JUNE 2007
NEWS RELEASES

 

WEEK OF JUNE 28, 2007

 

WEEK OF JUNE 21, 2007

 

WEEK OF JUNE 14, 2007

 

WEEK OF JUNE 7, 2007

Oklahoma Landowner of the Year manages land, shares heritage

Ellis County rancher John Miller is a steward of the land - so much so that he recently received the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Oklahoma Landowner of the Year Award.

At its June meeting, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission presented the award to Miller and recognized his efforts to manage his working cattle ranch for both cattle and wildlife as well as provide recreation for youth and adults alike.

"I think rangeland can and should be managed for cattle and wildlife at the same time,"

Miller said. Miller's father brought his family to the western Oklahoma ranch in 1959 from south Texas, and since then land management has been a priority.

Mike Sams, senior wildlife biologist for the Wildlife Department, said Miller's cattle grazing management strategy is the most important part of his success as a land manager. Sams added that, although managing for sound grazing is often difficult for landowners, doing it yields benefits for wildlife.

Along with sound grazing strategies, Miller's land management also includes prescribed burning, planting 500 acres of rye and vetch annually and removing cedars from underneath prime turkey roosting trees.

Miller said proper management combined with the natural habits of wildlife can lead to a balanced, sustained land.

"People need to remember that cattle are grazers, deer are browsers and birds eat insects and seeds," Miller said, "and that in a carefully managed setting, they coexist well and are essential in helping each others' habitats."

According to Sams, Miller has demonstrated a passion for sharing his outdoor heritage with others.

"What makes him stand out is his dedication to youth in fostering an interest in hunting," Sams said.

Miller and his wife, Juanita, host hunts for youth every year during the Department's youth deer hunting seasons. He said he believes that youth are the future and that sportsmen should take them hunting and fishing.

"People should not let the television and handheld games shape their kids," Miller said. "They need to get active with them."

Though Miller spends time teaching youth about the outdoors, he also has learned a few things for himself since beginning to use the youth hunts to help manage his property.

"We have been working with the Wildlife Department using their youth hunt program since December 1999," Miller said. "The first thing I realized from this program was how much I enjoyed the youth. Seeing them and their parents come in with tears in their eyes with their first deer was and is the highlight of my year. The second thing I realized was the need for places for folks to take their kids to hunt. I don't have enough time or property to do it alone, so I am hoping other landowners will come around and realize that this program is an easy way to get the deer population down."

The Wildlife Department has been recognizing landowners with the Oklahoma Landowner of the Year Award since 1989.

In other business, the Commission approved the Department's fiscal year 2008 budget, which included a cost of living adjustment for Department retirees and employees.

The Commission also voted to establish an emergency rule change to a law that regulates prairie dog control. The approved amendment would allow prairie dogs to be controlled on public land by the use of poison after obtaining a permit from the Wildlife Department, a practice that was previously prohibited. The rule change now goes to the governor's office for review.

Additionally, the Commission elected new officers to begin serving at next month's meeting. They are as follows: M. David Riggs (Sand Springs), chair; Harland Stonecipher (Centrahoma), vice-chair; and John Groendyke (Enid), secretary.

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

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Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission elects officers

New officers will begin serving next month on the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission, the eight-member governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

District 1 Commissioner M. David Riggs, Sand Springs, was unanimously elected Commission chairman at the June meeting. Gov. Brad Henry appointed Riggs to the Commission in 2005 for an eight-year term to expire in 2013.

Riggs, a founding partner in one of Oklahoma's largest law firms - Riggs, Abney, Neal, Turpen, Orbison and Lewis - is a lifelong resident of Sand Springs.

The newly elected Commission chair is active in a number of local conservation organizations, including serving as Chairman of the Board of Trustees for The Nature Conservancy and as the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Sutton Avian Research Center. Riggs also served as a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1971 to 1987 and served in the Oklahoma Senate from 1987 to 1988.

Riggs graduated from Phillips University in Enid in 1959, received a Masters of Arts from the University of Oklahoma in 1962 and graduated first in his class at the University of Tulsa College of Law in 1968.

Riggs said being elected to serve as the Commission chair is "an honor" and a "great opportunity to contribute" to what he said are very important matters to him.

"I spend all of my spare time on environmental causes," Riggs said.

