SEPTEMBER 2002 NEWS RELEASES

 

WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 26, 2002

WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 19, 2002

WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 12, 2002

 

WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 5, 2002

 

Big game report available

The final numbers have been crunched and the data has been analyzed. Last year’s harvest statistics reflect the fact that once again Oklahoma big game hunters had an outstanding year.

Hunters can find just about everything they want know about last year’s Oklahoma big game seasons in the 2002 Big Game Report, which is part of the September/October issue of "Outdoor Oklahoma," the official bi-monthly magazine of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. In 2001 sportsmen harvested 101,635 deer, just under the previous year's record of 102,100. The report also outlines where and how the big bucks were harvested.

"The Big Game Report is a great resource for hunters," said Nels Rodefeld, editor of "Outdoor Oklahoma." "It contains a lot of good information that hunters can use as they prepare for the fall hunting seasons and from all indications, this year looks like it will be a great one for deer hunters."

Also included within the Big Game Report is a special feature addressing Chronic Wasting Disease, a neurological disease that affects deer and elk, but has never been shown to be transmitted to humans.

"The take-home message is that venison is safe to eat and CWD has not been found in Oklahoma's wild deer herd," Rodefeld said.

Also detailed in the feature are the steps the Wildlife Department is taking to ensure the long-term health of the state's deer herd.

"The Wildlife Department and the Department of Agriculture have been testing hunter-harvested deer and elk for three years and have not found any sign of it. A captive elk herd in Oklahoma County had it, but was recently destroyed," Rodefeld said. "It's always a good idea for sportsmen to educate themselves and this is especially the case with CWD."

Copies of 2002 Big Game Report can be purchased for $3 at Wildlife Department headquarters at the corner of 18th and Lincoln in the state capitol complex. Subscriptions are only $10 per year and can be purchased at any hunting or fishing license vendor or by calling 1-800-777-0019.

 

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Department schedules pre-employment exam

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will hold a standardized pre-employment examination Friday, Sept. 27, at the Tom Steed Development Center Auditorium at Rose State College.

The exam is for individuals seeking employment as fisheries or wildlife biologists, game wardens, hatchery managers, technicians and information and education specialists. It will cover state and federal wildlife laws and regulations, Oklahoma geography, biological and environmental sciences relating to fish, wildlife and environmental education, journalism, photojournalism, technical writing and editing.

Individuals may take the exam once in a 12-month period, and test scores are valid for 12 months from the test date. Applications for employment will be sent to individuals with the top 25 scores. Taking the exam does not guarantee employment, nor does the exam necessarily indicate the Department currently has openings. Interviews will be scheduled only when an opening is available.

The Tom Steed Development Center Auditorium is north of Interstate 40 at the intersection of I-40 and Hudiburg Rd. in Midwest City. The doors will close promptly at 10 a.m. Those arriving after 10 a.m. will not be permitted to take the exam.

For more information about the exam or hiring process, contact the Human Resources office at (405) 521-4640 or check the Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.

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Teal season opens Sept. 21

If you think dove hunting is fun, you should give teal hunting a try. At times, the speedy waterfowl can make dove look like they are stuck in the slow lane. Hunters hungry for the opening of another waterfowl season will get their first chance during the season for the high-octane teal, which runs Sept. 21-29.

Bluewing and greenwing teal are the first ducks to migrate through Oklahoma each fall and a little scouting can go a long way in improving your hunting success. Teal prefer shallow water and rely on tender vegetation to provide fuel for their long journey. Teal migration is triggered by decreasing day-length as summer winds to a close. Large migrations can occur as northern cool fronts occur with increasing frequency in September. Even small fronts that cause no appreciable change in temperatures will carry teal southward on their traditional journey to wintering grounds in Mexico and Central and South America. Although September weather is vastly different from the traditional image of cold-weather duck hunting, hunters can venture afield in just shirts and jeans.

As an added bonus, the resident goose season (Sept. 21-30) opens the same day as teal season. Sportsmen in the right place could have the chance at bagging both the largest and smallest waterfowl species in Oklahoma, all in the same day.

