MAY 2007 NEWS RELEASES 

WEEK OF MAY 31, 2007

WEEK OF MAY 24, 2007

WEEK OF MAY 17, 2007

WEEK OF MAY 10, 2007

 

WEEK OF MAY 3, 2007

 

16,000 arrows launched during youth archery competition

Four hundred students competed April 26 in the third annual Oklahoma Archery in Schools state tournament held at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond.

Students at the state tournament competed archery shooting events, with Shawnee High, Shawnee Middle and Sperry Elementary schools taking home first place trophies for their age groups. These schools received an automatic invitation to the National Archery in Schools tournament slated for June 9 in Louisville, Ky.

Other schools earned enough points at the tournament to qualify for nationals, including Clayton High School, Coweta High School, Coweta Jr. High, South Rock Creek Jr. High and the Owasso 8th Grade Center.

Coordinated by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Oklahoma Archery in Schools is part of a national program that partners state wildlife agencies, schools and the nation's archery industry to introduce students to the sport of archery. The Archery in Schools curriculum is designed for 4th-12th graders and covers archery history, safety, techniques, equipment, mental concentration and self-improvement. About 6,500 students participated in the program last year.

To learn more about the Oklahoma Archery in Schools program, log on to wildlifedepartment.com. More than $50,000 will be available soon through OAIS school grants. Schools can acquire all the equipment, curriculum and training necessary to begin an OAIS program in their communities at little or no cost through the grants. Teachers interested in bringing the program to their own schools should contact Lance Meek, Oklahoma Archery in Schools coordinator for the Wildlife Department, at (405) 522-4572.

"The Oklahoma Archery in Schools program offers both recreation and competition for students that want to try a different sport than they are used to," Meek said. "The program lets kids be as serious and competitive about archery as they want to be, but also allows them to just enjoy the sport as a hobby. The best thing is that it introduces them to a lifelong activity, whether they want to get involved in more competition shooting, bowhunting or other archery opportunities."

According to Meek, the state tournament's success each year is made possible by the Department's partnership with UCO.

"We couldn't have been treated any better than UCO treated us during the tournament," Meek said. "The staff and facilities at UCO were perfect for this event."

The top three shooters in each age group at the state tournament received medals and prizes. First place winners received a new bow, second place winners received a dozen new arrows and third place winners took home a new bow carrying case. They also qualified for the national tournament. The top three shooters in each age category (in order from first place to third place) include:

High school boys

1. Gus Walenciak, 9th grade, Coweta

2. Cole Welch, 9th grade, Keys

3. Casey Taylor, 9th grade, Keys

High school girls

1. Courtney Dearth, 9th grade, Shawnee

2. Becky Holmes, 9th grade, Coweta

3. Alana Westphal, 9th grade, Shawnee

Middle school boys

1. Aaron Bushong, 8th grade, Shawnee

2. Zachary Dunn, 8th grade, Owasso

3. Coltan Schultz, 7th grade, Coleman Jr. High

Middle school girls

1. Bethany Buchanan, 7th grade, Shawnee

2. Kaylee Allen, 8th grade, South Rock Creek 3. Brittany Owens, 8th grade, Shawnee

Elementary school boys

1. Hunter Hall, 5th grade, South Rock Creek 2. Vincent Pinion, 4th grade, South Rock Creek 3. Wyatt Brooks, 5th grade, Sperry

Elementary school girls

1. Kate Nichols, 5th grade, Morris

2. Taylar Daughtry, 5th grade, Sperry

3. Samantha Laney, 5th grade, Coweta

 

Caption: The third annual Oklahoma Archery in Schools state tournament, held April 26 at the University of Central Oklahoma, drew 400 competitors from schools all across the state to compete for prizes and trophies.

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Squirrel season opener in sight

May 15 marks the opening day of one of Oklahoma's most available but most forgotten game animals - squirrels.

