FEBRUARY 2011 NEWS RELEASES 

WEEK OF FEBRUARY 24, 2011

WEEK OF FEBRUARY 17, 2011

 

WEEK OF FEBRUARY 10, 2011

 

WEEK OF FEBRUARY 3, 2011

Oklahoma wildlife well adapted to survive extreme winter weather
            Oklahomans residents are no strangers to weather extremes, and that includes the state’s wildlife residents as well. Despite some of the coldest temperatures on record in the state over the last week on top of blizzard-like wind and snow, biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation say wildlife should weather the current conditions fairly well.
            Jerry Shaw, big game biologist for the Wildlife Department, said deer are not only physically equipped to withstand the current conditions, but they can also find the food they need to stay healthy.
            “Deer are strong enough that they can get through this snow,” Shaw said, noting that deer will still have their winter coat, which includes hollow individual hairs that help them stay insulated from the cold.
            They also are able to find thermal cover that protects them from wind and the elements. Additionally, deer are able to dig down into the snow to find food as well as find browse above the snow.
            According to Shaw, deer struggle less with snow than when freezing rains coat the ground and food sources with a layer of impenetrable ice.
            Upland birds such as quail can find food as well, said Doug Schoeling, upland game biologist for the Wildlife Department.
            “The good part about this snowstorm is that it was windy,” Schoeling said.
            With the majority of snow piled in drifts as a result of the wind, quail have the ability to find food on relatively bare patches of ground that did not get covered in snowdrifts.
            Rod Smith, southwest region wildlife supervisor for the Wildlife Department, said that although birds have to expend more energy searching out bare patches where food can be found, they are still “remarkably adapted to survive short periods of extreme cold.” Smith said birds such as wild turkeys and others have circulatory systems that are effective at keeping their bodies warm, as well as down feathers that protect them from the elements. Smith said that humans may think of birds in cold weather as essentially sleeping in bags of down feathers.
            Raptors, such as red-tailed hawks, winter in Oklahoma in part because of the limited snow cover throughout the state, which makes it easier to hunt for rodents and other prey. Melynda Hickman, wildlife diversity biologist for the Wildlife Department, said periods of several days of dense snow cover are not a cause of concern for raptors, but that extended periods would likely force such birds to migrate further south. However, other species such as smaller birds may become more susceptible prey to raptors because of stress put on their bodies to survive the cold. In turn, rodents that may otherwise be preyed upon by raptors may take advantage of cover provided by the snow.
            Reptiles, amphibians, and wintering bats have long since burrowed into mud, dens, leaf litter or other protective cover and entered into states of hibernation or “torpor,” which is a slowing of the metabolism and circulatory system functions to survive cold weather. Some amphibians found in Oklahoma even have highly specialized blood to help the animal weather the elements. Tree frogs, for example, have a component in their blood similar to anti-freeze used to protect vehicles in cold conditions. This keeps their blood from freezing and allows them to survive the winter buried deep in leaf litter.
            Though weather can and sometimes does have negative effects on nature, wildlife found in Oklahoma is remarkably resilient to harsh conditions.
            The Wildlife Department is the state agency charged with conserving the state’s wildlife and closely monitors conditions that affect habitat and wildlife populations. The agency continuously works to restore, enhance, maintain and create ideal habitat for native wildlife. The Wildlife Department receives no general state tax appropriations and is supported primarily by sportsmen through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and federal excise taxes on sporting goods.
            To learn more about the Wildlife Department, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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New full-featured wildlife management area atlas available now
            With spring turkey season only a few months away, the prime time for scouting locations for turkey hunting is fast approaching, and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s recently released Wildlife Management Area Atlas is available to help.
            Back by popular demand, this page-by-page guide to Oklahoma’s public hunting land features topographical maps of almost every wildlife management area in the state.
            At almost 100 pages, the atlas depicts special features on each WMA, providing details such as roads, parking areas, designated campsites, food plots, ponds, wetland development units, non-ambulatory zones and more. Sportsmen can find acreage and contact information for each area as well as driving directions.
            Most Oklahoma hunters remember the old version of the public lands atlas, and some may even still have their original copy, but land ownership changes, updated details, new properties and special features are included in the newest version.
            “The old atlases were always popular, and these books are even bigger and better,” said Nels Rodefeld, information and education chief for the Wildlife Department. “We have already sold about 2,000 copies, and this is one of our most popular products ever.“
            The “Oklahoma Wildlife Management Area Atlas” can be purchased for $25, which includes a free one-year subscription to Outdoor Oklahoma magazine, the official magazine of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Outdoor Oklahoma features everything related to hunting, fishing, wildlife watching and conservation in Oklahoma. Readers can catch the first glimpse of the Wildlife Department’s annual “Big Game Report, get insider tips on fishing from the magazine’s annual “Anglers’ Guide,” and read a range of articles and news about the outdoors in Oklahoma. Game meat recipes, how-to articles, stunning photography and more are all included.
            The new atlases are available at the Wildlife Department headquarters in Oklahoma City (1801 N. Lincoln Blvd) and the Department’s Jenks office (300 S. Aquarium Dr). Copies can also be ordered by phone at (405) 521-3856, and order forms can be downloaded from wildlifedepartment.com and mailed in with a check. To order by mail, send a check or money order for $25 along with an Outdoor Store order form from wildlifedepartment.com to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, P.O. Box 53465 Oklahoma City, OK (specify address to which atlas should be mailed and, if different, the address to which the subscription to Outdoor Oklahoma magazine should be credited).
            For more information about hunting in Oklahoma, log on to the Wildlife Department’s website at wildlifedepartment.com.
 