To participate in the fall teal season, all you need is a resident or non-resident Oklahoma hunting license, an Oklahoma waterfowl hunting permit ($4) unless exempt, a federal duck stamp ($15) and a free Harvest Information Program (HIP) permit available from any license dealer. For complete regulations, consult the “2002-03 Oklahoma Hunting Guide" or log onto www.wildlifedepartment.com.

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Youth writing contest winners get a hunt

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) and Oklahoma Station Chapter Safari Club International (OSCSCI) youth writing contest is underway, and one boy and one girl will win all-expenses paid antelope hunts in New Mexico.

"The ODWC and OSCSCI annually conduct a youth writing contest during the fall," said Colin Berg, education section supervisor for the ODWC. "Oklahoma has a rich hunting heritage and the theme of the contest is Hunting: Sharing the Heritage."

Students aged 11-17 are eligible to enter the competition, added Berg. Two (one boy & one girl) winning essays will be selected in an 11-14 age category, and two (one boy and one girl) winners will also be selected from youth aged 15-17.

Students in the 11-14 age category are competing for an all expense paid trip to the Apprentice Hunter Program at the YO Ranch in Mountain Home Texas. Winners in the 15-17 age category will receive an all expense paid antelope hunt in New Mexico. Funding for the trips is provided by OSCSCI.

"OSCSCI values Oklahoma's hunting heritage and that is why we are proud to sponsor the writing contest," said Sam Munhollon, OSCSCI education program coordinator. "Writing about their hunting heritage gives Oklahoma's youth a chance to keep in touch with the importance of honoring our heritage and it emphasizes the importance of passing on that heritage."

The winning student essays will be published in the OSCSCI newsletter Safari Trails, added Munhollon. Publication qualifies the winning entries for the National Youth Writing Contest sponsored by the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Several past winners have come from Oklahoma's state contest winners.

Essay contest rules and applications are available from the Department's Web site www.wildlifedepartment.com. Teachers are encouraged to log on to the site to find out more about the essay competition, and about a scholarship opportunity for educators to the American Wilderness Leadership School in Jackson, Wyoming.

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Great hunting and fishing spots are located within a few miles of the OU campus in Norman

This fall there's more to get excited about at the University of Oklahoma than just football.

There are some great places to get out and go hunting and fishing just a short drive from Norman. Just because you are off at the University of Oklahoma to get an education doesn't mean you have to put off enjoying the outdoors for four years. Within just 50 miles of Owen Field, enterprising sportsmen can find plenty of room to roam.

Head east out of town on Highway 9 and you will run into Lake Thunderbird. The lake is a great place to go camping for a weekend or have an afternoon picnic, but don't forget your fishing pole. Thunderbird is known for some nice stringers of crappie and catfish. One of the nice things about the lake is, with plenty of good shore access anglers don't necessarily need to have a boat. For more information about the 6,000 acre lake call the Little River State Park at (405) 360-3572.

Whether you enjoy wetting a line or stalking the woods for squirrels, rabbits or turkey, Lexington Wildlife Management Area is just a short drive. Located about 30 miles southeast of Norman, the area offers over 9,000 acres of timber and prairie. Not only does the area offer some good rabbit and squirrel hunts, Lexington is also home to turkey and a good population of white-tailed deer.

Whether you are fishing from shore or from a small boat Lake Dahlgren and several other smaller ponds on the area are a great place to hook up with a nice bass. If you are wanting to sight in your deer rifle or bust some sporting clays, Lexington offers a shooting range on the southeast portion of the property. The area is close enough to campus to hunt in the early morning or later in the afternoon and never miss a class. Lexington is also an excellent place to gather a few friends for a weekend camping trip, fire up the grill and forget about studying, at least for an evening.

If you really want to get out and stretch your legs on a hunting trip, head south to the Chickasaw Wildlife Management Area near Sulphur. The high ridges in the area, located on the shores of scenic Lake Arbuckle, provide great habitat for turkey, deer and squirrels. Check in the “2002-03 Oklahoma Hunting Guide" for specific regulations regarding both Lexington and Chickasaw Wildlife Management Areas.

