FEBRUARY 2001 NEWS RELEASES

 

WEEK OF FEBRUARY 22

WEEK OF FEBRUARY 15

WEEK OF FEBRUARY 8

WEEK OF FEBRUARY 1

Oklahoma state records vacant
Oklahoma anglers have a chance to put their name into the record book. The International Game Fish Association (IGFA) has announced that it has 15 vacant freshwater record categories for the Sooner State. 


IGFA was founded in 1939, and is a nonprofit conservation and record keeping organization. The IGFA State Line Class Record Program is separate from the all-tackle record program administered by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. 


The International Game Fish Association has three line class categories: 4 lb., 12 lb., and 20 lb. Any catch over one pound for vacant qualifying species could be recognized by the IGFA as an Oklahoma state freshwater line class record. Applying anglers are allowed to release their potential record catches after obtaining weights, measurements and photographs of the fish.


Five species are currently vacant and available for qualification. They are channel catfish, black/white crappie, white bass, stripped bass and largemouth bass. A complete list of eligible record species in each state is available on the IGFA’S website: www.igfa.org. State record application forms are also available free of charge from the IGFA.


IGFA members may submit a record application free of charge, and applications may be submitted by non-members for $35. The fee will provide applicants with a one-year membership to the IGFA, and includes a subscription to the International Angler newsletter, and a free copy of the 352- page World Record Game Fishes.


For further information, contact Michael Matt at: IGFA, 300 Gulf Stream Way, Dania Beach, FL 33004, or by phone at 905/927-2628. They may also E-mail at: mmyatt@igfa.org.

Mountain Lake yields first lunker bass of 2001

Mountain Lake, a 210-acre trophy largemouth bass hotspot in southcentral Oklahoma's Carter County, produced a 14-pound, 1-ounce bass for an Ardmore angler Feb. 18. The fish is the first over 14 pounds this year, and it has generated quite a stir among anglers anxious to get out and try their luck.

Brian Lindsay was Carolina-rigging a live goldfish around 10 a.m., Sunday, Feb. 18, when the lunker grabbed his bait. Lindsay was fishing with Gary Gray, also from Ardmore.

"When I first hooked it, the fish rose to the surface and I thought it might be an eight or nine pounder, but then it dove deep and underneath the boat," said Lindsay. "The fish jumped on the opposite side of the boat, but neither Gary nor I saw it jump, but the splash sounded big! After several more seconds, the fish came back underneath the boat and came to the surface.

"I had to use both hands to lift it into the boat. All totaled, it took about two minutes from the time I hooked the fish to land it."

Realizing how large the fish actually was, Lindsay thought it was a potential state record. He and Gray wanted to keep the fish alive in case it wasn't, though, so they used their electric trolling motor to tow the fish back to the Mountain Lake headquarters, which took about 30 minutes. It weighed 14 pounds, 10 ounces at the lake headquarters, but Jim Deason, Mountain Lake caretaker, said the scales had not been certified in recent years.

At that point, Lindsay tried to contact several businesses around the area to locate certified scales. Finally, he found one at the Farmer's Market in Lone Grove. Using a minnow hauling tank provided by a local bait dealer, Lindsay transported the fish to the Farmer's Market, where it weighed 14.07 pounds (14 pounds, 1 ounce). Randel Currie, southcentral region fisheries technician for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, witnessed the weigh in.

"With a length of 27 1/2 inches and a 22-inch girth, this fish was only a half inch shorter and the girth was only 3/4 of an inch off of the current 14-pound, 11-ounce state record caught from Broken Bow Lake in 1999," Currie said. "We have to take a small liver sample from a bass in order to determine it's exact genetic makeup and although we didn't do that in this case, we suspect it was a female and was likely an intergrade (first generation cross between a Florida strain and northern strain bass) or pure Florida strain. If the fish is caught again just prior to spawning in a few weeks, it could be even heavier due to maturing eggs."

After weighing the bass in Lone Grove, Lindsay transported it back to Mountain Lake where it was successfully released.

"I really want to thank Alan Jones for helping me take the fish back and forth to Lone Grove," Lindsay said. "Without his tank, I'm sure the fish wouldn't have made it. It was in excellent shape when we released it so hopefully it'll continue to grow and either I or someone else can catch it again someday."

Lindsay has fished at Mountain Lake for the last six years and although he's caught three bass over 10 pounds, two over nine and three over eight, this is the first big bass that he's caught in the late winter or early spring using live bait. All of his other big Mountain Lake bass have been caught in the summer using soft plastic lures. He added that catching the lunker has provided the spark to begin guiding on the lake.

Mountain Lake is only open on the first and third weekends of the month from Nov. 1 through the end of February. It is open everyday from March 1 to Oct. 31, however only a limited number of boats are allowed on the lake each day. Call 580/561-6145 to make reservations or for more information on fishing the Lake. In addition to a state fishing license, an Ardmore City Fishing Permit is required to fish the lake. City permits cost $12.50 for a yearly permit, or $2.50 for a daily permit.

Anyone catching a fish they think may be a state record is encouraged to weigh the fish as quickly as possible on certified scales (usually available at grocery stores, meat markets, etc.). To be official, a Wildlife Department employee must witness the weigh-in, and an official state record affidavit must be submitted.

images\Bass.jpg

 

 

Pheasant season changes proposed

Expanding pheasant populations in certain areas of northern Oklahoma, and increased distribution of the birds has led Wildlife Department biologists to propose a uniform pheasant season running from Dec. 1 through Jan. 31, with a two bird daily limit.

Currently, there are two separate pheasant seasons. The panhandle season, which runs Dec. 1-Jan. 1, offers hunters a three cock daily limit, while the northwest season, which runs concurrently with quail season (Nov. 1-Jan. 31) offers a one cock daily limit.

The proposed changes seek to create one "statewide" season, with hunting dates running from Dec. 1-Jan. 31, and a daily bag limit of two cock pheasants. Also proposed is extending the southern boundary of the area open to pheasant hunting from the current Highway 412 boundary south to Highway 51 in Major, Noble, and Garfield counties.

"Based on comments from both landowners, hunters and field staff, we're looking to merge the two current pheasant seasons into one that is the same throughout the areas where hunting is allowed," said Bill Dinkines, assistant chief of Wildlife for the Department. "This season framework seemed to be the best mix of days of hunting opportunity and number of birds allowed per day."

Dinkines said that if the proposed changes are approved the Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Department's governing body, they would go into affect for the upcoming fall 2001 hunting season. Public meetings will be held in early March at Guymon, Woodward, Enid and Medford to get input on the recommended changes.

Public Meeting Schedule for Pheasant Proposals

March 12, 2001, at 7:00 p.m.

Guymon -OSU Extension, 301 Main

Woodward - Wildlife Department Northwest Office, 3014 Lakeview

March 13, 2001, at 7:00 p.m.

Enid - Fire Department, 410 W. Garriot

Medford - Civic Center, 123 S. Main

Landowners Signup announced for WHIP

Landowners who want to develop and improve wildlife habitat on their land may sign up for cost-share assistance through the Natural Resources Conservation Service's Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP).

"This year’s sign-up period for WHIP will be March 5-23," said John Hendrix, private lands biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "WHIP is a voluntary conservation program for landowners that want to develop a wildlife habitat plan for their property. The program provides technical assistance and up to 75 percent cost-share assistance to help establish fish and wildlife habitat."

Landowners who sign an agreement are responsible for maintaining the project for five to 10 years. Conservation practices that may qualify can include fencing for habitat protection, planting shrubs or trees to develop habitat, or timber management practices. Other practices that may qualify can include water facilities improvement, wetland development and improvement, pond fisheries management, prescribed burning and native grass plantings.

"There is about $1.1 million available for the WHIP program this year," Hendrix said. "WHIP has been a very important and popular program in Oklahoma. Currently, 95 percent of the state is privately owned, so private land-owners have the most potential for improving wildlife habitat and in-creasing wildlife populations across the state."

Those interested in the program should contact their local Natural Resources Conservation Service offices or may call John Hendrix at 405/880-0994 for more information.

SE turkey season could be longer

Populations of eastern wild turkeys have grown dramatically over the last decade, especially in southeast Oklahoma, leading biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to recommend extending the season and increasing the bag limit.

"We proposing a slightly longer season and an additional bird in the bag limit for the southeastern eight counties," said Bill Dinkines, assistant chief of Wildlife for the Department. "All of our population data indicate this is biologically sound, and based on what we've been hearing from local sportsmen, they seem to agree that it's time to look at more hunting opportunity."

Specifically, Dinkines said the Department is recommending starting the southeast turkey season (the season in the eight southeastern-most counties) April 6 and running it through April 28. This would allow the season to begin the same day as the season in the rest of the state, but it would close roughly one week earlier. Another proposal would increase the bag limit for Atoka, Coal, Latimer, LeFlore, McCurtain, Pushmataha and Pittsburg counties to two toms per county. Under the proposal, Choctaw County would have a one tom per county limit and there would be a combined bag limit of no more than two toms for the southeast zone. In the past, the spring bag limit for the entire southeastern eight counties has been one tom turkey.

The proposed changes, if adopted by the Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Department's governing body, would take affect with the spring 2002 wild turkey season.

"This is an exciting development," Dinkines said, "because it signifies the return of eastern wild turkey populations to levels not seen since the mid 1980s."

Public meetings have been set in early March at Idabel, Atoka and Poteau to discuss the proposed changes.

