OCTOBER 2009 NEWS RELEASES 

WEEK OF OCTOBER 29, 2009

 

WEEK OF OCTOBER 22, 2009

WEEK OF OCTOBER 15, 2009

 

WEEK OF OCTOBER 8, 2009

Sportsmen's organizations help drive conservation efforts
            At its regular October meeting, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission accepted $12,500 worth of donations from three organizations including the 89er Chapter of Trout Unlimited, the Indian Territory chapter of Quail Forever and the Oklahoma Wildlife Federation.
            Conservation organizations such as these play a key role in wildlife conservation in Oklahoma through their volunteer work, outreach and financial support. The Wildlife Department receives no general state tax appropriations and is supported primarily by sportsmen through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, as well as donations from conservation organizations such as these.
            The 89er Chapter of Trout Unlimited donated $5,000 for repairs to the Lost Creek Area of the Lower Mountain Fork River trout fishery in southeast Oklahoma. The area was once an empty streambed, but in 2006, after careful and methodical renovations, it was turned into a quarter mile of prime trout habitat. Spring flooding in 2009 caused damage to the area, and the donation will help complete repairs. The 89er Chapter also donated $1,000 worth of signage to educate anglers of Didymo infestations on the Lower Mountain Fork River and Lower Illinois River. “Didymo” is short for Didymosphenia geminata, also called “rock snot.” The invasive alga was confirmed recently in the Lower Mountain Fork River and, though it starts in small colonies, it can grow into dense, thick mats that cover large portions of cold flowing, low-nutrient streams that are rich in oxygen.
            “When it forms extensive mats or produces large blooms, rock snot can outcompete native algae relied on by aquatic insects,” said Curtis Tackett, aquatic nuisance biologist for the Wildlife Department. “That may not sound like a problem, except that those insects provide an important source of food for trout in the Lower Mountain Fork River.”
            Tackett said that in some cases, the reduction of available food sources for trout because of competition from invasive species like Didymo can result in smaller fish. Additionally, Didymo can clog water pipes and other flow structures as well as become quite a nuisance to anglers because of how easily it can be snagged by a fishhook.
            “We've had a long history of cooperation with the Wildlife Department,” said Don Longcrier, president of the 89er Chapter, adding that the donation is a continuation of support for the Wildlife Department in its effort to provide cold-water fisheries in Oklahoma.
            Another donation of $5,000 came from the Indian Territory chapter of Quail Forever, with $2,500 to be dedicated to projects at the Spavinaw Wildlife Management Area and $2,500 to be dedicated to Shotgun Training Education Program (STEP) events in northeast Oklahoma. STEP is a program offered by the Wildlife Department to introduce youth to shooting sports through safe firearm handling education and shooting instruction.
            The Indian Territory chapter of Quail Forever is focused on quail conservation through education, increasing habitat hunting. The northeast Oklahoma organization hosts youth days that have grown in attendance from 35 four years ago to about 220 at their most recent event. Youth day offers the organization a chance to introduce youth to the outdoors through bird dog demonstrations, fish fries, and shooting sports instruction from the Bow Council of Oklahoma and the Wildlife Department's STEP instructors.
            “Anytime we can get kids back in the outdoors, it's a wonderful program,” said Indian Territory chapter president Terry Free.
            The Chapter has also donated money to the Inola school district to begin the Wildlife Department's Oklahoma Archery in Schools Program, which introduces youth to archery through classroom curriculum and shooting activities. The group also partners with the Grand River Dam Authority and its POWER program, which increases quail habitat by restoring high line right of ways with native grasses.
            The chapter's donation to the Wildlife Department comes after other financial donations to the Wildlife Department for quail habitat support at Oologah WMA. Their October donation will help fund the purchase of prescribed burn equipment and other projects at Spavinaw WMA.
            “We're happy to donate, and I think that we need to be conscious of our quail population in northeast Oklahoma and statewide,” Free said.
            For more information about the Indian Territory chapter, log on to indianterritoryquailforever.org.
            The Oklahoma Wildlife Federation also donated $1,500 worth of Remington 870 shotguns to the Wildlife Department's STEP program.
            “Our generation is the messenger for future wildlife conservation issues, and we must prevail in order to expand and get these kids away from the TV and the computers and things of that sort,” said George Edwards with the Wildlife Federation.
            The Oklahoma Wildlife Federation also has partnered with the Wildlife Department to help fund the Close to Home Fishing program, which provides fishing opportunities in urban locations, in addition to the Archery in the Schools Program, management efforts at Lexington WMA in central Oklahoma. The Wildlife Federation also made significant donations totaling $200,000 for the purchase of the Wildlife Department's Watts Unit of the Lower Illinois River Public Fishing and Hunting Area and the Drummond Flats WMA in northwest Oklahoma.
            In other business, the Commission accepted sealed bids to lease the Wildlife Department's mineral interests on 369.31 net mineral acres in Ellis Co. to Chesapeake Energy and four net mineral acres in Beaver Co. to Wyoming-based Snyder Partners.
            Wes Harden, owner of Sulphur Fish Hatchery in Sulphur, also addressed the Commission regarding the Wildlife Department's farm pond fish stocking program.
            The Commission also recognized Rex Umber, senior wildlife biologist, for 35 years of service to the Wildlife Department. It also recognized Terry Swallow, game warden stationed in Woods Co., for 30 years of service; Jeff Headrick, game warden stationed in Washita Co., for 20 years; and Mark Reichenberger, game warden stationed in Woodward Co., for 20 years.
            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 set for 9 a.m. Nov. 2 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters (auditorium), located at the southwest corner of 18th and North Lincoln, Oklahoma City.
 
