SEPTEMBER 2007 NEWS RELEASES 

WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 27, 2007

WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 20, 2007

WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 13, 2007

WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 6, 2007

Wildlife Department creates pilot paddlefish management program
            At its September meeting, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission approved an extensive plan for a pilot paddlefish research program scheduled to begin operating in February. An overview of the plan was provided to the Commission by the Department’s Brent Gordon, northeast region fisheries supervisor, and Lt. Keith Green, game warden supervisor.
            The pilot program, which will be established near the Twin Bridges area of the Neosho River, will play an important role in paddlefish management, according to Gordon.
            The primary functions of the paddlefish research center will be collecting important data for the Department’s paddlefish management plan, processing paddlefish meat for anglers and salvaging paddlefish eggs.
            “Managing paddlefish is different than managing other trophy-sized fish,” Gordon said. “It’s not unusual for paddlefish to live 30 or 35 years in Oklahoma, but it takes eight to 10 years for females to mature, meaning it takes a while to begin seeing the results of management. Not only that, it’s very important that we know as much as possible about these fish and their populations in Oklahoma to ensure that future management strategies are sufficient.”
            Paddlefish, which date back to the Jurassic Period, regularly weigh over 50 pounds, and anglers who have caught them say the action is better compared to deep sea fishing than that of an Oklahoma river or lake.
            Gordon spearheads the Department’s paddlefish management program, which has involved an extensive process of netting, weighing, measuring and marking paddlefish with metal tags on the front of the jaw before releasing them to be caught by anglers by way of snagging. Anglers who snag a tagged paddlefish are encouraged to report their catch to the Department through wildlifedepartment.com to not only help in the management of the paddlefish in Oklahoma, but also to provide anglers with unique information about the individual fish they caught.
            Gordon said paddlefish populations are in trouble in some states, but Oklahoma holds healthy populations. In addition to the Neosho River, top paddlefish angling locations include the Kaw Lake tailwaters, Ft. Gibson Lake and Oologah Lake.
            “The research center is going to benefit not only our management program, but also anglers,” Gordon said.
            Surveys performed in top paddlefishing locations in Oklahoma showed that anglers largely supported the idea of a paddlefish research and caviar processing center. About 99 percent of those surveyed said they would moderately or strongly support such a venture, and about 92 percent said they would likely participate by having their paddlefish processed at the center.
            “Anglers who bring their paddlefish to the center will not only provide important data for fisheries biologists, but in return they’ll receive their fish’s freshly processed meat in an attractive, clean package to take home to the freezer,” Green said.
            Green said the paddlefish research center would be seasonally staffed by employees trained in proper handling and processing of fish products, and that if the pilot program was successful, other research centers could be set up at future locations. Green added that Wildlife Department personnel will be available to offer the latest paddlefishing information to anglers as well as to offer a pick-up service to anglers who have caught a paddlefish and want to send it to the research center.
            The center will be open during paddlefish snagging season, and anglers will be able to bring their catch to the center for cleaning and processing. They will take home meat from their own fish that has been safely cleaned and packaged.
            “This is a fiscally sound and biologically viable effort,” Gordon said. “It’s good for the fish, good for anglers and good for the Wildlife Department. The bottom line is that this center will lead to better managed fish populations and improved fishing opportunities for anglers.”
            This would be the first venture of its kind for the Wildlife Department, but other state wildlife agencies such as Montana and North Dakota have been successful in operating paddlefish research and processing centers for their fisheries management programs.
            “This program will help accomplish what the Wildlife Department could not easily or affordably do on its own,” Gordon said. “It will gather information we need for managing paddlefish fisheries as well as provide anglers with a unique and helpful service.”
            Commissioners approved implementing the pilot project, along with start-up funds for the project.
             In other business, the Commission recognized Tom Wolf for 30 years of service to the Wildlife Department and central region wildlife supervisor Johnny Herd for 45 years of service. Herd is the longest tenured employee to ever serve the sportsmen of the state.
            The Commission also accepted a donation of $1,000 from the Lower Mountain Fork River Foundation to be used for the purchase of additional trout for the LMFR, voted to pursue the purchase of property located in Harper County, and declared the first weekend in June annually as Free Fishing Days in Oklahoma.
            Additionally, the Commission approved a motion to establish a special antlerless deer gun hunt on the Camp Gruber Joint Maneuver Training Center on Oct. 6, 2007 to help correct a significant deer herd imbalance. Eligible hunters will include Oklahoma residents who are members of the Oklahoma National Guard deploying Oct. 19 with the 45th Infantry Brigade to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
            Finally, the Commission declared flood damage to the American Horse Lake dam an emergency.
            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 scheduled for 9 a.m. Oct. 1 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters (auditorium), at the southwest corner of 18th and North Lincoln, Oklahoma City.
 
