NOVEMBER 2006 NEWS RELEASES 

 

WEEK OF NOVEMBER 23, 2006

WEEK OF NOVEMBER 16, 2006

WEEK OF NOVEMBER 9, 2006

WEEK OF NOVEMBER 2 2006

 Deer gun season opens Nov. 18

            The long wait is nearly over for tens of thousands of Oklahoma deer hunters. November 18 is the opening day of deer gun season across the state.

            Hunters can again look forward to excellent opportunities to harvest a deer during the deer gun season which runs Nov. 18-Dec. 3, according to Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

            “From speaking with a few hunters it seems like the opening weekend of muzzleloader season was a little slow, but we should know much more after we complete our preliminary harvest survey reports,” Shaw said. “That just means there are going to be that plenty of deer out there in the coming weeks. All in all it is shaping up to be a good deer gun season.”

            Shaw added that he had not observed or heard about significant rut activity so far this season.

            “I haven’t heard of many bucks out chasing does yet, but that could be a good sign for the rest of archery season and the gun season. If we would get some good cool weather it could be a great deer gun opening weekend for hunters,” Shaw said.

            Hunters who spend some time scouting deer feeding areas are likely to increase their odds of taking a deer this year.

            “Although it has been very dry across most of the state, there are still some trees here and there with a decent acorn crop. It looks like some localized areas got just enough rain at the right time of year to produce acorns. However, overall it is certainly not going to be a great year for the acorn crop,” Shaw said.

            More than 158,000 gun hunters took to the woods last fall, harvesting 61,740 deer for a 39-percent success rate.

            During the last weekend of deer gun season (Dec. 1-3) hunters have the opportunity to harvest a bobcat while they are out deer hunting

            “A bobcat license is just $10 and that could be worth every penny if a big bobcat walks past your deer stand during that last weekend of deer gun season,” said Michelle Imel, license supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

            Pick up a copy of the “2006-07 Oklahoma Hunting Guide” for complete bobcat regulations and tagging requirements.

            Deer hunters in Oklahoma must have an annual hunting or combination license, lifetime hunting or lifetime combination license, disabled veteran’s lifetime, senior citizen hunting or senior citizen combination license or proof of exemption. In addition, hunters must possess a deer gun (antlered or antlerless) license for each deer hunted, or proof of exemption. Resident hunters under 18 years of age may purchase the youth deer gun license.

            Unless exempt, hunters must possess a fishing and hunting legacy permit.

            All nonresident deer hunters must possess a nonresident deer gun (antlered, antlerless or combo) license for each deer hunted or proof of exemption. Holders of nonresident lifetime hunting and lifetime combination licenses are not exempt from purchasing deer licenses. Nonresident deer hunters are exempt from purchasing an annual nonresident hunting license. Nonresident hunters must also possess a fishing and hunting legacy permit unless exempt.

            Hunters may take a total of two deer, which may include no more than one antlered deer and one antlerless deer. Antlerless deer may only be harvested on specified days in certain zones. Harvest of antlerless mule deer is prohibited during deer gun season. For antlerless deer hunt zones and dates open to antlerless hunting, pick up a copy of the “2006-07 Oklahoma Hunting Guide.”

            Upon successfully harvesting a deer, all license holders, including lifetime license holders, must immediately attach their name and license number to the carcass. What the hunter attaches can be anything, as long as it contains the hunter's name and hunting license number and remains securely attached to the animal until it is checked at a hunter check station or with an authorized Wildlife Department employee.

            Annual license holders, upon harvesting a deer, must complete the Record of Game section of the universal license. The information must be recorded on the license form prior to moving or field dressing the animal. To do this they must print in ink the time, date, type of game and method of harvest in the appropriate columns. Lifetime license holders are not required to complete the Record of Game section on the universal license.

            All successful hunters must check their deer at the nearest hunter check station. A county-by-county listing of hunter check stations is provided in this year's hunting guide and the most up-to-date check station listing is available at wildlifedepartment.com.