There is no reason to leave your tackle box and shotgun in storage during your college years. Get out there and enjoy all the great places to hunt and fish around Norman.

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Editors Note:

If you would like more information about public hunting and fishing opportunities near your community, call (405) 522-4872.

Commission moves to protect paddlefish

Amid growing concern over one of the state's most unique fisheries resources, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission passed rules pertaining to paddlefish at its monthly meeting held Sept. 9 at Quartz Mountain State Park.

"The last few years anglers have become very successful at harvesting paddlefish in their pre-spawning staging areas," said Kim Erickson, chief of fisheries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "These rules will help to maintain the health of paddlefish populations and ensure long term recreational opportunity."

Paddlefish are large, prehistoric fish found in Oklahoma mainly in the Grand and Neosho river systems. Paddlefish gather algae and zooplankton from the water by swimming slowly with their mouths open.

Several regulations were amended to ensure that paddlefish will be abundant for many generations to come. The daily bag limit on paddlefish taken during the spawning season was reduced from three fish to one per day. Catch and release fishing will be allowed year round until an angler reaches his limit of one and then the angler must stop snagging. The new rules define a hook used in snagging as one single hook or one treble hook and require all hooks to be barbless. Anglers will be required to tag (with name, address and license number) all paddlefish and paddlefish parts until reaching their residence. The new rules also allow non-residents to take four daily limits home (not in boat) and changes legal snagging hours below the dam at Ft. Gibson from "sunset to sunrise" to 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. All of the changes take effect Jan. 1.

A pair of public meetings will be hosted by Wildlife Department personnel in northeast Oklahoma to discuss the rules and the status of paddlefish populations. The meetings will be held Sept. 30 at the Miami Civic Center Gymnasium and Oct. 1 at the Pryor Technology Center. Both meetings begin at 7p.m. For more details call (405) 521-3721.

Erickson added that the Wildlife Department is planning further harvest and population surveys to be conducted over the next year.

"We want to conduct some scientific surveys in order to get an accurate population estimate and find out how harvest rates affect paddlefish numbers," Erickson said.

In other business, the Commission approved waterfowl hunting regulations for the 2002-2003 season. Duck and goose seasons and bag limits will remain essentially the same as last year with a few notable exceptions. A shortened pintail season will be allowed during the last 39 days of each of the established duck seasons and the canvasback season will be closed. The duck seasons were also moved a week later to correspond with the new federal framework dates. For complete details pick up a copy of the "2002-2003 Oklahoma Waterfowl Hunting Guide" available at hunting license vendors around Oct. 1.

The Commission also accepted a donation of $3,000 from the Nature Conservancy to go toward the Oklahoma Playa Lakes Initiative.

"We believe strongly in this project and are excited about the opportunity to participate in it," said Steve Forsythe with the Nature Conservancy.

The Oklahoma Playa Lakes Initiative is focused on conserving the unique wetlands in northwest Oklahoma. The program is modeled after the national Conservation Reserve Program, a highly successful program that provides technical and financial assistance for landowners to improve wildlife habitat on their property. The contribution from the Nature Conservancy brings the total funds available for the initiative to $71,000.

The Commission also voted to accept a $4,380 STEP Outside grant from the National Shooting Sports Foundation. The grant will help cover the costs of a special youth waterfowl hunt to be held November 16 and 17 on Lake Oologah. Approximately 20 children ages 15 and under will be involved in the hunt which will include a hunter education clinic the evening before the hunt.

Alan Peoples, chief of wildlife for the Wildlife Department, gave the Commission an update of the upcoming private land antlerless deer youth hunts. The hunts will take place in 10 counties with 131 permits issued.

In two housekeeping items, the Wildlife Commission also passed rules pertaining to restricted exotic fish in commercial operations and also authorized the Department Director to pursue purchase of property in Ellis County.

The Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The Wildlife Commission establishes state hunting and fishing regulations, sets policy for the Wildlife Department, and indirectly oversees all state fish and wildlife conservation activities. Commission members are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate.

The next scheduled Commission is October 7 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters (auditorium), 1801 N. Lincoln, Oklahoma City at 9:00 a.m.

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2002 electrofishing results released

Results of electrofishing surveys collected this past spring by Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) fisheries crews indicate that catch rates of bass were lower in some lakes compared to 2001. In most cases when compared to recent historical averages these differences are not dramatic.

"Our biologists have collected this data for many years because we need to evaluate how bass populations change over time," said Kim Erickson, ODWC fisheries chief. "One or two year's results don't make a trend, so we try to look at the bigger picture over a longer time frame."

ODWC biologists have used the numbers of fish collected per hour of electrofishing in the spring as an index for managing bass populations since the mid-1970s. Over the years, changes have been made in sampling equipment and procedures, but the results of sampling over the last 10 years are relatively comparable on a lake-by-lake basis. Lakes are classified as "quality" bass lakes if they produce at least 40 bass per hour of electrofishing, and of those, at least 10 must be 14-inches or longer. In comparison, "high quality" bass lakes must produce at least 60 bass per hour, of which at least 15 must be 14-inches or longer.

Angler reports and bass tournament results received over the last two years have been discouraging both to fishermen and ODWC biologists.

"We've been addressing complaints about poor bass fishing since last summer," Erickson said. "We don't disagree that fishing is off at some lakes, but when we look at this year's electrofishing results we don't agree, as one angler suggested, the sky is falling."

For example, 2002 bass catch rates (all sizes combined) from lakes Grand (114 bass per hour), Hudson (117) and Ft. Gibson (117) were lower than in 2001, however the 2001 spring electrofishing results were the highest recorded catch rates in history on those lakes. Comparing this year's catch rates on bass greater than 14-inches to the average catch of the last five surveys show numbers were only slightly down or about the same at Ft. Gibson and Grand respectively, but were higher at Hudson.

Lakes Eufaula and Tenkiller seem to show the most evident change in bass electrofishing catch rates. Lakewide bass catch at Eufaula in 2002 fell below the five-year average (48 bass per hour, all sizes) to 34 bass per hour and to 11 per hour for bass 14-inches or longer. However, bass numbers in the North Canadian arm of the lake showed the highest catch overall with 56 bass per hour (all sizes) and 23 per hour 14-inches or longer. Lake Tenkiller, the only lake in Oklahoma to have had a confirmed Largemouth Bass Virus (LMBV) fish kill in 2000, had its second highest recorded bass catch rate in 2001, but its lowest overall bass electrofishing catch rate since 1990 in 2002. Earlier electrofishing surveys found that the 1998 year-class of bass was one of the weakest ever recorded in the lake which could explain some of today's slump in fishing success.

Lake Konawa, also found to have LMBV in the bass population, but never to have had a disease-caused fish kill, once again had the highest catch rate of the state's larger lakes (209 bass per hour, all sizes). Of the smaller lakes (under 1000 acres), Shidler Lake in north central Oklahoma had the highest catch with 134 bass per hour.

Variations in electrofishing catch rates can result from lake conditions at the time of sampling or from changes in reproduction, recruitment, growth and mortality caused by habitat alteration, environmental impacts, food fish production, disease or angling pressure. All fish collected by biologists through electrofishing are weighed, measured and released unharmed.

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Editors Note: For complete electrofishing results, go to www.wildlifedepartment.com/electrofishing2002.htm

Sportsmen's dollars go far

Looking for an excuse to buy that new gun or an extra box of shells?

Go ahead and buy it. Not only are you getting a new gun in time for the upcoming hunting seasons, you are also supporting conservation programs.