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Wildlife Department Fisheries division receives prestigious award
            The American Fisheries Society recently honored the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Fisheries Division with a prestigious “Outstanding Project of the Year Award” for its renovation of the Evening Hole and Lost Creek areas of the Lower Mountain Fork River.
            The award was given based on sport fisheries development and management, and the Evening Hole and Lost Creek areas in southeast Oklahoma fit the bill in more ways than one.
            The labor- and research-intensive renovation of the Evening Hole and Lost Creek areas in southeast Oklahoma has been referred to as the most ambitious stream restoration project ever in the state.
            “This was a huge project for all that were involved,” said Barry Bolton, chief of fisheries for the Wildlife Department. “We’re very proud of the team of people who made the project happen.”
            The Evening Hole was once a wide, shallow area that was susceptible to summer heat and provided few stream obstructions, such as logs and boulders, to serve as points of concentration for trout to wait in ambush for passing insects.
            “Basically, the area was capable of holding a few trout, but it wasn’t near what biologists envisioned it could be as a trout fishery,” Bolton said.
            After several years of careful design and construction as well as the contributions of several agencies and anglers groups, Wildlife Department personnel completed the Evening Hole restoration project. After draining the water from the Evening Hole, heavy equipment was used to place tons of rock material into the streambed to help shape a narrower, swifter-flowing stream. Using extensive stream research and knowledge of trout habitat, Wildlife Department biologists and personnel carefully imbedded huge logs and rock material into the streambed. The end result was a faster-flowing stream with cooler water conditions and ideal habitat for trout.
            During renovations, a nearby 1,200 ft. long stretch of wooded area was converted into a trout stream that empties into the Evening Hole.
            Ambitious trout stocking efforts since the completion of renovations have kept the area a hot spot destination for anglers from Oklahoma and elsewhere.
            “We’ve got a trout fishery in the Evening Hole and Lost Creek areas that can rival any other as far as quality trout habitat and angling opportunities,” Bolton said. “Not to mention the scenery is beautiful.”
            The “Outstanding Project of the Year” award given to the Wildlife Department fisheries division is one of several Sport Fish Restoration project awards intended to recognize excellence in fisheries management, research and education as well as emphasize the success of the Sport Fish Restoration program, which is a tax collected on fishing tackle, boats and motorboat fuel that is returned to states for the enhancement of fisheries and boating opportunities. The program was created in 1950 and, according to the American Fisheries Society, has provided billions of dollars toward improved fishing and boating.
            Additionally, southeast region fisheries supervisor Paul Balkenbush and biologist James Vincent were both given the American Fisheries Society’s “Award of Merit” for their work on the Evening Hole and Lost Creek projects.
            According to the American Fisheries Society, the “Award of Merit” “can be given for outstanding leadership, administration or project-related accomplishment” in the fisheries profession.
            At Lost Creek as well as the Evening Hole, brown and rainbow trout both have a one-fish-per-day limit, and fish must be 20 inches or longer. Also, anglers in the areas may only use artificial flies and lures and barbless hooks. For complete fishing regulations and license information, consult the current “Oklahoma Fishing Guide” or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Top competitive youth shooters to visit with guests at Expo
            Jon Michael McGrath, Tulsa, is a 15-year old skeet shooting phenom, currently holding 14 Junior World Skeet Titles, three Junior National Titles and a United States Junior National Championship. And though he is currently training at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., he’s making time to visit with fellow Oklahoma shooters both old and young alike at this year’s Oklahoma Wildlife Expo.
            Young female shooters who come to the Expo will have a rising star to visit with as well. Amber English, 17, is an International Skeet shooting competitor and a member of the United States National Development Team. She is also in training at the United States Olympic Training Center.
            “This is a good chance for shooters to meet and talk with some of the best youth shooters in competition today,” said Bill Dinkines, assistant chief of wildlife for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “And while they’re there, they can try their own hand at shooting a shotgun.”
            Instructors with the Wildlife Department’s Shotgun Training and Education Program (STEP) will be on hand at the Expo giving participants an opportunity to shoot clay targets.
            The free Wildlife Expo, which drew about 80,000 people from around the state in its first two years, will offer hands-on learning opportunities at nearly 200 booths and activities, including shotgun shooting and other shooting sports like pellet gun shooting and archery.
            Expo attendees will also be able to participate in an interactive Oklahoma Archery in Schools demonstration. This Wildlife Department program helps schools teach students about archery by incorporating it into the physical education curriculum.
            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 the appreciation of Oklahoma's wildlife and natural resources and provide hands-on learning opportunities for all types of outdoor enthusiasts. Every visitor will be sure to find something that interests them, from live butterflies to mountain bike riding, dog training, wild game tasting, fishing and more.
            For more information regarding activities available at the Oklahoma Wildlife Expo, or to pre-register for the event and become eligible to win one of several prizes from Expo sponsors, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 


