DECEMBER 2001 NEWS RELEASES

 

WEEK OF DECEMBER 27

WEEK OF DECEMBER 20

 

WEEK OF DECEMBER 13

 

WEEK OF DECEMBER 6

Commission endorses quail recovery plan

At its regular monthly meeting, held Dec. 3 in Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission voted to endorse a quail recovery plan that emphasizes improving habitat and increasing awareness about bobwhite quail. A key component of the 10-point plan involves working with the State Legislature to provide funds for habitat assistance projects on private lands.

Surveys show quail populations are down considerably over much of the state, a trend witnessed throughout the southeastern United States. Oklahoma, however, is one of the few remaining states where hunters can pursue relatively large numbers of wild quail.

"Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas are the last strongholds of the bobwhite quail," said Alan Peoples, wildlife chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "A lot of folks are asking what it will take to bring back the birds. There are ways to reverse the decline in quail numbers, but they are expensive."

Peoples said that quail hunting is a multi-million dollar endeavor, with a recent survey estimating almost $100 million is spent in Oklahoma by bird hunters every year. One of the first goals of an energized quail improvement program will be to establish baseline data on hunting participation and economic impact, he said.

The Wildlife Department's comprehensive quail initiative, being called "What About Bob?," was developed in concert with wildlife professionals from Oklahoma State University and the Noble Foundation, along with conservation groups like Quail Unlimited. A critical part of the plan calls for payments to assist landowners in enhancing their property for quail. To fund these payments, the Department will ask the Legislature to provide either an annual appropriation or an endowment.

"Quail don't like Bermuda, fescue or Old World bluestem," Peoples said, "but they do need weeds and insects. Unfortunately, it costs an estimated $130 per acre to covert non-native grass pasture back into native range. That's more than most landowners are prepared to spend to help quail populations recover.

"Ten years ago, duck populations were at all-time lows due to habitat degradation. Since the inception of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, an international habitat improvement initiative, duck numbers have rebounded dramatically. More than $300 million has been spent on waterfowl habitat since the Plan was created, but it definitely shows that wildlife populations will respond to better habitat."

In other business, the Commission voted to authorize one bull elk permit at Cookson Hills Wildlife Management Area to be auctioned by sealed bid. Funds from the sale of the permit will be earmarked for the Hunters Against Hunger program. The elk auction permit has raised about $10,000 each of the last two years.

Additionally, Commissioners voted to take over the administration of Hunters Against Hunger. Through the program, which is a cooperative effort with the Oklahoma City Food Bank, deer hunters can donate all or part of their harvest to needy state residents. Hunters simply drop off their legally harvested deer at a cooperating processor, along with a $10 donation to help pay for processing, and the venison is ground, packaged, then delivered to a qualified charity where it is distributed statewide.

To help fund the program, Steve Scott brought the Department a $12,000 donation. Scott had been administering the program for the last year. The program has operated under several names and has been previously administered by several organizations, including the Wildlife Department.

"It is an important program which serves a critical need, and it's just too much for one person to oversee," said Richard Hatcher, assistant director of the Wildlife Department. "We believe the Department's administration of Hunters Against Hunger could open doors for corporate and private fundraising efforts."

As an informational item, Gene Gillilland, a fisheries biologist working out of the Department's Fishery Research Lab in Norman, briefed the Commission on the Largemouth Bass Virus (LMBV) in Oklahoma.

LMBV is a naturally occurring virus that to date has only affected largemouth bass. The disease first gained attention in 1995, when it was implicated in a fish kill in South Carolina. Since then, the virus has been found in lakes throughout the South and portions of the Midwest. In 2000, the disease caused a bass die-off at Lake Tenkiller during July and August. Other lakes testing positive for LMBV include Arbuckle, Eucha, Eufaula, Ft. Gibson, Grand, Hudson, Konawa, McGee Creek, Sardis, Skiatook, Tenkiller, Texoma, Thunderbird. Of the lakes tested for LMBV to date, only Broken Bow and Holdenville City lakes tested negative.

Not all bass that have the virus die from the disease, in fact, most bass that carry LMBV appear normal. Where the virus has triggered the fatal disease, dying fish often swim near the surface and have trouble remaining upright. Unfortunately, there is no known cure or prevention for the bass virus.

"If the virus follows the same course as it has elsewhere, this will all be a memory in four or five years," Gilliland said. "Once the virus hits a lake, it appears to drop off the radar screen and to date, no lake has experienced a reoccurrence."

Gilliland added that fisheries crews will conduct their annual electrofishing surveys next spring and anglers are encouraged to observe these sampling operations. Wildlife Department personnel will continue to follow the status of LMBV in lakes across Oklahoma, and will keep the public informed on any new developments.

Commission members also heard from Bert Castro, director of the Oklahoma City Zoological Trust and Botanical Gardens, about a pending partnership between the Oklahoma City Zoo and the Department. Castro said the Zoo will house two offices and a conference room for personnel with the Department's Wildlife Diversity Program. More than 650,000 Zoo visitors will be exposed to the Department through an informational kiosk and a future native wildlife display.

In other matters, Commission members voted to adopt a number of hunting regulation changes, most of which were housekeeping in nature. One provision did provide for procedural changes in how the Commission establishes bag limits for spring turkey season. Under the changes, Commissioners will have greater flexibility to adjust the county-by-county bag limits in response to changing turkey populations.

Also approved were permanent rules relating to the sale of advertising in Department-approved media productions. The approved advertising policies call for ads to be consistent with state and federal guidelines and reflect the agency's mission and goals.

Also presented to the Commission at the December meeting were the results of the Department's 2001 financial audit by KPMG. Dee Niles, KPMG representative, told the Commission that they would issue a clean, unqualified opinion for the FY2001 audit.

