DECEMBER 2006 NEWS RELEASES

WEEK OF DECEMBER 28, 2006

WEEK OF DECEMBER 21, 2006

WEEK OF DECEMBER 14, 2006

WEEK OF DECEMBER 07, 2006

 

Additional quail habitat to be restored on Packsaddle Wildlife Management Area

One of the state’s best public quail hunting destinations could get even better thanks to a generous donation from the Central Oklahoma 89er Chapter of Quail Forever.

At their December meeting, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission accepted a donation of $4,000 from the non-profit organization. The donation will be matched with $4,000 of Wildlife Restoration funds and will help restore native grasslands on the Packsaddle WMA.

“There is a 500-acre area on Packsaddle that was planted by the previous owner years ago in Old World bluestem. Unfortunately, this is a non-native grass that makes for very poor quail habitat, and it is also difficult to control. This donation will allow us to disc the soil and re-plant native grasses more beneficial to wildlife,” said Alan Peoples, chief of wildlife for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Quail Forever, a non-profit organization dedicated to quail conservation and education, was started in the summer of 2005 by its parent organization, Pheasants Forever. Quail Forever is focused on successful local chapter development, localized habitat initiatives, and national public policy leadership and advocacy.

“One of the great things about Quail Forever is that all the money that is raised here through our banquets stays here. This project at Packsaddle is a great example of the types of on-the-ground habitat projects we hope to help with more in the future,” said James Dietsch, president of the 89er Chapter of Quail Forever.

Sara Lyda, regional biologist for Quail Forever, said the young organization has a growing and diverse membership.

“We certainly have many dedicated quail hunters as members, but we also have a number of landowners, ag producers and general bird enthusiasts,” Lyda said. “Quail are a species that most everyone can identify with, and they are often an excellent indicator of the overall quality of the habitat. When we restore habitat for quail, we restore habitat for all grassland birds and a host of other wildlife species.”

To learn more about Quail Forever, log on centralokquailforever.com or call Sara Lyda at (405) 612-6889.

Also at the December meeting, Terry Swallow, Wildlife Department game warden stationed in Woods County, was awarded a pair of special honors. Swallow was named the 2006 Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Game Warden of the Year. Additionally, Swallow was presented with the Shikar Safari Officer of the Year award.

Shikar Safari is a 300-member international organization that has focused on wildlife conservation and wildlife law enforcement around the world since 1952.

Swallow has served the sportsmen and citizens of Oklahoma since 1979 when he began his career as a warden in Woods County. Swallow maintains excellent working relationships with landowners and outdoor enthusiasts in his county and is routinely involved in community events, including teaching four hunter education classes last year.

“Throughout his career, Terry has provided top-notch service to the sportsmen of the state and has been an excellent representative for the Wildlife Department,” said Larry Manering, law enforcement chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Also at their December meeting, Commissioners recognized a pair of employees for their tenure of service to the sportsmen of the state:

Ron Suttles, natural resources coordinator, for 35 years of service (Suttles retired at the end of November), and;

Gayle Langston, game warden stationed in Ottawa County, for 20 years of service.

In other business, the Commission voted to accept the bid from Chesapeake Energy Corporation for an oil and gas lease on about 2,200 acres of Department-owned property in Atoka County.

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 Jan. 8 at 9 a.m. at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters (auditorium), at the southwest corner of 18th and North Lincoln, Oklahoma City.

 

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License dollars support conservation

Tens of thousands of hunters have headed into the woods this fall and winter carrying their hunting licenses in their back pocket. When hunters purchase a license the Wildlife Department works hard to make sure sportsmen get their money’s worth - and much more.

“When hunters and anglers buy a license we can leverage those dollars with federal funding through the Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration programs,” said John Stafford, federal aid coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “For instance when a deer hunter buys a $20 hunting license, the Wildlife Department can leverage those dollars with up to $60 in matching federal funds. They may not realize it, but when a hunter purchases a license they are investing up to $80 or more into wildlife conservation in Oklahoma.”

The Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration programs are a tremendous example of true partnerships between private industries, state governments, the federal government and hunters, anglers and boaters. Firearms, bows and arrows, fishing tackle, boat fuel and other outdoor related equipment are subject to special federal excise taxes which help fund conservation efforts around the country.

