fall turkey season will also be one statewide. The spring season had opened 10 days earlier and the bag limit was three per hunter statewide.

“The later start date and a bird’s bag limit for the turkey’s spring season will protect both dominant and mature toms during peak breeding,” Eric Suttles, wildlife supervisor of the turkey, told the commission. Southeastern region of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

The spring hunting season will run until May 16. The young turkey season will take place the weekend before the opening of April 16.

For the fall turkey season, only shotguns will be permitted in counties already open to shotgun hunting. Archery season will open statewide in the fall.

The regulatory changes are a result of declining turkey populations in the state. Seventy-six percent of Oklahoma’s turkey hunters failed to kill a bird last year, and only 19 percent killed a bird.

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Rio Grande turkey populations are down 67% from three years ago in southwestern Oklahoma and 55% in northwestern Oklahoma, according to winter surveys by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Other areas of the state have seen less severe declines, but the population trend is declining statewide, Suttles said.

The agency recommended drastic changes to the turkey hunt to the commission earlier this month, but then commissioners delayed the vote for further study.

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At Monday’s special meeting, the commission voted 5-2 to follow the agency’s recommendations, but only after another catch-limit plan from Commissioner James Barwick narrowly failed.

Barwick suggested a two-tom bag limit statewide, only one per county, with at least one bird to be harvested with archery equipment. Since statistics show that only 6% of Oklahoma turkeys are captured by archery hunters, Barwick argued that it doesn’t make sense to limit their opportunities in the field.

Rick Nolan of the Oklahoma National Wild Turkey Federation spoke in favor of the Department of Wildlife’s proposal at Monday’s meeting.

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Rick Newman of Oklahoma City, who hunts turkeys statewide, urged commissioners to consider a limit of two bags instead of just one, saying the turkey population is still high in parts of the country. Oklahoma. He also called for a more regionalized approach to the problem.

“I don’t want to go all the way to the last step first,” Newman said.

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JD Strong, director of the Department of Wildlife, admitted state wildlife officials were struggling to decide whether to reduce the bag limit to two or one. But they ultimately went with the recommendation of a one-tome limit due to the gravity of the situation, he said.

Other states are also seeing a decline in wild turkey populations, Strong said.

Suttles predicted that it would take at least three years before seeing positive results in turkey populations thanks to regulatory changes.

Journalist Ed Godfrey searches for stories that impact your life. Whether it’s news, outdoors, sports – you name it, it wants to point it out. Do you have a story idea? Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter @EdGodfrey. Support his work and that of fellow Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.