Friday, March 10th 2023, 8:20 am
A bill to open a “velvet buck” season in Oklahoma has passed through the state senate this week and is now headed to the house of representatives for consideration.
Senate Bill 910 aims to create a nine-day archery season for bucks in velvet that would start the Saturday morning prior to the last weekend of August and go to the Sunday evening of the last weekend of August.
Velvet is a living tissue that covers antlers when they grow back in the spring and summer. The velvet is full of blood vessels that supply the growing antlers with nutrients. Wildlife experts say antlers appear larger in their late-season velvet. Then as fall approaches, antler growth stops, antlers harden, and bucks begin to shed velvet. In Oklahoma, that typically happens from late August through September.
Sen. Blake “Cowboy” Stephens, a lifelong hunter, told News On 6 he authored the bill to give hunters another nine days of deer season, to add more opportunity for hunters and to create another revenue stream.
“I can remember the first deer I harvested, and passing down that tradition to my children,” Stephens said. “With this legislation, I hope even more fellow Oklahomans can make memories and share these traditions with their own families and be a part of history when our state hosts its first velvet buck season.”
The legislation says hunters would need a hunting license, velvet buck permit or stamp to hunt in the velvet buck season.
Sen. Stephens said there would be a set number of permits, established by the Oklahoma Wildlife Commission, and hunters would have to pay, then draw out for a velvet buck permit. The cost of a permit would also be established by the commission, Stephens said.
Although it's not specified in the bill, Sen. Stephens said the velvet buck season would only be open on private land. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation said about 30% of hunters rely on public land for hunting. Sen. Stephens said there would be opportunity to expand and open it to public land in years to come.
The bill says any hunters could only harvest one velvet buck per season and that buck would count against regular season’s two-buck limit. That means hunters would still only get two buck tags per deer season.
Only a few states have seasons dedicated hunting velvet bucks, although hunting season opens early enough in a handful states, like Kansas, that some bucks are still in velvet.
“Oklahoma’s tourism industry would greatly benefit from introducing a velvet buck season as only a few states offer this season,” Stephens said. “Hunters from across the country will be looking to travel to our state to take part in the first season and many thereafter.”
Still Stephens says Oklahomans would have priority with 90% of all velvet buck permits going to Oklahoma resident hunters.
News On 6 reached out to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation regarding the legislation.
"We are working closely with legislators every day to provide them the information they need to make decisions on this bill and others,” Communications & Education Assistant Chief Micah Holmes said. “Oklahoma is one of the best states in the nation for deer hunting and we all share a goal to keep it that way. Our strategy is to provide as much hunting opportunity as possible while maintaining healthy wildlife populations and our biologists will continue to examine season and bag limit changes like these so we can make science-based recommendations."
The House of Representatives will now consider Senate Bill 910.
If it becomes law, the Oklahoma Wildlife Commission would establish regulations and the velvet buck season likely would not go into effect until the 2024-2025 deer season.
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