MAY 2004 NEWS RELEASES 

WEEK OF MAY 27, 2004

WEEK OF MAY 20, 2004

WEEK OF MAY 13, 2004

WEEK OF MAY 6, 2004

 

Oklahoma free fishing days June 5-6

What’s better than a day of fishing? Fishing for free with your friends and family, of course.

The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission approved a resolution to designate June 5-6 as Free Fishing Days in Oklahoma. Oklahoma was the first state in the nation to offer free fishing days 22 years ago and have since been followed by dozens of other states that have established similar free fishing days.

"Free fishing days are a great opportunity to introduce family and friends to fishing," said David Warren, information and education chief for the Wildlife Department. “This is also a good time to acknowledge the tremendous economic impact that fishing has in our state. Oklahoma’s 774,000 anglers pump approximately $500 million into the state’s economy each year.”

State fishing licenses are not required on the free fishing days, although anglers should note that local or municipal permits may be required on those days. Anglers must also follow all other fishing regulations.

In other business, commissioners recognized Oklahoma’s state wildlife grants delegation. Over the past four years, federally funded state wildlife grants have helped fund 30 different conservation projects across the state. Hal McKnight, Spike Henderson, Andy McDaniel and Drew Owen served on the Oklahoma state wildlife grants delegation. These individuals traveled to Washington D.C. on their personal time to meet with Oklahoma Congressmen regarding the importance of these state wildlife grants. Thanks to these and other conservation-minded citizens, the majority of Congress signed a letter of support for increased state wildlife grants in 2005.

Also at the meeting the Commission heard a status report of the Department’s very successful Project WILD program. Since 1984 Oklahoma educators have been given the tools through Project WILD to bring outdoor education to the classroom.

“Project WILD essentially teaches educators the best ways to teach kids about conservation,” said Lisa Anderson, Project WILD coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

According to Anderson, 20,000 educators in Oklahoma have successfully completed the six-hour Project WILD workshops since the program began.

The program’s 48 volunteer Project WILD facilitators are essential in success of the program. At the meeting, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission recognized one of the state’s pioneers within Project WILD, Dr. Ted Mills, Oklahoma State University Professor Emeritus of Curriculum and Instruction, for his 20 years of contributions to Project WILD.

“I have been retired from full-time work for eight years now and I can do whatever I want with my free time, but I choose to continue to work with Project WILD. I think it is so important that we get the conservation message in schools so that these kids can have an understanding of what wildlife management is all about,” Mills said.

Throughout the years, Dr. Mills has brought hundreds of educators through the program. To learn more about Project WILD log on to www.wildlifedepartment.com

Commissioners also voted to approve a contract wildlife biologist who will use GIS (Geographic Information System) tools to identify large areas of habitat appropriate for quail restoration projects. Biologists will then work with local landowners to improve quail habitat and populations on their property. This new position will be funded through a recent donation from Foundation Management Inc, and the duration of the position will be contingent on the continuation and availability of grant funds.

The Commission recognized a trio of Department employees for their outstanding service to the sportsmen of the state. Employees recognized were:

David Warren, Information and Education Division chief for 30 years of service;

Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor, for 25 years of service; and

Lark Wilson, state game warden stationed in Muskogee County, for 20 years of service.

In other business the Commission approved a measure to solicit sealed bids for the leasing of 22 mineral acres on the Beaver County Wildlife Management Area.

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 meeting is June 7 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters (auditorium), at the southwest corner of 18th and North Lincoln, Oklahoma City at 9:00 a.m.

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Fifth year of testing shows no CWD in state’s deer herd

For the fifth year in a row, all tests came back negative for chronic wasting disease from samples taken from the state’s wild deer herd.

“This isn’t unexpected news, but it is always good to hear the official word,” said Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Personnel with the USDA veterinary services took brain samples from 1,429 deer and elk harvested during the 2003-04 hunting season from across the state. Over the past five years a total of 2,830 samples have been submitted for CWD testing.

“This is our largest sample size yet and it was taken from a large area of the state,” Shaw said. “We will continue to be vigilant in our surveillance program.”

CWD is an infectious disease of wild and captive elk and deer that results in progressive degeneration of the brain tissue in infected animals. First recognized in 1967, CWD is not a new disease and has been found in wild herds in limited areas of several western and northern states. There is no evidence that CWD has ever been transmitted to people, livestock or other kinds of animals.

