MARCH 2006 NEWS RELEASES 

 

WEEK OF MARCH 30, 2006

WEEK OF MARCH 23, 2006

 

WEEK OF MARCH 16, 2006

 

WEEK OF MARCH 9 2006

WEEK OF MARCH 2, 2006

Smallmouth bass record broken for the third time in four years

            For the third time in four years, an Oklahoma angler has broken the state record for smallmouth bass.

            Steve McLarty now holds the record with an 8-pound, 3-ounce smallmouth bass he caught on March 4 on Lake Eufaula in east central Oklahoma.

            McLarty, who lives in Broken Arrow, was competing in a Fishers of Men bass tournament when he hooked the big fish in a quiet, rocky cove.

            “We actually pulled into the area on the way to another spot first thing in the morning. I was using a jerk bait and was hoping to catch a good smallmouth, but I certainly did not expect to catch one this big,” McLarty said.

            The record fish measured 23.5 inches long and was 19 inches in girth. McLarty was using a G-Loomis rod and a Shimano reel spooled with  10-pound test line.    

     The previous record smallmouth holder was Karl Council, also of Broken Arrow, who caught an 8-pound, 1-ounce smallmouth bass in March of 2005 on W.R Holway Lake in northeastern Oklahoma.

            While he may hold the bragging rights to the state record smallmouth, McLarty did not place in the top three of the tournament and the big fish award went to a 9-pound largemouth bass caught by another tournament angler.

            “I heard the big largemouth was caught just about 100 yards away. That is just my luck to catch a state record smallmouth and not even win the big fish award. But I am certainly not complaining though, it is a real honor to catch a fish like this,” McLarty said.

            Eufaula Lake, in east central Oklahoma, was first stocked with smallmouth bass in 1992 according to Garland Wright, central region fisheries supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The lake was stocked with a reservoir-strain smallmouth bass that originated in Tennessee and Eufaula is now home to a self-sustaining population.  The sprawling reservoir has a growing reputation as a first class smallmouth bass fishing destination.

            In addition to Eufaula, Oklahoma is home to several outstanding smallmouth fisheries including Texoma, Skiatook, Lawtonka and Broken Bow lakes.

            For a complete list of record fish and the procedures regarding certifying state record fish, consult the “2006 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.

      Caption: Steve McLarty now holds the record with an 8-pound, 3-ounce smallmouth bass he caught on March 4 on Lake Eufaula in east central Oklahoma. McLarty, who lives in Broken Arrow, was competing in a Fishers of Men bass tournament when he hooked the big fish in a quiet, rocky cove.

  

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Commission approves hunting regulations on new northeast Oklahoma WMA

            Finding a hunting spot just got a little easier.

            The Wildlife Conservation Commission approved hunting regulations for two new areas in northeast Oklahoma that will be open for public hunting- the Ozark Plateau Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and the Ozark Plateau National Wildlife Refuge. The properties are located side by side in Adair County near the Oklahoma/Arkansas line.

            Currently the Wildlife Department owns 880 acres and is in negotiations for the purchase of 1,200 more acres from willing landowners. The Ozark Plateau National Wildlife Refuge, which is owned and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, encompasses about 2,000 acres and will offer the same hunting opportunities as the WMA.

             The properties, purchased with grants from the federal Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund, will protect habitat for a pair of unique and federally endangered species, the Ozark big-eared bat and the Ozark cave crayfish. The hardwood forests and the many caves in the area (one cave on the area is more than nine miles long) will provide critical foraging and brood-rearing habitat for the bats. The area will also provide increased recreation opportunity for hunters and other wildlife enthusiasts.

            The hunting seasons will be essentially the same as statewide season dates, although hunters may only take one tom turkey during the spring turkey season. Additionally, pursuit with hounds will be closed from opening day of deer archery season through the first nine days of deer gun season and during the spring turkey season.  The new regulations will take effect immediately.

            Also at its March meeting, the Commission voted to establish a new position within the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The lands/minerals coordinator will coordinate oil and gas exploration and mineral leases on Department-owned properties. The Wildlife Department owns approximately 288,000 acres across the state.

            Also at the meeting, the Commission voted to increase the Department budget by $355,000. Among other things the increase will go to cover increased fuel prices and workers compensation rates.

            In other business, Game Warden Shane Fields was recognized as the 2005 National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.