            Deer gun hunters should always remember to keep safety the first priority. All deer gun hunters must conspicuously wear both a head covering and an outer garment above the waistline, consisting of daylight fluorescent orange color totaling at least 400 square inches. Camo-fluorescent orange is legal, if the total orange meets or exceeds the required 400 square inches.

            Hunting hours during deer gun season are one-half hour before official sunrise to one-half hour after official sunset.

            For additional regulations, antlerless zones, check station locations, season dates and a wealth of other information be sure to pick up a copy of the “2006-07 Oklahoma Hunting Guide" available at all license dealer locations or log on to the Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.

 

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Heat and drought combine for lower quail numbers

            Heading in to last spring biologists and hunters alike had high hopes of big coveys for the 2006 quail season, however many of those hopes dried up with the extended drought. Annual surveys conducted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation show a statewide decrease of 40 percent over the previous 16-year average.

            “There’s no sugar coating it, quail numbers are down and it looks like the main reason is the hot, dry weather,” said Doug Schoeling, upland game bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “Drought along with high temperatures can shorten the nesting season and decrease chick survival.”

            Early season production suffered as evidenced by a 33 percent decrease in the statewide August surveys.  Biologists were hoping late summer rains would increase quail reproduction during a second hatch. But the rains either never came or did not help as much as was hoped. During the October surveys, biologists reported seeing fewer numbers of young birds in comparison to last year.

            According to Schoeling, during the first six weeks of their life, quail chicks feed exclusively on insects.

            “When there is no rain, there is less green vegetation and when there is less vegetation there are fewer bugs and when there are fewer bugs there are fewer quail chicks that survive that crucial first month and half of life,” Schoeling said.

            The 2006 August and October statewide index decreased 55 percent from 2005.   All regional indices were lower than the 2005 totals. The Northwest region was the hardest hit declining 83 percent from 2005.  The decrease is reflected in all regions with the exception of the northcentral region reporting a slight increase of 8 percent over the 16-year average. The weather knows no state boundaries and biologists in northcentral Texas and the Texas Panhandle are also reporting a decrease in quail numbers due to the hot, dry conditions

            “This looks like a lot of doom and gloom, but I’m sure there will be some hunters who have a good opening day and a good season as well, especially if we could get some cool, damp weather,” said Alan Peoples, chief of the wildlife division for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “I know I’ll be out there all season long. I love quail hunting too much to sit at home while the season is open. It may take a little more walking and a little more work this year, but I can’t wait for quail season to get here.”

            While weather patterns often dictate booms and busts in quail populations, no boom would be possible without habitat.

            “There’s nothing we can do about the weather, but we can work hard to make sure that quality habitat is available for quail. Good habitat is like a buffer - it can lessen the impact of severe weather swings. In poor weather years, like this one, it is more important than ever, to include wildlife habitat as part of every land use decision,” said Schoeling.  “Bobwhite require a variety of plants for cover, nesting and for food and the more types of plants available the better”

            Managing for a variety of plant species, rather than emphasizing a single species, increases the probability that all the quail’s needs for food and cover will be met. Different plants produce seeds at different times during the growing season and different types of seeds provide different nutrients. Landowners can increase the plant diversity and quail cover on their property through a range of management techniques such as disking, prescribed fire and controlled grazing.

            Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation biologists have conducted roadside surveys during both August and October for the past 17 years. The surveys, which consist of 20-mile routes, give biologists an estimate of quail abundance. Observers count the number of quail seen to provide an index of quail abundance and reproductive success. There are 83 routes with at least one route in every county except for Tulsa and Oklahoma counties.

            Running Nov. 11 through Feb.15, quail season is much anticipated both by Oklahomans and non-residents. Oklahoma regularly ranks among the top three quail hunting states in terms of both quail populations and hunter success, and Oklahoma promises to be a major destination for bird hunters again this year.

            For more information about quail hunting log onto wildlifedepartment.com, to see the complete survey, log on to www.wildlifedepartment.com

 

 

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Deadline approaching to enter drawing for youth waterfowl hunts

            Nov. 15 marks the last day for Oklahoma youngsters age 12 to 15 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.