Public Meeting Schedule for Turkey Proposal

March 12, 2001, at 7:00 p.m.

Idabel - Kiamichi Technology Center, 3 miles north of Idabel on Hwy 70

Atoka - Kiamichi Technology Center, Hwy 3 & 75 West

March 13, 2001, at 7:00 p.m.

Poteau - Kiamichi Technology Center, 1509 S. McKenna

Fur auction set for March 3 in Chandler

Hunters and trappers wanting to sell their furs will have an opportunity Saturday, March 3, at the Agri-Civic Center in Chandler, and based on initial market reports, prices are better than last year.

Furbearer populations are at high levels and this years colder-than-normal weather stimulated more interest from hunters and trappers, and higher quality furs. Hunters and trappers are universally recognized as the best means for managing the surging populations of coyotes, bobcats and other furbearers which left unchecked, could become unbalanced with their habitat.

This will be the final auction sponsored by the First Oklahoma Trappers and Predator Callers Association for the 2000-2001 fur-harvesting season. It will begin at 9 a.m., with doors opening at 8 a.m. The building will also be open from 2-6 p.m. Friday, March 2, for sellers to bring their furs and register.

"Fur markets change daily, but we've seen better prices for furs so far this year," said Bill Jackson, auction coordinator. "There has been a little more demand and many furs are in prime condition due to the cold weather. Stabilization of financial markets in China, Russia, Korea and Japan have also helped create higher prices."

Results from a fur auction held in Chandler in February provide a reasonable baseline for what hunters and trappers might expect from the sale. Average and top prices for pelts sold were as follows:

Bobcat: $24 average and $71 high;

Raccoon: $6 average and $12 high;

Skunks: $4 average;

Beaver: $8 average and $39 high;

Coyote: $4 average and $8 high.

Jackson said furs can be sold stretched or green, but all sellers must have a valid hunting or trapping license from Oklahoma or their respective state. In addition, those wishing to sell mink, muskrat, gray fox, opossum and raccoon must have a permit stating that the furs are being held for the March 3 auction. Permits can be obtained by contacting the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

All bobcats must have an export tag affixed to the pelt before it can be sold and Wildlife Department personnel will be on hand to tag bobcats. Bobcats from other states must have export tags on the pelts before entering Oklahoma.

For reservations or more information on the auction, contact Jackson at 918/336-8154.

WILDLIFE LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

The Legislative Process: Once a bill is introduced, it is assigned to a committee in the house of origin. From the committee, the bill can be tabled, modified or passed on to the house of origin for a vote. If the house of origin passes the bill, the bill then proceeds to the opposite house, where it is assigned to a committee. The committee can table, modify or pass the bill to the floor for a vote. If the bill passes both houses in its original form, it goes to the Governor for approval or veto. If it has been modified by one of the houses, the other house can accept the changes or ask for a conference committee. The conference committee contains members from each house. If the conference committee agrees on how a bill should read, it is sent to both houses for a vote. If passed by both houses it goes to the Governor for action.

Legislative Deadlines

Feb. 22 - Reporting bills from committee in house of origin

March 15 - 3rd reading in the house of origin

March 29 - Reporting bills from committee in the oppose house of origin

April 19 - 3rd reading in the oppose house of origin

April 26 - Requesting conference committee

May 25 - Adjourn

Bill, Author, Short Description and Status

Senate Bill 86 by Robert Milacek. Establishing a purple paint law, similar to Arkansas, as a means of posting private property. Bill would be effective immediately. Bill dead - not acted on by the Senate Appropriations Committee by the deadline for reporting bills from committee in the house of origin.

Senate Bill 127 by Sam Helton. Increases trespassing fines to a maximum of $1,000; allows any law enforcement officer to make arrests for trespassing. Bill would be effective immediately. Bill dead - not acted on by the Senate Appropriations Committee by the deadline for reporting bills from committee in the house of origin.

Senate Bill 472 by Frank Shurden. Expands the definition of "dangerous dog" to include one that inflicts severe injury on a domestic animal on property not owned by the owner of the dog. Also adds county sheriffs to list of animal control authorities. Bill would be effective immediately. Passed from the Senate Wildlife Committee; awaiting action by the full Senate.

Senate Bill 473 by Frank Shurden. Allows the Wildlife Conservation Commission to create a Blue River Wildlife Management Area Access Permit. Requires anyone using the Blue River WMA either possess a valid hunting or fishing licenses or purchase a Blue River WMA Access Permit. Bill would be effective immediately. Bill dead - not acted on by the Senate Wildlife Committee by the deadline for reporting bills from committee in the house of origin.

Senate Bill 474 by Frank Shurden. Adds the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to the state's Geographic Information System Council. Bill would be effective immediately. Bill dead - not acted on by the Senate Energy, Environmental Resources and Regulatory Affairs Committee by the deadline for reporting bills from committee in the house of origin.

Senate Bill 475 by Frank Shurden. Authorizes the Wildlife Conservation Commission to establish a special use permit for privately owned land leased by the Department in tracts less than 4,000 acres. Bill would be effective immediately. Passed the Senate Wildlife Committee; awaiting action from the full Senate.

Senate Bill 477 by Frank Shurden. Authorizes the Wildlife Conservation Commission to promulgate rules to sell hunting and fishing licenses via the Internet. Bill would be effective Nov. 1, 2001. Passed the Senate Wildlife Committee; awaiting action from the full Senate.

Senate Bill 478 by Frank Shurden. Beginning Jan. 1, 2002, permits the Wildlife Conservation Commission to increase license fees annually adjust for inflation in an amount not to exceed that year's change in the Consumer Price Index or five percent, whichever is greater. Effective date would be Nov. 1, 2001. The Senate Wildlife Committee struck title and amended to provide for increases equal to the change in the Consumer Price Index or five percent, whichever is less. Now awaiting action by the full Senate.

Senate Bill 480 by Frank Shurden. Authorizes the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to impose a $5 processing fee for special use permits for controlled hunts. Bill would be effective immediately. Passed the Senate Wildlife Committee; awaiting action from the full Senate.

Senate Bill 484 by Frank Shurden. Authorizes the Wildlife Conservation Commission to create an urban fishing license which would act as both a state fishing license and municipal access license. Also authorizes the Commission to enter into agreements with municipalities to issue urban fishing licenses. Bill would be effective immediately. Laid over in the Senate Wildlife Committee (bill dead for this session; could be activated during next year's legislative session).

Senate Bill 543 by Brad Henry. Limits liability of landowners who without charge, allow an entrant to use land for recreational purposes. Also provides for liability if the landowner intentionally causes injury or damage to an entrant, or if the landowner charges for use of the land. Provides for exceptions if the entrant signs a waiver and limits liability in any case. Specifies that an agricultural lessee shall have the same rights to control access to the real property as the landowner. Repeals sections relating to landowner liability. Bill would be effective Nov. 1, 2001. Bill dead - not acted on by the Senate Judiciary Committee by the deadline for reporting bills from committee in the house of origin.

Senate Bill 550 by Ted Fisher. Specifies that any person who is awarded a special-use permit for controlled hunts shall not be awarded another permit for such controlled hunt until every person who applied in the same year has been awarded a permit. Requires that any deer taken on a controlled hunt be counted against the statewide deer limit. Bill would be effective immediately. The Senate Wildlife Committee struck title and passed; awaiting action from the full Senate.

Senate Bill 683 by Rick Littlefield of the Senate and Joe Hutchison of the House. Prohibits the discharge of firearms within 300 yards of a wildlife sanctuary where a licensed noncommercial wildlife breeder is caring for or rehabilitating sick or injured wildlife. Bill would be effective immediately. Laid over in the Senate Wildlife Committee (bill dead for this session; could be activated during next year's legislative session).

Senate Joint Resolution 9 by Frank Shurden. Calls for a vote of the people to establish a one-and-half cent sales tax increase on certain hunting, fishing and wildlife watching equipment sales with the proceeds going to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to improve the state's wildlife resources. Bill dead - not acted on by the Senate Appropriations Committee by the deadline for reporting bills from committee in the house of origin.

Senate Joint Resolution 12 by Frank Shurden of the Senate and M.C. Leist of the House. Calls for a vote of the people to establish a constitutional amendment providing citizens the inherent right to pursue occupations and engage in hunting, fishing and other sporting events which involve livestock, fowl, fish and other animals, domestic or not, free of laws and regulations which explicitly or implicitly effectively curtail the ability of citizens to pursue such occupations or engage in such sporting events. Would give the Wildlife Conservation Commission and the State Department of Agriculture the power and authority to approve methods, practices and procedures for hunting, trapping, fishing and the taking of game and fish. Specifies that no method, practice or procedure which is lawful on the effective date of the adoption of this amendment shall ever be disapproved by the Wildlife Conservation Commission or the State Department of Agriculture. The Senate Wildlife Committee struck title and passed; now awaiting action by the full Senate.

Senate Joint Resolution 16 by Stratton Taylor. Specifies that no laws shall be enacted that limit the privilege of properly licensed citizens to hunt and fish in this state; provided, however, all hunting and fishing shall be in accordance with rules promulgated by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission. Bill dead - not acted on by the Senate Wildlife Committee by the deadline for reporting bills from committee in the house of origin.

House Bill 1039 by John Wright of the House and Frank Shurden of the Senate. Makes hunting and fishing licenses good for twelve (12) months after the date of issuance, rather than expiring Dec. 31. Bill would be effective Nov. 1, 2001. Passed from the House Wildlife Committee; now awaiting action by the full House.

