JULY 1999 NEWS RELEASES

 

WEEK OF JULY 29 

WEEK OF JULY 22

WEEK OF JULY 15 

WEEK OF JULY 8

WEEK OF JULY 1

 

NEWS EDITORS: There is a mistake in the 1999 electrofishing chart for lakes over 1,000 acres, as well as in the accompanying news release. We have issued a corrected chart and revised news release that will be included in the 7/29 Wildlife News. Please disregard the chart and article in the 7/15 Wildlife News.

Konawa Lake shines in spring surveys

For bass fishing prospects on lakes larger than 1,000 acres, Lake Konawa in central Oklahoma could be an excellent destination, according to spring electrofishing data released by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Covering 1,300 acres in Seminole County, Konawa produced almost 199 bass per hour of electrofishing during this year's surveys. That's consistent with its performance last year, when it produced 207 bass per hour.

"Konawa is traditionally one of best lakes in state - year in, year out - in terms of number of bass," said Garland Wright, the Department's central region fisheries supervisor. "It's also one of the best in terms of big bass. It's a fertile lake, and it has all the components you want when you think about excellent bass fishing."

Ranking second was McGee Creek Lake, which produced 139 bass per hour during this year's electrofishing bass surveys. Dripping Springs Lake, near Okmulgee, ranked third with 115 bass per hour.

Ranking fourth was Lake Murray (104 bass per hour), followed by Sooner Lake (78 bass per hour), Lake Texoma (76 bass per hour), Bell Cow Lake (57 pass per hour), Carl Blackwell (50 bass per hour) and Arcadia Lake (50 bass per hour).

If you're interested in big bass, McGee Creek tops the list based on this year's electrofishing survey results. For each hour of electrofishing, it produced 58 bass per hour longer than 14 inches. That's a jump from 1997, when it produced 50 bass per hour longer than 14 inches. Konawa was a close second with 54 bass per hour longer than 14 inches.

Lake Texoma, a well-known striper hotspot, ranked third in that category with 38 bass per hour that were longer than 14 inches. It dropped slightly from 1997, when it produced 45 bass per hour over 14 inches. Ranking fourth was Lake Murray (37 bass per hour over 14 inches), followed by Lake Fuqua (29 bass per hour over 14 inches), Arcadia Lake (29 bass per hour over 14 inches) and Bell Cow (29 bass per hour over 14 inches).

"McGee Creek has a good forage base, good production and good recruitment, all of which indicate a healthy bass fishery," said Kim Erickson, chief of fisheries for the Department. "From what we've seen over the last few years, it's been a very consistent producer during spring sampling."

Of lakes larger than 1,000 acres, Dripping Springs Lake produced the only bass that exceeded 10 pounds. It weighed 10.6 pounds. However, three other lakes produced bass larger than eight pounds, including Lake Lawtonka (8.9 pounds), Lake Murray (8.9 pounds) and Lake Fuqua (8.4 pounds). Bell Cow produced one that weighed 7.8 pounds.

Data from the springtime bass survey is divided between that collected from lakes larger than 1,000 acres, and lakes smaller than 1,000 acres. The data is used to determine the health and trends of individual bass fisheries. Regional fisheries management personnel capture bass using electrofishing equipment, and then they weigh and measure each fish before releasing them back into the water unharmed. The information helps biologists determine which lakes might benefit from specialized management techniques such as length and slot limits.

The Department rates a lake as high quality when it produces more than 15 bass over 14 inches per hour of electrofishing. Quality lakes yield more than 10 bass over 14 inches per hour of electrofishing, and those which produce fewer than 10 per hour are considered below average.

In terms of total numbers of bass per hour, lakes that yield more than 60 bass of any size per hour are rated as high quality. Those producing 40 bass or more per hour are considered "quality" lakes, and less than 40 per hour are considered below average.

Davis named Landowner of the Year

To recognize his dedication to wildlife conservation, Veraman Davis of Tahlequah was recently named Oklahoma's Landowner of the Year by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The Commission honored Davis during its regular July meeting on July 12 in Oklahoma City.

Established in 1988, the Landowner of the Year Award honors private landowners who make extraordinary efforts to create, enhance or improve wildlife habitat on their property. By recognizing such landowners, the award is also designed to encourage other landowners to make similar improvements.