Caption: Olympic training shotgun shooters Jon Michael McGrath, 15, of Tulsa, and Amber English, 17, will be at the Oklahoma Wildlife Expo Sept. 28-30 at the Lazy E Arena visiting with Expo guests and enjoying the outdoors.
 
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Wildlife Expo just around the corner
            Children go hand in hand with dogs, bikes, fishing and other outdoor fun, and the Oklahoma Wildlife Expo has it all.
            The third annual Oklahoma Wildlife Expo, slated for Sept. 28-30, will be the biggest and best Expo yet, with activities for the whole family.
            During the Expo, people from all over the state will converge on the grounds of the Lazy E Arena, just north of Oklahoma City, for three days of outdoor recreation and education. Opportunities such as shotgun shooting, archery, ATV rides, mountain biking, fishing, wildlife watching, music, seminars and booths related to hunting, wildlife management, sporting dog training, camping, and just about anything related to enjoying the outdoors in Oklahoma will be available for all visitors.
            “Wildlife Department staff and other volunteers are making final preparations, and the excitement level is really starting to build,” said Micah Holmes, information supervisor for the Wildlife Department and one of hundreds of volunteers working on the event. “There’s really nothing else like it in the state. The Expo arena and grounds have got to be like Heaven on Earth to any school-age boy or girl. There’s just so much to see and do. I have no doubt your family will go home from the Expo a little tired, a little smarter and a little closer after sharing a day of activities together.”
            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. The Expo isn’t just for kids, though.
            “The Expo will be entertaining and educational for all who attend, whether you’re a seasoned sportsman or new to it all,” Holmes said. “Some people will even go home with a prize, like a boat, ATV, trips and more thanks to our sponsors.”
            To learn about Expo prizes and to stay up on all the latest Expo news, log on to wildlifedepartment.com and pre-register for the event.
            Expo hours will be from noon to 6 p.m. Friday and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. There is no charge for admission or parking.
 
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SCI to host shooting event
            The Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International (SCI) is inviting the public to the H&H Gun Range Oct. 16 for food and a chance to shoot some of the most serious sporting rifles available, including large-bore doubles typically used for the most dangerous of big game.
            Two current Oklahoma SCI members, Michael Engster, a German engineer and rifle expert, and Mike Mistelske, one of SCI’s Oklahoma directors and an avid big-game hunter, will bring a variety of high-grade European firearms to H&H Gun range, located at 400 South Vermont, Suite 110, in Oklahoma City (the I-40 & Meridian area, facing I-40), and anyone interested will be able to try their hand at shooting these guns for only the cost of ammunition used. Since the evening’s emphasis will be on larger caliber firearms, Engster and Mistelske will also bring photos of various African and other big-game hunts. Several other SCI members with extensive international experience are expected to be present, providing an opportunity to make some helpful connections and get answers to any questions regarding big game hunt planning.
            Engster will show and explain the various rifles at 5:30 p.m. A buffet dinner will be served at 6:15 p.m. The cost for dinner is $11 per person. Shooting will commence at approximately 6:45 p.m. and will continue until approximately 8:30 p.m. Ear and eye protection will be provided by H&H Gun Range for those who do not have their own.  Ammunition will be available as well (cost per round for big doubles: .470/$10; .500/$13).
            Members of SCI and non-members interested in attending the event to learn more about SCI should leave a detailed message with Mistelske by calling (918) 241-8551  no later than Wednesday, Oct. 3 to help ensure that an appropriate amount of food and ammunition will be available. Mistelske will return from Africa Oct. 4 and will reply to all messages upon returning.
            All activities will be held inside H&H’s first-class shooting/dining/meeting facility rain or shine.  Attendants should arrive by 5:30 p.m. to get the full benefit of Engster’s explanation of the various rifles available to examine and to shoot.
            According to its Web site, the Oklahoma Station Chapter of SCI serves four basic purposes: protecting the freedom of sportsmen to hunt, offering education on the value of hunting as a valuable wildlife management tool, conserving wildlife to preserve the hunting heritage for future generations and providing humanitarian services.
            The Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International offers support and funding to a number of sportsmen’s causes, especially local efforts that benefit the sportsmen and wildlife of Oklahoma. The chapter partners with the Wildlife Department to sponsor several important programs, including the Expo and the Hunter's Against Hunger program, which oversees the distribution of hunter-harvested venison to needy families.
            The organization also helped fund the purchase of an airboat used by the Wildlife Department on waterfowl surveys and other wetland management tasks, and they provided the Department with a 24-foot trailer for use in the Department's Shotgun Training Education Program (STEP). STEP introduces both youth and adults to shotgun shooting techniques and the proper handling of firearms. Additionally, the chapter purchased eight elk for introduction into an existing herd in southeast Oklahoma.
            The Oklahoma Station of the Safari Club International also sponsors the Department's annual youth essay contest. The contest gives youth the opportunity to share their feelings about Oklahoma’s outdoors and gives them the opportunity to win great prizes, including a guided pronghorn antelope hunt in New Mexico.
 