House Bill 1093 by Jim Reese. Allows the use of a photograph to identify a person who trespasses to hunt and increase fines to not less than $75 nor more than $250. Would be effective immediately upon passage. Bill dead - not acted on by the House Wildlife Committee by the deadline for reporting bills from committee in the house of origin.

House Bill 1261 by Dale Smith. Permits the Wildlife Conservation Commission to increase license fees annually adjust for inflation in an amount not to exceed that year's change in the Consumer Price Index or five percent, whichever is greater. Effective date would be Nov. 1, 2001. House Administrative Rule Review Committee reports progress; (bill dead for this session; could be activated during next year's legislative session).

House Bill 1262 by Dale Smith of the House and Frank Shurden of the Senate. Adds the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to the state's Geographic Information System Council. Bill would be effective immediately. Passed the House 98-0; now awaiting committee assignment in the Senate.

House Bill 1263 by Dale Smith of the House and Frank Shurden of the Senate. Authorizes the Wildlife Conservation Commission to create an urban fishing license which would act as both a state fishing license and municipal access license. Also authorizes the Commission to enter into agreements with municipalities to issue urban fishing licenses. Bill would be effective immediately. House Wildlife Committee substitute specifies the Commission may enter agreements with cities larger than 400,000 which currently charge a municipal fishing fee. The agreement shall be for up to three years with the Commission evaluating the pilot program at that time. Committee substitute passed from the House Wildlife Committee; now awaiting action by the full House.

 

House Bill 1265 by Dale Smith. Allows the Wildlife Conservation Commission to create a Blue River Wildlife Management Area Access Permit. Requires anyone using the Blue River WMA either possess a valid hunting or fishing licenses or purchase a Blue River WMA Access Permit. Bill would be effective immediately. The House Administrative Rule Review Committee passed and amended bill to specify that the special Blue River WMA Access Permit cost $1 over the cost of an annual resident fishing license; awaiting action by full House.

House Bill 1375 by Bob Plunk of the House and Frank Shurden of the Senate. Requires a two-thirds super-majority vote by the Legislature to enact any future laws restricting the privileges of hunting and fishing within the limits of the laws and rules set by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission. Bill would be effective immediately. Passed from the House Wildlife Committee; now awaiting action by the full House.

House Bill 1382 by Terry Matlock and Jeff Rabon of the Senate. Sets quail season dates as Dec. 1 through Feb. 28 for all areas east of the Indian Nation Turnpike and south of Interstate 40. Bill would be effective Nov. 1, 2001. Passed from the House Wildlife Committee; now awaiting action by the full House.

House Bill 1402 by Randall Erwin. Requires a two-thirds super-majority vote by the Legislature to enact any future laws restricting the privileges of hunting and fishing within the limits of the laws and rules set by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission. Bill would be effective immediately. Bill dead - not acted on by the House Rules Committee by the deadline for reporting bills from committee in the house of origin.

House Bill 1428 by Purcy Walker and David Braddock of the House and Gilmer Capps of the Senate. Increases maximum fine for trespass to $1,000. Bill would be effective Nov. 1, 2001. Passed the House 81-15; now awaiting committee assignment in the Senate.

House Bill 1813 by Kevin Calvey. Provides that nonresident active duty military personnel who are stationed at an Oklahoma military base are considered residents for the purposes of buying hunting and fishing licenses. Bill would be effective immediately. Bill dead - not acted on by the House Rules Committee by the deadline for reporting bills from committee in the house of origin.

House Bill 1880 by Joe Sweeden. Limits landowner liability when allowing recreational activities to occur on his or her land. Bill would be effective Nov. 1, 2001. Bill dead - not acted on by the House Judiciary Committee by the deadline for reporting bills from committee in the house of origin.

House Joint Resolution 1008 by Dale Smith of the House and Frank Shurden of the Senate. Calls for a vote of the people to establish a one-and-half cent sales tax increase on certain hunting, fishing and wildlife watching equipment sales with the proceeds going to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to improve the state's wildlife resources. Passed from the House Revenue and Taxation Committee; now awaiting action by the full House.

Check line 58 for wildlife

Oklahomans concerned about wildlife conservation are urged to make a refund donation on line 58 of their state tax form this year. The refund check-off provides vital funding for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Wildlife Diversity Program.

"For more than 16 years now, Oklahomans have been supporting the Wildlife Diversity Program by donating a portion of their tax refund," said Julian Hilliard, natural resources information specialist with the Wildlife Department. "By sharing their refund, they help protect our state's biological diversity. This is an easy and very important way for Oklahomans to show they care about wildlife.

"Without tax-payer donations, we would have a hard time continuing many of our projects. The Wildlife Diversity Program funds and performs surveys of rare and endangered species, produces a variety of wildlife-related brochures and guides, coordinates wildlife-viewing events throughout the state, and helps establish new places and opportunities through which the public can enjoy wildlife."

Hilliard also mentioned one of the Program's most recent projects, the "Scissortail Celebration," an event to honor the 50th anniversary of our state bird. The celebration will take place at the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden on May 12, and will be a part of this year's International Migratory Bird Day.

"The Scissortail Celebration is a great example of the activities we provide," Hilliard said. "This and events like it increase the public's awareness of wildlife diversity and provide a fun family-oriented learning opportunity."

The Program is also planning viewing tours to Selman Bat Cave this summer, and a range of other opportunities at Watchable Wildlife Areas throughout the state. To help fund activities like these, make a refund donation on line 58 of your state tax form this year, or have your tax preparer do so for you. Direct donations can also be made out to:

Wildlife Diversity Program, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, 1801 N. Lincoln, OKC, OK 73105.

Another way to support the Wildlife Diversity Program and show support for wildlife is by purchasing a $25 Wildlife Conservation License Plate. Four attractive designs of the popular license plates are available at your local tag agent.

The Wildlife Department is funded by the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, federal excise taxes placed on hunting and fishing equipment and by private donations. The Department does not receive any general state tax appropriations. Contact the Wildlife Diversity Program at 405/521-4616 for more information about any of these activities or products, or visit the Department's web-site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

Hunters reminded to tag bobcats

Oklahoma has experienced more than its share of cold, harsh winter weather leading many hunters and trappers to spend more time chasing furbearers, including bobcats.

The 2000-2001 Oklahoma bobcat season will close Feb. 28, and the Wildlife Department wants to remind anyone who has harvested a bobcat that they must have it tagged by March 14, 2001.

"We are required by international law to tag bobcats harvested in Oklahoma," said Dennis Maxwell, law enforcement assistant chief for the Wildlife Department. "All bobcats must be tagged by an authorized Wildlife Department employee or at a bobcat tagging station to verify its legal harvest. The tags need to be on the pelt within 10 working days of the close of the season."

Bobcats are very common in Oklahoma, and pelts from cats harvested in the state may be sold on a worldwide market. But, bobcats are not as common in other parts of the nation. Therefore, an international law was developed to keep track of where animals were harvested. The law was known as the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) and it was created in 1975.

"The law requires states which allow the hunting or trapping of bobcats to monitor their harvest and document their origin of take. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may use the tags to detect if a species is being overharvested and where problems with trade may occur," Maxwell added. "By meeting the law's requirements, our hunters and trappers are able to enjoy one of the most liberal bobcat seasons available and have the opportunity to export and sell the pelts they harvest."

Department offers youth wildlife camp

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is offering a week long camp to youth interested in wildlife, fishing and law enforcement. The Oklahoma Wildlife Law Enforcement Youth Camp will be held June 10-15 at Camp McFadden near Ponca City. It is open to Oklahoma youths ages 14 to 16.

"This is a perfect opportunity to provide youth who think they might be interested in a wildlife related career a better exposure to the outdoors," said Tracy Daniel, Kay County Game Warden for the Department. "They will learn a great deal about the state's wildlife and fisheries resources and what it takes to manage and protect those resources. We hope those who participate in the camp will come away with a stronger desire to pursue a wildlife-related career and a greater respect for the Wildlife Department and Oklahoma's natural resources."

The camp will be conducted by professionals including game wardens and biologists and will offer participants courses in firearms handling, wildlife law enforcement, and wildlife and fisheries biology. Other courses will include water safety, orienteering and map reading, survival, outdoor cooking, archery and techniques for fishing, hunting and trapping.

The camp is free of charge but will be limited to 35 participants. Those interested in participating must submit an application and a 75-word essay explaining why they want to attend the camp, why they believe they should be selected and what they expect to learn while attending. They must also submit a letter of recommendation from the person of their choice.

The application deadline is April 15. Applicants should be interested in wildlife law enforcement and must turn 14 before June 10. Additionally, applicants must have been enrolled in school during the 2000-2001 school year.

To obtain applications, contact the Wildlife Department's Law Enforcement Division at 1801 N. Lincoln, Oklahoma City, OK 73105, or by calling 405/521-3719. Applications may also be available from local wardens or from the Wildlife Department's web-site at: www.wildlifedepartment.com. Simply print off the application, fill it out and mail it in with the essay and letter of recommendation.