Competition for the award is stiff, and every year the Department receives a number of impressive applications, said John Hendrix, private lands biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Desire for the award is a result of heightened awareness for the needs of wildlife by private landowners, which benefits both game and non-game wildlife resources.

"Nearly 95 percent of Oklahoma's land area is privately owned, and the efforts of private landowners like Mr. Davis make it possible for Oklahomans to enjoy the diversity and abundance of wildlife that we have today," Hendrix said. "Mr. Davis has a keen understanding of Oklahoma's natural heritage, and his commitment to wildlife makes him a worthy recipient of this year's Landowner of the Year Award."

Davis owns about 4,500 acres in the Ozark foothills near Tahlequah. He reserves about half of his property for wildlife management practices and uses the remainder for agricultural production. Davis incorporates a rotational grazing program which encourages nesting cover and food resources for wildlife. He's cleared some of his ridgetops and planted them with supplemental food plots, which was especially helpful to whitetail deer during last summer's drought, Hendrix said.

In addition, Davis incorporates selective timber harvest to create additional food resources for wildlife. Rather than use so-called, "clean" farming practices, Davis allows fence lines to grow up with shrubs and brush to provide shelter for small game and other wildlife.

Davis also maintains 30 pounds on his property, all of which are dotted with standing timber. These features are especially attractive to wood ducks, and one pair even raised a brood near one of the ponds this spring.

Also, Davis has set aside about 1,000 acres to create three wildlife refuges in which he allows no human activity of any kind.

An avid sportsman, Davis frequently hosts youth campouts on his place, and he is also well-known for introducing young people to the sport of hunting.

For information about nominations for the 2000 Landowner of the Year Award, contact John Hendrix at 405/742-1278.

QU to host youth mini-camp

In conjunction with the Quail Unlimited National Convention coming to Oklahoma City Aug. 12-15, QU will host a free Bobwhite Brigade youth mini-camp.

Designed to appeal to a broad base of students, the camp will be held during the convention to provide basic information about quail management, said Steve DeMaso, upland game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Subjects will include quail anatomy, radio telemetry, crop analysis and quail trivia. The highlight of the program is the, "Run For Your Life," exercise, which gives students a unique perspective of the world from a quail's point of view.

"This mini-camp is a great opportunity for students of any age to learn the basics of quail conservation," DeMaso said. "The bobwhite quail is an integral part of Oklahoma's sporting culture, and nothing is more important to maintaining that heritage than passing on our knowledge and traditions to the next generation."

Legendary among quail hunters nationwide, Oklahoma consistently ranks among the top three quail hunting states. Nearly 80,000 quail hunters spend an average of eight days afield per season in Oklahoma, spending an estimated $44 million. Hosting the QU national convention bears testimony to the importance of quail hunting in the Sooner State.

Though recommended for students between ages 12-18, all quail enthusiasts above age 12 are welcome to attend the free mini-camp. To enroll in the mini-camp, contact Connie Dean at QU headquarters, P.O. Box 610, Edgefield, SC 29824; or call 803/637-5731, ext. 23.

Controlled Hunts results available

If you've been wondering whether you've been drawn for the Controlled Hunts offered by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, you can find out from the comfort of your home or office.

The results of the 1999-2000 Controlled Hunts drawings are now available at the Department's offices in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, as well as its regional offices. For the first time, the results are also available on the Internet. To find out if you were drawn, simply go to the Department's home page at www.state.ok.us/~odwc. Once there, scroll down the page and click on the banner that says, "CHECK THE CONTROLLED HUNT DRAW." Enter your driver's license or social security number, and you'll be told instantly which hunts, if any, you'll be able to participate in this season.

"The Controlled Hunts are among the Department's most popular programs, which just goes to show how vital hunting is to the fabric of life in Oklahoma," said Nels Rodefeld, assistant chief if the Department's Information and Education Division. "With the ever-increasing amount of interest shown for these very special hunts, the Department has been challenged to find a more efficient way of informing applicants about the results, and we feel the Internet will prove to be the best method for providing that information."

This year, the Department received more than 56,000 applications for the Controlled Hunts, which include the highly desired elk hunts at the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge, the archery hunts at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant and the panhandle antelope hunts.

To help improve your odds for being selected in the 2000-2001 hunts, the Department will include an inaugural Controlled Hunts section in the January/February 2000 issue of Outdoor Oklahoma, the Department's official magazine. This special section will include data that will help point you to the hunts providing the best odds of being drawn, along with tips on how to apply. Yearly subscriptions are only $10 and are available by calling 1-800-777-0019.