As District 1 Commissioner, Riggs represents Ottawa, Delaware, Craig, Mayes, Nowata, Rogers, Washington, Tulsa, Pawnee and Osage counties.

Vice-chair elect Harland Stonecipher calls Centrahoma his home. Having served on the Commission since 1993, Stonecipher was reappointed in 2000 by Gov. Frank Keating to serve an additional eight-year term. Stonecipher is an avid sportsman and hunting dog enthusiast and the founder and chief executive officer of Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. Stonecipher's District 4 includes Creek, Lincoln, Okfuskee, Seminole, Pottawatomie, Pontotoc, Hughes, Johnston and Coal counties.

Longtime Commissioner John Groendyke will serve as the new Commission secretary. Appointed to the Commission in 1976, Groendyke is the chairman of the board of Groendyke Transport, Inc. Founded in 1932 by his father, H.C. Groendyke, it is one of the nation's largest motor carriers of bulk commodities serving the continental United States, Canada and Mexico.

Groendyke graduated from Wentworth Military Academy, where he attended high school and junior college. After that, he received his Bachelor of Science degree in business from Oklahoma State University, then his Juris Doctorate at the University of Oklahoma. Holding the Commission's District 8 seat, Groendyke represents Cimarron, Texas, Beaver, Harper, Woodward, Woods, Major, Alfalfa, Grant, Garfield, Kay and Noble counties.

The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation 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.

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Wildlife Department has new fisheries chief; future of fishing is bright

Barry Bolton stepped up to the lead role of chief of fisheries recently for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, and the future of Oklahoma fisheries is bright.

Bolton began his career at the Wildlife Department as a part-time fisheries employee at the Oklahoma Fisheries Research Laboratory in 1978. A few years later he switched to a full-time research technician. In 1988 he became the Department's first aquatic education coordinator, and in 1989 he was promoted to assistant chief of fisheries. Bolton's role as chief started June 1, not long after the retirement of former Fisheries Chief Kim Erickson.

Bolton said he looks forward to continuing the work of the Fisheries Division. He said the strong working relationship between the various divisions of the Wildlife Department is a key to success.

"For example, the blue catfish research project is providing the Fisheries Division with important age and growth information on this popular fish, and most of the facts are being gathered by game wardens across the state who have been trained to collect the data," Bolton said. "This type of cooperative effort, as well as those between the Wildlife Department and the state's anglers, enables the Department to do more for conservation."

Bolton also pointed out several projects of the Fisheries Division.

"One exciting thing that's on the horizon is the lake records program," Bolton said.

When the program is implemented in the spring of 2008, anglers will be able to log on to the Department's Web site for immediate access to record fish information from many Oklahoma lakes.

"I look forward to seeing people use this program and get out there and catch a record fish from their favorite lake," Bolton said.

Bolton said he also looks forward to expanding the Department's "Close to Home" fishing program, which provides fishing opportunities to anglers in urban locations.

"Particularly with skyrocketing gasoline prices, providing angling opportunities to families in close proximity to home is key to drawing new people to fishing and keeping the anglers that the state already has," Bolton said. "I think 'Close to Home' fishing is one of the best things we do for urban anglers. We will be expanding that program in metropolitan areas."

The future of managing the state's fisheries is not without its challenges. According to Bolton, the biggest single challenge is ensuring the quality and quantity of the state's waters for fish and wildlife. Siltation, erosion and contamination are all issues facing the quality of Oklahoma's water, and competing uses affect its availability. But Bolton said the Wildlife Department will meet these challenges and seek the best solutions.

"We're playing an active role in the development of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan to make sure that protection of fish and wildlife is an important part of the plan," Bolton said.

The Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan is a 50-year plan mandated by the Legislature to manage the state's water needs. The Oklahoma Water Resources Board is responsible for writing the plan. Log on to okwaterplan.info for more information and for a list of public meeting dates to discuss the plan.

Though not a new challenge, Bolton said addressing the state's aging lakes will be an ongoing project of the Fisheries Division in the future. Bolton said lakes are at their peak of productivity within their first 10 years, but that as lakes age, their productivity and habitat decline.

"Many of our lakes were built in the '70s," Bolton said. "Some of them are much older than that, and we're going to continue looking for new ways to manage those changing fisheries."