            “Shane is a real asset to the Wildlife Department and to the sportsmen of the state,” Gary Purdy, senior regional director for the NWTF.

            Fields, who is stationed in Pittsburg County, will compete for the title of National Officer of the Year later this month at the NWTF's annual convention in Nashville, TN.

            The Commission also recognized three Department employees for their outstanding service to the sportsmen of the state. Employees recognized were:

                        • David Deckard, law enforcement training coordinator, for 20 years of service;

                        • Leland Sockey, game warden stationed in Haskell County, for 20 years of service;

                        • Alan Stacey, wetland habitat biologist, for 20 years of service.

            Also at the meeting, Commissioners met in executive session and upon returning to open session, the Commission voted to authorize the director to pursue land acquisition in Cleveland and Sequoyah counties.

            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 April 3 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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 Oklahoma Game Warden Honored

            The National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) has selected Oklahoma Game Warden Shane Fields as the "2005 Oklahoma Game Warden of the Year.”

            Fields, with seven years of service to state sportsmen, is currently stationed in Pittsburg County. According to Larry Manering, chief of law enforcement for the Wildlife Department, Fields is a dedicated officer and is passionate about serving the sportsmen of the state.

            “Shane is a true professional. He is always looking for new and innovative ways to protect our wildlife and fisheries resources,” Manering said.  “And his attitude goes way beyond just enforcing the laws, he really believes in education and doing everything he can to make sure hunters and anglers have a safe and enjoyable time in the outdoors.”

            For example, Manering noted that Fields played a key role in coordinating an aerial law enforcement effort to deter poaching prior to turkey season.  Fields flew in an airplane and assisted game wardens on the ground to locate and contact potential violators. Fields has also been active in learning and using the latest forensic techniques in fish and wildlife investigations.

            Fields is also very active in conservation education programs including hunter education and the Wildlife Department’s new Archery in the Schools program.

            “He has taken a real leadership role in the Archery in the Schools program. It’s obvious that he is sincere about passing on our outdoor heritage to the next generation,” said Lance Meek, hunter education instructor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

            Each of the 38 NWTF chapters across the state can submit a game warden for the honor and the final choice is made through a rigorous selection process by the organization’s state board of directors.

            Fields will be the guest of the NWTF at their national banquet in Nashville this February and will represent Oklahoma in the national NWTF Game Warden of the Year competition.

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River Redhorse record broken 

            The Illinois River in northeast Oklahoma recently yielded a new state record river redhorse.

            Monte Reid, of Locust Grove, took the 9-pound, 5-ounce, fish while bowfishing March 1, in the Illinois River in Cherokee County.  The fish measured 28 5/8 inches long and is the new standard in the unrestricted (non rod and line) tackle division.

            River redhorses are found in the eastern third of the state and inhabit areas with clear, flowing water such as rivers and streams. The fish is brown to gold in color and feeds on mollusks, insects and plant matter along the stream bottoms.

            For a complete list of record fish and the procedures regarding state record fish consult the “2006 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.

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 184-pound fish caught in Red River

            Sean Chatham, of Ardmore, pulled in a 184-pound, 3-ounce alligator gar Feb. 25 from the Red River in Love County, establishing a new state record.

         Chatham snagged the monstrous fish about 2 p.m. using a stainless steel leader and 25 pound test line.

            “We try to go after the big ones, but when I saw how big this one was I was really surprised. I fought the fish for about 35 minutes before it got into some shallow water near the bank. When it did, I jumped on it and tried to keep it from making another run into deep water,” Chatham said.

            The record-breaking alligator gar measured seven feet, eight inches long and was an impressive three feet, two inches in girth.

            Chatham's fish broke the previous alligator gar record by four pounds. Deryl Landers set the previous record a 180-pound fish also caught from the Red River in 2002.

            Chatham, an avid gar angler, is helping the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation in a research project to learn more about these unusual fish. Each time he catches an alligator gar he places a tag near the dorsal fin before releasing the fish. This allows researchers to learn more about the gar population, seasonal movements and general life history.

            "Alligator gar are truly unique fish and the Red River is one of the few places left where they can be found," said Kim Erickson, chief of fisheries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “We really appreciate the help that anglers like Chatham have provided on this ongoing study."