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Oklahoma's first black bear season off to good start
            Three firsts came Oct. 1 for Nashoba bowhunter Joe Russell when he became the first Oklahoma hunter to harvest a black bear on the first day of Oklahoma's first inaugural bear archery season.
            Russell checked in his bear with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation on opening morning shortly after harvesting the bear on a private hunting lease in Pushmataha County. The healthy female black bear weighed 170 lbs. field dressed. Wildlife Department biologists collected measurements and other data on the bear, such as a tooth that will be used to determine the bear's age.
            Russell had been baiting the area for about a month using corn, grease from an area café and sardines. Because bear activity is sometimes difficult to pattern, baiting is a popular and effective way to hunt bears, and Oklahoma bear hunters are permitted to use bait on private land.
            “They're pretty elusive,” Russell said.
            Having lived in the area and hunted all his life, Russell has seen several bears throughout the years, and said he appreciated the opportunity to hunt them. He had no previous experience hunting black bears, but avidly hunts deer, turkeys and feral hogs.
            Biologists with the Wildlife Department have collected more than 15 years of biological data and information from responding to nuisance bear calls, and the Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit with Oklahoma State University has conducted additional research projects for the Wildlife Department. Data and research results show that Oklahoma is an ideal state for hosting a limited bear season to address nuisance bear issues while creating new opportunities for sportsmen.            
            Though black bears have a growing population in southeast Oklahoma and are an important part of the state's wildlife diversity today, the future hasn't always looked so bright for black bears. Once ranging across North America, including the entire area of what is now Oklahoma, sightings had become rare by the early 1900s. Factors like urban development, unregulated hunting and habitat fragmentation caused black bear numbers to eventually decline drastically.
            In the late 1900s, however, black bears began making a comeback in Oklahoma after the successful reintroduction of black bears in the Ouachita and Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. That initial relocation of about 250 bears from northern Minnesota and Manitoba, Canada, turned into thousands of bears in the mountains of Arkansas, which then expanded into southwest Missouri and eastern Oklahoma. Viewed as one of the most successful reintroductions of large carnivores in the world, this successful reestablishment of black bears led to a renewed black bear hunting season in Arkansas in 1980.
            Bear hunting in Oklahoma also secures future funds for bear conservation efforts, since the Wildlife Department is funded primarily by sportsmen through the purchase of hunting and fishing licenses and federal excise taxes on sporting goods.
             Along with Russell's black bear, 13 additional bears have been harvested this season in the four-county hunt area of Latimer, LeFlore, Pushmataha and McCurtain counties. The bear archery season will run through Oct. 23 or until the season quota of 20 bears has been met. If the season quota is not met during bear archery season, black bear muzzleloader season will open Oct. 24 and run through Nov. 1 or until the season quota is met. Hunters must check by phone or online at wildlifedepartment.com before hunting each day to see if the quota has been reached. Once the quota of 20 bears is reached, the season will close. The use of dogs is prohibited, and baiting is prohibited on wildlife management areas.
            To learn more about wildlife in Oklahoma, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Fifth annual Wildlife Expo draws tens of thousands
            An estimated 42,000 visitors to the fifth annual Oklahoma Wildlife Expo Sept. 25-27 show that Oklahomans love the outdoors, and officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation are calling the huge event an equally huge success.
            The Expo's visitors included 16,000 who attended the event Friday, which was also School Day when students across the state took field trips with their schools to the event, held at the Lazy E Arena, just north of Oklahoma City. The event also drew families, friends and individuals with all levels of outdoor experience.
            “It was a huge effort that resulted in getting our message out to so many people,” said Richard Hatcher, director of the Wildlife Department.
            Additionally, guests enjoyed their time spent at the Expo, many of whom came for the first time.
            “Preliminary survey results showed 95 percent of attendees rated their overall Expo experience as good to excellent,” Hatcher said. “It is also great to see that 55 percent of those surveyed on Saturday and Sunday reported that it was their first time attending the Expo.”
            Hatcher also noted that it is obvious that the Wildlife Department and its partners in the Expo are making a difference in the lives of thousands of Oklahomans through the event.
            Visitors tried outdoor activities ranging from shooting sports to kayaking and received hands-on instruction from volunteers at each activity. More than 5,000 shooters participated in shotgun shooting, firing off more than 25,000 rounds of shotgun shells. Additionally, more than 73,000 pellets were fired at the air rifle range set up for Expo guest.
            The Expo also offered fishing opportunities at a stocked pond on the Expo grounds, where nearly 17,000 hooks were baited with worms so that guests could catch their own fish.
            Additionally, thousands of arrows were shot at the Expo's archery area, and visitors consumed just as many pounds of wild game meat at the popular “Taste of the Wild” booth. Dutch oven demonstrators also served samples of camp-style food and provided seminars on the basics of Dutch oven cooking.
            Other activities at the Expo included ATV rides, birdwatching and more in addition to booths and seminars about dog training, game and fish management, wild game cooking, mountain biking camping, backpacking, furbearer trapping and calling and more. Additionally, visitors were able to shop at the Expo's Outdoor Marketplace, a large area where vendors provided outdoor gear and services ranging from small gifts to all terrain utility vehicles and chainsaw carvings.
            Held at the Lazy E Arena, just north of Oklahoma City, the free Oklahoma Wildlife Expo is hosted by the Wildlife Department in partnership with a range of organizations, other state agencies, individuals and outdoor-related companies. The event is designed to perpetuate an interest in the outdoors and conservation through hands-on education and learning opportunities and to promote and develop appreciation for Oklahoma's wildlife and natural resources.
            Wildlife Department officials say plans are already underway for the sixth annual Oklahoma Wildlife Expo, slated for Sept. 24-26, 2010.
 
