About the ODWC

Mission Statement

The mission of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is the management, protection, and enhancement of wildlife resources and habitat for the scientific, educational, recreational, aesthetic, and economic benefits to present and future generations of citizens and visitors to Oklahoma.

Game and Fish Department Established

In 1909, the Association presented the second state legislature with a bill asking for the governor to appoint a state game warden and authorize the warden to hire eight salaried employees. The law was adopted and the Game and Fish Department was created. The first hunting license came into being with the fee set at $1.25.

1920 truck with the Fish & Game logo on the doorFour years later the Department disbanded and the $94,000 accumulated from hunting license sales was put into the state capitol building fund. State sportsmen protested until finally the Department was reestablished in 1915. The first state hatchery was built at Medicine Park after the Department received $70,000 in appropriations.

In 1917, the legislature returned the Department's $94,000, specifying that the funds be used for developing game preserves and building fish hatcheries.

Throughout the 1920s more hatcheries were built, including one near Durant (1916-17), near Tahlequah (1924-26), Heavener (1925-26) and Cherokee in 1929.

The 1925 Legislature established the Oklahoma Game and Fish Commission largely through the encouragement of the
Oklahoma Division of the Isaac Walton League of America. The first fishing licenses were issued the same year and for the first time Oklahoma also protected its furbearing mammals.

Expansion During '30s and '40s

The 1930s and early '40s brought refinement to the game management techniques in Oklahoma. Efforts to stock ring-necked pheasants, initiated in the '20s, became fruitful in the 1930s. Bobwhite quail management was also emphasized. In 1943, changes in the authority delegated to various personnel made the state game warden duties comparable to those of a modern Department director. The Game and Fish Department's first monthly magazine, Oklahoma Game and Fish News, was born in 1945.1942 image of a Department truck and  two employees transporting fish

During this time the state capitol building housed the Department. The Department suffered from a lack of space until 1942 when it moved to the first floor. Meanwhile, fisheries personnel conducted research in basement rooms at the capitol.

In 1947, the state Game and Fish Warden title was changed to Director. The establishment of a single office in Oklahoma City centralized and strengthened the enforcement of the state game statutes.

The first pheasant season opened in 1948 with free permits issued for certain northwestern counties. At least one dream of early Oklahoma wildlife biologists had finally become a reality after 22 years of effort with the oriental import.

The game and fish statutes were updated in 1949, with fees for fishing and hunting licenses rising to $2, or $3.50 for a combination license.

Early Efforts Begin to Show Results

In 1960, efforts began for establishing several exotic bird species in the state, and the first fall turkey season was held. Two years later the first elk hunt was held and 42 elk were harvested.

Two years later the Department installed 14 radio base and relay stations, giving the Department statewide two-way radio communication.

1960s photo of the Departments Educational Wildlife ExhibitThe 1960s saw the Department striving to provide the state's sportsmen with quality outdoor recreation. A significant trout stocking program began in 1964; mule deer from Colorado were released in the Glass Hills and the first spring turkey season was opened. The Department moved into its own building in 1966, the same year the first antelope season in state history was held.

The Department first offered hunter safety programs in 1965. Initially offered on a voluntary basis, the course became
mandatory in 1987 for all persons born after Jan. 1, 1972.

The '60s and '70s saw various hunting seasons expanded, a stabilized deer herd and new fish species introduced such as the striped bass. The recreational opportunities for anglers and hunters were growing.

Great strides were made in the '80s. The trout stocking program was expanded; saugeye and giant Canada geese
establishment programs were initiated. Three new programs -- Conservation Education, Aquatic Resources Education and Nongame Wildlife -- were created. In addition, hunters saw the deer harvest jump from about 14,000 in 1980 to more than 70,000 in 1997, expansion of controlled hunts and the first statewide turkey season. Three major wildlife management areas were purchased, adding 52,500 acres to Department-managed lands.

