OCTOBER 2005 NEWS RELEASES 

 

WEEK OF OCTOBER 27, 2005

WEEK OF OCTOBER 20, 2005

WEEK OF OCTOBER 13, 2005

WEEK OF OCTOBER 6, 2005

New partner joins Honobia Creek Wildlife Management Area

         At its October meeting, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission unanimously approved a land access agreement with J.M. Huber Corporation, a private forest investment company, to maintain public recreational access to 4,440 acres of the Honobia Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA).

         The property was previously enrolled by the John Hancock Company and will remain a part of the Honobia Creek WMA. The cooperative agreement allows continued public access by hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers to the timber lands under the existing Land Access Fee permit. Established in 1996, all revenues generated by the Land Access Fee permit are used exclusively in the management of Honobia Creek and Three Rivers wildlife management areas, both of which are privately owned WMAs made available to the public through special agreements.

         “Although managed for timber production, the J.M. Huber Corporation is dedicated to enhancing Honobia Creek WMA’s fish and wildlife resources and providing quality public recreation,” said Dan Lewia, management forester for the J.M. Huber Corporation. “Together, the J.M. Huber Corporation and the Wildlife Department will work to enhance fish and wildlife habitat and provide additional hunting and fishing opportunities.”

         Using Land Access Fee revenue, the Wildlife Department will coordinate with the J.M. Huber Corporation for various projects including the construction of wildlife watering ponds, establishment of forest openings, planting of supplemental food crops for wildlife and improving hunting opportunities. Land Access Fee revenue is also used to develop camping areas, conduct winter prescribed burns, and improve roads that access popular hunting and fishing areas. By purchasing a Land Access Fee $16 (Oklahoma residents) or $25 (non-residents), the Honobia Creek Wildlife Management Area offers year-round recreation for the entire family.

         Also at their October meeting, Jontie Aldrich, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) Tulsa Office, provided Commissioners with an informational presentation on the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, a cooperative habitat conservation effort.  Since the voluntary program was initiated in the state in 1991, it has helped fund more than 800 projects in Oklahoma totaling more than 23,000 acres.  In 2005, the program provided $75,000 for on-the-ground conservation work in the state. The projects range in scope from small wetland restorations to expansive cedar removal projects to elementary outdoor classrooms.

         Aldrich presented Wildlife Department Director Greg Duffy with a plaque in honor of his support of the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program.

         “Greg Duffy is one of the top state wildlife directors and his dedication to the wildlife resources and willingness to overcome any obstacles has been a critical component of the success off this program in Oklahoma,” Aldrich told the Commission.

         In other business, Commissioners recognized eight different Department employees who have served at least 20 years each.

         The following employees were recognized for their service to the Department:

     Also at the meeting, the Commission voted to withdraw the agency’s retirement funds from the ING Corporation and invest those funds with the Bank of Oklahoma.

         In other business, the Commission also passed an emergency rule which exempts  areas that have been enclosed in a high fence for more than 10 years from the requirement to conduct a deer drive and animal tagging requirements before the property is re-licensed to a new owner. Once the area is approved as a commercial hunt area all current regulations will remain in place.

         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 November 7 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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Wildlife Department employees honored for years of service

         If it is true that wisdom comes with experience, then the employees of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation are some of the smartest folks around.

         At its October meeting, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission recognized eight different Department employees who have collectively served sportsmen and the state’s fish and wildlife resources for more than 200 years. Wildlife Department employees are some of the longest tenured employees of any state agency.

         “Our Department is only as good as our employees,” said Director Greg Duffy. “We are blessed with so many hardworking and talented employees who share a common passion for the outdoors. It makes it a pleasure to come to work, and I think that is why so many have been with the Wildlife Department for so many years.

         While there are many other Wildlife Department employees who have served at least 20 years, the following employees were recognized for their service to the Department at the Commission’s October meeting:

         Also at their October meeting, Jontie Aldrich, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) Tulsa Office, presented Director Greg Duffy with a plaque in honor of his contributions to the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program.

