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ODWC Timeline

1895 – First game laws passed by Territorial lawmakers – Rainbow trout were first stocked in Oklahoma by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

1907 – Oklahoma became a state.

1909 – Hunting licenses established – First Game Warden hired – Wildlife Department created.

1911 – Ring-necked pheasant was first introduced.

1913 – Legislature closes Department, $94,000 in license funds transferred to State Capitol Building Fund.

1915 – Department reopens with appropriation from Legislature – Medicine Park Fish Hatchery (J.A. Manning) opens.

1917 – Legislature returns $94,000 to Department.

1918 – Purchase of McCurtain County Wilderness Area.

1925 – First fishing license established.

1929 – Byron Fish hatchery opens.

1931 – Game Farm opens at Darlington.

1933 – First deer gun season.

1934 – Holdenville Hatchery opens.

1944 – Deer relocation program initiated.

1945 – Information & Education Division created – "Outdoor Oklahoma" magazine established.

1946 – First deer archery season – First weekly news releases issued.

1947 – Cooperative Fisheries Experimental Station was established at the University of Oklahoma (now exists as Oklahoma Fisheries Research Lab.).

1948 – First private pond stocking policy adopted – Program to re-establish turkey populations initiated 1949 -- First Rio Grande turkeys released (Harper County).

1950 - First walleye stocking in Canton Reservoir and Tenkiller Reservoir.

1955 - Striped bass stocked in Great Salt Plains and Lake Murray (not successful) – Hunter safety program initiated.

1957 - Department became a constitutional body.

1958 - First rainbow trout stocking in Illinois River below Tenkiller.

1959 - Lake Etling winter-time trout stocking program begins.

1960 - Autumn marked the state's first fall turkey season.

1962 - Forty-two elk were harvested at Oklahoma's first elk hunt. The Department installed 14 radio base and relay stations, allowing statewide two-way radio communication.  First antlerless deer season.

1965 - Mule deer from Colorado were released in the Glass Hills and the first spring turkey season was opened.

1965 - Department emblem established – First spring turkey season.

1966 - First attempt at introducing giant Canada geese. Opened the state's first antelope season. The Department moved into its own building near the state Capitol.

1967 - Blue River Public Fishing and Hunting Area land purchased.

1969 - First primitive deer season. The first Lifetime Combination License was sold for $150.

1970 - First successful natural reproduction by striped bass in Keystone.  During the '70s various hunting seasons were lengthened and the state boasted a stabilized deer herd.

1971 - Environmental Program established. First eastern turkeys released (LeFlore and Delaware Counties). The wild turkey restocking program successfully re-established the eastern wild turkey throughout much of the state east of U.S. Highway 69.

1972 - Environment section was created as a clearinghouse for all pollution-related complaints and inquiries. It was later incorporated into the natural resources section.

1974 - First natural reproduction by striped bass in Texoma.

1976 - Started production of a weekly 30- minute show for Oklahoma Educational Television stations. It emphasizes wildlife management and provides useful information on outdoor recreational activities.

1977 - Started statewide furbearer program to assure the continued availability of furbearer programs for many years to come. Striped bass hybrids were first stocked in Oklahoma (Sooner Lake).

1979 - Operation Game Thief telephone installed.

1980 - Duck Stamp Program initiated. Lower Mountain Fork River year-round trout stocking program begins. Giant Canada goose introduction. In the '80s controlled hunts were expanded, and Oklahoma had its first statewide turkey season. Also in the '80s, the Department purchased three major wildlife management areas, adding 52,500 acres to the program.

1981 - Nongame Wildlife Program and tax checkoff established.

1982 - First successful introduction of giant Canada geese.

1983 - James Porter breaks the 43-year-old state record for largemouth bass with a catch weighing 12 pounds, 1.6 ounces at Lake Lawtonka. Fish habitat development program initiated. Department assumed management of a 10,000-acre wildlife management area to be developed in conjunction with the McGee Creek reservoir in Atoka County. The Department purchases a 160-acre addition to Lexington Wildlife Management Area.

1984 - Developed statewide conservation education program with the primary instructional vehicle being Project WILD. Extended hunter safety training classes from a six-hour to a 10-hour course for certification. All game wardens are recertified as hunter safety instructors for their assigned areas.

1985 - Saugeye first stocked in state (Lake Thunderbird).