            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, and the name of the desired hunt location and two alternate hunt locations where they would like to hunt.  The scheduled date of the hunt will be coordinated with successful applicants after the drawing.  Applicants may apply only once and should specify the primary hunt area desired and two alternate locations.

            The locations to choose from are: Altus-Lugert Lake, Canton Lake, Ft. Gibson Refuge, Ft. Cobb Lake Refuge, Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area, Vann’s Lake, Wagoner Co., Webbers Falls Refuge and Wister Lake Refuge.

            Applications must be received by November 15, 2006, 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 November 17, 2006.    

             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. For more information contact Jeff Neal, Wildlife Department migratory game bird technician at (405) 424-0122.
           

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Nov. 17 last chance for students and teachers to enter to win trips to New Mexico, Wyoming and Colorado

            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) and Oklahoma Station Chapter Safari Club International (OSCSCI) are looking for Oklahoma’s top conservation minded students and teachers. Through a youth writing contest and teacher application several students and an educator will win a trip of a lifetime.

            Winners in the 15-17 age category (one boy and one girl) will receive an all-expense-paid guided antelope hunt in New Mexico. Funding for the trips, including a full shoulder taxidermy mount of the youth’s harvested antelope will be provided by the Oklahoma Station Chapter Safari Club International.

            Students in the 11-14 age category are competing for an all expense paid trip to the Apprentice Hunter Program at the YO Ranch in Mountain Home, Texas. The Safari Club International’s Apprentice Hunters’ Program is a unique, hands-on experience which covers a wide range of topics including; the ethical basis of modern sport hunting, wildlife management, field identification, and wild game cooking. The Oklahoma Station Chapter Safari Club International will provide travel reimbursements to attend the weeklong course.

            The four statewide winners and their legal guardians will be invited to Oklahoma City to attend an awards ceremony in March. In addition, the top 25 essay entrants will receive a one-year youth membership to Safari Club International. The winning student essays will be published in the OSCSCI newsletter “Safari Trails.” Publication qualifies the winning entries for the National Youth Writing Contest sponsored by the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Several past national winners have come from Oklahoma.

            Additionally, one educator will be awarded an all-expenses-paid scholarship for an eight-day conservation education school at Safari Club International’s American Wilderness Leadership School (AWLS) at Granite Ranch near Jackson, Wyoming.

            The AWLS program is conducted during the summer and presents an outdoor program for educators which concentrates on natural resource management. Participants learn about stream ecology, map and compass, language arts and creative writing in an outdoor setting, fly tying, shooting sports, wildlife management, the Yellowstone ecosystem, camping, white-water rafting, educational resources and how to implement outdoor education ideas. Lodging, meals and training materials will be provided by Oklahoma Station Chapter Safari Club International. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will cover transportation to Jackson, Wyoming.

            Both the essay contest rules and teacher scholarship applications are available from the Department's Web site www.wildlifedepartment.com. Essays and applications must be postmarked no later than Nov. 17, 2006, or delivered by 5 p.m. Nov. 17, 2006, in person to the Department of Wildlife’s Jenks Office at 201 Aquarium Drive, in Jenks. Address entries to: Essay Contest, Attn: Education Section Supervisor, ODWC Jenks Office, P.O. Box 1201, Jenks, OK 74037.

 

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Trout fishing opportunities expanded in southeast Oklahoma

Not only has the trout fishing been improved in southeast Oklahoma, there is also a brand new area to try your luck. Fisheries personnel with the Wildlife Department told the Wildlife Conservation Commission at their November meeting about of a mile of trout stream which has been added or improved at the Lower Mountain Fork River.

            With bulldozers, backhoes and a good deal of imagination, streams biologists created a brand new -mile trout stream, dubbed Lost Creek. Water was diverted into an ancient stream channel through dense woods and boulders creating a unique area for anglers to try to fool wary trout.

            A separate -mile stretch of the Lower Mountain Fork River, known as the Evening Hole, once had a poor reputation among trout anglers. The warm, slow-moving, muddy water in the area was not favored by the rainbow and brown trout stocked by the Wildlife Department.