"Sportsmen who don't spend any time hunting squirrels are missing out on a hobby they might really enjoy, not to mention a lot more time in the woods," said Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

The squirrel season, which runs nearly nine months straight (May 15-Jan. 29), is a popular part of Oklahoma's hunting heritage and still is recognized by many today as a great recreational activity. And though fewer squirrel hunters may take to the woods now, the opportunities to harvest game and sharpen outdoor skills through squirrel hunting are still plentiful in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma is home to two subspecies of squirrel, the gray squirrel, which inhabits the far eastern portion the state, and the fox squirrel, which is found statewide in suitable habitats.

"Squirrel hunting is a great way to introduce a youngster to the sport of hunting because of the availability and likelihood of seeing game," said Meek. "It's also a great way to teach people to hunt and how to keep the sport of hunting safe. Squirrels are smaller animals, but they are a challenge to hunt. Someone who learns to hunt squirrels will also acquire many of the skills needed for hunting deer or turkey as well. Also, you have a generous bag limit of 10 squirrels per day."

Whether pursuing bushytails with a shotgun or .22 rifle or by stalking, still hunting or following a trusty squirrel dog through the woods, hunters have no shortage of squirrel hunting opportunities. Excellent hunting can be found on Keystone, Spavinaw Hills, Deep Fork, Hickory Creek and many other wildlife management areas. Central Oklahoma residents can find good success at Lexington WMA, and hunters in northwest Oklahoma can make a trip to Canton WMA for some great and very underused squirrel hunting as well.

Sportsmen can attract squirrels to them using calls as well as find them in the woods by searching for food and habitat sign, such as areas containing hardwoods and mast-producing trees. About any tract of oaks, hickory or pecan trees can be productive. Another option is to hunt them with a dog that is bred and trained to locate squirrels.

Hunters taking to the woods after squirrels would also be interested to know that squirrel skins and/or tails may be legally sold and have brought up to $2 for whole skins in recent years.

"If you've forgotten what it's like to hunt squirrels, or if you miss the great taste of the once-popular tablefare or even if you want to take your kid hunting, then you should really try to get out this year and hunt squirrels," Meek said. "You're sure to have a lot of fun."

To hunt squirrels in Oklahoma, hunters need a resident or non-resident hunting license, unless exempt, and a $5 Fishing and Hunting Legacy Permit, unless exempt. Resident hunters younger than age 16 can hunt squirrels without a license. For a complete list of squirrel hunting regulations consult the current "Oklahoma Hunting Guide" or log on to the Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.

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Family-based event to teach youth about the great outdoors

Families and fishing will be the focuses of the upcoming Inner City Kids Fishing and Outdoors Expo slated for Saturday, May 19.

The OKC Student Anglers program, responsible for hosting the all-day event, started in 2004 to introduce inner-city kids to the sport of fishing. The Inner City Kids Fishing and Outdoors Expo will offer youth a chance to learn about the outdoors through fishing seminars taught by members of area junior bass clubs.

Over 50 volunteers will be helping with the event, which is scheduled to last from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Historic Farmers Public Market located at 311 S. Klein in Oklahoma City.

Admission is $1 for kids ages 6 to 12 and $3 for adults. The first 600 children accompanied by a paid adult will receive either a rod and reel or tackle box.

"This event is going to be fun and focused on families," said Damon Springer, aquatic education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Kids who haven't been fishing before will have a chance to learn something about the sport from another youth. If you can take a child to the event, there's a good chance they will get hooked on the sport of fishing and end up with a hobby that will last their entire life. You'll also discover some outdoor vacation opportunities for the summer."

Vendors will be at the event showcasing tackle, fishing equipment and other outdoor gear designed for family use. Families will be able to learn about the equipment needed to enjoy fishing and the outdoors as well as view booths displaying summer vacation information provided by fishing guides, summer camp directors and campground managers. For more information about being vendor at this year's Inner City Kids Fishing and Outdoors Expo, contact Art Valdez at (405) 812-7049. For information on becoming a sponsor, contact Joe Mendoza at (405) 371-9556.