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Longtime volunteer hunter education instructor recognized
            One might say Rick Stafford, Wagoner, has made his career as a volunteer hunter education instructor into a family affair.
            “He has gotten his entire family involved in hunting and hunter education,” said Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “He even proposed to his wife at a hunter education course and taught a class the day of his wedding.”
            Such dedication recently led the Wildlife Department to recognize Stafford as the 2007 Oklahoma Hunter Education Instructor of the Year for his nearly 25 years of service to new sportsmen.
            Stafford became a volunteer hunter education instructor in 1985, and since that time has certified more than 2,100 students.
            “Rick is a very special volunteer,” Meek said. “He is very conscientious about his job, has a great attitude and works very hard.”
            Hunter Education is a free program offered by the Wildlife Department and is credited for a 70-percent decrease in hunting related accidents and fatalities over the past 30 years in Oklahoma.
            Hunter education covers a variety of hunting related topics including firearms safety, wildlife identification, wildlife conservation, survival, archery, muzzleloading and hunter responsibility. It is available as a standard eight-hour course or through an internet or workbook home study course.
            Hunter Education certification is required for anyone under the age of 16 who plans to hunt big game such as deer, elk or antelope in Oklahoma. Hunters under 16 years of age who plan to hunt small game need hunter education certification or else must be accompanied by a licensed hunter 21 years old or older who has completed hunter education or who is exempt from hunter education (includes hunters age 36 and older, those honorably discharged from or currently on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces or members of the National Guard). Individuals who are 16-35 years of age and have not completed a hunter education course can purchase an apprentice-designated hunting license and hunt when accompanied by a licensed hunter 21 years old or older who has completed hunter education or who is exempt from hunter education.
            “The apprentice-designated hunting license has made hunting even safer for youngsters and adults while allowing those age 16-35 a chance to go hunting with an experienced, responsible adult hunter, but hunter education is still strongly recommended for anyone who plans on hunting or shooting firearms or archery in Oklahoma,” Meek said.
             Last year, about 15,000 individuals received hunter education certification through the Wildlife Department by attending courses throughout the year led by game wardens and other Wildlife Department employees as well as volunteers like Stafford.
            Stafford is one of about 200 volunteer hunter education instructors across the state. To learn how to become a hunter education instructor, contact Lance Meek at (405) 522-4572. To learn more about hunter education in Oklahoma or to find the nearest course, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Archery season fast approaching
            Bowhunters are only days away from once again entering Oklahoma’s woods for the start of archery season Oct. 1.
            Sooner state bowhunters helped make Oklahoma deer hunting history last year when their harvest of 17,567 deer contributed to an all-time annual state harvest record of 119,349 deer. And according to Jerry Shaw, big game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the 2007 archery season looks promising for hunters as well.
            “The state looks good this year as far as deer health is concerned,” Shaw said. “All the rain has caused there to be a lot of food still available that usually is gone by this time of year, so the deer in the state are eating very well.”
            Shaw said the key to harvesting an early-archery-season deer is the same as most years — scouting. Some parts of the state experienced a late frost last year, hurting the crop of some mast-bearing tree species, but trees such as red oaks, which bloom later in the year than other oaks, may provide good sites for locating deer. Also, according to Shaw, bowhunters may find that areas hunted in previous years are just as productive as usual, but those areas may look different than normal because of the plant growth and other factors created by the unusually wet conditions. Being prepared to adjust tactics according to the hunting conditions may make the difference in harvesting a deer or not for some hunters.
            “Successful hunters should be able to do what they’ve always done, but they should get out to their hunting spots before the season so they can see just how different the woods may look this year,” Shaw said. “In other words, hunters shouldn’t wait until opening morning to sneak into an area they haven’t seen since last year’s archery season. They should get out there now, look it over and be ready to make changes in the way they hunt as the season progresses.”
            Archery season in Oklahoma runs from Oct. 1-Jan. 15 (Jan. 1-15, antlerless only). Resident archery deer hunters must possess an Oklahoma hunting license, a fishing and hunting legacy permit and a deer archery license for each deer hunted or proof of exemption. All resident youth hunters under 18 years old may purchase a $10 youth deer archery license, and resident youth 16 or 17 years old must also purchase a hunting license, unless exempt.
            New to this year’s hunting seasons is Oklahoma’s apprentice-designated hunting license for individuals who have not completed the Wildlife Department’s hunter education course. Hunters age 16-35 who have not completed hunter education can buy an apprentice-designated hunting license and hunt while accompanied by a licensed hunter 21 years old or older who has completed the hunter education course, or a licensed hunter 21 years old or older who is otherwise exempt from hunter education (includes those 36 years old or older, those honorably discharged or currently active in the Armed Forces or members of the National Guard). Hunters under 16 years old must complete a hunter education course to hunt big game or to buy any big game hunting license.
            Nonresident archery deer hunters are exempt from a hunting license, but they must possess a nonresident deer archery license for each deer hunted as well as a fishing and hunting legacy permit or proof of exemption. Nonresident lifetime license hunters are not exempt from purchasing deer licenses.
            Upon harvesting a deer, all annual license holders are required to complete the “Record of Game” section on the license form. In addition, all hunters, including lifetime license holders, must immediately attach their name and hunting license number to the animal. The attached item can be anything, such as a business card, that will remain secure to the animal until checked at the nearest open hunter check station.
            All hunters who harvest a deer must check in their animal at the nearest open hunter check station or with an authorized Wildlife Department employee. A county-by-county listing of hunter check stations is available in the “2007-08 Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or on the Department’s Web site at wildlifedepartment.com
            The archery deer season limit is four deer, of which no more than two may be antlered deer. Deer harvested during the archery season are included in the hunter’s combined season limit of no more than six deer, of which two may be antlered deer.
            For additional regulations, check station locations, other deer season dates and a wealth of other deer hunting information, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Third annual Wildlife Expo just days away
            Slated for Sept. 28-30, the third annual Oklahoma Wildlife Expo is only days away, and final preparations for the biggest Expo in state history are underway, according to officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
            “Wildlife Department employees have put in hundreds of hours preparing for the Expo,” said Micah Holmes, information supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “It’s really neat to see all the different talents and skills on display at the Expo. It really demonstrates that for many of us, hunting and fishing and the outdoors is more than just a job. It’s a passion and a way of life.”
            The past two Wildlife Expos have drawn thousands of people to the Lazy E Arena, just north of Oklahoma City, for activities such as shotgun shooting, archery, ATV rides, mountain biking, kayaking, fishing, wildlife watching, music, seminars and booths related to hunting, fly fishing, camping, wildlife management, sporting dog training, camping, and just about anything related to the outdoors in Oklahoma.
            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.
            According to Holmes, the Expo is designed for the entire family.
            “You know, many people think of hunting and fishing as solitary activities, but they’re really not,” Holmes said. “One of the most important reasons people go hunting and fishing is to spend quality time with their friends and family. Just walk around the Wildlife Expo and you can easily see that participating in outdoor activities is a real bonding experience for families.”
            To learn about Expo prizes and to stay up on all the latest Expo news, log on to wildlifedepartment.com and pre-register for the event.
            Expo hours will be from noon to 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28 and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29 and Sunday, Sept. 30. There is no charge for admission or parking.
 
