NOVEMBER 2007 NEWS RELEASES 

WEEK OF NOVEMBER 29, 2007

WEEK OF NOVEMBER 22, 2007

WEEK OF NOVEMBER 15, 2007

WEEK OF NOVEMBER 8, 2007

WEEK OF NOVEMBER 1, 2007

Deer gun season opens Nov. 17
            Thousands of men, women and children will find their way into the woods and fields statewide for the opening day of deer gun season Nov. 17.
            Last year deer gun hunters made state history with a record gun season harvest of 72,263 deer. That total contributed to a combined season harvest record of 119,349 deer, over 18,000 more deer than in 2005, and more than 17,000 more deer than the previous combined season harvest record set in 2000.
            According to Jerry Shaw, big game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the best of the year’s hunting season has yet to begin, which could mean good things for hunters participating in the deer gun season, which runs Nov. 17-Dec. 2.
            “There hasn’t been a lot of deer movement noted during archery and muzzleloader season so far this year,” Shaw said. “This is probably because such abundant food sources from the wet year we have had keep the deer feeding in smaller areas, giving them little reason to be on the go. But the cooler it gets and the closer it gets to the rut, the more we’ll start seeing deer on the move.”
            Resident deer gun hunters must have a hunting license and a fishing and hunting legacy permit or proof of exemption to hunt deer in Oklahoma. In addition, they must possess a deer gun license (antlered or antlerless) or proof of exemption for each deer hunted.
            Resident youth hunters age 16 or 17 years old must purchase a hunting license and a deer gun license for each deer hunted, unless exempt. Resident youth under 16 years of age are exempt from the purchase of a hunting license and fishing and hunting legacy permit, but they must purchase a deer gun license for each deer hunted. Unless exempt, all hunters under 18 years of age must possess a valid deer gun license, but they have the option of purchasing a $10 youth deer gun license (antlered or antlerless) rather than the $20 deer gun license.
            “One important thing for resident youth to remember is that they can use unfilled youth deer gun season licenses to hunt deer during the regular deer gun season,” Shaw said. And those youth who did harvest a deer during the youth deer gun season can still hunt during the regular deer gun season as long as they can stay within their legal annual combined limit of six deer, of which only two may be antlered.”
            Nonresident deer hunters are exempt from a hunting license, but they must possess a nonresident deer gun license (antlered, antlerless or combination) for each deer hunted and a fishing and hunting legacy permit, or proof of exemption. Holders of nonresident lifetime hunting and lifetime combination licenses are not exempt from purchasing deer licenses.
            New this year, those ages 16-35 who have not completed a hunter education course can purchase an apprentice-designated hunting license and go deer hunting with an accompanying adult who is a licensed hunter age 21 or older and who possesses a certificate of hunter education. Persons 21 years old or older who are exempt from either hunter education or hunting license requirements may also accompany an apprentice hunter. Youths age 15 and under must successfully complete a hunter education course to hunt deer in Oklahoma.
            New this year, those hunting in northwest Oklahoma (Zone 2) will have an opportunity to take another antlerless deer. At least one antlerless deer must be taken in northwest Oklahoma (Zone 2) if hunters take their deer gun season limit of one antlered and two antlerless deer. Additionally, antlerless deer may only be harvested on specified days and in zones open to antlerless harvest. Antlerless zone boundaries as well as dates open to antlerless deer hunting can be viewed on page 17 of the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide,” available at hunting license dealers, or on the Wildlife Department’s Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.
            Upon successfully harvesting a deer, annual license holders must complete the Record of Game section of the universal license, and all license holders, including lifetime license holders, must immediately attach their name and license number to the carcass. What the hunter attaches can be anything, as long as it contains the hunter's name and hunting license number and remains securely attached to the animal until it is checked at a hunter check station or with an authorized Wildlife Department employee. All successful hunters must check their deer at the nearest hunter check station. A county-by-county listing of hunter check stations is provided in this year's Hunting Guide, and the most up-to-date check station listing is available at wildlifedepartment.com.
            Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Wildlife Department, reminds deer gun hunters to put safety first while deer hunting.
            “Hunting is a very safe sport, mostly because people apply the lessons they learned in hunter education classes and from the people who taught them to hunt,” Meek said. “It is extremely important for deer gun hunters to always be aware of their target and what lies beyond their target while hunting. Also, be aware of other hunters and their locations, and make sure you wear the proper amount of hunter orange clothing so other hunters can clearly see you.”
            All deer gun hunters must conspicuously wear both a head covering and an outer garment above the waistline consisting of daylight fluorescent orange color totaling at least 400 square inches. Camo-fluorescent orange is legal as long as the total orange meets or exceeds the required 400 square inches.
            “One final safety tip for deer gun hunters, or any deer hunters for that matter, is to wear a safety harness while hunting from a treestand,” Meek said.
            Safety harnesses are available at sporting goods dealers that sell hunting equipment.
            Hunting hours during deer gun season are one-half hour before official sunrise to one-half hour after official sunset.
            For additional regulations, antlerless zones, check station locations, season dates and a wealth of other information, be sure to pick up a copy of the “2007-08 Oklahoma Hunting Guide" available at all license dealer locations, or log on to the Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Youth waterfowl hunts hosted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation
            Oklahoma youth have an opportunity this fall to apply for one of several waterfowl hunts sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
            The hunts are designed to provide youth who do not have an adult mentor who waterfowl hunts an opportunity to experience the traditions of waterfowling.
            “Taking our youth hunting is a very important part of keeping our hunting traditions strong, not to mention the sport can draw individuals and families closer together,” said Mike O’Meilia, migratory game bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “These waterfowl hunts provide a way for Oklahomans to do just that. We hope the kids who go on these hunts develop an interest in wildlife conservation, and discover the lifelong hobby of hunting as well.”
            Applicants must be 12 to 15 years of age, have proof of successfully completing a certified hunter education course and have an adult guardian who can accompany them on the hunt.
            A Wildlife Department employee will accompany each youth and their adult guardian for the controlled waterfowl hunt at one of several Department-managed areas. Only the youth hunter will be allowed to hunt.
            To be eligible for the drawing, each youth applicant and their guardian may apply only once and must provide the following information on a 3x5 postcard: names, addresses, telephone numbers, youth’s hunter education number, and the name of the desired hunt location and two alternate hunt locations where they would like to hunt. The scheduled date of the hunt will be coordinated with successful applicants after the drawing.
            Hunt locations include Altus-Lugert Lake, Canton Lake, Ft. Gibson Refuge, Ft. Cobb Lake Refuge, Hackberry Flat Refuge, Vann’s Lake, Wagoner Co., Webbers Falls Refuge, and Wister Lake Refuge.
            Applications must be received by November 15, 2007, and should be mailed to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Youth Waterfowl Hunts, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152. Successful applicants will be notified.
            The Wildlife Department will provide successful applicants the necessary nontoxic shotgun shells, and a 20 gauge single shot shotgun will be available for use if the youth does not have his or her own shotgun. For more information, contact Jeff Neal, Wildlife Department migratory game bird technician at (405) 424-0122.
 