In his monthly report, Wildlife Department Executive Director Greg Duffy informed Commissioners that the deer harvest is down slightly (nine percent) from this time last year. The total harvest through the end of gun season is almost 86,000, compared to 93,000 at this same time last year. Duffy added that the special antlerless deer gun seasons that will be held later in December could make up the different in the harvest to date. Warm weather slowed deer movement, as did a lack of a pronounced deer breeding activity, both of which contributed to a lower harvest during the gun season.

The Commission's next monthly meeting will be Monday, Jan. 7, at 9 a.m. at the Wildlife Department's headquarters in Oklahoma City.

Quail initiative unveiled at meeting

Wildlife Department personnel outlined a multi-million-dollar 10-point quail recovery initiative at the December meeting of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Population surveys show quail numbers are down over most of the state, a trend observed throughout the entire southeastern United States. Even with recent declines, Oklahoma is one of the few remaining states where hunters can pursue relatively large numbers of wild quail. Hunters harvest an estimated one to two million birds a year in the state, which consistently ranks nationally in the top three for harvest.

Commissioners voted to endorse the comprehensive quail initiative that emphasizes improving habitat and increasing awareness about bobwhite quail. Wildlife Department personnel developed the initiative, being called "What About Bob?," in concert with wildlife professionals from Oklahoma State University and the Noble Foundation, along with conservation groups like Quail Unlimited. One key component involves asking the State Legislature to fund habitat assistance projects on private lands, with options ranging from a $40 million annual appropriation to a $40 million endowment to $7 million a year for an effort focused in one region of the state.

"More than 95 percent of the state's land is privately owned, and those landowners aren't going to spend $100 an acre to convert their CRP, pastures and wheat fields back into native rangeland without some kind of monetary incentive," said Alan Peoples, wildlife chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Realistically, you can't hope to address quail habitat without focusing on the private landowner, and that's going to take incentive payments."

Peoples said that a recent study commissioned by the directors of state fish and wildlife agencies in the southeastern U.S. determined that to stabilize quail populations at levels seen in 1980, hundreds of millions of dollars would need to be spent on private lands habitat assistance programs. In Oklahoma, for example, the study suggests that spending $234 million to enhance several million acres of land, much of it CRP, could conceivably result in an estimated 204,000 new coveys.

"We've got about a million acres of CRP, primarily in western Oklahoma, and much of it is poor quail habitat," Peoples said. "Folks hear 'CRP' and they think, good quail hunting. The problem is that much of Oklahoma's CRP was planted to Old World Bluestem and other non-native grasses.

"Quail don't like Old World Bluestem, just like they don't like Bermuda or fescue. Weedy native pastures provide more food and cover, but there aren't too many landowners and farmers who want weedy, overgrown pastures."

He added that quail are only one of a number of prairie species that have experienced declining populations in response to habitat loss. Declining numbers of prairie chicken, prairie dog, burrowing owl, mountain plover and long-billed curlew are all indicators that significant landscape changes have degraded the state's prairie habitat. States such as Texas, Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska also have seen similar habitat alterations, leading many biologists to call for intensified prairie habitat improvement initiatives.

Similar nation-wide habitat improvement programs have been successfully undertaken, most notably efforts such as the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP). Through NAWMP, more than $300 million has been spent since 1990 on waterfowl habitat improvements in Canada, Mexico and the United States. Duck and goose populations have increased dramatically during that time, and habitat conservation measures and adequate rainfall have been credited for bringing the birds back.

"Wildlife will respond if they are provided with the right habitat conditions," Peoples said. "Quail are no different. We can reverse the trend, but we have to make the financial commitment to do so."

10-Point Quail Initiative Activities

1. Educate landowners, sportsmen and policy makers on the status of bobwhite quail and other grassland bird species.

2. Use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to identify areas for habitat improvement based on the likelihood of success for increasing localized quail populations.

3. Seek funding to improve quail habitat on private land and provide incentives for landowners to enhance habitat.

4. Educate landowners and natural resource professionals on quail habitat requirements, management techniques and practices that harm quail habitat.

5. Establish private land demonstration sites for bobwhite quail management.

6. Promote existing landowner incentive/cost-share programs to benefit quail.

7. Work to perpetuate the wise use of prescribed burning to improve quail habitat.

8. Support the Red Cedar Coalition in controlling the invasive Eastern red cedar.

9. Work cooperatively with agriculture agencies to modify conservation planting and existing programs to better enhance quail habitat.

10. Work with public utilities and the Department of Transportation to develop right-of-way management practices that conserve nesting habitat for quail and other grassland birds.

Holdenville Lake highlighted on show

Oklahoma is well known for its fishing on large reservoirs such as Texoma or Eufaula, but the state also has several smaller lakes that provide excellent fishing opportunities. One of the best small lakes, particularly for catching dinner plate-sized sunfish, is Holdenville Lake.

Located in Hughes County, Holdenville Lake is operated by the city of Holdenville as a water supply, but offers excellent fishing for sunfish. A look at the lake's facilities and other types of fishing are covered in an upcoming episode of Outdoor Oklahoma. In addition, boating safety, a nostalgic look at Lake Texoma striper fishing and an exciting northwest Oklahoma quail hunt are featured.

"Oklahoma has between around 50 and 60 medium sized lakes and Holdenville is a shining example of how good the fishing can be on some on our smaller lakes," said Rich Fuller, information supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Particularly in the months of May through July, anglers can catch some whopper sized bluegill at Holdenville either from the bank or from a small boat, and bluegill is certainly one of the best eating fish around."