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Expo to feature unique fisheries field trip – sign up today
            Participants at the Oklahoma Wildlife Expo can find out what goes into maintaining Oklahoma’s great fishing hotspots Sept. 28-30 by taking the Fisheries Management Field Trip at Guthrie City Lake.
            The unique trip will include a barge ride where attendees can observe biologists electrofishing (shocking) to collect largemouth bass and trap netting to collect crappie and other game fish. Participants also will be able to learn how biologists age fish and see how these practices are used to maintain quality fisheries around the state.
            Those interested in taking the field trip must pre-register by Sept. 27 to reserve a time. Pre-register by calling Carol Lee, fisheries division secretary for the Wildlife Department, at (405) 521-3721 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.  Five trips will be taken during Expo Sept. 28-30, including 5:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28 and 9 a.m. or 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
            Registration will close on Thursday, Sept. 27 at 4:30 p.m. In the event of cancellations, interested individuals can check at the Information booth during the Expo to see if space is available and what sessions are open.
            Participants are encouraged to bring sunscreen, bug spray and appropriate clothing for outdoor conditions. Life jackets are required and will be provided, but participants are encouraged to bring their own life jacket if possible. Cancellation of trips is possible due to weather and safety conditions immediately prior to the session.
            The Fisheries Field Trip is only one of hundreds of activities and events featured at this year’s Expo, held at the Lazy E Arena, just north of Oklahoma City.
            The Wildlife Department 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 the 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, Sept. 28 and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29 and Sunday, Sept. 30.
            For more information about activities available at the Oklahoma Wildlife Expo, or to see how you can win one of several prizes thanks to the generosity of Expo sponsors, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Rabbit season opens Oct. 1