The federal government collects these taxes from manufacturers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service administers and disburses the funds to the state fish and wildlife agencies like the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Hunters, anglers, shooters and boaters ultimately pay these taxes through the purchase of products. These same groups benefit from the funds, as states must spend the money on sport fish and wildlife habitat restoration/development, population management, user access and facilities and education.

The funds are used by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation for a wide range of important activities, including the purchase and maintenance of wildlife management areas, restoration and maintenance of fish hatcheries, user facilities, surveying fish and wildlife populations, and educating young hunters.

For more information about the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

 

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Equipment available for landowners to improve wildlife habitat

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation may be able to help landowners wanting to improve wildlife habitat on their property this winter. The Department has two tree spades and one roller chopper that are available to landowners for wildlife habitat enhancement projects. The equipment is accessible for a small rental fee used for annual maintenance costs.

“This is the perfect time of year to use both pieces of equipment,” said Mike Sams, private lands senior biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “Taking the time to improve wildlife habitat now will pay dividends for years to come.”

The tree spade, used for transplanting trees and shrubs, can be used on riparian habitat projects and to establish turkey roost sites as well as shrub thickets for quail and small game. Much faster than hand-planting individual tree seedlings, the tree spade is ideal for moving shrubs like sand plum or sumac and trees up to four inches in diameter. The preferred time for transplanting is during winter months when shrubs and trees are dormant. Landowners renting this equipment will be provided an operator to run the machine. The tree spades can be reserved for dates between December 15 and March 1 annually. The cost is $100 per day.

Roller choppers are large drums with a series of mounted blades.  Pulled behind a tractor, they chop and crush brush, small trees, and heavy plant growth. They also disturb the soil and allow sunlight and rain to reach the surface and encourage growth of more desirable plants. Roller choppers can be used to set back rangeland succession and reduce the canopy of brush structure. A wide range of wildlife, including quail, deer and turkeys, can benefit from this practice. Landowners wanting to rent the roller chopper must have access to a tractor with at least 80 hp to pull the machine as well as provide transportation for the machine. An operator is not provided with the roller chopper rental, but the equipment is simple to operate. The roller chopper rents for $50 per day.

The equipment is located at the Wildlife Department’s Northwest Regional Office in Woodward. Landowners interested in using this equipment and who would like additional information should contact that office at (580) 254-9173.

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Caption: Pulled behind a tractor, roller choppers crush and chop brush, small trees, and heavy plant growth. They also disturb the soil and allow sunlight and rain to reach the surface and encourage the growth of more desirable plants. A wide range of wildlife can benefit from this practice including quail, deer and turkeys. 

 

Caption: The tree spade, used for transplanting trees and shrubs, can be used on riparian habitat projects, establishing turkey roost sites, and to create shrub thickets for quail and small game. Landowners renting this equipment will be provided an operator to run the machine.

 

Deer hunters shatter harvest record — more hunting opportunities still available

Oklahoma deer hunters have already achieved a record harvest for the state in 2006 — 104,000 and counting — but their opportunities to take deer are far from being over. The state’s special antlerless deer season is just around the corner. Scheduled for Dec. 22-24 and Dec. 29-31, these opportunities allow hunters to harvest does outside their combined season limit.

According to Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, hunters across the state have already harvested 104,346 deer in 2006, surpassing the previous record of 102,100 deer taken in 2000. That total stands to increase with the remainder of archery and special antlerless seasons still to go. Shaw said other factors will raise the numbers as well, such as final counts from controlled hunts and Deer Management Assistance Program cooperators.

Shaw said a number of circumstances have led to the record harvest, such as the good hunting weather and peak rutting times that fell right in line with this year’s rifle season.

But even with the record numbers, Shaw encourages hunters to participate in the special three-day antlerless hunts.

“We need to really focus on increasing the number of antlerless deer harvested, especially in areas that have less desirable buck-to-doe ratios,” Shaw said. “And participating in the special antlerless deer season would be an excellent way to do that.”

The first three-day period of the special antlerless season will be limited to the northcentral and northwestern portions of the state, excluding most of the panhandle. The second three-day period will be open for hunting in the same areas as the first part of the season, but also in most of the remainder of the state. The panhandle will again be excluded, as will the far southeastern counties. For a map of Oklahoma’s antlerless deer hunt zones and to see which counties will be open for the special season, hunters should refer to page 14 of the “2006-07 Oklahoma Hunting Guide.”