 
 
 
Photo Caption: Back by popular demand, the “Oklahoma Wildlife Management Area Atlas” features topographical maps of almost every wildlife management area in the state. At almost 100 pages, the atlas depicts special features on each WMA such as roads, parking areas, designated campsites, food plots, ponds, wetland development units, non-ambulatory zones and more.
 
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Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International to host sportsmen’s banquet and fundraiser
            The Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International hosts a banquet and fundraiser each year, and those planning to attend this year can purchase their general admission ticket to the March 5 event for $70, and tickets purchased at the door will cost $95.
            Safari Club International is known for supporting conservation and sportsmen, and the active Oklahoma Station Chapter’s 26th Annual Awards Banquet and Charity Fundraiser is just one way supporters can help with the group’s cause to protect the freedom to hunt, educate others on the value of hunting for wildlife management, conserve wildlife and provide humanitarian services.
            The banquet, to be held at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, will feature a live auction where bidders will have a chance to buy guided hunts around the globe, ranging from feral hog hunts at Oklahoma’s Chain Ranch and a variety of whitetail deer hunts in several states to big game hunts in Africa and fishing trips in Alaska and Patagonia. Other auction items include selections of firearms, outdoor art, hunting gear and much more. A continually updated list of auction items can be viewed on the Oklahoma Station Chapter’s website at oklahomastationsci.org.
            “This is a particularly special celebration of our hunting heritage,” said Mike Mistelske, current president of the Oklahoma Station Chapter. “In 2010, our Chapter’s banquet program won best-in-class among all of SCI’s largest chapters worldwide.”
            Mistelske said this year’s event will include over $500,000 worth of auction items, including many North American big-game hunts, a cape buffalo hunt in Mozambique, a number of bird hunts, fishing trips, and many other hunts trips around the world
            “We’ll also have several incredible bronze sculptures,” Mistelske said. “Banquet tickets remain at last year’s reduced prices. There will be many activities, and there will be great value and fun for everyone — all for the benefit of Oklahoma hunters and non-hunters.”
            The banquet begins at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 5, but registration begins at 4:30 p.m., along with the silent auction and various games. Opportunity to visit with outfitters and vendors begins at 2:30 p.m. The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum is located at 1700 N.E. 63rd St. in Oklahoma City 73111.
            SCI membership is not required to participate in the banquet and raffles, or to be eligible for door prizes.
Tickets and a limited number of sponsor tables are now available. To purchase tickets or for further information, contact Judy Rork by e-mail at oscsci@yahoo.com or by phone at (405) 703-3381. Ticket forms also may be printed from the chapter’s website at www.oklahomastationsci.org and either mailed, faxed or e-mailed according to instructions on the form.
            Bid cards for the auction are available to members at no cost. For non-members, bid cards ($50) or memberships ($95) may be purchased at the door if desired. For questions relating to the banquet and auction, contact Mike Mistelske, current Oklahoma Station Chapter of SCI president, at sciokpres@yahoo.com  or (918) 695-8556.
            The Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International offers support and funding to local conservation efforts that benefit the sportsmen and wildlife of Oklahoma. The chapter is a supporter of projects conducted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, such as the Hunters Against Hunger program that coordinates the annual distribution of venison to needy families. Last year hunters donated over 42,000 pounds of venison, which provided 168,000 meals to hungry Oklahomans. The Chapter is also a sponsor of the Wildlife Department’s Oklahoma Wildlife Expo, which educates tens of thousands of Oklahomans each year on the value of wildlife and the outdoors to quality of life in Oklahoma.
            The organization also has helped fund the purchase of an airboat used by the Wildlife Department on waterfowl surveys and other wetland management tasks, and several trailers for use in the Department's Shotgun Training Education Program (STEP). The STEP program introduces both youth and adults to shotgun shooting techniques and the proper handling of firearms. The Oklahoma Station Chapter also partners with the Wildlife Department each year to hold an annual youth essay contest that provides youth a chance to share their feelings about Oklahoma’s outdoors and to win great prizes, including a guided pronghorn antelope hunt in New Mexico. Additionally, the chapter purchased eight elk for introduction into an existing herd in southeast Oklahoma.
            For more information on the Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International, log on to www.oklahomastationsci.org.