Enhancement projects for aging lakes include rigorous aquatic vegetation management, artificial habitat development and species management, Bolton said.

"Planting native vegetation for fish, managing lake levels to encourage natural vegetation and sinking "spider blocks," which provide artificial habitats for fish populations, are some of the things that will benefit our state's aging lakes," Bolton said. "In some situations, hybrid striped bass may provide a better management option than largemouth bass."

Bolton assumes the role of chief with fisheries projects to implement, expanded angling opportunities to create and future challenges to face, and he said he is excited about the future of the Fisheries Division and the Wildlife Department.

For more information about the Fisheries Division of the Wildlife Department, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

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Department to hold vehicle auction

Those looking for a used vehicle should make sure to attend the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's public vehicle auction Thursday, June 21 at the Department's headquarters located at 1801 N. Lincoln in Oklahoma City.

"We've got a lot of great used vehicles that will be up for auction, said Johnny Hill, property manager for the Wildlife Department. "Almost all the vehicles up for auction are four-wheel drive pickups, but there also will be some cars and vans."

The auction vehicles may fit the needs of sportsman who need a new hunting or fishing truck, someone looking to replace their daily driver or even a parent searching for just the right first vehicle for their teenage drivers.

"Since most of these trucks are equipped with four-wheel drive, they could be just right for someone who spends a lot of time outdoors, or even those who want a different vehicle to drive when there is snow and ice on the ground."

Hill said there are several opportunities to learn about the vehicles before the auction.

"For the first time, we are providing the mileage on these auction vehicles on the Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com," Hill said. You can log on to the Web site and see several photographs and specs on the vehicles. There's also a designated time period before the auction where buyers can come inspect the vehicles."

A total of 21 vehicles will be available, among them several Ford and Chevrolet ton and ton trucks in both regular and extended cab models.

Vehicles will be sold "as is" to the highest bidder and can be inspected from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. June 21 at the Department headquarters. Bidder registration starts at 5 p.m., and the auction begins at 6 p.m.

For a complete list of auction vehicles, log on to wildlifedepartment.com, or for more information call (405) 521-4600.

Caption: One of 21 vehicles that will be sold to the highest bidder at the Wildlife Department's vehicle auction slated for 6 p.m. Thursday, June 21 at the Wildlife Department headquarters in Oklahoma City. 

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The WildSide goes electronic

If you have ever wondered where to bird watch, when to plant for butterflies or how to tell sparrows apart, now is the time to check out the new WildSide e-newsletter.

The WildSide is a free publication of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Wildlife Diversity Program. This newsletter provides information about wildlife-viewing events, unique wildlife species, citizen-participation opportunities, Wildlife Department projects and more.

"The WildSide is published twice per year and mailed out to subscribers," said Melynda Hickman, a wildlife biologist for the Wildlife Department. "With the introduction of the electronic version, a newsletter will be available every month - right to your email inbox. It is full of great pictures, it saves paper and best of all, it is totally free."

The Wildlife Diversity Program manages and conserves Oklahoma's rare, declining, endangered and common wildlife for future generations. For more information about this program or to subscribe to the WildSide e-newsletter, visit wildlifedepartment.com.

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Noodling festival coming this summer

A group of noodlers will gather at Pauls Valley June 30 for the eighth annual Okie Noodling Tournament, Festival and Fish Fry.

Noodling is the sport of fishing by hand rather than rod and reel, and those who are willing to try it will have their chance to compete for over $5,000 in cash and prizes.

The annual Okie Noodling Tournament held in Pauls Valley has become quite a tradition for many Oklahomans. In fact, last year the event drew about 120 participants and 3,200 spectators to the south-central Oklahoma town. Once again, Bob's Pig Shop will host the event, which starts at 5 p.m. The event will feature a fish fry, live music, a noodling queen pageant and plenty of monstrous catfish.

For more information about the tournament or to download an entry form, log on to okienoodling.com. For more information about the event, call the Pauls Valley Chamber of Commerce at (405) 238-6491 or log on to their Web site at paulsvalley.com.

As temperatures warm up, flatheads start searching shallow water for holes under logs, rocks and along mud banks so they can spawn. They will stay in the holes to deposit and fan their eggs until they hatch, and noodlers can pull the fish from those holes.