Oklahomans certainly enjoyed a fantastic 2003-2004 deer season. According to preliminary numbers, approximately 100,500 deer were harvested last year. Final numbers along with county totals should be available in late June.

Many hunters are already making plans for the 2004-2005 deer seasons. Other than calendar adjustments, no changes were made in either the season dates or antlerless deer hunting opportunities. The 2004-2005 deer hunting season dates are as follows:

Deer Archery Oct. 1 - Jan. 15

Deer Muzzleloader Oct. 23 - Oct. 31

Deer Gun Nov. 20 - Dec. 5

Look for complete details this July regarding the upcoming deer seasons in the “2004-2005 Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or on wildlifedepartment.com.

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Attention all Hunters and Anglers:

Free admission to the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum

There’s no such thing as a free lunch. But there is free admission to the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum - at least for hunters and anglers. Visitors who bring a valid hunting or fishing license, May 10-16, will receive free Museum admission for one.

The special offer is the perfect opportunity for sportsmen and their families to see a unique display of sporting art - The Art of American Arms Makers: Marketing Guns, Ammunition and Western Adventure During the Golden Age of Illustration. The exhibit is an extensive gathering of rarely seen commercial works featuring Western hunting artwork. Approximately 80 original and lithographic works showcase advertising art created by such well-known Western artists as: Frederic Remington, N.C. Wyeth, Philip R. Goodwin, and W.R. Leigh. A special gallery tour with Curator Richard Rattenbury will be available Saturday, May 15, 1 p.m. Final day of this exhibition is Sunday, May 16, 2004

The museum located at 1700 NE 63rd in Oklahoma City is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information call (405) 478-2250.

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May 14 deadline approaching for controlled hunts applications

Procrastinators beware - time is running short to submit your application for the 2004 Controlled Hunts program.

Hunters can apply over the Internet 24 hours a day by logging onto www.wildlifedepartment.com Not only can hunters save a stamp by applying online, they can also confirm that their application has been received as soon as they apply. This year’s Controlled Hunts booklets are also available at hunting and fishing license dealers located throughout the state, as well as is in PDF format that can be printed off the Department’s Web site

Administered by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the Controlled Hunts Program offers a wide variety of highly desirable hunts through a random drawing. Some hunts are held to provide high-quality hunting experiences on high-profile areas where it is necessary to regulate hunting pressure. Others are held to achieve management goals for certain species, and others are held to provide hunting experiences in areas where access is otherwise limited.

A $5 fee is required of all applicants including lifetime hunting or lifetime combination license holders. This fee is good for ALL 2004-2005 controlled hunt applications submitted by each sportsman. 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 can be made by: cashier's check, money order, cash or credit card.

For complete application instructions, including tips on enhancing your chances of being selected, log on to www.wildlifedepartment.com  or consult the Oklahoma Controlled Hunts 2004-2005 booklet.

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A First Time For Everything

Kerry Carter had never been fishing at Robert S. Kerr Reservoir, he had never caught a walleye and he had never caught a state record fish. But there is a first time for everything and Carter couldn’t be happier.

Carter and a fishing buddy decided to head east to Kerr Reservoir near Webbers Falls for an evening of catfishing. They found a likely spot and tried a new bait for the first time, Hog Wild Dipping Bait. The pair caught a few small catfish that May 8th afternoon, but it wasn’t until 6 p.m. that things really got interesting.

“I thought I had finally hooked a good-size catfish,” said Carter, who lives in Shawnee. “Once I got it to the bank we realized it was a walleye. We didn’t have a good scale with us, but after measuring the length, we realized what a nice fish it was.”

A nice fish is a modest understatement. The big walleye weighed in at 12 pounds, 13 ounces was 30 3/8 inches long.

Carter said that he, like any other angler, had always hoped to break a state record. He just never thought it would be a walleye. Carter caught the fish on 17-pound test line using Hog Wild liver red worm.

“I guess now I am going to learn how to really fish for walleye. I have always heard there is some great walleye fishing in the state, now I am going to give it a try,” Carter said.

According to Kim Erickson, fisheries chief for the Wildlife Department, there are plenty of places for Carter and other anglers to give walleye fishing a try.

“Robert S. Kerr Reservoir near the mouth of the Illinois River has produced big walleye before, but it’s not the only place. Canton Lake in northwest Blaine County, Broken Bow Lake in southeast Oklahoma and Altus-Lugert Lake in the southwestern part of the state are also known as walleye hotspots,” Erickson said.