1986 - Lake Watonga winter-time trout stocking program begins.

1988 - Trout stocking program was expanded from two to five areas. Quartz Mountain State Park wintertime trout stocking begins. First, brown trout stocking takes place in the Lower Mountain Fork River. Aquatic Resources Education Program was established, teaching aquatic resource conservation, fishing techniques, safety, ethics, fish identification, and biology to youth, handicapped, and other target groups. Lower Mountain Fork River year round trout stocking program begins.

1989 - Oklahoma Angler Recognition Program was started under the Aquatic Resources Education Program. It increases awareness of the state's aquatic resources and encourages the selective catch and release of trophy fish. Began waterfowl habitat development program utilizing funds generated from the new $4 Oklahoma Waterfowl Stamp. The deer harvest jumped from approximately 14,000 in 1980 to more than 38,000.

1990 - In the '90s almost 40,000 acres were added to Department-owned lands. They include Hackberry Flat; Packsaddle; Blue River; Yourman; and Cooper WMAs; expansion of the Deep Fork WMA; and Selman Bat Cave.

1991 - Nationally recognized Packsaddle quail mortality study begins.

1992 - Natural Resources Section created to coordinate the Department's environmental, nongame wildlife, and conservation education programs. Cooperative outreach project with Sportfishing Promotion Council, which sponsors the 1-800-ASK-FISH phone line. This is a toll-free, 24-hour hotline for anglers needing information about fishing in Oklahoma. Deer Management Assistance Program was initiated to help landowners and managers manage deer herd as well as hunting opportunities.

1993 - Biodiversity Project initiated to produce statewide plan for conserving Oklahoma's diverse ecosystems. Hunter Education law changed in September, requiring persons under 16 who are hunting big game with a firearm to complete a hunter education course. Durant Hatchery was renovated, increasing annual production by 1.7 million fish. Department fish hatcheries stocked almost 30 million fish over the course of two years.

1994 - Robbers Cave State Park wintertime trout stocking begins. Wildlife Conservation license plates introduced. Two plate designs were introduced: a white-tailed deer and a scissor-tailed flycatcher in flight. Currently, five plates are available including an Eastern wild turkey, bobwhite quail, and largemouth bass.

1995 - Five wetland/waterfowl development projects totaling 1,367 acres were completed. They include Billy Creek, Walker Creek, Hackberry Flat (Phase I), Oilton, Deep Fork/Harold Stuart, and Deep Fork/Swift Bottoms. A total of 165 acres of forested wetlands were restored through seeding/planting methods on the Deep Fork WMA and Whitegrass Flats tracts. Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program underway. Universal License system initiated. Controlled hunt drawings conducted by computer. Purchased 340-acre Selman Bat Cave Wildlife Management Area.

1996 - New watchable wildlife area at Byron hatchery. This is the first watchable wildlife area on a Department-owned area. Darlington Game Farm closed. The ground was broken for Hackberry Flat WMA. ODWC embarked on a unique partnership with a corporate landowner in developing a new WMA. Honobia Creek WMA is the result of a partnership with Hancock Timber Resources Group and covers 200,000 acres in Pushmataha and LeFlore counties.

1997 - Youth turkey and deer hunts have been expanded. Another record deer harvest occurred with more than 71,000 animals harvested. Lake Pawhuska winter-time trout stocking program begins. Selman bat viewing tours began.

1998 - Stream management program begins. Prairie Chicken Season closed. Three Rivers WMA opens. Expanded a top-line internet website that is updated weekly to include all the latest ODWC information at Hunter education program began offering home study certification. Designed and developed a 23-acre urban wetland and interpretive trail in the Teal Ridge housing addition in Stillwater. Bass Pro sells hunting and fishing licenses 24 hours a day, seven days a week, over the phone. Three Rivers WMA stems from a partnership with Weyerhaeuser Company and covers 450,000 acres of rugged timberland in McCurtain County. Residents and nonresidents alike can enjoy the many activities both areas offer with the simple purchase of a land access fee permit.

1999 - The department offers weekly news releases by e-mail.

2000 - For the first time deer harvest numbers top 100,000.

2001 - First Special Antlerless season is held in December and expanded deer archery season in January.

2002 - Department partners with the Oklahoma Aquarium and relocates its Tulsa area offices to Jenks.