Those interested in noodling in Oklahoma should be aware that the daily bag limit for noodlers is three flathead catfish. Fork-tailed catfish, including both channel and blue catfish, are classified as game fish and must be released immediately by noodlers. Flatheads must be a minimum of 20 inches to be kept. Additionally, noodling is a "hands-only" sport and the possession of hooks, gafts, spears, poles or ropes with hooks attached while noodling is prohibited. For fishing regulations or to purchase a fishing license, log on to the Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.

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Legislature adjourns with fish and wildlife laws passed

The Oklahoma Legislature addressed several wildlife-related issues this year, and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is now working to let sportsmen know about the changes.

"The governor signed several bills passed by the Legislature that are going to benefit wildlife and sportsmen," said Melinda Sturgess-Streich, assistant director of administration and finance for the Wildlife Department. "The new bills also will benefit those who would like to learn about the outdoors."

One bill passed will encourage hunting among Oklahoma's youth and adults alike.

House Bill 1042, effective immediately, modifies hunter education requirements to provide more opportunities for those interested in becoming involved with the sport, according to officials with the Wildlife Department.

The changes permit people 16 and older who have not completed the hunter education course to purchase regular hunting licenses with an "apprentice" designation. The apprentice-designated hunting license allows them to go hunting when accompanied by a licensed hunter 21 years or older who possesses a certificate of hunter education. A person 21 years of age or older who is exempt from hunting license requirements or exempt from the hunter education requirements also is permitted to accompany apprentice-designated license holders.

"This opens the door for a lot of people who want to try the sport of hunting," Sturgess-Streich said. "They can purchase a hunting license and go hunting as an apprentice with a friend or family member."

When hunting big game, an accompanying hunter must remain within arm's length of the apprentice hunter or close enough to be able to immediately take control of the firearm or archery equipment of the apprentice. When hunting small game, the accompanying hunter must remain in sight of the apprentice hunter and be able to communicate with the apprentice hunter in a normal voice without the aid of any communication device.

Youth under 16 years of age who hunt big game (deer, antelope or elk) are required to have hunter education. When hunting small game, hunters under 16 must carry their hunter education certification or be accompanied by an adult who meets the requirements needed to accompany an apprentice hunter. Those under 16 who have not completed a hunter education course can purchase a turkey license, but it will be designated as an apprentice license and the hunter must be accompanied according to apprentice guidelines.

Hunters 36 years of age and older are exempt from hunter education requirements in Oklahoma. Others exempt include those honorably discharged from or currently on active duty in the United States Armed Forces or members of the National Guard.

"It's a good thing that first time hunters are encouraged to go with a parent, older sibling or friend," said Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Wildlife Department. "The supervision by a qualified hunter will make them an even safer and better hunter. The changes also encourage the mentor aspect of hunting."

Though the new requirements allow people to learn to hunt before completing a hunter education course, Meek said enrolling in one of hundreds of courses statewide is still simple and ideal for learning about hunting in Oklahoma.

Thousands of students enroll in hunter education courses each year. The course covers hunter responsibility, firearms safety, wildlife identification, wildlife conservation and management, water safety, survival, archery, muzzleloading and more. Hunter education is offered as an eight-hour classroom course or through home study courses. To find the nearest course offerings or to enroll in hunter education, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

Hunting licenses can be purchased at more than 800 outlets across the state, including Wal-Marts, sporting goods stores, tackle shops or online at wildlifedepartment.com. For more information about hunting licenses and hunting in Oklahoma, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

Another law passed recently by the Legislature will encourage hunting as well. Senate Bill 558 creates a $10 youth license for deer archery and deer muzzleloader permits for legal residents under 18 years of age.

To view the Department's Legislative Tracker, log on to wildlifedepartment.com. On the homepage, look for the link that says "Legislative Tracker."

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Wildlife Department stocks striped bass hybrids in Grand Lake

The fishing at Grand Lake will be getting even better in the near future now that the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has stocked close to 104,000 striped bass hybrids in the huge eastern Oklahoma reservoir.

"Striped bass hybrids prefer open water habitats, feed in schools and travel long distances following shad, their main staple," said Jim Burroughs, northeast regions fisheries supervisor for the Wildlife Department. "The forage base is large enough to support the striped bass hybrids as well as other popular sport fish in Grand Lake."

