MAY 2003 NEWS RELEASES 

WEEK OF MAY 29, 2003

 

WEEK OF MAY 22, 2003

WEEK OF MAY 15, 2003

 

WEEK OF MAY 8, 2003

WEEK OF MAY 1, 2003

Squirrels offer a fun challenge for sportsmen of any age

As if you needed another reason to get out and enjoy a nice, sunny day this spring, here’s one more - some of the state's most enjoyable hunting will soon be underway with the opening of squirrel season. Running May 15 through Jan. 31, squirrel season is one of the longest continuous hunting seasons available to Oklahoma hunters.

Once an important part of Oklahoma's hunting culture, squirrel hunting has taken a backseat to more glamorous species such as deer and turkey, but experienced hunters know the early season action is often fast paced and the weather is comfortable. Squirrels are still a popular game species, providing countless meals of squirrel stew and other dishes.

Squirrel hunting is a perfect opportunity to introduce a youngster to hunting. There is enough walking and action so kids don't get bored, plus you don't even have to get up early to be successful.

Both the gray and fox squirrel are abundant on many of the Department's wildlife management areas. A generous 10-squirrel limit offers a challenge to those going afield with a .22 caliber rifle. Other sportsmen prefer carrying a shotgun while going after squirrels. Another option that is increasing in popularity are pellet rifles, which through the years have become adequately powerful to deliver squirrels to the bag.

Public hunting opportunities abound in Oklahoma for squirrel hunters. Just about any tract of mast-producing hardwoods can be a productive area for hunters. Excellent squirrel hunting can be found on Keystone, Spavinaw Hills, Deep Fork and Canton wildlife management areas.

To hunt squirrels in Oklahoma, all you need is a resident or non-resident hunting license. Resident hunters younger than age 16 can hunt squirrels without a license. For a complete list of squirrel hunting regulations consult the “2003 Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or log on to the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

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International migratory bird and plant conservation day at the OKC Zoo

Flock to the Oklahoma City Zoo Saturday, May 10 for the third annual International Migratory Bird and Plant Conservation Day: Festival of Plants and Birds. Activities from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. will focus on Oklahoma’s migratory bird species and the beneficial and important relationships between plants and birds.

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC), the Oklahoma City Chapter of the American Association of Zookeepers, the Oklahoma Zoological Society ZooFriends, the Zoo’s Horticulture staff, the Association of Zoological Horticulture and the Audubon Society of Central Oklahoma join with the Oklahoma City Zoo for a day of fun and learning.

The festival kicks off with a free, early-morning bird count from 6:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. where participants can learn how to identify plant and wild bird species on the zoo grounds. Biologists from the ODWC’s Wildlife Diversity program along with zookeepers and volunteers from the Central Oklahoma Audubon Society will be on hand to answer questions and to help with identification. Participants are encouraged to bring binoculars. Registration begins at 6 a.m. at the Zoo’s main entrance.

“May is the prime time of year for viewing migratory birds. It’s the peak migration season in Oklahoma and the best time of year to see everything from songbirds to shorebirds,” said Mark Howery, ODWC biologist.

“Additionally, the morning bird count is a great opportunity for the novice birder to get a feel for what birding is all about. We’ll spot year-round residents like the eastern bluebird and American goldfinch, but we also will see migrants like the purple martin, scissor-tailed flycatcher, indigo bunting and Baltimore oriole,” Howery said.

Event activities continue from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and are free with regular Zoo admission. Interactive and educational displays, bird and garden tours, self-guided native plant tours and children’s activities will be hosted by the Audubon Society of Central Oklahoma, Oklahoma Cactus and Succulent Society, the Wild Care Foundation, Wild Bird Center, Oklahoma Native Plant Society and Martin Park Nature Center/Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation.

Of the 66 different bird species spotted at the festival last year, almost half of them were migratory. There is a direct relationship between plant growth and bird migrations. Birds that winter in the neotropics (Central and South America, Mexico and the Caribbean islands) are appearing in Oklahoma during the months of April and May to find food. Longer days in the Northern Hemisphere enable plants to grow rapidly. This rapid growth attracts an abundance of insects, which draws the birds northward.

