WEEK OF JULY 10, 2003
WEEK OF JULY 17, 2003
WEEK OF JULY 24, 2003
WEEK OF JULY 31, 2003
Playa and Ogallala. Say that five times fast.
It’s more than just a tongue twister. These two distinct features of the western prairie landscape play an important role in producing our bread and beef.
Playa lakes are shallow, depressional wetlands that lie in the low places of the prairie landscape and collect rainfall from surrounding uplands. They are ephemeral, or seasonal, in nature and hold water only after rainfall, which is partially why many people don’t recognize them as wetlands. These unique natural resources are scattered across Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas and the Texas Panhandle.
There are several good reasons why farmers, ranchers and all individuals should learn about and maintain playa lakes, one of which is the wetlands’ role in recharging the Ogallala Aquifer.
The 174,000 square-mile Ogallala formation lies beneath portions of eight states, including Oklahoma. While in 1950 the Ogallala irrigated about two million acres of farmed land, by 1997 it irrigated 14 million acres. With the recent advent of improved dry land farming, pumping of the Ogallala has decreased during the last decade, but the rate of aquifer depletion still far exceeds the natural rate of recharge.
Over the past several decades, researchers have gathered substantial evidence pointing to playas lakes as the primary source of recharge for the Ogallala. Studies indicate that natural recharge is focused through playa wetlands. When a dry playa lake receives rainfall, water flows into the playa basins and ultimately slowly seep into the Ogallala formation.
Like the aquifer, playa lakes are also a threatened resource. Of the more than 40,000 playa wetlands in the region, resource managers estimate that at least 70 percent of those have been altered from their natural state through pitting, plowing or sedimentation. Of these, sedimentation is the single largest threat to playa lakes. In tilled areas, water runoff can carry soil into the wetlands, gradually filling them, thereby decreasing water holding capacity and increasing the rate of water loss through evaporation.
Conservation practices used to protect playa lakes includes establishing native grass buffers around playa perimeters to filter out soil. In rangeland, playas can be fenced off to prevent excess trampling by livestock. There are several programs available to private landowners wanting to protect playa lakes on their land through the Farm Bill. For more information about these and other programs, contact the Playa Lakes Joint Venture (PLJV); a conservation partnership dedicated to protecting playa lakes through cooperative and voluntary agreements with private landowners.
PLJV partners consist of representatives from non-profit and private organizations, and federal and state wildlife agencies in the western Great Plains states. The PLJV’s mission is to conserve playa lakes, other wetlands and associated landscapes for the benefit of birds, other wildlife, water and people. The PLJV was established in 1989 and since then, has raised more than $50 million to conserve more than 100,000 acres of wetlands and other wildlife habitat.
For more information about the PLJV, aquifer recharge or wildlife conservation issues in this region, visit the PLJV Web site at www.pljv.org or call the Oklahoma Wildlife and Prairie Heritage Alliance at (580) 735-2033. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation also has biologists who can assist private landowners in managing their properties for wildlife.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Hunter Education program recently honored Rick Walker as the “Instructor of the Year.” Walker was recognized at this year’s instructor conference in Stroud.
“The very first reason I do this is that I want to pass the skills to the younger generations,” said Walker. “And I want to be with people like me, who have the same interests.”
Walker has certified more than 750 students and taught 45 classes in his 12 years as a hunter education instructor. While four of those years were in Alaska, he got his start in Oklahoma and returned as soon as he could. He also contributes to various other wildlife education programs.
“I know that I can always count on Rick to come through with a very entertaining class,” said Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Department. “He doesn’t want people getting bored and does everything he can to keep that from happening.”
Last year, more than 14,000 students completed their hunter education certification at 376 classes throughout Oklahoma. At least two classes are held in every county in Oklahoma each year, with as many as 40 classes in Tulsa County and 50 in Oklahoma County. Classes are administered by Oklahoma game wardens and volunteers and coordinated through the Department’s headquarters in Oklahoma City.
Anyone born on or after January 1, 1972, upon reach 16 must have completed a hunter education class before they can buy their hunting license. That means that almost everyone who is hunting has been taught by one the Department’s hunter education instructors. It is their goal to expose youngsters to safe and ethical hunting through hunter education classes and other programs.