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Scissor-tail tag helps Oklahoma's Wildlife

Gov. Brad Henry recently announced that Oklahoma's commemorative quarter will feature the scissor-tail flycatcher. And though the U.S. Mint will not issue the quarter until early next year, bird fanciers do not have to wait to display their interest in the official state bird for all to see.

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation currently produces a wildlife conservation license plate featuring a scissor-tail in flight. The plates cost $35 plus $2 for shipping and handling. Buyers can personalize their plates for free. Purchasing a plate helps fund the Department's Wildlife Diversity program.

"The Wildlife Diversity program helps conserve more than 600 wildlife species and the habitats where they live," said Lesley McNeff, Wildlife Diversity specialist for the Department. "The plates look great on vehicles and make a statement to other drivers that you care about Oklahoma's wildlife."

Along with the scissor-tail, conservation license plates also are available that display the whitetail deer, largemouth bass, bobwhite quail and wild turkey.

Plates can be purchased at the Oklahoma Tax Commission office in Oklahoma City. For more information, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

Caption: Oklahoma's official state bird, the scissor-tail flycatcher, is featured on one of five different license plates available from the Wildlife Department to help fund wildlife and habitat projects through the Department's Wildlife Diversity program.

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Wildlife Department partners with state university to increase outdoor education activities

Outdoor recreation education programs will be enhanced in the state thanks to a strengthened relationship between the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the University of Central Oklahoma.

At its May meeting, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission voted to approve a memorandum of understanding to work with UCO to develop and increase outdoor recreation in Oklahoma.

"The Wildlife Department has already been partnering with UCO for the last three years to host the Oklahoma Archery in Schools state tournament," said Nels Rodefeld, information and education chief for the Wildlife Department. "This is a great way to work toward many of our common goals in outdoor education."

Department officials say the cooperative effort with UCO will remain focused on the Archery in Schools program. Coordinated by the Wildlife Department, the Oklahoma Archery in Schools program is part of a national program that partners state wildlife agencies, schools and the nation's archery industry to introduce students to the sport of archery. About 6,500 Oklahoma students participated in the program last year. Around 400 students competed April 26 on the UCO campus in the annual state tournament, a two-fold increase over last year.

"The Archery in Schools program gets students interested in the outdoors and introduces them to a lifelong activity that can lead to a richer quality of life," Rodefeld said. "But we'll be working with UCO on other projects as well, like conservation education and other shooting sports education activities."

Steve Kreidler, executive vice president at UCO and guest at Monday's meeting, attended the state tournament and told the Commission he was excited about the future of working with the Wildlife Department.

"We believe that participation in outdoor sporting activities leads to character development," Kreidler said.

Kreidler said the students involved in Archery in Schools are "learning sportsmanship, ethics and character through this program."

"We're very excited to work with you all to get that to the next level," Kreidler told the Commission regarding the Archery in Schools program.

According to Rodefeld, generating interest in the outdoors through education opportunities like the Archery in Schools program helps wildlife.

"When people become interested in outdoor recreation, they are more likely to buy outdoor-related products and do outdoor-related activities like hunting and fishing," Rodefeld said. "Wildlife conservation efforts in Oklahoma depend on that because the Department doesn't receive any general state tax revenues. It's funded by outdoor enthusiasts who buy hunting and fishing licenses and also by special federal taxes on sporting goods."

The Commission also recognized UCO and its staff Monday for helping host the state tournament.

Four hundred students competed in archery shooting events at the third annual state tournament, shooting a total of more than 16,000 arrows. Several teams received invitations to the national Archery in the Schools tournament slated for June 9 in Louisville, Ky. Additionally, the top three shooters in each age group received medals and prizes. First place winners received a new bow, second place winners received a dozen new arrows and third place winners took home a new bow carrying case. They also qualified for the national tournament.