            Anglers across Oklahoma are also an important part of the study. They are funding the project by buying fishing licenses, as well as purchasing sporting goods. Sporting goods manufacturers pay a federal excise tax for items such as firearms and fishing lures. These revenues go into the Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration Program, which distributes millions of dollars to worthy conservation projects throughout the nation. The study is being conducted through the Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater.

            Those interested in seeing a big alligator gar for themselves will soon have the opportunity at the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks. Aquarium personnel and Wildlife Department fisheries biologists recently collected two gar (one weighing nearly 100 pounds and the other tipping the scales at 70 pounds) from the Red River. The pair will go on public display after a quarantine period.

            For a complete list of record fish and the procedures regarding certifying state record fish, consult the “2006 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 a Wildlife Department employee verifies the weight.

 

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Caption: Sean Chatham, of Ardmore, pulled in a 184-pound, 3-ounce alligator gar Feb. 25 from the Red River in Love County, establishing a new state record.

Saugeye record hits double digits

            A Lawton man caught a 10-pound saugeye Feb. 24 on Fort Cobb Lake in Caddo County, establishing a new state record.

         Curt Wilkerson, who runs a fishing and hunting guide service in southwest Oklahoma, caught the big fish about 8 a.m. using a Northland rattle jig with a Mister Twister Sassy Shad on 6-pound test line.

            “I invited about four different friends to go with me that morning, but none of them could get away, so I just decided to go by myself,” Wilkerson said. “It sounds unbelievable now, but I had a really good feeling on my morning drive to the lake.”

            Saugeye are a hybrid fish produced at the Wildlife Department’s Byron Fish Hatchery in northcentral Oklahoma. Hatchery biologists collect native sauger from the Arkansas River in northeast Oklahoma and walleye from Canton Lake in northwest Oklahoma and then cross the two species to produce saugeye. The toothy fish are stocked in many lakes around the state for two reasons. First and foremost, they provide an additional fishing opportunity and they also help to control over-populated crappie populations.

            Wilkerson’s record fish weighed 10 pounds even and measured 28 1/4 inches long and was 19 inches around. He was using a Shimano Spirex spinning reel and a Cabela’s Fish Eagle II rod.

            “When I finally got it up to the surface, I couldn’t believe how big it was. I am originally from Minnesota where walleye and saugeye fishing is a big tradition, so this is a huge honor for me to catch a state record saugeye,” Wilkerson said.

         Wilkerson donated the record fish to the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks, however the fish did not survive.

            The previous state record saugeye, a 9-pound, 14-ounce fish, was caught from Lake Thunderbird in 1992.

            Wilkerson, who goes fishing anytime the weather is “good, or at least not too terrible,” offered a few tips to anglers new to saugeye fishing.

            “Just like most types of fishing you can make it as simple or as complicated as you want, but I think there are a few things that are important in consistently catching fish, including good boat control, proper tackle and quality electronics like depth finders,” Wilkerson said.

            According to Wilkerson, saugeye and walleye often bite in windy conditions, which means anglers must have a way of speeding up or slowing down their boat to keep their baits in the strike zone.

            “If you can’t control the speed and direction of your lures by controlling the direction of your boat, it is difficult to catch fish,” he said.

            Having the right tools for the job is an equally important component of catching saugeye and walleye.

            “I wouldn’t use a rod designed for catfishing to go bass fishing, and I wouldn’t use a crappie jig for saugeye fishing. If you invest in the right equipment, your odds of catching fish will improve,” he said.

            Lastly, Wilkerson suggested investing in quality boating electronics.

            “Really good depth finders and fish finders can be pricey, but they are worth it and they can be very helpful when you are trying to locate fish,” Wilkerson said.

            For a complete list of record fish and the procedures regarding certifying state record fish, consult the “2006 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 a Wildlife Department employee verifies the weight.

 

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 Cutline: Curt Wilkerson, of Lawton, caught a 10-pound saugeye Feb. 24 on Fort Cobb Lake in Caddo County, establishing a new state record.

        

Help wildlife at tax time

Check line 34 to share with wildlife this tax season. Make a refund contribution to the Wildlife Diversity Program, and help conserve Oklahoma’s wildlife and natural places for future generations.

It’s a two-step process. First mark line 34. Then go to schedule 511-H to complete your state income tax donation.

It’s an easy and important way for Oklahomans to show they care about wildlife, explained Ron Suttles, who directs the Wildlife Diversity Program at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

“The tax refund is used to conserve the incredible diversity of wildlife we have here,” Suttles said.