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Quail survey results in; lush vegetation impacts results
            Oklahoma received a record amount of rainfall in 2007, which is good news for quail. The more green vegetation, the more bugs; and the more bugs, the more food for young quail, which typically leads to higher reproductive success. However, while high, lush vegetation is good news for quail, it is bad news for roadside counts.
            Biologists drive county roads and record the number of quail they see. Spotting quail in dry years with sparse vegetation is much easier than spotting them in years when the vegetation is green, thick and abundant. Not only is it harder to see quail in wet years, counts are also made more difficult by the fact that quail do not use roadside ditches as much when so much other cover is readily available.
            Despite incidental reports from biologists and sportsmen seeing more quail this year compared to last year, the 2007 statewide index reflected a decrease of 21 percent from 2006. Certainly some of this downturn can be attributed to lush vegetation during roadside surveys, but the real test will come when hunters head to the field this fall.
            Both the northwest and southcentral regions saw increases over last year, with the northwest region recording the largest increase from last year with a 37-percent increase. The southwest region remained relatively stable, reporting 10 birds this year per 20-mile route compared to 11.3 birds recorded last year. The three remaining regions recorded lower totals than 2006.
            Doug Schoeling, upland game biologist for the Wildlife Department, said he has a positive outlook on the upcoming quail hunting season.
            “I’m optimistic about quail season this year,” Schoeling said. “I think there’s going to be some good hunting for sportsmen and their dogs. They just need to get out there, have a good time and go find the birds.”
            Other promising news was seen with the relatively mild summer. Data from the October survey indicate the quail had an extended nesting season, since 30 percent of the birds encountered were not full grown; which is up from 16 percent last year
            It will likely take several more years of favorable weather for quail to rebound to the 17-year average, particularly considering the last year’s record low numbers. All regional numbers are lower than the previous 17-year average, with the statewide average being 51 percent lower than the long-term average (Table 1).
            In the western portion of the state where quail populations remain robust, improvements toward the average may occur in the future. Issues of habitat fragmentation will continue to slow the recovery of quail populations in the eastern 2/3 of the state.
            In addition to the habitat work done on wildlife management areas around the state, Wildlife Department biologists and technicians are actively working with private landowners in key focal areas to improve quail habitat. These on-the-ground habitat projects benefit quail and other upland wildlife and make economic sense for agriculture producers.
            For more information about quail hunting, log on to the Wildlife Department’s Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.