The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is located at 2101 NE 50th Street, Oklahoma City, OK. Migrate to the American Zoo and Aquarium Association’s web site at www.aza.org or to the Audubon Society of Central Oklahoma’s site at www.audubon-society-of-central-ok.org or call (405) 424-3344 for more information. To register for the bird count, please call ODWC’s Wildlife Diversity Program at (405) 424-0099.

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QU youth camp slated June 1-6

Youngsters interested in expanding their outdoors skills can participate in the eighth annual Oklahoma COVEY Kids Camp June 1-6 at Camp Redlands in Stillwater.

The week-long camp, hosted by the Oklahoma Council of Quail Unlimited, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and local Quail Unlimited chapters, is open to all Oklahoma youngsters ages 13 to 16. According to Bob Hayes, camp coordinator, the camp teaches kids to better appreciate Oklahoma's natural resources and exposes them to wide variety of outdoor endeavors.

"This is the ninth year for the COVEY Kids camp and we feel the camp is getting better and better each year," Hayes said.

Attendees will receive professional instruction in archery, sporting clays, muzzleloading, taxidermy, dog training, radio telemetry, hunting safety, wildlife career opportunities, habitat evaluation, first aid and much more. Camp participants will also complete requirements for their Hunter Education card.

"We start the camp off with a ropes course that serves as a fun ice-breaker to help the kids meet each other and develop teamwork,” Hayes said. "The rest of the camp involves different outdoor skills and instruction taught by expert volunteers who come from all over the state.”

A maximum of 35 students will be selected for this year’s camp. To apply, applicants must write a short essay explaining why they wish to attend, why they should be selected and what they expect to learn. It should also explain their involvement in extracurricular activities.

The camp costs $250 per person, although scholarship funds are available from local Quail Unlimited chapters. The application deadline is May 15, 2003.

For more information, contact Bob Hayes at (918) 542-1403.

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Aquatic education bringing smiles to kid’s faces

There is nothing quite like the smile on a child’s face when he or she reels in their first fish. Each year, thousands of Oklahoma children experience that thrill, thanks to a dedicated corps of volunteer aquatic education instructors.

"The program has been a real success," said Damon Springer, coordinator of the Aquatic Resource Education Program. "We began in 1988 and about 18,000 kids go through the program each year. They learn about everything from how to cast a rod and reel to outdoor ethics. And virtually all of the clinics include a chance to catch a fish."

More than 175 clinics are held each year across the state from isolated farm ponds to parks in the heart of metropolitan areas.

"The success of the program really goes back to all the hardworking volunteers that love teaching children and love fishing," Springer said.

Individuals interested in learning more about the program can learn more by logging on to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com or contact Damon Springer, at (405) 521-4603.

One of the program’s veteran volunteers, Joe McCrary, will be featured on an upcoming edition of Outdoor Oklahoma. The program will air on OETA-The Oklahoma Network Sunday, May 18 at 8:00 a.m.

Outdoor Oklahoma features such topics as fishing, hunting, fisheries and wildlife management. The 30-minute program can be seen on OETA-The Oklahoma Network Sundays at 8:00 a.m. and Saturdays at 6:00 p.m. Outdoor Oklahoma can also be seen on the following television stations: KSBI Network (greater OKC metro area), Mondays- 5:00 p.m., Thursdays-10: 30 p.m., Saturdays-1:30 p.m., KTEN (south-central and southeastern Oklahoma) Sundays -5 a.m., KWEM (Stillwater), Wednesdays -8:00 p.m., Fridays-7:00 p.m. and Sundays-8:00 p.m.

For a complete listing of show times and channels in your viewing area, consult the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com or your local TV guide.