Outdoor Oklahoma now available

To experience the splendor and color of Oklahoma at its finest, check out the July/August issue of Outdoor Oklahoma, now available at newsstands statewide.

Recognized nationally for its outstanding photography, Outdoor Oklahoma salutes the photographic skills of its readers with its popular, "Photography Showcase." This year, the "Photography Showcase" features 14 pages of stunning images captured and submitted by readers across the state.

Devoted entirely to the conservation, management and enjoyment Oklahoma's natural resources, Outdoor Oklahoma is the official publication of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. In addition to its photography, the award-winning magazine is also known for its insightful features on the wildlife and sporting opportunities in our state.

In the July/August issue, you'll also read about James Hicks of Geary, who was recognized by the Department as Oklahoma's 1998 Landowner of the Year. This feature profiles the outstanding efforts of a conscientious landowner who goes to great lengths to provide wildlife habitat on his Blaine County farm while maintaining efficient agricultural operations.

Waterfowl hunters will enjoy the latest, "Getting Started," feature, which tells you everything you need to know to enjoy the timeless sport of duck hunting. An accompanying sidebar suggests a few places around the state to go duck hunting this fall.

Another article, "Wildlife Management by the Book," outlines the challenges the Department faces balancing scientific wildlife management practices with public needs and expectations.

To test your knowledge as a hunter, take "The Hunter's Challenge." This fun little quiz might even teach you a thing or two about hunting in Oklahoma. Also, wildlife enthusiasts of all types will enjoy the ever-popular Watchable Wildlife feature. This edition takes a close look at the beaver.

As always, the "Off the Beaten Path" section offers handy tips and other valuable information for hunters, anglers and other wildlife enthusiasts.

Outdoor Oklahoma is available on newsstands, or by sending $4 to Outdoor Oklahoma, 1801 N. Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City OK 73105. Subscriptions to the bi-monthly magazine are $10 per year, $18 for two years and $25 for three years. Order by calling 1-800-777-0019.

Workshops promote Women in the Outdoors

Women interested in learning or developing outdoor skills can take advantage of several excellent opportunities this summer at four Women In The Outdoors programs scheduled across the state.

Hosted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the National Wild Turkey Federation, these one day events will allow women age 14 and older to learn basic outdoors skills with the help of experienced mentors, said Colin Berg, education supervisor for the Department. Participants can attend two classes per session, including fishing, deer hunting, turkey hunting, and camping and survival skills. Additional options include map and compass skills, archery, canoeing (or outdoor photography), shotgunning and firearms safety, rifle and muzzleloading with firearms safety and Dutch oven cooking.

"The number of women participating in outdoor recreation is growing dramatically, and these workshops give them the basic skills they need to get the most enjoyment from these activities," Berg said. "The environment is very relaxed and unintimidating. There's a lot of camaraderie at these events, and they're great places to cultivate long-lasting friendships."

The cost to attend each event is $70, and overnight accommodations are available. Events are divided into two, three-hour sessions which run from 9 a.m. - noon and 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m., and the events will end at 5 p.m. Course equipment and materials will be provided.

The Women In The Outdoors events will be held the following dates and locations:
Aug. 14; Camp Takatoka, Choteau.
Aug. 28; Triple H Ranch, Frederick.
Sept. 11; Roman Nose State Park, Watonga.
Sept. 25; Robbers Cave State Park, Wilburton.

For more information on the Women In The Outdoors Program or individual events, contact Donna Chanley at 918/241-4192, Melinda Pierce at 918/655-7935, Kathy McMurray at 918/488-9841 or Colin Berg at 405/521-4631.

Commission addresses personnel issues

In proceedings weighted heavily toward personnel-related matters, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission addressed several key issues at its regular July meeting Monday in Oklahoma City.

After meeting in executive session, the Commission voted to rescind the Department-wide reorganization and executive compensation package adopted at its June meeting in Tulsa. The Department's present management structure will remain intact while the Commission re-examines the issue concerning the agency's structure and compensation for its executive employees. The Commission will re-evaluate the issue in October.