However, streams biologists saw the potential in the area and felt if they could narrow the channel and provide more habitat, the trout, followed by trout anglers, would quickly begin using the area. Biologists used 600 dump truck loads of gravel to narrow the river channel, causing the water to remain cooler and move through the Evening Hole faster. With the addition of large rocks, logs and islands, fisheries personnel transformed once sub-par trout habitat into a first class fishing area.

            The Commission voted to establish special trout fishing regulations on the Evening Hole and Lost Creek areas. Upon gubernatorial approval, anglers must use only artificial lures with barbless hooks and may harvest only one rainbow trout and one brown trout 20-inches or longer per day. When the proposed regulations were opened to public input recently, the Department received overwhelming support of the new regulations which are geared toward providing a high quality trout fishery.

            In other business, the Commission heard a report on the progress of the Quail Habitat Restoration Initiative. Through the Natural Resources Conservation Service, $500,000 in cost-share and incentive payments is available to landowners willing to restore and manage quail habitat this year.

            “This is a departure from the approach we have used in the past to improve quail habitat. In years past, we have waited for landowners to come to us, but with this new initiative we are going to them. We have identified five different areas of the state where we feel like we can get the most bang for our buck when it comes to quail habitat,” said Mike Sams, private lands biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Also at the meeting, the Commission heard about an innovative concept to turn a commodity that is typically thrown away by anglers into dollars that can be used for conservation. The idea involves collecting, processing and selling paddlefish eggs as caviar on the international market.

Historically, caviar has come from sturgeon in the Caspian Sea, however that fishery has essentially collapsed and will not be able to produce sturgeon caviar for at least 25 years. Caviar made from paddlefish eggs has proven to be a comparable, if not equal, substitute for sturgeon caviar. As the supply of caviar has decreased, the demand, and price, for a caviar substitute has increased.

Paddlefish are found in several river drainages in the state, but the population in the Grand River system has been studied for the past 25 years. Each spring thousands of paddlefish move upstream to spawn. This fishery, arguably the healthiest paddlefish population in the United States, draws anglers from across the state and the nation for the chance to reel in one of the huge fish, which can exceed 100 pounds.

Many of these anglers choose to clean their fish and take home the meat, however, the eggs are often discarded. The Wildlife Department proposed to the Commission that the eggs be voluntarily collected from sport anglers so they could be sold to fund paddlefish research, management and law enforcement. Similar operations have been in place in Montana and North Dakota since 1989.

After discussion the Commission voted to finance a feasibility study and business plan for the project to determine if the proposal would be financially feasible in Oklahoma.

In other business, Commissioners received a report from Finley and Cook, PLLC, the company that performed the Department’s 2006 annual financial audit. According to Traci Keel with Finley and Cook, the audit went smoothly and no irregularities were found. According to Keel, the Wildlife Department demonstrated “excellent internal control” over their financial matters.

         Also at the November meeting, the actuarial valuation report for the Wildlife Retirement Plan was presented by the Actuarial firm Buck Consultants. The plan remains well funded at over 80 percent, according to the report. The Commission voted to increase the Department’s annual retirement contribution by $500,000 to meet the required annual contributions and to insure a solid and well funded retirement plan.

         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 December 4 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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Biologists complete “one of the most ambitious streams restoration project ever undertaken in Oklahoma”

It’s not everyday that biologists can create a brand new trout stream, but fisheries personnel with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation recently did just that.

“When we showed people where we were thinking about building this new creek, I think people thought we were a little crazy,” said James Vincent, southeast region fisheries biologist for the Wildlife Department. “The area looked like it would make much better squirrel habitat than trout habitat.”

In Beaver’s Bend State Park along the Lower Mountain Fork River, fisheries personnel transformed an ancient stream channel into a brand new -mile trout stream, dubbed Lost Creek. While the area was still dry, fisheries personnel used bulldozers and backhoes to clear the channel to create a series of riffles, runs and pools that would become first-class trout habitat when water was directed into the new stream.