WILDLIFE LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

The Legislative Process: Once a bill is introduced, it is assigned to a committee in the house of origin. From the committee, the bill can be tabled, modified or passed on to the house of origin for a vote. If the house of origin passes the bill, the bill then proceeds to the opposite house, where it is assigned to a committee. The committee can table, modify or pass the bill to the floor for a vote. If the bill passes both houses in its original form, it goes to the Governor for approval or veto. If it has been modified by one of the houses, the other house can accept the changes or ask for a conference committee. The conference committee contains members from each house. If the conference committee agrees on how a bill should read, it is sent to both houses for a vote. If passed by both houses it goes to the Governor for action.

Bill, Author, Short Description and Status

Senate Bill 86 by Robert Milacek. Establishing a purple paint law, similar to Arkansas, as a means of posting private property. Bill would be effective immediately. Assigned to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Senate Bill 127 by Sam Helton. Increases trespassing fines to a maximum of $1,000; allows any law enforcement officer to make arrests for trespassing. Bill would be effective immediately. Assigned to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Senate Bill 473 by Frank Shurden. Allows the Wildlife Conservation Commission to create a Blue River Wildlife Management Area Access Permit. Requires anyone using the Blue River WMA either possess a valid hunting or fishing licenses or purchase a Blue River WMA Access Permit. Bill would be effective immediately. Assigned to the Senate Wildlife Committee.

Senate Bill 474 by Frank Shurden. Adds the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to the state's Geographic Information System Council. Bill would be effective immediately. Assigned to the Senate Energy, Environmental Resources and Regulatory Affairs Committee.

Senate Bill 475 by Frank Shurden. Authorizes the Wildlife Conservation Commission to establish a special use permit for privately owned land leased by the Department in tracts less than 4,000 acres. Bill would be effective immediately. Assigned to the Senate Wildlife Committee.

Senate Bill 477 by Frank Shurden. Authorizes the Wildlife Conservation Commission to promulgate rules to sell hunting and fishing licenses via the Internet. Bill would be effective Nov. 1, 2001. Assigned to the Senate Wildlife Committee.

Senate Bill 478 by Frank Shurden. Beginning Jan. 1, 2002, permits the Wildlife Conservation Commission to increase license fees annually adjust for inflation in an amount not to exceed that year's change in the Consumer Price Index or five percent, whichever is greater. Effective date would be Nov. 1, 2001. Assigned to the Senate Wildlife Committee.

Senate Bill 480 by Frank Shurden. Authorizes the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to impose a $5 processing fee for special use permits for controlled hunts. Bill would be effective immediately. Assigned to the Senate Wildlife Committee.

Senate Bill 484 by Frank Shurden. Authorizes the Wildlife Conservation Commission to create an urban fishing license which would act as both a state fishing license and municipal access license. Also authorizes the Commission to enter into agreements with municipalities to issue urban fishing licenses. Bill would be effective immediately. Assigned to the Senate Wildlife Committee.

Senate Bill 683 by Rick Littlefield of the Senate and Joe Hutchison of the House. Prohibits the discharge of firearms within 300 yards of a wildlife sanctuary where a licensed noncommercial wildlife breeder is caring for or rehabilitating sick or injured wildlife. Bill would be effective immediately. Assigned to the Senate Wildlife Committee.

Senate Joint Resolution 9 by Frank Shurden. Calls for a vote of the people to establish a one-and-half cent sales tax increase on certain hunting, fishing and wildlife watching equipment sales with the proceeds going to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to improve the state's wildlife resources. Assigned to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Senate Joint Resolution 12 by Frank Shurden of the Senate and M.C. Leist of the House. Calls for a vote of the people to establish a constitutional amendment providing citizens the inherent right to pursue occupations and engage in hunting, fishing and other sporting events which involve livestock, fowl, fish and other animals, domestic or not, free of laws and regulations which explicitly or implicitly effectively curtail the ability of citizens to pursue such occupations or engage in such sporting events. Would give the Wildlife Conservation Commission and the State Department of Agriculture the power and authority to approve methods, practices and procedures for hunting, trapping, fishing and the taking of game and fish. Specifies that no method, practice or procedure which is lawful on the effective date of the adoption of this amendment shall ever be disapproved by the Wildlife Conservation Commission or the State Department of Agriculture. Assigned to the Senate Wildlife Committee.

Senate Joint Resolution 16 by Stratton Taylor. Specifies that no laws shall be enacted that limit the privilege of properly licensed citizens to hunt and fish in this state; provided, however, all hunting and fishing shall be in accordance with rules promulgated by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission. Assigned to the Senate Wildlife Committee.

House Bill 1039 by John Wright of the House and Frank Shurden of the Senate. Makes hunting and fishing licenses good for twelve (12) months after the date of issuance, rather than expiring Dec. 31. Bill would be effective Nov. 1, 2001. Passed from the House Wildlife Committee; now awaiting action by the full House.

House Bill 1093 by Jim Reese. Allows the use of a photograph to identify a person who trespasses to hunt and increase fines to not less than $75 nor more than $250. Would be effective immediately upon passage. Assigned to the House Wildlife Committee.

House Bill 1261 by Dale Smith. Permits the Wildlife Conservation Commission to increase license fees annually adjust for inflation in an amount not to exceed that year's change in the Consumer Price Index or five percent, whichever is greater. Effective date would be Nov. 1, 2001. Assigned to the House Administrative Rule Review Committee.

House Bill 1262 by Dale Smith of the House and Frank Shurden of the Senate. Adds the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to the state's Geographic Information System Council. Bill would be effective immediately. Passed the House 98-0; now awaiting committee assignment in the Senate.

House Bill 1263 by Dale Smith of the House and Frank Shurden of the Senate. Authorizes the Wildlife Conservation Commission to create an urban fishing license which would act as both a state fishing license and municipal access license. Also authorizes the Commission to enter into agreements with municipalities to issue urban fishing licenses. Bill would be effective immediately. House Wildlife Committee substitute adds a section exempting from fishing license requirements any person fishing in waters designated by the Commission as "Close to Home" and in possession of a valid urban fishing license. Committee substitute passed from the House Wildlife Committee; now awaiting action by the full House.

House Bill 1265 by Dale Smith. Allows the Wildlife Conservation Commission to create a Blue River Wildlife Management Area Access Permit. Requires anyone using the Blue River WMA either possess a valid hunting or fishing licenses or purchase a Blue River WMA Access Permit. Bill would be effective immediately. Assigned to the House Administrative Rule Review Committee.

House Bill 1375 by Bob Plunk of the House and Frank Shurden of the Senate. Requires a two-thirds super-majority vote by the Legislature to enact any future laws restricting the privileges of hunting and fishing within the limits of the laws and rules set by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission. Bill would be effective immediately. Passed from the House Wildlife Committee; now awaiting action by the full House.

House Bill 1382 by Terry Matlock and Jeff Rabon of the Senate. Sets quail season dates as Dec. 1 through Feb. 28 for all areas east of the Indian Nation Turnpike and south of Interstate 40. Bill would be effective Nov. 1, 2001. Passed from the House Wildlife Committee; now awaiting action by the full House.

House Bill 1402 by Randall Erwin. Requires a two-thirds super-majority vote by the Legislature to enact any future laws restricting the privileges of hunting and fishing within the limits of the laws and rules set by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission. Bill would be effective immediately. Assigned to the House Rules Committee.

House Bill 1428 by Purcy Walker and David Braddock of the House and Gilmer Capps of the Senate. Increases maximum fine for trespass to $1,000. Bill would be effective Nov. 1, 2001. Passed the House 81-15; now awaiting committee assignment in the Senate.

House Bill 1813 by Kevin Calvey. Provides that nonresident active duty military personnel who are stationed at an Oklahoma military base are considered residents for the purposes of buying hunting and fishing licenses. Bill would be effective immediately. Assigned to the House Rules Committee.

House Bill 1880 by Joe Sweeden. Limits landowner liability when allowing recreational activities to occur on his or her land. Bill would be effective Nov. 1, 2001. Assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.

House Joint Resolution 1008 by Dale Smith of the House and Frank Shurden of the Senate. Calls for a vote of the people to establish a one-and-half cent sales tax increase on certain hunting, fishing and wildlife watching equipment sales with the proceeds going to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to improve the state’s wildlife resources. Passed from the House Revenue and Taxation Committee; now awaiting action by the full house.

Deer Regulation  Changes Adopted
    At its regular February meeting, held Feb. 5 in Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission voted to implement a slate of deer hunting regulation changes. On a 4-3 vote, the Commission also voted to keep the annual combined buck bag limit at three.


    The deer proposals, several of which were discussed at length between members of the Commission and the audience, were mainly derived from a year-long planning process involving stakeholders representing numerous special interest groups. Most recently, the proposals had received public input at a series of eight hearings throughout the state, and through a special comment sheet that could be downloaded from the Department website - wildlifedepartment.com. Of the 17 individual proposals, Commission members voted to adopt 13 and reject four. All of the regulation changes were approved for this year's deer season.

Specifically, the Commission voted to:
• Increase the total annual combined bag limit from five deer to six.
• Keep the total annual combined buck limit at three.
• Establish a Jan. 1-15 antlerless-only archery season statewide.
• Reduce the annual archery bag limit for bucks from three to two (archers will now be allowed four deer per year, no more than two of which can be bucks).
• Allow hunters to use an unfilled buck permit to harvest an antlerless deer on the last day of the muzzleloader and gun seasons.
• Increase from one to two the antlerless bag limit during muzzleloader and gun seasons in designated zones.
• Create an additional antlerless deer gun season in designated management zones anytime between Dec. 15 and Jan. 6, and other times as approved by the Wildlife Commission.
• Prohibit the harvest of antlerless mule deer during the modern gun season.
• Create two levels for properties enrolled in the Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP): Level 1 is from 1,000-4,999 acres; and Level 2 is 5,000 acres and more. The cost for Level 1 will be $200, while the Level 2 cost will be $400. Requirements for both levels are the same, and include requiring cooperators to conduct spotlight counts and collect a variety of biological data when checking deer in.
• Allow the Department to issue deer depredation permits based on a history of previous crop damage.
• Make antlerless deer taken under Damage Control Assistance Program permits bonus.

