MARCH 2002 NEWS RELEASES 

 

Week of March 28, 2002

Week of March 21, 2002

Week of March 14, 2002

Week of March 7, 2002

Bird hunters support proposed bill

Game bird hunters in Oklahoma support a bill currently awaiting Senate action by almost a four to one margin, according to a survey of annual hunting license holders conducted only days ago.

The telephone survey, conducted by the Responsive Management Section of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, was based on a random sampling of annual hunting and annual combination license holders. Hunters who said they had hunted either quail, turkey, dove, pheasant, ducks, geese or other game girds within the last two years were asked if they supported or opposed legislation to create a game bird license. Of those surveyed, 78 percent said they supported the specifics of the legislation, while only 19 percent were opposed.

Specifically, hunters were told that a bill currently being considered by the Legislature would eliminate the state waterfowl license (currently $4), and would establish a new game bird license ($7.50) which would be required of all game bird hunters including those hunting waterfowl. Proceeds from game bird license sales would be used for game bird habitat improvement. These provisions are outlined in House Bill 2329 by Elmer Maddux and Dale Smith of the House, and Frank Shurden of the Senate. Lifetime license holders were not surveyed regarding the measure because as proposed, those holding lifetime licenses when the bill becomes effective will not have to purchase the license.

The Wildlife Department receives no general tax appropriations to accomplish its mission of managing and conserving the state's fish and wildlife resources. Instead, most of the Department's operating funds come from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and special federal excise taxes that are generated when hunters and anglers purchase sporting goods.

The past three legislative sessions have seen several variations of bills intended to provide the Department with additional operations funding, but none of the measures have successfully passed both houses of the Legislature. Wildlife officials say that critical funding is needed to begin addressing the decline in the bobwhite quail population, which is primarily habitat related, and to continue enhancing existing waterfowl and wetland habitat projects. Although passage of the game bird license legislation is important to address critical needs of quail, Department officials say the comprehensive financial needs of the Department still remain to be addressed.

"Most people are not aware that hunters and anglers pay for the conservation and management of all wildlife," said Richard Hatcher, the Wildlife Department's assistant director. "Our funding mechanism is unique in that hunters and anglers are footing the bill to improve our natural resources for the benefit of everyone."

Hatcher added that in addition to hunting and fishing licenses, which are the primarily source of agency income, special federal taxes known as the Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration programs, provide about a third - about $8 million - of the Department's annual income. The federal government collects the taxes from companies who make hunting and fishing equipment and motorboat fuel, and are then distributed to state fish and wildlife agencies based on land area and the numbers of sportsmen in each state.

"Although it's a little complicated, the bottom line is that those funds are coming from hunters and anglers who purchase hunting and fishing gear," he said. "The recent game bird license survey confirms what we have known for years, sportsmen are willing to provide the resources necessary to fund fish and wildlife conservation."

 

 

2002 Habitat Patch features the pheasant

A flushing ring-necked pheasant is featured on the 2002 wildlife habitat donor patch. Patches are now available at the Wildlife Department's Oklahoma City and Tulsa offices and by mail.

Since 1986, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has annually produced a habitat donor patch, which features a popular Oklahoma game or fish species. Proceeds from the sale of patches go directly to the Department's Land Acquisition Program which provides increased opportunity for public hunting and fishing access across the state. Since their inception, the habitat patches have become not only a valued source of wildlife funding, but have become a favorite collector's item with Oklahoma hunters and anglers.

Patches ($5) can be purchased at Department headquarters in Oklahoma City (southwest corner of NE 18th and Lincoln Blvd.) or the Department's Tulsa office (Tulsa Expo Square) Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. To order patches by mail send your request along with cashier's check or money order to Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, PO Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152.

Previous wildlife habitat donor patches including the first patch issued in 1986 are also available from ODWC offices in Oklahoma City and Tulsa or by mail. Designs from past years can be viewed on the Department's official Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com

Controlled hunts books available

Hunters applying for the Wildlife Department's controlled hunts can soon begin picking up the Oklahoma Controlled Hunts 2002 application books at more than 1,000 hunting and fishing license vendors located throughout the state.

For the first time, a $5 fee is required of all applicants including lifetime hunting or lifetime combination license holders. The fee was authorized by the 2001 Legislature in order to offset rising costs for administering the program.

"We have implemented significant changes in our online application process via the Department's Web site," said Melinda Sturgess-Streich, chief of administration for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC). "Hunters can apply online in early April. This will still give hunters several weeks to make their selections and apply before the May 3 deadline."

Sturgess-Streich added that since the fee is per person and not per application, hunters should decide to apply for all their hunt categories either by mail or online, but not both. Hunters who choose to mail in their applications must complete the processing fee payment form on page 20 of the controlled hunts booklet. Payment ($5 per person) can be made by the following methods: cashier's check, money order or credit card. For complete application instructions, including tips on enhancing your chances of being selected, consult the Oklahoma Controlled Hunts 2002 booklet.