 
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Southeast Oklahoma turkey season changed for 2012
            Stabilizing populations of Eastern wild turkeys in southeast Oklahoma is at the heart of a new state turkey hunting rule change that will go into effect in the spring of 2012.
            The rule change, approved for 2012 along with several others by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission at its February meeting, will shorten turkey season in the southeast turkey zone and on wildlife management areas in that zone. The season will begin the Monday following the third Saturday in April and will run through May 6. Additionally, season bag limits in those southeast counties will be reduced to one tom total. The southeast turkey zone consists of Atoka, Choctaw, Coal, Latimer, LeFlore, McCurtain, Pittsburg and Pushmataha counties.
            Biologists say the timing of detrimental weather conditions and the resulting effects on habitat in recent years are to blame for turkey population declines in southeast Oklahoma and neighboring states to the east. Extreme drought in 2005 and 2006 reduced insect populations and vegetation, both of which adversely affected the wild turkey diet in southeast Oklahoma. But extremely wet springs in the years that followed had negative impacts on nesting success.
            Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation say the measure will not only help reduce the overall harvest at a critical time for wild turkey populations in southeast Oklahoma, but the rescheduling of the hunting dates for a later and shorter season will also reduce disturbance of nesting hens and could lead to better breeding success.
            “We are confident that this is a good step,” said Alan Peoples, chief of wildlife for the Wildlife Department. “If the weather and the habitat improve, southeast Oklahoma’s turkey populations will respond and rebound. We are confident the Eastern wild turkey will recover. They have in the past.”
            The Commission also approved a number of proposed fishing-related rule changes designed to create more fishing opportunities and simplify regulations. However, two proposals were adjusted as a result of public comments collected by the Wildlife Department. One would have required boaters to remove all aquatic nuisance species from boats, trailers or other gear immediately after leaving a body of water, but the language was clarified to state that boats must be free of aquatic nuisance species before entering a body of water. Additionally, a proposal to prohibit the transport of shad out of the state was withdrawn for further review.
            “We feel strongly that our constituents should have the chance to comment on matters that could affect the hunting and fishing laws in the state,” said Gene Gilliland, assistant chief of fisheries for the Wildlife Department. “And this is a perfect example of how constituents can use their opportunity to offer public comment to impact the regulations that will in turn affect them.”
            Look for complete details of all hunting and fishing rules in the next Oklahoma Hunting and Fishing Guides.
            In other business, the Commission accepted a donation of $20,000 from the Oklahoma Zoological Park and Botanical Gardens for the conservation of native flora and fauna species. The donation is possible through funds provided by the Oklahoma Zoological Society and will be used to meet certain expenses associated with conservation projects in which the zoo offers volunteer assistance.
            The Commission also removed Raymond Gary from the list of Wildlife Department properties that require a Wildlife Conservation Passport to access and added the newly acquired Grady County Wildlife Management Area to the list of properties that require the Passport. Oklahoma hunting and fishing license holders are exempt from Conservation Passport requirement on all Department properties.
            Richard Hatcher, the director of the Wildlife Department, recognized Bob Mullinax, game warden stationed in Love Co., for 35 years of service to the Wildlife Department. Throughout his career, Mullinax has been an active law enforcement instructor for the Wildlife Department, other state agencies, county sheriff’s offices and police departments and academies. He has instructed courses in firearms, defensive tactics and law enforcement defensive driving, among others.
            Additionally, the Commission approved minor housekeeping changes to the Wildlife Department employee handbook.
            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., March 7, 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 angler pulls in 192-pound fish from the Red River
           James Tucker of Ardmore pulled in a 192-pound, 1-ounce alligator gar Jan. 27 from the Red River in Love County, establishing a new state record. The record-breaking fish measured seven feet, seven and a half inches long and was an impressive three feet, three inches in girth. Tucker snagged the monstrous fish about 10 a.m. using a 65-pound test line.
            Tucker's fish broke the previous alligator gar record by more than six pounds. Sean Chatham, also from Ardmore, held the former record for a 184-pound, 3-ounce fish caught from the Red River in 2006. Alligator gar are truly unique fish and can be found in warm, sluggish rivers in the southeast quarter of the state. Alligator gar feed primarily on fish, but are known to eat ducks and other water birds.
            The second largest freshwater fish in North America, the alligator gar is second in size only to the white sturgeon. Reaching weights of up to 300 pounds, the alligator gar can stretch to lengths over nine feet.
            Historically, the alligator gar’s home range included the Mississippi River and its tributaries from the lower reaches of the Ohio and the Missouri rivers southward to the Gulf of Mexico. Today the range is significantly smaller. The fish are primarily restricted to coastal rivers, with inland populations persisting not only in Oklahoma, but also in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas.
      Female alligator gars don’t reach sexual maturity until 11 years of age, whereas males take about six years. Gar have a unique ability to use their gills or a lung-like gas bladder that enables them to come to the surface and gulp for air. Studies indicate that gizzard shad are the top food of choice when populations are present in lakes. Alligator gar also are known to eat certain sport fish as well as other gars, including their own kind. One study in Texas found they even eat coots.
      Anglers once believed that the alligator gar was a significant threat to sport fish species and often were viewed as a nuisance, but today, with better knowledge of the species’ habits and behaviors, the fish is recognized as an important part of Oklahoma’s waters.
      For a complete list of record fish and the procedures regarding certifying state record fish, consult the current “Oklahoma Fishing Guide” or log on to wildlifedepartment.com. Anglers who believe they may have hooked a record fish must weigh the fish on an Oklahoma State Department of Agriculture certified scale, and a Wildlife Department employee must verify the weight.
 