Firearms, as well as fishing tackle, boat trolling motors, bows and arrows and other outdoor related equipment are subject to excise taxes which help fund conservation efforts around the country. Additionally, federal fuel taxes attributed to motorboats are directed towards conservation. The Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration programs are tremendous examples of true partnership programs between private industries, state governments, the federal government and hunters, anglers and boaters. The federal government collects these taxes from manufacturers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service administers and disburses the funds to the state fish and wildlife agencies. Hunters, anglers, shooters and boaters ultimately pay these taxes through the purchase of products. These same people benefit from the funds as states must spend the money on sport fish and wildlife habitat restoration/development, populations management, user access and facilities and education.

By the 1900s, wildlife populations in Oklahoma and across the country were in peril. The destruction of habitat and industrialization caused a significant decline in the population of many species. Taking a back seat to economic prosperity, wildlife was rapidly fading from America's landscape. In the '30s, the hunting and fishing community and the firearm and ammunition industries united in support of an innovative program to restore wildlife.

On June 20, 1937, the Wildlife Restoration Act was passed by Congress, directing an existing federal excise tax on firearms and ammunition to fund state wildlife projects. A similar excise tax on selected fishing tackle was enacted in 1950 by the Sport Fish Restoration Act to help restore our nation's fish and their habitats. Amendments have been added in the years since, and additional hunting and fishing items are now taxed - all contributing to the wide variety of restoration projects that have made conservation efforts in the U.S. the most successful in the world.

The funds are used by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation for a wide range of important activities, including the purchase and maintenance of wildlife management areas, construction of fish hatcheries, research laboratories and user facilities, surveying and managing fish and wildlife populations, training volunteer instructors and educating young hunters and anglers in safe firearms handling, water safety, fish and wildlife resources and ethics afield.

In the year 2000, over $9 million was apportioned in Oklahoma through Sportfish and Wildlife Restorations programs. Since Oklahoma receives no general appropriations from the state legislature, these funds accounted for more than one-third of the Wildlife Department's annual operating budget.

So the next time you are considering buying a gun or another spinnerbait, go ahead and open your wallet and know it is going for a good cause.

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Editors Note:

If you would like more information about public hunting and fishing opportunities near your community, call (405) 522-4872.

State duck stamp contest deadline nears

Entries for the 2003 Oklahoma Waterfowl Stamp design competition will be accepted through 4:30 p.m. October 31.

The winning art will be printed on the 2003-2004 Oklahoma Waterfowl Stamp, which is required of all waterfowl hunters 16 years of age and older, with the exception of landowners hunting on their own land, lifetime hunting or combination license holders and senior citizen hunting or combination license holders.

Duck stamp sales help finance many projects that benefit ducks and geese. Since the duck stamp program began in 1980, thousands of acres of waterfowl habitat have been created through duck stamp revenues.

The wood duck is the waterfowl species selected for the 2003-2004 stamp. All artists must depict this species, and any habitat appearing in the design must be typical for the wood duck in Oklahoma.

Artwork may be of acrylic, oil, watercolor, scratchboard, pencil, pen and ink, tempera or any other two-dimensional media. The illustration must be horizontal, 6 1/2 inches high and 9 inches wide. It must be matted with white mat board 9 inches high by 12 inches wide with the opening cut precisely 6 1/2-by-9. Artwork may not be framed or under glass, but an acetate covering should be used to protect the art.

Entries should be sent to the Duck Stamp Competition Coordinator, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152.

Entries will be judged on anatomical accuracy, artistic composition and suitability for printing. The winner and three honorable mentions will appear in a future issue of “Outdoor Oklahoma” magazine.

A non-refundable entry fee of $20 (cash, money order or cashier’s check) must accompany each entry. No entries will be accepted after 4:30 p.m. Oct. 31.

The winning artist will receive a purchase award of $1,200 and 50 prints (special artist's proof editions) of the design if the Department makes such a reproduction. The winning entry will become the sole and exclusive property of the Wildlife Department. The winning artist will be required to sign and number a minimum of 25 prints, if the Department makes such reproductions.

For more information about the contest call (405) 521-3856.