Also, the Commission recognized six employees for their long tenure of service to the Department. Recognized for 20 years of continuous service were Barry Bolton, assistant chief of the Fisheries Division, Mark Ambler, special project manager for the Fisheries Division and Dale Schmitz, assistant manager at the Holdenville Fish Hatchery. Honored for 25 years of continuous service were Joe Adair, district chief for the Law Enforcement division, and Greg Summers, research supervisor for the Fisheries Division. Jim Smith, northeast regional supervisor for the Fisheries Division, was recognized for 30 years of continuous service.

"I've always said that the strength of the Department lies in the high quality of its employees," said Commission Chairman Bill Crawford. "We are fortunate to enjoy the services of such fine and dedicated personnel, and we are honored to recognize them for their long and distinguished service."

In addition, the Commission voted to approve a two-percent, cost-of-living increase in benefits to the Department's retired personnel.

In other business, the Commission recognized Veraman Davis of Tahlequah as the Department's 1999 Landowner of the Year. The Landowner of the Year Program is designed to recognize landowners for significant contributions to enhancing or creating wildlife habitat on private lands as a way of encouraging other landowners to manage property for the benefit of wildlife.

In a separate item, the Commission accepted $1,154.41 from the Oklahoma State Council of Quail Unlimited. The funds were raised during the ODWC-QU Celebrity Shoot for Conservation, which was held recently at Silverleaf Sporting Clays in Guthrie. The check, presented by QU representative Matt Chilcutt, is to be used for the Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program on private lands.

In his monthly statement, financial coordinator Robert Taylor briefed the Commission on the Department's financial status. Currently, the lifetime license account has nearly $4.6 million available for withdrawal, Taylor said. The Department may only spend interest and investment income from the Lifetime License account. It may not spend the principal of the account.

License sales are down nearly 3.5 percent from this time last year, he added, while total revenue is up nearly 12 percent. The increase, he added, is due primarily to the sales of Land Access Fee (permits) to Three Rivers and Honobia Creek wildlife management areas. In addition, the sales of Lifetime Licenses are up more than 24 percent from this time last year.

The Commission will not meet in August. Its next meeting will be held September 13 at the Department's headquarters in Oklahoma City.

McGee Creek best for bass numbers

For bass fishing prospects on lakes larger than 1,000 acres, McGee Creek Reservoir in southeast Oklahoma appears to be a promising destination, according to spring electrofishing data released by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Covering 3,800 acres near Atoka, McGee Creek produced almost 139 bass per hour of electrofishing during this year's surveys. That's consistent with its performance last year, when it produced 143 bass per hour.

Ranking second was Dripping Springs Lake, which produced 115 bass per hour during this year's electrofishing bass surveys. Lake Murray, in south-central Oklahoma ranked third with 104 bass per hour.

Ranking fourth was Sooner Lake (78 bass per hour), followed by Lake Texoma (76 bass per hour), Bell Cow Lake (57 pass per hour), Carl Blackwell (50 bass per hour) and Arcadia Lake (50 bass per hour).

If you're interested in big bass, McGee Creek tops that list, too, based on this year's results. For each hour of electrofishing, it produced 58 bass per hour longer than 14 inches. That's a slight jump from 1997, when it produced 50 bass per hour longer than 14 inches.

Lake Texoma, a well-known striper hotspot, ranked second in that category with 38 bass per hour that were longer than 14 inches. It dropped slightly from 1997, when it produced 45 bass per hour over 14 inches. Ranking third was Lake Murray (37 bass per hour over 14 inches), followed by Lake Fuqua (29 bass per hour over 14 inches), Arcadia Lake (29 bass per hour over 14 inches) and Bell Cow (29 bass per hour over 14 inches).

"McGee Creek has a good forage base, good production and good recruitment, all of which indicate a healthy bass fishery," said Kim Erickson, chief of fisheries for the Department. "From what we've seen over the last few years, it's been a very consistent producer during spring sampling."

Of lakes larger than 1,000 acres, Dripping Springs Lake produced the only bass that exceeded 10 pounds. It weighed 10.6 pounds. However, three other lakes produced bass larger than eight pounds, including Lake Lawtonka (8.9 pounds), Lake Murray (8.9 pounds) and Lake Fuqua (8.4 pounds. Bell Cow produced one that weighed 7.8 pounds.

Data from the springtime bass survey is divided between that collected from lakes larger than 1,000 acres, and lakes smaller than 1,000 acres. The data is used to determine the health and trends of individual bass fisheries. Regional fisheries management personnel capture bass using electrofishing equipment, and then they weigh and measure each fish before releasing them back into the water unharmed. The information helps biologists determine which lakes might benefit from specialized management techniques such as length and slot limits.