The show airs December 16 at 8:00 a.m. and again December 22 at 6:00 p.m. on OETA. Outdoor Oklahoma features such topics as fishing, hunting, and fisheries, game and non-game wildlife management. The 30-minute program can also be seen on the KSBI Network, Mondays at 5:00 p.m., Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. and each Saturday at 1:30 p.m. In addition, Outdoor Oklahoma can be seen in southcentral and southeastern Oklahoma at 5 a.m on KTEN. The program is also available in the Stillwater area on the KWEM-UHF Channel 31, Wednesdays at 8:00 p.m., Fridays at 7:00 p.m.

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.

Editor’s note: County by county tabulation of the deer harvest including buck and doe numbers through the close of deer gun season will be part of next week’s news release.

Deer harvest record still a possibility

Preliminary results from Oklahoma's deer harvest show the total harvest through the end of gun season is down nine percent compared to the same point in last year's deer hunting seasons.

Unusually mild and often windy weather contributed to the decline, according to officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC). Harvest figures show 85,645 deer were harvested through gun season, compared with 93,327 at the same time in 2000. Last year, additional deer harvested on properties enrolled in the Deer Management Assistance Program, along with the late season archery harvest, resulted in an end-of-year record of 102,100 animals. ODWC officials say that with the establishment of special antlerless gun seasons coming up in December, a new record is still possible.

"Since the special antlerless hunts are new, we really don't know how many hunters will take advantage of these hunting opportunities, and we certainly don't know what kind of weather we're going to have," said Mike Shaw, research supervisor for the Department. "We have been encouraging hunters to harvest antlerless deer, and that message seems to be translating to action. Based on that, we certainly can't rule out the possibility of another record harvest."

Shaw said that unusually mild weather during the first half of archery season through both the primitive and regular firearms seasons resulted in hunters reporting poor deer movement. Bucks often become less cautious during the rut, thus becoming more visible to hunters. Although primarily influenced by photoperiod, or diminishing day length, cooler temperatures can result in a marked increase in deer activity. Many hunters believed that the temperatures and gusty winds had a detrimental affect on this year's deer rut and kept deer from moving during daylight hours.

"Reports from field biologists across the state said hunter participation levels were equal to last year's regular gun season," Shaw said, "but most said that rutting activity was significantly off compared to last year."

In April, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission approved special antlerless deer gun seasons for large areas of the state. The first three-day hunt, to be held Dec. 21 through 23, will be restricted to the north central and northwestern portion of the state. Much of the state, except for far southwest, far southeast and panhandle, also will have three days of antlerless-only gun hunting running from Dec. 28 through 30. Hunters should consult the antlerless deer hunt zone map on page 22 of the 2001-2002 Oklahoma Hunting Guide and Regulations to determine which areas will offer the special antlerless deer gun seasons.

Hunters who participate in the special antlerless gun season must possess a special antlerless deer gun license in addition to their annual hunting license. Lifetime hunting and combination license holders are exempt and do not need to buy the special antlerless deer gun license. Youths under the age of 18 may purchase a special youth antlerless deer gun license for $14.75.

The statewide season limit during the special antlerless deer gun season is one antlerless deer, which does not count against the annual combined statewide bag limit of six deer. All hunters participating in the special gun season must comply with the same blaze orange requirements as set forth for the regular deer gun season, as well as tagging and checking requirements. Archery deer hunters afield in areas open to the special antlerless gun hunting and those hunting other species (quail, squirrel, pheasant, etc.) must wear either a blaze orange hat or vest.

"These new special antlerless deer gun seasons were established to better manage the state's deer population," said Shaw. "By increasing the antlerless deer harvest, hunters will be helping to balance the state's deer population with available habitat, improve buck to doe ratios for better herd health, reduce agricultural depredation and reduce deer/vehicle collisions."

Getting hunters to shift from a strong buck preference to an attitude that encourages the harvest of antlerless deer has been a slow evolution. In 2001, the ODWC adopted the slogan, "Hunters in the know . . . take a doe!" to increase hunter awareness with harvesting antlerless deer.

"Hopefully with the new special antlerless deer gun season and changing attitudes toward harvesting does we can reach our management objectives," Shaw said. "In many areas of the state we simply have too many deer, and/or we have local populations where the does far outnumber the bucks. The most sound management strategy that can be employed in those areas is to harvest more antlerless deer."

To learn more about the special antlerless gun season and deer management in Oklahoma, consult the 2001-2002 Oklahoma Hunting Guide and Regulations or log on to the ODWC's official Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com. Look under the "Hunting" link for complete deer season information.

Green-winged teal to grace stamp

A single green-winged teal floating on the water will appear on the 2002-2003 Oklahoma Waterfowl Stamp.

The 2002-2003 Oklahoma Waterfowl Stamp competition was held Dec. 7 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's central office in Oklahoma City. Brian Blight of Old Forge, PA, painted the winning duck print.

"Oklahoma waterfowlers have benefited greatly from the duck stamp program," said David Warren, chief of information and education for the Department. "Through the program, critical funds have been generated to establish and maintain nearly 30 wetland development units across the state. Not only do these areas provide resting habitat for migrating waterfowl, but they provide habitat for a host of other species such as wading birds and small mammals."

Funds generated from the sale of Oklahoma waterfowl stamps go toward a number of habitat related projects, including purchasing, restoring and creating wetlands.

Three honorable mentions were named in the 2002-2003 contest as well. They were Jeffrey Klinefelter of Etna Green, IN, Gilda Byrd of Whitefish, MT, and Donnie Hughes of Lexington, SC.

wildlifedepartment.com to get new design

Wildlifedepartment.com, the official Web site of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC), has become one of the most popular destinations for hunters, anglers and wildlife watching enthusiasts. Department officials are now giving Web visitors an opportunity to help give the site a facelift.