“We used a huge, 20-ton water control structure to divert a small amount of water into Lost Creek. The channel winds through woods and eventually dumps back into the Lower Mountain Fork River,” Vincent said. “Not only is this going to become a great trout fishing area, it is also just a beautiful place to take a walk.”

Streams biologists did not stop there. Just down stream from the start of Lost Creek, fisheries personnel turned their focus on a -mile stretch of the Lower Mountain Fork River, known as the Evening Hole.

“The fishing wasn’t as good as it could have been in this particular area of the river,” Vincent said. “The Evening Hole had three problems - the water was too warm; it moved too slowly; and there was a good amount of silt in the area. None of these conditions are good for trout or for trout anglers.”

Vincent and his colleagues came up with a plan to make the area more desirable for trout.

“After we received all the necessary work permits, we dumped about 600 loads of gravel along the banks of the river to narrow the channel. This caused the water to move faster through the area which will keep the water temperature from rising too quickly and help to move the dirt and muck on downstream,” Vincent said. “We also recycled every big rock and log we could find and placed them in and around the Evening Hole and created a good number of places for trout to hide and to find food.”

            The Wildlife Conservation Commission recently voted to establish special trout fishing regulations on the Evening Hole and Lost Creek areas. Upon gubernatorial approval, anglers will be required to use only artificial flies and lures with barbless hooks and may harvest only one rainbow trout and one brown trout 20-inches or longer per day. When the proposed regulations were opened to public input recently, the Department received overwhelming support of the new regulations.

            “This is certainly one of the most ambitious streams restoration project that has ever been undertaken in the state. We can’t wait for people to come down and see it for themselves,” Vincent said. “This is a great example of what we can accomplish when we work together. We certainly couldn’t have done this without the strong partnership and support from a wide range of public and private organizations like the Lower Mountain Fork River Foundation, the 89er Chapter of the Trout Unlimited, the Oklahoma Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Oklahoma State Parks and Resorts and the Tulsa District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to name a few.”

            For more information about trout fishing in Oklahoma or these two restoration projects log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

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Evening Hole          Evening Hole
Before                      After

Caption: Biologists used 600 dump truck loads of gravel to narrow the river channel, causing the water to remain cooler and move through the Evening Hole faster. With the addition of large rocks, logs and islands, fisheries personnel transformed once sub-par trout habitat into a first class fishing area.

  

Lost Creek Before    Lost Creek After

Caption: Wildlife Department fisheries biologists used bulldozers and a good deal of imagination to transform an ancient stream channel into a new trout stream called Lost Creek.

 Whooping crane population hatches record number of chicks

            For two years straight, one of the rarest birds in North America hatched a record number of whooping crane chicks, and the entire population is currently migrating through Oklahoma. As they do each year, the endangered birds travel from their breeding grounds in Canada to wintering grounds along the Texas Coast. This annual route takes them through the central one-third of the state.

“The cranes we see are part of the last remaining, self-sustaining population in the world,” said Mark Howery, biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

The population was down to 15 birds in 1941. All cranes that exist today are descendent from that small migratory population. Today’s population surpasses 230 birds, after the 2006 breeding season fledged 47 new whooping crane chicks.

Oklahoma’s Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge is a good place to catch a glimpse of the endangered species. The refuge is designated critical habitat for the whooping crane. Reports indicate 18 adults and six juveniles, including one set of twins, have passed through the refuge in the past two weeks.

“A record seven sets of twins fledged this spring, so the refuge’s report confirms that one of those sets is close to completing a successful migration. That bodes well for the population,” Howery said. 

No one’s sure how long the birds will hang around the refuge before continuing south, but they typically hang around for one to two days. Kelvin Schoonover keeps a lookout in southwestern Oklahoma’s Tillman County. Schoonover is the wildlife biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation at the Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area near Frederick.

“They can show up anytime now, and hunters need to be very cautious,” Schoonover said.

            Sandhill cranes and snow geese migrate to Hackberry Flat around the same time as the whooping crane, and they can look a lot like the endangered bird.

