OCTOBER 2001 NEWS RELEASES

 

Week of October 25

 Week of October 18

Week of October 11

Week of October 4

 

Two McAlester AAP hunts cancelled

McAlester, Okla. - The Oct. 12-14 and Oct. 19-21 traditional archery deer hunts at the McAlester Army Ammunition have been cancelled for security reasons. Hunters who were drawn for these two hunts for this year will automatically qualify to hunt the McAlester AAP next year.

Controlled archery deer hunts began at the AAP Oct. 4 and were scheduled to conclude the weekend of Nov. 9 - 11. Security conditions and concerns will dictate whether or not the remainder of the hunts continue.

Hunters scheduled to participate in future hunts at the McAlester AAP can check the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com for status updates concerning the hunts.

Department names landowner of the year

Arnett landowner Kenny Knowles was named as the 2001 Landowner Conservationist of the Year by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation at the October meeting of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Knowles is a third generation farmer and rancher and was presented the award for his outstanding efforts to enhance wildlife habitat on 11,000 acres he owns and manages in Ellis County.

"Numerous pages could be written describing Knowles' lifetime contribution to wildlife and habitat management," said Russ Horton, central region senior biologist for the Wildlife Department. "He realized long ago that sound wildlife management could complement a profitable ranching operation. He has taken a leadership role in promoting multiple species stewardship of the land, with wildlife given the highest priority.

"He now has, and will always have, some of the best wildlife habitat in Ellis County, not as a result of luck, fortune or fate, but rather due to his love for wildlife and his dedication to ensuring that wildlife will always be extended a hearty welcome on all properties he manages. He is very deserving of recognition for his outstanding, life-long dedication to sound wildlife management on private lands."

Knowles has a very good rotational grazing plan that ensures good wildlife nesting cover, Horton added. He is also in the process of converting 1,500-acres of farm ground to a mixture of native plants that will provide beneficial wildlife habitat.

"I am very honored to be recognized for the work I am doing to help wildlife," Knowles said. "Wildlife has always been a priority for my family and it will continue to be so throughout my lifetime."

An avid angler and hunter, Knowles really enjoyed hunting prairie chickens and his management activities and leadership have played an integral role in prairie chicken restoration efforts.

"He maintains a journal of habitat work and tries to keep records of lesser prairie chickens using his property for habitat use and population information," Horton said. "He has been a huge influence in the local community for wildlife related work. Other landowners are seeing his results and are beginning to take his lead."

Knowles has traveled to Washington, New Mexico and Mexico to share his knowledge, experience and support of the Lesser Prairie Chicken Interstate Working Group with policy makers and other ranchers and conservationists, Horton added. He also has urged neighboring landowners to consider the benefits their land could provide for wildlife.

Those interested in more information on the Department's Landowner of the Year program can contact John Hendrix, the Department's private lands biologist at 405/880-0994.

To be considered for the prestigious award, landowners must demonstrate a commitment to managing their property to provide benefits for wildlife.

Cutline for photo: John Hendrix (left), private lands biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, presents Kenny Knowles, of Arnett, with the Wildlife Department's 2001 Landowner Conservationists of the Year Award.

Show covers upcoming muzzleloader season

Oklahoma sportsmen can learn everything they want to know about this year's primitive firearm deer season by tuning in to Outdoor Oklahoma Sunday, Oct. 21, on OETA.

The show will provide information on muzzleloader season dates and bag limits as well as dates and locations open for antlerless harvest.

Hunters may have questions about the upcoming muzzleloader season and the Department will try to answer those questions on the show. The show will also feature a late season waterfowl hunt on the Red River in southwestern Oklahoma, said Rich Fuller, show producer and information supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

"This is a unique hunt because everything in southwestern Oklahoma was frozen, forcing waterfowl to find open water," Fuller added. "Thousands of ducks, geese and cranes were using the Red River due to the extreme winter weather conditions. This was a fun and exciting hunt that was action packed. We are thrilled to share the experience with our viewers."