Other significant changes for this year's controlled hunts program were implemented to spread out hunter opportunity and allow more people to participate. They include:

• Making the Elk and antelope hunts once-in-a-lifetime hunts.

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.

In the new system, hunters who successfully drew either an elk or antelope permit anytime from 1993 through 2001 may only apply in the same category after waiting a period of 10 years from the year they drew the permit.

• Combining, or pooling, the four previous deer categories into one comprehensive deer category.

In the past, separate categories were offered for deer archery, muzzleloader, gun and disability hunts. Some lucky hunters were drawn for two or even 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. A hunter's preference points in the new comprehensive deer category will be equal to the highest number of preference points the hunter had accrued in any one of the previous deer categories.

• Instituting a progressive draw for big game.

Elk hunts will be 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.

For additional information, consult the Oklahoma Controlled Hunts 2002 booklet, or log onto the Department's Web site, www.wildlifedepartment.com and click on the link for Controlled Hunts.

Purple martin time is here

Oklahomans who want to draw purple martins to their property should get ready now. Late February through late March is the time to set up new martin houses or clean the compartments of existing houses in preparation for the birds' arrival.

"The purple martin is a member of the swallow family that readily takes to nesting in manmade structures," said Mark Howery, Natural Resources Biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "These dark, purplish birds are a welcome spring and summer visitor to Oklahoma and are famous for eating a variety of insect pests. Though the current evidence indicates that purple martins do not eat nearly as many mosquitoes as some have claimed, they do eat other insects considered to be agricultural pests including several species of beetles, moths and flies. Purple martins prefer to establish their nesting colonies near broad open fields and meadows within a half mile of ponds, marshes, streams or other wetlands," Howery said.

Purple martins have nested in close association with humans for over 400 years and prior to European settlement of this country; some eastern Indian tribes are known to have placed nesting gourds in their villages to attract these birds. As a result of their long-term relationship with people, purple martins in the eastern U.S. now nest almost exclusively in manmade martin houses. Many styles of aluminum, plastic and wooden apartment-like houses are commercially available for potential purple martin landlords.

"One of the most important things to consider when choosing a purple martin house is how easily the house is to lower and clean," said Howery. "For ease of maintenance, most people choose a light weight house that can be lowered and raised on a telescoping pole or by means of a pulley system on a fixed pole. A porch with a railing around it is also useful to aid purple martin parents entering and leaving the nest cavity while preventing eggs or martin chicks from falling to the ground. Regular inspection and maintenance of purple martin houses is important to keep unwanted, non-native species such as House Sparrows and European Starlings out of the nesting compartments where they may compete with or harass martins. Repeated removal of their nests is usually the best method to discourage these species."

The purple martin is one of the first summer residents to return to Oklahoma and typically return here from their wintering grounds in Brazil during the first week of March. Typical for most songbirds, the first purple martins to arrive are the adult males. Most older males return to the general vicinity of - and often the same martin house - where they nested the previous year. These males are the birds that are often erroneously called "scouts," though in reality they are birds trying to reclaim their former nesting cavities by getting a jump on the younger males. Females and young males follow about two weeks after the older males.

"People should start watching their purple martin houses regularly beginning in early March for signs of returning birds," Howery recommended. "In order to prevent unwanted house sparrows from occupying the martin house first, we recommend that the holes of the house be kept plugged until the first adult male martins have been observed flying near or landing on the house. People who successfully attracted purple martins last year, should start looking for returning males during the first three weeks of March. Those attempting to attract martins for the first time are most likely to attract the later-arriving year-old males. These males, which arrive in late March and early April, are the ones that are most likely to settle at new houses and establish new colonies."

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has a free brochure available regarding how to attract Purple Martins. To request a copy, please write to the Wildlife Diversity Program at P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152 or print a brochure off the Department's Web site www.wildlifedepartment.com

 

New Camp Gruber regulations approved

At its regular monthly meeting, held March 4 in Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission voted to approve new hunting regulations for the Camp Gruber Maneuver Training Center. The new regulations will not take effect until Jan. 1, 2003.

The Oklahoma Army National Guard, which will hold the only use license for the 33,000-acre property in Muskogee County, and the Wildlife Department worked out an agreement that guarantees at least four hunting seasons at Camp Gruber without impeding military training. The "memorandum of understanding" between the two agencies designates that the unrestricted training areas will be open:

• For the statewide nine-day primitive firearms deer season;

• For the statewide nine-day modern gun deer season;

• The last 21 days of December (Dec. 11-31) for all open wildlife activities;

• The second Saturday of April and running for nine consecutive days (spring turkey season).