Looking to the Future

Early Oklahoma conservationists fought to save the last remnants of the state's game animals and fish for future generations. The men who formulated Oklahoma's modern wildlife conservation practices in the '40s and '50s, emphasized the wise use of our outdoor resources. They built a tradition, a tradition based on providing variety and quality in state hunting and fishing. The Department has retained this tradition it will continue to clearly demonstrate this by building for the future a healthy environment where nature can survive in harmony with the needs of modern man.

History of the Wildlife Department


profile picture of JD Strong

J.D. Strong
(405) 522-6279

J.D. Strong was selected in September 2016 by the eight-member Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission to serve as the  Director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. 

J.D. Strong came on board as Director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation in October 2016 after 23 years of experience working in the environmental arena. He had been Executive Director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board since 2010. Though he originally started his career doing water and biological research for the OWRB, his time there was split while he served as former Gov. Brad Henry’s Secretary of the Environment from 2008-10 and before that as Director of Environmental Affairs then Chief of Staff in the state Office of the Secretary of Environment. He brings to the Department his rich experience working with legislators, sister agencies, partner organizations and key stakeholders on a number of complex environmental issues, such as the historic water settlement with the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations.

An active sportsman, Strong is a fifth-generation Oklahoman from Weatherford. He earned a degree in wildlife ecology from Oklahoma State University in 1993.

profile picture of Wade Free

Wade Free
Assistant Director, Operations
(405) 521-4660

Wade Free was named the Assistant Director of Operations in 2011. He supervises the fish and wildlife management programs (Fish and Wildlife divisions), Law Enforcement and Information and Education divisions. The Assistant Director aids in executive duties and serves as Acting Director in the Director's absence.
profile picture of Melinda Sturgess Streich

Melinda Sturgess-Streich
Assistant Director of Administration & Finance
(405) 521-6685

Melinda Sturgess-Streich has been the Assistant Director of Administration & Finance since 2006. She supervises Licensing, Accounting, Human Resources, Information Technology, Property, and Communication Personnel. The Assistant Director aids in executive duties and serves as Acting Director in the Director’s absence.
Profile picture of Nels Rodfeld

Nels Rodefeld
Information and Education Chief
(405) 521-3855

Nels Rodefeld has been the Chief of Information and Education Division since 2006. He oversees education programs, publications, television and website content.
profile picture of Alan Peoples

Alan Peoples
Wildlife Chief
(405) 521-2739

Alan Peoples has been Chief of  Wildlife Division since 1999. He oversees all biologists and technicians on Wildlife Management Areas as well as wildlife research initiatives.
profile picture of Barry Bolton

Barry Bolton
Fisheries Chief
(405) 521-3721

Barry Bolton has been Chief of Fisheries Division since 2007. He oversees four state fish hatcheries, a research laboratory and regional biologists and technicians.
profile picture of Bill Hale

Bill Hale
Law Enforcement Chief
(405) 521-3719

Bill Hale has been Chief of  Law Enforcement Division since 2016. He oversees over 100 game wardens stationed in all 77 counties.