The previous walleye record of 12 pounds, 10 ounces was set by Jerrod Lingle who pulled the walleye from Altus-Lugert in March of 1995.

For a complete list of record fish and the procedures regarding certifying state record fish, consult the “2004 Oklahoma Fishing Guide.” If you think you may have hooked a record fish it is important that you weigh the fish on an Oklahoma State Department of Agriculture certified scale and the weight is verified by a Wildlife Department employee.

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Cutline: Kerry Carter caught a new state record 12-pound, 13-ounce walleye while he was catfishing at Robert S. Kerr Reservoir near Webbers Falls. The record fish was the first walleye Carter had ever caught.

Bass Anglers - Handle With Care

To any of the more than 4,000 spectators that attended the 2004 CITGO B.A.S.S. Federation Championship in Jenks, it was obvious that the tournament was a success. The tournament, held April 19-24 on Keystone Lake, hosted some of the best amateur bass anglers in the nation. However, it wasn’t until a week later that fisheries biologists realized just how successful tournament was.

“Department biologists along with Oklahoma Aquarium biologists held all of the first day catch from the tournament in large circular quarantine tanks for one week following the event,” said Gene Gilliland, senior fisheries biologist for the Wildlife Department. “The good news is that each one of those fish lived and was released back into Lake Keystone. This just shows that proper fish handling can result in excellent, even 100 percent, survival rates in a bass tournament.

Gilliland added that you don’t have to be a high-stakes tournament angler to practice proper release techniques.

“It’s important that anglers use caution handling any fish they plan to return to the water this time of year. But, largemouth bass are the biggest concern because they are our most popular sportfish and many bass tournaments are held throughout the summer," Gilliland said.

Anglers can increase the survival rates of released fish by following these suggested handling tips.

• Moisten your hands before handling a fish.

• Fill your livewell as soon as you launch your boat and activate the aerator to build up dissolved oxygen levels and run your aerator continuously, no matter what time of year.

• Add ice to the livewell. Use block ice if possible. It melts slower than crushed or cubed ice, and it cools water more evenly. One eight-pound block will cool a 30-gallon livewell for about three hours.

• Add non-iodized salt, 1/3-cup per five gallons of livewell capacity, to help reduce stress on fish.

• Replace at least half of the livewell water two or three times daily to remove ammonia.

• Commercial livewell additives help calm fish in livewells, helping reduce stress and decreasing their oxygen respiratory rates.

To learn more about the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation or fishing in Oklahoma, log onto the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com or for more information regarding bass release techniques, log onto http://espn.go.com/outdoors/bassmaster/s/b_cons_bass_alive_launch.html.

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Squirrel hunting offer chance to pass on the tradition

Ask veteran hunters about their fondest memories about hunting as kids and chances are the conversation will turn quickly to squirrels, rabbits and other small game. Sportsmen will soon have a chance to introduce the younger generation to the traditions of squirrel hunting. Running May 15 through Jan. 31, squirrel season is one of the longest continuous hunting seasons available to Oklahoma hunters.

Squirrel hunting is a perfect opportunity to introduce a youngster to hunting. There is enough walking and action so kids don't get bored, plus you don't even have to get up early to be successful.

Both the gray and fox squirrel are abundant on many of the Department's wildlife management areas. A generous 10-squirrel limit offers a challenge to those going afield with a .22 caliber rifle. Other sportsmen prefer carrying a shotgun while going after squirrels. Another option that is increasing in popularity are pellet rifles, which through the years have become adequately powerful to deliver squirrels to the bag.

Public hunting opportunities abound in Oklahoma for squirrel hunters. Just about any tract of mast-producing hardwoods can be a productive area for hunters. Excellent squirrel hunting can be found on Keystone, Spavinaw, Deep Fork and Canton wildlife management areas.

To hunt squirrels in Oklahoma, all you need is a resident or non-resident hunting license. Resident hunters younger than age 16 can hunt squirrels without a license. For a complete list of squirrel hunting regulations consult the “2004 Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or log on to the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

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Firearm safety locks available - free of charge

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, along with nearly 40 local law enforcement agencies, will be distributing 304,000 firearm safety locks to Oklahomans across the state.

The free locks will be distributed free of charge through a partnership with Project ChildSafe, a program developed through the National Shooting Sports Foundation. The program is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, with additional funds provided by the firearms industry.

“We encourage everyone to pick up one of these free safety locks. They are a great way to store or transport firearms,” said Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Wildlife Department. “We will be distributing 15,400 locks through the hunter education classes and you can also obtain one of these locks through 39 different law enforcement agencies around the state.”