“Two adult whoopers rested a few hours at Hackberry Flat one day last year, but they’ve hung around for as long as three weeks in the past,” Schoonover said.

The Wildlife Department collects whooping crane sightings as part of a federal tracking program led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Oklahoma’s sportsmen account for over one-third of the state’s whooping crane reports,” Howery said.

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.     

With a standing height of more than five feet, whooping cranes are the tallest birds in North America. They are mostly white in appearance, and they have black wing tips at the end of a seven-foot wingspan. Each bird has a red facial mask and a long olive-drab bill.

Whooping cranes 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.    

 

Caption: The endangered whooping crane migrates through Oklahoma every fall as it travels southward towards wintering grounds along the Texas Coast at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

Wildlife Department ramps up stocking efforts at Great Salt Plains Lake

            Last week Wildlife Department fisheries personnel stocked more than 100,000 channel catfish into Great Salt Plains Lake in northcentral Oklahoma. The stocking comes after high temperatures and prolonged drought led to a major fish kill at the lake this summer.

            “We conducted several gill net surveys last month and we found out the fish kill was very significant,” said John Stahl, northwest region fisheries supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “The good news is that this has always been a productive lake and we expect the fish populations to bounce back over the next few years. In the meantime, we’re going to do everything we can to help Mother Nature along.”

            In coming weeks biologists are planning on stocking an additional 40,000 channel catfish, each about 5 ” long. The catfish should grow to catchable size by next year. Next summer, if water levels are favorable, Department officials will stock both blue and flathead catfish in the lake.

            “We’re going to monitor fish populations in the lake very closely over the next few years and make management decisions to ensure this fishery is as healthy as it can be,” Stahl said.

            For more information about fishing in Oklahoma log on to wildlifedepartment.com

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Deer harvest on record-setting pace – deer gun season begins Nov. 18

            This year is shaping up to be the best year ever for deer hunters. Hunters have already taken 40,055 deer, a 26-percent increase over this same time last year, according to preliminary deer harvest totals.

            “This is great news and I think it is safe to say the deer harvest so far has exceeded everyone’s expectations,” said Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “And the deer hunting should only get better in the coming weeks.”

            Archery hunters have already taken nearly 10,000 deer. During the youth season, young hunters took 2,783 deer. Muzzleloader hunters accounted for 27,280 deer, including more than 17,000 bucks.

            If hunters continue at the current pace, the deer harvest will exceed 105,000 this year, topping the former record of 102,100 set in 2000. Last year hunters harvested 101,111 deer.

            “With deer gun season opening Nov. 18 and so many hunters already having had success, this is a great time to remind hunters about the importance of harvesting does,” Shaw said. “Taking does is not only good for the deer herd, it also provides hunters an opportunity to share their harvest through the Hunter’s Against Hunger program.”

            The program facilitates the distribution of deer meat to hungry families in the state. Through the program, hunters provided over 34,000 pounds of venison to the needy families around the state last year.

            Hunters who legally harvest a deer during this year's deer seasons can simply deliver the deer to the nearest participating meat processor after checking the deer in. To help with processing charges, each donor is asked to contribute a tax-deductible $10 to assist with the program. The ground venison will then be distributed to the needy through a network of qualified, charitable organizations.

            To find out more about the Hunters Against Hunger Program, or for a list of cooperating meat processors, check out page 26 of the “2006-07 Oklahoma Hunting Guide."

            Deer hunters hoping to harvest an antlerless deer in southeast Oklahoma should be aware that the antlerless (doe) days have changed. In the past, hunters could kill antlerless deer during the middle Sunday of the 16-day deer gun season in Zone 10, which includes the Honobia Creek, Three Rivers, and Ouachita Wildlife Management Areas.

            For the 2006 deer gun season, however, hunters may take an antlerless deer on the middle Saturday (November 25) of the season. Hunters may also choose to kill an antlerless deer Saturday, Nov. 18 or Sunday, Dec. 3 in Zone 10. Hunters are reminded that only the first nine days of deer gun season are open on Honobia Creek, Three Rivers, and Ouachita Wildlife Management Areas.