Outdoor Oklahoma features such topics as fishing, hunting, and wildlife management. The 30-minute program is produced by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, and can be seen at 6 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. Sunday on OETA. It also airs Mondays at 5:30 p.m., Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. and each Saturday at 1:30 p.m. on KSBI.

For a complete listing of show times and channels in your viewing area, consult the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com or your local TV guide.

Winter trout areas open November 1

Oklahoma anglers have a chance to enjoy the unique experience of trout fishing within the state when six designated winter trout areas open Nov. 1.

"The wintertime trout areas are very popular additions to our year-round trout fisheries on the lower Illinois and lower Mountain Fork rivers," said Barry Bolton, assistant chief of fisheries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "These fisheries provide trout fishing in areas where warm water temperatures are not suitable for trout during the summer. They are stocked regularly with catchable size rainbow trout, and they are very popular with anglers all over the state."

The areas are managed by the Department and offer trout fishing opportunities throughout the state, Bolton added. Stocking schedules for every trout area are posted on the Department's Web site, however, stocking dates do change at times due to circumstances beyond the Department's control. Many anglers enjoy scheduling their trips around stocking dates, but all the areas offer quality fishing throughout the season.

Those wishing to fish any designated trout area must possess a trout license in addition to a resident or non-resident fishing license. There are no exemptions for the trout license, which cost $7.75 and is available at license vendors across the state.

Visit the Department's Web site, www.wildlifedepartment.com for more information on trout fishing, trout stocking schedules, and the following designated wintertime trout areas.

Lake Carl Etling - This 159-acre lake is located within Black Mesa State Park in Cimarron Co. Trout season runs Nov. 1 - April 30. To get there, take US-325 28 miles west of Boise City. Boat ramps are on the south and east sides of the lake. Primitive and developed camping facilities are available at the park.

Quartz Mountain - The designated trout area is directly below the dam at Lake Altus-Lugert. Trout season runs Nov. 1 - March 15. To get there from Altus, take OK-44A north about 18 miles. Lodging and camping facilities are available at Quartz Mountain State Park.

Blue River - The Blue River trout area is located within the Blue River Public Fishing and Hunting Area near Tishomingo. Trout season runs Nov. 1 - March 31. To get there from Tishomingo, go four miles east on OK-78 and then six miles north. Bank access and wade fishing is available throughout the area. Primitive camping is allowed at the Blue River campground.

Robbers Cave - Located in Robbers Cave State Park, the Robbers Cave trout fishery is located directly below Carlton Lake Dam to the south boundary of the park. Trout season runs Nov. 1 - March 15. To get there from Wilburton, go five miles north on OK-2. Bank access and wade fishing is available anywhere within state park boundaries. Camping facilities and cabins are available at the park.

Lake Watonga - This 55-acre lake lies within Roman Nose State Park. Trout season runs Nov. 1 - March 31. To get there from Watonga, go seven miles north on OK-8A. Bank access and a boat ramp are on the west side of the lake. Camping and lodging are available at the park.

Lake Pawhuska - This 96-acre lake is about three miles south of Pawhuska. Trout season runs Nov. 1 - March 31. During that time, the City of Pawhuska waives the City fishing fee. To get there from Pawhuska, go three miles south on OK-60, and then go 1.75 miles east on a marked County road. Lake facilities include a boat ramp, fishing dock and restrooms. Primitive camping is available at the lake, and developed camping is available at nearby Lake Bluestem.

 

Changes aim to improve drawings

Hunters applying for the coveted elk, antelope and controlled deer hunts offered by the Wildlife Department will have a better chance of being selected under new rules adopted Oct. 1 by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission.