To participate in the special antlerless deer season, hunters must possess a special antlerless deer gun license as well as an annual hunting license and a fishing and hunting legacy permit. Resident lifetime hunting or combination license holders are exempt from purchasing these licenses.

In addition, hunters participating in the special antlerless deer season must comply with the hunter orange requirements set forth for the regular deer gun season. Archery hunters and those hunting most other species in open special antlerless zones must wear either a hunter orange hat or upper garment while hunting.

To learn more about this year’s special antlerless deer season, refer to the “2006-07 Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or log on to www.wildlifedepartment.com.

           

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Wildlife Department schedules public hearings

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will be holding public hearings across the state Jan. 8 and 9 to collect input on a number of proposed hunting and fishing regulation changes. Citizens are encouraged to attend and voice their opinions on a broad list of proposals covering everything from deer hunting to trout fishing.

Several of the proposals involve adjustments to deer bag limits and hunting regulations, among them a proposal to reduce the state’s combined annual antlered deer limit from three to two. Also on the table is a proposal to establish an Experimental Quality Deer Management Unit in southwest Oklahoma. The proposed combined annual deer bag limit for the unit would include no more than one antlered deer. Additionally, a proposal has been made to allow the harvest of a buck along with a doe during the youth gun season, resulting in a youth gun season bag limit of one antlered and one antlerless deer.

Some of the proposed changes slated for discussion could allow for increased opportunities to harvest game, such as a proposal to allow the harvest of river otters in certain counties.

Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor for the Wildlife Department, said the hearings provide an important part in the process of getting input from Oklahoma hunters and anglers regarding our state’s game and fish regulations.

“We always endeavor to do what’s best for our state’s wildlife and habitat as well as the people who enjoy them. These public hearings give us a way to gather valuable input from those in our state who are often most interested in the well-being of Oklahoma’s wildlife,” Shaw said.

Regulation changes typically originate from proposals by Department staff and citizens, and selected proposals advance toward further consideration. After first being considered by a review committee of Wildlife Department personnel, recommendations are scheduled for public hearings, where citizens have the opportunity to comment on proposed regulation changes. Public comments and recommendations are then brought before the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Wildlife Department’s governing board. The Commission can then make decisions to accept, amend or reject the recommendations.

Those unable to attend the hearings are encouraged to send their comments by mail to: Attn: Proposed hunting and fishing regulation changes – Wildlife Department, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152. All comments are weighted equally whether received in writing or delivered at the public hearings.

           

The following is a list of public hearing dates, times and locations:

 

Date:   January 8, 2007

Time:  6:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.

 

Durant – State Fish Hatchery, 2021 Caddo Hwy

Lawton – Lawton Public Library, 110 SW 4th St.

Okmulgee – East Central Electric, Public Meeting Room, 2001 South Wood Drive

(Hwy 75)

 

Date:   January 8, 2007

Time:  6 p.m. - 9 p.m.

 

Muskogee – Northeastern State University Campus Auditorium, 2400 West

Shawnee

 

Date:   January 9, 2007

Time:  6:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.

 

Ada – Pontotoc County Vo-Tech Center, 601 W. 33rd Street (Wildlife Hearing

Only)

Altus – Altus Public Library, 421 N. Hudson St.

Broken Bow – Broken Bow Public Library, 404 N. Broadway

Enid – Central Fire Station, 410 West Garriott

Oklahoma City – Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, 1801 N.

Lincoln Blvd., Auditorium

Tishomingo – Tishomingo Community Center, Fairgrounds, 816 E. 6th

(Fisheries Hearing Only)

Tulsa – Tulsa Technology Center Riverside Campus, Alliance and Conference

Center Building, 801 E. 91st St., Aud. Rm A150

 

Date:   January 9, 2007

Time:  6 p.m. - 9 p.m.

 

Sallisaw – Indian Capital Vo-Tech, North Meeting Room, 401 Houser Ave.

 

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Wildlife Department announces winner of 2007 Oklahoma Waterfowl Stamp competition

Jeffrey Hoff of Jamestown, N.D., was selected as the winner of the 2007 Oklahoma Waterfowl Stamp competition held Dec. 8 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s central office in Oklahoma City. His painting portraying two redheads will be featured on the state’s 2007 waterfowl stamp.

The Oklahoma waterfowl stamp program was started as an effort to ensure quality habitat in the Sooner State for migrating ducks and geese. It was started in 1980 and showcases the artwork of some of the nation’s most talented wildlife artists.