    Commissioners voted to reject several proposals, including measures intended to provide expanded hunting opportunities for properties enrolled in the Deer Management Assistance Program and additional antlerless hunting opportunities for private landowners and lessees whereby bonus doe permits would be issued based on acreage owned or leased.


    Wildlife Division Chief Alan Peoples said he expects to present specific Department recommendations regarding additional antlerless gun hunts and changes in the antlerless bag limits, by zone, for muzzleloader and gun seasons to the Commission at its regular April meeting. Biologists need time to analyze this past year's harvest statistics before determining which management zones warrant recommendations for increased bag limits or additional management hunts, he said.

    In other business, the Wildlife Commission voted to approve two special auction items, one an elk hunt at Cookson Hills WMA and the other a special fishing package. The elk hunt, which generated $10,100 last year, is a guided three-day hunt anytime in September, October or November. Past auction hunt high bidders have harvested a 7X8 bull and a 6X7 bull elk. The fishing package includes overnight accommodations for two and guided trips for trophy striped bass on the lower Illinois River, Ouachita smallmouth fishing on the upper Mountain Fork River, trophy largemouth bass fishing at McGee Creek Lake and topwater striped bass fishing at Lake Texoma. Both packages will be sold by sealed bid to the highest bidder. All bids must be received by Friday, March 23.


    Also at the February meeting, Commissioners voted to grant a conservation easement to J. Duke and Dorothy Logan of Vinita for a portion of their property in Craig County. Under the easement, the Logans agree to deeded property restrictions that prohibit development of the land, while maintaining control of access and other uses of the property. 


In another land-related item, Commission members voted to enter into a settlement agreement with the estate of Ellis Cowan and the Great Plains Council Boy Scouts of America that will transfer ownership of 40 acres in Garfield County to the Department.


    With little discussion, the Wildlife Commission also gave its approval to advertise for sealed bids to lease the Department's quarter mineral interest on a 160-acre tract of Department-owned land in Ellis County. 


    Wildlife Department Executive Director Greg Duffy recognized four Department employees for their tenure with the agency at the February meeting. Gary Smeltzer, game warden supervisor from Creek County, was recognized for his 35 years of service to the Department. Smeltzer earned the Director's Award in 1971 for his efforts to enroll private land for public hunting. Also recognized for his dedication to state sportsmen was Garland Wright, central region fisheries supervisor, who has been with the agency for 30 years. Wright also received the Director's Award, which he earned in 1973 for risking his own life while trying to rescue fellow fisheries personnel from drowning below Keystone Dam. Randall Reigh, district five law enforcement chief; and Bob Mullinax, Love County game warden, were each recognized for their 25 years of service to the Department. 


    Also recognized at the meeting as the 2000 National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) Law Enforcement Officer of the Year was Kay County Game Warden Tracy Daniel. Gary Purdy, regional director for the NWTF, awarded Daniel with a plaque of appreciation, adding that he is one of the most well-rounded wardens in the state. Daniel will compete for the title of National Officer of the Year later this month at the NWTF's annual convention in Columbus, OH.


    As an information item, Bill Dinkines, assistant chief of wildlife, told Commission members that the Department plans on holding public hearings in March to discuss increasing turkey hunting opportunities for the spring of 2002 in the southeast management zone, and adjusting the pheasant season in northwest and northcentral Oklahoma to be more like the season in the panhandle. The pheasant changes could be adopted in time for the fall 2001 season.

    In his monthly report, Executive Director Duffy reported that a number of wildlife management areas (WMAs) in eastern Oklahoma were damaged by the recent ice storm. Fences, signs and roads were especially affected, but the Department was fortunate in that little structural damage was reported on its WMAs. Duffy also said there are numerous bills beginning the legislative process in the House and Senate, including several provisions that would provide additional funding for the agency and protect hunters' and anglers' privileges. Further details will be forthcoming as the session unfolds, Duffy said.
    The Commission's regular March meeting will be held Monday, March 5, at 9 a.m. at the Wildlife Department's headquarters in Oklahoma City. 

Poacher pays stiff penalties

    A Payne County man recently convicted of five counts of illegal possession of wildlife received $3,800 in fines and court costs, will lose his lifetime hunting and fishing license for three years, and received a 150-day suspended jail sentence.

    Harley Gene Brandon of Yale, OK, pled guilty on five counts of illegal possession of white-tailed deer in Payne County Court. Game wardens Jon Cunningham and Captain Randall Reigh investigated the case, which began with a tip from a concerned citizen.

    "We're making more of these cases because more citizens are coming forward when they know someone is breaking the law in the manner Mr. Brandon did," said Reigh. "Most hunters are law-abiding citizens who follow the rules and conduct themselves with the utmost reverence and respect for wildlife. Unfortunately, there will probably always be a select few who simply do not feel the laws we have in place to conserve our resources and provide opportunities for the future apply to them."

    Reigh said that for anyone thinking of disregarding the fish and game laws, there can be a high penalty to pay. In this case, he said, the punishment fit the crime.

    "All five of the bucks were killed before last fall's deer seasons even began," he said. "Based on the sentence, I think it is safe to say the judge was also troubled by Brandon's lack of regard for the law."

    Anyone with information regarding a potential fish and wildlife violation is encouraged to contact their local game warden or call the Operation Game Thief Hotline at 1-800-522-8039. Hotline hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and callers do not have to give their name. A listing of game warden phone numbers is in the 2001-2002 Oklahoma Hunting Guide and Regulations, available at sporting goods stores statewide.

 

Auction items cover hunting and fishing

    This year's auction items offered by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) are again headlined by a bull elk hunt, but offered for the first time will also be a fishing package for two.

    Approved by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission, the ODWC's governing body, at its regular February meeting, the two packages are being offered to the highest bidder through a sealed bid system. All bids must be received at ODWC headquarters in Oklahoma City by Friday, March 23.

    As in the past two years, the Department is offering one elk hunt at Cookson Hills Wildlife Management Area, a rugged 13,650-acre area in northeast Oklahoma's Ozark country. The hunt, which generated $10,100 last year, is a guided three-day hunt anytime in September, October or November. The hunter can choose to use a bow and arrow, muzzleloader or modern rifle. Past auction hunt high bidders have harvested a 7X8 bull in 1999 and a 6X7 bull last year.

    "In the final 21st Century Deer Stakeholder Committee Report, presented to the Wildlife Conservation Commission several months ago, committee members recommended using some of the proceeds to issue a challenge grant to raise funds for the Sportsmen Against Hunger Program," said Greg Duffy, executive director of the wildlife Department. "Depending on the auction results, we may look at bringing the suggestion before the Commission for their consideration."

    Last year, the Sportsmen Against Hunger Program provided some 250,000 meals for needy residents. In the past, funding for the Program has not been able to meet the demand.

    The other auction hunt package being offered is a special fishing package that includes overnight accommodations for two and guided trips for trophy striped bass on the lower Illinois River, Ouachita smallmouth fishing on the upper Mountain Fork River, trophy largemouth bass fishing at McGee Creek Lake and topwater striped bass fishing at Lake Texoma. Specific accommodations include:

• A June 13, 2001, trophy striper trip on the lower Illinois River with guide Delmer Shoults. Lodging provided for the night of June 12 at the MarVal Trout Camp, located on the banks of the lower Illinois trout stream.

• The one-day Ouachita smallmouth trip on the upper Mountain Fork River can be taken anytime, but prime floating dates are April to June. Guide Ethan Wright and ODWC Stream Biologist Paul Balkenbush will provide on-the-water guiding, while lodging will be provided by the Whipporwill Cabins at Broken Bow. Breakfast also will be provided.

• Trophy Bass Guide Chuck Justice will provide a day of largemouth fishing at McGee Creek, one of Oklahoma's most noted trophy bass lakes. Lodging provided by Firefly Hollow. Trip can be booked anytime, but the best time will be between April and June.

• A day of chasing surfacing striped bass at Lake Texoma with Chub Anderson, the ODWC's lake maintenance supervisor, and Paul Mauck, southcentral region fisheries supervisor. Peak surface fishing times are between April 15 and May 15. Lodging provided by Bob's Lake Country Motel.

    Winning bidders will be notified Monday, March 26, and payment must be received within 10 days of notification. Bidding is open to individuals and organizations, and permits may be transferred one time by the successful bidder. Dates are subject to availability and scheduling between sportsmen and guides.

    For more information, log on to the Department's website - www.wildlifedepartment.com. Bids can be submitted by sending a sealed envelope to: Auction Hunts, ODWC, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152. Be sure to specify bid price and package.

Funding bills highlight session

    The 2001 legislative session is underway, and a wide array of bills have been introduced that could affect hunters, anglers and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the agency responsible for managing the state's fish and wildlife resources.

    Of the 13 Senate and 13 House bills introduced, none may be more important than House Joint Resolution 1008 and Senate Joint Resolution 9. Both measures call for a vote of the people to establish a one-and-half cent sales tax increase on certain hunting, fishing and wildlife watching equipment sales with the proceeds going to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to improve the state's wildlife resources.