“I see a lot of young people who don’t get a chance to learn to hunt from their dads, like I did, and I want to give them a chance to learn to do it right,” said Walker.
Volunteer instructors are trained to coordinate and instruct hunter education classes and other events. Classes are 10 hours in length and consist of a variety of segments including firearm safety, survival, wildlife conservation, water safety, and sometimes live fire. Hunters wishing to pass on their heritage by becoming a volunteer hunter education instructor should contact Lance Meek at (405) 522-4572.
Historic agreement signed in Jenks
A historic agreement was signed in Jenks July 7 that will greatly improve services to private landowners who want to improve fish and wildlife habitat on their property.
The cooperative agreement, the first of its kind in the nation, will partner funds from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to provide four full-time wildlife technicians. The employees will be responsible for providing direct technical and management assistance to landowners, as well as coordinating enrollment and oversight of a number of federal Farm Bill programs that provide cost-share funds for private lands habitat improvement.
“We already have a strong private lands habitat improvement program and these additional technicians will dramatically increase the services we provide,” said Alan Peoples, wildlife chief for the ODWC. “That increase in service will be seen in better habitat on the ground, which in turn helps all outdoor enthusiasts by increasing populations of such species as bobwhite quail, wild turkey, white-tailed deer and an array of other species, particularly those associated with grasslands. We see this as a real plus for Oklahoma and are grateful that we were able to pioneer such an agreement.”
Specifically, the agreement calls for the NRCS to obligate $100,000 per year and the Wildlife Department to contribute $100,000 per year. The four wildlife technicians, who will be stationed in Woodward, Lawton, Jenks and Higgins, will provide assistance to private landowners throughout their respective regions. Wildlife Department biologists currently provide technical assistance for both fisheries and wildlife-related habitat improvement and Peoples added that they would continue to do so.
“This will be additive to what we’re already doing, which means we’ll be able to expand the scope and reach of habitat work on private land,” he said. “That’s important because the state is about 97 percent privately owned and as such, conservation practices by landowners directly affect fish and wildlife populations.”
The cooperative agreement was signed at the regular meeting of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission, which oversees the Wildlife Department. The meeting was held at the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks, reflecting another unique partnership involving the Wildlife Department. The Department’s Tulsa-area offices are housed in connection with the Aquarium’s $15 million facility on the banks of the Arkansas River.
In other business, the Wildlife Conservation Commission accepted a donation of nearly 150 wildlife mounts from Norma Stone of Beggs. Stone donated the mounts on behalf of her late husband, Troy Stone. The taxidermy collection will be housed at the Department’s Jenks Office, at locations in Oklahoma City, and future plans call for many of the waterfowl mounts to be on display at the Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area. Commissioner Bruce Mabrey of Okmulgee presented her with a plaque recognizing and thanking her for the generous donation.
Commissioners also voted to:
• approve an $866,000 permanent budget add-on that will address infrastructure needs including replacing vehicles and purchasing boats and equipment;
• approve a resolution establishing hunting regulations for dove, rail, gallinule, woodcock and common snipe. The only significant change from previous seasons will be a 15-bird combination limit for doves that includes all three dove species now found in Oklahoma – mourning doves, white-wing doves and Eurasian collared doves. White-wings are becoming more common in the western and southwestern part of the state and Eurasian collared doves, an exotic species, are being seen in a handful of locations across the state;
• accept a $2,500 donation from Tulsa-based NatureWorks for stream habitat restoration work on the lower Illinois River trout stream below Lake Tenkiller;
• accept a donation of eight lots in Clinton, Oklahoma, from Daniel and Peggy Hazelrigg. The property will be sold with the funds being used for fish and wildlife conservation in the state; and
• advertise by sealed bid to lease the Department’s mineral interest in 18 sections of land in Atoka County. The property encompasses 6,620 acres of the Atoka Wildlife Management Area.
Sara Bales, an Oklahoma State University graduate student, presented information on a study she recently completed involving black bears in southeast Oklahoma. The study, funded in part by the Wildlife Department, tracked the movements, habitat use and reproduction of female bears in a portion of the Ouachita National Forest in LeFlore County. Bales told Commissioners that all of the study’s data indicate a growing bear population in that part of the state, and suggested additional research could help in assessing the population and developing management strategies.