In addition, the Guard has indicated areas not being used for training will be open to public recreation, with notice being posted two days in advance on site and through Gruber's Web site. Hunting regulations for this fall's seasons will be the same as they have been previously, with the new changes taking effect Jan. 1.

Also approved at the March meeting were changes in feral hog hunting regulations at Honobia Creek, Three Rivers and Broken Bow wildlife management areas. Like the changes at Camp Gruber, the new provisions will not go into effect until next January (specifically Jan. 16, 2003). Commissioners expanded feral hog hunting opportunities to include the deer archery and deer muzzleloader seasons.

Currently, feral hogs may only be hunted during the nine-day deer gun season. Hog hunting will be restricted to those nine days only for this coming fall, with the new changes not taking effect until the following season. Hog hunting will be restricted to means and methods legal for that particular season (for example, they can only be hunted with a bow and arrow during archery season) and anyone hunting hogs during the firearms deer seasons must possess a filled or unfilled deer license.

In other business, the Commission voted to enter into an agreement with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (DOT), with the Wildlife Department transferring five of its six radio towers, and their maintenance, to the DOT. The Department will seek a similar agreement with another entity for the sixth tower, which is in Antlers. The Department's radio repeaters, and those of other existing tenants, will remain on all the towers, but the maintenance requirements and costs will largely be assumed by the DOT.

Also at the March meeting, Commissioners:

- Voted to accept a $137,850 grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service to construct small islands in wetland units at Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area in southwest Oklahoma. The grant is 100 percent cost-reimbursable, meaning the Department must pay for the work, but will be repaid when it is completed.

- Received a legislative update from Executive Director Greg Duffy. A number of fish and wildlife bills are making their way through the legislative process, including a measure that would expand the current state waterfowl hunting license to be required of all game bird hunters. It would also increase the cost from $4 to $7.50 for residents, with funds being allocated to both waterfowl/wetlands and upland game bird habitat projects. A current summary of active fish and wildlife legislation is available through the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com

- Heard from Dr. Terry Bidwell, professor of rangeland ecology and management at Oklahoma State University, regarding a proposal to bring all of its natural resources curriculum into a more well-rounded fish and wildlife degree program. Bidwell also touched on several topics relating to wildlife management, including the increased acceptance of prescribed fire as both a safety tool and a means for improving wildlife habitat.

Commission vice-chairman Vyrl Keeter was recognized with a certificate of appreciation from fellow Commissioners for his efforts in forging the Camp Gruber memorandum of understanding. Keeter said the area has long been a popular outdoor recreation destination in northeast Oklahoma, and he was pleased to have been part of the process to bring the two state agencies together.

Melinda Sturgess-Streich, chief of administration for the Wildlife Department, was recognized with two awards, one from the Government Accounting Standards Board for her and Accounting Supervisor Michelle Chapple's leadership in achieving early compliance with the new GASB 34 accounting standards, and one from Director Duffy for her outstanding efforts in providing services to the state's sportsmen. Among other things, the Department was the first state to allow hunters to apply on-line for controlled hunts, and current efforts center around developing an on-line license sales system.

Also recognized at the March meeting was State Game Warden Randy Fennell, stationed in LeFlore County, as the National Wild Turkey Federation's 2001 Oklahoma Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.

 

Farm Bill heads for conference committee

The 2002 federal farm bill reauthorization is working its way through the legislative process, with the House and Senate both adopting versions of the bill with important fish and wildlife provisions. The legislation is now headed for a joint conference committee.

"Oklahoma is more than 95 percent privately owned, and because the farm bill focuses on conservation incentives for private landowners, it can have far-reaching impacts on our wildlife habitat," said John Hendrix, private lands biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Over the past two decades, many conservation programs from the farm bill have played key roles in improving fish and wildlife habitat and increasing the quality of our environment, not to mention that they have provided much-needed economic benefits to the state's farmers and ranchers."

Hendrix added that landowner participation in farm bill conservation programs reflects their support and commitment to natural resources.

"Many of these programs have been modified and improved over the years," he said. "And both agricultural production organizations and wildlife groups are viewing this year's renewal as an opportunity to improve the conservation programs even more."

The Wildlife Society, an international non-profit scientific and educational association dedicated to sustainable management of wildlife resources and their habitats, is seeking the following six environmental provisions:

1. Restore the Conservation Reserve Program enrollment cap to its original 1985 level of 45 million acres.

2. Expand the Wetland Reserve Program to accommodate enrollment of 250,000 acres per year.

3. Expand the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program to authorize expenditures of $100 million annually.

4. Establish a Grassland Reserve Program with a minimum of a 2 million-acre enrollment cap.

5. Establish a voluntary incentive program to reward the implementation of conservation practices on working lands.

6. Establish a monitoring and assessment program to assess the environmental and economic effectiveness of Farm Bill conservation programs.