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Duck blind drawings to happen Sept. 28

Drawings for permanent duck blinds on Fort Gibson, Eufaula and Webbers Falls lakes will take place Sept. 28. Anyone wanting a permanent blind permit must be 16 years of age and present at the drawings, which will be held at the Wildlife Department’s northeast regional office in Porter.

Applicants must have an Oklahoma hunting or combination license and a valid state waterfowl license and a federal duck stamp, unless they are exempt. Additionally, they need a valid Harvest Information Program (HIP) Permit.

Schedule for Duck Blind Drawings

7:00 a.m. Registration for Fort Gibson Lake

8:00 a.m. Drawing for Fort Gibson Lake Permits

9:00 a.m. Registration for Eufaula Lake

10:00 a.m. Drawing for Eufaula Lake Permits

11:00 a.m. Registration for Webber Falls Lake

12:00 p.m. Drawing for Webber Falls Lake Permits

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Archery season coming soon

The cooler temperatures have many Oklahomans anticipating the Oct. 1 archery deer opener.

The first of Oklahoma's big game seasons, the archery deer season is one of the most popular activities available to Oklahoma hunters. The season occurs in two segments, from Oct. 1-Nov. 22 and Dec. 2-Jan. 15, allowing 98 days of hunting opportunity.

According to Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, it should be another great season for archery hunters.

"The combination of relatively mild summer temperatures and timely rainfall across the state will benefit the deer herd," Shaw said. "Both the amount and quality of forage available to deer is excellent and that will have a positive effect on antler growth, as well as the deer's overall health going into the winter."

During the 2001 archery deer seasons, bowhunters harvested 12,907 white-tailed deer, of which 6,509 were bucks. The archery harvest contributed 14 percent of the total deer harvest.

Though one of the safest outdoor pursuits, bowhunting has some risks that can result in accidents if the hunter doesn’t practice safe treestand operation. Most of those are not caused by mishandling a bow or misidentifying a target, but from falling out of treestands. More than half of Oklahoma's bowhunters use treestands to gain better visibility over their hunting areas, said Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

"Hunters using an elevated stand should be extremely cautious," said Meek. "By taking a few extra precautions, hunters can virtually eliminate the threat of tree stand related accidents this autumn. All it takes is some common sense and paying a little extra attention to detail."

One of the most important hunting gear items is a safety strap or harness, especially when getting in and out of stand. They cost between $20 - $60 and should be considered standard equipment by all hunters who use elevated stands.

Before heading afield, be sure to pick up a copy of the “2002-2003 Oklahoma Hunting Guide" available at all license dealer locations.

Hunters can also find updated check station locations, season dates, and a wealth of other information by logging on to the Department's web page at wildlifedepartment.com.

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Quail roadside survey shows populations up 14 percent statewide

One of the state's most popular game bird species, the bobwhite quail, appears to be in good shape going into this fall. August roadside surveys conducted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation show a statewide increase of 14 percent over the 12 year average.

Running Nov. 9 - Feb.15, quail season is one of the most popular events in the state, drawing hunters from all over the nation to enjoy some of America's finest bird hunting. Oklahoma regularly ranks among the top three quail hunting states in terms of both quail populations and hunter success, and Oklahoma promises to be a major destination for bird hunters again this year.

Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation biologists have conducted the roadside surveys during both August and October for the past 13 years. The surveys, which consist of 20-mile routes, give biologists an estimate of quail abundance. Observers count the number of quail seen to provide an index of quail abundance and reproductive success. There are 83 routes with at least one route in every county except for Tulsa and Oklahoma counties.

"The surveys don't necessarily predict what quail season is going to be like, but they do give us an idea of how productive the spring breeding season was for quail," said Mike Sams, upland bird biologist for the Department. "The mild temperatures and periodic rains experienced this summer are conducive to late season production. Since a successful second hatch often determines the difference between an average and good quail season, the October counts should provide important information about this fall's quail population."

The August surveys showed increases in quail over last year in every region with the exception of the southcentral Oklahoma. The largest increases were observed in the southwest and southeast surveys which increased 73 and 53 percent respectively from 2001. Quail sighted in the southwestern, southeastern, and northwestern regions exceeded the previous 12 year averages. The southcentral and northeastern regional survey numbers remain well below their 12 year averages.