"We are conducting an online survey to determine which of two possible designs will be incorporated onto our award winning site," said Kristen Gillman, the Department's webmaster. "We know we have a growing legion of regular visitors who check the weekly fishing report or read our weekly news stories, so it was just natural that we would ask those folks to help us redesign our look. In the rapidly changing world of the Internet, people have become accustomed to change, and we think people will like our new appearance and navigation improvements."

The public is urged to go to the Wildlife Department's Web site, www.wildlifedepartment.com and click on the link to the on-line survey at the top of the page. The Department will review the vote totals and based on a combination of votes and design considerations, will select one of the images for the new main page. The runner up design may be incorporated into other areas of the Web site.

Visitors to wildlifedepartment.

com can find a variety of information to help plan a trip outdoors including:

• Maps of department owned lakes and wetland development areas;

• Hunting and fishing regulations;

• Answers to frequently asked questions;

• Information on upcoming outdoor events throughout the state; and

• Hunters will again be able to apply online for the popular controlled hunts drawing beginning in March or April.

Oklahoma City to host trout clinic, derby and season

Central Oklahoma anglers wanting to experience the thrill of catching a rainbow trout will soon get the chance at Oklahoma City's Dolese Youth Park. Located at the northwest corner of NW 50th Street and Meridian Avenue in Oklahoma City, Dolese Park Lake will be stocked with trout during the months of January and February. A special fishing clinic and kid's fishing derby will kick off the new trout season on January 11 and 12.

According to Kim Erickson, chief of fisheries for the wildlife department, the trout season will provide a unique and convenient opportunity for metro area residents to give trout fishing a try.

"We are excited to be working with the OKC Parks and Recreation Department to bring trout fishing to the Oklahoma City area. Dolese Youth Park Lake is already a great place for kids and families to fish, and the trout will just add to the fun," Erickson said.

Two events are scheduled to kick off the trout season. Friday, Jan. 11, a special fishing clinic will be held at the Putnam City High School gymnasium (directly south of Dolese Park) from 6:30-8 p.m. Instructors from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Aquatic Resource Education Program will teach a variety of topics such as casting, angling ethics, knot tying and special sessions on how to catch rainbow trout. Pre-register for the clinic by calling 405-755-4014.

A kid's trout derby will be held Saturday, Jan. 12, at the Dolese Youth Park Lake. Participants will have from 8:00 a.m. to noon to earn prizes by catching tagged trout. In addition, all anglers will be eligible for several drawing prizes whether they catch a trout or not.

In order to participate in the derby all adults must be accompanied by a child and all children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. From January 13 through the end of February, anglers can fish by themselves, regardless of age.

Approximately 10,000 trout will be stocked over the two-month season. In order to trout fish at Dolese Youth Park Lake, anglers ages 16 to 62 must possess an Oklahoma City fishing permit, and must comply with state fishing license requirements unless exempt. However, a state trout license is not required to trout fish at Dolese.

City fishing permits are $12.50 for an annual permit, or $2.00 for a daily permit. Several Oklahoma City area fishing tackle retailers offer OKC fishing permits as well as state fishing licenses. Anglers can call (405) 497-4014 to get a complete list of license vendors. Special regulations including daily limits will be posted on signs throughout Dolese Park.

The Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation Department will be enhancing Dolese's facilities to accommodate anglers. Parking areas, handicapped accessibility and bank fishing sites will be improved to bring anglers closer to the fish.

Wendel Whisenhunt, director of the Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation Department, said the trout season and the kids fishing derby will be great excuses to visit Dolese Park this winter.

"For many years we've sponsored a very popular event called the Rainbow Trout Fish Out, which is held during the third weekend in March at our Woodson Park swimming pool," said Whisenhunt. "Through that event we know that lots of people like to trout fish, and we expect a good turnout for the derby at Dolese January 12. If folks can't attend the actual derby, they'll get the rest of January and February to try their luck.

"This year, we implemented a new program called ‘Close To Home Fishing’ which creates partnerships with cities and towns to establish new fishing areas, or enhance existing ones," Erickson explained. "We applaud Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation Department for not only offering a unique wintertime trout fishing opportunity in the metro area, but also for enhancing their facilities for anglers at Dolese Park. They have similar plans for several of their other parks too."

Private donations from the OKC 89er Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the OKC Sportsman's Club are helping to make the Dolese Youth Park Lake trout season possible. For additional details about the trout season and information about becoming a sponsor, call Bob Martin, Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation Department (405) 755-4014, or Gene Gilliland, ODWC, (405) 325-7288.

Broken Bow area Popular with anglers

Regarded by many as Oklahoma's prettiest lake, Broken Bow Lake is located in the far southeast corner of Oklahoma in McCurtain County. Whether fishing in the lake, or visiting Beaver's Bend State Park, the area offers a host of fishing opportunities during the winter months.

The area has mountains and pine forests that rival those found in rocky mountain states," said Fuller.

"If you like to fish, then you can catch both rainbow and brown trout within Beaver's Bend State Park or you can fish for several species in Broken Bow Lake. In addition to largemouth bass, sandbass and crappie, Broken Bow is quietly becoming a very good smallmouth bass lake as well."

Several outdoor opportunities will be featured on an upcoming episode of Outdoor Oklahoma scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 23 at 8 a.m. on OETA. A striped bass trip on Lake Texoma will also be featured.

Outdoor Oklahoma can be seen each Sunday at 8 a.m. and Saturdays at 6 p.m. on OETA. Outdoor Oklahoma features such topics as fishing, hunting, and wildlife management. The 30-minute program 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.

Deer data shows need to harvest does

Preliminary county-by-county deer harvest totals are in and as anticipated, results indicate that unusually mild weather resulted in slight declines in the statewide deer harvest.