The Department rates a lake as high quality when it produces more than 15 bass over 14 inches per hour of electrofishing. Quality lakes yield more than 10 bass over 14 inches per hour of electrofishing, and those which produce fewer than 10 per hour are considered below average.

In terms of total numbers of bass per hour, lakes that yield more than 60 bass of any size per hour are rated as high quality. Those producing 40 bass or more per hour are considered "quality" lakes, and less than 40 per hour are considered below average.

Coon Creek tops list for small lakes

Among lakes smaller than 1,000 acres, Coon Creek Lake in Latimer County produced the most bass per hour during spring electrofishing surveys conducted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

In terms of overall numbers, Coon Creek Lake produced 260 bass per hour of electrofishing, followed by Cedar Lake (LeFlore Co.; 242 bass per hour) and Adair City Lake (Adair Co.; 209 bass per hour).

Rounding out the top six small lakes were Jean Neustadt Lake in Carter Co. (188 bass per hour), Lake Bixhoma in Wagoner Co. (173 bass per hour) and Pretty Water Lake in Creek Co. (171 bass per hour). All of the top six small lakes produced more than 100 bass per hour of electrofishing.

For numbers of bass larger than 14 inches per hour of electrofishing, Crowder Lake (Washita Co.) was the top producer with 64. Lake Bixhoma was second with nearly 59 bass per hour over 14 inches, followed by Durant Lake (Bryan Co.; 50 bass per hour over 14 inches) and Spiro City Lake (LeFlore Co.; 43 bass per hour over 14 inches).

Two lakes smaller than 1,000 acres produced a largemouth weighing 10 pounds or more, including ODWC-owned Lake Ozzie Cobb (10.8 pounds) and Lake Holdenville (10.1 pounds.). Crowder Lake produced a 9.1-pound bass, while Lake Watonga, another ODWC lake, produced one that weighed 8.5 pounds.

"Although the results of the survey can help anglers find good places to fish, they're not the only information anglers should use when making their decisions on where to go," Erickson said. "There are hundreds of small lakes across the state, and we can't survey all of them every year. Based on the numbers, these are the best lakes we surveyed this year, but they're not necessarily the best in the state."

Electrofishing surveys are conducted by regional fisheries management personnel to measure the health and trends of individual bass fisheries. Bass captured during the surveys are weighed, measured and released back into the water unharmed. The information collected helps biologists determine which lakes might benefit from specialized management techniques, such as length or slot limits.

In evaluating electrofishing data, the Department rates a lake as high quality when it produces more than 15 bass over 14 inches per hour of electrofishing. Quality lakes yield more than 10 bass over 14 inches per hour, while those producing fewer than 10 are considered below average.

For total numbers of bass per hour, lakes that yield more than 60 bass of any size per hour are rated as high quality. Those producing 40 or more bass per hour are considered "quality" lakes, and less than 40 per hour is considered below average.

Quail Unlimited to host youth mini-camp

In conjunction with the Quail Unlimited National Convention coming to Oklahoma City Aug. 12-15, QU will host a free Bobwhite Brigade youth mini-camp.

Designed to appeal to a broad base of students, the camp will be held during the convention to provide basic information about quail management, said Steve DeMaso, upland game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Subjects will include quail anatomy, radio telemetry, crop analysis and quail trivia. The highlight of the program is the, "Run For Your Life," exercise, which gives students a unique perspective of the world from a quail's point of view.

"This mini-camp is a great opportunity for students of any age to learn the basics of quail conservation," DeMaso said. "The bobwhite quail is an integral part of Oklahoma's sporting culture, and nothing is more important to maintaining that heritage than passing on knowledge and traditions to our next generation."

Legendary among quail hunters nationwide, Oklahoma consistently ranks among the top three quail hunting states. Nearly 80,000 quail hunters spend an average of eight days afield per season in Oklahoma, spending an estimated $44 million. Hosting the QU national convention bears testimony to the importance of quail hunting in the Sooner State.

Though recommended for students between ages 12-18, all quail enthusiasts above age 12 are welcome to attend the free mini-camp. To enroll in the mini-camp, contact Connie Dean at QU headquarters, P.O. Box 610, Edgefield, SC 29824; or call 803/637-5731, ext. 23.