At its regular monthly meeting, the Wildlife Commission approved rules aimed at improving the overall odds for selection by spreading out hunter opportunity and limiting those who are lucky enough to draw the most highly sought after elk and antelope hunts. Key provisions of the new rules, which take effect with next year's controlled hunt drawing process, include:

• Making the elk and antelope hunts once-in-a-lifetime. Beginning with the 2002 drawing, hunters who are selected for an elk permit will not be able to apply for elk hunts in the future. Similarly, once drawn for a Cimarron County antelope hunt, hunters will not be able to apply for future antelope hunts.

• Combining, or pooling, the three types of deer hunts formerly offered into one comprehensive deer hunt category. In the past, separate categories were offered for deer archery, muzzleloader and gun hunts. Some lucky hunters were drawn for two or even all three deer hunts, while others were not even selected for one. Under the new system, hunters select which hunts they want to apply for, with five individual hunt choices being offered.

• Instituting a progressive drawing for big game hunts whereby elk hunts are drawn first, followed by antelope, then deer. If a hunter is selected for an elk hunt, they will receive preference points in the other big game categories they have applied for (antelope and deer) but will not be eligible to be selected in those categories. Similarly, if they are not selected for elk but draw an antelope permit, then they will receive a preference point in the elk and deer categories, but will not be eligible to draw a deer hunt. This change is designed to enable more individuals a chance to draw by preventing some hunters from drawing multiple big game hunts. Commissioners also approved a $5 per person controlled hunt application processing fee. There are no exemptions to the fee, which was authorized by the Oklahoma Legislature last year as a means of ensuring the continued viability of the controlled hunts program.

"The controlled hunts program is one of the Department's most popular services," said Alan Peoples, wildlife chief for the agency. "In fact, they're so popular that we have always had far more hunters applying than permits available. In some cases, we have 20, 40 or even 80 applicants for each hunt slot.

"With that much demand for each permit, we will never devise a system whereby everyone gets selected regularly to participate. We can, however, take steps to spread the permits out over the most hunters possible, and this is certainly a big step in that direction."

More than 60 percent of those applying for the controlled hunts this year did so through the Department's Web site -

wildlifedepartment.com - and complete controlled hunt changes will be detailed on the site for next year's drawing, Peoples added. Controlled hunt application booklets, usually available in April, will detail both the on-line application process and the new changes.

Other changes adopted by the Wildlife Commission were:

-- To avoid hunter conflicts when muzzleloader deer and quail seasons overlap, provisions were adopted closing most wildlife management areas in western Oklahoma to quail hunting when it overlaps with the primitive firearms deer season.

-- Rule changes to increase public hunting opportunities at Spavinaw and Osage-Western Wall Primitive Area wildlife management areas.

-- Procedures, guidelines and requirements relating to wildlife control operators who are licensed to control nuisance wildlife.

-- Requirements that increase the fencing height for commercial hunting areas from six to eight feet. In addition, bears and large cats were removed from the list of species that can be hunted on commercial hunting areas.

-- Restrictions that prohibit commercial training of bird dogs on wildlife management areas.

-- Housekeeping measures relating to permanent rules for building permanent waterfowl blinds, feral hog hunting on private land and most wildlife management areas and upland game hunting hours.

In other action, the Commission voted to accept a lease bid for 11 acres of mineral interest on property it owns in Atoka County and solicit bids to lease another 2,706 acres of mineral interest the agency owns in Pushmataha County.

The Commission's next regular meeting will be Monday, Nov. 5, at 9 a.m. at the Wildlife Department's headquarters in Oklahoma City.

Awards highlight October meeting

Arnett farmer and rancher Kenny Knowles was named Landowner of the Year and numerous other awards were conveyed at the Oklahoma Wildlife Commission's regular October meeting.

Among other accomplishments, Knowles was instrumental in leading the conservation movement for lesser prairie chickens in western Oklahoma during the year and participated in numerous programs and efforts aimed at improving wildlife habitat on his 11,000-acre Ellis County ranch.