2003 - First statewide youth antlerless deer gun season is held in October. Gun deer season extended to 16 days statewide. Hunting and fishing license are available online. Maps of the Department’s Wildlife Management Areas are made available free to sportsmen over the Internet. Special emphasis is given to helping private landowners improve fish and wildlife habitat through a grant from the National Resources Conservation Service. Four technicians dedicated to assisting landowners are hired.

2004 - Turkey bag limit increased and southeast season dates extended (for spring 2005 season). Archery in the Schools program was developed to introduce students to the sport of archery. Fishing and Hunting Legacy Permit was created to provide funds for the purchase of additional lands for outdoor recreation opportunities. Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission and Renewable Resources, LLC, agreement, allows for almost 30,000 acres of commercial forestland to remain open to public use as part of the Honobia Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA).

2005 - "Hughes Crossing at the Blue River Public Fishing and Hunting Area dedication. An internet point of sales license system is implemented. New partner joins Honobia Creek Wildlife Management Area with a land access agreement with J.M. Huber Corporation, a private forest investment company, to maintain public recreational access to 4,440 acres of the Honobia Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA). Department hosted the first Oklahoma Wildlife Expo at the Lazy E Arena. More than 45,000 people attended. Development of the Evening Hole and Lost Creek projects on the Lower Mountain Fork River began. Ozark Plateau WMA opens. Oklahoma's Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy is approved.

2006 - Reproduction of rainbow trout was first documented in the Lower Mountain Fork River. Oklahoma’s first black bass hybrid state record was caught at Veteran’s Lake. The Lower Illinois River Simp and Helen Watts Public Fishing and Hunting Area were purchased with funds from the sale of fishing and hunting legacy permits. New opportunities were added for hunters and trappers. Sportsmen are allowed to take red fox. The Evening Hole and Lost Creek projects on the Lower Mountain Fork River were completed. The second annual Wildlife Expo draws nearly 35,000 people.

2007 - Tenth Anniversary of the Selman Bat Watch. Controlled Hunts application submission is all done electronically through the Department's Web site. Wildlife Department creates a pilot paddlefish management program near the Twin Bridges area of the Neosho River to collect important data for the Department's paddlefish management plan, process paddlefish meat for anglers, and salvage paddle fish eggs. Department initiates new wetland restoration projects at Drummond Flat area to restore unique wetland habitat and create more opportunities for sportsmen and other wildlife enthusiasts. Hunting participation is encouraged through apprentice-designated license which encourages those who have never hunted to do so under the supervision of a licensed hunter.

2008 - Lake Record Fish Program established to recognize Oklahoma anglers and fish. Thirteen major lakes and 13 species of popular Oklahoma fish are included initially. On Nov. 4, 2008, Oklahomans voiced their opinions in the ballot box on hunting, fishing, and trapping by amending the State Constitution to give all people the right to hunt, trap, fish, and take game and fish. It also makes hunting, fishing, and trapping the preferred means to manage certain fish and game animals. More than 3,000 acres in southeast Oklahoma are opened to public hunting and fishing in LeFlore County’s Cucumber Creek area. Oklahoma Archery in the Schools program surpasses the 100 school milestone and the state shoot draws more than 800 students. Two new WMAs were acquired in 2008, Cimarron Bluff and Cimarron Hills in Harper County provide anglers and hunters access to more than 7,100 acres of public land.

2009 - Groundbreaking of 7,000 square foot Arcadia Conservation Education Area teaching facility. The new facility will be used for a number of education and outreach purposes including hunter education and aquatic education classes and Archery in the Schools training. Five-year hunting and fishing license offered to sportsmen. Archery in the Schools State Shoot had over 1,000 students from approximately 160 schools at the Cox Convention. First Black Bear Season in Oklahoma opened on October 1st, 2009 in SE Oklahoma (Latimer, LeFlore, McCurtain, and Pushmataha Counties). On opening day Joe Russell of Neshoba became the first Oklahoma hunter to harvest a black bear. Oklahoma archers make history when the state’s first-ever antelope archery season opened on September 14. Archery hunters can now purchase antelope licenses over-the-counter for the 14-day archery season without having to be drawn for a hunt. Deer hunters were given the option of checking their deer in using the internet for the first time in 2009. The Department continues to explore the best ways to use technology to improve wildlife management across the state. The new multi-purpose building at Lake Arcadia Conservation Education Area completed. 