         “Greg Duffy is one of the top state wildlife directors and his dedication to the wildlife resources and willingness to overcome any obstacles has been a critical component of the success off this program in Oklahoma,” Aldrich said.

         Since the voluntary program was initiated in the state in 1991, it has helped fund more than 800 habitat restoration projects in Oklahoma totaling more than 23,000 acres.  The projects range in scope from small wetland restorations to expansive cedar removal projects to elementary outdoor classrooms.

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Third annual youth antlerless deer gun season set to open  

Thousands of Oklahoma youth will soon head afield to participate in Oklahoma's third annual youth antlerless deer gun season October 14-16.       

 “The youth antlerless season is a great opportunity for kids to spend some quality time in a hunting blind with family and friends,” said Colin Berg, education supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “I was lucky enough to see my step son harvest his first deer during the first youth antlerless gun season and it’s an experience he and I will never forget.”

Open to kids under 18 years of age, the special youth antlerless deer gun season was created to encourage youth to head into the woods and to provide additional opportunities to harvest antlerless deer.

Berg added that safety is the key to a good hunting season, so new and experienced hunters are encouraged to attend an upcoming hunter education course before heading afield.  

Oklahoma law requires anyone under 16 years of age to successfully complete a hunter education course before hunting big game (deer, elk, antelope) with a centerfire rifle, shotgun with single rifled slug or muzzleloader. The law also requires that anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1972, upon reaching 16 years of age, must exhibit a hunter safety certificate from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation or a like certificate from another state to purchase or receive any Oklahoma hunting license. Hunters born after the above date, who purchased a lifetime license before they turned 16, must complete the course before they can actually begin hunting.  

Below is a list of courses currently scheduled before the youth antlerless season. If a phone number is listed, then pre-registration is required:  
Oct. 8 Cleveland 8 a.m. - 7 p.m. Cleveland Police Department 
Oct. 8 Oklahoma City 8 a.m. - 7 p.m. Omniplex, (405) 521-3855
Oct. 8 Poteau 8 a.m. - 6:30 p.m. Civic Center  
Oct. 8 Fairfax 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. First Baptist Church 201 S Main
Oct. 8 Grove 8 a.m. - 7 p.m. Community Center  
Oct. 8 Jenks 8 a.m. - 7 p.m. High School Building # 6  (918) 299-2334   
Oct. 8 Pryor 8 a.m. - 7 p.m. Northeast Tech Center  
Oct. 8 Midwest City 9 a.m. - 2 p.m., Home Study, Midwest City Library, (405) 732-4828
Oct. 8 Oakwood 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. Oakwood Community Center
Oct. 8 Arnett 8 a.m. - 6:30 p.m. Arnett High School
Oct. 8 Frederick 8 a.m. - 7 p.m. Great Plains Tech Center

Oct. 8 Kellyville 8 a.m.-6 :30 p.m. Creek Co. Fairgrounds
Oct. 8-9 Ft. Gibson 1 p.m. - 6 p.m. High School Cafeteria
Oct. 10-11 Goodwell 4 p.m. - 9 p.m. Oklahoma Panhandle University, Hefley Hall, Rm 102
Oct. 10,11,13 Duncan 6 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. Red River Tech center, Room 108
Oct. 10, 11, 13 Nowata 6 p.m. - 10 p.m. (10th & 11th)  6 p.m. - 8 p.m. (13th)  Nowata County Fairgrounds Must attend all three days  
Oct. 11 Oklahoma City 6 p.m. - 10 p.m. Home Study, H&H Gun Range (405) 947-3888
Oct. 11 Oklahoma City, 5 p.m. - 9 p.m., Home Study, Bass Pro  (405) 218-5200
Oct. 11 Jenks 6 p.m. - 10 p.m. Home Study, ODWC Office  (918) 299-2334
Oct. 12 Oklahoma City, 5 p.m. - 9 p.m., Home Study, Bass Pro  (405) 218-5200
Oct. 13 Jenks 6 p.m. - 10 p.m. Home Study, ODWC Office  (918) 299-2334  

Hunters should pick up a copy of the “2005-2006 Oklahoma Hunting Guide” for complete information on hunting seasons and hunter education requirements.  