Following a brief executive session, Commissioners voted to direct the Department to proceed with purchase negotiations for real property in Oklahoma and McCurtain counties.
The next meeting is scheduled for August 4 in Oklahoma City at 9 a.m.
Mac Maguire, Oklahoma City, will serve as chairman; Bruce Mabrey, Okmulgee, will serve as vice-chairman; and Bill Phelps, Lawton, will serve as secretary.
Wade Brinkman, Altus, was also recognized as a new member of the Wildlife Commission. Brinkman begins an eight-year term as the district seven Commission representative. District seven encompasses much of western and southwester Oklahoma, including Ellis, Dewey, Roger Mills, Custer, Beckham, Washita, Kiowa, Greer, Jackson, Harmon and Tillman counties.
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.
Hunters and anglers showed up en masse this June to purchase lifetime hunting and fishing licenses. In June 2002 the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation issued 252 lifetime licenses - this June the Department issued 3,346 lifetime licenses. That’s an increase of 1,327 percent! Even more amazingly, license personnel have an estimated 3,000 to 3,500 licenses yet to be processed from the final rush to beat the license fee increase that took effect July 1.
Each time a hunter or angler purchases a license they are contributing to a wide variety of conservation efforts across the state. The Wildlife Department is the sole state agency entrusted with conserving the state’s unique hunting and fishing heritage. The Department does not receive any general state tax appropriations and its primary funding source is the sale of annual hunting and fishing licenses, and revenue from a special federal excise tax on hunting and fishing equipment.
“Lifetime hunting and fishing licenses are a great bargain, both in long-term savings and from a convenience standpoint,” said David Warren, chief of information and education for the Wildlife Department. “Based on recent sales, it is evident that the state has a dedicated corps of hunters and anglers.”
In the 2002 fiscal year, 6,997 lifetime licenses were sold generating $2.9 million. In the 2003 fiscal year, lifetime license sales have generated $4.6 million. Revenue from lifetime licenses cannot actually be spent, however. Only the interest income generated from the fund principal is eligible to be spent for Department operations and services.
Additionally, sportsmen have an impressive impact on the state’s overall economy. According to a recent survey, Oklahoma is home to 648,000 anglers and fishermen in the state who spent $476 million on trip and equipment expenditures in 2001. When Oklahoma’s 241,000 hunters stop to eat in rural Oklahoma after a long hunt or when they purchase the latest must have hunting gadget, their spending creates a $573 million ripple effect on the state’s economy. In fact, hunting in Oklahoma supports nearly 7,000 jobs.
Warren added that he anticipates that all lifetime licenses applications will be processed within 30 days and the Department appreciates sportsman’s patience.
Young hunters showcase their skills
More than 50 youths and a legion of dedicated volunteers participated in this year's final Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC) at the Oklahoma City Gun Range. The event was the culmination of several YHEC events held statewide this spring.
"These events are a great way to allow young hunters to test their hunting skills and safety knowledge. It is important that we do everything we can to pass on our hunting heritage on to the next generation," said Paul Conrady, Oklahoma YHEC coordinator. "It's a good chance for young people to continue their wildlife education beyond completing a hunter education course."
At this year’s championship, the events were once again divided into junior and senior competitions with both groups competing at the same level of difficulty. In the senior division, Shiloh Butts from Sulphur, took first place, Grant Doyle took second place and Garrett Doyle took third place. Both are from Belle Plaine, Kansas. In the junior division, Hawk Bledsoe from Jenks took first place, Derrick Hamand from Fairview took second place and Evan Eitzen from Fairview Oklahoma took third place.
YHEC is an event designed to give young hunters or shooters up to the age of 19 a chance to test their skills in shooting and hunting sport. Participants must be hunter education certified and may participate in shotgun, archery, and rifle events. They also are tested on their knowledge of wildlife species, knowledge of regulations and hunting ethics. Knowledge is tested on the hunter safety trail where participants are led through simulated hunting scenarios and must not only determine when it is legal to harvest game, but also must make correct decisions about whether to shoot at all.
YHEC is sponsored by Friends of the NRA through their grant program. It first came to Oklahoma in 1997.
This year Oklahoma will be well represented by three five-man teams traveling to Raton, New Mexico, to participate in the annual International YHEC event.