"Adequate funding will be the key to the success of any of the farm bill conservation programs," Hendrix said. "It's an investment in our future, though, one that will pay dividends for everyone who enjoys wildlife."

For more information on the status of the farm bill's reauthorization, consult the Wildlife Society's Web site at www.wildlife.org.

 

Wildlife employment exam scheduled

Game wardens, wildlife and fisheries biologists or technicians, fish hatchery managers and wildlife information specialists are common job titles within the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC). As part of its selection procedures, the ODWC requires persons seeking positions to take a standardized employment exam before being considered for open positions.

On Friday, March 29, the ODWC is offering its standardized employment exam at 10:00 a.m. at the Tom Steed Development Center Auditorium located on the Rose State College campus. The Center is located immediately north off of I-40 on Hudiburg Road in Midwest City. The exam is free and participants must have photo identification upon check-in. Late arrivals will not be permitted to enter the examination room past 10:00 a.m.

"Two different exams will be given," said Kyle Eastham, ODWC's Human Resource Administrator. " One exam is for biologist, game warden, assistant hatchery manager and information specialist level positions. These positions require a Bachelor's level college degree. The other exam is for technician level positions, which typically require either two years of college coursework in wildlife or a related field, or four to six years of similar job experience."

Eastham said that job and education requirements must be met prior to taking the exams. Specific job and education requirements for ODWC positions as well as suggested study material for the exams are listed on the Department's official Web site www.wildlifedepartment.com. In addition, the ODWC's Requirements and Selection Procedures brochure can be picked up at either ODWC Headquarters in Oklahoma City, or their regional office located at Tulsa Expo Square.

Individuals may take the exam once in a 12-month period. Test scores are valid for 12 months from the test date. Participating in the exam does not guarantee employment or that there are any current job openings. Participating in the exam also does not guarantee an individual will be contacted for an interview if a job opening becomes available.

 

Department offers youth wildlife camp

Youth interested in wildlife, fisheries or law enforcement can learn the basics by attending the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's fourth annual Wildlife Youth Camp. The camp is conducted each year by wildlife professionals including game wardens and biologists.

The camp, scheduled June 9-14 at Camp McFadden near Ponca City, is open to Oklahoma youths ages 14 to 16. Additionally, applicants must have been enrolled in school during the 2001-2002 school year. Participants will attend courses in firearms handling, wildlife law enforcement, wildlife and fisheries biology, water safety, self-defense, rifle and shotgun training, waterfowl hunting, and archery.

The camp is free of charge but will be limited to 35 participants. Applicants should be interested in fish and wildlife management or law enforcement and must submit a 75-word essay explaining why they want to attend the camp; why they believe they should be selected and what they expect to learn while attending. They must also submit a letter of recommendation from a person of their choice other than a family member.

The application deadline is April 15. To obtain applications, contact the Wildlife Department's Law Enforcement Division at P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152, or by calling 405/521-3719. Applications may also be available from local wardens or from the Wildlife Department's Web site www.wildlifedepartment.com. Simply print off the application, fill it out and mail it in with the essay and letter of recommendation.

Statewide quail meetings proposed

Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation personnel will be addressing various quail management issues in a series of public meetings to be held across the state.

"This is a great opportunity for individuals interested in quail management to come out and talk about topics affecting quail including, predators, hunting pressure and the quail initiative," said Mike Sams, upland game biologist for the Wildlife Department.

Sams said that the state's new 10-point quail initiative focuses on maintaining healthy quail populations in Oklahoma. Parts of the plan include seeking funding to provide incentives to landowners to enhance habitat, identifying key areas for habitat improvements, educating the public about quail and working with public utilities and the Department of Transportation in developing right of way management practices that conserve nesting habitat for quail and other grassland birds.

 

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.

Sams added that through sound management and cooperation with landowners, Oklahomans can ensure that the state remains one of the top quail states in the nation.

"Through the meetings we hope to provide some insight on the status of quail in Oklahoma and the things that we can do to ensure that the quail population continues to thrive in Oklahoma," Sams said.

The following is a list of the meetings and their locations. All meetings begin at 7 p.m.

March 28 - Tulsa
Tulsa Central Library, 400 Civic Center, Aaronson Auditorium.

April 1 - Oklahoma City
Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, 1801 N. Lincoln Blvd.

April 8 - Clinton
Clinton City Hall, 415 Gary Blvd.

April 11 - Enid
Enid Fire Department, 301 W. Owen K. Garriot

April 15 - McAlester
Kiamichi Technology Center, 69 By-pass

April 19 - Idabel 
Kiamichi Technology Center, 3 miles North on Hwy 70

April 22 - Lawton
Lawton Public Library, 110 S.W. 4th St.