            If thoughts of cool weather, fried rabbit and gravy bring back old, fond memories, it may be time to begin making some new ones. With rabbit season opening Oct. 1 across Oklahoma, hunters have a chance to get back to the basics of hunting while putting some meat on the table as well.

            “How many of us seasoned outdoorsmen learned about hunting, safety and sportsmanship by going small game hunting with our dads?” asked Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “I bet the number is unreal, and that’s probably because hunting small game like rabbits is a great way to teach a youngster how to hunt. And the great thing about rabbit hunting is that you basically only need a shotgun and a place to go.”

            Healthy cottontail rabbit populations can be found across Oklahoma, including many public-hunting areas. One of the best places to look for rabbits is anywhere two types of cover meet such as abandoned homesteads, tangled thickets and fencerows. Many wildlife management areas scattered around the state offer first-rate rabbit hunting with minimal competition. Additionally, many landowners are willing to give permission to rabbit hunters.

            According to Meek, more people can try rabbit hunting this season than ever before.

            “With Oklahoma’s new apprentice-designated hunting license, people age 16-35, who used to be required to have hunter education before buying a hunting license, can now buy a hunting license and go,” Meek said. “They just have to be accompanied by an adult hunter who meets a few requirements.”

            To hunt rabbits, hunters under 16 years of age must carry hunter education certification or be accompanied by a qualifying adult hunter.

            Someone who accompanies an apprentice hunter or non-certified youth to the field or woods must be a licensed hunter 21 years of age or older who possesses a certificate of hunter education. Persons 21 years of age or older who are exempt from either hunter education or hunting license requirements may also accompany apprentice hunters.

            Hunters should note that jackrabbits can only be taken west of I-35. For more information about rabbit hunting, including license requirements and daily bag limits, consult a copy of the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or log on to the Wildlife Department’s Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.

 

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Land management tour on Wildlife Department WMA to offer something for all landowners

            Landowners interested in land management techniques using fire, timber management, and cattle grazing have an opportunity to take a unique tour of the Pushmataha Wildlife Management Area in southeast Oklahoma Oct. 2.

            The tour, sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, will run from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and will include presentations by Jack Waymire, southeast region senior biologist at Pushmataha WMA for the Wildlife Department; Dr. Terry Bidwell, Extension rangeland management, OSU; Dr. Dwayne Elmore, Extension wildlife management specialist, OSU; and Dr. Ron Masters, director of research, Tall Timber Station in Florida.

            “The focus of this tour will be using prescribed fire for effective land management,” Waymire said. “A prescribed burning plan is one of the most cost effective tools for land management. The research area of the Pushmataha WMA is a great demonstration area for landowners, whether they’re cattle owners, timber landowners or wildlife enthusiasts. There will be something for everyone.”

            Topics will include the history of Pushmataha Wildlife Management Area, utilizing prescribed fire, timber harvest, cattle grazing to meet land management objectives, integrated timber, livestock and wildlife management and stocking rate and carrying capacity for cattle.

            To get to the Pushmataha WMA, drive south of Clayton on Hwy. 271. Cross the Kiamichi River, then take the first right turn (about one and a half miles outside of Clayton), which is westbound. The management area headquarters is located about three and a half miles from the highway.

 

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