A simple "Thank You" can't express the extent of appreciation that is felt when someone goes above and beyond to lend a hand. And this is never more true than with the many groups that have become our invaluable partners in conserving Oklahoma's tremendous natural resources. The Wildlife Department , and in turn you as a sportsman, are blessed by these quality organizations that have made significant contributions to wildlife management in Oklahoma during the past year.
Date Name Donation Purpose
03/10/2017 Lower Mountain Fork River Foundation $3,417.47 This donation from the Lower Mountain Fork River Foundation covered 25 percent of the cost of rental equipment used to make improvements to the Evening Hole area of the Lower Mt. Fork River trout stream.
02/28/2017 National Rifle Association $6,000 This donation from the National Rifle Association will help fund upcoming renovations to the shooting range at Lexington Wildlife Management Area. The renovated range will include covered shooting benches, backstop, target stands, side berms, a pipe fence, new walkway, parking, signs and lead management. This as well as other renovated or newly constructed ODWC shooting ranges will be ADA compliant. Our sincere thanks to the NRA for participating in this project.
01/01/2017 National Wild Turkey Federation $100,564 These funds from the National Wild Turkey Federation are part of a FY2017 super fund donation of nearly $150,000 to help fund a wide range of conservation efforts and needs across the state of Oklahoma. Over $100,000 of that goes toward ODWC efforts, including $40,000 toward habitat projects and equipment for Wildlife Management Areas like Black Kettle, Pushmataha, Packsaddle, Cherokee, Cookson, Ellis County and others. Another $40,000 was designated to help the ODWC with land acquisition efforts. Additionally, portions of these grant funds support the ODWC's National Archery in the Schools and Scholastic Shooting Sports programs ($10,000 toward each).
12/13/2016 Zebco Brands/W.C. Bradley Co $750 This contribution helps fund trout stocking at the Close to Home Fishing Pond at Veteran's Pond in Jenks.
12/13/2016 The Corrigan-Goddard Foundation $20,000 The Corrigan-Goddard Foundation donated $20,000 to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Law Enforcement Division.
11/07/2016 Trout Unlimited $16,950 Trout Unlimited is an exceptional partner with the Wildlife Department. This donation was for the installment of a public restroom at the Simp and Helen Watts Fish and Wildlife Management Area on the Lower Illinois River.
10/24/2016 89er Chapter Trout Unlimited $1,200 The 89er Chapter of Trout Unlimited signed a 3-year MOA to provide funds that will be matched for the purchase of rainbow trout for the Dolese Trout Program in Oklahoma City.
10/17/2016 BancFirst $2500 BancFirst partnered with ODWC to fund the trout stocking program at the Close to Home Fishing Pond located at Veteran's Pond in Jenks.
10/17/2016 Dolese Brothers $3,500 This donation from Dolese Brothers is part of a three-year MOA to provide funds for the purchase of rainbow trout stockings for Dolese Trout Program in Oklahoma City.
10/13/2016 Lower Mountain Fork Foundation $1,053 The Lower Mountain Fork Foundation donated to help fund a stocking trailer and fish hauling tank for the Lower Mountain Fork River trout stream.
09/23/2016 Terry's Taxidermy Materials and Services Metro taxidermist Terry's Taxidermy donated 200 lbs. of venison summer sausage and 200 lbs. of ground venison for chili, both to be served at the Oklahoma Wildlife Expo Taste of the Wild booth. Visitors to the Taste of the Wild booth sample a variety of wild game while enjoying the activities and booths at the event. The much-welcomed and appreciated donation represents an approx. $3,500 value.
08/15/2016 Bill Horn Material/services Bill Horn a freelance photographer donated over 200 images, mostly of birds to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife. These images can be used for publications or at will where needed.
08/10/2016 Morrell Manufacturing Inc. $5,210.00 Morrell Manufacturing Inc. made a $2110 and $3100 donation to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife's Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools Program (OKNASP) in 2016. Schools across the country are discovering an exciting new program that hits the bullseye in meeting the physical education needs of their students. Through the Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools (OKNASP) Program, students have the chance to excel today, tomorrow and throughout a lifetime in the unique sport of archery. The National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP), of which OKNASP is a part, is a coordinated effort and partnership between schools, state wildlife agencies and the nation’s archery industry.