The hybrids were provided by the Wildlife Department, and Burroughs said it will not be too long before anglers could see these fish in their livewells.

"These are fingerlings, meaning they will reach catchable size in about two years," Burroughs said.

Grand Lake has been stocked in the past with striped bass hybrids - the hatchery-produced cross between the Oklahoma native white bass and the striped bass. This stocking of hybrids is the fifth in the last 10 years.

"We look forward to continued cooperation with the Grand River Dam Authority to improve fishing opportunities at Grand Lake," Burroughs said.

As a sport fish, hybrids are well-known for their rapid growth and fighting ability and have reached weights of 18-20 pounds in Grand Lake

When fishing lakes, productive baits for catching striped bass hybrids include live shad, topwater plugs, slabs, spoons and jigs.

For more information about striped bass hybrids, or for license and fishing regulations, log on to wildlifedepartment.com or consult the current "Oklahoma Fishing Guide."

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Top bass pros coming to Grand Lake

The "Sooner Run" bass tournament, slated for June 21-24 at Grand Lake, will be the seventh stop in the Bassmaster Elite 100 Series, the high profile fishing league known to draw the world's top anglers to tournament destinations all across the country.

The fact that a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament is taking place on Grand Lake is not just a coincidence.

"Grand Lake ranks among the highest in the state in bass population and angling success," said Jim Burroughs, northeast regions fisheries supervisor for the Wildlife Department.

The Bassmaster Elite Series includes 11 events across the country, and an $11 million prize purse. According to bassmaster.com, the series is bass fishing's "most competitive and lucrative league."

Thousands of people are expected to attend the family-friendly event. Both the daily launches and weigh-ins are free and open to the public at North Beach Development Area (61201 East 270 Road). Each day the launch begins at 5:50 a.m., and weigh-ins take place at 3 p.m. Spectators will also have a chance to get angler autographs, participate in a kids casting contest and shop for Bassmaster merchandise. The newly-designed North Beach Development Area is located east of Wolf Creek just north of Grove.

Additionally, fans can catch all the action on television at 9 a.m. Saturday, July 7 on ESPN2.

With an estimated 1,200 tournaments held each year in the state, Oklahoma offers virtually unlimited fishing opportunities. To learn more about bass fishing in Oklahoma, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

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Department to hold vehicle auction

Those looking for a used vehicle should make sure to attend the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's public vehicle auction Thursday, June 21 at the Department's headquarters located at 1801 N. Lincoln in Oklahoma City.

"We've got a lot of great used vehicles that will be up for auction, said Johnny Hill, property manager for the Wildlife Department. "Almost all the vehicles up for auction are four-wheel drive pickups, but there also will be some cars and vans."

The auction vehicles may fit the needs of sportsman who need a new hunting or fishing truck, someone looking to replace their daily driver or even a parent searching for just the right first vehicle for their teenage drivers.

"Since most of these trucks are equipped with four-wheel drive, they could be just right for someone who spends a lot of time outdoors, or even those who want a different vehicle to drive when there is snow and ice on the ground."

Hill said there are several opportunities to learn about the vehicles before the auction.

"For the first time, we are providing the mileage on these auction vehicles on the Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com," Hill said. You can log on to the Web site and see several photographs and specs on the vehicles. There's also a designated time period before the auction where buyers can come inspect the vehicles."

A total of 21 vehicles will be available, among them several Ford and Chevrolet ton and ton trucks in both regular and extended cab models.

Vehicles will be sold "as is" to the highest bidder and can be inspected from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. June 21 at the Department headquarters. Bidder registration starts at 5 p.m., and the auction begins at 6 p.m.

For a complete list of auction vehicles, log on to wildlifedepartment.com, or for more information call (405) 521-4600.

Hugo sportsman named to Wildlife Commission

Hugo sportsman Mike Bloodworth will serve as the district three representative to the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission through 2015, after having recently been appointed by Gov. Brad Henry and confirmed by the Oklahoma Senate.

A lifelong resident of Hugo, Bloodworth founded an independent insurance agency in that Choctaw County community after serving as a sixth-grade teacher and elementary school principal for 10 years. He earned both bachelor's and master's degrees in education from Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant.

"Having grown up in southeast Oklahoma, I've hunted and fished all my life," said Bloodworth. "I have always believed Oklahoma is very rich in its history and its natural resources, and we need to take care to maintain those resources."