            Deer hunters in Oklahoma must have an annual hunting or combination license, lifetime hunting or lifetime combination license, disabled veteran’s lifetime, senior citizen hunting or senior citizen combination license or proof of exemption. In addition, hunters must possess a deer gun (antlered or antlerless) license for each deer hunted, or proof of exemption. Resident hunters under 18 years of age may purchase the youth deer gun license. Unless exempt, hunters must also possess a fishing and hunting legacy permit.

            All nonresident deer hunters must possess a nonresident deer gun (antlered, antlerless or combo) license for each deer hunted or proof of exemption. Holders of nonresident lifetime hunting and lifetime combination licenses are not exempt from purchasing deer licenses. Nonresident deer hunters are exempt from purchasing an annual nonresident hunting license. Nonresident hunters must also possess a fishing and hunting legacy permit unless exempt.

            Hunters may take a total of two deer, which may include no more than one antlered deer and one antlerless deer. Antlerless deer may only be harvested on specified days in certain zones. Harvest of antlerless mule deer is prohibited during deer gun season. For antlerless deer hunt zones and dates open to antlerless hunting, pick up a copy of the “2006-07 Oklahoma Hunting Guide.”

            Upon successfully harvesting a deer, all license holders, including lifetime license holders, must immediately attach their name and license number to the carcass. What the hunter attaches can be anything, as long as it contains the hunter's name and hunting license number and remains securely attached to the animal until it is checked at a hunter check station or with an authorized Wildlife Department employee.

            Annual license holders, upon harvesting a deer, must complete the Record of Game section of the universal license. The information must be recorded on the license form prior to moving or field dressing the animal. To do this they must print in ink the time, date, type of game and method of harvest in the appropriate columns. Lifetime license holders are not required to complete the Record of Game section on the universal license.

           All successful hunters must check their deer at the nearest hunter check station. A county-by-county listing of hunter check stations is provided in this year's hunting guide and the most up-to-date check station listing is available at wildlifedepartment.com.

            Deer gun hunters should always remember to keep safety the first priority. All deer gun hunters must conspicuously wear both a head covering and an outer garment above the waistline, consisting of daylight fluorescent orange color totaling at least 400 square inches. Camo-fluorescent orange is legal, if the total orange meets or exceeds the required 400 square inches.

            Hunting hours during deer gun season are one-half hour before official sunrise to one-half hour after official sunset.

            For additional regulations, antlerless zones, check station locations, season dates and a wealth of other information be sure to pick up a copy of the “2006-07 Oklahoma Hunting Guide" available at all license dealer locations or log on to the Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.

 

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New law formalizes private lands conservation program

            The future looks bright for landowners and wildlife enthusiasts. Recently, President Bush signed the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Act. The act provides a Congressional authorization for the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, a successful 20-year old private lands conservation program popular with landowners and conservationists alike. Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe and Representative John Sullivan introduced the Act to the legislature and played a key role in its passage.

            "This law formalizes a program that exemplifies cooperative conservation," said Department of the Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne. "The program puts financial and technical resources into the hands of willing landowners to help them manage their lands for imperiled plant and animal species. Next year we will celebrate the program's 20th year. The law represents a perfect anniversary gift for this conservation success story."

            The law authorizes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the Partners Program, to provide technical and financial assistance to willing private landowners to restore, enhance, and manage private lands in Oklahoma and across the nation. Since 1990, the Partners program has worked with 810 different landowners to restore or enhance more than 238,000 acres of wildlife habitat, including nearly 21,000 acres of wetland habitat. The program has worked with 108 public school districts to establish outdoor classrooms, which are used to teach children about environmental issues in a hands-on format.

            “The Partners program has been very popular and beneficial in improving wildlife habitat and it has been a real positive for landowners,” said Jontie Aldrich, the Oklahoma Partners program coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “The passage of this act ensures the program will benefit wildlife and landowners for generations to come.”