    HJR 1008 by Dale Smith of the House and Frank Shurden of the Senate passed from the House Revenue and Taxation Committee Feb. 7 and now awaits action by the full House. SJR 9 by Shurden is assigned to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

    The concept of increasing the tax hunters and anglers pay on sporting goods purchases and directing the funds to the Wildlife Department was one of several suggestions by a special funding taskforce that included House and Senate members, state agency representatives and citizens appointed by the Governor. Other bills introduced as a result of the funding taskforce include:

    Senate Bill 478 by Frank Shurden and House Bill 1261 by Dale Smith. The two bills would permit the Wildlife Conservation Commission to increase license fees annually to adjust for inflation in an amount not to exceed that year's change in the Consumer Price Index or five percent, whichever is greater. Effective date would be Nov. 1, 2001. SB 478 has been assigned to the Senate Wildlife Committee and HB 1261 has been assigned to the House Administrative Rule Review Committee.

    Senate Bill 480 by Frank Shurden authorizes the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to impose a $5 processing fee for special use permits for controlled hunts. Bill would be effective immediately. It has been assigned to the Senate Wildlife Committee.

    Several other measures could have long-lasting impacts on the hunting and fishing scene in Oklahoma.

    Senate Joint Resolution 12 by Frank Shurden of the Senate and M.C. Leist of the House calls for a vote of the people to establish a constitutional amendment providing citizens the inherent right to pursue occupations and engage in hunting, fishing and other sporting events which involve livestock, fowl, fish and other animals. It would give the Wildlife Conservation Commission and the State Department of Agriculture the power and authority to approve methods, practices and procedures for hunting, trapping, fishing and the taking of game and fish. Further specifies that no method, practice or procedure which is lawful on the effective date of the adoption of this amendment shall ever be disapproved by the Wildlife Conservation Commission or the State Department of Agriculture. The measure has been assigned to the Senate Wildlife Committee.

    Senate Joint Resolution 16 by Stratton Taylor specifies that no laws shall be enacted that limit the privilege of properly licensed citizens to hunt and fish in this state; provided, however, all hunting and fishing shall be in accordance with rules promulgated by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission. It has also been assigned to the Senate Wildlife Committee.

    House Bill 1375 by Bob Plunk and House Bill 1402 by Randall Erwin would both require a two-thirds super-majority vote by the Legislature to enact any future laws restricting the privileges of hunting and fishing within the limits of the laws and rules set by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission. Bill would be effective immediately. HB 1375 has been assigned to the House Wildlife Committee and HB 1402 has been assigned to the House Rules Committee.

Other introduced bills would:

• Increase fines for trespassing;

• Change posting laws;

• Require anyone using the Blue River WMA either possess a valid hunting or fishing licenses or purchase a Blue River WMA Access Permit.

• Authorize the Wildlife Conservation Commission to establish a special use permit for privately owned land leased by the Department in tracts less than 4,000 acres.

• Authorize the Wildlife Conservation Commission to promulgate rules to sell hunting and fishing licenses via the Internet.

• Authorize the Wildlife Conservation Commission to create an urban fishing license which would act as both a state fishing license and municipal access license. Also would authorize the Commission to enter into agreements with municipalities to issue urban fishing licenses.

• Make hunting and fishing licenses good for twelve (12) months after the date of issuance.

• Set quail season dates as Dec. 1 through Feb. 28 for all areas east of the Indian Nation Turnpike and south of Interstate 40.

• Establish nonresident active duty military personnel who are stationed at an Oklahoma military base as residents for the purposes of buying hunting and fishing licenses.

• Limits landowner liability when allowing recreational activities to occur on his or her land.

    Once a bill is introduced, it is assigned to a committee in the house of origin. From the committee, the bill can be tabled, modified or passed on to the house of origin for a vote. If the house of origin passes the bill, the bill then proceeds to the opposite house, where it is assigned to a committee.

    The committee can table, modify or pass the bill to the floor for a vote. If the bill passes both houses in its original form, it goes to the Governor for approval or veto. If it has been modified by one of the houses, the other house can accept the changes or ask for a conference committee. The conference committee contains members from each house. If the conference committee agrees on how a bill should read, it is sent to both houses for a vote. If passed by both houses it goes to the Governor for action.

WILDLIFE LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

The Legislative Process: Once a bill is introduced, it is assigned to a committee in the house of origin. From the committee, the bill can be tabled, modified or passed on to the house of origin for a vote. If the house of origin passes the bill, the bill then proceeds to the opposite house, where it is assigned to a committee. The committee can table, modify or pass the bill to the floor for a vote. If the bill passes both houses in its original form, it goes to the Governor for approval or veto. If it has been modified by one of the houses, the other house can accept the changes or ask for a conference committee. The conference committee contains members from each house. If the conference committee agrees on how a bill should read, it is sent to both houses for a vote. If passed by both houses it goes to the Governor for action.

Bill, Author, Short Description and Status

Senate Bill 86 by Robert Milacek. Establishing a purple paint law, similar to Arkansas, as a means of posting private property. Bill would be effective immediately. Assigned to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Senate Bill 127 by Sam Helton. Increases trespassing fines to a maximum of $1,000; allows any law enforcement officer to make arrests for trespassing. Bill would be effective immediately. Assigned to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Senate Bill 473 by Frank Shurden. Allows the Wildlife Conservation Commission to create a Blue River Wildlife Management Area Access Permit. Requires anyone using the Blue River WMA either possess a valid hunting or fishing licenses or purchase a Blue River WMA Access Permit. Bill would be effective immediately. Assigned to the Senate Wildlife Committee.

Senate Bill 474 by Frank Shurden. Adds the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to the state's Geographic Information System Council. Bill would be effective immediately. Assigned to the Senate Energy, Environmental Resources and Regulatory Affairs Committee.

Senate Bill 475 by Frank Shurden. Authorizes the Wildlife Conservation Commission to establish a special use permit for privately owned land leased by the Department in tracts less than 4,000 acres. Bill would be effective immediately. Assigned to the Senate Wildlife Committee.

Senate Bill 477 by Frank Shurden. Authorizes the Wildlife Conservation Commission to promulgate rules to sell hunting and fishing licenses via the Internet. Bill would be effective Nov. 1, 2001. Assigned to the Senate Wildlife Committee.

Senate Bill 478 by Frank Shurden. Beginning Jan. 1, 2002, permits the Wildlife Conservation Commission to increase license fees annually adjust for inflation in an amount not to exceed that year's change in the Consumer Price Index or five percent, whichever is greater. Effective date would be Nov. 1, 2001. Assigned to the Senate Wildlife Committee.

Senate Bill 480 by Frank Shurden. Authorizes the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to impose a $5 processing fee for special use permits for controlled hunts. Bill would be effective immediately. Assigned to the Senate Wildlife Committee.

Senate Bill 484 by Frank Shurden. Authorizes the Wildlife Conservation Commission to create an urban fishing license which would act as both a state fishing license and municipal access license. Also authorizes the Commission to enter into agreements with municipalities to issue urban fishing licenses. Bill would be effective immediately. Assigned to the Senate Wildlife Committee.

Senate Bill 683 by Rick Littlefield of the Senate and Joe Hutchison of the House. Prohibits the discharge of firearms within 300 yards of a wildlife sanctuary where a licensed noncommercial wildlife breeder is caring for or rehabilitating sick or injured wildlife. Bill would be effective immediately. Assigned to the Senate Wildlife Committee.

Senate Joint Resolution 9 by Frank Shurden. Calls for a vote of the people to establish a one-and-half cent sales tax increase on certain hunting, fishing and wildlife watching equipment sales with the proceeds going to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to improve the state's wildlife resources. Assigned to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Senate Joint Resolution 12 by Frank Shurden of the Senate and M.C. Leist of the House. Calls for a vote of the people to establish a constitutional amendment providing citizens the inherent right to pursue occupations and engage in hunting, fishing and other sporting events which involve livestock, fowl, fish and other animals, domestic or not, free of laws and regulations which explicitly or implicitly effectively curtail the ability of citizens to pursue such occupations or engage in such sporting events. Would give the Wildlife Conservation Commission and the State Department of Agriculture the power and authority to approve methods, practices and procedures for hunting, trapping, fishing and the taking of game and fish. Specifies that no method, practice or procedure which is lawful on the effective date of the adoption of this amendment shall ever be disapproved by the Wildlife Conservation Commission or the State Department of Agriculture. Assigned to the Senate Wildlife Committee.

Senate Joint Resolution 16 by Stratton Taylor. Specifies that no laws shall be enacted that limit the privilege of properly licensed citizens to hunt and fish in this state; provided, however, all hunting and fishing shall be in accordance with rules promulgated by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission. Assigned to the Senate Wildlife Committee.

House Bill 1039 by John Wright. Makes hunting and fishing licenses good for twelve (12) months after the date of issuance, rather than expiring Dec. 31. Bill would be effective Nov. 1, 2001. Tentatively assigned to the House Wildlife Committee.

House Bill 1093 by Jim Reese. Allows the use of a photograph to identify a person who trespasses to hunt and increase fines to not less than $75 nor more than $250. Would be effective immediately upon passage. Assigned to the House Wildlife Committee.