April 25 - Ardmore
Southern Oklahoma Rotech, 2610 Sam Noble Parkway

April 29 - Woodward 
Northwest Electric Cooperative, 2925 Williams

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Donate for wildlife at tax time

State wildlife enthusiasts can show their support for Oklahoma's wildlife by making a donation on the state income tax form. The refund check-off provides vital funding for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Wildlife Diversity Program.

"For more than 18 years, Oklahomans have been supporting non-game species conservation work by donating a small portion of their state tax refund," said Julian Hilliard, natural resources information specialist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC). "This year, the need for donations is greater than ever because we need to generate matching funds to secure federal wildlife conservation grants that can be used for a variety of restoration programs.

 

"Without these donations, will not be able to take full advantage of federal conservation grants to states," said Hilliard.

The Wildlife Diversity Program performs surveys of rare species, engages in conservation management field work, produces a variety of educational wildlife brochures and guides, coordinates wildlife-viewing events throughout the state, and helps establish new places and opportunities through which the public can enjoy wildlife.

Hilliard said tax donations from past years have recently helped the ODWC implement 10 new federally-funded wildlife conservation and restoration program projects. These include funding phase one of the western Oklahoma birding trail, a new amphibian and reptile field guide, a new Geographic Information Systems (GIS) laboratory and other progressive projects. The Program is also planning viewing tours to the popular Selman Bat Cave this summer, and a range of other opportunities at Watchable Wildlife Areas throughout the state.

Individuals can mark their refund donation on the appropriate line of the state tax form, or instruct their tax preparer to make the donation. Direct donations can also be made out to: Wildlife Diversity Program, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, P.O. Box 53465, OKC, OK 73152.

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

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Wildlife jobs require testing

As part of its selection procedures, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) requires prospective job candidates to take a standardized employment exam before being considered for open positions. The next exam is being offered later this month.

On Friday, March 29, the ODWC is offering its standardized employment exam at 10:00 a.m. at the Tom Steed Development Center Auditorium located on the Rose State College campus. The Center is located immediately north off of I-40 on Hudiburg Road in Midwest City. The exam is free and participants must have photo identification upon check-in. Late arrivals will not be permitted to enter the examination room past 10:00 a.m.

 

There are two different exams for job seekers. The first exam is for technician level positions that require either two years of job related college courses or equivalent experience. The other exam is for biologist/game warden/specialist level positions that require a Bachelor's level degree. Job and education requirements must be met prior to taking the exams. Specific job and education requirements for ODWC positions as well as suggested study material for the exams are listed on the Department's official Web site www.wildlifedepartment.com. In addition, the ODWC's Requirements and Selection Procedures brochure can be picked up at either ODWC Headquarters in Oklahoma City, or at the agency’s Tulsa Office at Expo Square. Individuals may take the exam once in a 12-month period. Test scores are valid for 12 months from the test date. Participating in the exam does not guarantee employment or that there are any current job openings. Participating in the exam also does not guarantee an individual will be contacted for an interview if a job opening becomes available.

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Scouting, patterning keys to turkey success

The predawn stillness is shattered when the hoot of a barred owl seemingly says, "Who cooks for you!… Who cooks for you-all!" Before the last note of the owl's call, however, a different sound resonates-"Gobble, gobble, gobble!" The gobble of the wild turkey signals the onset of the mating season and is also a signal to turkey hunters to prepare for the upcoming hunting season.

In most parts of Oklahoma, spring turkey season runs a full month from April 6 through May 6. Hunters pursuing the Eastern wild turkey in the eight southeastern-most counties have from April 6 to April 28 to pursue toms. Despite a long season and huntable populations in all 77 Oklahoma counties, harvesting a wild turkey is no easy task. Experienced turkey hunters agree that besides practicing various turkey calls, pre-season scouting and patterning your shotgun are keys to success once the season begins.

 

 

"Easily, the most important thing a turkey hunter can do is to get out in the woods prior to the season to scout for turkeys," said Bill Dinkines, assistant chief of wildlife for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC). "Having said that however, there is a right way and a wrong way to scout for turkeys. The best way to scout for turkeys is to go out just before dawn and listen for toms while they are still in their roost trees. If you locate a roost, do not approach closer than 250 yards. The less disturbance to the roost, the more likely the birds will continue to roost in that area, which will make the job of locating them much easier when the season arrives."

Dinkines added that other ways to scout should include looking for turkey sign during mid day, such as tracks, droppings, dusting areas and feathers. If droppings and feathers are found below large cottonwood trees in western Oklahoma, there is a good chance that the trees are used as a roost.

In southeastern Oklahoma, Eastern wild turkeys don't necessarily roost in the same areas every night, so finding subtle signs such as dusting areas, feathers and tracks may be the best indicator of birds using an area. Dinkines cautions pre-season scouters to leave their turkey calls in the truck when they go scouting.