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Deer Seasons Set - Plan Your Vacation Now

Thanks to the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission, deer hunters now have all the information they need to fill in their fall hunting calendar. At their May 5 meeting the commissioners approved a slate of antlerless deer hunting opportunities, the last piece in Oklahoma’s deer hunting regulations for this year.

Hunters in southern and southwestern Oklahoma will have additional chances to harvest an antlerless deer during the statewide deer gun season and special antlerless deer seasons. Hunters across the state will be able to use their unfilled buck license to harvest an antlerless deer on December 7. The last day of the statewide deer gun season.

The commission, for the third year in a row, also approved the special antlerless deer season for the weekends before and after Christmas. Hunters in western and southwestern will have an additional three days to head to the woods during the special antlerless deer season.

Earlier, at its March meeting, the Commission approved a statewide deer gun season beginning on the Saturday before Thanksgiving and running for 16 consecutive days (Nov. 22-Dec. 7). On many of the Department’s wildlife management areas, however, the seasons will remain nine days.

A special three-day antlerless deer gun season for those under 18 years of age was also approved. The season will be held during the third weekend in October.

Deer archery season will run Oct. 1-Jan. 15 and deer muzzleloader will run Oct. 25-Nov. 2.

For complete season dates, zones and other details about the upcoming hunting seasons log on to www.wildlifedepartment.com or consult the “2003 Oklahoma Hunting Guide,” which will be available this summer.

In other business, commissioners also approved regulations for private land elk hunts in Kiowa, Comanche and Caddo counties. These dates will coincide with last year's dates. Last year 200 hunters harvested 35 elk on private lands in Oklahoma. For a complete list of those dates go to the hunting link at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

Oklahoma families will want to head to their favorite fishing hole on the first full weekend in June. The commission approved a resolution to designate June 7-8 as Free Fishing Days in Oklahoma. Oklahoma was the first state in the nation to offer free fishing days 23 years ago and have since been followed by dozens of other states that have established similar free fishing days.

"Free fishing days are a great opportunity to introduce family and friends to fishing," said David Warren, information and education chief for the Wildlife Department.

State fishing licenses are not required on the free fishing days, although anglers should note that local or municipal permits may be required on those days.

Commission Chairman Lewis Stiles recognized State Representative Dale Smith of St. Louis, State Representative Joe Hutchison of Jay and State Senator Frank Shurden of Henryetta for their support of hunting, fishing and natural resources in Oklahoma.

Commissioners also voted to accept a contribution from the Oklahoma City Zoological Trust. The trust donated $3,000 as well as personnel time and other services to assist the Department with a short-grass prairie breeding bird survey.

Assistant Director Richard Hatcher gave commissioners an update on wildlife-related bills in the Oklahoma state legislature. A daily update of the progress of those bills is available on the Department’s Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com

The Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The Wildlife Commission establishes state hunting and fishing regulations, sets policy for the Wildlife Department, and indirectly oversees all state fish and wildlife conservation activities. Commission members are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate.

The next scheduled Commission meeting is June 2 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters (auditorium), at the southwest corner of 18th and North Lincoln, Oklahoma City at 9:00 a.m.

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Free fishing days coming soon

Get the family together, pack a picnic lunch and round up some fishing tackle. On the first full weekend of June (June 7-8) state fishing licenses are not required for anyone, anywhere in the state.

"It’s a great opportunity to get everyone together and go fishing," said David Warren, information and education chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "It is a great activity for families and friends and you can make memories that will last a lifetime. One of the reasons we offer free fishing days is to allow the entire family to get out for a fishing trip together."

According to Warren, the timing for the Free Fishing Days could not be any better. Not only do the days coincide with National Fishing and Boating Week, many of Oklahoma's most sought after fish species, including bass, catfish and bluegill are active in early June.

"One of the best things about Oklahoma is that no matter where you live you don't have to travel very far to find some good fishing," Erickson said.