In other business, Ken Greenwood with NatureWorks told the Commission about the special Oklahoma Centennial Duck Stamp print. The Department worked with NatureWorks to commission nationally-renowned wildlife artist Scot Storm to paint the scene of "Hackberry Flat Mallards." The painting serves as a special tribute to the Oklahoma Duck Stamp program and the state's centennial.

"Only 100 copies of the special centennial painting were printed. We sold our allotment in about 24 hours, but some of the prints can still be purchased at Ducks Unlimited banquets." Rodefeld said.

NatureWorks is a national organization dedicated to assisting wildlife conservation efforts. Its annual art show has generated funds that have benefited several conservation and habitat projects in Oklahoma.

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 set for 9 a.m. June 4 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters (auditorium), located at the southwest corner of 18th and North Lincoln, Oklahoma City.

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Don't forget to submit Controlled Hunts applications

Hunters have until midnight Tuesday, May 15 to submit their "2007-08 Controlled Hunts" applications over the Internet at www.wildlifedepartment.com

"Time is running out for those who haven't applied yet," said Nels Rodefeld, information and education chief for the Wildlife Department. "Don't miss your chance at being drawn for one of these great hunts. About 10,277 people have already applied."

Oklahoma was one of the first states in the nation to offer electronic applications, and last year, 85 percent of those applying for Controlled Hunts used the online application system.

Online applications have been available since 1999. Applicants are prompted to fill out their information correctly, which helps avoid the chance of applying incorrectly.

"After you submit your online application, you know immediately that your application was accepted," Rodefeld said.

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.

All applicants, including lifetime license holders, must pay a $5 application fee to enter the Controlled Hunts drawings. The fee is paid only once per person per year regardless of the number of categories entered.

For complete application instructions, including tips on enhancing your chances of being selected, log on to http://www.wildlifedepartment.com.

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Youth Hunter Education Challenge season underway

The National Rifle Association's Oklahoma Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC) season is underway, and events are scheduled to continue through July.

The next YHEC event is slated for Saturday, May 19 at Tri-City Gun Club in Norman. Registration starts at 8 a.m.

According to Carey Pribil, Oklahoma YHEC coordinator, the May 19 event will feature fun, food and prizes.

"The Tri-City Gun Club does an excellent job of putting on this event," Pribil said.

YHEC is a program developed exclusively for hunter education course graduates from North America up to 19 years of age. YHEC provides graduates with a unique opportunity to test their abilities at a variety of hunting techniques, including shotgun, archery, and rifle events. The event is divided into youth and senior competitions with both groups competing at the same level of difficulty. Participants 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.

This training ensures the future of the American hunting tradition as a safe, viable, recreational activity the entire family can enjoy. Though participants are scored and ranked in all YHEC events, the real challenge focuses on personal improvement.

Pribil said the May 19 event is open to any youth who has completed the hunter education course.

"Information on registration and the entire event can be found on the Web site at yhec.org," Pribil said.

Schedules of future events can also be obtained at yhec.org.

Registration forms are due to the event coordinator at least one week before the event.

"We look forward to seeing a lot of smiling faces at Norman," Pribil said.

For more information about the hunter education course offered by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

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Rain brings positive effects on fishing

Recent springtime rains can trigger fish spawns, cause aggressive feeding behavior and provide nursery areas for young fish that can lead to outstanding angling in the future, according to biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

According to Paul Balkenbush, southeast region fisheries supervisor for the Wildlife Department, anglers should take advantage of fishing opportunities now.

"The weather may be wet at times, but the temperatures outside haven't become hot yet," Balkenbush said. "And the significant rainfall that we've been getting lately can have positive effects on the fishing, both now and in the future."

Balkenbush also said that flowing water can make for some great fishing action, especially for catfish. "Moving water usually means an active catfish bite," Balkenbush said. "And the warmer weather tends to heat up the angling for most all species."

According to Balkenbush, key spots to fish are those where tributary streams are flowing into a reservoir. Species like channel catfish concentrate in these areas and take advantage of the abundant food source. Oklahoma's sport fish are also cold-blooded and become less active in the winter months, but they become aggressive feeders when waters warm up during the spring.