House Bill 1261 by Dale Smith. Permits the Wildlife Conservation Commission to increase license fees annually adjust for inflation in an amount not to exceed that year's change in the Consumer Price Index or five percent, whichever is greater. Effective date would be Nov. 1, 2001. Assigned to the House Administrative Rule Review Committee.

House Bill 1262 by Dale Smith of the House and Frank Shurden of the Senate. Adds the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to the state's Geographic Information System Council. Bill would be effective immediately. Passed from the House Science and Technology Committee; now awaiting action by the full House.

House Bill 1263 by Dale Smith. Authorizes the Wildlife Conservation Commission to create an urban fishing license which would act as both a state fishing license and municipal access license. Also authorizes the Commission to enter into agreements with municipalities to issue urban fishing licenses. Bill would be effective immediately. Assigned to the House Wildlife Committee.

House Bill 1265 by Dale Smith. Allows the Wildlife Conservation Commission to create a Blue River Wildlife Management Area Access Permit. Requires anyone using the Blue River WMA either possess a valid hunting or fishing licenses or purchase a Blue River WMA Access Permit. Bill would be effective immediately. Assigned to the House Administrative Rule Review Committee.

House Bill 1375 by Bob Plunk. Requires a two-thirds super-majority vote by the Legislature to enact any future laws restricting the privileges of hunting and fishing within the limits of the laws and rules set by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission. Bill would be effective immediately. Assigned to the House Wildlife Committee.

House Bill 1382 by Terry Matlock. Sets quail season dates as Dec. 1 through Feb. 28 for all areas east of the Indian Nation Turnpike and south of Interstate 40. Bill would be effective Nov. 1, 2001. Assigned to the House Wildlife Committee.

House Bill 1402 by Randall Erwin. Requires a two-thirds super-majority vote by the Legislature to enact any future laws restricting the privileges of hunting and fishing within the limits of the laws and rules set by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission. Bill would be effective immediately. Assigned to the House Rules Committee.

House Bill 1428 by Purcy Walker and David Braddock of the House and Gilmer Capps of the Senate. Increases maximum fine for trespass to $1,000. Bill would be effective Nov. 1, 2001. Passed from the House Criminal Justice Committee; now awaiting action by the full House.

House Bill 1813 by Kevin Calvey. Provides that nonresident active duty military personnel who are stationed at an Oklahoma military base are considered residents for the purposes of buying hunting and fishing licenses. Bill would be effective immediately. Assigned to the House Rules Committee.

House Bill 1880 by Joe Sweeden. Limits landowner liability when allowing recreational activities to occur on his or her land. Bill would be effective Nov. 1, 2001. Assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.

House Joint Resolution 1008 by Dale Smith of the House and Frank Shurden of the Senate. Calls for a vote of the people to establish a one-and-half cent sales tax increase on certain hunting, fishing and wildlife watching equipment sales with the proceeds going to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to improve the state's wildlife resources. Passed from the House Revenue and Taxation Committee; now awaiting action by the full House.

Special Conservation Order Set

           The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has set a Conservation Order Light Goose Season (COLGS) to allow hunters the opportunity to increase the harvest of light geese. The Conservation Order is authorized by Congress and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help reduce a mid-continent light goose population that is damaging their breeding habitat in the Arctic.

The Conservation Order will begin Feb. 12 and will run through April 1, 2001. It removes all daily limits and possession limits on snow, blue and Ross’ geese. In addition, hunters will be allowed to use unplugged shotguns and electronic calls. Legal shooting hours will begin 30 minutes before legal sunrise, and end 30 minutes after legal sunset. All other waterfowl regulations, including the mandatory use of federally approved non-toxic shot will remain in effect during the Conservation Order.

            “This is a very serious problem for migratory bird management,” said Mike O’Meilia, migratory bird biologist for the Department. “We know that if light goose populations are not reduced, they will continue to damage their breeding habitat. The fear is that they can destroy the Arctic ecosystem and many of the wildlife species that depend on that habitat.”

            One breeding area for the mid-continent light goose population is in the coastal lowlands of Hudson Bay. The area is comprised of a very fragile tundra habitat and biologists believe light geese have already degraded the area to the extent that it may not recover in our lifetimes.

            “The COLGS is a management action designed to help reduce this goose population to a level that is in balance with their environment,” added O’Meilia. “This is a unique situation and hunters are being given the opportunity to play a critical role in its outcome.”

            Large concentrations of light geese migrate across Oklahoma during the fall and spring. Most of these geese travel across the eastern third of the state. Hunters can participate in the Conservation Order, as concentrations of these geese may stop over in the state to feed and rest until the weather allows them to travel further north.

            For more information and regulations on the COLGS, go to the Department’s website at www.wildlifedepartment.com or pick up a copy of the 2000-2001 Oklahoma Waterfowl Hunting Guide and Regulations available at license dealers across the state.

 Light Goose Hunters: Please Sign Up!

 Federal law requires the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to estimate the harvest of light geese during the Conservation Order Light Goose Season. Hunters who plan to pursue snow, blue and Ross’ geese during the Conservation Order are asked to provide the Department with their name, address and telephone number so a harvest survey can be administered when it ends.

 Hunters can sign up by going to the Department’s website: www.wildlifedepartment.com and clicking on the Conservation Order Light Goose Season Survey link, or they may mail a letter or postcard to: 
           
Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation; Attn: COLGS; P.O. Box 53465;         Oklahoma City, OK 73152

picture of a snow goose

 

Beginning Fly fishing Workshop Offered

            If  you’re one of the growing legions of outdoor enthusiasts interested in learning the finer points of fly fishing, you should mark your calendar for Feb. 21 and 28 because the Moore/Norman Technology Center is offering an introductory fly fishing class.

            Lead instructor Mark Patton, a renowned fly fishing teacher who also currently serves as vice-chairman of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission, will cover all aspects of getting started fly fishing. Tackle, equipment, knots, fly selection and casting are scheduled topics during the two evenings of instruction. The workshop runs from 6-9 p.m. on both Feb. 21 and 28, and the $55 class fee covers all materials.

            “Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from one of Oklahoma’s finest fly fishing instructors,” said Barry Bolton, assistant fisheries chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “Active, enthusiastic instruction, coupled with an abundance of hands-on training time make this class a must for those interested in learning about fly fishing.”

            Bolton said participants can test their newly acquired skills on one of six wintertime and two year-round trout fisheries. Both rainbow and brown trout swim the waters of the two year-round trout streams - the lower Mountain Fork and lower Illinois River - while rainbows are the target at the six wintertime areas. For a complete rundown of where, when and how to enjoy Oklahoma’s trout fishing, consult the 2001 Oklahoma Fishing Guide, available at sporting goods stores statewide.

            To register for the basic fly fishing workshop online, go to mntechnology.com or call 405/364-5763. For more information or questions, email jfriedmann@mntechnology.com

Swift Fox Taken Off Candidate List

            Based on new biological data from several states, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently removed the swift fox from its “candidate list,” a list of animals being considered for threatened or endangered species protection under the Endangered Species Act.

            The swift fox is the smallest member of the dog family, weighing only four to six pounds on the average. Wildlife biologists have found healthy populations of swift foxes throughout much of the animal’s historical range, which includes northwestern Oklahoma. The findings led to the species being removed from the candidate list.

            “This decision is a victory for wildlife conservation in Oklahoma and elsewhere, because work was done early enough to prevent the need for a threatened species listing,” said Julianne Hoagland, natural resources biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “Moving forward, our efforts will concentrate on managing existing populations and determining barriers that may prevent natural dispersal of swift fox into unsuitable habitat.”

            Hoagland is the chairperson of a multi-state Swift Fox Conservation Team that was formed after the 1995 placement of the swift fox on the candidates for threatened species list. The Conservation Team is composed of representatives from federal and state wildlife agencies, as well as land management groups. Team members have been working to determine the distribution and abundance of the swift fox throughout its range.

            “The swift fox was found to be more abundant than originally believed, and to use a greater variety of habitats,” Hoagland said. “Now we plan to help landowners develop better range management methods for the benefit of the swift fox and other Great Plains species.”

            The swift fox originally inhabited a huge area of prairie that stretched from southern Canada to west Texas, but currently occupies about 40 percent of the original area. The loss of native prairie has been the major factor in the decline of the swift fox, and accidental trapping, shooting, and poisoning aimed at wolves and coyotes has also contributed to the decline of the species.

            In the short and mixed-grass prairie habitats that it inhabits, the swift fox eats rabbits, prairie dogs, ground squirrels, mice and insects. The swift fox is the most ‘subterranean’ species of fox, using a den year-round for protection and raising its young. For more information about swift foxes or their conservation status visit http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/mammals/swiftfox, or call the Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Diversity Program at (405) 521-4616.

Department Sets Quail Field Day

            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and Quail Unlimited has scheduled a day in the field to demonstrate and discuss habitat requirements and management techniques for bobwhite quail. Landowners, leaseholders and sportsmen interested in quail are welcome to attend the field day set for Feb. 10, at the Lutin Farm near Asher.

            “We plan to hold several field days across the state in the coming year,” said Mike Sams, upland game biologist for the Department. “We will be holding these events on a regional basis so landowners and sportsmen interested in quail can observe and discuss habitat management techniques. Landowners will also receive information on cost-share programs they might use to implement these techniques.”

            The Asher field day will run from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Participants should meet at the Lutin Farm four miles east and one and a half miles north of Asher. Several speakers including Dr. Fred Guthery, head of the Bollenbach Chair at Oklahoma State University, will be on-hand to discuss and answer questions about quail habitat management.