Deer harvest tops 80,000

Based on final tallies from all 77 counties, Oklahoma's deer hunters have set another record by harvesting more than 80,000 deer during the 1998 season.

The actual total is 80,008, far surpassing the preliminary tally of 73,258 established last winter. The new number reflects deer checked by Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation field personnel, deer taken on private lands enrolled in the Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP), and those harvested during the December archery season, said Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor for the Department. The final tally is significant, he added because it shows that hunters were able to overcome a poor harvest during the rain-plagued primitive season, and also because it demonstrates the increasing amount of deer hunting opportunities for hunters statewide.

"We knew when we tallied the harvest at the end of gun deer season that it would be pretty high, but to top 80,000 is just phenomenal," Shaw said. "It just shows how far Oklahoma's deer herd has come in such a short time, especially when you consider that the harvest 10 years ago was less than 40,000, which was also a record at that time."

One of the main reasons for the stellar harvest, Shaw added, was because of the near perfect weather during the gun season and the fact that rut activity was high.

Also, high doe populations in many areas contributed to a 17-percent increase in the number of does harvested.

"Knowledgeable hunters and land managers are starting to realize that harvesting does is a major component of any successful deer management program," Shaw explained. "The Wildlife Department has overcome a lot of traditional and sociological hurdles to get the message across, but more and more people are accepting that message now that they can see the benefits."

Overall, does accounted for nearly 36 percent of the harvest with a total of 28,871. Hunters also took 51,137 bucks.

Leading the charts in total harvest was Osage County, which produced 4,185 deer, including 1,609 does. Hunters in Cherokee County took 3,332 deer, including 1,330 does. Craig County yielded 2,768 deer, including 1,290 does, followed by Sequoyah Co. (2,292), and Pittsburg (2,139). A total of 31 counties produced more than 1,000 deer.

The most productive wildlife management area was Ouachita WMA, which produced 486 deer. Honobia Creek was second with 374, followed by Black Kettle WMA with 256.

Big bucks highlight season

In recent years, Oklahoma has earned a reputation for producing trophy deer, so it's no surprise that 1998 was a banner season for big bucks.

At the end of the 1998-99 scoring period, 236 deer were admitted into the Cy Curtis Awards Program through which the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation recognizes exceptional deer taken in Oklahoma, said Mike Shaw, research supervisor for the Department. Of those, 12 that were actually taken in 1998 were large enough to be eligible for recognition from the Boone & Crockett Club, including five non-typicals that were eligible for Boone & Crockett's All-Time Awards book. Four others that were taken in previous years were also eligible for B&C recognition.

"Hunters took some exceptional bucks last year, which further demonstrates Oklahoma's potential for growing trophy whitetails," Shaw said. "That's especially interesting for hunters who pursue trophy deer, and the possibility of taking a record-book buck further enhances the diversity of hunting opportunities our state provides."

The biggest buck of the year was a giant non-typical taken in Delaware County by Chuck Tullis of Grove. It scored 238 2/8 points on the Boone & Crockett scale. Other exceptional non-typicals included a buck taken by Aaron Sheik in Woods County that scored 200 5/8, followed by a Comanche Co., buck scoring (197 7/8) taken by Dewayne High. Brian Paul took a buck in Latimer Co. scoring (196 6/8), and Mike Williams harvested one in Hughes Co. (195 4/8) that measured. Each is eligible for admission into the Boone & Crockett All-Time Awards book.

Like last year, Pittsburg Co., was Oklahoma's top trophy deer county with seven Cy Curtis bucks. Osage, Canadian, Woods and Hughes counties each produced five Cy Curtis bucks. Blaine, Woodward and Latimer counties produced four Cy Curtis bucks each.

Oklahoma County, which includes most of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, yielded three Cy Curtis bucks, as did the counties of Love, Kay, Pushmataha, Dewey, Pawnee, Harper and Grant.

Hunters note baiting law changes

If the fast approaching Sept. 1 dove season opener has you thinking of migratory bird hunting, hunters should take note of changes in federal baiting regulations.

Recently issued by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the new regulations attempt to clarify a number of issues concerning sportsmen and wildlife managers.

Among the most important changes to the regulations, said Mike O'Meilia, migratory bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, are changes allowing the manipulation of natural vegetation. This allows greater flexibility for landowners to manage their property for the benefit of a variety of migratory birds, including waterfowl. This is especially important concerning the manipulation of moist-soil vegetation, such as that occurring on the Department's waterfowl development areas.