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Wildlife Department seeks artists for waterfowl stamp design

         The Wildlife Department is accepting entries for the Oklahoma Waterfowl Stamp design competition. The deadline to submit art is 4:30 p.m., October 28.

         The American widgeon will be featured on the 2006-2007 stamp and all artists must depict this species, and any habitat appearing in the design must be typical for the widgeon in Oklahoma. The winning art will be printed on the 2006-2007 Oklahoma Waterfowl Stamp, which is required of most waterfowl hunters.

         Duck stamp sales help finance many projects that benefit ducks and geese. Since the duck stamp program began in 1980, thousands of acres of waterfowl habitat have been created through duck stamp revenues.

         Artwork may be of acrylic, oil, watercolor, scratchboard, pencil, pen and ink, tempera or any other two-dimensional media. The illustration must be horizontal, 6 1/2 inches high and 9 inches wide. It must be matted with white mat board 9 inches high by 12 inches wide with the opening cut precisely 6 1/2-by-9. Artwork may not be framed or under glass, but an acetate covering should be used to protect the art. For complete entry guidelines, call (405) 521-3856.

         Entries should be sent to the Duck Stamp Competition Coordinator, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152. Fed Ex, UPS and other ground deliveries should be sent to 1801 N. Lincoln, Oklahoma City, OK 73105.

         Entries will be judged on anatomical accuracy, artistic composition and suitability for printing. The winner and three honorable mentions will appear in a future issue of “Outdoor Oklahoma” magazine.

         A non-refundable entry fee of $20 (cash, money order or cashier’s check) must accompany each entry. No entries will be accepted after 4:30 p.m., Oct. 28.

         The winning artist will receive a purchase award of $1,200 and 50 prints (special artist's proof editions) of the design if the Wildlife Department makes such a reproduction. The winning entry will become the sole and exclusive property of the Wildlife Department.

         For more information about the contest call (405) 521-3856. 

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 Cedar control plan important to maintain healthy quail populations

         The slow but steady invasion of cedar trees into native prairie has a very negative impact on Oklahoma’s quail population, according to Mike Sams, the upland game bird biologist and quail program coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

         “Infestation of cedar is perhaps the best example of how Oklahoma’s landscape has changed due to factors like urbanization and fire suppression,” Sams said. “By the 1950's cedars had expanded to cover 1.5 million acres of Oklahoma rangeland. Today, Eastern red cedars have invaded approximately 10 million acres of rangeland.”

         According to Sams when cedar trees encroach on prairie habitat, bobwhite quail populations tend to decline.         Cedars can have a whole host of negative impacts, particularly due to their risk of wildfires in rural and suburban settings. Cedar invasions can also be quite harmful to grassland bird species. Many of Oklahoma’s grassland bird species are declining at a rate greater than bobwhite quail.

         “Cedar control is an important part of a land management plan for both wildlife and livestock,” Sams said. “It sounds simple, but the sooner you start to get a hold of the problem the better. Prescribed fire is one of the best and most efficient methods of not only removing existing cedar trees but also controlling the spread of new saplings. Mechanical removal is the most cost-effective option where cedars have grown too large to be killed by prescribed fire.”

         Landowners can receive technical assistance and may qualify for financial incentives for removing cedar trees. Those who would like more information about their cedar control options should contact a regional biologist by calling (405) 521-2739. Landowners can also contact their county's Natural Resource Conservation agent for more information. 

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 Cutline: The slow but steady invasion of cedar trees into native prairie has a very negative impact on Oklahoma’s quail population, according to Mike Sams, the upland game bird biologist and quail program coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife.

 

  

Muzzleloader deer season opens Oct. 22

         Oklahoma deer hunters are looking forward to Oct. 22 – the opening day of deer muzzleloader season across the state.