Although wildlife officials hoped for an increase in the percentage of antlerless harvest this fall, the recent figures showed that many hunters still have a strong preference for harvesting bucks. Of the total harvest of 85,675 deer through the end of the regular gun season (includes harvest totals for the first half of archery season, primitive season and gun season), does accounted for only 38 percent.

"We simply need to harvest more does in order to satisfy our management goals," said Mike Shaw, research supervisor the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Hopefully our hunters will take advantage of the special antlerless deer season coming up in December which will help balance the herd and reduce the population in those areas with too many deer."

In April, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission app-roved special antlerless deer gun seasons for large areas of the state. The first three-day hunt, to be held Dec. 21 through 23, will be restricted to the north central and northwestern portion of the state. Much of the state, except for far southwest, far southeast and panhandle, also will have three days of antlerless-only gun hunting running from Dec. 28 through 30. Hunters should consult the antlerless deer hunt zone map on page 22 of the 2001-2002 Oklahoma Hunting Guide and Regulations to determine which areas will offer the special antlerless deer gun seasons.

To participate in the special antlerless season hunters are reminded to follow several regulations and requirements:

• All resident hunters aged 18 and over, except for holders of lifetime hunting, lifetime combination licenses, senior citizens hunting or senior citizens combination licenses must possess a special antlerless gun season license ($16.75) to participate in the special antlerless gun season. (Unfilled antlered or antlerless deer gun licenses that were purchased for the regular firearms season are not valid during the special antlerless gun season).

• Resident youths under the age of 18 may purchase a special youth antlerless deer gun license for $14.75.

• The statewide season limit during the special antlerless deer gun season is one antlerless deer, which does not count against the annual combined statewide bag limit of six deer.

• All hunters participating in the special gun season must comply with the same blaze orange requirements as set forth for the regular deer gun season, as well as tagging and checking requirements.

• Archery deer hunters afield in areas open to the special antlerless gun hunting and those hunting other species (quail, squirrel, pheasant, etc.) must wear either a blaze orange hat or vest.

• Hunters can not assume that since a wildlife management area or public hunting area is open for the regular deer gun season that it will also be open for the special antlerless gun season. Hunters should consult the 2001-2002 Oklahoma Hunting Guide and Regulations for information on public areas that are open to the special antlerless gun season. Public areas that are open for the special antlerless gun season will be specifically defined as "same as statewide season" for that season.

Additionally, hunters are reminded to be aware that some deer management zones (see zones 1,8 and 10 on page 22 of the 2001-2002 Hunting Guide), are not open for the special antlerless gun season. So WMAs in those zones such as - Honobia Creek and Three Rivers WMA-are not open for the special antlerless gun season.

Harvest statistics show that Osage County is again tops in number of deer harvested with 5,055. The following counties rounded out the top five: Cherokee (3,574), Pittsburg (2,629), Creek (2,385) and Delaware (2,295). Shaw said that although the first half of archery season and the regular firearms season was down, that the total during the primitive firearms season was actually higher this fall than in 2000.

"Although we've experienced unusually mild conditions ever since the beginning of the archery season on October 1, some hunters may be surprised to learn that we actually saw nearly a four percent increase in the primitive harvest. It is possible that with the warm conditions that typically hamper deer movement, that primitive season hunters may have stayed in the field longer than usual which resulted in the slight increase," said Shaw.

To learn more about the special antlerless gun season and deer management in Oklahoma, consult the 2001-2002 Oklahoma Hunting Guide and Regulations or log on to the ODWC's official web site: www.wildlifedepartment.com.

2001 DEER HARVEST THROUGH NOV. 25 (END OF REGULAR GUN SEASON)

Archers get two extra weeks to hunt

Due to wildlife biologist recommendations and requests from state archery groups, this year's archery deer season will run through Jan. 15, 2002, with only antlerless deer being allowed from Jan. 1-15.

According to Mike Shaw, research supervisor for the Department of Wildlife Conservation, the additional days were granted as part of the Department's comprehensive deer management strategy. A slate of changes were implemented by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission earlier this year, including extending archery season, increasing the antlerless harvest limit and eventually special antlerless only gun hunts in December.

"In many areas of the state we simply have too many deer, and the most cost effective means of reducing them is through hunting antlerless deer," said Shaw. "For several years, we've had bowhunters request a longer season into January, and we felt that the time was right for it.

"The period of January 1 through 15 will be for antlerless deer only, and will hopefully provide archers an opportunity to get back into their treestands after the Christmas and New Year holidays."

Archers planning to take advantage of the extended season are reminded 2001 annual hunting licenses and 2001 deer archery licenses expire December 31, 2001. Unless resident archers have a lifetime hunting or lifetime combination license, they will need to purchase both a 2002 hunting license and a 2002 deer archery permit in order to hunt deer in January. Holders of the lifetime senior citizen's hunting license will have to purchase only the 2002 deer archery permit.

Should bowhunters purchase a 2002 deer archery permit and not harvest a deer in January, the unfilled permit remains valid throughout the rest of 2002 open archery season dates (Oct. 1 through Nov. 22 & Dec. 2 through 31).

Other regulations that January archers need to be aware of are the archery season bag limit and the combined season bag limit. Through the archery season (all open dates from Oct. 1, 2001, through Jan. 15, 2002), archers are allowed to take up to four deer, which may include no more than two antlered deer. Additionally, deer hunters are allowed a combined season (all deer archery, deer primitive and deer gun seasons from Oct. 1, 2001 through Jan. 15, 2002) limit of six deer, which may include no more than three antlered deer.

"Of course, January archers are prohibited from harvesting bucks, but they still need to be mindful of the archery bag limit and the season bag limit," said Shaw. " If, for example, an archer took two bucks and two does with his bow, then he's reached his archery limit of four deer and can't harvest any more until next October. Likewise, he can't hunt during January if he's already taken a combined total of six deer through all of the deer seasons up to that point."