"The new baiting regulations, as amended, are good for both the management of migratory birds and for hunters," O'Meilia said.

In addition to those changes, Congress passed a law last year that eliminated strict liability for baiting offenses. Instead, the new law makes it unlawful for anyone to hunt with the aid of bait "if the person knows or reasonably should know that the area is a baited area," O'Meilia added. As in the past, however, hunters are responsible for ensuring that no bait is present before they begin hunting.

The amended phrasing clarifies liability terms that, in the past, put hunters at risk for unlawful actions for which they were not personally responsible. The new regulations extend greater responsibility to the person who actually does the baiting.

Congress also enacted significant increases in penalties for baiting violations. Anyone convicted of hunting over bait could face a maximum fine of $15,000 and six months in jail. An individual or organization convicted of placing bait may be fined up to $100,000 and sentenced up to one year in jail.

Under the new regulations, sportsmen may hunt all migratory game birds, including waterfowl, coots and cranes, over natural vegetation that has been mowed or manipulated in other ways. There is no restriction on when manipulation may occur.

Sportsmen may also hunt all migratory game birds where seeds or grains have been scattered solely as the result of a normal agricultural planting, harvesting, post-harvest manipulation or normal soil stabilization practice. Agricultural practices for hunting are limited to those undertaken to produce and gather a crop and to manage the field afterwards.

In addition, sportsmen may hunt all migratory game birds over top-sown fields if seeds are present solely as a result of normal agricultural planting or normal soil stabilization practice as determined by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) specialists.

They may also hunt all migratory game birds over surface-mined lands being reclaimed where seeds or grains are scattered solely as a result of a normal soil stabilization practice, again determined by USDA personnel. Hunters must rely only on USDA Cooperative Extension Service state specialists when assessing whether agricultural or soil stabilization measures are "normal" for a given area.

A summary of the new baiting regulations will be included in the Department's 1999-2000 Hunting Regulations, which will be published in July. A complete copy of the new baiting regulations can be obtained from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Trout streams offer hot weather fun

Imagine standing in a clear, boulder-strewn river. Ice-cold current forms a wake as it flows restlessly downstream, allowing you to forget all about the blazing sun roasting your arms, nose and neck.

With a flick of the wrist, you drop a small lure with scarcely a splash in front of a small eddy. A second later, a sharp pulse stings your fingers like a small electrical shock. Hauling back on your rod, you set the hook on 14 inches of orange-spotted fury that glows golden in the midday sun, throwing droplets of water in all directions like thousands of tiny diamonds. It's a brown trout, and a nice one at that.

Removing the hook, you place the fish back into the water and watch it dash to some hidden refuge.

Sounds like a long-planned vacation to Colorado or the Appalachians? Not at all. It's an adventure that you can experience all summer long at the lower Mountain Fork and lower Illinois Rivers.

Located in the heart of the Ozark and Ouachita mountains, respectively, the lower Illinois and Mountain Fork rivers are Oklahoma's premier trout fisheries. Managed by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, they are stocked with both brown and rainbow trout to provide high-quality trout fishing for anglers of all experience levels, said Barry Bolton, assistant chief of fisheries for the Department. These areas are well known for producing large numbers of stocker-size trout, but they also have definite trophy potential for anglers willing to go to the trouble to find them.

In addition, both areas have generous access, so you can enjoy them with minimal fuss and trouble.

"Oklahoma is blessed with a lot of excellent fishing opportunities, but the lower Mountain Fork and lower Illinois rivers are unique in that they provide the only year-round trout fishing in the region," Bolton said. "They're also overlooked by many anglers, so they get surprisingly little pressure, which means you can often have a fairly large stretch of river to yourself."

The reason these streams are able to support trout year round, Bolton added, is because of cold-water discharges from lakes Broken Bow and Tenkiller. The Corps of Engineers operates both reservoirs to generate electricity through turbines located at the dams, and recent agreements have secured additional water to provide more consistent water flows that will help ensure the health of the fisheries.

At both rivers, anglers may keep just one brown trout per day with a 20-inch minimum length limit. There is no minimum length limit on rainbow trout on the lower Illinois, but anglers may keep no more than six rainbows per day. Rainbow trout are protected by a 20-inch minimum length limit on portions of the lower Mountain Fork. Consult the Oklahoma Fishing Regulations for exact details.