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Muzzleloader deer season nears
            While deer archery hunters are already afield hunting, hunters await the opening of the 2009 youth deer gun season Oct. 16-18 and deer muzzleloader season slated for Oct. 24 - Nov. 1.
            During youth deer gun season, hunters under 18 years of age can harvest one antlered and one antlerless deer and, while deer taken by youth hunters during the youth deer gun season are included in the hunter's combined season limit, they do not count as part of the regular deer gun season limit. All youth participating in the youth deer gun season are required to be accompanied by an adult 18 years old or older. The adult cannot gun hunt, but may archery hunt while accompanying the youth hunter. For license requirements, consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or log on to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.
            Muzzleloader season spans nine days (Oct. 24 - Nov. 1). The modern gun season opens Nov. 21 and runs for 16 days. Archery season remains open through Jan. 15, 2010.
            Deer call every part of Oklahoma, whether it be in wide-open prairie or pine-covered mountains, and several wildlife management areas across the state offer hunting for at least part of the muzzleloader season, some through special draw hunts that give sportsmen a unique opportunity to change up their usual hunting routine.
            To learn more about deer hunting on wildlife management areas, consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or log on to wildlifedepartment.com. The Web site offers regulations, useful hunting information and an award-winning digital wildlife management area atlas. And best of all, it is free. In addition to detailed maps, sportsmen can find information such as camping locations and contacts for local biologists.
            “Scouting and preparing is the best way to improve your odds at harvesting deer with a muzzleloader,” said Jerry Shaw, big game biologist for the Wildlife Department.
            During muzzleloader season, hunters can harvest a buck and two antlerless deer (as long as one comes from zone 2), and most of the state is open to antlerless hunting every day during the season. Resident muzzleloader hunters must possess an appropriate hunting license and, if their license was purchases prior to July 1, a fishing and hunting legacy permit. Additionally, they must possess a deer license for each deer harvested. If a hunter harvests two antlerless deer, at least one of those antlerless deer must be taken in antlerless zone 2, 7 or 8 (consult page 21 of the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide for a map of antlerless zones). Nonresident muzzleloader hunters must also carry a nonresident deer muzzleloader license for each deer harvested. However, nonresidents are exempt from the purchase of a hunting license while hunting deer.
            Hunters can harvest a turkey with their muzzleloaders Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 in most of the state. A fall turkey license is required, unless exempt. Turkey fall gun season runs Oct. 31 through Nov. 20, and details on the season are available in the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide.”
            Hunters age 10-35 who have not completed hunter education can buy an apprentice-designated hunting license and hunt while accompanied by a licensed hunter 21 years old or older who has completed the hunter education course, or a licensed hunter 21 years old or older who is otherwise exempt from hunter education (includes those 36 years old or older, those honorably discharged or currently active in the Armed Forces or members of the National Guard). Hunters under 10 years old must complete a hunter education course to hunt big game or to buy any big game hunting license.
            For specific information regarding which areas are open to muzzleloader season, licenses, bag limits, blaze orange clothing requirements or legal firearms, consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide" or log onto
http://www.wildlifedepartment.com
 