The Wildlife Diversity Program conserves a range of wildlife – from songbirds and horny toads to swift fox and rare cave critters – through surveys, monitoring and applied research.

Greater diversity means more opportunities to watch wildlife, hunt and fish. In fact, Oklahoma ranks at the top of all states when it comes to diversity of plant and animal life.

“Healthy wildlife and habitats don’t happen on their own. Contributions from generous Oklahomans help us fulfill our responsibilities to the people and wildlife of Oklahoma,” Suttles said.

The tax check-off is a major source of funding for the Wildlife Diversity Program.

“The Wildlife Department is not funded through general state taxes, so programs like this really make a difference,” Suttles said. “Last year, almost a quarter of the Wildlife Diversity Program’s state-level funding came from the income tax check off.”

The Wildlife Diversity Program conserves Oklahoma’s wild birds, which capture the attention of more than 700,000 people every year. The program also manages the state’s largest Mexican free-tailed bat colony. These bats delight hundreds of visitors every year at the Selman Bat Watches.

In addition to the bat watches, the program also connects people with wildlife through the annual Winter Bird Survey and Eagle Watches. It produces a variety of wildlife-related brochures and guides, and conserves Oklahoma’s prairies and the wildlife living in them.

To help fund activities like these, make a refund donation or have your tax preparer do so for you. For questions regarding your donation to the Wildlife Diversity Program call the Oklahoma Tax Commission at (800) 522-8165, ext: 13160.

Direct donations can also be made to: Wildlife Diversity Program, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, P.O. Box 53465, OKC, OK 73152.

The Wildlife Department is funded by the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, federal excise taxes placed on hunting and fishing equipment and by individual contributions. The Wildlife Department does not receive any general state tax appropriations.

Contact the Wildlife Diversity Program at (405) 521-4616 for more information about any of these activities or products, or visit the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

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Pair of conservation-related events to headline weekend

            Oklahomans will have an opportunity to participate in a pair of conservation-related events the weekend of March 4-5.

            Some of the country's most talented wildlife artists will be showcasing their work at the NatureWorks Wildlife Art Show and Sale, March 4-5 in Tulsa.

            More than 20 Federal Duck Stamp paintings will be on display, including Sherrie Russell Meline's painting of Ross' geese which will be featured on the 2006 federal duck stamp. Bruce Miller, Mark Anderson, and Scott Storm, each past duck stamp winners, will be at the Wildlife Art Show displaying their latest creations.

            The annual Wildlife Art Show and Sale sponsored by NatureWorks, a non-profit organization, has generated matching grants to assist a variety of organizations for use in state wildlife conservation projects.

            The NatureWorks Wildlife Art Show and Sale will be held at the Tulsa Marriott-Southern Hills, Saturday, March 4 through Sunday, March 5. For more information about NatureWorks or the art show, call (918) 296-4278 or log on to www.natureworks.org.

            Additionally, the Oklahoma Station of the Safari Club International will hold their annual banquet Saturday, March 4, at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. The event offers outdoor enthusiasts a great chance to take part in many important projects and programs supported by the Oklahoma Station of the Safari Club.

            In addition to a great meal and fine fellowship one of the highlights of the annual event is the live auction. Bidders will have a chance buy guided hunts in Oklahoma, across the United States and around the world. There will also be a wide array of items on the auction block including art, firearms, camping equipment, vacations, jewelry and much more.

             For more information or to purchase tickets call (405) 721-7229. 

 

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 State record established for black bass hybrid

            What do you get when you cross a smallmouth bass with a spotted bass? You get a black bass hybrid – and Sean McAllister got a new state record, and pending world record, fish.

            McAllister, who lives in Stilwell, pulled a 6-pound, 14-ounce oddity from Lake Texoma, Feb. 5.

            “At first I just thought it was just a weird looking smallmouth, until someone mentioned it looked like a spotted bass,” McAllister said.

            Fisheries biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation suspected it was a black bass hybrid and DNA analysis confirmed it was a cross between smallmouth and spotted bass. The Wildlife Department established a new category, black bass hybrid, for the unique fish.

            “It is certainly rare, but it is not totally unheard of. I have seen two others in my 35 years of experience, but both were much smaller than this one,” said Paul Mauck, south central fisheries supervisor for the Wildlife Department.