Bloodworth and wife Martha had two children, a son, Chad, who is deceased, and a daughter, Misty, who lives in Paris, Texas. The Bloodworth's have two grandchildren, grandson Ryan and granddaughter Laci.

"They both enjoy the outdoors, and it's a great pleasure to share it with them and help them be successful," he said. "My dad is 85 and he's still an avid fisherman. I just hope I'm that active when I'm his age."

According to Bloodworth, Hugo Lake is an excellent bass fishing destination, and he enjoys trying his luck there whenever he has a chance. He is also an active duck and goose hunter. In addition to his outdoor pursuits, he serves as a board member of the Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma, the local school board and the Oklahoma State School Board Association.

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

District three of the Wildlife Conservation Commission encompasses LeFlore, Latimer, Pittsburg, Atoka, Pushmataha, McCurtain, Choctaw, Bryan, Marshall, Carter and Love counties.

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Country music star Blake Shelton comes to Wildlife Expo

Oklahomans planning a trip to the 2007 Oklahoma Wildlife Expo Sept. 28-30 will get more than just a few lessons about the outdoors; they'll try hands-on activities taught by experts, taste wild game prepared by master chefs, and hear tunes from a country music star.

The state's very own Blake Shelton will be at this year's Expo Sept. 30 singing a few songs and celebrating the outdoors with fellow Oklahomans.

Besides being a country music singer, Shelton is a serious outdoorsman.

"Hunting and fishing have been a part of my life since I was a kid growing up in Ada," Shelton said. "Hunting, fishing and the outdoors are just as big a part of my life as music. And now that I'm on the road so much, I've learned to appreciate and not take for granted those rare times I do have a chance to be in the woods."

Hosted by the Wildlife Department along with a range of organizations, individuals and outdoor-related companies, the Expo is intended to promote and develop appreciation for Oklahoma's wildlife and natural resources.

The Expo is the state's largest indoor and outdoor recreation event, drawing thousands of people to the Lazy E Arena north of Oklahoma City each year.

Among many other activities, Expo visitors will be able to fish, shoot shotguns, kayak, ride mountain bikes and ATVs, see and touch wildlife, attend dog training seminars and learn about recreation in the great outdoors. They will also be able to win a variety of free prizes thanks to the Expo's generous sponsors.

"They're giving away a John Deere Gator, lifetime hunting and fishing licenses, guided trips and a lot of other cool stuff," Shelton said.

Expo visitors also will have a chance to shop for outdoor products and services at the Expo's Outdoor Marketplace, a huge tent where many of the state's outdoor businesses will be selling merchandise, services and memberships to outdoor organizations.

"Expo admission is absolutely free, so there is no excuse not to come join us," Shelton said. "If you and your family don't come out to the Expo, you're going to really miss out on a fun time."

To stay up to date on details for the upcoming Oklahoma Wildlife Expo, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

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2007 Oklahoma Wildlife Expo's Outdoor Marketplace to offer outdoor merchandise

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's third annual Oklahoma Wildlife Expo, slated for September 28-30 at the Lazy E Arena, will be bigger and better than ever, but officials also say visitors will be able to bring home more than an experience this year.

"Expo visitors will get to do all the fun things they've done in the past, like shoot shotguns and archery equipment, ride mountain bikes, catch fish and attend seminars, but they can also shop for outdoor gear and services," said Nels Rodefeld, information and education chief for the Wildlife Department. "They can take home a new appreciation for the outdoors as well as some cool merchandise, too."

New this year, the Expo will feature the Outdoor Marketplace, a large tent where commercial vendors will be selling hunting and fishing-related equipment, merchandise, services and memberships to outdoor organizations.

"The Outdoor Marketplace will allow Expo visitors to shop for the things that cater specifically to them," Rodefeld said. "Also, Oklahoma's outdoor businesses will be able to showcase their products to thousands of outdoor-minded people. It's just a great addition to the Expo."

The Wildlife Department will be working with a range of organizations, individuals and outdoor-related companies to host the Expo - an event intended to promote and develop appreciation for Oklahoma's wildlife and natural resources.

Log on to wildlifedepartment.com regularly to stay up to date on the upcoming Oklahoma Wildlife Expo.