To learn more about Project ChildSafe or to find out about distribution locations in Oklahoma, log onto www.projectchildsafe.org.

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The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will be distributing 15,400 gunlocks at hunter education classes around the state. The locks will be distributed free of charge through a partnership with Project ChildSafe, a program developed through the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

Bait, birds, bass and brochures

Ever thought about raising fish bait in your backyard, building a birdhouse or improving your property for wildlife? If so, look no further than wildlifedepartment.com.

“The Wildlife Department’s Web site includes over 30 digital brochures that offer a wide range of information for just about everybody,” said Rich Fuller, information supervisor for the Wildlife Department. “You can read them right off your computer screen or print them off and read them at your leisure.”

Whether you’re interested in learning more about the Wildlife Department, getting rid of aquatic vegetation in your pond or learning about black bears in Oklahoma, it can all be found with a few clicks of the mouse. In addition to these helpful publications the Department’s annual hunting and fishing regulations are also available on the site.

To find this wealth of information simply log onto wildlifedepartment.com and click on Publications, Regulations and Outdoor Store. Many of the documents are offered in both a PDF and text only format.

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“Wildflower Spotters” needed to report blooms

Oklahoma’s roadsides and highway medians are bursting with color as they transform from a monotone into blankets of colorful wildflowers. Help share this transformation as a “Wildflower Spotter.”

The Oklahoma Native Plant Society is teaming up with Channel 9 (KWTV) in Oklahoma City and Channel 8 (KTUL) in Tulsa to bring “Wildflower Spotter” reports, similar to “Storm Spotter” reports, to living rooms this spring through the evening news.

You could be a spotter. All you need is a camera and e-mail. Send wildflower pictures in jpeg or tiff format to kimshannon@ou.edu.

Be sure to note the date and general location of the spotting. For example: Payne County west of Stillwater on Hwy 51. Also, check to see if there is a sign indicating the area is part of the Transportation Department’s Roadside Wildflower Program, and state that in the e-mail.

Don’t trespass onto private property to take a photo, and avoid picking the wildflowers so they continue to bloom.

The reports won’t work without spotters, so remember your camera when you get ready for outings. Your photograph may end up on the evening news.

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State Record Flathead Catfish Caught at El Reno Lake

Admittedly, state record fish are sometimes caught by accident. Occasionally fortune smiles on some lucky angler, like the fisherman who recently caught a state record walleye while catfishing or the state record smallmouth buffalo that was caught while the angler was fishing for walleye last year.

However, more often than not, skilled and knowledgeable anglers catch record fish. Ron “Barefoot” Cantrell of El Reno is the perfect example. He now holds the state rod and line record for flathead catfish with a 72-pound, 8-ounce brute of a fish he caught from El Reno Lake.

“I’ve met a lot of catfishermen over the years and he is the best one I know,” said Ron Comer, state game warden stationed in Canadian County. “It doesn’t surprise me one bit he broke the record.”

Cantrell uses a refined technique of catfishing, which incorporates a balloon that serves as both a bobber and a sail to drift his bait far from shore to “where the big boys are.” Although conventional wisdom among flathead anglers have long preached the use of live baits such as sunfish, goldfish or shad, Cantrell prefers cut shad. He hooked the record fish on a large gizzard shad head the evening of May 20 nearly 100 yards from shore.

“As soon as I got a look at it I told my fishing buddy to get a tape measure. He was sure enough a big one,” Cantrell said.

Cantrell certainly knows what a big flathead looks like. In October of 2002 Cantrell hooked a flathead that was just a few ounces shy of the state record. After landing the big fish, it was several hours before the fish was officially weighed and measured. Fish held on a stringer for long periods tend to loose weight, however. Had he secured a big enough State Department of Agriculture certified scale in the vicinity sooner, it’s likely his 2002 fish could have topped the existing record of 71 pounds.

Just missing the mark by a few ounces didn’t deter the angler. Some 19 months and dozens of big flatheads later, Cantrell’s persistence and unique angling skills finally paid off.

“I was personally happy for Barefoot to finally get the record after getting so close before,“ said Comer. “He not only knows how to catch the big ones, but he puts in a lot of days out there (at El Reno Lake) throughout the year.”

The new state record fish measures 35 inches around and 51 1/4 inches in length and was weighed on certified scales at Ross Seed Company in El Reno.

A 72 and a half pound fish would have been enough excitement in one night for most anglers, but not Cantrell.