The surveys suggest early production was good, despite drought conditions over portions of the state prior to the reproductive season. Results of the August survey generally don't include quail produced from the second hatch which occurs in late August. But according to Sams a few landowners have reported seeing young broods in late August.

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Hunters helping the hungry

One of the main reasons hunters head to the woods each fall is to provide good, nutritious food for their families and many hunters are taking that a step further.

In the year 2001 alone, Oklahoma hunters donated more than 25,800 pounds of venison to the Hunters Against Hunger program. The cooperative program, operated by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, facilitates the distribution of deer meat to hungry families in the state.

"Fresh meat is one of the least donated food items that we receive and it is one of the most requested," said Ally White, programs director for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. "The 490 churches and charities we work with are always thrilled to get venison. The donations of hunters and the generosity of meat processors is greatly appreciated by needy families across the state."

The unique program helped to provide meals for 103,000 people during the past year.

Hunters who legally harvest a deer during this year's deer seasons can simply deliver the deer to the nearest participating meat processor after checking the deer in. To help with processing charges, each donator is requested to contribute a tax-deductible $10 to assist with the program. The ground venison will then be distributed to the needy through a network of qualified, charitable organizations

To find out more about the Hunters Against Hunger Program, or for a list of cooperating meat processors, check out page 26 of the “2002-03 Oklahoma Hunting Guide."

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Rabbits offer untapped hunting opportunities

Keen eyesight, sensitive hearing, camouflaged fur and a bright-white tail that doubles as a warning system; the cottontail rabbit is one of Oklahoma's most traditionally hunted game animals.

"Rabbit hunting is really a lot of fun," said Tim Campbell, Oklahoma game warden for Oklahoma County and avid rabbit hunter. "There is plenty of places to go and it is a great way to spend the afternoon."

Whether they are pursued behind a pack of beagles or flushed from a fence row, rabbits are one of the most accessible species that hunters go after. Cottontail rabbits have historically been an important game animal in Oklahoma. Their prolific numbers have provided generations of hunters with hours of sport and countless meals of tender rabbit stew.

"With this year’s rains and mild temperatures we have a really good crop of rabbits this fall," Campbell said.

The cottontail rabbit has been a huge success in adapting to man's manipulations of the environment. Good populations can be found just about anyplace where two types of cover meet such as abandoned homesteads, tangled thickets and fencerows. Rabbits also show a preference to areas not far from a water source whether it be a pond, creek or spring.

With a season running Oct.1 2002 - March 15, 2003, there is no reason not to head afield for a few rabbits. Whether hunters take a shotgun or .22 rifle to the field, a streaking rabbit can offer a challenge for even the most skilled sportsmen.

There are three species of rabbits in the state. The cottontail weighs two to four pounds and can be found in available habitat all around Oklahoma.

The swamp rabbit weighs four to six pounds. It has shorter, sleeker fur than the cottontail but is basically the same color. Its preferred habitat is marshes, floodplain forests, sloughs and other areas of standing water. The swamp rabbit can be found in isolated populations in the eastern one third of the state.

The black-tailed jackrabbit, which is actually a member of the hare family, is found statewide but is more common in the western regions. It is the largest of Oklahoma's rabbits weighing four to seven pounds and is easily distinguished by its oversized ears.

Perhaps the best thing about rabbit hunting is the availability of hunting locations, according to Campbell. While a private land deer or turkey hot spot may be a challenge to obtain, many landowners will give permission to rabbit hunters. Many Wildlife Management Areas scattered around the state offer first rate rabbit hunting with minimal competition.

"Rabbit hunting is also a great way to expose a youngster to hunting," Campbell said. "Kids really enjoy getting out and chasing rabbits and it is a good introduction to other types of hunting."

The next time you head out after rabbits, bring a kid along. There is no great need to be still and quiet. Plenty of walking keeps the chill off and you don't even have to get up early to have a successful hunt.