Photo Caption: James Tucker of Ardmore pulled landed a new state record alligator gar Jan. 27 when he landed this 192-pound, 1-ounce fish from the Red River in Love County.


 
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Conservation Order Light Goose Season approaching
            Goose hunters don’t have to put their waterfowling gear away yet. There is still an opportunity to extend the season and help the arctic ecosystem at the same time. The Conservation Order Light Goose Season (COLGS), designed to reduce the mid-continent light goose population, opens Feb. 14 and runs through March 30.
            According to Josh Richardson, migratory game bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, hunters looking to take advantage of the COLGS hunting opportunity should take a close look at securing hunting spots at Webbers Falls and Ft. Gibson.
            “These two areas are usually where the largest concentrations of light geese are found on public lands as they finish winter and begin migration back north,” Richardson said.
            Populations of light geese, which include snow, blue and Ross’ geese, have become so high that they are causing severe habitat destruction to their Arctic breeding grounds. Since 1999, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has cooperated with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to establish the COLGS.
            More agricultural crops in the south-central United States means snow geese are living longer and reproducing more, and their overpopulation continues to degrade Arctic habitat. Because snow geese feed by grubbing and pulling out plants by the roots, large numbers can literally destroy extensive areas of tundra.
            The season offers no daily limit on light geese, and shooting hours are extended for the season to one half hour after sunset. Waterfowlers also can use electronic calls and unplugged shotguns to increase their chances.
            Hunters who participate in the COLGS must use only federally-approved, nontoxic shot as well as have all necessary licenses, waterfowl stamps and a Harvest Information Program (HIP) Permit in their possession while hunting. For complete license information, see the “2010-11 Oklahoma Waterfowl Guide” or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
            Federal law requires that the Wildlife Department estimate the harvest of light geese during the Conservation Order Light Goose Season. Hunters who plan to pursue snow, blue and Ross' geese during COLGS are asked to register for the hunt with the Department by providing their name, address and telephone number so a harvest survey can be administered. Hunters can register for the season by logging on to wildlifedepartment.com, or they can mail a letter or postcard with their name, address and telephone number included to: Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation; Attn: COLGS; P.O. Box 53465; Oklahoma City, OK 73152.
 
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Lake Texoma fishery status update and management plan meeting to offer insight to anglers
            Lake Texoma has for decades been both a recreational and economical staple for Oklahoma’s southern border and its residents, with sport fishing being one of the lake’s most popular draws. So it makes sense that the health of the fishery is a top subject of interest for outdoor enthusiasts who use the lake. To keep anglers in the know and to seek feedback on upcoming management plans for the Lake Texoma fishery, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is providing an opportunity March 3 for the public to learn about a range of Texoma-related fishing information.
            A public meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, March 3 at the Clay Jones Community Center in Durant. Guests will receive informative updates from Department fisheries biologists on the status of the fishery and related issues. Biologists will address the biological and social aspects of fisheries management and regulations at Texoma, and they will present the new Lake Texoma Management Plan developed by the Wildlife Department. Visitors will have a chance to provide feedback on the plan as well as visit with biologists about fishing at the lake.
            “Angler opinions are important when developing management plans,” said Matt Mauck, south central region fisheries supervisor for the Wildlife Department. “We encourage the angling public to join us for an evening of informative discussions and input opportunities.”
            Lake Texoma was formed in 1944 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with the impoundment of the Red River on the Oklahoma/Texas border. At close to 90,000 acres, the lake is widely known for its history of good striper, black bass, crappie and catfish angling and boasts numerous current or former state records including blue catfish, smallmouth bass and alligator gar.
            Anglers can learn more about fishing at Lake Texoma by attending the public meeting and can find regulations and harvest limits in the current “Oklahoma Fishing Guide,” available online at wildlifedepartment.com or anywhere fishing licenses are sold.
            The Clay Jones Community Center is located at 1901 S. 9th St. in Durant. For more information, contact Mauck at (580) 924-4087.
 