         The statewide season runs Oct. 22-30, offering nine days of traditional-style hunting that harkens back to the early days of Oklahoma's hunting heritage. Hunting with a muzzleloading firearm offers a great chance for Oklahoma hunters to harvest a deer, and possibly a big buck. Additionally, cool breezes and fall colors make it a great time to be out in the woods.

         Oklahomans are blessed with a wide variety of terrain that whitetail deer call home. Many of the more than 77 wildlife management areas in the state are open for all, or a portion of, the nine-day muzzleloader season.  Regardless of where you go it is always a good idea to do some scouting before the season.

Hunters can do a little virtual scouting and never leave the comfort of home by logging onto wildlifedepartment.com. The Web site offers an award-winning digital wildlife management area atlas. And best of all it is free. In addition to detailed maps, sportsmen can find additional information such as camping locations and contact information for local biologists.

         More than 100,000 hunters participated in the muzzleloader season last year. These hunters contributed significantly to the $909 million economic impact produced by all of Oklahoma's nearly 300,000 hunters according to the most recent economic impact a survey conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

For specific information regarding which areas are open to muzzleloader season, licenses, bag limits, blaze orange clothing requirements or legal firearms, consult the "2005 Oklahoma Hunting Guide" or log onto www.wildlifedepartment.com.

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Free replacement hunter education cards offered at wildlifedepartment.com

         Hunters who may have misplaced their hunter education card can print off a free replacement by logging onto the wildlifedepartment.com.

         "One of the most common calls we receive are from people who have lost their hunter education card. It’s always nice to be able to tell hunters they can get a replacement card for free off the Internet 24-hours a day," said Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

         To print off a temporary card, go to the Department’s home page (wildlifedepartment.com) and click “need a hunter education class or replacement card”. Once on the Hunter Education page, individuals can click on, “print off replacement hunter ed card.” Follow the directions by filling in the requested information; then clicking 'submit' and the card should appear on the screen.

         "Hunters can print the card out and use it to get their licenses. It will be accepted by license vendors across the state and in other states as well. The information can also be useful if you want to request a permanent replacement card," Meek said.

         If a card does not come up, the hunter can contact the Department's Information and Education Division at (405) 521-4636, Monday-Friday, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. and Department personnel will check the hunter education database to find a hunter’s certification record. Those wanting a permanent plastic replacement card can receive one for $5 (check, cash, money orders or cashiers checks accepted) by visiting the Department's Oklahoma City headquarters or submitting a letter to: Attn: Replacement Hunter Education Card, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152.

Letters must contain the hunter's name as it appeared on the original card, current address, birth date and student number if known. Those who do not know their student number should provide the date and location for the course they attended. They should also include a daytime phone number so additional information can be obtained if needed. 

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Youth waterfowl hunts hosted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

          Oklahoma youngsters age 12 to 15 have an opportunity to apply for special controlled waterfowl hunts sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

          The hunts are designed to provide youth who do not have an adult mentor who waterfowl hunts an opportunity to experience the traditions of waterfowling.

         “Taking young hunters afield is one of the most important things we can do to pass on our hunting heritage and a true appreciation for the waterfowl resource,” said Mike O’Meilia, migratory game bird biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “There are just too many good opportunities to not make plans to take a young hunter this year.  Whether you take a son or daughter or a neighbor’s child out on one of the youth waterfowl weekend days that wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to go, this can be a truly memorable experience.”

          Youth hunters will be randomly drawn from a list of applicants for each hunting area. Applicants must be 12 to 15 years of age, have proof of successfully completing a certified hunter education course, and have an adult guardian who can accompany them on the hunt.

          A Wildlife Department employee will accompany each youth and their adult guardian for the controlled waterfowl hunt at one of several Department-managed areas. Only the youth hunter will be allowed to hunt.

          Each youth applicant and their guardian may apply only once and must provide the following information on a 3x5 postcard to be eligible for the drawing: names, addresses, telephone numbers, youth’s hunter education number, the name of the desired hunt location and two alternate hunt locations where they would like to hunt. The specific date of the hunt will be coordinated with successful applicants after the drawing.

          Applications must be received by October 24, 2005, and should be mailed to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Youth Waterfowl Hunts, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152.  Successful applicants will be notified by October 28, 2005.