            According to Mauck, the black bass hybrids occur naturally when the spawning areas of the two species overlap.

            While hybridization occurs occasionally throughout the two fishes range, only Missouri currently recognizes a black bass hybrid record. Since that record stands at 5-pounds, 10-ounces, McAllister’s fish will set a new world record, pending approval from the International Game Fish Association.

            McAllister caught the record fish while fishing a Carolina-rigged Zoom lizard. The fish measured 20.8-inches long and was 16.5 inches in girth.

            Mauck offered a few tips on identifying spotted and smallmouth bass. Spotted bass typically have a sandpaper-like tooth patch on the tongue that can be felt with a finger, according to Mauck. The most recognizable characteristics of a smallmouth is its brown color, additionally smallmouth often have vertical bars on their sides rather than the dark spots of the spotted bass.

            For a complete list of record fish and the procedures regarding certifying state record fish, consult the “2006 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.     

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  Caption: Sean McAllister established the black bass hybrid record by catching the 6-pound, 14-ounce fish on February 5 on Lake Texoma.

Wildlife employment exam scheduled for March 31 and April 1
             If your career aspirations include such titles as game warden, wildlife and fisheries biologist or technician, or fish hatchery manager you will want to make sure you take the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation employment exam. The exam is the first step of the hiring process for anyone seeking the positions listed above.
            On Friday, March 31, the Wildlife Department is offering its standardized employment exam at 10:00 a.m. at the Tom Steed Development Center Auditorium located on the Rose State College campus. The Center is located immediately north off of I-40 on Hudiburg Road in Midwest City.

The exam will also be given at 10:00 a.m. Saturday, April 1 on the Oklahoma State University campus in Stillwater in the Life Sciences West building, Room 103. The exam is free and participants must have photo identification upon check-in. Late arrivals will not be permitted to enter the examination room after 10:00 a.m. Participants may take the exam at either, but not both locations.
            "Two different exams will be given," said Kyle Eastham, human resource administrator for the Department. "One exam is for biologist, game warden and assistant hatchery manager level positions. These positions require a Bachelor's degree. The other exam is for technician level positions, which typically require either two years of college coursework in wildlife or a related field, or four to six years of similar job experience."
             Specific job and education requirements for Wildlife Department positions as well as suggested study material for the exams are listed on the Department's official Web site www.wildlifedepartment.com. In addition, the Wildlife Department’s Requirements and Selection Procedures brochure can be picked up at either Department headquarters in Oklahoma City, or the Tulsa-area office located at the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks.
             Eastham added, “We’ve had some retirements and promotions recently, so this may be a good year to take the employment test, since I’m sure we’ll be filling some vacancies.”
            Individuals may take the exam once in a 12-month period. Test scores are valid for 12 months from the test date. Top scorers will be invited to submit an employment application. When a job opening becomes available, selected applicants from the test register will be scheduled for an interview. For more information, contact the Department of Wildlife’s Human Resources office at (405) 521-4640.
 

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Last chance to submit photos to “Outdoor Oklahoma” magazine

            Photographers have just a few more days to submit their work to “Outdoor Oklahoma” magazine’s annual Readers' Photography Showcase. Readers have until March 31 to submit their best shot.

            The special issue offers a great chance for photographers, either professional or amateur, to display their color slides, prints or digital photos in a magazine that consistently receives national recognition for its photographic excellence.

           Each participant may submit up to five images and all entries will be returned undamaged. Each submission should include a description of the photo including location taken, camera used, names of subjects and what it took to get just the right shot. The photographer's name, address and phone number need to be printed on each slide or on the back of each print using a fine point pen or rubber stamp. Slides should not be encased in glass.

            Photographers can mail their submission to Paul Moore, Photo Editor, “Outdoor Oklahoma,” Oklahoma Dept. of Wildlife Conservation, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152.

            Individuals can subscribe to “Outdoor Oklahoma,” on the universal license form wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold; or they can do “bill me” by calling 1-800-777-0019. Subscriptions are just $10 for one year, $18 for two years, or $25 for three years. You can also subscribe over the Internet by logging on to the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

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Turkey season opens April 6

            Turkey hunters have every reason to be optimistic when the spring season opens statewide April 6.

            Rio Grande turkey populations are doing well according to Rod Smith, southwest region wildlife supervisor for the Wildlife Department.