 

Table 1.  Average quail seen/20 mile route during the August & October roadside surveys.

 

Region

Previous 17-yr. average

2006

2007

Statewide

7.0

4.3

3.4

 Northwest

10.4

3.2

5.1

 Northcentral

3.6

3.9

1.2

 Northeast

4.1

1.6

0.3

 Southwest

14.8

11.3

10.0

 Southcentral

2.9

0.6

0.8

 Southeast

7.1

6.5

3.9


 
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Youth outdoor writing contest could mean trip of a lifetime for winning youth
            Youth interested in writing and the outdoors have a unique opportunity to win a trip of a lifetime by participating in the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and Oklahoma Station Chapter Safari Club International 2007 Creative Writing Competition.
            "This writing contest is a great chance for youth to express their excitement for the outdoors,” said Colin Berg, education supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “And if selected as a winner, they’ll get to go on a trip that they’ll never forget.”
            To participate, students must be 11-17 years of age and currently enrolled in any Oklahoma school or home school. Winners of the 2006 contest are not eligible. Applicants must have successfully completed an Oklahoma Hunter Education course by the entry deadline, which is Nov. 21, 2007. Students also must use the theme of “Hunting: Sharing the Heritage, Archery: What I like about Archery in the Schools and Bowhunting” or the concept of the theme to develop an expository essay or short story.
            Winners in the 15-17 age category (one boy and one girl) will receive a guided antelope hunt in New Mexico, and winners in the 11-14 age category are competing for scholarship for the Apprentice Hunter Program at the YO Ranch in Mountain Home, Texas. Safari Club International’s Apprentice Hunter Program is a unique, hands-on course designed for girls and boys aged 11-14. The program covers topics such as history of hunting, the ethical basis of modern sport hunting, wildlife management, field identification, tracking and interpreting sign, game cooking and the SCI Sportsmen Against Hunger Program. There are three sessions, each one week long, during the summer of 2008.
            The four statewide winners and their legal guardians will be invited to Oklahoma City to attend an awards ceremony in March. In addition, the top 25 essay entrants will receive a one-year youth membership to Safari Club International. The winning student essays will be published in the OSCSCI newsletter “Safari Trails.” Publication qualifies the winning entries for the National Youth Writing Contest sponsored by the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Several past national winners have come from Oklahoma.
             “One educator also will be awarded an all-expenses-paid scholarship for an eight-day conservation education school at Safari Club International’s American Wilderness Leadership School (AWLS) at Granite Ranch near Jackson, Wyoming,” Berg said.
            The AWLS program is conducted during the summer and presents an outdoor program for educators that concentrates on natural resource management. Participants learn about stream ecology, map and compass usage, fly tying, shooting sports, wildlife management, the Yellowstone ecosystem, camping, white-water rafting, educational resources, how to implement outdoor education ideas and language arts and creative writing in an outdoor setting.
            Both the essay contest rules and teacher scholarship applications are available from the Department's Web site at http://www.wildlifedepartment.com.
            Essays and applications must be postmarked no later than Nov. 21, or delivered by Nov. 21 in person to the Department of Wildlife’s Jenks Office at 201 Aquarium Drive, in Jenks. Address entries to: Essay Contest, Attn: Education Section Supervisor, ODWC Jenks Office, P.O. Box 1201, Jenks, OK 74037.
 