Although most municipalities, such as Oklahoma City, waive city licenses in celebration of Free Fishing Days, anglers should check with local authorities before fishing in city-managed waters. Those headed out for a trip will want to pick up a copy of the "2003 Oklahoma Fishing Guide" because all other statewide regulations still apply. Fishing Guides are available at Department installations and hunting and fishing license dealers across the state. The regulations are also available on the Department's Web site which also has information about fishing in Oklahoma and fishing reports from across the state. To log onto the Wildlife Department's Web site, go to www.wildlifedepartment.com.

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Fourth year of testing shows no CWD in state’s deer herd

For the fourth year in a row chronic wasting disease was not discovered in the state’s wild deer herd.

“It’s certainly good news for deer and deer hunters,” said Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Personnel took brain samples from 1,000 deer and elk harvested during the 2002-03 hunting season from 44 different counties.

“It is a good sample size from a large area of the state and we will continue to be vigilant in our surveillance program,” Shaw said.

CWD is an infectious disease of wild and captive elk and deer that results in progressive degeneration of the brain tissue in infected animals. First recognized in 1967, CWD is not a new disease and has been found in wild herds in limited areas of several western and northern states. There is no evidence that CWD has ever been transmitted to people, livestock or other kinds of animals.

Shaw added that whitetail deer provide a significant part of the rich hunting heritage in Oklahoma, as well as significant annual economic impact on the state. A recent survey showed the total economic impact from deer hunting in Oklahoma exceeded $600 million annually.

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Biologists investigate white bass die-off at Tenkiller Reservoir

Fisheries biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation have been investigating angler reports of a large number of white bass found dead around Tenkiller Reservoir in northeast Oklahoma.

“The act of spawning can be stressful for fish weakening the immune system of the fish making them more susceptible to diseases,” said Jim Burroughs, northeast region fisheries supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “White bass migration during spawning runs concentrates populations which can promote the spread of disease between individuals.”

Early last week biologists collected dead or dying white bass and sent them to fish disease specialists to determine the cause of death. A large number of white bass were observed but reports of dying largemouth bass could not be verified. Biologists will continue to investigate.

Fish specimens were taken to Dr. Toby Lowery, DVM with the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks. Dr. Lowery noted a bacteria on the gills and a Trichodina protozoan on the scales of the fish. Dr. Lowery believes that the bacteria could be a secondary result of the protozoan found on the specimens. Trichodina is present in the reservoir as are hundreds of other protozoans at all times and are completely harmless to humans.

According to Burroughs, white bass die-offs are not uncommon. Several Oklahoma reservoirs have experienced similar die-offs in previous years.

“Fortunately, white bass are very resilient. They reproduce in high numbers allowing anglers to harvest the state fish in most of Oklahoma’s reservoirs,” Burroughs said. “The high reproductive potential of the white bass allows it to quickly recover from die-offs like the one in Tenkiller Reservoir.”

Other states are not immune from white bass kills. In 1999, Lake Melvern in Kansas lost an estimated 48,000 fish to a bacteria later identified as Columnaris.

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Lifetime license buyers urged to bring proper documents 

            State Wildlife Department officials are expecting a number of outdoor enthusiasts to purchase lifetime licenses prior to July 1 when the cost increases and have some suggestions to make the process easier for license buyers.

State law specifies that a person applying for a lifetime license must produce either a valid Oklahoma driver’s license or other positive proof of identification, age and residency. To purchase a lifetime license for a child without a driver’s license, the buyer must prove the person receiving the license is an Oklahoma resident. The following are some suggested documents that can be used to prove residency: current school report card, a birth certificate if the child is under one year old, or a current copy of the parent's state tax return listing the child’s social security number.

The Wildlife Department’s primary funding source is the sale of annual hunting and fishing licenses, and the Department does not receive any general state tax appropriations. House Bill 1419, recently signed by the governor, increases the fees for lifetime licenses beginning July 1. For example, a resident lifetime combination hunting and fishing license will go from $525 to $750. This will not generate any direct revenue (the principal of lifetime license sales cannot be spent, only the interest on those investments is eligible to be spent) but will contribute to future interest income from the lifetime license trust fund.