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Grand Lake anglers' comments sought for five-year management plan
            Grand Lake anglers have an opportunity to share their thoughts with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Oct. 23 on a range of topics affecting the lake.
            The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Oct. 23, at the Grove Community Center, located at 104 W. 3rd St. in room 4, and discussion is open to a range of topics including fishery and management goals, objectives and strategies for the lake.
            Grand Lake is located in eastern Oklahoma and is part of Oklahoma's 1,120 square miles of lakes and ponds. There are an estimated 611,000 anglers in the state who spend about $502 million annually. Fishing creates an estimated 10,300 jobs in the state. The Wildlife Department receives no general state tax appropriations and is supported by hunting and fishing license fees and federal excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment.
            For more information about the Wildlife Department, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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New “Waterfowl Guide” now available free at locations statewide
            Duck and goose hunters can now pick up the newest copy of the free “2009-10 Oklahoma Waterfowl Guide.” The free 20-page publication is available free anywhere hunting licenses are sold or online at wildlifedepartment.com.
            The new “Waterfowl Guide” provides important dates and regulations for hunting waterfowl in Oklahoma, but hunters also can use the booklet to learn about hunting on Wildlife Department lakes and wildlife management areas as well as how to identify a variety of waterfowl. Detailed drawings and tips help hunters learn the differences in waterfowl species, and a hunting record log in the back of the guide helps hunters keep track of their hunting memories and successes.
            Changes to this year's waterfowl season include expanded opportunities for pintails and canvasbacks as well as wood ducks. Oklahoma waterfowlers can hunt pintails and canvasbacks throughout the entire waterfowl season this year as well as take an additional wood duck as part of their daily limit of six ducks.
            Since 2003, pintails and canvasbacks have had a shorter season within the overall regular duck season, though dates for the two did overlap for some. This year, hunters can take pintails and canvasbacks throughout the entire waterfowl season.
            Additionally, last year a hunter's daily limit of six ducks could not include more than two wood ducks, whereas this year a hunter can harvest up to three per day as part of their six-duck limit.
            Aside from these two expanded hunting opportunities, the waterfowl seasons will be same as last year, with adjustments made to calendar dates.
            Full details and dates, including information on seasons for all ducks, Canada geese, white-fronted geese, light geese and sandhill cranes are available in the new “Waterfowl Guide.”
            Hunters who wish to participate in the waterfowl season must have a resident or non-resident hunting license and, if their hunting license was purchased prior to July 1, a fishing and hunting legacy permit. Additionally, they must have a 2009-10 Federal Duck Stamp, and unless exempt, a 2009-10 Oklahoma Waterfowl License and a Harvest Information Program Permit. The federal duck stamp is available at U.S. Post Offices. Hunters pursuing sandhill cranes must also purchase a separate sandhill crane hunting permit.
            Sportsmen also can find the “2009-10 Oklahoma Waterfowl Guide” online by logging on to wildlifedepartment.com, which also provides the most recent “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” and “Oklahoma Fishing Guide.” The site also provides free online brochures and publications, interactive topography maps and a wealth of other information related to hunting, angling, wildlife viewing and other wildlife conservation. Sportsmen can even purchase hunting and fishing licenses online. Additionally, sportsmen can sign up online for a free weekly news release from the Wildlife Department that is sent straight to their email inbox. The news release contains late-breaking outdoor-related information important to Oklahoma hunters and covers everything from upcoming hunting and fishing seasons and events to news about state record harvests, wildlife management, public lands and more. The free news release also contains a weekly fishing report from lakes and other fisheries as well as seasonal reports on waterfowl activity across the state.
            More information about the Wildlife Department is available by logging on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Numerous hunter certification opportunities still available before deer gun season