07/28/2016 Blue River Fly Fishers $4,100 This donation from the Blue River Fly Fishers group was for the purchase of trout for the catch and release portion of the Blue River Public Fishing and Hunting Area and for general improvements to the area.
07/07/2016 Oklahoma Striped Bass Association $2,000.00 The Oklahoma Striped Bass Association made a donation to ODWC for purchasing equipment for the management, research or production of striped bass in the state of Oklahoma. Naturally reproducing populations of striped bass have developed in lakes Texoma and Keystone and in the Arkansas River Navigation System. Foss, Tenkiller, Canton, Great Salt Plains, Grand and Kaw lakes also have been stocked.
07/05/2016 Oklahoma Station-Safari Club International $3664 Oklahoma Station-Safari Club International has partnered with the ODWC for many years on many projects. Among them this year was a donation the ODWC Hunters Against Hunger Program, a cooperative program with your local processor, the Wildlife Department and YOU to provide high quality meals to Oklahoma’s hungry. Hunters who legally harvest a deer during any of this year’s deer seasons can donate the meat to feed hungry Oklahomans. The group has also supported the ODWC Stars & Stripes License Project that provides hunting and fishing licenses to veterans and qualified family members, and also to the ODWC's Law Enforcement Division.
06/29/2016 Oklahoma Zoological Society $6,737.75 The Oklahoma Zoological Society donated these funds to be used thru the Wildlife Department's Wildlife Diversity Program for conservation projects in Oklahoma.
06/06/2016 Quail Forever $5,000.00 Two different Quail Forever Chapters each donated $2500.00 totalling $5,000.00. These donations are for quail habitat equipment and to improve nesting cover.
05/23/2016 Quail Forever $3,000 Quail Forever's donation helped purchase a trailer for the transport of tractor/equipment between Lexington and Grady County WMAs. The Grady County WMA is being managed with extra emphasis on quail, with prescribed fire and grazing to increase vegetational diversity and structure.
05/18/2016 Quail Forever $5,000.00 Quail Forever donated $5,000 to ODWC for the purchase of a skid steer loader and implements for the central regions Wildlife Management Areas. Wildlife Management Areas are lands owned, licensed, leased or under the management of the Wildlife Division. The primary objective on all lands owned or managed by the Department is the sound management and use of fish and wildlife resources.
05/02/2016 St. Mary's Catholic School $750.00 St. Mary's Catholic School donated funds to be specifically designated to purchase archery equipment needed for a new school starting the Archery in the Schools Program. Schools across the country are discovering an exciting new program that hits the bullseye in meeting the physical education needs of their students. Through the Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools (OKNASP) Program, students have the chance to excel today, tomorrow and throughout a lifetime in the unique sport of archery. The National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP), of which OKNASP is a part, is a coordinated effort and partnership between schools, state wildlife agencies and the nation’s archery industry. In Oklahoma, OKNASP promotes physical education by providing target archery training to the state’s youth. Designed for 4th-12th graders, the curriculum covers archery history, safety, techniques, equipment, mental concentration and self-improvement.
04/27/2016 DJ's Fundraising, INC $1000.00 DJ's Fundraising donated $1,000.00 to the ODWC Shotgun Training and Education Program (STEP). The STEP program offers a broad range of learning opportunities for beginners as well as experienced hunters with special emphasis on teaching basic wing-shooting techniques and fundamentals. The program projects a positive image toward hunting and general acceptance of responsible gun ownership. Another important purpose for the program is the recruitment of new hunters for future interest in wildlife conservation and outdoor activities. In addition, the program exposes participants to the use of nontoxic shot to develop hunter confidence in lead-free shot shell alternatives.
04/20/2016 Randy and Mary Wedel Materials/services Randy and Mary Wedel donated leftover fishing equipment from a building they purchased. The items donated will be used for the ODWC The Aquatic Resources Education Program (AREP). AREP promotes the sport of fishing and aquatic resource awareness as well as a way to give youth, an opportunity to learn about Oklahoma's aquatic environments and how to fish. The equipment donation is in the amount of $1400.00.
04/08/2016 Samuel Barrick and Larry Brown $1600.00 These donations of $1,500 from Samuel Barrick and $100 from Larry Brown to the ODWC Law Division made it possible to fund the purchase of a decoy deer used by law enforcement to battle poaching in the state.