Individuals with questions about purchasing lifetime licenses or any other types of licenses should log onto the Department’s Web site at wildlifedepartment.com or call Department headquarters at (405) 521-3851.

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 Farm pond fishing offers family fun

Oklahoma is home to some outstanding lakes and reservoirs encompassing thousands of miles of shoreline. However, some of the state’s best fishing can be found at small, out-of-the-way farm ponds.

"As the weather is getting warmer, the fishing is getting better at farm ponds," said Barry Bolton, assistant chief of fisheries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "We have good reports coming in for a variety of species from small lakes and ponds around the state.”

You can enjoy some great fishing with very basic equipment, so there is no excuse not to get out and enjoy the opportunity.

"Farm ponds are particularly a good bet early in the year, the fish are responding to increasing water temperatures, which usually rise quicker than they do in larger bodies of water.” Bolton said. “Of course, temperatures are also rising slowly in many of our rivers and lakes, and good fishing will only get better as those temps continue to rise."

Fishing is a great way to spend time with family and friends enjoying the spring weather and the beauty of Oklahoma’s outdoors. Ponds, streams, rivers and lakes provide Oklahoma’s sportsmen ample opportunity for a good fishing experience, but don’t forget to obtain permission from the landowner. Many of these bodies of water occur in the most scenic areas of the state, offering anglers a chance to relax and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors when the action slows down.

Before heading out, anglers should consult the “2003 Oklahoma Fishing Guide” for specific species and area regulations as well as license requirements. The guides are available at fishing and hunting license vendors across the state or by logging on to the Department’s Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

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2003 Habitat Donor Patch features wild turkey

Colorful, collectible and all the money goes to conservation - what more could you ask for? The 2003 wildlife habitat donor patch is now available and features one of Oklahoman’s favorite game birds, the wild turkey.

In 1986 the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation created the wildlife habitat donor patches and caps to raise money for the land acquisition fund. Habitat patches cost $5 and caps, which come in a variety of styles and colors, can be purchased for $10. Beginning July 1, habitat patches will cost $10 and hats will cost $15.

Wildlife habitat donor patches and caps are often considered collector's items and are an important source of funding for habitat conservation. Whether you are a lifelong turkey hunter or a backyard bird watcher, the new patch is a must-have.

Purchases can be made at the Department's headquarters in Oklahoma City at the corner of 18th and North Lincoln and at the Tulsa area office located at the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks.

 Patches and caps can also be ordered by mail through the Department's Outdoor Store. Outdoor Store order forms may be found in  “Outdoor Oklahoma” magazine and on the Department's Web site: www.wildlifedepartment.com.

Other orders can be made by simply sending a cashiers check or money order to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Attn: Habitat Donor Patches and Caps, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152.

For more information about ordering a habitat patch or cap, call (405) 521-3852.

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Editor’s note: Below is a link for the accompanying photo that is 300 DPI and intended for newspaper publication. The ending link is .jpg for the photo. They will open in your browser. If you have a pc you should be able to right click, save picture as, choose the file type you want to save as and click save. The other way to save the image is to go to file in the

toolbar, save picture as, choosing the file type you want to save as and click save.

 

Canton Lake comes full circle for one Oklahoma fisherman

Admittedly, it is not the most glamorous fish in Oklahoma. “Record smallmouth buffalo” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as a record largemouth bass or rainbow trout. However, sometimes it takes a bit of an obscure fish to bring a great story to the surface. The tale of Carl Heer, Oklahoma’s newest fish record holder, is a perfect example.

Carl was born in Longdale in the mid-1930s when northwest Oklahoma was still an often dry and always tough place to scratch out a living. The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers had an ambitious plan to tame the North Canadian River near Carl’s home. The impoundment would provide protection against floods, irrigation for farmers and water to drink - fishing and other recreational opportunities would be a great bonus. Still a teenager, Carl signed up on the work crew to move the earth and rocks necessary to subdue the meandering river. However, in 1944 Carl and many of his other workmates left the job site to help with a much more important project, serving our military in World War II.

