Spotlighting & Night Hunting Hogs & Coyote Is Now Legal in Oklahoma
There was a bill being floated around the Oklahoma state capital earlier this year aimed at correcting a licensing discrepancy that has persisted for years. Some licenses were only valid in the current calendar year, but on November 1st, a license will be good for a full 365 days... but that's not the bigger news.
There was a little blurb in the bill to address the growing issue Oklahoma is experiencing with wild hogs, and as an extension, other varmints such as coyotes for those trying to make their living off the land.
If you've never seen or heard someone talk about the damage a small group of feral pigs can do to a piece of land, it's astounding. They'll rummage through in their normal travels and dig up everything in their path looking for food. Honestly, it's like seeing a scar on the land much like big twisters leave.
Of course, it's nothing personal, it's just in their nature... but it has cost the Oklahoma taxpayers and insurance companies so much money over the years that the remediation for these invasive porkers is turning up to eleven in a last-ditch attempt to cull these beasts.
Hogs and coyotes have long had what is called an "open season" on them practically year-round, but they're mostly nocturnal creatures. That doesn't mean you can find them if you walk far enough, but that's a lacking way of taking care of needed business. You used to be able to apply for permits to hunt them under artificial light, but since every game warden automatically assumes every hunter is a criminal from the first point of contact, it's hard to orchestrate this plan into fruition until now.
It is now legal to use spotlights, thermal scopes, and every type of night vision or visual aid you can get your hands on to hunt these destructive pests after dark without a special permit... but there are certain criteria that must be met first.
Since this was passed to help those involved in agriculture, it's only legal and lawful on private lands where ag business is conducted. Farming, ranching, growing, etc... This doesn't mean it's "legal in the country," there has to be a legitimate ag industry happening in order to fit in the narrow window of the law, Oklahoma Tax Commission tax-exempt status and all.
If you don't own any registered farm or ranch land, you're not counted out just yet. Knowing that farmers likely won't have the time or inclination to hunt all night after working all day, anyone with written permission can take on this night-hunting task, but it has to be given by the property owner and it must be kept on your person at all times while hunting.
I reached out to ask if permission could be granted from those who lease land but hit a wall. The regulation states "landowners," so it's just as ambiguous as every other thing the ODWC has written over the years.
While there is an open season on varmints, that doesn't mean your nighttime spotlighting dreams will be legal all year long. Since hunting seasons typically overlap, spotlighting and night-hunting hogs and coyotes will not be allowed during the deer gun seasons... obviously... If you're out a field lawfully spotlighting hogs and coyotes, game wardens are likely to strike with a SWAT response thinking you're poaching deer.
It's also worth mentioning, you can't spotlight from the road. You can be in your vehicle, but you have to be off the road on private property.
The pertinent info from the ODWC site:
Headlighting / Spotlighting
...Except during deer gun seasons, a landowner, agricultural lessee, or their designated agent with written permission from the landowner or agricultural lessee may control nuisance or damage by coyotes or feral swine without a permit during the day or night, and without limitation by statewide season regulations or bag limits, and with the use of any legal means of take, to protect marketable agricultural crops, livestock or processed feed, seed, or other materials used in the production of an agricultural commodity. Landowners or agricultural lessees performing nuisance control activities shall be required to have a current agricultural exemption permit issued by the Oklahoma Tax Commission. A landowner, agricultural lessee, or designated agent of the landowner or lessee may use a headlight, thermal, or light enhancement device carried on the person, a vehicle with or without a mounted spotlight or night vision equipment while controlling nuisance coyotes and feral swine at night.
Nuisance Coyote / Hog Damage Control
Except during deer gun seasons, the landowner or agricultural lessee (with a current agricultural exemption permit issued by the Oklahoma Tax Commission) or their designated agent with written permission from the landowner or agricultural lessee may control nuisance or damage by coyotes or feral hogs day or night by any legal means of take, to protect marketable agricultural crops, livestock or processed feed, seed or other materials used in the production of an agricultural commodity.
Hunting, use of any artificial light, thermal or night vision equipment from a public roadway is prohibited.
It's a new era of varmint control in Oklahoma and the state is finally moving in a direction to allow the people to manage their own problems. It's a good thing even if it'll likely cause more interactions with Officer Green Jeans.