SEASON DATES:

October 1 - March 15 for all three species * - closed for the jackrabbit, east of I-35.

BAG LIMIT:

Cottontail - 10 daily, 20 in possession after the first day
Swamp Rabbits - 3 daily, 6 in possession after the first day
Jackrabbits - 3 daily, 6 in possession after the first day (Except Cimarron, Texas and Beaver counties-10 daily, 20 in possession after the first day)

*Seasons on public lands may vary from statewide dates. Consult the "2002-2003 Oklahoma Hunting Guide" for complete rabbit hunting details.

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Waterfowl hunting guide available soon

Ducks and geese will soon be riding the north winds that have begun to blow through the state. Right on time, the "2002-2003 Oklahoma Waterfowl Hunting Guide" will be available at license vendors to give hunters all the information they need to know about upcoming waterfowling opportunities.

Duck and goose hunters will have ample opportunity to chase migrating birds in marshes and fields all across the state. Located in the heart of the Central Flyway, Oklahoma offers hunters a chance to harvest a wide variety of both ducks and geese.

The 2002-2003 Oklahoma waterfowl dates and bag limits remain essentially the same as the last few years with two notable differences. Due to the decline in the continental population of pintails and efforts to reduce pintail harvest, a shortened season of 39 days will be allowed by federal framework on pintails in Oklahoma and throughout the Central Flyway. In addition, there will be no open season on canvasbacks. The season was closed on canvasbacks because of the declines in breeding population and anticipated poor production.

Hunters will also notice that the duck season was moved a week later to correspond with the new federal framework closing date of the last Sunday in January.

Waterfowl hunters should be sure to pick up a new state and federal waterfowl stamp and a new Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP) Permit before the season begins. The free HIP permits are required of all migratory bird hunters in the United States. Data collected from the surveys helps state and federal migratory bird biologists to improve migratory bird management better gauge bird harvests and hunter numbers.

All waterfowl hunters age 16 or older are required to purchase the Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp ($15 at U.S. Post Offices). Every resident age 16 or older, and all non-residents regardless of age must purchase the $4 Oklahoma Waterfowl Hunting License unless exempt (available at license vendors statewide). A Lifetime Oklahoma Waterfowl Hunting License (state duck stamp only) is available for $50.

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Youth waterfowl hunts offered

Oklahoma youngsters age 12 to 15 have an opportunity to apply for special controlled waterfowl hunts sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

The hunts are designed to provide youth who do not have an adult mentor who waterfowl hunts an opportunity to learn and enjoy the traditions of waterfowling.

Youth hunters will be randomly drawn from a list of applicants for each area where a hunt will be held. Applicants must be 12 to 15 years of age, have proof of successfully completing a certified hunter education course, and have an adult guardian who can accompany them on the hunt.

A Wildlife Department employee will accompany each youth and their adult guardian on a controlled waterfowl hunt at one of several Department-managed areas. Only the youth hunter will be allowed to hunt.

Each youth applicant and their guardian may apply only once and must provide the following information on a 3x5 postcard to be eligible for the drawing: names, addresses, telephone numbers, youth’s hunter education number, and the name of the desired hunt location and two alternate hunt locations where they would like to hunt. The scheduled date of the hunt will be coordinated with successful applicants after the drawing. Applicants may apply only once and should specify the primary hunt area desired and two alternate locations.

Applications must be received by Oct. 21 and should be mailed to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Youth Waterfowl Hunts, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152. Successful applicants will be notified by Oct. 28.

The Wildlife Department will provide successful applicants the necessary nontoxic shotgun shells and a 20 gauge single shot shotgun will be available for use if the youth does not have his or her own shotgun.

The following is a list of the scheduled hunt locations.

2002-2003 Youth Waterfowl Hunting Locations:

Love Valley Wildlife Management Area
Ft. Gibson
Webbers Falls
Wister
Vann's Lake
Canton Wildlife Management Area
Hackberry Flat
Okmulgee
Ft. Cobb
Total Hunts: 15