Now grizzled veterans, the crews returned and finished the dam in 1948 and Canton Lake began to fill. Carl made a go of it as a farmer, but a few fickle years of weather and he was forced to sell out. Through life’s funny circumstances, Carl found work and a new life in Michigan. He spent more than 40 years there, but always knew in the back of his mind that he would someday come home.

A few years ago, he did just that. Carl moved back to Isabella, OK, just a hop and skip away from his old stomping grounds. Now he spends a few days each week fishing on Canton Lake in the same areas he hunted jackrabbits 50 years ago.

He took to walleye fishing while he lived near the Great Lakes, and was happy to find a thriving population in Canton Lake. Each May, he looks forward to chasing walleye and having fun with friends at the annual Canton Walleye Rodeo.

Carl was fishing the Walleye Rodeo Saturday, May 17 when he hooked a huge fish.

“I wasn’t sure what it was at first, but I thought it might be big enough to win the big fish of the day award,” he said.

The way he describes the fight, it sounds more like a heavyweight-boxing match than a fishing trip.

“We’d go at it for ten or fifteen minutes then we would both rest for five minutes and then we’d do it all over again,” he said.

At 37 pounds, 3.2 ounces and measuring 38 7/8 inches long, the brute was oversized for Carl’s landing net.

“I only had eight-pound test line and a thin minnow hook on, but I somehow horsed him into the boat,” Carl said.

Come to find out, he not only had the big fish of the day, he also had the new record smallmouth buffalo.

Maybe smallmouth buffalo don’t require expensive lures or support a year-long tournament circuit, but they are an important part of Oklahoma’s fish fauna, they taste great and Carl will be the first to tell you they are a lot of fun to catch. At the very least, the smallmouth buffalo should get credit for letting us know about Carl Heer, a man who gave his sweat to building the lake, served his country in hard times and is a fine representative of fishermen all across Oklahoma.

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For a complete list of record fish and the procedures regarding state record fish consult the “2003 Oklahoma Fishing Guide.” If you think you may have hooked a record fish it is important that you weigh the fish on an Oklahoma State Department of Agriculture certified scale and the weight is verified by a Wildlife Department employee.

Editor’s note: Below is a link for the accompanying photo that is 96 DPI and intended for newspaper publication. The ending link is .jpg for the photo. They will open in your browser. If you have a pc you should be able to right click, save picture as, choose the file type you want to save as and click save. The other way to save the image is to go to file in the

toolbar, save picture as, choosing the file type you want to save as and click save.

 

Noodling tournaments coming this summer

It’s not for the timid and it is not for those who prefer to stay dry while fishing, but noodling can be one of the most exhilarating activities a sportsman ever experiences. Noodling is the sport of fishing by hand, just a man and a fish and, of course, a healthy appetite for adventure.

Veteran hand fishermen know that the prime time is coming soon to wade into Oklahoma’s rivers and lakes and come out with an armful of flatheads. The flathead catfish is the primary catfish species that can be taken legally by noodlers in Oklahoma. As temperatures warm up, flathead start searching shallow water for holes under logs, rocks and along mud banks so they can spawn. They will stay in the holes to deposit and fan their eggs until they hatch, and noodlers can pull the fish from those holes. Fork-tailed catfish including both channel and blue catfish, are classified as gamefish and must be released immediately by noodlers.

Several noodling tournaments have sprung up in recent years giving a chance for noodlers to test their skills against each other.

“No hooks, no bait, no fear,” is the motto for the First Annual National Noodling Tournament, Festival and Fish Fry to be held at 7:00 p.m., Saturday, June 14. The event, hosted by the Johnston County Chamber of Commerce, will be headquartered at Scotty’s Blue River One Stop, eight miles north of Tishomingo.

Contestants will vie for prizes including $500 cash for the biggest fish. Even if you don’t catch the big fish of the day, you can enter to win the dubious Ugliest Noodler crown. Live bands, craft booths and a noodling queen pageant will round out the festival. For more information about the tournament, call (580) 371-2175.