For more information about how to participate in next year’s YHEC events contact Paul Conrady at (405) 341-6374. For more information about hunting and to find a link to the YHEC Web site, go to wildlifedepartment.com.
Nothing says summer quite like a day on the water trying to catch a lunker largemouth bass. Many Oklahoma anglers also enjoy the camaraderie and competition of bass tournaments.
A mid-summer day can be scorching hot. And just as fishermen take extra precautions such as wearing sunscreen or drinking plenty of fluids, anglers should also take extra care of their catch of the day.
Most tournament organizations have strict rules regarding the careful handling of fish, but during August and early September, warm water temperatures can create dangerous conditions for largemouth bass in a livewell.
Most anglers are very conscientious about protecting bass resources, but it is important that anglers be particularly careful during the heat of the summer, according to Gene Gilliland, senior fisheries biologist at the Wildlife Department’s Oklahoma Fisheries Research Laboratory.
"Anglers and tournament directors have been very careful over the years to ensure that the fish are released in the best shape possible,” Gilliland said. “However, summer fishing presents some unique conditions that can cause a potentially lethal amount of stress on fish. We can't eliminate those conditions, of course, but we can take certain steps to lessen fish mortality during tournaments."
According to Gilliland, most of the danger occurs while fish are held in livewells. On-board livewells are among the most important tools ever devised for reducing tournament bass mortality, but long-term confinement in a livewell can be hazardous for bass in the summer.
To provide optimum livewell conditions for bass, Gilliland makes the following recommendations:
Fill your livewell as soon as you launch your boat and turn on the aerator to build up dissolved oxygen levels.
Run your aerator continuously, no matter what time of year. Fish confined in livewells use oxygen faster than an aerator can replace it.
Add ice to the livewell. When water surface temperatures are higher than 75 degrees, adding ice will reduce the water temperature in a livewell by 10 degrees. One eight-pound block will cool a 30-gallon livewell for about three hours. Carry extra blocks in an ice chest to use later.
Add non-iodized salt, 1/3-cup per five gallons of livewell capacity, to help reduce stress on fish.
Re-circulate water through your aerator rather than pump in hot surface water.
Replace at least half of the livewell water two or three times daily to remove ammonia. Add additional ice and salt, and then resume re-circulation.
Commercial livewell additives help calm fish in livewells, helping reduce stress and decreasing their oxygen respiratory rates.
Gilliland added that tournament directors can also take steps to keep bass healthy. He suggested the following recommendations for holding a fish-friendly tournament.
Shortening the duration of summer tournaments to reduce the time fish stay in livewells. Ideally, weigh-ins should be conducted before noon.
Staggering weigh-in times during night tournaments can help facilitate the rapid release of fish.
Avoid scheduling tournaments in months when water surface temperatures exceed 80 degrees.
For more information about tips for handling fish in the summer, log on to the Department’s Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com or call the Oklahoma Fisheries Research Laboratory (405-325-7288) to request a free copy of the B.A.S.S. booklet "Keeping Bass Alive, A Guidebook for Anglers and Tournament Organizers."
WRP partners with landowners to protect wetlands
Applications are now being accepted for the 2003 Wetland Reserve Program (WRP). The Wetland Reserve Program’s primary objective is to restore former wetlands, re-establish native wildlife habitat and retire marginal land from agricultural production. Currently, over 39,000 acres have been entered into WRP in Oklahoma. In 2002, 19 contracts were developed totaling $5 million.
“Wetlands benefit nature by providing fish and wildlife habitat, improving water quality by filtering sediment and chemicals, recharging groundwater, and by providing a host of recreational opportunities,” said Kevin Norton, assistant state conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. “Restored wetlands provide critical habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife species that are dependent on wetlands and native vegetation.”
Applicants may elect to participate in either permanent easements, 30-year easements, or 10 year cost–share agreements. Permanent easement contracts include the total cost of the restoration practices. For non-permanent, 30-year easements, NRCS will pay 75% of the value determined for a permanent easement and 75% of costs associated with establishing the restoration. Ten-year cost-share agreements also provide up to 75% cost-share for installation of the wetland restoration practices.
Applications for enrollment in WRP will be accepted throughout the year. An interagency review team consisting of NRCS, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will evaluate and rank each application. Applications will be evaluated periodically to consider and fund high priority applications. Successful applicants with high priority resource concerns will be contacted to develop contracts. Unfunded applications will be kept on file for future consideration.