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Wildlife Department names longtime employee as new assistant director of operations
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation recently announced the agency has selected a new assistant director of operations.
            Though he is new to the position, Wade Free is not new to the Wildlife Department, nor is he a new face to the sportsmen of Oklahoma. As northwest region wildlife supervisor since 1996 and a Wildlife Department employee since 1983, Free has had the opportunity to work in a number of positions for the agency and has had a hand in numerous projects over the years that have been beneficial to both wildlife and sportsmen.
            Free began his career at the Wildlife Department as a fisheries assistant at the Byron Fish Hatchery after growing up in Newkirk. In 1986, he transferred to the Department’s wildlife division as a wildlife management area manager working on Beaver, Optima and Ft. Supply WMAs. He was promoted to a wildlife biologist position in 1988 and then to the assistant chief of wildlife position in 1994. He transferred back into the field in 1996, where he remained the northwest regional wildlife supervisor until recently promoting to assistant director of operations.
            One of Free’s most enjoyable projects during his career was his work on Beaver WMA.
            “I enjoyed working on the new Beaver WMA,” Free said. “I enjoyed taking an area that was basically a private cattle ranch and planning and developing it into a wildlife management area.”
            Free said the project was rewarding not only because it showed him what can be accomplished in wildlife conservation and habitat management, but also because he was “able to see how the hunters and users appreciated the work that we did as an agency to provide them with additional outdoor opportunities.”
            As northwest regional wildlife supervisor for the Department, Free also enjoyed working on a broader scale on all of the WMAs throughout the Panhandle and northwest Oklahoma.
            In more recent years, Free has enjoyed increasing his work in private lands management. Since about 97 percent of Oklahoma’s land is privately owned, the Department recognizes that relationships with landowners and efforts on private lands are key to conserving wildlife habitat in the state.
            Additionally, Free has found great pleasure over the years in introducing youth to hunting and fishing through youth hunts, the Department’s Shotgun Training and Education Program and other efforts to share the outdoors.
            Though Free has spent most of his career working in the wildlife division, Free has had a chance to participate in numerous areas of Wildlife Department business and now looks forward to the challenges of his new position, such as creating hunting and fishing access and focusing on all wildlife resources across the state.
            “If it’s about wildlife and fisheries management or outdoor recreation, I want to be a part of that,” Free said. “And I look forward to being able to contribute in my new position by working with all divisions in this agency. Managing wildlife resources and providing public access for hunters and fishermen is very rewarding.”
            Free said that wildlife diversity comes to mind when he thinks of Oklahoma, which is both promising for sportsmen but also challenging for managers and conservationists.
            “For hunters, fisherman and outdoor users, Oklahoma is one of the most diverse states in the country,” Free said. “I’m excited to be part of that. I’m also excited to be part of an agency that is user-minded and user-friendly. We work with anyone from trout fisherman to private landowners wanting to improve habitat for lesser prairie chickens. We have a lot of challenges on the horizon — things like lesser prairie chicken management, an increased emphasis on bobwhite quail, and continuing to focus on species like deer and turkey that are doing quite well. And while Oklahoma offers some of the best fishing in the country, we still have to address challenges along the way such as continually providing fishing access and opportunities, managing our aging lakes, streams management, preventing the spread of aquatic nuisance species and more.”
            Free said he is also glad to be part of an agency that has the support of sportsmen and license buyers, and he looks forward to helping enthusiasts who want to participate in the outdoors.
            Free is married to Cindy, and they have three children — a daughter, Kenlee, who will graduate in May from the OU School of Dentistry as a dental hygienist; a son, Weston, a junior at Sharon-Mutual High School; and another son, Cooper, a freshman at Sharon-Mutual High School.
            Free is an avid outdoorsman whose hobbies include hunting, fishing, taxidermy, camping and more. He is an avid bird dog trainer and bird hunter, and many Oklahomans are familiar with him from his entertaining and informative bird dog training seminars held each year at the Oklahoma Wildlife Expo.
            To learn more about the Wildlife Department, the state agency charged with conserving the state’s wildlife, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
 
Photo Caption: The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation recently announced that longtime Wildlife Department employee Wade Free has been selected as the new assistant director of operations for the agency. Free has been the northwest region wildlife supervisor for the Wildlife Department since 1996 and an employee of the Department since 1983.
 
