OKLAHOMA CITY — After years of failed efforts, lawmakers have legalized coyote hunting at night without a permit.
Senate Bill 1809, which became law on November 1, also allows wild hog hunting at night without a permit.
Extended hunting rights apply only to land designated as farmland. Only landowners, tenants, or designated agents who have written permission can hunt them at night without a permit.
The new law also prohibits hunting the creatures without a permit during deer gun season, a 16-day hunting window that opens the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
Lawmakers also increased the broader penalties for nighttime poaching from $250 to $1,000.
There is no limit to the number of feral hogs or coyotes that can be killed, but the law aims to protect crops, livestock, feed, seeds and other materials used in farming.
Brad Boles, R-Marlow, the House author, said lawmakers worked with the Wildlife Department to balance public safety concerns with the needs of the state’s farming community.
Boles, who represents a rural farming district, said the overpopulation of coyotes and feral hogs is a huge concern for his constituents because they kill livestock and damage crops.
“We tried to strike a good balance giving people the right to shoot animals on their own property, but also putting the checks and balances in place,” Boles said.
Previously, farmers and ranchers could hunt the animals at night, but had to have a special permit and had to “go through different hoops and procedures to get it,” Boles said.
The new law makes it more convenient, he said.
Coyotes could previously be hunted during daylight hours year-round with a hunting license. Landowners can also shoot them during the day if they threaten livestock. The new law does not affect current laws related to hunting coyotes or feral hogs, Boles said.
State Sen. Casey Murdock, R-Felt, has long advocated for unlicensed nighttime coyote hunting and said he was happy with the final measure. He said with the cost of inflation, ranchers cannot afford to lose livestock to coyotes.
“They need every one of them because their margins have gotten tighter still,” said Murdock, who is also a rancher. “They need to be able to protect their livelihood. (Wild hogs) may not be so predatory, but they damage millions of dollars worth of crops every year.
Micah Holmes, spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, said his agency wants to balance the needs of farmers and ranchers while protecting Oklahoma’s deer populations from poachers.
The new law balances the two needs by allowing farmers and ranchers to kill wild pigs and coyotes without a license at night except during a 16-day hunting window around Thanksgiving, he said.
“It’s the time of year when there’s a lot of (hunting) activity and a lot of people can be tempted to break the law,” Holmes said. “We expect this change to address both of these issues.”
Farm landowners can still kill coyotes and feral hogs at night during deer gun season by obtaining a traditional depredation permit from a game warden.
“We appreciate the Legislative Assembly working with us and understanding our perspective and our desire to keep our (deer) population healthy and to make sure our game wardens are safe out there,” said Holmes.
Janelle Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI newspapers and websites. Contact her at [email protected]