            Sportsmen have many chances to become hunter education certified between now and the opening of deer gun season, including 22 courses held across the state on Nov. 7 and Nov. 14 that offer last minute opportunities to become certified.
            According to Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Wildlife Department, courses offered Nov. 7 and Nov. 14 offer a last minute chance to become certified just in time for the deer gun season.
            “People have busy schedules these days,” Meek said. “These courses give people a chance to get their hunter education done even if they aren't able to get to a class before the last couple of weeks before deer season. While there have been more that 350 courses throughout the year, we have made a special effort to make sure no one will need to drive too far to find a class in the two weeks before deer gun season.”
            In recent years, the Wildlife Department has offered these last minute courses during the weekend prior to the opening day of deer gun season, and according Meek, the turnout is worth the effort.
            “Hunters have responded very well to these offerings,” Meek said. “Last year, we certified 2,243 students the weekend before deer gun season. That's 15 percent of the number of students certified all year.”
            On Nov. 7, courses will be offered in Afton, Antlers, Ardmore, Bartlesville, Enid, Oklahoma City, Owasso, Wister, and Woodward, and courses will be offered Nov. 14 in Ada, Broken Bow, Burns Flat, Jenks, McAlester, Miami, Oklahoma City, Sallisaw, Stillwater and Sulphur.
            Every year, the Wildlife Department holds hundreds of hunter education classes taught by Department employees and volunteer instructors across the state.
            Hunters ages 35 and younger who plan to buy a hunting license and hunt deer must either complete the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's hunter education course or, if 10 years old or older, hunt with an apprentice designated hunting license. Hunters in this age group who are not able to attend a hunter education course prior to deer gun season are eligible for the apprentice-designated hunting license, which allows hunters 10 years of age and older to hunt without hunter education certification under the supervision of a qualified adult hunter. For specific information about the apprentice-designated hunting license and the requirements that must be met by accompanying mentor hunters, consult page 8 of the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or log on to wildlifedepartment.com. Additionally, hunters nine years of age and younger must be hunter education certified to hunt small game without a qualified accompanying hunter. Exemptions from hunter education requirements include those 36 years old or older; those honorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces; those currently on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces; or members of the National Guard.
            The Wildlife Department offers a full listing of available upcoming hunter education courses online at wildlifedepartment.com. Visitors to the site can learn when and where classes will be held, and a phone number is provided if pre-registration is required.
            Hunter education covers a variety of topics including firearms safety, wildlife identification, wildlife conservation and management, survival, archery, muzzleloading and hunter responsibility. It is available as a standard eight-hour course, the Internet home study course and the workbook home study course. It is strongly recommended that anyone planning on hunting or shooting complete a hunter education class.
            For more information, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Wildlife Department now updating sportsmen on Twitter
            Sportsmen can now get the very latest, up-to-the-minute wildlife-related news updates through Twitter.
            Twitter users can follow the Wildlife Department's frequent, brief updates to get information on subjects like last minute hunter education opportunities, hunting season updates, important reminders and even links to timely news stories that cover subjects like the first black bear harvested during Oklahoma's inaugural bear archery season.
            “This is just another way to keep sportsmen informed in a timely manner, in addition to all of our other great information sources like wildlifedepartment.com, Outdoor Oklahoma magazine and TV, free weekly e-mail news releases and a range of other newsletters and publications,” said Micah Holmes, information and education supervisor for the Wildlife Department.
            Current Twitter users can sign up to follow “OKWildlifeDept” and get the latest updates, and even sportsmen who do not maintain a free Twitter account can follow the Wildlife Department's Twitter updates by logging on to
http://twitter.com/OkWildlifeDept