          The Wildlife Department will provide successful applicants the necessary nontoxic shotgun shells and a 20 gauge single shot shotgun will be available for use if the youth does not have his or her own shotgun.

 2005-06 Youth Waterfowl Hunting Locations:

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Whooping crane population reaches record numbers
            Last year was record-breaking for one of North America’s rarest birds. For the first time in more than 100 years, the population of endangered whooping cranes surpassed 200 birds. A total of 217 whooping cranes completed the migration from breeding grounds in Canada to wintering grounds along the Texas Coast during the fall of 2004.
            During the trek, 43 percent of that group appeared at Oklahoma’s Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge throughout the fall and winter, according to biologists tracking the birds.
            “That was the largest number ever recorded in one place during migration,” said Mark Howery, natural resources biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
            The whooping cranes had a successful breeding season this spring, and nearly 30 young cranes are expected to be migrating with the adults this fall. With 230-plus leaving Canada, biologists expect an impressive number again in Oklahoma.
            The whooping cranes should pass through the central one-third of the state between Oct. 20 and the first week of November.
            “The cranes we see are part of the last remaining, self-sustaining population in the world,” Howery said.     
            The population was down to 15 whooping cranes in 1941. All cranes that exist today are descendents from this original migratory population.                  
            The Wildlife Department collects whooping crane sightings as part of a federal tracking program led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Report any sightings to the Department of Wildlife Conservation at (405) 521-4616. Please note date, location, number of birds, behavior (walking, flying), habitat, and physical description.
            “Oklahoma’s sportsmen account for over one-third of the state’s whooping crane reports,” Howery said.
            Whooping cranes stand over five feet tall and are the tallest birds in North America. These cranes have a wingspan of over seven feet, are white in appearance, and have black legs and black wing tips. They have a red facial mask and long olive-drab bills.
            They may be seen in wet agricultural fields or along river bottoms in small groups of two to six birds. They roost at night on mudflats and are often seen with flocks of sandhill cranes.
            Keeping a lookout for whooping cranes is a high priority for Kelvin Schoonover, wildlife biologist at Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area in Tillman County. Schoonover tracked  five birds last fall a record for Hackberry Flat.
            “They’re usually here no longer than two to three weeks, but last year they arrived on Oct. 19 and stayed until the day before Thanksgiving,” Schoonover said.            
            Schoonover also makes sure hunters visiting the area know when a whooping crane is present.
            “Sandhill cranes and snow geese migrate here around the same time, and they can look a lot like the endangered birds. Hunters need to be very cautious when whooping cranes are in the area,” he said.             
            Whooping cranes have not yet made an appearance at Hackberry Flat this year. However, sandhill cranes are beginning to arrive, which indicates whooping cranes are probably not far behind.
            A total of 341 whooping cranes live today in the wild and 136 survive in captivity.  In addition to the original migratory population, there are two smaller, human-established whooping crane populations in Florida.

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Wildlife Department seeks bass tournament information
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is once again seeking information from bass tournaments conducted over the last year. This information will be used to compile the 2005 Oklahoma Bass Tournament Report.
            “The information we get each year from bass clubs and tournament organizers provides biologists with hundreds of thousands of hours of fishing data every year," said Gene Gilliland, senior fisheries biologist for the Department. "While this information is of critical importance to biologists as they make management decisions, anglers can also use the same data to help plan their next fishing trip."
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has gathered statewide data on competitive bass fishing for 11 years.
            “Since we cannot conduct electrofishing surveys every year on every lake, tournament results allow our biologists to monitor bass populations between surveys,” Gilliland said.
            Bass clubs and tournament organizations may submit the results of their events to the Wildlife Department either via the postage-paid post cards they received from permitting authorities such as Grand River Dam Authority or the Corps of Engineers or they can submit the information directly to the Fisheries Research Lab in Norman via the Internet at www.fishlab.ou.edu/bass/tournament.htm.
            The deadline for clubs to include their date in the 2005 report is Friday, November 11.  Information from this year's tournaments will be compiled and those clubs submitting data will receive the 2005 Oklahoma Bass Tournaments Annual Report either by mail or e-mail.
             To view the 2004 Oklahoma Bass Tournaments Annual Report log on to  www.wildlifedepartment.com