04/08/2016 Whitetails of Oklahoma $2,000 This donation from Whitetails of Oklahoma was a contribution to the ODWC Wildlife Division.
03/25/2016 Arkansas-Oklahoma Railroad Materials/services The Arkansas-Oklahoma Railroad sponsored the ODWC Youth Camp, which gives youth a better understanding of careers in wildlife and fisheries management and law enforcement. The camp is conducted entirely by game wardens, wildlife and fisheries professionals and dedicated hunters and anglers.
03/01/2016 Tom J. and Edna Mae Carson Foundation $1,000 In support of the Monarch Watch Program at Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area in southwest Oklahoma.
03/01/2016 Boy Scout Troop 302 $1,000 Boy Scout Troop 302 provided $1,000 to be used at the Byron Hatchery Watchable Wildlife Area.
02/12/2016 Dennis Parr $200 For conservation efforts on Lexington Wildlife Management Area in central Oklahoma.
01/06/2016 NatureWorks $20,000 NatureWorks is a Tulsa-based conservation group that donated $20,000 for work on Cherokee Wildlife Management Area.
01/06/2016 89er Chapter of Trout Unlimited $875.00 This late 2015 donation from the 89er Chapter of Trout Unlimited made it possible to purchase trout for the 2015-16 Dolese Winter Trout Program.
01/04/2016 Shikar-Safari Club International $75,000 Shikar-Safari Club International provided a grant in the amount of $50,000 in late 2015 for firearms replacement for the Wildlife Department's Law Enforcement Division. The group also provided a $25,000 grant in 2016 for bear population research in eastern Oklahoma.
01/01/2016 National Wild Turkey Federation $48,000 This grant from the National Wild Turkey Federation helps fund a wide range of conservation efforts and needs across the state of Oklahoma.
01/01/2016 Larry and Brenda Potterfield $919,500 These funds are donated for the Oklahoma Scholastic Shooting Sports Program. They are to be used to fund the program's regional and state shoots each year. They are also used to set up endowments for each school that participates in the program. The funds include $837,500 for endowments and $82,000 for operation of regionals and the state shoot. This contributes in a significant way to students across Oklahoma getting the opportunity to participate in competitive shotgun shooting sports in their schools.
01/01/2016 Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation $23,339 This Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation donation contributes to a range of Oklahoma conservation projects, including to Oklahoma conservation in a number of ways, including a $1,000 donation in support of the ODWC Youth Camp, which gives teens a better understanding of careers in wildlife and fisheries management and law enforcement. The camp is conducted entirely by game wardens, wildlife and fisheries professionals and dedicated hunters and anglers. The group also donated to habitat work at Pushmataha and Cherokee WMAs.
01/01/2015 Williams Companies $90,000 Voluntary restoration and conservation program to support habitat conservation and restoration project for land acquisition.

Who pays for wildlife in Oklahoma?

The agency receives no general tax revenues.

The bulk of Department income is generated from the sale of annual hunting and fishing licenses. The agency still works for all of the citizens of Oklahoma, though. The next time you see a white-tailed deer, a bald eagle’s nest or a child’s smile after catching his or her first fish, you can thank the Wildlife Department and the many dedicated sportsmen and women who pay to keep our outdoor heritage alive.

Sources of Income

The Department has an annual budget of about $61.5 million. The agency receives no general tax revenues. The bulk of Department income is generated from the sale of annual hunting and fishing licenses.

Funds received from:

  • Hunting and Fishing License Sales (44%)
  • Federal Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration Grants (34 %)
  • Other Income (22%)
    • Agriculture and Oil Leases
    • Other Wildlife Sales (penalties and fines collected due to fish and game law violations, magazine sales,  Deer Management Assistance Program, the sale of used equipment and vehicles, boat and motor registration, etc.)
    • Donations and Misc. Income ( endangered species funds,  from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for various projects, from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act for wetlands protection, and from the Forest Stewardship program.)

Please note that we cannot be responsible for the accuracy or content of other agencies or organizations. Thank you for visiting Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.



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