“I couldn’t stop fishing when they were just starting to bite,” Cantrell said.

That same night he caught two more flatheads weighing 45 and 68 pounds. Anyone who catches a stringer of three fish that weigh 185 pounds is either very lucky or very good. But none of them were keepers at least not for Cantrell.

“I nearly always let them go so they can grow up a little. I only keep a few to eat every year,” he said.

As for the new record flathead - it has been transported to the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks. It is hoped that the fish will be on display in coming weeks.

Barry Bolton, assistant fisheries chief for the Wildlife Department says Cantrell’s release practice is commendable.

“It is great to hear that these big fish are going back into the lake,” Bolton said. “After all, a 40-pound fish may be up to 30 years old, and a 60-pound fish may be up to 40 years old.”

The previous flathead record of 71 pounds was set by James Skipper who pulled the catfish from Oologah Lake in May of 1998.

For a complete list of record fish and the procedures regarding certifying state record fish, consult the “2004 Oklahoma Fishing Guide.” If you think you may have hooked a record fish it is important that you weigh the fish on an Oklahoma State Department of Agriculture certified scale and the weight is verified by a Wildlife Department employee.

 

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Cutline: Ron Cantrell of El Reno, pulled in a 72-pound, 8-ounce flathead catfish from El Reno Lake. The new state record fish was transported to the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks. It is hoped that the fish will be on display in coming weeks.

 

Cutline: Asialynn Cantrell, granddaughter of angler Ron Cantrell, sizes up the new state record flathead catfish. Asialynn enjoys going fishing with her grandpa, but she prefers fishing for sunfish rather than huge flatheads.

  

Let sleeping fawns lie

On a few occasions wildlife management requires intensive efforts such as surveying fish populations, banding geese or conducting prescribed burns. But when it comes to young wildlife, the best thing to is almost always to stand back, stay out of the way and let nature take care of itself.

Birds and squirrels can be blown out of their nest in storms, and although they appear alone and helpless, the parents will often find these youngsters and care for them wherever they might be. It is very common for small wildlife to become separated from their nest and siblings, but probably the most common wildlife found alone is white-tailed deer fawns.

"Just because you see a fawn by itself doesn’t mean it’s an orphan. The parent is nearby and she is just waiting for you to leave so she can move her fawn off to safety," said Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

"Sometimes people, with the best of intentions, attempt to ‘save’ a  fawn. But this can actually compromise the fawn's ability to survive in the wild. Raising a wild deer is not easy and besides, no one can take better care of a fawn than the doe,” Shaw said.

In Oklahoma, most fawns are born in May and June, and start becoming visible in mid to late June.

For more information about deer or about wildlife watching opportunities, log onto the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

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Outdoor Calendar offers opportunities for the adventure-minded

The kids have been out of school for just a matter of a few days and they’re already complaining that there is nothing to do. No reason to be bored this summer, there is a myriad of adventures just waiting for adventurous Oklahomans.

The Outdoor Calendar at www.wildlifedepartment.com is just the place to find upcoming summer activities and events. Visitors to the Wildlife Department's  Web site can find out what outdoor-related activities are going on in their area. From noodling tournaments to bat watches to hunter education classes, a wide range of events is awaiting your discovery.

As the summer months move quickly toward fall there are several hunter education courses scheduled in many communities such as Owasso, Glenpool and Oklahoma City, and many other towns along the way.

A trip to northwest Oklahoma can be a fun summertime family destination. Travelers can spend an afternoon at Alabaster Caverns State Park and an evening participating in the popular Selman Bat Cave Watches. Thousands of bats pour out of the cave each evening to begin their nightly foray for insects. Participants are also given a natural history presentation from wildlife experts.

Teachers and other educators can begin preparing for the upcoming year by participating in one of the many Project WILD workshops. The classes, many of which can be taken for college credit, help teachers learn how to bring outdoor lessons into the classroom.

Find out what goes on after dark at the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge near Lawton by going on The Under of Cover Darkness tour. The tours are led by park naturalists and reveal the nocturnal habits of many of refuge inhabitants.

What better way to spend an afternoon than wetting a line at your favorite fishing hole. Youngsters can learn all about fishing by attending one of the many fishing clinics held throughout the state. The free clinics teach kids how to cast a rod and reel, tie fishing knots, fish identification and kids also get a chance to try out their new skills after the clinic.

To get more details about all these activities and more, log onto wildlifedepartment.com.

 

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