 

 

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 Free digital atlases available for sportsmen

            Since the first hunter threw the first spear at a wooly mammoth, looking for a good hunting spot meant lots of walking and lots of time in the woods. Later came bulky paper maps, but in recent years their lack of detail and timeliness has caused them to go the way of the mammoths.
            Hunters and fishermen now have access to digital aerial photos of hunting areas that their ancestors could only dream about. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s innovative digital atlas is available at wildlifedepartment.com, and it has revolutionized the way Oklahomans gather information about hunting or fishing opportunities.
            “It is really just a fantastic tool. If you have never tried these digital atlases you are really missing out and the technology is very user friendly,” said Rich Fuller, information supervisor of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
            According to Fuller, when most people log on they first “play around” looking at aerial photos of their own backyard, but soon they are using many of the atlas tools.
            “You can pull up detailed maps of any wildlife management areas with just a few clicks of the mouse, then you can use the measuring tool to measure the distance from the parking lot to a likely looking tree stand location or measure the acreage of a food plot or farm pond,” Fuller said.
            Fuller added that hyperlinks allow users access to a wide variety of information such as: game species present on the area, management practices used by the area biologist, local contact information, local fishing opportunities, as well as camp grounds and parking lots.
            “The best piece of advice I could give to someone using the digital atlas for the first time is to read the directions. It only take about five minutes and you can learn about all the tools rather than just learning by trial by error,” Fuller said.
                Outdoor enthusiasts can log on to www.wildlifedepartment.com to see the maps for themselves.  

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 Waterfowl hunters looking forward to upcoming seasons
        
The Oklahoma waterfowl season has already begun in the three panhandle counties, and hunters are keeping their eyes toward the skies anticipating the arrival of the migratory ducks and geese.
        
“Waterfowl biologists in the northern prairies and Canada reported good waterfowl reproduction this spring and more young ducks always contributes to a better hunting season,” said Mike O’Meilia, migratory game bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “Just like we say every year, one of the most important components to Oklahoma waterfowl hunting is weather. If we get timely rains and good strong cold fronts, it could be a great year to duck and goose hunt in Oklahoma.”
        
The seasons and daily limits will be similar to last year, with most of the state enjoying a 74-day duck season and six-bird daily limit. However there were three changes made to the 2005-06 seasons.
        
First, there will be a 12-day mid season closure. In past years the closure, known commonly as the “split,” has run only five days. Second, the daily limit on scaup will be reduced from three to two birds. And third, the daily limit on white-fronted geese will be reduced from two birds to one bird. These reductions were required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and were designed to ensure the long-term population health of these two species.
        
In zone 1 (most of northwest Oklahoma), the first half of the duck season will open Oct. 29 and run through Dec. 4, with the second half beginning Dec. 17 and running through Jan. 22, 2006.  Be sure to see the regulations for specific zone boundaries. Pintail and canvasback season will open Oct. 29 and run through Dec. 4, and then re-open on Dec. 17 and run through Dec. 18. Youth waterfowl hunting days in zone 1 will be Oct. 22 and 23.\
         In zone 2, the duck season will run from Nov. 5 through Dec. 4 and Dec. 17 through Jan. 29, 2005. Pintail and canvasback season will open Dec. 22 and run through Jan. 29.
         Panhandle counties will offer the longest duck season. The panhandle counties opened on Oct. 8 and runs continuously through Jan. 11, 2006. Pintail and canvasback season opened Oct. 8 and runs through Nov. 15. Youth waterfowl dates for the panhandle will be Oct. 1 and 2.
        