            For more information about Twitter or to set up an account and begin instantly following the Wildlife Department, log on to twitter.com. To sign up for the Wildlife Department's free weekly e-mail news release, which provides full stories on the latest news and outdoor information from the Wildlife Department, log on to http://www.wildlifedepartment.com


 
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Grand Lake anglers' comments sought for five-year management plan
            Grand Lake anglers have an opportunity to share their thoughts with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Oct. 23 on a range of topics affecting the lake.
            The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Oct. 23, at the Grove Community Center, located at 104 W. 3rd St. in room 4, and discussion is open to a range of topics including fishery and management goals, objectives and strategies for the lake.
            Grand Lake is located in eastern Oklahoma and is part of Oklahoma's 1,120 square miles of lakes and ponds. There are an estimated 611,000 anglers in the state who spend about $502 million annually. Fishing creates an estimated 10,300 jobs in the state. The Wildlife Department receives no general state tax appropriations and is supported by hunting and fishing license fees and federal excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment.
            For more information about the Wildlife Department, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Deer hunter’s paradise for less than a penny per acre
            If a deer hunter was told he could access 300,000 acres of prime hunting in oak-pine forested habitat with more than 170 food plots for less than 1/10 of a penny per acre, he might think he was dreaming. But it is a reality for every sportsman in Oklahoma.
            For just $40 — the cost of a Land Access Permit from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation — Oklahoma hunters can gain a year of hunting or fishing access on the Honobia Creek and Three Rivers Wildlife Management Areas in southeast Oklahoma, where some of the most rugged terrain and abundant cover in the state allows deer to grow to mature age classes.
            Additionally, the upcoming deer season is expected to be a good one on Honobia Creek and Three Rivers WMAs.
            “Our 2009 deer surveys produced the highest number of deer surveyed since the WMAs were established in the late 1990s,” said Kyle Johnson, Wildlife Department biologist stationed on Honobia Creek and Three Rivers WMA.
            He added that both black and white oak trees produced good crops of acorns this year, which offer food for deer and good areas for hunters to focus on when locating a great spot to hunt.
            Oklahoma residents who are under 18 years of age on the first day of the current calendar year or are 64 years old or older are exempt from the land access permit requirements, making a hunting trip on Honobia Creek or Three Rivers WMAs a great way to introduce youngsters to the outdoors or spend a few day hunting with the family. Non-residents, regardless of age, are required to purchase an $85 Land Access Permit.
            According to Johnson, the Land Access Permit is well worth the money.
            “All LAF money goes directly into keeping the WMAs open for public hunting and fishing recreation and to manage the WMAs for the benefit of sportsmen and women as well as wildlife,” Johnson said.
            The land that comprises the WMAs is privately owned by three timber companies — Weyerhaeuser Company, Hancock Natural Resource Group, and Rayonier Forest Resources, L.P. Through a partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the land is managed for wildlife and open to Land Access Permit holders for hunting and fishing.
            According to Johnson, the area offers camping opportunities at no charge to permit holders as well as the chance to hunt in a 5,800-acre walk-in only hunting area that allows sportsmen to hunt free of any disturbance from vehicles.
            “Hunters willing to walk off the road will find acres and acres of WMA all to themselves,” Johnson said.
            For specific information regarding atv use on Three Rivers and Honobia Creek WMAs consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide" or log onto wildlifedepartment.com.
            Other hunting opportunities exist on the WMAs as well, including the chance to harvest feral hogs, considered a nuisance to native wildlife, as scattered numbers exist on both WMAs.  A $10 three-day special use land access permit is available to residents for non-hunting and non-fishing related activities, unless in possession of the $40 land access permit.
            Land Access Permits for the areas can be purchased online at wildlifedepartment.com or anywhere hunting and fishing licenses are sold. Digital maps of both areas also available at wildlifedepartment.com, and a detailed print version map of the Three Rivers WMA is available free of charge at the Wildlife Department headquarters in Oklahoma City or at certain field offices.
            To learn more about Honobia Creek WMA or Three Rivers WMA, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.  

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Waterfowlers expect good year
            Waterfowl season is already underway in parts of Oklahoma and will soon be in full swing statewide, with reports from biologists pointing toward a memorable and successful season.
            Waterfowl season in the panhandle counties opened Oct. 10 and runs through Jan. 6, while the season in zone 1 runs Oct. 24 through Nov. 29 and Dec. 12 through Jan. 17, 2010. Zone 2 opens Nov. 7 and runs through Nov. 29 and Dec. 12 through Jan. 31, 2010.
            According to Josh Richardson, migratory game bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, opening days in zone 1 and 2 in recent years saw summer-like conditions that made for less successful hunts.
            “This year is looking to change that,” Richardson said. “Already a good number of early migrants have been moving through, and the continued cold weather up north should keep pushing birds on down to us.”
            Additionally, bird forecasts are good this year as well.
            “Duck production this year was very good across most of the breeding areas and particularly in the prairie pothole region, which supplies the majority of our ducks,” Richardson said. “The rains we've been getting are helping to raise water levels into shoreline vegetation. Really everything is looking like it is all going to come together to make a very good season for all our waterfowl hunters.”
            Changes to this year’s waterfowl season include expanded opportunities for pintails and canvasbacks as well as wood ducks. Oklahoma waterfowlers can hunt pintails and canvasbacks throughout the entire waterfowl season this year as well as take an additional wood duck as part of their daily limit of six ducks.
            Since 2003, pintails and canvasbacks have had a shorter season within the overall regular duck season. This year, hunters can take pintails and canvasbacks throughout the entire waterfowl season.
            Additionally, last year a hunter’s daily limit of six ducks could not include more than two wood ducks, whereas this year a hunter can harvest up to three per day as part of their six-duck limit.
            Aside from these two expanded hunting opportunities, the waterfowl seasons will be same as last year, with adjustments made to calendar dates.
            Full details, including information on seasons for all ducks, Canada geese, white-fronted geese, light geese and sandhill cranes are available in the new “Oklahoma Waterfowl Guide,” available at hunting license dealers statewide or online at wildlifedepartment.com.
            Hunters who wish to participate in the waterfowl season must have a resident or non-resident hunting license and, if their hunting license was purchased prior to July 1, a fishing and hunting legacy permit. Additionally, they must have a 2009-10 Federal Duck Stamp, and unless exempt, a 2009-10 Oklahoma Waterfowl License and a Harvest Information Program Permit. The federal duck stamp is available at U.S. Post Offices. Hunters pursuing sandhill cranes must also purchase a separate sandhill crane hunting permit.
            Sportsmen can sign up online for a free weekly news release from the Wildlife Department that is sent straight to their email inbox that contains seasonal reports on waterfowl activity at key locations across the state. For more information or to sign up to receive the free weekly news release by e-mail, log on to http://www.wildlifedepartment.com