            “Turkey populations are in good shape right now. We had a solid hatch last year which will maintain turkey numbers at a high level through this spring,” Smith said.

            Some hunters had expressed concern that the warm dry weather may cause gobblers to begin the spring breeding season before opening day. No need to worry, says Smith.

            A few winter flocks are beginning to break up into smaller groups, but there are still some large flocks out there in their winter pattern. Overall, I would say they are progressing normally,” Smith said.

             Following several good production years, turkey numbers are way up across the eastern half of the state.

            “If you found turkeys last year, you’ll likely find them in the same place this spring,” said Jack Waymire, southeast region senior wildlife biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “Things are beginning to green up and turkeys are starting to hang out in those open areas.”

            With turkey populations high, this year is a good opportunity to focus on taking a mature gobbler, according to Waymire.

            “I always encourage veteran hunters to try to take an adult. It can be a little more difficult at times, but it is a fun challenge,” Waymire said.

            To hunt turkeys in Oklahoma, hunters must possess a resident or non-resident Oklahoma hunting license or combination license and the $5 fishing and hunting legacy permit, as well as a spring turkey permit. Lifetime license holders are exempt from having to purchase the spring turkey permit and the annual fishing and hunting legacy permit.

            Hunters do not check turkeys taken west of I-35, but all turkeys harvested east of I-35 must be checked at the nearest hunter check station. For more information on regulations and bag limits, consult the “2005-06 Oklahoma Hunting Guide,” which are available at hunting and fishing license vendors across the state or on line at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

 

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Statewide deer harvest could top 100,000

            Preliminary harvest figures indicate a near record-breaking season. Through the end of the deer gun season, hunters harvested 89,409 deer, the second highest preliminary harvest recorded since the record harvest of 2000.  Once figures from the second half of archery season, controlled hunts and other hunts are tallied, the final 2005 harvest could exceed 100,000.

            Statewide totals were 5,481 deer higher than those observed at the same time last year, representing an increase of nearly seven percent. Antlered deer harvest was up 7.2 percent statewide and doe harvest also increased 6.5 percent. Each of the state’s five wildlife regions recorded an increase, with the southeast seeing the largest increase. Southeast Oklahoma hunters took 3,283 more deer than in 2004.

            A complete breakdown of the 2005 deer season will be featured in the Big Game Report in the September/October issue of “Outdoor Oklahoma magazine. Individuals can subscribe to “Outdoor Oklahoma,” on the universal license form wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold; or by calling 1-800-777-0019. Subscriptions are just $10 for one year, $18 for two years, or $25 for three years. You can also subscribe over the Internet by logging on to the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com

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Public survey helps biologists learn about Oklahoma’s tiniest visitors

It can fly backward, forward and hover. It’s not a machine -- it’s a hummingbird. Oklahoma’s tiniest birds are returning from their winter sabbatical in Mexico and Central America, and you can help the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation learn more about them by participating in the Hummingbird Survey. 

Participants are asked to hang feeders from April 1 through Nov. 1 and report the first and last sighting dates for visiting birds. Download the survey form and find tips to attract hummingbirds at wildlifedepartment.com.

The survey helps biologists, such as Melynda Hickman at the Wildlife Department, learn more about these visitors.

“It would be impossible to get a statewide perspective on the arrival and departure dates of our hummingbirds without the watchful eyes of our participants,” Hickman said. “Their reports also reveal new things about the different species in the state.”

The ruby-throated hummingbird is a common feeder guest and nests over the eastern two-thirds of Oklahoma. The rufous hummingbird passes through Oklahoma during fall migration, but is not usually seen at feeders in the spring.

Another species, the black-chinned hummingbird, is found in western Oklahoma. A growing number of black-chinned sightings have been appearing in survey reports.

“Reports over the last several years have confirmed it’s nesting in larger numbers and extending eastward,” Hickman said. “That’s exciting, because although it was first sighted in the state in the 1940s, nesting records are much more recent.”

Hummingbirds average 3.5 inches in length and weigh the equivalent of a penny. A simple way to attract them is with a sugar-water feeder. The best mimic of natural flower nectar is a solution of one part sugar to four parts boiled water.

Hickman offers a tip to keeping pesky bees and wasps away from the feeder.

“Flying insects are attracted to the color yellow, so you can discourage them from visiting your feeder by removing yellow parts from your feeder,” she said.

