Government Springs Park fishing

Jack Hurlbutt fishes for trout at Government Springs Park Jan. 14, 2022.

OKLAHOMA CITY — A new law that overhauls hunting and fishing license expiration dates is expected to benefit thousands of outdoor enthusiasts.

Senate Bill 1696, which became law Nov. 1, requires that most annual hunting and fishing licenses expire one year after the date of issuance rather than potentially days or weeks after being issued. Previously, annual licenses expired June 30 or Dec. 31 regardless of when Oklahoman hunters or anglers purchased them.

Licenses affected by the new law include the:

• Annual hunting license for residents.

• Annual combined hunting and fishing license for residents.

• Annual fishing license for residents.

• Annual fishing license for non-residents.

• Non-resident annual hunting license for game other than deer, antelope, elk or bear.

Senate President Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, who authored the measure, said he purchases his hunting and fishing license annually.

“I heard and agreed with the frustrations of Oklahomans who bought a fishing or hunting permit late in the year only to have them expire a month or two later,” Treat said in an email. “Some would tell me that they forgo enjoying the great outdoors because they didn’t want to waste money on an annual permit that was only good for a month or two or even less depending on when they purchased it.”

He said the law is “a commonsense change” that will benefit Oklahomans and encourage more participation in both outdoor sports.

“Eliminating barriers while increasing compliance to help Oklahomans enjoy the outdoors in our state was the right thing to do,” Treat said.

According to Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s most recent annual report, the state netted $23.8 million in annual license sales.

Over 19,500 residents purchased a combination hunting-fishing license between July 1 and June 30. Another 38,400 Oklahomans purchased a hunting license and 164,445 bought a fishing license, according to state records.

Over 51,000 non-residents purchased either a fishing or hunting license.

Micah Holmes, a spokesman for the agency, said the revenue generated by the licenses and federal excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment are their sole funding sources.

He said the wildlife department anticipates the change will be revenue-neutral to the agency over time. When asked why it hadn’t been changed sooner, he said lawmakers must set the expiration requirements on licenses.

“We expect it to be a benefit to hunters and anglers because no matter when you buy it, it’s going to be good for 365 days,” he said. “That’ll be a little bit of an adjustment for folks that are used to buying their license every year on Jan. 1.”

Holmes said Oklahoma is unique because the state has a “very robust set of folks who have lifetime licenses.”

He said about 3 of every 4 deer hunters in Oklahoma has a lifetime license, so many of the people buying annual licenses are either new hunters or prefer the annual option.

State Rep. Ty Burns, R-Pawnee, who ran the measure in the state House, said the law allows hunters and anglers to get a full year out of their licenses regardless of when they purchased it.

“This is commonsense legislation that allows more Oklahomans to enjoy outdoor recreational activities without having to constantly sort through government red tape,” Burns said. “I know Oklahomans will enjoy the benefits of the legislation for years to come.”

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Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. She can be reached at jstecklein@cnhinews.com.

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