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Contributions help support the Wildlife Department and Oklahoma’s hungry
            The 2006-07 Oklahoma deer season provided more than just recreation for hundreds of thousands of sportsmen statewide, it also provided 51,172 pounds of venison to help feed Oklahoma’s hungry. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Hunters Against Hunger program provides a way for hunters to donate their deer to the needy, and funding comes from donations made by hunters and from conservation organizations, two of which recently donated nearly $20,000 to the program.
            At its November meeting, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission accepted a donation of $4,000 from the Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International (SCI) and $10,000 from NatureWorks, Inc. for the Hunters Against Hunger program.
            Hunters who legally harvest a deer can deliver their deer to a participating meat processor after checking it in at a hunter check station, and the processed meat is then distributed to local food pantries so that it can be provided to the hungry.
            “The Hunters Against Hunger program is a true example of cooperation among the Wildlife Department, sportsmen, local food pantries and the meat processing industry to provide food for hungry Oklahomans. Contributions from groups like SCI and NatureWorks are a big part of how we make the program happen. With over 50,000 pounds of venison donated by hunters last year alone, it’s proving to be a helpful tool in helping those less fortunate,” said Rhonda Hurst, coordinator for the Hunters Against Hunger program.
            “This is a great humanitarian program, and we’re proud to have supported it from its inception,” said Scott Holmes, current president of the Oklahoma Station Chapter.
            The Oklahoma Station Chapter of SCI also partners with the Wildlife Department to sponsor several other important programs. In the past, the organization has 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). Additionally, the chapter purchased eight elk for introduction into an existing herd in southeast Oklahoma. The organization also sponsors the Department's annual youth essay contest, which gives youth the opportunity to share their feelings about Oklahoma’s outdoors and the chance to win great prizes, including a guided pronghorn antelope hunt in New Mexico.
            NatureWorks, Inc. is a Tulsa-based nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to assisting in wildlife conservation efforts and wildlife education opportunities. Its annual Wildlife Art Show and Sale generates matching grants to assist in a variety of state wildlife conservation efforts. Along with the Hunters Against Hunger program, programs such as the Harold Stuart Waterfowl Refuge Unit within the Deep Fork Wildlife Management Area and the Grassy Slough WMA have benefited from NatureWorks’ support.
            In addition to its donation to the Hunters Against Hunger program, NatureWorks, Inc. was acknowledged for other contributions of $32,200 — including $10,000 to be used for fish habitat work in northeast Oklahoma lakes, $15,000 for paddlefish conservation work at Grand Lake, a $1,200 grant to be awarded to the winning duck stamp artist and a $6,000 grant that will be matched by the National Wild Turkey Federation to purchase prescribed burning equipment for Spavinaw and Oologah Wildlife Management Areas.
            Also accepted at the meeting was a $6,000 donation from the Six Old Geezers, a Lake Texoma fishing resource group. The donation is earmarked for the purchase of an electrofishing boat for the South Central Region of the Department’s fisheries division. The Six Old Geezers group has been organizing fund raisers — including an annual fish fry, salsa sales, guide trips, garage sales and more — for a number of years to help purchase equipment for managing the Lake Texoma fishery. The group also provides comprehensive Lake Texoma fishing resources ranging from guide services to places to stay on its Web site at sixoldgeezers.com, which has received about 1.5 million hits since its creation. The donation will be matched with Sport Fish Restoration funds. Donations from the Six Old Geezers, when matched with Sport fish Restoration dollars, have resulted in over $150,000 worth of fisheries management equipment for use at Lake Texoma.  
            Paul Mauck, southcentral region fisheries supervisor for the Wildlife Department, has worked with Six Old Geezers over the years and credits them for some of the fisheries division’s success.
            “It’s wonderful to work with a group of sportsmen like this,” Mauck said. “As a result of their effort, we have state of the art equipment to manage Texoma Lake.”
            In other business, the Commission recognized Jeff Boxrucker, assistant chief of fisheries for the Wildlife Department, for 30 years of service. Boxrucker started his career at the Wildlife Department as a fisheries technician and also served as a biologist and senior biologist before assuming the role of assistant chief in June 2007.
            The Commission also heard a presentation from Finley & Cook, PLLC including the results of the Department’s fiscal year 2007 annual financial audit. The independent audit, which also reviewed federal grant programs, revealed no findings.
            Finally, the Commission set the dates for 2008 Commission meetings, which are as follows: Jan. 7, Feb. 4, March 3, April 7, May 5, June 2, July 7, Aug. 4, Sept. 8, Oct. 6, Nov. 3 and Dec. 1.
            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. Dec. 3 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters (auditorium), at the southwest corner of 18th and North Lincoln, Oklahoma City.
 