 “It feels great when you can win a contest like this and help conservation,” said Hoff, 35.

A waterfowl hunter himself, Hoff discovered his interest in painting about eight years ago, mostly by accident.

Hoff enrolled for college courses too late to get into the engineering coursework he had planned, and as a result, only one class was available for him to take — a painting class. He signed up and developed a new talent. Since then Hoff has enjoyed painting several species of North American wildlife and has competed throughout the years in more than one duck stamp competition across the nation. He received inspiration for this year’s winning portrait from a photograph he had taken in a slough.

Purchased by both hunters and collectors, the stamps help fund various waterfowl conservation projects around the state.

Alan Stacey, wetland habitat biologist for the Wildlife Department, said the program has helped purchase close to 13,000 acres of wetlands and has advanced efforts to enhance, create, renovate and maintain thousands of acres of critical waterfowl habitat. Wetland development units such as Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area in southwest Oklahoma and the Red Slough Wildlife Management Area in McCurtain County have reaped benefits from the duck stamp program. Stacey said further wetland restoration and renovation work is planned for the future at a number of wildlife management areas across the state.

Four honorable mentions were named in the 2007 competition. They were: Hoyt Smith, Tulsa, Okla.; Edward Suthoff, Gardiner, Mont.; Russ Duerksen, Sioux Falls, S.D.; and Daniel Allard, Columbus, Ohio.

 

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Caption: Jeffrey Hoff’s painting of two redheads took first place in the 2007 Oklahoma Waterfowl Stamp competition.

 

 

2006 Youth writing competition winners announced

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International recently announced the results of an annual youth writing competition focused on Oklahoma’s hunting heritage.

“As always, reading these essays was a pleasure. Oklahoma’s youth have again demonstrated a strong connection to their hunting heritage," said Colin Berg, education supervisor for the Wildlife Department.

Winners in the ages 11-14 category were Jesse Martin of Coweta and Courtney Ratliff of Sapulpa. Winners in the ages 15-17 category were Darrick Tyler Brown of Wister and Hannah Carroll of Tryon.

"The winners in the senior age category will receive an all-expenses-paid antelope hunt in New Mexico,” said Berg. "The younger winners receive a scholarship to the YO Ranch Apprentice Hunter Program in Texas.”

Students were not the only ones to receive an award. Ed Kennedy, federal grant coordinator for Eufaula Schools, was awarded the Conservation Scholarship. The honor includes 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 youth writing competition is designed to promote America’s hunting heritage among Oklahoma’s youth. It provides them an opportunity to express the importance of hunting in their lives and to affirm their commitment to carrying on the hunting tradition. Students use the essays or short stories to relive memorable hunts, to explain why hunting is important to them and to recognize mentors who have influenced them to grow as hunters.

“The most important thing we can do to continue our hunting heritage is to get youth involved,” said Berg.

The Wildlife Department and the Oklahoma Station of the Safari Club International will submit the winning essays to the National Youth Writing Contest held annually by the Outdoor Writers Association of America.

 

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Trout Season to open January 1 at Dolese Youth Park Pond

            January 1 will mark the first day of trout season at Dolese Youth Park Pond in Oklahoma City. The sixth annual trout season is made possible through a cooperative partnership between the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the City of Oklahoma City as part of the ‘Close to Home’ fishing program.

            According to Gene Gilliland, senior fisheries biologist with the Wildlife Department, there will be no shortage of fish for anglers to catch.

Over the course of the season, (Jan. 1-Feb. 28), about 10,000 rainbow trout will be stocked in the pond, located north of NW 50th and a half block west of Meridian Ave.  Fish will be stocked every two weeks during the two-month season. Stocking dates are Jan. 4, Jan. 18, Feb. 1 and Feb. 15.  The trout are purchased through funding by a local sponsor, BancFirst, and the Wildlife Department as part of the Federal Sport Fish Restoration program.

            “BancFirst has donated the matching funds to help purchase the fish, and their donation is matched with sport fish restoration dollars through the Wildlife Department,” Gilliland said.

            BancFirst Chairman David Rainbolt said BancFirst is pleased to be a part of providing this opportunity to the people of Oklahoma.

            “This reinforces our commitment and loyalty to the community in which BancFirst makes its home,” Rainbolt said.

            Oklahoma City fisheries biologist Bob Martin is pleased with the program’s ongoing success.