Also recognized at the October meeting were Wildlife Department employees Andrea Crews, Troy Hatfield and Carlos Gomez. Crews, a responsive management specialist, received the 2001 Resource Achievement Award, while Hatfield, a fisheries technician working out of the Department's Fishery Research Lab in Norman, was awarded the Conservation Achievement Award for 2001.

Gomez was named Game Warden of the Year by Shikar Safari International, and also was named Wildlife Department Employee of the Year. Active in both enforcement and education, Gomez was instrumental in completing a Department-produced hunter education video tape, uncovering an interstate poaching ring that led to more than 20 citations, organizing a memorial ceremony for the first game warden killed in the line of duty (Warden Charles Estes, who was killed in 1911 in the Tulsa area) and maintains an Internet Web site where sportsmen can email questions relating to Oklahoma's hunting and fishing laws.

Wildlife Department Executive Director Greg Duffy recognized Bill Phelps and Reliant Energy for the company's generous donation of manpower and equipment to help with work at the Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area. Reliant equipment and personnel laid one mile of pipeline from a water retention reservoir (currently under construction) to the site of a future educational marsh and interpretive center.

Duffy was himself recognized at the meeting, being presented an award of appreciation by the Oklahoma Chapter of Quail Unlimited for the Department's continuing efforts to address bobwhite quail habitat, and populations, in the state.

Nine long-time Department employees, with their collective service totaling 205 years, also were presented tenure awards. Jack Harper, southeast region fisheries supervisor, was recognized for his 35 years of service, while Robert Fleenor, Creek County game warden, and Jim Young, game warden supervisor from Adair County, were recognized for their 25 years with the agency.

Receiving tenure awards for 20 years of service were: Bill Sartin, northeast region senior wildlife biologist; Tracy Daniel, Kay County game warden; James Champeau, warden supervisor from Logan County; Keith Green, warden supervisor from Craig County; Tony Woodruff, Cleveland County game warden; and Ed Rodebush, McIntosh County game warden.

The Commission's next regular meeting will be Monday, Nov. 5, at 9 a.m. at the Wildlife Department's headquarters in Oklahoma City.

Kerr blue cats offer winter fun

According to anglers surveys, catfish are one of Oklahoma’s most sough after species. These tasty fish can offer anglers a fierce fight and are extremely common throughout the waters of the Sooner State.

The blue catfish is Oklahoma's largest sportfish and is particularly active during the winter. Anglers looking for effective tips and techniques for hooking into some blue cats can get them from an Oct. 14 episode of Outdoor Oklahoma that will air on OETA.

"This show proves that you can enjoy catfishing no matter your age, or where you're from," said Paul Moore, show producer and information specialist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "The fish at Robert S. Kerr were biting on cut shad and it didn't take long to fill a stringer."

Outdoor Oklahoma features such topics as fishing, hunting, and wildlife management. The 30-minute program is produced by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, and can be seen at 6 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. Sunday on OETA. It also airs Mondays at 5:30 p.m., Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. and each Saturday at 1:30 p.m. on KSBI.

For a complete listing of show times and channels in your viewing area, consult the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com or your local TV guide.

Hunters encouraged to harvest does

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is encouraging the state's deer hunters to harvest more does and is providing hunters with more antlerless hunting opportunity.

Deer season regulation changes include increasing the statewide combined bag limit and lengthening the archery season. Special antlerless deer gun seasons were also added in some parts of the state to allow hunters the opportunity to harvest a bonus doe in December.

"The 2001 statewide bag limit has been increased to six deer for all three seasons combined, but only three of those may be bucks," said Alan Peoples, the Department's wildlife chief. "Slight changes were also made to the deer primitive firearms and the modern gun deer seasons, and those changes seem to be confusing some sportsmen."

The bag limit for the muzzleloader season is one buck and one doe with the appropriate licenses, Peoples added. In areas open to antlerless harvest, hunters may use their unfilled primitive buck license (permit) to harvest a doe on the last day of the season, but only if they have not already harvested a doe. They may not kill two antlerless deer with their primitive firearm.