For the past several years, the Pauls Valley Catfish Noodling Tournament has attracted hundreds of visitors to the south-central Oklahoma town. Once again, Bob’s Pig Shop will host the event at 6:00 p.m., July 12. The event will feature a fish fry, live music, a noodling queen pageant and plenty of monstrous catfish.

For more information about the tournament, call the Pauls Valley Chamber of Commerce at (405) 238-6491 or log on to their Web site at paulsvalley.com.

Those interested in noodling in Oklahoma should be aware that the daily bag limit for noodlers is three flathead catfish. Flatheads must be a minimum of 20 inches to be kept. Additionally, noodling is a "hands-only" sport, and the possession of hooks, gafts, spears, poles or ropes with hooks attached while noodling is prohibited. For fishing regulations or to purchase a fishing license, log on to the Department’s Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

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One million bats stir up visitors

The nightly exodus of one million Mexican free-tailed bats attracts Oklahomans to the Selman Bat Cave near Freedom, OK. On summer evenings, clouds of beating wings swirl from the cave’s entrance.

Melynda Hickman, natural resources biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC), coordinates the Selman bat watch events.

“For about 20 minutes, columns of bats rise against the setting sun,” Hickman said. “In addition to providing an amazing spectacle, they’re an enormous economic benefit to local farmers and ranchers. We estimate they eat 10 tons (20,000 pounds) of mosquitoes, moths and beetles every night.”

The Selman Bat Cave is one of only five sites in Oklahoma visited by a maternity colony of Mexican free-tailed bats. Migrating from Central and South America, the female bats spend the summer months at Selman where they birth their young, called pups.

“By July, most of the pups are flying,” Hickman said. “That doubles the number of bats emerging from the cave.”

Traveling from as far as Texas, Missouri and New Mexico, more than 5,000 people have seen the exodus of one of the largest Mexican free-tailed bat colonies in America

The destruction of cave sites, human disturbance to roosting sites and the use of pesticides have resulted in the decline of free-tail’s numbers.

“It’s exciting to offer this unique opportunity to get close to wild bats leaving their cave in search of insects. Visitors gain a deeper appreciation of bats and of their importance to our environment and economy,” Hickman said.

The bat watches begin at Alabaster Caverns State Park. From there, buses transport visitors to the Selman Bat Cave Wildlife Management Area, which is usually closed to the public. Visitors may participate in a short, interpretive nature walk led by biologists and trained volunteers while waiting for the bats’ emergence.

Sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the state’s only public bat viewing occurs at 6:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday nights, July 11 through Aug. 9. Group-size is limited to 75 people per night. Adults cost $8, youth $5. Registration deadline is June 28.

A “Nature at Night” program is offered the evenings of Aug. 8 and Aug. 9. Following the bat watch, visitors explore the sandsage prairie in the dark. The program is limited to 20 adults.

To register, contact ODWC’s Wildlife Diversity Program at (405) 424-0099 or log onto www.wildlifedepartment.com, click on Watchable Wildlife and follow the link to Selman Bat Cave.

The Wildlife Diversity Program of Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation works to monitor manage and promote the wildlife species in Oklahoma that are not hunted or fished.

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Passport designed to protect Blue River’s scenic beauty

The Blue River in southern Oklahoma is widely known as one of the most scenic areas in the state. The tumbling waterfalls, rolling hills and excellent facilities of the Blue River Public Fishing and Hunting Area attract visitors from miles around.

Covering more than 3,000 acres, the area attracts a wide range of outdoor enthusiasts, from trout fishermen and hunters in the fall and winter to campers and picnickers in the spring and summer. Winding through the public fishing and hunting area is six miles of the Blue River. Located four miles east of Tishomingo, in Johnston County, the river is certainly the centerpiece of any visit to the area.