            “We are grateful once again to have the support of BancFirst and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation,” Martin said. “They are important partners in our efforts to provide quality, local fishing opportunities for our trout anglers.”

            Martin said anglers should have success catching Dolese trout on

4- to 6- pound test line equipped with a slip sinker and small hook.  Choice baits include salmon eggs, power baits, corn, worms, spinners, Panther Martins, and small crappie jigs.

            Like its name suggests, the 'Close to Home' fishing program provides fishing areas that are often just a short drive away from urban locations, saving anglers time and gas money.  In addition, it allows parents and children to fish together after school or on a busy weekend.

            “It’s a great chance to bring the family out that’s the whole idea of the ‘Close to Home’ fishing program,” Gilliland said. “Plus, it’s not every day that Oklahoma anglers can make time for a quick cast or two for such an interesting fish.”

            An ordinance passed by the Oklahoma City Council in November sets a daily limit of six trout per person at Dolese Youth Park Pond.  In addition, each angler may only use one rod and reel while fishing for trout.

            ”The new ordinance mirrors existing catch limit regulations set by the State Department of Wildlife,” said Wendel Whisenhunt, Director of the City’s Park and Recreation Department. “However, now local wildlife officials will have the authority to intervene should an issue arise. It is a very positive move which will help ensure our trout are more fairly distributed to all our anglers throughout the season.”

            Those fishing for trout at Dolese must purchase an annual state fishing license and a fishing and hunting legacy permit unless exempt. In addition, an Oklahoma City Fishing Permit is required for anglers ages 16-61 unless exempt. No state trout license is required. For more city fishing and permit information, contact the city¹s H.B. Parsons Fish Hatchery at (405) 755-4014, or visit the Lakes and Fishing page of the city¹s Web site at okc.gov. For a map, log on to  www.wildlifedepartment.com

For more information on the ‘Close to Home’ fishing program, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.  Dolese Youth Park and the H.B. Parsons Fish Hatchery are operated by the City of Oklahoma City¹s Parks and Recreation Department.

 

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Eagle viewing opportunities abound across Oklahoma

            Did you know that a bald eagle’s wingspan can be seven feet? Or that their normal flight speed ranges from 20-60 mph, with diving speeds reaching 100 mph? How about that their eyesight is five to six times stronger than a human's, or that they can be expected to live 30 years in the wild? And perhaps most interesting of all, did you know you can see a bald eagle soaring in the sky right here in Oklahoma this winter?

            All across the state this winter, wildlife watchers have opportunities to attend eagle-watching events. According to Melynda Hickman, wildlife biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, these events offer something for everyone. Some are more casual, offering come-and-go opportunities, while others offer presentations and even guided tours. Some of the more popular eagle-watching events are held at Kaw Lake and at Ft. Gibson Reservoir. Event dates, details and locations are available on the Wildlife Department's Web site at  www.wildlifedepartment.com

            Hickman points out that Oklahoma’s many lakes as well as the state’s climate play a role in providing ideal eagle viewing opportunities this time of year.

            “We are so fortunate in Oklahoma that our reservoirs don¹t freeze for long periods during the winter, making them more attractive to eagles,” Hickman said. “That means we get more opportunities to see eagles in Oklahoma.”

            Anywhere from 750-1,500 eagles migrate here each winter, making Oklahoma an excellent state for winter eagle watching. Eagles begin to arrive in Oklahoma as early as November, but numbers peak across the state during January as northern lakes freeze over and eagles make their way here in search of food and open water.

            Hickman encourages those planning to attend an event to log on to the Department Web site to learn about the various locations and to see if pre-registration or fees apply to the event they wish to attend.

            Eagle watches are hosted by state parks, lake management offices, national wildlife refuges and local Audubon societies, and most events provide eagle programs and guided eagle viewing tours. Log on to wildlifedepartment.com to find the eagle-watching event nearest you, and make sure you catch a glimpse of the majestic bird this winter.

 

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 Time for Oklahoma sportsmen to renew hunting and fishing licenses

            With another year of great hunting and fishing coming to a close, Oklahoma sportsmen are reminded to renew their annual hunting and fishing licenses.

            Anglers heading to one of Oklahoma’s designated trout streams around the state should remember to purchase a new trout license, fishing and hunting legacy permit and annual fishing license for the new year (all expire Dec. 31).

            Bowhunters who plan to hunt through the end of deer archery season (Jan.1-15, antlerless only) should also renew licenses and permits.