As area lakes fill up, shoreline vegetation also becomes flooded which creates great nursery areas for newly-hatched fish. This means that more young fish may survive and show up in anglers' creels in following years.

Although last year's drought cycle did not significantly affect fishing, Department biologists say recent rains are a relief for state lakes. Many lakes, especially in the eastern portion of the state, are currently near or above normal levels.

Balkenbush said anglers who venture out in the spring, even after heavy rains, can look forward to some of the best fishing the state offers throughout the year.

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Monster spoonbill caught below Kaw Dam

The best of the year's paddlefishing may be coming to a close in Oklahoma, but not before Steven McBride of Yukon reeled in a massive 114-pounder May 12 from below Kaw Dam near Ponca City.

"This was a great catch," said Larry Green, game warden stationed in Osage Co. for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "We are entering the time of year that offers some of the very best fishing for black bass, striper, catfish and others, but McBride's catch shows that getting out there and paddlefishing is still paying off for some anglers."

McBride's paddlefish fell slightly short of the state record, a 121-pound fish caught by Shane McCleary out of the Kaw tailwaters in 2003. However, McBride's fish measured 54 inches in length from the front of the eye to the fork of the tail, about a half-inch longer than McCleary's state record.

Coming shy of the record didn't seem to faze McBride. Though he's only been paddlefishing a few times, he loves to "feel the power" of a paddlefish on the line.

"It's addictive once you hook one," McBride said.

When McBride first snagged the fish, he thought it was a small one because the monster initially swam toward him. But eventually it turned and gave McBride and his 40 lb. test line a half-hour fight. McBride's dad steered the boat to shore, where the fishing line linking McBride to his trophy snapped in two.

McBride scrambled into the water in time to grip his broken line and was able to bring the fish the rest of the way in by hand without a rod and reel.

The fish is being mounted by a taxidermist.

"This is an exciting story - one of those you tell your friends and family for years to come," Green said.

One of Oklahoma's largest fish, paddlefish feed on tiny, microscopic insects and are caught during the spring by snagging with a surf rod, heavy test line and large barbless hooks. In Oklahoma, they are found in several river systems and lakes.

To learn more about paddlefish and the extensive management and tagging program for the prehistoric fish, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

Green said that although paddlefishing is slowing down statewide, fishing for other species is just picking up.

"We've yet to see the best fishing of the year," Green said. "When it comes to many of Oklahoma's most popular and readily available fish, the angling is just now starting to get hot."

For more information about fishing in Oklahoma, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

Caption: Steven McBride, Yukon, landed this 114-pound paddlefish May 12 from below the Kaw Dam near Ponca City. The fish fell just shy of the 121-pound state record paddlefish.

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Oklahoma Landowner Incentive Program Expands in NW Oklahoma

Northwest Oklahoma landowners can play a key role in conserving some of the state's most important wildlife habitats -- and receive financial incentives at the same time.

"Most every landowner I have met is passionate about the land and about the wildlife that lives there," said Larry Wiemers, wildlife biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Landowners also have a sharp eye on the bottom line of their operations. This Landowner Incentive Program offers a real win-win situation from both perspectives."

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Landowner Incentive Program was created in 2003 to provide technical and financial assistance to landowners for the restoration, enhancement, and protection of habitats important to a wide range of wildlife species. Some of the habitat types include playas, streams, and prairies. The program was created with funds provided by a grant through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Department recently expanded the program to include more habitat types, more wildlife species, and more landowners in the southern High Plains region.

"All you have to do is fill out a simple one-page application, and a biologist will contact you to evaluate the property," Wiemers said. "In some cases, landowners can get straight incentive payments, and in other cases, we'll share the restoration costs with landowners."

Interested landowners should contact the Wildlife Department's Woodward office at (580) 254-9173, or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

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Oklahoma's Free Fishing Days slated

Anglers hoping to introduce someone to the sport of fishing this year have a chance to take them for free June 2-3.