While feeders are effective, they only provide a supplemental food source. Hummingbirds also eat gnat-size flying insects and are drawn to tube-shaped flowers.

“Feeders are great, but they must be cleaned with hot water and vinegar weekly, and more often during summer’s hottest days,” Hickman said. “Plant an annual or perennial, and you only need to worry about watering.”

Hickman recommends plants that are red to pink in color, because hummingbirds find food by sight not smell. She also encourages planting after April 15. This is to avoid an early-spring freeze, which could kill a new seedling.

Hickman suggests planting the native coral, honeysuckle, butterfly bush or any other number of hummingbird-friendly plants listed in the Wildlife Department’s book, “Landscaping for Wildlife.”

This guidebook shows readers how to create wildlife-friendly properties, including details to attract hummingbirds, for $20 plus $4 shipping. Order a copy by visiting the Outdoor Store at wildlifedepartment.com or call (405) 521-4636.

The Wildlife Department also provides a free brochure about ruby-throated hummingbirds. The brochure and hummingbird survey form are available online or by calling (405) 521-4616.  

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Caption: The wing muscles of a ruby-throated hummingbird are proportionally larger than any other bird species. The female ruby-throated pictured here may beat her wings 60 times in a minute while hovering.

DNA analysis to determine state record fish identity

            Dru Kinslow, of Oklahoma City, caught a state record fish Monday, March 27, but he doesn’t know quite where his name will go in the record book – under smallmouth bass or black bass hybrid. Either way it will be a new state record.

            Kinslow caught an 8-pound, 5.6-ounce bass from Veteran’s Lake near Sulphur. When he took the fish to fisheries biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, they immediately recognized it was bigger than either the current smallmouth or the black bass hybrid records. However, the brute had characteristics of both a smallmouth bass, spotted bass and largemouth bass.

            “I don’t really care whether it is a smallmouth or a hybrid, I am just happy to catch a fish that big. Never in my life did I think I would catch a state record,” Kinslow said.

            Fisheries biologists sent a small fin sample to a DNA lab. The lab report will reveal if the fish is a smallmouth or a black bass hybrid. Black bass hybrids occur rarely in nature when the spawning areas of black bass species overlap.

            “It’s certainly unusual. I am very curious to see the lab results,” said Kim Erickson, fisheries chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “Unfortunately, this isn’t an episode of ‘CSI’ and it will likely take several weeks for the technicians to perform the DNA analysis.”

            DNA results from the lab will be posted on wildlifedepartment.com as soon as they are available.

            Kinslow was using a jig and salt craw combo when he hooked the big fish in the clear waters of 67-acre Veteran’s Lake.

            “I was just trying out different lures to see what might be biting when I hooked the fish,” Kinslow said. “It fought pretty hard and went all the way under the boat. I didn’t realize how big it was until I got it in the boat.”

            The fish measured 22.75-inches long and was 16.5 inches in girth.

            Steve McLarty holds the current record smallmouth bass with an 8-pound, 3-ounce fish he caught just weeks ago at Lake Eufaula in eastcentral Oklahoma.

            The state record black bass hybrid was just established this February when Sean McAllister pulled a 6-pound, 14-ounce fish from Lake Texoma.

            For a complete list of record fish and the procedures regarding certifying state record fish, consult the “2006 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 a Wildlife Department employee verifies the weight.

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   Photo Caption: Dru Kinslow caught an 8-pound, 5.6-ounce bass from Veteran’s Lake near Sulphur. Fisheries biologists are awaiting DNA analysis to determine if the fish will stand as the new state record smallmouth or state record black bass hybrid.

 Oklahomans talk conservation at the nation’s capitol

            A group of four Oklahomans: a banker, a police officer, a small business owner and a nonprofit executive director share a common passion for Oklahoma’s outdoors. Their enthusiasm brought them together in Washington, D.C., this month on behalf of Oklahoma’s wildlife.

            The foursome spoke with Oklahoma’s elected officials about conservation work in Oklahoma through a federal program called State Wildlife Grants. The program prevents wildlife from becoming endangered by conserving rare and declining wildlife species.

            Hal McKnight, owner of Wheeler Dealer Bicycles in Oklahoma City, was one of the citizens that took personal time to travel to D.C.

            “We’re not paid lobbyists, we’re just avid sportsmen with a passion for Oklahoma’s land, water and wildlife,” said McKnight. “When we conserve land for wildlife, we also conserve it for man.”