Unless archers possess a resident lifetime hunting or resident lifetime combination license, they will need a 2007 annual hunting license, 2007 fishing and hunting legacy permit and a 2007 deer archery license to hunt from Jan. 1 through Jan. 15. Bowhunters who purchase a new 2007 deer archery license but do not harvest a deer in January should hold on to their license. The unfilled license remains valid throughout the fall of 2007 (Oct. 1-Dec. 31).

            Hunters and anglers also need a new fishing and hunting legacy permit to hunt or fish beginning Jan. 1 unless exempt.

            Three licenses that do not expire Dec. 31 are harvest information program (HIP) permits and state and federal waterfowl licenses (which run from July 1 through the end of the following June). In addition, trapping licenses expire Jan. 31. A 2007-2008 trapping license must be purchased to trap beaver, bobcat, nutria, striped skunk and coyote after Jan. 31. The Bobcat-Raccoon-Gray/Red Fox license expires Jan. 31 for raccoon and gray/red fox and Feb. 28 for bobcat.

            All annual licenses and even a subscription to ‘Outdoor Oklahoma’ magazine can be purchased at any license vendor statewide or online at wildlifedepartment.com. Complete license requirements and exemptions are outlined in the ‘2006-07 Oklahoma Hunting Guide’ and the ‘2007 Oklahoma Fishing Guide.’ These publications are available at hunting and fishing license dealers statewide or by logging on to the Department’s Web site at wildlifedepartment.com. Information is also available from the Department's licensing section at (405) 521-3852.

 

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Hearings slated for 12 Oklahoma towns

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will hold public hearings in 12 communities across the state Jan. 8 and 9 to discuss a broad list of proposed fishing and hunting regulation changes. Citizens are encouraged to attend and voice their opinions on a number of proposals that affect Oklahoma hunters and anglers.

The list of proposals slated for discussion includes a range of topics. Several fisheries proposals are being considered, among them a proposal to increase the bag limit on black bass at Lake Arcadia from three fish per day to six. Also affecting black bass at Lake Arcadia is a proposal to reduce the 22-inch minimum size limit to 14 inches. Another proposal slated for discussion is a reduction of the 18-inch minimum size limit on walleye at Lake Altus-Lugert to 14 inches. The New Lost Creek area in the Lower Mountain Fork River trout stream will be the center of some discussion as well.

Regarding hunting, some of the most notable proposals involve the state¹s deer hunting regulations and bag limits. One proposal seeks to reduce the state¹s combined annual antlered deer limit from three to two.

Another proposal is to establish an Experimental Quality Deer Management Unit in southwest Oklahoma. The proposed combined annual deer bag limit for the unit would include no more than one antlered deer. Also on the table is a proposal to allow the harvest of a buck along with a doe during the youth gun season, resulting in a youth gun season bag limit of one antlered and one antlerless deer.

Regulation changes typically originate from proposals by Department staff and citizens, and selected proposals advance toward further consideration. After first being considered by a review committee of Wildlife Department personnel, recommendations are scheduled for public hearings, where citizens have the opportunity to comment on proposed regulation changes. Public comments and recommendations are then brought before the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Wildlife Department¹s governing board. The Commission can then make decisions to accept, amend or reject the recommendations.

Those unable to attend the hearings are encouraged to send their comments by mail to: Attn: Proposed hunting and fishing regulation changes Wildlife Department, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152. All comments are weighted equally whether received in writing or delivered at the public hearings.

The following is a list of public hearing dates, times and locations:

Date: January 8, 2007

Time: 6:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.

Durant - State Fish Hatchery, 2021 Caddo Hwy Lawton Public Library, 110 SW 4th St.

Okmulgee - East Central Electric, Public Meeting Room, 2001 South Wood Drive (Hwy 75)

Date: January 8, 2007

Time: 6 p.m. - 9 p.m.

Muskogee - Northeastern State University Campus Auditorium, 2400 West Shawnee

Date: January 9, 2007

Time: 6:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.

Ada - Pontotoc County Technology Center, 601 W. 33rd Street (Wildlife Hearing Only)
Altus - Altus Public Library, 421 N. Hudson St.
Broken Bow - Broken Bow Public Library, 404 N. Broadway Enid Central Fire Station, 410 West Garriott Oklahoma City - Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, 1801 N. Lincoln Blvd., Auditorium
Tishomingo - Tishomingo Community Center, Fairgrounds, 816 E. 6th (Fisheries Hearing Only)
Tulsa - Tulsa Technology Center Riverside Campus, Alliance and Conference Center Building, 801 E. 91st St., Aud. Rm A150

Date: January 9, 2007

Time: 6 p.m. - 9 p.m.