The same regulations and bag limits apply to the deer gun season, he added. Hunters may harvest one buck and one doe with appropriate licenses. They may harvest a doe on their unfilled buck license on the last day in areas open to antlerless harvest, but only if they have not already harvested a doe during the gun season. Hunters may not take two does during the deer gun season.

"The bag limit has been changed for the archery season as well," Peoples said. "The bag limit for archery hunters will be four deer, but only two of those can be bucks."

The archery season has also been extended and will run through Jan. 15, 2002, he added. From Jan. 1 - Jan. 15, hunters may only harvest does and deer they harvest will count against the 2001 statewide combined bag limit. Peoples stressed however, that in order to hunt during January, annual license holders will need to have a 2002 deer archery license (permit) in addition to their 2002 hunting license.

"All licenses issued for this year, including a 2001 deer archery license, will expire on Dec. 31," Peoples said. "Hunters must purchase the new licenses before hunting deer in January, and if they do not harvest a deer, they may use the 2002 archery license to bow hunt next fall."

Biologists believe sportsmen need to harvest more antlerless deer and hope they will take advantage of the additional opportunities to help manage Oklahoma's deer herd. To learn more about deer hunting in Oklahoma, or for a copy of the 2001-2002 Oklahoma Hunting Guide and Regulations, go to the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

Hunters encouraged to harvest antlerless deer

Oklahoma's deer herd continues to grow and biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation believe the only way to manage for a healthier, balanced herd is to harvest more antlerless deer.

Outdoor Oklahoma will highlight new regulations that will affect the state's deer seasons and the reasons behind those regulations when "Hunters in the Know Take a Doe," airs Oct. 28 on OETA.

"The Department knows that many of the state’s deer hunters still have a strong buck preference," said Rich Fuller, information supervisor with the Department. "But, unprecedented regulations are in place to allow hunters more opportunity than ever to harvest a doe. This show provides insight into the importance of antlerless harvest and we hope it will encourage more hunters to consider taking a doe. It's the right thing to do."

Outdoor Oklahoma features such topics as fishing, hunting, and wildlife management. The 30-minute program is produced by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, and can be seen at 6 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. Sunday on OETA. It also airs Mondays at 5:30 p.m., Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. and each Saturday at 1:30 p.m. on KSBI.

For a complete listing of show times and channels in your viewing area, consult the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com or your local TV guide.

Waterfowl success will depend on weather

The Oklahoma waterfowl season has begun in some parts of the state, and waterfowl hunters are keeping their eyes toward the skies anticipating the arrival of the migratory birds.

"Although duck numbers are down slightly from last year, most species remain near or above their long-term averages," said Mike O'Meilia, migratory bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "However, pintail and scaup populations have not responded to improved nesting habitat in recent years. Biologists are making additional efforts to determine what is causing the low numbers, and bag limits for those species remain conservative."

"Biologists also hope to reduce the harvest of canvasbacks and canvasback hunting will be limited to the first 25 days of the regular duck season. But, duck populations look very good overall, and if we get the right weather, it could be another good year for waterfowl hunters across the state."

The key to a good waterfowl season is having quality habitat, a wet fall and harsh weather to the north, O'Meilia said. Some areas of the state have had heavy rains recently, and that will help water levels come up and surround natural food sources in lakes and ponds. It has also provided sheet water in some pastures and crop fields.

"Goose numbers also look promising," he added. "Canada and white-fronted goose populations are about the same as last year and light goose numbers are still at alarmingly high levels. We may actually see a fall flight with more young light geese than we did last year because they had an early spring and good conditions on some portions of their breeding grounds.

"There are plenty of birds, and early migrations ahead of recent cold fronts have already brought some birds into the state. There have been reports about pintail, teal, gadwalls, widgeon, white-fronted geese and sandhill cranes moving. The first half of the season should be good if the cool weather persists, and if water conditions are right, it will only get better throughout the year."