Individuals interested in applying for the program can contact their local NRCS, or Farm Service Agency office. Additional information is also available at www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs.
Controlled hunt results available
Are you checking your mailbox everyday to see if you got drawn for one of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Controlled Hunt? Well, quit hiking to the mailbox and find a computer. You can log on to www.wildlifedepartment.com and find out if you were drawn. Plus, if you were fortunate enough to be drawn, you can even pay your user fees online.
The opportunity to harvest an animal from some of the best managed lands for wildlife have made the controlled hunts one of the most popular programs the Department offers. Applicants anxious to know the if they were drawn can access the Controlled Hunt drawing results through the Department's Web site www.wildlifedepartment.com. Click on the "Controlled Hunts Results" banner and enter your last name, birthday, social security or driver’s license number. The service is free, easy and instantaneous and has been very popular the last three years.
Computer terminals are also available at the Department's headquarters and regional offices, but sportsmen have found that checking the results from the comfort of their home or office is very easy and is often the most efficient way to find out if you have been drawn. Successful applicants will also be notified by mail.
Practice makes perfect
New hunting regulations to hit the shelves
Does it seem like summer will never end?
Just in time, the “2003 Oklahoma Hunting Guide” has been released and you can pick up a copy at any hunting license vendor across the state.
There has been a myriad of changes to the hunting regulations designed to increase hunter opportunity and help better manage the state’s fantastic natural resources. Here are a few of the highlights:
The statewide deer gun season will begin on the Saturday before Thanksgiving and run for 16 consecutive days (Nov. 22-Dec. 7). On many of the Department’s wildlife management areas, however, the season will remain nine days.
A special three-day antlerless deer gun season for those under 18 years of age has also been added. The season will be held October 17-19, coinciding with many Oklahoma school systems’ fall break.
Deer archery season will run continuously from Oct. 1-Jan. 15 and deer muzzleloader will run Oct. 25-Nov. 2.
Additionally, for the first time in nearly 10 years, many hunting and fishing license fees have risen.
For complete information about license costs, season dates, zones and other details about the upcoming hunting seasons log on to www.wildlifedepartment.com or consult the “2003 Oklahoma Hunting Guide,” available at hunting license vendors across the state.
Shortnose gar record falls, again
Terrence Terry is no stranger to the sport of archery, or for that matter, to the sport of using a bow and arrow to land fish.
While bowfishing in the Arkansas River July 23, Terry arrowed a new state record shortnose gar weighing four pounds, 12.8-ounces. Terry’s record was verified in the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s unrestricted category for legal fishing methods other than rod and line.
“We go upstream by airboat from the Three Forks (confluence of the Verdigris, Arkansas and Neosho rivers near Muskogee), into areas where the gar are surfacing,” said Terry.
Upon being measured by Monte Ried, state game warden stationed in Rogers/Mayes county, Terry’s fish measured 31 inches long with a girth measurement of 10.25 inches.
“We typically see about 30 percent shortnosed gar compared with 70 percent of the larger long nosed gar. The recent hot weather has really made the bowfishing good, especially during the daytime,” Terry said.
Terry says he took up bowfishing as a hobby some 30 years ago and it’s his favorite summer pastime. To land the new record, Terry used a Zebco Brute 270 bowreel spooled with 80-pound test line, which is attached to the end of his arrow. Unlike the recurve style bow preferred by the majority of Oklahoma’s bowfishermen, Terry uses an Oneida Screaming Eagle compound bow adjusted to 39 pounds for the draw weight.
“I shoot instinctively (no bowsites) with bare fingers, and my bow’s let-off is adjusted so that it shoots pretty much like a recurve,” Terry explained.
If recent history is any indication, Terry’s record may not stand up for long. Only some 40 days earlier, the prior state record for shortnose gar in the unrestricted category was set with a 3-pound, 3.8-ounce fish taken by bowfisherman Dale Starry from the Red River June 12.
For a complete list of record fish and the procedures regarding state record fish consult the "2003 Oklahoma Fishing Guide." If you think you may have hooked a record fish it is important that you weigh the fish on a Oklahoma State Department of Agriculture certified scale and the weight is verified by a Wildlife Department employee.