During their regular November meeting Monday, Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commissioners learned how an innovative staffing partnership involving the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) has been working to build participation in hunting and shooting sports during the past year.
Oklahoma R3 Hunting Coordinator Kasie Harriet presented a review of recent activities focused on recruitment, retention and reactivation for hunting and shooting sports. They include outreach events, mentored hunts, and educational sessions.
The R3 activities Harriet has facilitated this past year include the second Oklahoma Deer Hunting Conference and Expo, the second Squirrel Fest, Private Mentored Hunt with Lacie and Reagan of Griffin Broadcasting, turkey hunting workshops, Women in the Outdoors events, NWTF banquets, ODWC Hunting Resources website, and virtual hunting educational workshops.
Harriet said she’s planning to add a turkey hunting expo next spring to further enhance R3 efforts.
Commissioners approved generous donations from several non-governmental organization partners. ODWC Chief of Wildlife Bill Dinkines accepted a donation of $42,700 from Annie Farrell, district biologist with NWTF, along with Oklahoma Regional Director Oscar Juanes, and state Board Member Rick Nolan. Using federal Pittman-Robertson wildlife restoration matching funds, part of the donation will result in $124,000 to conduct habitat enhancement projects on 4 wildlife management areas (WMAs) in northwest Oklahoma. The rest of the donation went to support law enforcement, and the National Archery in the Schools and the Scholastic Shooting Sports Programs.
Other donations accepted during Monday’s meeting: $500 from Max Prichard, Denyce Prichard, and Mark Winters for youth waterfowl hunting on behalf of Oklahoma Delta Waterfowl; and $2,500 for work on Sandhills Wildlife Management Area from Chris Lee and Eric Grohler on behalf of Quail Forever’s Plainsmen Chapter in Enid. Both of these donations are also eligible for 3-to-1 matching federal funds.
In other business:
• Commissioners recognized Herman Jones of Adair County for his selection as ODWC’s 2022 Landowner of the Year. Nathaniel Kester, Wildlife Technician at Cookson WMA, presented an overview of the land and wildlife management practices that Jones conducts on his property. Kester said Jones was among the first in his county to incorporate habitat improvement strategies such as prescribed fire and canopy thinning, and he has influenced other landowners to take interest in doing the same. Jones has also opened his property to biologists studying deer, wild turkey, the endangered Ozark big-eared bat. State Representative David Hardin presented Jones a Certificate of Achievement from the Legislature, saying Jones’ management activities will benefit many generations to come. Jones said his selection was a great honor, and he’s thankful he can help ODWC in conserving wildlife.
• Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Foundation Executive Director Rick Grundman reported on the first Oklahoma Waterfowl Festival fundraiser hosted on Oct. 8 by G&H Decoys; said a team shooting fundraiser is set May 12 at The Cedar Gate; and announced the 2023 Call of the Wild Gala and Oklahoma Conservation Hall of Fame Induction will be Sept. 29 in Oklahoma City.
• Upland Game Biologist Tell Judkins presented roadside survey results indicating quail numbers this year are slightly improved, and hunters should expect similar conditions this year that they experienced in 2021-22.
• Commissioners recognized the 2022 graduating class of ODWC’s Wildlife Resource Professional program. The 24 participants spent nearly four years undergoing in-depth training across a wide array of ODWC operations. Graduates are Kelly Adams, Jeremy Bersche, Emily Clark, Phillip Cottrill, Allen Couch, Cody Criswell, Carol Davidson, Jeremy Duck, Rebecca Fillmore, Ben Haff, Mark Hannah, Whitney Heskett, Darrin Hill, Nathaniel Kester, Donnie King, Joey McAllister, Becky Rouner, Jason Smith, Amanda Thomas, Jeff Tibbits, Billy Bob Walker, Mikki Wilmoth, Cody Youngblood, and Michael Zimmerman.
• Commissioners welcomed Tim Diehl of McAlester as interim Wildlife Commissioner from District 3.
• In his regular report, ODWC Director J.D. Strong provided updates from ODWC’s various divisions since the previous meeting, including the rollout of 365-day hunting and fishing licenses on Nov. 1; the successful processing of about 250 bass tournament exemptions since new bass harvest rules went into effect in September; and a report on this year’s black bear seasons, during which hunters took 60 bears in all.
• Several ODWC employees received tenure awards: Game Warden Curtis Latham for 30 years of service, Northeast Region Wildlife Supervisor Jeff Pennington for 30 years of service, Game Warden Shane Fields for 25 years of service, and Game Warden Capt. Gary Emmons for 20 years of service.
The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The 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 Oklahoma Senate. The Dec. 5 meeting has been canceled; the next scheduled Commission meeting is set for Jan. 3, 2023, in Enid.
To view a video recording of the Nov. 7 meeting, go to the Outdoor Oklahoma YouTube Channel at https://youtu.be/S5lHVC5Kzeo.