Oklahoma's Free Fishing Days allow people to fish without state fishing licenses or permits (including trout licenses and fishing and hunting legacy permits).

"These are some of the best days to take a newcomer or youth fishing with you," said Damon Springer, aquatic education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "There's no state fishing license requirements, so someone who has never been before can just wake up in the morning and head out for a fun day of fishing. And someone from out of state can come enjoy what Oklahoma's waters have to offer without having to worry about license requirements."

Fishing in Oklahoma normally requires a license and a fishing and hunting legacy permit, which are purchased from the Department at its offices or various sporting good vendors across the state. Anglers should also note that certain city permits may apply to specific fishing areas.

"License sales are one of the primary sources of funding for the Department," said Barry Bolton, assistant chief of fisheries for the Wildlife Department. "Sportsmen pay for conservation projects when they buy a license. The Department's Free Fishing Days can help us introduce new anglers and ensure that great fishing and habitat work will continue for years to come. There's no excuse not to take someone fishing on June 2 and 3. The weather is great, the fishing is great and, best of all, it's free."

Oklahoma was the first state in the nation to offer free fishing days 25 years ago and has since been followed by dozens of other states that have established similar days.

Anglers should be aware of and abide by all Texas fishing license and permit requirements when fishing the Texas portion of Lake Texoma June 2-3. The Texas Free Fishing Day is June 2, so anglers will be able to fish both Texas and Oklahoma portions of the lake for free that day. On June 3, free fishing will only be allowed on the Oklahoma portion of the lake. Anglers must follow all other fishing regulations.

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One Million Bats Fly to Freedom

Imagine looking into the western sky and seeing millions of bats barreling towards you at top speed. That is exactly what you can do every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night in July.

Registration for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Selman Bat Watch will begin May 25 and will remain open through June 18.

"Registering early will help insure a spot for you and your family, said Melynda Hickman, wildlife biologist for the Wildlife Department.

The Selman Bat Cave is located near Freedom and Alabaster Caverns State Park. The location marks the northernmost breeding range of the Mexican free-tailed bat. The same bats also raise young in Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico and under Congress Avenue bridge in Austin, Texas.

"This is the ten year anniversary of the Selman Bat Watch," Hickman said. "It has been designated an 'Official Centennial Project' by Governor Brad Henry. It's family-oriented, so everyone can enjoy the evening."

Stargazing at the University of Central Oklahoma's Selman Living Laboratory Observatory, hiking along nature trails and learning about the sagebrush prairies and wildlife are just some of the attractions that can be enjoyed as part of the Selman Bat Watch activities.

The event is limited to 75 people each night, and registration is required. The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for youth aged 12 and younger. For more information, call 405-424-0099 or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

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Oklahoma's Free Fishing Days slated

Anglers who plan to take a family member or friend fishing during Oklahoma's upcoming free fishing days don't have to look far to see where the fishing is best.

"Free Fishing Days are slated for June 2-3, and anglers can turn to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's weekly state fishing report to find just the right place to go," said Barry Bolton, assistant chief of fisheries for the Department.

The Department's state fishing report reveals inside information on the best places to go angling, when the fish are biting and what baits they are hitting the most.

"We've got people in the field who know what's happening on the fishing scene," Bolton said. "They know the areas and are always up to speed on how to catch some fish. They're an invaluable resource for Oklahoma's anglers."

Compiled by Wildlife Department personnel and independent reporters, the reports even include techniques and locations within specific waters to increase angler success. Anglers can receive the fishing report by subscribing to the Department's weekly news release at wildlifedepartment.com

Oklahoma's Free Fishing Days allow people to fish without state fishing licenses or permits (including trout licenses and fishing and hunting legacy permits).

Fishing in Oklahoma normally requires a license and a fishing and hunting legacy permit, which are purchased from the Department at its offices or various sporting good vendors across the state. Anglers should also note that certain city permits may apply to specific fishing areas.