Hunters will be allowed a daily limit of six ducks combined, no more than five of which can be mallards. Of those, only two mallards may be hens. Only two scaup, two wood ducks, two redheads may be included in the daily limit. There is a shortened season on pintails and canvasbacks with a daily limit of one pintail and one canvasback during the specified time period in each of the established duck seasons.
        The statewide Canada goose season will run from Nov. 5 through Dec. 4 and Dec. 10 through Feb. 12, 2006. The daily limit will be three birds.  The season for white-fronted geese will run Nov. 5 through Dec. 4 and Dec. 10 through Feb. 3, 2006.  The daily bag limit is one. The regular season for light geese (snows, blues and Ross’) will run Nov. 5 through Dec. 4 and Dec. 10 through Feb. 12. The daily bag limit is 20.
        
Sandhill crane season will be from Oct. 29 – Jan. 29, west of I-35 only. The daily limit will be three birds.
        
Hunters can log on to www.wildlifedepartment.com to check out the latest wetland status reports. Once the season begins, periodic waterfowl reports are also available at the Department’s Web site.
        
Hunters who wish to participate in the waterfowl season must posses unless exempt. Waterfowl hunter must also obtain the following permits, unless exempt:

The federal duck stamp costs $15 and is available at U.S. Post Offices. Hunters pursuing sandhill cranes must also purchase a separate sandhill crane hunting permit.

         Hunters should consult the “2005-06 Waterfowl Hunting Guide” for complete hunting regulations and license requirements. Waterfowl Guides are available at hunting and fishing license dealers statewide or hunters can obtain complete regulation information from the Wildlife Department’s Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

 Editors Note:
         O’Meilia added that Oct.24 is the deadline for applying for the youth waterfowl hunts hosted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
         “These unique, fully-guided hunts are designed for youth ages 12-15 who do not have an adult mentor who waterfowl hunts,” O’Meilia said. “It’s a great opportunity to introduce a youngster to sport of waterfowling.”
         For more information or to learn how to apply for these hunts log on to wildlifedepartment.com or call (405) 424-0122.

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 Trout stocking in Lower Mountain Fork River Resumes

               Trout stocking on the lower Mountain Fork River designated trout area below Broken Bow Lake will resume November 3, according to officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. 

               Trout stocking was temporarily suspended at the popular trout stream below Broken Bow Lake when fisheries personnel determined that water temperature was too warm for rainbow trout.

               “The situation is much improved,” said Paul Balkenbush, southeast region fisheries supervisor for the Wildlife Department.  “We are finally seeing the cool weather that you would expect to have this time of year.  We still need rain, but the water temperature situation is back where we need it to be.”

               The scheduled bi-weekly trout stockings at the lower Mountain Fork River will be resumed as scheduled beginning November 3.  The trout that were not stocked due to the warm water situation will be added to the next three stocking trips. 

               “Anglers planning trips to the lower Mountain Fork River should have some excellent fishing over the coming months,” Balkenbush said.   “Our stocking numbers will increase 33 percent during November and part of December as we replenish those fish that should have been stocked during the suspension.”

               Anglers who want to view the trout stocking schedule can log on to Trout Stocking.

               Anglers are reminded that everyone who fishes the 12-mile Lower Mountain Fork trout area are required to possess a trout license. Trout anglers ages 17 and under can purchase a youth trout license for $5; trout licenses for anglers 18 and older are $10. There are no exemptions from purchasing the trout license. Additionally, anglers must have a state fishing or combination license and if 18 or older they must possess the hunting and fishing legacy permit unless otherwise exempt. Residents age 17 or younger, or age 64 and older are exempt from the legacy permit. Non-residents age 13 and younger are also exempt.

Before visiting one of Oklahoma’s trout areas, check the “2005 Oklahoma Fishing Guide” for complete regulations, as well as maps and additional information for each area.

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Hackberry Flat receives important guests

         One of North America’s rarest birds, the whooping crane, was recently sighted at one of the continent’s most unique wetlands – Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area.

         “It’s astounding to think as little as ten years ago, the chance of seeing a whooping crane in Oklahoma was incredibly low.  You can still consider yourself lucky to see one here, but with their population continuing to increase, there’s a greater chance of actually sighting one of these rare and magnificent birds,” said Mark Howery, natural resources biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.  