To fish these areas, anglers must possess a valid Oklahoma fishing license, as well as an annual trout fishing permit. Both are available at all authorized license dealers statewide.

Skeet, sporting clays sharpen shooting skills

With dove season approaching, many hunters are checking their equipment, and some are looking seriously for places to hunt.

Unfortunately, too many hunters neglect their shooting skills between hunting seasons, which translates to poor success during the early parts of dove and quail seasons. If you really want to improve your wingshooting success, the best thing you can do is practice at a local skeet or sporting clays range.

In addition to sharpening your shooting skills, practicing on clay targets is an excellent way to relax, as well as to socialize with hunting buddies, said Steve DeMaso, upland game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

"We emphasize managing habitat for quail and dove," DeMaso said, "and while that's extremely important, it's also important for hunters to capitalize on their opportunities while hunting. If you miss birds, you're going to be less satisfied with the hunt than you would be otherwise, and the way to improve the quality of the hunt is simply by being a more proficient shooter. You can do that by practicing during the off-season on skeet or sporting clays."

When shooting skeet, shooters fire at a total of 25 targets from eight different stations. Depending on the station, a shooter will face clay targets, or "birds," going away or incoming, as well as passing shots and overhead shots.

Sporting clays, on the other hand, is often called "shotgun golf." A typical round of sporting clays consists of 50 targets in a variety of settings designed to mimic actual hunting situations. Shooters will face "birds" launched to imitate flushing quail, fast-flying doves, high-flying mallards and scampering rabbits. Many stations feature a combination, requiring quick reflexes and the ability to make snap decisions.

While shooting skeet or sporting clays is generally inexpensive, shooters can usually get considerable discounts by joining a skeet or sporting clays league. Many ranges host fall, spring and summer leagues through which shooters often meet new friends, fellow gun enthusiasts and new hunting partners.

If you own land in an area where shooting is permitted, you can also practice on your own with equipment available at many retailers. You can buy a mechanical thrower for less than $40, and a box of clay targets usually costs less than $5.

Either way, you can save even more money by loading your own shotgun shells. This also allows a shooter to develop a load that best suits his gun, as well as specific shooting situations.

By spending just one afternoon per week at the range, you'll find yourself in top form on Sept. 1 when dove season opens. The time spent practicing will pay off throughout the season.

Lucas co-sponsors wildlife funding bill

Citing the need to adequately fund wildlife conservation projects, U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas recently joined fellow Oklahoman Wes Watkins and 90 other Congressional members in co-sponsoring H.R. 701, the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA). This bill may be voted on in committee in July, after which it could go to the House floor.

"I am pleased to support this legislation, as it is a strong move to preserve and enhance wildlife conservation in Oklahoma," Lucas said. "Having lived my entire life in rural Oklahoma, I understand the importance of these natural wildlife resources."

"Rep. Lucas' support for this bill simply acknowledges the overwhelming need to provide funds for wildlife conservation, outdoor recreation and offshore coastal impacts," said Greg Duffy, director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "All 50 states face a diminishing ability to make existing funding meet the need for hunting and fishing opportunities, as well as address the increasing public participation and demand for wildlife-related topics, skills and activities.

"Because there is a greater interest in the outdoors, it makes the management of wildlife areas and the maintenance of state fish and wildlife resources a difficult challenge. CARA's passage is necessary to our agency's ability to undertake the comprehensive programs required to meet these challenges."

About half of the estimated $4.5 billion generated annually from offshore oil revenue would be reallocated to the three titles of the Conservation and Reinvestment Act: Title I provides coastal impact assistance, Title II funds land-based recreation and Title III supports wildlife conservation.

"Oklahoma could receive $15 million annually for state and local parks and wildlife conservation efforts without the creation of a new tax," Duffy said. "Although we cannot replenish the earth's oil supply, it is appropriate to use these funds, from a non-renewable resource for conservation work on renewable natural resources. What's at stake is the outdoor and open space legacy our children will inherit."

A national coalition of more than 3,000 organizations and businesses including 150 Oklahoma groups and businesses have endorsed CARA's passage. Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating and 15 other governors have endorsed this landmark, bi-partisan legislation.

For more information about CARA, call the Wildlife Department at 405/521-4616, or visit the website: www.teaming.com.