Oklahoma was the first state in the nation to offer free fishing days 25 years ago and has since been followed by dozens of other states that have established similar days.

Anglers should be aware of and abide by all Texas fishing license and permit requirements when fishing the Texas portion of Lake Texoma June 2-3. The Texas Free Fishing Day is June 2, so anglers will be able to fish both Texas and Oklahoma portions of the lake for free that day. On June 3, free fishing will only be allowed on the Oklahoma portion of the lake. Anglers must follow all other fishing regulations.

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Young wildlife better left alone

Springtime in Oklahoma's outdoors means newborn wildlife, and biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation say young critters are best left alone when discovered by outdoor enthusiasts.

"When you see newborn wildlife that appears to be alone, such as a fawn, baby squirrel or bird, chances are their parents are nearby and simply waiting for you to move along so they can care for their young," said Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor for the Wildlife Department. "It is common for fawns to be left in a safe place while does feed nearby, and interfering with that can cause more harm than good."

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

Young birds and squirrels can be blown out of their nests during storms as well, and even though they may appear to be alone, distressed or in need of help, their parents will often find and care for them.

"You can actually cause them more stress by trying to move or help them," Shaw said. "Sportsmen and others who care about wildlife tend to want to help, which is a good thing, but sometimes the best help we can offer young wildlife is to leave them alone and let nature run its course."

In some cases, it may also be illegal to pick up wildlife. Log on to wildlifedepartment.com for more information about wildlife conservation in Oklahoma.

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Migrants from South of the Border Fly into Oklahoma

If you spot a scissortail flycatcher resting on a fence post, it may be resting because it is tired.

Known as neotropical migrants, scissortails travel distances of up to 1,200 miles to Oklahoma to breed and raise their young before traveling back to their tropical wintering destinations in Central and South America. Other common migrants include hummingbirds, warblers, tanagers, orioles, and thrushes.

"It is really amazing to think that these birds make a round trip to South America every year," said Mark Howery, wildlife biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "As Oklahomans, we have a great opportunity to view scissortails and more than 60 other colorful songbirds every summer. And the great thing is many of these birds come to our own backyards."

According to Howery, creating bird-friendly spots in your own backyard is easy. Ways to attract migrants include planting native trees, shrubs and flowering plants; leaving snag trees for possible nesting sites; providing alternative food sources such as sugar-water for hummingbirds and fruit, orange peels and raisins for orioles; and maintaining an area of native wildflowers and grasses.

Biologists with the Wildlife Department are trying to learn more about one of the most recognizable neotropical migrants - hummingbirds.

"Anyone in the state can help the Wildlife Department by completing a hummingbird survey," Howery said. "All they need to do is hang their hummingbird feeders through November 1 every year and then complete the survey form that is available by logging on to wildlifedepartment.com."

Another way the public can help Oklahoma's neotropical migrants is by purchasing a Wildlife Conservation license tag. Proceeds from the license tags go to the Wildlife Department's Wildlife Diversity fund. The Department's Wildlife Diversity program does not receive any state tax appropriations and is largely supported through voluntary contributions.

For more information about neotropicals or the hummingbird survey in Oklahoma, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

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2007 Wildlife Expo features new outdoor photography contest

Photographers who missed the deadline for Outdoor Oklahoma magazine's annual "Reader's Photography Showcase" still have a chance to show their outdoor photography to Oklahomans - thousands of Oklahomans.

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's newest photography showcase, the "2007 Wildlife Expo Photo Contest," will feature several categories for both amateur and professional outdoor photographers.

The 2007 Oklahoma Wildlife Expo, slated for Sept. 28-30 at the Lazy E Arena north of Oklahoma City, is the state's largest outdoor recreation event, featuring free activities ranging from fishing, shotgun shooting, archery, kayaking, mountain biking, live wildlife interaction and more.

"The Expo is a huge event that has attracted close to 80,000 people since it started in 2005," said Nels Rodefeld, information and education chief for the Wildlife Department. "The Expo Photo Contest is a new addition to the event that will give photographers the chance to show their work to thousands of people."