The second half of deer archery season has typically accounted for less than 10 percent of the state's total deer harvest. However, wildlife officials hope the additional days combined with the special antlerless deer gun seasons in late December will boost the state's post-gun season harvest.

"Considering our numbers of deer hunters and our current framework, we really don't expect dramatic increases in our gun season harvest. For our harvest to grow, it's going to take more hunters taking advantage of these other opportunities like the extended archery season and the special antlerless season," said Shaw.

To learn more about the state's deer seasons and management strategies, consult the 2001-2002 Hunting Guide and Regulations, or log onto wildlifedepartment.com.

Outdoor Oklahoma special to re-air

On Sunday, December 30 at 8:00 a.m., OETA-The Oklahoma Network will replay The Outdoor Oklahoma 25th Anniversary Special. The special takes a nostalgic look at the show's evolution from narrated segments shot on 16-millimeter film through the current video age.

According to the show's producers with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC), the state's outdoors is the source for the program's longevity.

Outdoor Oklahoma has aired continuously since 1976, and remains one of the most popular programs broadcast on OETA's statewide network. Typical Outdoor Oklahoma segments include fishing, hunting, and wildlife management, however the show has evolved to include more outdoors related news.

"Oklahoma has so many great opportunities for hunting, fishing and watching wildlife that we've never run out of ideas for TV segments," said David Warren, chief of the ODWC's information and education division. "There's always going to be a new way to catch a fish, or a new technique for hunting. And certainly there is always going to be new places to visit with new people who enjoy the outdoors."

"With cable and satellite networks, there's certainly lots more hunting and fishing shows than there was in 1976, but Outdoor Oklahoma is the only place where people are going to get specific information on what is going on in Oklahoma. "

Outdoor Oklahoma" can be seen each Sunday at 8:00 a.m. and Saturdays at 6 p.m. on OETA. The 30-minute program 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.

Nation's symbol featured in tours

Every winter, hundreds of bald eagles choose Oklahoma as their favorite winter vacation spot. And, increasingly, Oklahomans are showing up with cameras and binoculars to watch and photograph the birds as they swoop down to snatch fish from Oklahoma lakes.

Beginning in the 1980s, many states parks and lake areas have been hosting organized eagle watches and tours that allow visitors a better chance of seeing eagles. Park naturalists often host these events, and improve the experience by teaching the public about the huge raptors' biological connections to Oklahoma. The eagle watching events are normally free or very inexpensive, but will provide a wealth of information and possibly a good look at one of North America's largest winged predators.

According to Mark Howery, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) biologist, the bald eagle is more than our nation's symbol - it's a living success story as well.

"This good news is due in part to the efforts of Oklahoma's Sutton Avian Research Center in Bartlesville. In recent years, Sutton biologists worked with state wildlife professionals to release a total of 275 bald eagles in the southeast U.S. as part of a recent captive breeding program," said Howery. "These efforts, along with a ban on the use of certain pesticides, have allowed bald eagle numbers to rebound dramatically."

Reintroduction efforts have been so successful, that the US Fish and Wildlife Service down-graded the bald eagle from endangered to threatened status in 1996. Eagle numbers have increased steadily over the past 40 years from 425 pairs to around 6,000 breeding pairs of eagles in the lower 48 states.

ODWC biologists will help with presentations at the Kaw Lake eagle watch listed below, as well as the "Birding over Byron" watch. Call the numbers listed here, or the ODWC Wildlife Diversity Program at (405) 521-4616 for more information. Updated eagle watch information, as well as other upcoming outdoor events, can be found on the Department website at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

2001-2002 Eagle Watch

Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge
January 12 & 26, 2002
918/489-5643 or 918/773-5251

Beavers Bend State Park, Broken Bow
November 6, 2001 through March 11, 2002
580/494-6556

Lake Thunderbird State Park
Dec. 15, 2001
Jan. 12 & 26, 2002
Feb. 9 & 23, 2002
405/321-4633

Lake Wister State Park
January - March, 2002
918/655-7756 or 918/655-7886
Wichita Mountains Nat'l Wildlife Refuge
January 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 26 & 27, 2002
580/429-3222

Arcadia Lake
January 4, 5, 6, 2002
405/359-4573

Keystone Lake
January 12 & 20, 2002
918/663-0973 or 918/865-2084

Washita National Wildlife Refuge
January 12, 2002
580/664-2205

Fort Gibson Lake
January 19, 20, 26 & 27, 2002
918/478-3920 or 918/682-1896

Lake Texoma State Resort Park
January 5, 12, 19 & 26, 2002
580/564-2311

Quartz Mountain State Park
Jan. 5, 6, 19 & 20, 2002
Feb. 2, 3, 16 & 17, 2002
580/563-2238

Sequoyah State Park, Wagoner
January 12, 2002
918/772-2108

Tishomingo National Wildlife Refuge
All Winter (self-guided)
580/371-2402

Greenleaf State Park, Braggs
January 12, 2002
918/487-7125

Grand Lake of the Cherokees
January 12, 2002
918/787-5582

Birding Over Byron, Bryon
January 12, 2002
405/521-4616 or 580/474-2663

Chickasaw National Recreation Area
January 12 & 26, 2002
February 23, 2002
580/622-3165

A Day in the Kaw Lake Area
January 22, 2002
580/762-9494 or 405/521-4616

Fountainhead State Park, Checotah
February 2, 2002
918/689-4607

Backyard birders wanted

What may be a hobby for many may translate into important biological data for state wildlife officials. Once again backyard bird feeding enthusiasts are being asked to participate in the 2002 Winter Bird Survey. Survey participants will be asked to record the number of each bird species that visit their feeders during the survey period, which is Jan. 10 through 13. Specific instructions on how to gather the data is included on the survey form, and the Wildlife Department welcomes all levels and ages to participate.