            A free lunch and seed will be provided for participants by Quail Unlimited. Those interested in attending should call Mike Sams at 405/590-2584 to reserve a lunch and for further information.

Great Fishing Action Rapidly Approaching

            Businesses wish they had the same guarantee Oklahoma anglers have when it comes to success during the first quarter of every year - the first three months always offer some of the state's best fishing action.

            Evidence of this annual springtime phenomenon was verified by fisheries crews with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation during the last week of January, when fisheries personnel caught, and released unharmed, what would have been a new state record walleye. The crew was surveying the lower Illinois River and although they didn’t have a scale to weigh the fish,  it was longer and had a larger girth than the current 12-pound, 10-ounce record.

            “February and early March are top months for catching walleye,” said Hutchie Weeks, northeast region fisheries supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “It won’t be long until anglers will be seeking out their favorite spot for the annual white bass (sand bass) run, either. The spawning run begins in early March and continues through April in Oklahoma. During these annual runs, the fishing is fantastic.

            “Most creeks, streams and rivers that flow directly into a major reservoir offer good fishing for sand bass during these early spring runs. Visit any local coffee shop or fishing tackle store during these months, and you will hear numerous tales about the incredible fishing.”

            The first few months don’t usually just produce limits of fish, they also produce a good number of state records, said Weeks. “In fact, almost half - 18 of 40 - of Oklahoma’s rod and line record fish were caught during the first quarter. Anglers who brave the sometimes cool weather in February, March and April have the best shot at catching a state record and filling their baskets with limits of fish.

   Although there weren’t any rod and line records broken last year, the springtime fishing was still good and anglers can expect another good spring this year.

First Quarter Fish Records  

Fish Species     Weight    Where When
Largemouth Bass               14 lb, 11 0z. Broken Bow 3-14-99
Smallmouth Bass 7 lb., 8 oz. Lake Texoma 2-24-96
Hybrid Striped Bass 23 lb., 4 oz. Altus-Lugert 4-1-97
Hybrid Yellow Bass 2 lb., 5 oz. Kiamichi River 4-1-97
Common Carp 35 lb. Spavinaw Lake 4-19-97
Grass Carp 64 lb. Arbuckle Lake 2-25-98
River Carpsucker 7 lb., 11 oz. Canadian Co. Pond 4-18-90
Alligator Gar 153 lb. Red River 1-25-91
Longnose Gar 41 lb. Red River 1-3-88
Goldeye 2 lb., 8 oz.  Arkansas River  4-27-96
Grass Pickerel 7 lb.  Beaver Creek 3-17-95
Skipjack Herring 3 lb., 6oz  Eufaula Tailwaters 4-3-92
Chain Pickerel 2 lb., 10 oz. Mt Fork River 4-22-82
River Redhorse 8 lb., 5 oz. Illinois River 2-11-77
Sauger  5lb, 5 oz Kerr Reservoir 1-18-81
Saugeye 9 lb., 14 oz. Lake Thunderbird 3-7-92
Brown trout 9 lb., 10.5 oz. Mountain Fork River 1-26-01
Walleye 12lb., 10 oz. Altus-Lugert Lake 3-26-95

 Walleye
Scientific Name: Stizostedion vitreum
Distribution: Statewide in many larger, clear lakes
Family: Perch
Record: 12 lbs, 10 oz., 29 1/2"

Location: Caught in 1999 @ Altus-Lugert Lake
Best Lures: Jigs, deep-running artificials, crankbaits
Bait: Live minnow, worms

Brown Trout Record Shattered

            Ever wonder what it would be like to win the lottery or find a pot of gold? One lucky Texas angler found out just that Jan. 26 when he caught a 9-pound, 10.5 ounce brown trout at the lower Mountain Fork River below Broken Bow Lake, establishing a new Oklahoma record.

            For fishermen, catching a state record is like winning the lottery, or in this case, it’s the proverbial pot of gold at the end of their line, instead of at the end of a rainbow. Considering how many hundreds of thousands of people fish each year, there is usually only a handful of new records established. That makes the odds real long-shots, unless you’re in the right place at the right time.

            “It’s unreal, just an unbelievable feeling,” said Jim Horton, of Sulphur Springs, Texas. “We had been fishing for a couple of hours. They weren’t biting real well but we had caught some smaller rainbows.”

            Horton regularly fishes the lower Mountain Fork River with his son, Heath, and they were fishing the Zone II area that Friday evening. The lower Mountain Fork trout area contains three regulation zones. Zone II, which runs from the old park dam to the reregulation dam, features special fishing regulations designed to create a trophy fishery. In this stretch of the river, anglers must use barbless artificial lures only and the daily limit is one brown and one rainbow trout, both 20 inches or longer.

            They had just started generating so there was a little current, added Horton. He used a Pinnacle rod, 1300C Diawa Reel and 6-pound Berkley fireline to cast the Renegade golden spoon to the current. 

            “The fish hit and about jerked the rod out of my hand,” said Horton. “It came straight at me for 20 or 30 feet. I was reeling like crazy because I had a barbless hook on, and I knew it was a good fish.

            “I knew if it got any slack I was going to lose it. I put some pressure on the fish and it jumped. When I saw it, my heart jumped up in my throat. We were running late and I had forgot to bring a net, so I yelled at Heath to give me some help.”

            Horton has caught several good fish while fishing the trout stream in McCurtain County. But, he had never seen a fish of this size and he didn’t want to lose it.

            “I didn’t know at the time that the fish was a state record, but I knew it was a good fish,” Horton said of the trout, which was 26 1/4 inches long and had a girth of 17 1/2 inches. “It took several minutes to get it to the bank. Heath finally tailed it and then got a hand under its head and slid the fish up on the bank.”

            The pair realized the fish might be a potential state record once they had it on the bank.

            “We weren’t really for sure what the record was, but we knew this was a good fish, Horton said. “I put two hooks of the stringer through him because we thought he might be a state record. Heath didn’t want me to put him back in the water at all, so he fished for a few more minutes and we headed out.”

            Using the headlights of the truck the pair weighed the fish on a digital scale they had with them. The scale showed the fish was a possible record, so they went to the state park office to find out where they could have the fish officially weighed.

            Mike Virgin, district three law enforcement chief for the Department witnessed the fish being weighed on certified scales at the K&E Texaco in Hochatown. Fisheries Chief, Kim Erickson certified the record the following Monday. Erickson said the fish was probably an older female, and was obviously in excellent health.

            The previous record also caught on the lower Mountain Fork, weighed 7-pounds, 12 ounces, and was caught Jan. 27, 1996. Anyone who thinks they may have caught a record should contact a Wildlife Department employee immediately. A fisheries biologist ultimately certifies record catches, but any Department employee can witness the weigh-in.

            “I told Heath that it probably wouldn’t sink in until a biologist called and said that it was really the record,” Horton said. “It’s just so unreal.”

  Graphic cut line: Jim Horton holds the new Oklahoma state record 9-pound, 10.5 ounce brown trout he caught Jan. 26, 2001.  

Oklahoma Venison and Elk Safe To Eat

            Recent media reports linking eating wild deer meat to a form of “mad cow disease” have been sensationalized, and hunters should not been worried about their venison, according to officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

            A degenerative brain disease similar to mad cow disease - called Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in deer and elk - has been recently confirmed in a captive elk herd in Oklahoma County, but has never been documented in wild deer or elk in Oklahoma. Even if the disease did exist in wild herds, there has never been a confirmed case of a hunter contracting it through hunting or eating venison.

            “Chronic Wasting Disease has occurred in Colorado and Wyoming for 30 years, but nobody who has hunted there or eaten venison from those animals has come down with CWD,” said Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor for the Wildlife Department. “A hunter from Vinita contracted Creuztfelt-Jacob Disease (CJD), a related spongiform encephalopathy, in 1999, but the National Center for Disease Control never established a positive connection to his eating deer meat. We even investigated the possible link by sampling 16 deer from the area where the man hunted. None of the deer tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease. In addition, we have tested more than 200 deer from other parts of the state, and those deer have all been negative for CWD.”

            In fact, nationally there are over 11 million big game hunters, and only two confirmed reports of hunters contracting Creuztfelt-Jacob Disease, Shaw said. The Center for Disease Control investigated both cases and concluded that their contracting CJD was coincidental to hunting.

            “There is always a risk involved with handling any type of animals, domestic or wild, but that risk is very small,” he said. “The odds are many times greater that someone would be struck by lightning or die from a bee sting.”

            Shaw said there are two precautions that anyone concerned about chronic wasting disease can take. Wearing protective gloves when dressing and butchering animals and avoiding consumption of brain and spinal cord tissue are good precautionary measures.

            Dr. Gene Eskew, a veterinarian with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, said the captive elk in Oklahoma County are under quarantine, and they do not believe any infected elk have been killed for human consumption. Only four of the 140 elk have contracted the disease thus far. Agriculture Department officials will be watching for additional elk deaths, and will test the animals immediately through the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa.

            “As a biological scientist who has studied deer most of my life, I can honestly say that I don’t see any danger in eating deer meat because there just isn’t any scientific evidence proving that Chronic Wasting Disease can cause Creuztfelt-Jacob Disease,” Shaw said. “There are far too many other things to worry about; real dangers like driving to work, having a heart attack because you don’t exercise enough or getting stung by a bee.