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Kiamichi Mountains to host 55th Youth Forestry and Wildlife Camp; applications now accepted
            One of Oklahoma’s longest running summer camps is now accepting applications from youth interested in learning more about forestry, wildlife and conservation in an outdoor setting.
            The 55th Annual Oklahoma Youth Forestry & Wildlife Camp is accepting online applications for campers aged 13 to 15 years old. The week-long camp will be held June 6-11 in beautiful Beavers Bend State Park near Broken Bow, Oklahoma, and is open to boys and girls from across the state.
            “Only 50 spots are available, so we urge interested campers to sign up now,” said Oklahoma Forestry Services’ District Forester and camp director Caleb Fields. “While learning about forestry and wildlife, campers will enjoy fly fishing, archery, skeet shooting and fun field trips.”
            Adult leaders and camp counselors are also urged to apply. Camp counselors, age 18 to 22, should be mature, responsible young adults with an interest in education or outdoor careers such as forestry or wildlife. In addition to working with the younger campers and gaining valuable experience in their field, camp counselors will receive a stipend of $200 for the week. Volunteer adult leaders are also eligible to bring one camper for no charge.
            The fee for campers is $175 and covers all costs including lodging, meals, transportation at camp, field trips, and workshops. A limited number of partial scholarships are available. Applications will be accepted until April 29, 2011 and are available at www.forestry.ok.gov or by calling (405) 522-6158. The website also has additional camp information as well as photos from past camps.
            By experiencing nature in a fun atmosphere, students will gain a life-long awareness and respect for the world in which they live while learning from some of the top natural resource professionals in the state.
 
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Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International to host sportsmen’s banquet and fundraiser
            The Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International hosts a banquet and fundraiser each year, and those planning to attend this year can purchase their general admission ticket to the March 5 event for $70, and tickets purchased at the door will cost $95.
            Safari Club International is known for supporting conservation and sportsmen, and the active Oklahoma Station Chapter’s 26th Annual Awards Banquet and Charity Fundraiser is just one way supporters can help with the group’s cause to protect the freedom to hunt, educate others on the value of hunting for wildlife management, conserve wildlife and provide humanitarian services.
            The banquet, to be held at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, will feature a live auction where bidders will have a chance to buy guided hunts around the globe, ranging from feral hog hunts at Oklahoma’s Chain Ranch and a variety of whitetail deer hunts in several states to big game hunts in Africa and fishing trips in Alaska and Patagonia. Other auction items include selections of firearms, outdoor art, hunting gear and much more. A continually updated list of auction items can be viewed on the Oklahoma Station Chapter’s website at oklahomastationsci.org.
            “This is a particularly special celebration of our hunting heritage,” said Mike Mistelske, current president of the Oklahoma Station Chapter. “In 2010, our Chapter’s banquet program won best-in-class among all of SCI’s largest chapters worldwide.”
            Mistelske said this year’s event will include over $500,000 worth of auction items, including many North American big-game hunts, a cape buffalo hunt in Mozambique, a number of bird hunts, fishing trips, and many other hunts trips around the world
            “We’ll also have several incredible bronze sculptures,” Mistelske said. “Banquet tickets remain at last year’s reduced prices. There will be many activities, and there will be great value and fun for everyone — all for the benefit of Oklahoma hunters and non-hunters.”
            The banquet begins at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 5, but registration begins at 4:30 p.m., along with the silent auction and various games. Opportunity to visit with outfitters and vendors begins at 2:30 p.m. The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum is located at 1700 N.E. 63rd St. in Oklahoma City 73111.
            SCI membership is not required to participate in the banquet and raffles, or to be eligible for door prizes.
Tickets and a limited number of sponsor tables are now available. To purchase tickets or for further information, contact Judy Rork by e-mail at oscsci@yahoo.com or by phone at (405) 703-3381. Ticket forms also may be printed from the chapter’s website at oklahomastationsci.org and either mailed, faxed or e-mailed according to instructions on the form.
            Bid cards for the auction are available to members at no cost. For non-members, bid cards ($50) or memberships ($95) may be purchased at the door if desired. For questions relating to the banquet and auction, contact Mike Mistelske, current Oklahoma Station Chapter of SCI president, at sciokpres@yahoo.com or (918) 695-8556.
            The Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International offers support and funding to local conservation efforts that benefit the sportsmen and wildlife of Oklahoma. The chapter is a supporter of projects conducted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, such as the Hunters Against Hunger program that coordinates the annual distribution of venison to needy families. Last year hunters donated over 42,000 pounds of venison, which provided 168,000 meals to hungry Oklahomans. The Chapter is also a sponsor of the Wildlife Department’s Oklahoma Wildlife Expo, which educates tens of thousands of Oklahomans each year on the value of wildlife and the outdoors to quality of life in Oklahoma.
            The organization also has helped fund the purchase of an airboat used by the Wildlife Department on waterfowl surveys and other wetland management tasks, and several trailers for use in the Department's Shotgun Training Education Program (STEP). The STEP program introduces both youth and adults to shotgun shooting techniques and the proper handling of firearms. The Oklahoma Station Chapter also partners with the Wildlife Department each year to hold an annual youth essay contest that provides youth a chance to share their feelings about Oklahoma’s outdoors and to win great prizes, including a guided pronghorn antelope hunt in New Mexico. Additionally, the chapter purchased eight elk for introduction into an existing herd in southeast Oklahoma.
            For more information on the Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International, log on to oklahomastationsci.org.
 