Following the same theme as Outdoor Oklahoma's Reader's Photography Showcase, the Expo Photo Contest will focus on "Faces in the Outdoors."

Photographs can include anything found in Oklahoma's outdoors from scenics to wildlife, but the Department is seeking digital images of people hunting, fishing and enjoying other outdoor activities.

"Activities like camping, climbing, hiking, wildlife viewing, boating or biking are all great outdoor activities Oklahomans get to enjoy along with hunting and fishing, and they all provide excellent photography opportunities," Rodefeld said.

The deadline for entries is July 4. Submissions must be original color digital images, and each submission must contain an entry form.

There will be two contest divisions - one for youth ages 17 and under and one for adults ages 18 and older.

The contest will include four contest categories, including "Kids in Action," "Fishing and Hunting," "Outdoor Recreation" (biking, camping, climbing, hiking, etc.), and "Wildlife Viewing and Scenics."

Entries will be judged on the basis of creativity, photographic quality and effectiveness in conveying the mission of the Wildlife Expo. A panel will narrow down the entries to the top three in each category. Those images will then be on display at the 2007 Wildlife Expo for participants to vote on.

Entries that do not comply with the Official Contest Rules will be disqualified. For a complete list of rules, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

"Photographers can log on to the Web site today to get an entry form and then start capturing Oklahoma's outdoors in action," Rodefeld said.

Outdoor Oklahoma magazine, the official publication of the Wildlife Department, has been featuring a Reader's Photography Showcase contest every year for the last 15 years, and Rodefeld said the Department is excited to extend its tradition of showcasing Oklahoma's photography talent at the Expo. The magazine, which consistently receives national recognition for photographic excellence, will feature winners of the 2007 Reader's Photography Showcase in its July/August issue. Subscriptions are $10 for one year, $18 for two years or $25 for three years. To subscribe, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

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Outdoor Calendar offers summer adventures

Summer break is arriving, and parents looking for entertainment for the family can look to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Outdoor Calendar for activities.

The Outdoor Calendar at 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, whether it is a tour, a bat watch, hunter education course, outdoor cooking class, fishing derby or other outdoor activity.

When the summer months move toward fall there are several hunter education courses scheduled in many communities such as Owasso, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma City, Watonga, Frederick and many other towns across the state.

Travelers can use the Outdoor Calendar to plan an afternoon at Alabaster Caverns State Park and an evening participating in the popular Selman Bat Watches. Thousands of bats fly out of the cave each evening to begin their nightly foray for insects. Travelers also may make their way to the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge for a day of sight-seeing and wildlife viewing.

The Outdoor Calendar also provides information about Dutch oven cooking courses that are sure to teach a camp cook a thing or two about serving up food in the great outdoors.

Additionally, the Outdoor Calendar provides information on many fishing clinics held for youngsters throughout the state. The free clinics teach kids to use a rod and reel, tie fishing knots, identify fish and more. Kids also get a chance to try out their new skills after the clinic.

To learn more about outdoor activities this summer, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

Those interested in receiving the Outdoor Calendar by e-mail can also subscribe to the Department's weekly Wildlife News at wildlifedepartment.com. The weekly news release provides detailed information about events, breaking outdoor news, hunting and fishing opportunities and more.

For even more information about Oklahoma's outdoors, log on to the Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com. The site is a great source for brochures and other information to help sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts get the most from Oklahoma's outdoors while benefiting wildlife at the same time.

Rich Fuller, information supervisor for the Wildlife Department, said visitors to the Department's Web site can even watch the Department's weekly television series.

"For several months now, we've been offering 'Outdoor Oklahoma' via Podcast, which is just one way hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers can access our award-winning weekly television show," Fuller said.

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

"If you're planning any sort of outdoor recreation trip in Oklahoma, you need to pay a visit to wildlifedepartment.com to help you plan it," Fuller said.

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