For more information about obtaining a booth in the Outdoor Marketplace, contact Rodefeld at (405) 521-3856.

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2007 Wildlife Expo Photo Contest deadline approaching

The deadline to submit entries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's "2007 Wildlife Expo Photo Contest" is July 4.

The contest features 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.

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 to photograph for this contest," said Nels Rodefeld, information and education chief for the Wildlife Department.

Submissions must be original color digital images, and each submission must contain an entry form, available for download on the Wildlife Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.

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Noodling festival approaching

Noodlers will compete for over $5,000 in cash and prizes June 30 at the eighth annual Okie Noodling Tournament, Festival and Fish Fry in Pauls Valley.

The annual tournament has become quite a tradition for many Oklahomans, with about 120 participants and 3,200 spectators converging on the south-central Oklahoma town for last year's event. The festivities will kick off at 5 p.m. at Bob's Pig Shop, and will feature a fish fry, live music, a noodling queen pageant and plenty of monstrous catfish.

For more information about the tournament or to download an entry form, log on to okienoodling.com.

As temperatures warm up, flatheads start searching shallow water for holes under logs, rocks and along mud banks so they can spawn. They will stay in the holes to deposit and fan their eggs until they hatch, and noodlers can pull the fish from those holes.

Those interested in noodling in Oklahoma should be aware that the daily bag limit for noodlers is three flathead catfish. Fork-tailed catfish, including both channel and blue catfish, are classified as game fish and must be released immediately by noodlers. Flatheads must be a minimum of 20 inches to be kept. Additionally, noodling is a "hands-only" sport and the possession of hooks, gafts, spears, poles or ropes with hooks attached while noodling is prohibited. For fishing regulations or to purchase a fishing license, log on to the Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.

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Oklahoma Wildlife Expo plans underway
            The third annual Oklahoma Wildlife Expo, to be held Sept. 28-30 at the Lazy E Arena just north of Oklahoma City will feature more than 200 hands-on activities, including many brand new attractions that will make this the biggest Expo to date.
            “This will be the best Expo yet,” said Nels Rodefeld, information and education chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and one of hundreds of Department employees and other volunteers working to make the Expo happen. “Not only will it be the biggest yet, but there will be so many things to try that anyone who comes will need to take a whole day — or maybe two — to see everything.”
            Most of the favorite activities from the previous two Expos will return, such as the famous dock dogs, wild game calling, shotgun and archery shooting, mountain biking, ATV riding, wild game meat tasting and more. But this year’s Expo will include new features as well, such as hatchet-throwing, music from country singer Blake Shelton and the Outdoor Marketplace, a huge tent where Oklahoma’s outdoor businesses will be selling outdoor equipment, merchandise and services.
            “Visitors to the Expo can come with the highest of expectations, and I am confident we’ll exceed those expectations,” Rodefeld said. “To top off all these great activities, the Expo is absolutely free. You can even win great prizes, like a John Deere Gator courtesy of P & K Equipment, if you keep up with Expo updates on wildlifedepartment.com. Just log on for more information about how to win in the coming weeks.”
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is partnering with a wide range of other state agencies, private individuals and outdoor-related companies to host this huge event. The Expo is designed to promote and perpetuate appreciation of Oklahoma's wildlife and natural resources and provide hands-on learning opportunities for all types of outdoor enthusiasts.
            Expo hours will be from noon to 6 p.m. Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information regarding activities available at the Oklahoma Wildlife Expo, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Conservationist gone, legacy remembered
            A great friend to the sportsmen of Oklahoma is gone now, but his legacy of conservation will last for generations to come.
            Harold Stuart, 94, Tulsa, died Monday, June 25. Few can match the efforts of Harold Stuart and his wife Frances Langford Stuart in ensuring a future for wildlife.
            “Harold was a great asset to sportsmen,” said Alan Stacey, wetland development biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “His passion for wetland habitat in Oklahoma was obvious, and still is, even though he is no longer with us.”
            Contributions from the Stuarts total over $200,000 and have assisted in the restoration and enhancement of nearly 5,000 wetland acres in Oklahoma.
            Each of the projects that the Stuarts have helped to fund were public lands projects that helped the quality of wetlands and hunting lands for sportsmen in Oklahoma.
            In 1995, the Stuarts donated $20,000 to be used at the Deep Fork Wildlife Management Area located in Creek and Okfuskee counties. The donation was facilitated through NatureWorks, Inc. and was used to create a 90-acre waterfowl refuge, which is used each year during the Department-sponsored youth waterfowl hunts.
            The Stuarts continued their support in 1996 when they donated $20,000 toward the restoration and enhancement of Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area in Tillman County. The WMA has gained national recognition for providing critical habitat for migrating birds in the Central Flyway.
            Harold and his wife also played a role in the acquisition of one of the most diverse wetland resources in the state. In 1997, their donation of $15,000 went toward the purchase of the 1,100-acre Grassy Slough Wetland Reserve Program/Wildlife Management Area in McCurtain County. The area provides year-round research and educational opportunities for university students from across the state. The 160-acre moist soil wetland unit also provides excellent waterfowl hunting opportunities for sportsmen.
            In 2003 the Stuarts donated $150,000 through Ducks Unlimited to be used for the renovation and enhancement of the greentree reservoir at Eufaula Wildlife Management Area in Okmulgee and McIntosh counties. The project includes the development of a permanent pump station and underground water delivery system as well as the renovation of existing riprap-lined emergency spillways. The project is designed and constructed by Ducks Unlimited.
            “We at the Wildlife Department are grateful for the support and partnership we had with Harold Stuart,” Stacey said. “We know that Oklahoma’s outdoors, wildlife and the people who enjoy them are better off because of his involvement and passion for the outdoors.”
 