"Turkey hunters should really resist the urge to practice their calls on turkeys during the pre-season. Excessive calling to birds during the pre-season can make gobblers even more wary and call shy once the hunting season starts," Dinkines said.

Dinkines adds that "locator" calls such as barred owl hooters, crow calls, coyote howlers and pileated woodpecker calls are okay to use sparingly to illicit a tom to gobble during the pre-season.

Another very important aspect of pre-season preparation for the turkey hunter is patterning their shotgun. Although there are several special turkey loads on the market, the preferred turkey gauge and load is a 12 gauge using a full choke with number four or number six lead shot. According to Lance Meek, ODWC hunter education coordinator, turkey hunters can make a very simple target to determine their effective range.

"All you need is a large piece of paper and a colored marker," said Meek. "By placing your cupped hand and forearm on the paper and tracing around it, you've simulated the approximate size and shape of tom turkey's head and neck."

Meek instructs hunters to start out by placing the target against a safe backstop at a distance of 30 yards. An effective turkey load and choke will place a minimum of five pellets in the head portion of the turkey. Meek adds that even hunters using 10 gauge magnums with an extra-full turkey choke should resist shots greater than 45 yards.

"The pattern of your 10 gauge may show enough pellets in the head portion, but at that distance it becomes a question of pellet energy. The pellets may reach the turkey's head, but by that time they've slowed down and may not produce a lethal shot."

Meek added that even hunters using guns with screw-in choke tubes should pattern their gun prior to the season.

For more information about turkey hunting consult the March/April issue of Outdoor Oklahoma magazine which features the special insert, "The Turkey Hunter's Handbook." Individual copies can be obtained by sending $4 by mail to Outdoor Oklahoma, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, Ok 73152. Additionally, persons who subscribe to Outdoor Oklahoma before April 15 will receive the March/April edition as their first issue.

Subscriptions to Outdoor Oklahoma are $10 for one year, $18 for two years and $25 for three years. Subscriptions can be purchased on the Universal License Form wherever hunting or fishing licenses are sold, or via credit card by calling 1-800-777-0019.

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Special issue now available

The days are getting longer across the Sooner state and that has many outdoor enthusiasts day dreaming about lunker fish and long-beard turkeys. To fuel those dreams, hunters and anglers should be sure to check out the latest issue of Outdoor Oklahoma.

"It is a great time to be a sportsman in Oklahoma, the spring months offer many exciting opportunities to get out and enjoy the outdoors," said Nels Rodefeld, editor of Outdoor Oklahoma, the official bi-monthly magazine of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC). "The March/April issue features a multitude of information that can be used by those going afield this spring."

"The Turkey Hunter's Handbook," a special feature in the current issue, offers just about all the information a successful turkey hunter will need. The handbook chronicles the dramatic return of the wild turkey to the nation's woods and prairies, offers population estimates for each Oklahoma county, as well as tactics that will help a hunter harvest the often perplexing bird.

"We worked closely with the National Wild Turkey Federation to produce 'The Turkey Hunter's Handbook,'" Rodefeld said. "Whether this is a hunter's first effort at turkey hunting or whether someone has been hunting turkeys for years, I think they will find some great tips that they can use this spring. Turkey management and the work of conservation groups like the NWTF also is highlighted.”

Also included in the March/April issue of Outdoor Oklahoma is the “2002 Angler's Guide.”

"’The Angler's Guide’ is a great source for fishermen who want to find out where the hottest bass fishing was last year or for people who want to learn more about the fish they are going after," Rodefeld said.

Included in the ‘Angler's Guide’ is the Department's electrofishing/netting results for the states top gamefish and some helpful hints to ensure anglers come home with a stringer full of fish.

Individual copies of the magazine can be purchased at Department installations or they are available by sending $4 by mail to Outdoor Oklahoma, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152. Additionally, persons who subscribe to Outdoor Oklahoma before April 15 will receive the March/April edition as their first issue.

Subscriptions to Outdoor Oklahoma are $10 for one year, $18 for two years and $25 for three years. Subscriptions can be purchased on the Universal License Form wherever hunting or fishing licenses are sold, or via credit card by calling 1-800-777-0019.

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Holdenville Lake featured on show

Anglers looking for fishing excitement shouldn't overlook bluegills. They may not have the high profile glamour of largemouth bass or stripers, but they can provide exciting angling action and an upcoming episode of Outdoor Oklahoma features sunfishing at Holdenville Lake in east central Oklahoma.

The lake has a tremendous bluegill fishery, and anglers often find large fish protecting their shallow water nests in late spring and early summer. Anglers across the state will enjoy the experience of hooking into Holdenville sunfish during the March 31 episode of Outdoor Oklahoma on OETA. The show airs at 8:00 a.m. on OETA-The Oklahoma Network.