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Deer gun season not far off
            With deer muzzleloader season behind us and the current deer archery season open through Jan. 15, 2008, hunters statewide have already had ample opportunity to harvest a deer, but the most popular deer season in Oklahoma is still to come.
            The opening day of deer gun season is Nov. 17 and will attract hundreds of thousands of sportsmen to the woods for 16 days of hunting.
            Last year deer gun hunters made state history with a record gun season harvest of 72,263 deer. That total contributed to a combined season harvest record of 119,349 deer, over 18,000 more deer than in 2005, and more than 17,000 more deer than the previous combined season harvest record set in 2000.
            According to Jerry Shaw, big game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the Nov. 17-Dec. 2 deer season could be the best time to harvest a deer this year.
            “There hasn’t been a lot of deer movement noted during archery and muzzleloader season so far this year,” Shaw said. “But the cooler it gets and the closer it gets to the rut, the more we’ll start seeing deer on the move.”
            Resident deer gun hunters must have a hunting license and a fishing and hunting legacy permit or proof of exemption to hunt deer in Oklahoma. In addition, they must possess a deer gun license (antlered or antlerless) or proof of exemption for each deer hunted.
            Resident youth hunters age 16 or 17 years old must purchase a youth hunting license and a $10 youth deer gun license (antlered or antlerless) for each deer hunted, unless exempt. Resident youth under 16 years of age are exempt from the purchase of a hunting license, but they must purchase a youth deer gun license for each deer hunted. All resident hunters under 18 years of age are exempt from the purchase of a fishing and hunting legacy permit.
            One important thing for resident youth to remember is that they can use unfilled youth deer gun season licenses to hunt deer during the regular deer gun season. Additionally, those youth who did harvest a deer during the youth deer gun season can still hunt during the regular deer gun season as long as they purchase another youth deer gun license for each deer hunted and they stay within their legal annual combined limit of six deer, of which only two may be antlered.
            Nonresident deer hunters are exempt from a hunting license, but they must possess a nonresident deer gun license (antlered, antlerless or combination) for each deer hunted and a fishing and hunting legacy permit, or proof of exemption. Holders of nonresident lifetime hunting and lifetime combination licenses are not exempt from purchasing deer licenses.
            New this year, those ages 16-35 who have not completed a hunter education course can purchase an apprentice-designated hunting license and go deer hunting with an accompanying adult who is a licensed hunter age 21 or older and who possesses a certificate of hunter education. Persons 21 years old or older who are exempt from either hunter education or hunting license requirements may also accompany an apprentice hunter. Youths age 15 and under must successfully complete a hunter education course to hunt deer in Oklahoma.
            Another new change for this year is that those hunting in northwest Oklahoma (Zone 2) will have an opportunity to take another antlerless deer. At least one antlerless deer must be taken in northwest Oklahoma (Zone 2) if hunters take their deer gun season limit of one antlered and two antlerless deer. Additionally, antlerless deer may only be harvested on specified days and in zones open to antlerless harvest. Antlerless zone boundaries as well as dates open to antlerless deer hunting can be viewed on page 17 of the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide,” available at hunting license dealers, or on the Wildlife Department’s Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.
            Upon successfully harvesting a deer, annual license holders must complete the Record of Game section of the universal license, and all license holders, including lifetime license holders, must immediately attach their name and license number to the carcass. What the hunter attaches can be anything, as long as it contains the hunter's name and hunting license number and remains securely attached to the animal until it is checked at a hunter check station or with an authorized Wildlife Department employee. All successful hunters must check their deer at the nearest hunter check station. A county-by-county listing of hunter check stations is provided in this year's Hunting Guide, and the most up-to-date check station listing is available at wildlifedepartment.com.
            All deer gun hunters must conspicuously wear both a head covering and an outer garment above the waistline consisting of daylight fluorescent orange color totaling at least 400 square inches. Camo-fluorescent orange is legal as long as the total orange meets or exceeds the required 400 square inches.
            Hunting hours during deer gun season are one-half hour before official sunrise to one-half hour after official sunset.
            For additional regulations, antlerless zones, check station locations, season dates and a wealth of other information, be sure to pick up a copy of the “2007-08 Oklahoma Hunting Guide" available at all license dealer locations, or log on to the Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Wildlife Department’s news service keeps sportsmen current