2010 - Oklahoma black bear archery season opened and closed in one day when hunters reached the quota of 20 bears on Oct. 1 in southeast Oklahoma. A total of 32 black bears were harvested on Oct. 1, which is 13 more than were harvested in about a month’s time last year. Oklahoma opens archery season to crossbow hunters. The sixth annual Wildlife Expo draws record crowds with an estimated attendance of almost 52,000 visitors. Approval of a memorandum of agreement with OG&E to offset the impact of the 151 MW “Keenan Phase II” wind farm on lesser prairie chickens in northwest Oklahoma. OG&E is purchasing 100 percent of the energy produced from the wind farm, which is owned by an independent wind farm developer. The agreement secures $4.9 million for projects such as conservation easements to protect undeveloped property, management agreements to restore property with critical habitat, and acquisition of land by the Wildlife Department to protect and restore habitat for lesser prairie chickens.

2011 - A new cooperative agreement between the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and Molpus Timberlands Management, LLC (Molpus) will allow continued public recreation on 16,311 acres of the Honobia Creek Wildlife Management Area in southeast Oklahoma.

2012 - Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program celebrates 75 years.  Through various acts passed by the federal government, taxes are charged on various products and equipment used by hunters, anglers, and shooters. Money collected from these taxes is dispersed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to the different state fish and wildlife agencies that must be used on conservation.  In Oklahoma, WSFR funds have been utilized by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation for countless projects ranging from wildlife population management to habitat restoration and education. Honobia Creek adds 22,347 acres for sportsmen. A cooperative agreement between the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife and Conservation and a timber company with land in southeast Oklahoma secured more than 22,000 previously unavailable acres that benefit both hunters and anglers. The agreement expands Honobia Creek Wildlife Management Area to 102,346 acres.

2013 - As a way to check game more accurately and conveniently, all deer, elk, and those turkeys that require checking will now be reported through the e-check system available online at the Wildlife Department. A new state record rainbow trout caught from Lake Watonga breaking a 47-year old record. The trout weighed in at 10lb, 10.56-oz, and 27 ¾ inches in length. During a three-week period, the Fisheries Division of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife and Conservation released a record-setting 2.22 million Florida-strain largemouth bass into 44 Oklahoma lakes increasing the potential for trophy bass for a long time to come.

2015 - Year for the record books…new state records set for alligator gar, bigmouth buffalo,  pronghorn,  mule deer,  rainbow trout, typical elk, and black bear! ODWC Headquarters moves to a new building on NE 36th Street during renovations of the original location. New hunting and fishing rules approved by Wildlife Commission. Some of the more notable changes were: Statewide bag limit for striped hybrid bass will be 20 per day with only five greater than 20 inches long allowed, rules for shooting ranges on WMAs being clarified to address safety concerns, and among these rules was the requirement of eye and ear protection while shooting, shooters 15 and younger must be supervised by an adult, and shooters must possess a valid state hunting license or combination hunting-fishing license unless exempt. First Oklahoma and Texas State Convention of the Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever organization takes place in Ardmore. These groups have made great strides in raising funds for habitat improvement and youth programs in both Oklahoma and Texas.

2016 – ODWC welcomes new Director J.D. Strong. Two state record elk recognized on a single day (story).

2017 – Oklahoma Land Access Program is started and begins a unique partnership between ODWC and private landowners, opening up thousands of acres across the state to public use for hunters, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts. Altus-Lugert Lake recovers from two toxic algae blooms in the previous five years, once again becoming one of SW Oklahoma’s premier fishing destinations. Renovations to Lexington WMA gun range and Dahlgren Lake are completed.

2018 – Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Foundation is formed as a private non-profit fundraising organization to support impactful ODWC projects. State record paddlefish is caught by a first-time paddlefish angler (story). ODWC Headquarters renovations at 1801 N. Lincoln are completed.

2019 - New GoOutdoorsOklahoma license system launches (story).  Cy Curtis State-Record Elk emerges from the March Rack Madness event (story).  Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell launches the Oklahoma Fishing Trail, a cooperative effort of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department (story).

2020 - New subspecies of dragonfly named after Department Biologist Mark Howery who discovered it (story).  State record paddlefish broke multiple times, including setting a new world record (story). Department partners with the Oklahoma Human Services to start the fishing program for foster families and youth (story). Extra waterfowl hunting day set for youths, veterans, and active military (story).