In the panhandle, duck season opened Oct. 6 and will run through Jan. 9. The canvasback season will run through Oct. 30.

Duck Zone 1, which takes in most of northwest Oklahoma, will have a split season. The first half runs Oct. 27 - Dec. 2 and the second split runs Dec. 8 - Jan 13. Canvasback season will run from Oct. 27 to Nov. 20, and youth waterfowl hunting days are Oct. 20 and 21.

The rest of the state, is in Duck Zone II, which will also have a split season. The first half runs Nov. 3 - Dec. 2 and the second half will run Dec. 8 - Jan. 20. The canvasback season will run from Nov. 3 to Nov. 27, with youth waterfowl hunting days taking place Oct. 27 and 28.

Hunters are allowed a daily bag limit of six ducks combined, no more than five of which can be mallards. Of those, only two mallards may be hens. Only three scaup, two wood ducks, two redheads, one pintail and one canvasback may be included in the daily limit.

The Canada goose season will be split again this year, with the first half running from Nov. 3 - Dec. 2 and the second split running from Dec. 8 - Feb. 10. The daily bag limit will be three birds. The split season on white-fronted geese will run Nov. 3 - Dec. 2 and Dec. 8 - Feb. 1. The daily bag limit will be two birds.

The season on light geese (snow, blue and Ross') will be split as well. The first split will run Nov. 3 - Dec. 2 and the second split will run Dec. 8 - Feb. 10. The daily bag limit will be 20 birds.

Sandhill crane season will be from Nov. 3 - Feb. 3. The daily bag limit will be three birds.

Hunters who wish to participate in the waterfowl season must have a resident or non-resident hunting license, a 2001 federal duck stamp, and unless exempt, a 2001 Oklahoma Waterfowl License and a 2001 Harvest Information Program Permit. The federal duck stamp costs $15 and is available at U.S. Post Offices. All other permits are available at Wildlife Department installations or license vendors across the state.

For more specific information on rules and regulations regarding waterfowl hunting in Oklahoma, pick up a copy of the 2001-2002 Oklahoma Waterfowl Hunting Guide. The Guides are available at Department installations and license vendors statewide or on the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

Sportsmen organize Cordell relief drive

Oklahoma sportsmen are being encouraged to donate sporting goods and outdoor items that will be distributed to Cordell residents affected by the Oct. 10 tornado.

Hunting and fishing gear, including clothing, boots, fishing poles and tackle boxes, will be collected at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Oklahoma City and Tulsa offices until Nov. 1. Donations also will be collected at two locations in Elk City.

“We wanted to do something to help our fellow citizens, and this seemed like a way to do that,” said Douglas Schones, wildlife conservation commissioner from Elk City. “Most hunters have a pair of boots, a coat or a shirt that doesn't fit or that they just don’t use. Here’s an outlet to put those items to good use, helping some folks who could really use a boost right now.”

The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member board that directs the policies and programs of the Wildlife Department. Commissioners serve eight-year terms and are appointed by the Governor.

Schones, whose district includes Cordell, said that anyone can drop off sporting goods and outdoor gear at the Wildlife Department’s headquarters in Oklahoma City (located just south of the Capitol building at the corner of 18th St. and Lincoln Blvd.) or at the Department’s Tulsa-area office (located on the Tulsa Fairgrounds). Collection hours at the Department’s office in Oklahoma City are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., while they are 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Tulsa. In Elk City, sportsmen can bring their donations to either Wal-Mart or Brooks Marine.

“The items will be distributed in Cordell through a local church or civic organization,” Schones said.

Successful deer hunters also should keep in mind that they can assist Oklahomans in need by donating legally harvested deer to the Hunters Against Hunger program. A list of cooperating processors is printed in the Oklahoma Hunting Guide and Regulations beginning on page 38. To donate, hunters simply take their deer by a participating processor, where it is processed, then distributed to the needy through a network of qualified charities.