Since 1987, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has conducted the survey, which has generated an extensive database on various bird species. Through the survey findings, ODWC biologists have documented increasing and decreasing trends in certain species, as well as irregular peaks and drops in several migrant species.

According to Julian Hilliard, information specialist with the ODWC's natural resources section, many surveyors are repeat participants.

"We have a large number of people who have submitted their surveys every year since the program began in 1987. We are very grateful to these individuals, but the growing database needs more help- especially from people in western Oklahoma," said Hilliard. "This year we have a heightened need for accurate survey data, which will undergo a relatively new form of analysis called Geographical Information Systems."

Commonly referred to as GIS, wildlife biologists represent just one group of scientists who are using the new technology. Through the use of satellite imagery, biologists are using GIS to analyze wildlife populations and a variety of habitat parameters such as vegetative composition, soil types, and topography. When the habitat parameters are cross-referenced with survey data, it can define which habitats correlate with certain species.

2002 Winter Bird Survey form can be obtained either by contacting the ODWC's Wildlife Diversity Program (405/521-4616) or by accessing it from the Department's website: www.wildlifedepartment.com. Click on the link for Watchable Wildlife Opportunities and Events.

The results of the Winter Bird Survey are usually reported in the November/December issue of Outdoor Oklahoma magazine, and in the newsletter of ODWC's Wildlife Diversity Program, Wildlife Diversity News.

Time to renew hunting/fishing licenses

While ushering in 2002, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) officials remind sportsmen to renew their annual hunting and fishing licenses. With the exception of a few annual licenses for waterfowl, furbearers and trapping, all other annual hunting, fishing and combination hunting/fishing licenses expire December 31 each year.

"For those hunters and anglers who purchase annual licenses and don't have a lifetime license, they need to purchase their new 2002 licenses before going afield in the New Year," said Julie Johnson, supervisor of the ODWC's licensing section. "The only exceptions are the state and federal waterfowl permits which run from July 1 through the end of June. Also, the trapping license and the Bobcat-Raccoon-Gray Fox license expire later in the year (trapping, raccoon, and gray fox-Jan. 31, bobcat-Feb. 28).”

For those who enjoy both hunting and fishing, sportsmen can save more than 15 percent off the cost of individual hunting and fishing licenses by purchasing an annual combination license. "A combination license is a great bargain," Johnson said, "And it means one less license you have to carry in your wallet, especially if you purchase some of the auxiliary permits at the same time."

Due to the implementation of a universal license form several years ago, the possibility of license vendors running out of certain licenses or permits has been eliminated. All annual licenses and even a subscription to Outdoor Oklahoma magazine can be purchased at any license vendor. Some of the more popular auxiliary permits are the special trout fishing permit, as well as permits for deer and turkey. Another auxiliary permit available is the unique Land Access Fee. For just $16, the permit gives hunters and anglers a passport to enjoy more than 725,000 acres of the Three Rivers and Honobia Creek wildlife management areas in southeast Oklahoma. For a $10 fee, people can subscribe to one-year worth (six issues) of the Department's award-winning magazine Outdoor Oklahoma.

Due to the recent extension of the state's archery deer season, bowhunters who plan to take advantage of the added January days need to be particularly mindful about renewing licenses and permits. Unless archers possess a lifetime hunting or lifetime combination license, they will need both a 2002 hunting license and a new 2002 archery deer license to hunt during the period of Jan. 1 through Jan. 15 (antlerless deer only). Bowhunters who purchase a new 2002 deer archery license, but do not harvest a deer in January, should hold onto their permit. The unfilled license remains valid throughout the rest of the 2002 open archery season dates (Oct. 1. through Nov 22 & Dec. 2 through 31).

License requirements and exemptions are outlined in the Oklahoma Hunting Guide and Regulations and the Oklahoma Fishing Guide. These publications are available at hunting and fishing license dealers statewide. Information is also available from the Department's licensing section at (405) 521-3852 or at wildlifedepartment.com.

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is responsible for managing Oklahoma's fish and wildlife resources. The department does not receive any general state tax revenues to accomplish its mission. Its operations are funded primarily from revenue generated by the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, and also from revenue generated by special excise taxes on guns, ammunition, motorboat fuel and fishing equipment.

Outdoor Oklahoma kicks off new season

Watchers of Outdoor Oklahoma are urged to tune in during the coming year. In 2001, the popular television show celebrated its 25th anniversary on OETA-The Oklahoma Network, and according to Rich Fuller, production supervisor for the show; the 26th season has plenty to offer viewers.

"We've got several shows coming up that feature spring and summer outdoor activities which of course translates to fishing for many Oklahomans," said Fuller. "Over the next three to four months we're going to show a variety of fishing for bluegills at Holdenville Lake, pond catfishing from float-tubes, hybrid striped bass action from Lake Waurika, largemouth bass fishing on McGee Creek lake plus a carefree canoe trip down the beautiful Baron Fork creek."

Fuller added that fishing won't be the only activities shown during the next round of premier episodes. An exciting spring turkey hunt filmed in northwest Oklahoma will start the new season on Sunday, January 6 on OETA at 8:00 a.m.

"This hunt features our own Todd Craighead who many folks recognize as a regular host of the show. Not only does Todd harvest a nice gobbler, but this show captures some exciting footage of two turkeys fighting for several minutes."