Sallisaw - Indian Capital Technology Center, North Meeting Room, 401 Houser Ave.

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Winter Bird Survey offers chance to help conservation

Oklahomans who enjoy feeding and watching birds can use their hobby to support conservation efforts this winter.

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is asking bird watchers to participate in the 19th annual Oklahoma Winter Bird Survey. Bird watchers can help Department biologists by choosing any two days between Jan. 11-14 to count birds at their household feeders. The information gathered from participants can then be used to help track population trends in the state¹s winter birds.

"By asking bird watchers across Oklahoma to take the survey, biologists can accomplish more in four days than we ever could have on our own," said Melynda Hickman, wildlife biologist with the Wildlife Department.

"Since there are so many bird watchers in Oklahoma, we can use the information they gather to help us look for trends."

Hundreds of households have participated in the survey in years past, and the results can help the Department decide if bird ranges and populations are normal as well as warn of potential conservation issues.

The survey involves counting birds at backyard feeders at least four times a day for two days during the survey dates and completing a form provided by the Wildlife Department. For detailed instructions and to take the survey, log on to wildlifedepartment.com and click on "2007 Winter Bird Survey." Participants have until Feb. 12 to submit results.

The Wildlife Department is currently developing an extensive bird-watching resource that will be available soon at wildlifedepartment.com. Participants will be able to use the bird-watching Web pages to find extensive winter bird information such as identification tips, diets, feeding behaviors and winter ranges as well as links to other birding Web sites.

Hickman said anyone who has a bird feeder can participate, but that certain efforts can be made to attract more birds to feeders. Black-oil sunflower seed is a good choice for bird feeders because of its high protein content that birds can use during the winter and because all seed-eating Oklahoma songbirds will eat it. Suet cakes, animal fat that is sometimes mixed with grains or peanut butter, are good for drawing in species such as woodpeckers and birds that don¹t primarily eat seeds. Finally, a source of water and cover such as brush piles or dense shrubs located near the feeders might draw more birds, Hickman said.

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Wildlife Department's news service keeps sportsmen current

People with an interest in hunting, fishing or the outdoors can stay current on what's happening in Oklahoma's outdoors by subscribing to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's weekly news release. The service is free, and people can sign up by logging on to the Department¹s Web site at  www.wildlifedepartment.com

News stories each week provide subscribers with information on everything from fishing and hunting news to eagle and bat-watching activities, and they refer readers to additional sources of information on certain topics relating to Oklahoma's outdoors. Put simply, the Department¹s weekly news stories provide readers with important, timely information that Oklahoma outdoorsmen need to know.

Subscribers not only receive updates on the latest Department news and outdoor-related tips and information, but they also receive the Department¹s weekly Outdoor Calendar, Fishing Report and other seasonal information such as the Waterfowl Report.

Now is an especially good time for duck and goose hunters to subscribe to the news release because the Waterfowl Report provides recent information on waterfowl populations and habitat at lakes all over the state. It can make planning a hunt much easier since hunters can get an idea of what to expect at their favorite spot as well as those places they¹ve never visited or hunted.

"The weekly news release is designed to keep people informed, and the Waterfowl Report is just one part of it that could provide an advantage to hunters," said Nels Rodefeld, Information and Education chief at the Wildlife Department. "Oklahomans have no shortage of opportunities to learn and enhance their outdoor experiences, but they need to have access to the dates, locations and other important details of these events. The Department¹s weekly news release not only provides this information, but it delivers it in plenty of time to plan to attend an activity."

In addition to current events and other outdoor news, the weekly release provides an Outdoor Calendar that gives a detailed outlook on a variety of outdoor-related events taking place across the state. Activities designed to educate people on wildlife and to hone their outdoor skills take place all year long, and annual events such as tackle shows and the Wildlife Expo provide endless entertainment.

"The news release is truly a great tool for anyone who appreciates wildlife in our state," Rodefeld said. "Oklahoman's should really take advantage of this kind of resource, as well as any of the various resources provided by the Department that might apply to them."

To learn more about the Wildlife Department and its resources for hunters, anglers, landowners and other wildlife enthusiasts, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

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