"Pound for pound, sunfish are some of the scrappiest fighters anglers can get on the ends of their lines here in Oklahoma," said Blake Podhajsky, information specialist for the Wildlife Department and producer of the sunfish angling show. "Holdenville Lake has long been known as one of the best in the state for producing some great excitement. Get a can of worms and some light fishing tackle and you've got the makings of a great fishing experience."

Upcoming public meetings on quail management, current spring time fishing reports and all the latest news from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation also will be featured, added Podhajsky.

Outdoor Oklahoma features such topics as fishing, hunting and fisheries, game and non-game wildlife management. The 30-minute program can be seen on OETA- Sundays at 8:00 a.m. and Saturdays at 6:00 p.m. Outdoor Oklahoma can also be seen on the following television stations: KSBI Network (greater OKC metro area), Mondays-5:00 p.m., Thursdays-10: 30 p.m., Saturdays-1:30 p.m.; KTEN (south-central and southeastern Oklahoma) Sundays-5 a.m.; KWEM (Stillwater), Wednesdays-8:00 p.m., Fridays-7:00 p.m. and Sundays-8:00 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.

Goose Management Comments Wanted

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on management of resident Canada geese. The service will be accepting public comments regarding goose management over the next two months.

The draft EIS evaluates seven alternative strategies to reduce, manage, and control resident Canada goose populations in the United States. The draft EIS addresses impacts of the various alternatives with regard to their potential impacts on resident Canada goose populations, other wildlife species, natural resources, special status species, and socio-economics.

"Resident geese can cause problems in certain places and at certain times of the year, but overall these birds are a tremendous resource to our state," said Mike O'Meilia, migratory game bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "We need the flexibility at a state level to properly manage these birds. One of our most valuable tools for managing resident geese is through carefully regulated hunting opportunity."

According to O'Meilia, it is critical that the states and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service develop flexible options to properly manage growing populations of Canada geese. He said the management goal is to minimize conflicts with human activities while ensuring the long-term conservation of resident goose populations. The Service's Proposed Alternative (Alternative F) would establish a regulation authorizing state wildlife agencies to conduct or allow population control management activities on resident Canada goose populations. Alternative F would also include criteria for such activities as special expanded harvest opportunities during the portion of the Migratory Bird Treaty closed period (August 1-31), airport, agricultural and public health control, and the non-permitted take of nest and eggs.

As part of the process of finalizing the impact statement, the Fish and Wildlife Service will be accepting public comment on the statement through a series of meetings and through mail-in comment.

"It is important that sportsmen take this opportunity to weigh in on this important migratory game bird management issue," O'Meilia said. "Without input from hunters, future management decisions could be shaped by those opposed to both hunting management strategies and the ability for state conservation agencies to address situations in their local areas."

Requests for copies of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement should be mailed to Division of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20240. Comments on the statement should be sent to the same address. The comment period runs through May 30.

In addition to written comments, the public can attend meetings to address resident Canada goose management. The nearest meetings will be held in Denver, CO, on May 29, at the Colorado Department of Wildlife, Northeast Region Service Center, Hunter Education Building, 6060 Broadway at 7 p.m. and Dallas, TX, on April 1 at the Hyatt Regency Downtown, 300 Reunion Boulevard at 7 p.m.

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Big Fish Biting

Early spring can be the prime time to catch big bass, just ask Jim Nunnally who caught a 10.91 pound largemouth bass on Sunday, March 24, out of Lake Keystone.

"Over the years, our largest bass have always been caught around this time of year," said Gene Gilliland, fisheries biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "With the warming water temperatures and lengthening days, this can be a great time of year to catch some nice fish."

The months of March and April have produced 15 of the top 20 largemouth bass in the state.

Nunnally, along with his partner Jim Turner turned in a three-fish 17-pound stringer to win a bass tournament being held on Keystone Lake, located in northeastern Oklahoma. From statistics compiled by Department biologists, Keystone was in the top ten of the best tournament lakes in 2001. Over the past year fisheries biologists cooperated with bass clubs around the state to gather thousands of hours of fishing data from more than 700 tournaments on almost 50 different lakes. Biologists analyzed the information and compiled an overall lake ranking based on five fishing quality factors. Factors included average first place weight, number of bass over five pounds, average pounds per tournament and percent of successful anglers.

For more information about the Oklahoma's best tournament lakes consult the “2002 Anglers Guide” in the March/April issue of Outdoor Oklahoma or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

 

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Department Receives Awards

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation was recently recognized by the Oklahoma Chapter of Society of Professional Journalists. The Society is a nation wide organization formed to promote high standards of excellence among professional journalists.

"For our agency to be effective, it is important that we maintain good communication with our constituents. It is a real honor to be recognized by our peers," said David Warren, information and education chief at the Wildlife Department. "We are going to continue to work hard at providing the best and most accurate information to the public."

