By Rachel Petersen
State Rep. Terry Harrison, while hunting in Scipio during rifle season, shot a piebald white-tailed deer. Harrison, who was truly excited about the hunt, spoke with reporters Dec. 2 about how he had already sent the deer to a taxidermist in Krebs to have his trophy full-body mounted. “I’ve never been more excited about taking a deer in my whole life,” Harrison told reporters.
Harrison had come to the McAlester News-Capital office to submit his story to the paper along with a photo of himself with the deer. On Friday, the News-Capital reported Harrison’s kill on the front page of the sports section.
Shortly after the story was released, various members of the community contacted the News-Capital with complaints regarding Harrison’s “illegal” hunt of the rare deer.
In an interview Tuesday afternoon, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Assistant Chief Bill Hale said, “It is not illegal to shoot a piebald deer. You can shoot one, you just have to have a permit prior to shooting one. There’s no cost for this permit; you just have to get one prior to the hunt of white, or piebald, deer.”
Shane Fields, a friend of Harrison’s and an Oklahoma Department of Wildlife game warden, called the proud hunter after seeing the story in the paper. Fields, who told Harrison that his kill may have been illegal if he hadn’t obtained a permit prior to the hunt, suggested that the state representative research the hunting regulations and guidelines.
Harrison did just that. “My heart just sunk,” Harrison said in an interview Wednesday afternoon regarding the moment he realized his mistake. “This is embarrassing ’cause I should have known better.
“But at least others can learn from my mistake.”
Harrison — who has degrees in animal science and law, has served in the legislature and on the wildlife committee several times, and even helped to write some of the state’s hunting laws — had no idea that he needed a special permit to shoot a piebald deer.
“If I didn’t know that a piebald was considered white in the state of Oklahoma, then a lot of my fellow sportsmen also don’t know,” Harrison said. “I’m the guy who’s supposed to know the difference. So if I made this mistake, other sportsman probably will too. I want people to learn from my mistake and not make the same one.”
As soon as he realized his mistake, Harrison called the Department of Wildlife Conservation and spoke with Lt. Game Warden Todd Toby. “I asked who I was speaking with,” Harrison said, “and then I said, ‘Todd Toby, this is Terry Harrison. I think you’re gonna have to write me a ticket.’ Toby laughed and said, ‘I think I am.’ And then he came out to my house in McAlester and gave me the ticket.”
Harrison was impressed with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife employees. “They handled the situation perfectly and professionally,” Harrison said.
When Harrison’s buddy, Game Warden Fields, told him that he had received an anonymous tip that Terry had shot a piebald, Harrison laughed and said “Anonymous? Really? It was on the front page of the McAlester News-Capital.”
Although Harrison did not intentionally break the law, he believes it is important that he take responsibility for his mistake. “I did not have any criminal intent,” Harrison said. “But I’m not going to downplay this at all. I’m taking responsibility for my actions. I just want others to learn from my mistake so they won’t make the same one.”
Harrison stressed the importance of studying and being up to date on game laws and regulations prior to a hunt — an embarrassing $296 lesson he just learned himself.
These laws and guidelines are accessible online at www.wildlifedepartment.com.
For more on this story, see Thursday's print edition of the McAlester News-Capital.
Contact Rachel Petersen at firstname.lastname@example.org.