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Creativity to benefit wildlife at NatureWorks art show
            Wildlife enthusiasts agree that an artist has no better subject than nature. The annual NatureWorks Wildlife Art Show and Sale, to be held March 5-6 at the Renaissance Tulsa Hotel and Convention Center, will have something for everyone — sculptures, carvings, landscape painting, outdoor photography, western art and much more.
            Annually NatureWorks, a Tulsa-based conservation group, brings together outstanding wildlife and nature artists from across the United States and abroad for the show.  Each year 60-plus artists display their work, one of which is the featured artist for the year.  The 2011 featured artist is Diane Mason, a sculptor from Berthoud, Colo. She calls her work an interpretation of the behaviors of animals “with a generous dose of whimsy.” Mason is the president of the prestigious Society of Animal Artists and is the recipient of many art awards and honors.
            The NatureWorks Wildlife Art Show & Sale is one of the best wildlife art shows in the country.  It is widely recognized for its outstanding art plus the opportunity it provides for visitors to meet directly with artists. All artwork at the show is for sale.  Sales will help generate matching grants to assist a variety of state wildlife conservation projects.
            NatureWorks, Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to wildlife conservation and education. Projects such as the Department's paddlefish management program, duck stamp print program and centennial duck stamp print have benefited from NatureWorks' support as well as habitat work at the Harold Stuart Waterfowl Refuge Unit within the Deep Fork Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and the Grassy Slough WMA.  NatureWorks is also an important supporter of the Wildlife Department's Hunters Against Hunger program — in which hunters can donate their legally harvested deer to feed hungry Oklahomans.  In addition, they have funded a project that puts Outdoor Oklahoma magazine in every school and library in the state.
            The NatureWorks Wildlife Art Show and Sale will be held at the Tulsa Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center, located at 6808 South 107th East Avenue (71st and US-169). Times are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 5 and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 6. Tickets are $5, and one ticket is good for both days. For more information about NatureWorks or the art show, log on to www.natureworks.org.
 
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Oklahoma hosts scientific study group to share insight on deer biology and management
            Wildlife professionals from across the southeastern United States convened on Oklahoma City recently for a meeting of the minds on all things deer during the 34th Annual Meeting of the Southeast Deer Study Group.
            The study group was hosted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the state agency charged with conserving Oklahoma’s wildlife.
            As the most popular big-game animal in North America, deer — and specifically whitetail deer — are thriving in Oklahoma and across the country as wildlife managers and sportsmen work together to conserve wildlife and habitat as well as preserve the deer hunting heritage.
            The study group, consisting of whitetail deer managers, researchers, and trade professionals, met to review cutting edge research projects, management efforts, successes, upcoming projects, current and future concerns and more. By studying and sharing information on everything from the science of deer mortality, fawn survival, deer disease, deer food, habitat issues, weather and other natural and manmade influences to the cultural aspects of hunting regulations, hunter education, and everything in between, managers are able to establish goals, identify challenges, and prepare for a bright future of wildlife conservation and hunting success.
            “The whitetail deer is a true Oklahoma conservation success story, and participating in the Southeast Deer Study Group is just one way the Wildlife Department continues to work to understand the scientific and cultural aspects of deer and deer hunting and the issues that surround the future of wildlife and the sport that so many enjoy,” said Jerry Shaw, big game biologist for the Wildlife Department.
            Deer hunters are credited in large part for the success of the whitetail deer across the country through their funding of wildlife agencies and conservation organizations. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, for example, receives no general state tax appropriations and is funded primarily by sportsmen through their purchase of hunting and fishing licenses and federal excise taxes on certain sporting goods.
            In the early 1900s, subsistence hunting and unregulated harvest eliminated nearly all of the deer in Oklahoma, so much that by 1917, the total statewide deer population is estimated to have been around 500 animals. The state Legislature banned deer hunting at that time, but through conservation efforts on the part of wildlife managers in partnership with sportsmen, the state’s deer populations experienced massive comebacks.
            Today, it is normal for sportsmen to harvest at or over 100,000 deer annually. Throughout the season, Oklahoma’s deer hunting opportunities include youth-only seasons, holiday antlerless deer seasons and controlled hunting opportunities in addition to regular archery, muzzleloader and rifle seasons. By purchasing required hunting licenses and participating in hunting, sportsmen fund the conservation of deer as well as help ensure deer are abundant for future generations of Oklahomans to enjoy.
            To learn more about the Wildlife Department or deer hunting in Oklahoma, log on to www.wildlifedepartment.com