Awards were received in the following categories:

• 3rd place in magazine overall excellence for the May/June 2001 issue of Outdoor Oklahoma, the official bi-monthly magazine of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

• 3rd place feature photography for Outdoor Oklahoma's Reader's Photo section. The Readers Photo section, in its tenth year, has become one of the most popular features in the magazine and features outdoor photography from both novice and professional photographers from around the state.

• TV special program or series: Honorable Mention-Outdoor Oklahoma's 25th Anniversary Show. Outdoor Oklahoma features such topics as fishing, hunting; and wildlife management. The 30-minute program is produced by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. For a complete listing of show times and channels consult the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

• Videography: 2nd place for the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History feature, produced by Steve Webber.

• Public Relations Promotional Material: Honorable Mention - The Wildlife Habitat Calendar, produced by Brian Barger and John Hendrix .

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Turkey Hunting Safety

Although turkey hunting is one of the safest forms of outdoor recreation, that does not mean hunters shouldn't take precautions when going afield.

"Just because turkey hunters don't carry high powered rifles doesn't mean that those participating in the upcoming season can get careless," said Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Meek said that following a few simple rules can help hunters ensure they have a safe and successful season.

 

Top Ten Tips for a Safe Turkey Hunt

1) Hunt preparation - "Just about anybody at any skill level can learn something from a Oklahoma Hunter Education course. It is one of the most important steps in preparing for any hunt," Meek said. For information about course dates call the Hunter Education Hotline at 405/521-4650 or log on to the Department's web site at wildlifedepartment.com.

2) Proper Clothing - "Tom turkeys have some really vibrant colors on their head. Hunters should avoid wearing colors associated with wild turkeys, including red, white and blue," Meek said. Wearing those colors may confuse other hunters. Wearing blaze orange during the spring wild turkey season is an option worth considering, especially when moving between calling locations.

3) Safety First - Following these five simple safety rules listed below will help assure a safe hunt:

- Always keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction.

- Treat every firearm as if it were loaded.

- Be sure of your target and what is beyond.

- Know your hunting area and its safe zone of fire.

- If hunting with companions, know their locations.

4) Hunter Awareness - "Whenever you're in the woods you should always be aware that other hunters may be in the area," Meek said. If you're unsure about another hunter's position, stop calling and reassess the situation. In addition, Meek said that stalking turkeys is usually not only unproductive, it can also be dangerous.

5) Where to Call - "Always keep safety in mind when setting up to call, sit at the base of a tree which has a trunk wider than your body. This way you can see an approaching hunter and you are protected from the rear," Meek said.

6) Using a Decoy - Safety-conscious hunters are very careful when using a decoy. If you decide to use one, place it so you will be out of the line of fire. Put a tree between you and the decoy. If you are in the open, place the decoy so it faces directly toward or away from you and can be seen by approaching hunters from all directions. Always carry decoys in a bag or backpack going to and from hunting sites.

7) Calling - Your turkey calls may sound like a real turkey to other hunters, so be alert. Don't use calls that imitate a gobbler, you may attract other hunters in the area. Experienced turkey hunters believe it's dangerous and unnecessary. Also, electronic turkey calls are illegal in Oklahoma.

8) Other Hunters - "Don't wave your hand as a signal to other hunters, always use your voice to identify yourself," Meek said.

9) Identifying Your Target - "This is obviously the most important part of a safe turkey hunt. It is imperative that the hunter know exactly what the target is," Meek said. "Be absolutely sure the bird you see is a legal turkey. In the 'gobbler only' season, this means you must see the beard as a positive means of identifying the bird. Never shoot at noise, movement or color."

10) Leaving the Woods - Once you have bagged your turkey or have decided to quit hunting for the day, unload your firearm. If you're an annual license/permit holder and have shot a turkey, you are required to complete the Record of Game section on the back of the license form. All persons, including lifetime license holders, taking a turkey must immediately upon harvesting a bird securely attach their name and hunting license number to the harvested bird. Then wrap the bird in camouflage or blaze orange before carrying it through the woods. Walking through the woods wearing a blaze orange vest using the most visible route to your vehicle will also help protect you.

Turkey season runs April 6 through May 6 statewide, except in the eight southeastern most counties (Atoka, Choctaw, Coal, Latimer, LeFlore, McCurtain, Pittsburg, Pushmataha) where the season opens April 6 and closes April 28.

The total spring bag limit is three tom turkeys, however hunters must comply with regulations that pertain to the number of toms that can be harvested from each region and county. All turkeys taken east of I-35 must be checked at the nearest open hunter check station or with an authorized Wildlife Department employee. For complete turkey hunting regulations consult the 2001-2002 Oklahoma Hunting Guide & Regulations, or log on to wildlifedepartment.com

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