Other shows scheduled for the season include a feature on the unique Red Slough Wildlife Management Area in far southeast Oklahoma, a documentary that covers a new type of wildlife science called a "Bio-Blitz" and a visit to the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve in Osage county. In addition to the feature segments, show producers encourage viewers to watch for news and information regarding the state's wildlife and the activities of the wildlife department.

"Within each show, we will be giving out lots of information such as the statewide fishing report, an outdoor calendar of events, biologist's hunting and fishing tips and lots more. This information should really help people plan their outings this spring and summer," Fuller said.

Outdoor Oklahoma" can be seen each Sunday at 8:00 a.m. and Saturdays at 6 p.m. on OETA. The 30-minute program also airs Mondays at 5:30 p.m., Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. and each Saturday at 1:30 p.m. on KSBI network .

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.

Meetings to discuss fishing reg changes

Fisheries biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation encouraging anglers

to attend upcoming meetings to discuss several proposals that would change or alter fishing regulations for 2003.

Each meeting will begin with fisheries biologists explaining each of the proposed rule changes, along with the reasons for the proposals. The public will get an opportunity to ask questions and discuss each rule change as it is proposed. Once discussion has concluded, the public meeting will adjourn and a formal "hearing" will be called to order. During the hearing, anyone wanting to make a formal comment, either for or against any of the proposed changes, may do so. Comments from the regional meetings will be compiled and forwarded to the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Wildlife Department’s governing body. The Commission will then take the comments into consideration when ruling on the proposed changes.

Meetings will be held Jan. 14 in Tulsa, Alva, and Ada, and Jan. 15 in Tahlequah, Oklahoma City and Broken Bow.

Proposed changes include:

• imposing rod and reel angling only in the section of Salt Fork of the Arkansas River that runs between the spillway of the Great Salt Plains Lake downstream to the State Highway 38 bridge. (Juglines, throwlines, trotlines, yoyos, limblines and bowfishing would be prohibited in this area.)

• removing the 16- to 22-inch slot length limit on largemouth bass in Konawa Lake, and imposing a six (6) fish per day bag limit, of which only one may be 22 inches or longer.

• imposing a 9- to 12-inch slot length limit on smallmouth bass in the Baron Fork Creek from Arkansas state line downstream to the Illinois River. The daily limit would remain at six (6) fish, of which only one may be 12-inches or longer.

• adding Zoo Lake on the list of lakes covered under a fisheries management agreement with Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation Department which designates certain public fishing sites as "Close to Home" fishing waters.

• changing the daily bag limit on white bass and hybrid striped bass in Skiatook Lake to twenty (20)(combined) fish, of which only five (5) may be 20" or longer.

• removal of the April 25 through May 9 closed fishing period on the Arkansas river from Zink Lake Dam downstream to the PSO rock jetty. (This would open this portion of the Arkansas River to fishing year-round.)

• imposing a 12-inch minimum size limit and a daily bag limit of three (3) smallmouth bass in the Glover River (from the forks of Glover River downstream to the Little River confluence in McCurtain County).

Persons wanting additional information regarding the proposed changes can contact the ODWC's Fisheries Division at (405) 521-3721.

Public Meeting Schedule for Fish Proposals

January 14, 2002, at 6:30 p.m.

Tulsa - Zebco Corporation Cafeteria, 6101 E. Apache

Alva - Northwest Area Vo-Tech, 1801 S. 11th St

Ada - Pontotoc Technology Center, Seminar Center C,601 W 33rd St

January 15, 2002, at 6:30 p.m.

Tahlequah - Tahlequah Public Library, Carnegie Room, 120 S. College

OKC - Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, ODWC Auditorium, 1801 N Lincoln

Broken Bow - Broken Bow Public Library, 404 N. Broadway

Youth writing competition winners announced

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Oklahoma Station of Safari Club International (OSSCI) recently announced the results of its annual Youth Writing Competition.

"Oklahoma’s youth writing competition is divided into two categories," said Colin Berg, education section supervisor for the Wildlife Department. "Students ages 11-14 compete in a junior category and students ages 15-17 compete in the senior division. Students have the option of writing an essay or a short story about sharing their hunting heritage."

Winners in the ages 11-14 category were Trent Sanders, 11, a student at Tupelo Elementary in Allen; Timothy Bridgman, 13, a home schooled student and Cody Bruce, 13, a Gypsy Elementary student in Bristow. Winners in the ages 15-17 category were Robert Rothell, 15, Roff High School; and Jordan Basden, 15, Stigler High School.

"The winners in the age 11-14 age category receive a scholarship to the YO Ranch Apprentice Hunter Program," added Berg. "One male and one female annually are selected in the age 15-17 category, and they receive an all expenses paid antelope hunt in Wyoming. Publishing of the winning entries qualifies the writers to enter a national essay contest sponsored by the Outdoor Writers Association of America."

The Youth Writing Competition is designed to promote America’s hunting heritage among Oklahoma’s youth. It provides them an opportunity to express the importance of hunting in their lives and to affirm their commitment to carrying on the hunting tradition. Students use the essays or short stories to relive memorable hunts, to explain why hunting is important to them and to recognize mentors who have influenced them to grow as hunters.

“The essays are always very thoughtful and sometimes very introspective," said Sam Munhollon, of OSSCI. "America’s hunting culture is alive and well today, and outdoor experiences learned while hunting help shape our appreciation for the freedoms we have. Kids with a strong hunting background, especially those who are mentored by a hunting adult, are well-adjusted, sensitive individuals who display a higher than average degree of perception about the world around them. From reading these essays, I can tell you that America’s hunting heritage is in good hands."

The Wildlife Department and the OSSCI will submit the winning essays to the Youth Writing Contest held annually by the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA). A number of previous Oklahoma student essays have been selected as being the best across the country by the OWAA, and judging by the quality of this year’s entries this year should be no different," Munhollon said.