 
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Outdoor Oklahoma readers’ photos wanted for “Readers Photography Showcase” issue
            This summer Outdoor Oklahoma magazine will release it’s annual “Readers’ Photography Showcase” issue that will feature digital photography by readers from all over Oklahoma. Submissions from both amateur and professional photographers are being accepted now, and the deadline for entries is March 31.
            “We are starting to see a lot of entries come in for the contest,” said Michael Bergin, associate editor. “The judges always seek to select a range of outstanding photography to be showcased, and we look forward to sharing the issue as a way to recognize and thank our readers as well as display our state’s great outdoors.”
            Each participant may submit up to five digital images.
            “Submissions should be photographs taken in Oklahoma, and they can be of anything related to wildlife and the outdoors,” Bergin said. “Everything from birds and deer to trees, insects, landscapes, and people hunting and fishing are good subjects.”
            Each submission must include a description of the photo, including the location taken, name and hometown of photographer, names and hometowns of subjects and what it took to get just the right shot. Photos should be in sharp focus, and images should be at least 300 dpi (dots per inch). The canvas size should be about 8 inches by 11 inches. All submissions must be digital. Slides and print images will not be accepted. Though images will remain the property of the photographer, actual submissions that are e-mailed or mailed on CD or other storage device will not be returned.
            Individuals can subscribe to Outdoor Oklahoma by calling 1-800-777-0019. Outdoor Oklahoma is known for providing decades of outdoor entertainment to both youth and adults. Subscriptions are just $10 for one year, $18 for two years, or $25 for three years. You can also subscribe over the Internet by logging on to the Department's website at www.wildlifedepartment.com. Hunters who purchase a new Oklahoma Wildlife Management Area Atlas, available from the Wildlife Department for $25, also get a one-year subscription to Outdoor Oklahoma magazine.
 
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Early spring marks beginning of prime time for angling action
            It might seem just a little too early to head to a favorite fishing honey hole for some angling action, but this year two anglers have already caught lake record fish, and a look back over the years tells us that now through the next several months is a prime time to catch large fish.
            Bodee Halton of Broken Bow caught a 2.6-pound spotted bass Feb. 17 from Broken Bow Lake that became a lake record, and last month the same lake produced a 6.2-pound lake record walleye for Broken Bow angler Frank Parker. As part of the Wildlife Department’s lake record fish program, anglers who catch a fish that might be a record for the lake in which it was caught can have the fish officially weighed and, if they’ve in fact landed a record, the angler can get their fish recognized and their names in the books for all to see.
            In addition to fish already caught this year, a lake record and Oklahoma “Top 20” largemouth bass was caught March 14, 2010, when David Kinard caught a 13 lb., 4 oz. bass from Longmire Lake. The fish took the No. 17 spot on the list of bass, of which 13 were caught in March and several others in late February or early April.
            Lake record fish of several species are caught regularly now throughout the spring each year, and biologists encourage anglers to get an early start. Everyone from teenage girls to pro anglers to country music stars have landed lake records at lakes across the state.
            The lake record fish program was initiated in 2008 to recognize big fish and the anglers who catch them, and it has grown from about a dozen lakes at its inception to more than 40 lakes today. So anglers all over the state can go fishing just for leisure, but they can also go with a sense of competitive drive in hopes of putting their name in a record book.
            Species eligible for spots in the lake records book include blue, channel and flathead catfish and largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass in addition to crappie, paddlefish, striped bass, striped bass hybrids, sunfish (combined) walleye/saugeye and white bass. Minimum weights and participating lakes are set for each species and are detailed on the Wildlife Department’s website at www.wildlifedepartment.com
           Anglers who catch a potential record from a participating lake should contact designated business locations around the lake that are enrolled as lake record keepers. A listing of official lake record keepers is available on www.wildlifedepartment.com
            Once it has been determined that an angler has landed a record fish, the media is notified and the public will be able to view information about the catch on the Wildlife Department’s website at www.wildlifedepartment.com
            An easily-operated search feature is available on the website that allows those interested to view a wealth of lake record fish information, ranging from the size of record fish caught to what kind of bait or rod and reel was used to catch them.
            All past and current state record fish are registered in the lake record fish program as records for their respective lakes.
            For more information about the lake record fish program or fishing in Oklahoma, log on to www.wildlifedepartment.com

 
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