In an effort to protect the area’s natural beauty, non-hunting and non-angling visitors will need a Blue River Conservation Passport for entering or using the Blue River Public Fishing and Hunting Area, beginning July 1.

Residents and non-residents who hold valid annual or lifetime Oklahoma hunting or fishing licenses are exempt from purchasing the passport, which will cost $21. Exemptions will also be allowed for those under 18 years of age, students on educational tours and those participating in organized events sanctioned in advance by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

This special use permit, which does not allow any fishing or hunting privileges, will be used to maintain camping locations, upkeep roads and manage wildlife habitat. The Blue River Public Fishing and Hunting Area is one of the top trout fishing destinations in the winter and a favorite outdoor recreation place in the summer. The passport will help to ensure the area is conserved for future generations.

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NWTF to host “Women in the Outdoors” event

Women from all walks of life will be given the chance to experience the thrill of outdoor activities such as camping, recreational shooting and fishing at an upcoming event sponsored by the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF).

The Oklahoma County chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation will be hosting Women in the Outdoors event June 28 at Crystal Lake in Oklahoma City. It will also allow women to develop a greater understanding of wildlife conservation and meet others who share their enthusiasm.

Space is limited. The registration deadline is June 21 or when the event is full. Registration is $45 per person. A special drawing will be held for those who get friends and family to attend.

The Women in the Outdoors program’s mission is to provide hands-on, educational outdoor opportunities for women. The program is now in its fourth year, and there are more than 42,000 members.

“The Women in the Outdoors program allows the NWTF to reach an entirely new audience, one that has been overlooked in the past for outdoor sports and conservation,” said Rob Keck, NWTF, chief executive officer.

Participants will be able to attend two classes. Classes offered include:

Pistol Shooting

Archery

Fishing

Shotgun Shooting

Trailer Backing

Boating Skills

Dutch Oven Cooking

Women in the Outdoors events are held across the country with experts on hand to teach in a noncompetitive manner. The combination of sponsorship and local chapter support allows the NWTF to offer these programs at a low cost to participants. The cost of attending each event includes a membership in Women in the Outdoors program and a “Women in the Outdoors” magazine subscription with articles and information on a variety of outdoor adventure and activities.

For more information, contact Gary Brunsvold at (405) 354-5609 or Tres Albright at (405) 715-2412.

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Elk hunt on the auction block

Harvesting a bull elk in Oklahoma is certainly a rare opportunity. Hunters now have a chance to not only bid on a fully guided bull elk hunt at Cookson Wildlife Management Area, but also help needy Oklahomans in the process. This year, for the fifth year in a row, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) is auctioning a bull elk hunt, and the proceeds will go to the Department’s Hunters Against Hunger program.

Through a sealed bid auction, the hunter with the top bid has successfully harvested a trophy bull for the past four years. Last year’s winner took a 6x7 bull. The hunt, which generated over $11,000 last year, is a guided three-day hunt anytime in September, October or November (subject to availability). The broken hills and rugged landscape of Cookson Hills will challenge even the seasoned elk hunter. Archery, muzzleloader or modern rifle equipment may be used. The minimum bid for this year’s hunt is $7,500.

Hunters who wish to submit a bid must supply their name, address, day and evening phone numbers with their bid amount on a notarized card or letter. Bids can be dropped off at ODWC headquarters or mailed to Oklahoma Auction Elk Hunt, P.O. Box 53465 Oklahoma City, OK 73152. All bids must be received at ODWC headquarters in Oklahoma City by 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, July 1. Bidding is open to individuals and organizations. The permit may be transferred one time by the successful bidder, but may not be transferred for financial gain. Payment must be received within 10 days of notification.

“Proceeds from the elk hunt auction will assist the Department’s Hunters Against Hunger program,” said Alan Peoples, wildlife chief for the Department. “Through a network of statewide food banks that distribute donated venison to local shelters, the program has served meals to thousands of needy Oklahomans.”

For additional information about the Hunters Against Hunger program, consult the “2003 Oklahoma Hunting Guide,” or log onto the Department’s Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

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