Hunters are encouraged to contribute $10 to assist with processing fees, and anyone donating a deer will be entered in a drawing for a fully guided exotic hunt on retired Dallas Cowboy Jay Novacek’s ranch in Nebraska.

Weather hurts state quail populations

Editors Note: This is a special news bulletin from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. This was released electronically 10/22/01. A follow up story discussing possible solutions to the downward trend of bobwhite quail is scheduled for the Department's 11/1/01 news release.

Roadside quail count surveys conducted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation indicate quail populations have declined across the state.

Biologists conducting the surveys recorded the smallest numbers they have seen since the survey began in 1990. The 2001 roadside surveys showed numbers were down 71 percent from the previous 11-year average. Biologists believe harsh winter weather, followed by a hot and dry summer, limited breeding populations and hampered recruitment.

"Numbers were down across the state after prolonged periods of ice and snow last year," said Mike Sams, upland game bird biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "The birds often bounce back with a good reproductive year, but the heat and drought hurt reproduction this year. Despite the apparent decline in 'statewide' numbers, we do expect hunters to find isolated pockets with good numbers of birds.

"The surveys are only an index to provide the Department a population estimate. Still, they have given a reliable indication of harvest in the past."

In response to a downward trend in numbers, quail experts from across the state are joining together to address concerns through a long-term management plan.

The "Oklahoma Quail Initiative" was devised by a committee made up of several different agencies and conservation groups. The committee members are from the Wildlife Department, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Oklahoma State University, OSU Extension Service, the Noble Foundation and Quail Unlimited.

"We wanted to assemble the best and brightest quail minds to develop a plan of action to head off the quail decline and to restore quail numbers to a more appropriate level," Sams said. "We have some of the top respected quail experts in the nation right here in Oklahoma, and we are going to focus their knowledge and experience to guide the initiative in the right direction."

The goal of the Oklahoma Quail Initiative is to make a difference in quail populations statewide, Sams added. That is a lofty goal, especially since Oklahoma is so diverse. The state has more ecoregions than nearly any other state. That means lots of different habitats and lots of different management strategies to consider.

All the experts agree that in order to increase quail populations across the state there has to be a restoration of natural habitats. The loss of quality habitat throughout the bobwhite's traditional range in the southeastern U.S. is considered to be the cause of drastic declines in states to the east of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Recent years have seen declines in quail populations in these western tier states, but at a much lesser rate than to the east where habitat degradation has been more severe.

"Habitat is the key," added Sams. "If the components of habitat - food, water and cover are abundant, then Mother Nature will take care of the rest. Quality habitat will also help decrease the affects of weather and predation on quail populations.

"The research is overwhelming. Populations cannot increase if they can't disperse into quality habitat. Stocking captive raised birds does not help either. You have to have good habitat before you can have quail."

One problem facing biologists is that for habitat restoration to be effective in the long term, large tracts of habitat must be restored. Research shows that restoration of small, separated acreages has little effect on quail populations. If you can tie these small tracts together into tracts of thousands of acres, then you stand a good chance of substantially increasing populations.

Survey results suggest populations declined in every region this year. Results indicate the northwest and southwest regions of the state have the strongest quail populations. The southeast region showed the smallest decline from the long-term average while the northeast and southcentral regions showed the largest decreases.

Harvest that Thanksgiving bird

Wild turkeys were part of the first Thanksgivings and many Oklahomans enjoy a wild bird for their holiday tables. Fall turkey hunting provides an exciting way to enjoy nature's bounty.

Outdoor Oklahoma will highlight a snowy bit of excitement when "Fall Turkey Hunting" airs November 4 on OETA.