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Nov. 1 marks opening day for winter trout fisheries
            While the fall and cold weather mean hunting season to most Oklahoma sportsmen, some have discovered that dawning waders and fishing poles to catch wintertime trout is equally exciting, and good opportunities exist at locations all across the state.
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation operates two year-round trout fisheries — at the Lower Mountain Fork River (LMFR) and the Lower Illinois River — but in the five other areas, including Lake Pawhuska, Robbers Cave, Blue River, Lake Watonga and Quartz Mountain, the season kicks off Nov. 1.
            Rainbow trout usually are stocked about every two weeks at most of the state’s trout areas during designated trout seasons, while the Lower Illinois River and LMFR below Broken Bow Lake also are occasionally stocked with brown trout. Stocking schedules can be viewed online at wildlifedepartment.com, and anglers should note that, at the Blue River, the initial trout stocking in the catch-and-release area (the portion of the Blue River which enters the north side of the property and flows to the end of the first walk in trail) will be Nov. 5.
            Trout are an introduced species to Oklahoma, and fishing for them can be as challenging or as easy as angler want it to be. Fly fisherman can catch fish on flies they’ve tied themselves, but young anglers can sit on the bank with a jar of salmon eggs and have just as much fun, and a lot of success.
            Anglers can use wildlifedepartment.com not only to view the state stocking schedules, but also for access to a number of useful tips and additional information for making the most of trout fishing in Oklahoma.
            The Wildlife Department’s streams management team works vigorously on projects to enhance trout habitat in certain state waters. Recent trout habitat improvement projects have included renovations at the Evening Hole portion of the LMFR during summer 2006. At the same time, a new trout stream dubbed “Lost Creek” was also created that is providing additional trout fishing opportunities. Recent flooding caused significant damage to the Lower Mountain Fork River trout fishery, and biologists are currently working to repair the damages and maintain quality fishing opportunities for anglers.
The team also has set its sights on improving trout habitat within the Simp and Helen Watts Management Unit portion of the lower Illinois River.
            Additional trout habitat efforts include the introduction of bubble plume diffuser technology in Broken Bow Lake to help provide colder water to the Lower Mountain Fork River during the summer months. The bubble plume diffuser is a fisheries tool that, when submerged, releases air that then forces cold water upward from the bottom of the lake, so that it can then be released in the Lower Mountain Fork River and provide optimum water temperatures for trout.
            Trout anglers must carry a resident or nonresident fishing license and, if their fishing license was purchased prior to July 1, a fishing and hunting legacy permit, unless exempt, while fishing. Additionally, a trout license is required for all who fish in state-designated trout areas or in tributaries of state-designated trout streams during trout season.
            Trout angling tips as well as daily trout limits, season dates and other trout fishing regulations for each area are available on the Wildlife Department’s Web site at wildlifedepartment.com or in the current “Oklahoma Fishing Guide.”
 
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Wildlife Department miscellaneous auction like huge garage sale
            Antler collectors and wildlife enthusiasts may find a treasure at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s upcoming miscellaneous auction, where a range of elk antlers will be available to the highest bidder.
            In Oklahoma, antlers from deer and elk may be sold provided they have been detached from the skull plate.
            Bargain shopping sportsmen also can find deals on a range of other outdoor gear and equipment including, boats and boat motors, trailers, pickup truck brush guards, generators, air compressors, farming equipment, 4x4 vehicles, and outdoor gear as well as power tools, office supplies and more. A full listing of auction items that will be available can be viewed online at http://www.wildlifedepartment.com  .
            “There’s hundreds of surplus items that will be for sale at the auction, and anybody who purchases something will be supporting the Wildlife Department at the same time,” said Johnny Hill, property manager for the Wildlife Department. “Each year, buyers walk away with some real bargains, so come join us and get in on a good deal.”
            The public auction will be at 9 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 7 at Lake Burtschi, located 11 miles west of Chickasha on SH-92. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m.
 