         A pair of whooping cranes made a stop at Hackberry Flat near Frederick last week and the possibility for more visits exists in coming weeks. Whooping cranes, which are endangered, stand nearly five feet tall, making them the tallest birds in North America. Whooping cranes have a wingspan of over seven feet, are white in appearance, and have black legs and black wing tips. They have a red facial mask and long olive-drab bills.  Due to the location of the breeding grounds in Canada and the wintering grounds on the Texas Gulf Coast, whooping cranes only migrate through the western third of Oklahoma.

         “This is a great time of year to come to Hackberry Flat. Not only can you see shorebirds, ducks and geese, you might even get a chance to see a whooping crane,” Rod Smith, southwest region wildlife supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.  

          Smith urged birdwatchers to use caution if they get an opportunity to see the rare birds.

         “It’s very exciting to see whoopers, but it is important to remain a reasonable distance from them and give them the space they need. I try to keep a pair of binoculars handy so I can view them easily without disturbing them,” Smith said.

         Hackberry Flat is the state's largest depression wetland. Throughout most the 20th century, the area was not an oasis for migrating birds. The area was drained in the early part of the century when a massive, four-mile long ditch was created. However, the low spots still held water when it rained, which made farming very difficult on Hackberry Flat.

A massive restoration effort, which began in 1993, involved various corporations, businesses, and the City of Frederick in a partnership that also included state and federal agencies and non-profit conservation organizations.            The Wildlife Department constructed nearly 40 miles of levees and ditches to form a honeycomb of large ponds, which allows some areas to be flooded.

Hackberry Flat encompasses more than 7,000 acres of prime migratory bird habitat. The area was featured in a recent issue of “Field and Stream” magazine as one of the top 25 public land hot spots in the U.S.; and called the area a “magnet for waterfowl.”

Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area is also a popular place for sandhill crane hunters. The sandhill crane season opens statewide on Oct. 29, however on the Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area, the sandhill crane season begins on Nov.  5.

“Sandhill cranes and snow geese migrate here around the same time, and they can look a lot like whooping cranes. Hunters need to be very cautious when whooping cranes are in the area,” said Kelvin Schoonover, wildlife biologist at Hackberry Flat for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.   

For tips on identifying whooping cranes and sandhill cranes, log on to www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/issues/SandhillCrane/SandhillCraneHunters.htm or turn to page four of the “2005 Oklahoma Waterfowl Hunting Guide.”

         A designated primitive camping area is offered on the area.  Both lodging and restaurants are available in Frederick.  The Frederick Chamber of Commerce can be reached at (580) 335-2126.

For more information about the wildlife management area, call Kelvin Schoonover, the wildlife biologist at Hackberry Flat at (580) 335-5262.

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Deer gun season coming soon – take a hunter education class now

         If you have been procrastinating about taking a hunter education course, your time is about to run out. With deer gun season just a few weeks away, the opportunities to complete a hunter education class are dwindling by the day.

         "We now have more hunter education options than ever before and we have worked hard to ensure that there is a class in every region of the state," said Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Statewide, there are 30 plus courses scheduled before the opening of deer gun season."

         For a complete list of hunter education classes, sportsmen can call the Department's hunter education hotline 24 hours a day at (405) 521-4650 or log onto the Department's Website. All classes are free of charge.

         "Although there are quite a few upcoming classes, this time of year classes can fill up fast, so I strongly encourage folks to attend the next class they can," Meek added.

         Anyone under 16 years of age must successfully complete a hunter education course before hunting big game (deer, elk, antelope) during primitive firearm and gun seasons. The law also requires that anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1972, upon reaching 16 years of age, must exhibit a hunter education certificate from the Wildlife Department or a like certificate from another state to purchase or receive any Oklahoma hunting license.

         Hunters born after the above date, who purchased a lifetime license before they turned 16, must complete a hunter education class before the can hunt big game with a firearm unless otherwise exempt. For complete information on hunting seasons and hunter education requirements, hunters should pick up a copy of the "2005 Oklahoma Hunting Guide.”

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