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Oklahoma archers shoot for national championship
            Recently fifty-four students from Coweta, Owasso, Shawnee, Coleman, Clayton and Keys schools (elementary, middle and high schools) participated in the first National Archery in Schools national championship in Louisville, Kentucky.
            “If you had told me three years ago when we signed on as one of the eight pilot Archery in Schools programs in Oklahoma that I’d be taking two teams to a national archery tournament in Kentucky, I’d have just laughed,” said Shawn Gee, Coweta Schools physical education teacher.
            Owasso Eighth Grade Center physical education teacher Frank Blair said his students were overwhelmed by the atmosphere at the national tournament.
            “This was our first year in the program,” Blair said. “The students love participating in the archery program. It has really brought some of my more shy, reserved students out of their shell. Several of the students had never been outside the state, so this was a really fun learning experience for them.”
            Oklahoma is one of forty-two states involved in the National Archery in the Schools Program. Sixty-five schools and 7,000 plus students participated in the Oklahoma Archery in Schools Program this past year.  Originated in Kentucky in 2002, the national program has grown at a rapid rate across the United States. Australia signed on as the first country outside of the United States to start Archery in Schools this past year.
            “More than 773,000 students from 2,800 schools participated in a two-week long archery unit as part of their physical education class in 2007,” said Colin Berg, education supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “By this time next year, all 50 states will be involved in the program. It is projected that 3,800 schools and more than 1.5 million students will participate in the National Archery in the Schools program next year.”
            Berg said students could qualify as a team or as individuals for the national competition held in Kentucky. A total of 1,577 students from 20 states participated in the one-day event. Each student used the same type of bow and the same arrows. They shot a total 40 arrows from distances of 10 and 15 meters at the same target faces as those used in the Olympics. A total of 63,080 arrows were shot by the 1,577 student participants (4th-12th graders).
            The highest score shot at the national tournament was a 297 out of a possible 300. That shooter only missed the 10-point ring — a circle the size of coffee cup — three times. For a complete listing of team and individual standings, log on to archeryintheschools.org .
            Several Oklahoma students placed in the top 25 in their individual categories at the national tournament. Although no national championships were brought back to the Sooner state this year, Oklahoma’s Casey Taylor, Keys, brought home a shot that he will remember the rest of his life. He shot the only “Robin Hood” of the tournament, which means one of his arrows that was embedded in the target was split by another.
            “We at the Wildlife Department are very proud of our Oklahoma shooters who participated in the national tournament,” Berg said. “Congratulations to all of them.”
            Educators interested in bringing the Archery in Schools program to their school should contact one of the following Wildlife Department employees: Northeast Region, Colin Berg (918) 299-2334, Central and Western Region, Lance Meek (405) 522-3572 or Southeast Region, Steve Burge at (918) 297-0150. For additional information about the Oklahoma Archery in Schools program, log onto www.wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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