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Apprentice-designated hunting license to pave way for new hunters
            Many Oklahomans have been hunting since childhood and are looking for a way to introduce a friend to their outdoor traditions, and for them, Oklahoma's apprentice-designated hunting license is a good place to start.
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's apprentice-designated hunting license allows hunters ages 10-35 to go hunting without first completing a hunter education course. The apprentice-designated license is the same as an annual hunting license, except it has an “apprentice” designation and the hunter must be accompanied by a mentor. The mentor must be a licensed hunter 21 years old or older who is hunter education certified or exempt from hunter education requirements. Those exempt from hunter education requirements include hunters who are 36 years old or older, members of the National Guard, or those honorably discharged or currently on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces.
            “Our apprentice-designated hunting license is extremely popular because it allows new hunters to get out in the field, even if they aren't able to get to a hunter education class in time for hunting season,” said Mike Chrisman, license supervisor for the Wildlife Department. “If you are an avid hunter, and you want to take someone new with you, the apprentice designation helps you do that.”
            The apprentice-designated hunting license is ideal for a range of circumstances, such as newcomers who are interested in learning more about hunting or for those who have been invited to go hunting before a course can be attended. Apprentice hunters can hunt big game with an apprentice-designated hunting license provided that the mentor hunter meet the specified qualifications and remain within arm's reach or close enough to take immediate control of the firearm or archery equipment. For small game, mentor hunters must remain in sight of the apprentice and both parties must be able to communicate in a normal voice without the aid of any communication device. When a license is not required (residents under 16 years of age, nonresidents under 14 years of age), the apprentice hunter still must be accompanied.
            Hunters age nine and under and who are hunter education certified can hunt big game or small game alone except during youth deer gun and turkey seasons and on public lands, where additional regulations may apply. Hunters age nine and under must be hunter education certified in order to hunt big game (deer antelope, bear or elk) but may hunt small game without hunter education as long as they hunt with an “accompanying hunter” who is within sight of and able to communicate with them in a normal voice without the aid of any communication device.
            Even those hunters who can hunt with an apprentice-designated hunting license are encouraged to enroll in a hunter education course.
            The Department's Hunter Education course teaches a range of topics including firearms safety, wildlife identification, wildlife conservation and management, survival, archery, muzzleloading and hunter responsibility. The course is available as a standard eight-hour course, or as a home study course.
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation offers a full listing of available upcoming hunter education courses online at wildlifedepartment.com. Visitors to the site can learn when and where classes will be held and, if pre-registration is required, a phone number is provided.
 
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Rare, large birds en route through Oklahoma
            One of the rarest birds in North America, the whooping crane, is currently migrating through Oklahoma and may be spotted during the next several weeks. The migrating population, which is less than 270 birds, will pass through the central one-third of the state between now and the first week of November, according to Mark Howery, wildlife diversity biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
            “The population size is remarkable, especially considering there were no more than 15 whooping cranes left in 1941,” Howery said.
            Twice a year, whooping cranes face a long and potentially hazardous migration. In the fall, they travel from nesting grounds in Alberta, Canada, to wintering grounds along the Texas coast at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.
            “If you see a whooping crane, let us know,” Howery said. “Reports help us better understand the migration needs and behavior patterns of these birds.”
            You can report sightings to the Department's Wildlife Diversity Program at (405) 522-3087. Reports should include the date, location, number of birds seen, and what they were doing (i.e. – flying, feeding, loafing). That information will be shared with a federal tracking program led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
            Howery said that Oklahoma's sportsmen account for about one-third of whooping crane sightings each fall and are good at distinguishing the endangered species from more common birds.
            A few distinguishing characteristics are the white body, black wingtips, red fore head, and height - it's the tallest bird in North America. Also, the neck and legs extend straight when in flight.
            Sandhill cranes have a similar body shape, but in contrast, are gray overall with dark gray wing feathers that do not have black tips. White pelicans are also sometimes confused with whooping cranes because they are similar in color. However, the pelican is stockier, usually travels in large flocks and does not extend its legs when in flight.
            Two other species of confusion are snow geese and egrets. Snow geese are much smaller and do not extend their legs in flight. Egrets lack the black wingtips of the whooping crane and hold their necks in a “S” shape during flight.
            Whooping cranes may be seen during the day foraging in small groups of two to six birds in open, marshy habitats like wet, agricultural fields or river bottoms. At night, they gather in communal roosts on mudflats and often roost alongside sandhill cranes.
            Perhaps the most reliable place in Oklahoma to see a whooping crane is at Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge, which is designated critical whooping crane habitat. One other area that is reliable to view the bird is Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area in Tillman County.
            For more information about wildlife in Oklahoma, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Wildlife Department miscellaneous auction like huge garage sale
            Outdoorsmen and wildlife enthusiasts may find a treasure at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's upcoming miscellaneous auction, slated for Nov. 7 at Lake Burtschi.
            Bargain shopping sportsmen can find deals on a range of outdoor gear and equipment including, boats and boat motors, trailers, pickup truck brush guards, generators, air compressors, farming equipment, 4x4 vehicles, and outdoor gear as well as power tools, office supplies and more. A full listing of auction items that will be available can be viewed online at
http://www.wildlifedepartment.com
            “There's hundreds of surplus items that will be for sale at the auction, and anybody who purchases something will be supporting the Wildlife Department at the same time,” said Johnny Hill, property manager for the Wildlife Department. “Each year, buyers walk away with some real bargains, so come join us and get in on a good deal.”
            The public auction will be at 9 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 7 at Lake Burtschi, located 11 miles west of Chickasha on SH-92. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. In case of rain, the auction will be postponed until Sunday, Nov. 8 at the same time and location.
 
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