"Many of the state's turkey hunters enjoy heading to the woods during the spring turkey season to call in a lovesick gobbler," said Rich Fuller, information supervisor with the Department. "But the fall season can provide just as much excitement. It requires some different techniques, but is still a very fun and challenging way to harvest a wild turkey. Fall turkey season runs from Nov. 3 to 16 in designated counties only."

Outdoor Oklahoma features such topics as fishing, hunting, and wildlife management. The 30-minute program is produced by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, and can be seen at 6 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. Sunday on OETA. It also airs Mondays at 5:30 p.m., Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. and each Saturday at 1:30 p.m. on KSBI.

For a complete listing of show times and channels in your viewing area, consult the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com or your local TV guide.

Department’s link popular with internet users

In ceremonies held last week, Governor Frank Keating unveiled the State of Oklahoma's new comprehensive Web site: youroklahoma.com. Among the most popular information links on the new site is the link to access hunting and fishing information.

On the index page of youroklahoma.com, several popular links are listed and only two; jobs and birth certificates were more popular than the link for hunting and fishing information. By accessing the hunting and fishing information link on youroklahoma.com, internet users are immediately transferred to wildlifedepartment.com which is the official Web site of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC).

"We have just been amazed at how popular our Web site has become with folks wanting hunting and fishing information," said Rich Fuller, information supervisor for the ODWC.

According to ODWC officials, nearly 58,000 visits per month are currently being made to wildlifedepartment.com. In addition, the Department has calculated as many as 25,000 visits to wildlifedepartment.com in a single 48-hour period.

"In late July we post the results of the controlled hunt drawing on the Web site and for the next few days, we get thousands upon thousands of visits by hunters. They come to the site to see if they were one of the lucky ones to draw a coveted Wichita Mountains elk tag, or some other controlled hunt, " explained Fuller.

According to Kristen Gillman, webmaster for the ODWC, many hunters who use the internet to check the controlled hunt drawing results are not only first-time visitors to wildlifedepartment.com, but for many it may be their first time to access the internet.

"We have learned from several libraries around the state that people without a home computer or internet access have specifically come in to use library computers to check the results of the controlled hunt drawing," said Gillman.

Our fishing report has been popular for decades, but we are redesigning it to make it even better Fuller said. The new reports will be sort of like a managed chat-room. We are training a corps of statewide fishing reporters who will log in their reports daily. And, depending on what people are catching, the report can conceivably be updated several times in one day!"

Other information offered on wildlifedepartment.com includes how viewers can sign up for a bat tour or learn about endangered species in Oklahoma. Visitors can also subscribe to the electronic statewide news release, which includes the latest outdoor news and a calendar of events.

"We currently have around 6,000 subscribers who are getting our news release sent to them via e-mail every week, and we expect this number to probably double in the next year," said Gillman.

ODWC officials say that many new features and services are being planned to assist internet users with obtaining wildlife information and planning a hunting or fishing trip within the state.

Oklahoma Game Warden Honored

Oklahoma Game Warden Carlos Gomez was selected as the "2001 Officer of the Year" by the Law Enforcement Section of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA) at their October meeting held in Louisville, Ky.

Each of the 17 states making up the Southeastern Association submit their Officer of the Year for consideration and the final selection is made by a committee comprised of the Chiefs of Enforcement from the various states. Gomez was recently honored as Oklahoma's Game Warden of the Year by Shikar-Safari International and Wildlife Department Employee of the Year.

Warden Gomez is a 21 year veteran of the Law Enforcement Division currently stationed in Tulsa County. Active in both enforcement and education, Gomez was instrumental in completing a department-produced hunter education video and uncovering an interstate poaching ring that led to more than 20 convictions. In addition, Gomez organized a memorial to the first Oklahoma game warden killed in the line of duty (Warden Charles Estes, who was killed in 1911 in the Tulsa area) and he also maintains a Web site where sportsmen can e-mail questions relating to Oklahoma's hunting and fishing laws.

Warden Gomez's selection marks the first time in the history of SEAFWA that an Oklahoma officer has been honored.