            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has a long history of working together with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

            “One of the most important things we can do for wildlife is to conserve quality habitat, this program and the other similar state and federal landowner assistance programs helps landowners to restore habitat that will be used by generations of wildlife and sportsman alike,” said Mike Sams, private lands senior biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

            In addition, the Wildlife Department employs other biologists and wildlife technicians who provide technical assistance for a multitude of habitat improvement projects on private lands. Quail, deer, turkey and non-game wildlife populations have all benefited from these efforts.

            For more information about landowner assistance programs log on to the Wildlife Department’s Web site at  www.wildlifedepartment.com.

            For more information about the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, call Jontie Aldrich at (918) 581-7458 ext. 231.

 

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Pheasant season opens December 1

            Pheasant hunting typically requires a good deal of walking and this year it may require a bit more.

            Population surveys of the popular game birds show a decrease in reproduction going into the season, according to Doug Schoeling, upland game bird biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

            “It all goes back to rainfall. This past spring and summer was extremely dry and warm, which are not good conditions for pheasant broods,” Schoeling said. “Some areas showed as a much as a 50 percent decrease in pheasant broods over last year.”

            The ring neck pheasant was first introduced into Oklahoma in 1911 and are a popular gamebird from northcentral Oklahoma to the Panhandle. The colorful birds prefer cultivated farmland habitat mixed with weedy fencerows and overgrown pastures.

            “In areas with good habitat that received enough rain at the right time, there should be some good hunting opportunities,” Schoeling said. “The great thing about pheasant hunting is you can go by your self or you can gather with friends and family and make the hunt a big social event.”

            The season runs December 1 through January 31, 2007, and hunters should consult the “2006-07 Oklahoma Hunting Guide” for open zones and wildlife management areas. The daily bag limit for pheasants is two cocks, with a possession limit of four after the first day and six after the second day. Pheasant hunters should note that legal shooting hours are sunrise to sunset, except on some wildlife management areas. Evidence of sex (head or one foot) must remain on the bird until it reaches its final destination. When the deer gun and the special antlerless deer seasons (in open zones) overlap with pheasant season, all pheasant hunters must wear either a hunter orange cap or vest.

            Before going afield, be sure to pick up a copy of the “2006-07 Oklahoma Hunting Guide,” available at all hunting and fishing license dealers or log onto wildlifedepartment.com. 

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Furbearer season opens December 1

            For the first time, Oklahoma hunters and trappers will have the opportunity to pursue red foxes when furbearer season opens statewide December 1.

            "It’s another great opportunity for sportsmen. Furbearing species are plentiful, and this should be a great year for trappers, especially those focusing on bobcats, coyotes and raccoons," said Russ Horton, central region senior biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Hunters and trappers have an important role in helping manage Oklahoma's furbearer populations."

            Furbearing animals include raccoon, mink, badger, muskrat, opossum, weasel, bobcat, beaver, striped skunks and gray and red foxes. Many hunters and trappers harvest furbearers and sell their pelts.

            “Last year prices were pretty strong, particularly for bobcats and the prices are generally expected to stay high this year,” Horton said.

            For a list of fur dealers in Oklahoma log onto the Department’s Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com

            Oklahoma's statewide furbearer season runs Dec. 1 - Jan. 31 except for bobcat season, which runs Dec. 1 - Feb. 28. Consult a copy of the “2006-07 Oklahoma Hunting Guide” for specific details on bag limits and other regulations concerning each furbearing species.

            Those wanting to take bobcats, raccoons or gray or red fox must possess a special bobcat-raccoon-gray/red fox license. It costs $10 for residents, $51 for non-residents. Resident lifetime license holders are exempt from having to purchase the license.

            A trapping license is required for all persons who trap. Cost is $10 for residents and $375 for nonresidents. Only resident landowners or tenants or their children who trap on land they own or lease (not including hunting leases) are exempt from purchasing trapping licenses. Sportsman must also carry a Hunting and Fishing Legacy Permit unless exempt.

            Hunters and trappers are also reminded that all bobcat pelts must be tagged with an official identification tag, available from several Department installations and selected check stations statewide. For a list of bobcat check stations, log on to the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com or contact the Wildlife Division at (405) 521-2739.

 

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