            The group joined more than 150 people from 44 states to raise awareness about federal funding for wildlife conservation, outdoor recreation and conservation education. 

            “I believe a personal visit is the best way to share our heartfelt beliefs with our Congressmen and Senators,” McKnight said. “I went to D.C. to share how important this program is to the people of Oklahoma and to our wildlife.”

            “Oklahoma has a lot of hunters, fishermen and birdwatchers: one out of every three people, actually,” said Rick Matheny, who also went to Washington.

            A police officer in Luther, Matheny also volunteers his time as president of the Oklahoma Wildlife Federation. Matheny and the Federation’s Executive Director Andy McDaniels have spoken with hundreds of hunters and fishermen across the state.

            “The sportsmen we’ve talked to unanimously support this program,” McDaniels said. “It leads to greater outdoor opportunities.”

            Projects supported by State Wildlife Grants help biologists understand the health of wildlife populations, lead to on-the-ground habitat improvement, and partner with private landowners to restore declining fish and wildlife.

            “When we manage for all wildlife – even those not hunted or fished – we improve the greater whole,” McDaniels said. “Restoring habitat for wildlife protects natural areas and contributes to clean waters, which also benefits people.”

            State Wildlife Grants use taxpayer dollars on early, preventive wildlife conservation efforts. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation receives Oklahoma’s portion of the federal funding, which is matched by state and partner dollars. 

            McDaniels said the program was positively received by Oklahoma’s congressmen. He thinks its cost-effective nature is one reason why.

            “It’s not only common sense to conserve wildlife before they need emergency care, it’s also a wise use of taxpayer dollars,” he said.

            Blake Hollingsworth - quail hunter, cyclist and vice president of First National Bank and Trust in Sulphur – completed the group. He summarized why they donated their time.

            “It’s easy to take the quality of our land and wildlife for granted, but I can’t imagine our surroundings otherwise,” Hollingsworth said. “I may not always notice a bird chirping, but I’d certainly notice the strange silence of no birds at all. Programs like State Wildlife Grants make sure we have these resources for generations to come.”

            For more information about the State Wildlife Grants program, visit www.teaming.com.

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Photo Caption: Oklahomans Andy McDaniels, Hal McKnight, Blake Hollingsworth and Rick Matheny (left to right) visited the nation’s Capitol to share their passion for wildlife with Oklahoma’s Congressmen.

 

Photo Caption: Wildlife biologists measure a cave myotis bat while conducting a wildlife inventory project on public land. This work is part of a State Wildlife Grants project to gather information about all types of species living on Wildlife Department lands. This kind of knowledge helps biologists identify conservation concerns and set actions before those issues pressure wildlife and affect people.

 It’s time to apply for controlled hunts

            Hunters can now submit their applications for the “2006-07 Controlled Hunts” over the Internet by logging onto www.wildlifedepartment.com. Not only can hunters save a stamp by applying online, they can also confirm that their application has been received as soon as they apply.

            “When it comes right down to it, applying online is the way to go. It’s fast, it’s easy and the program will help ensure that you don’t make any mistakes on your application,” said Melinda Sturgess-Streich, chief of administration for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

            Controlled hunts booklets are now available at hunting and fishing license dealers located throughout the state, as well as is in PDF format that can be printed off the Department’s Web site (wildlifedepartment.com). Applicants have until May 5, 2006, to turn in their applications.

            Administered by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the Controlled Hunts Program offers a wide variety of highly desirable hunts through a random drawing. Some hunts are held to provide high-quality hunting experiences on high-profile areas where it is necessary to regulate hunting pressure. Others are held to achieve management goals for certain species, and others are held to provide hunting experiences in areas where access is otherwise limited.

            A $5 fee is required of all applicants including lifetime hunting or lifetime combination license holders. This fee is good for ALL 2006-07 controlled hunt applications submitted by each sportsman. Since the fee is per person and not per application, hunters should decide to apply for all their hunt categories either by mail or online, but not both. Hunters who choose to mail in their applications must complete the processing fee payment form on page 24 of the controlled hunts booklet. Payment can be made by the following methods: cashier's check, money order, Visa or MasterCard.

            For complete application instructions, including tips on enhancing your chances of being selected, log on to www.wildlifedepartment.com or consult the “2006-07 Oklahoma Controlled Hunts” booklet.

 

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