            Waterfowl hunters have it good in Oklahoma. Not only do they live in a prime location along the central flyway, but they also need only check their e-mail to find out just what is happening at their favorite waterfowling hotspots across the state.
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s weekly news release includes periodic waterfowl reports throughout the entire waterfowling season, and sportsmen can receive the information in their e-mail box by signing up on the Department’s Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.
            “It’s not always easy to decide where you want to start your search to find concentrations of birds, but the waterfowl report can be just the thing to help hunters decide where to scout,” said Nels Rodefeld, information and education chief for the Wildlife Department. “We have a lot of helpful cooperators across the state who help us compile these reports. That way waterfowlers get the most up to date information, and they get it fast. It can be a very useful tool for those hunters who take the time to check it out.”
            Waterfowl hunters can sign up to receive the entire weekly news release or choose to only receive the waterfowl reports.
            “Our new e-mail system makes it easy for Oklahoma sportsmen to decide exactly what information they want to receive, whether it’s the waterfowl reports, fishing reports, news stories or all of it at once,” Rodefeld said. “The great thing about the Wildlife Department’s news release is that there is something for everybody who signs up to receive it.”
            People with an interest in hunting, fishing or the outdoors can stay current on what’s happening in Oklahoma’s outdoors by logging on to wildlifedepartment.com and signing up to receive the Department’s weekly news.
            News stories each week provide subscribers with information on everything from fishing and hunting news to eagle and bat-watching activities, and they refer readers to additional sources of information on certain topics relating to Oklahoma’s outdoors. Put simply, the Department’s weekly news stories provide readers with important, timely information that Oklahoma outdoorsmen need to know.
            Subscribers not only receive updates on the latest Department news and outdoor-related tips and information, but they also receive the Department’s weekly Outdoor Calendar, Fishing Report and other seasonal information like the Waterfowl Report.
            In addition to current events and other outdoor news, the weekly release provides an Outdoor Calendar that gives a detailed outlook on a variety of outdoor-related events taking place across the state. Activities designed to educate people on wildlife and to hone their outdoor skills take place all year long, and annual events such as tackle shows and the Wildlife Expo provide endless entertainment.
            “This news release is a great tool for anyone wanting to stay informed about the outdoors in Oklahoma,” Rodefeld said.
            To learn more about the Wildlife Department and its resources for hunters, anglers, landowners and other wildlife enthusiasts, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Hunters reminded to use safety harnesses
            With deer season underway across the state, many hunters will log in hours upon hours in tree stands high off the ground, and officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation remind hunters to use safety harnesses while hunting from trees.
            “A full-body safety harness that can be picked up at most sporting goods stores is an excellent addition to your hunting gear,” said Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Wildlife Department. “They are cheap considering the extra measure of safety they offer while hunting from tree stands.”
            Meek said there are several makes and models of safety straps and belts for tree stand hunters, but the full-body harness types are the safest.
            “These safety harnesses will halt a fall from a stand, and they’re designed to keep the hunter upright in case he does happen to fall,” Meek said. “They adjust around the shoulders, waist and upper thighs for a snug fit, so that the force of a fall is distributed evenly, and serious injury is far less likely to occur.”
            The older belt-type safety straps might stop a hunter from falling to the ground, but the force of the single strap around a hunter’s waist or chest has the potential to crack ribs or cause other internal injuries. Additionally, a fallen hunter might be left in an upside down position when using the belt-type strap.
            “A belt-type strap is definitely better than wearing no strap at all, but with so many new, safe and affordable full-body harnesses available on the market, there’s reason why hunters shouldn’t have one,” Meek said.
            Meek also encourages hunters to be careful when climbing into or out of tree stands and to make sure tree stands are installed correctly and securely.
            “Make sure you follow the installation directions provided with your tree stand when you buy it,” Meek said. “Also, a rope tied to a limb near your stand can be great for hoisting and lowering a bow or unloaded, downward-pointing gun.”
            Learn more about hunting and hunter safety by attending one of the Wildlife Department’s hunter education courses. For a complete list of hunter education classes, log on to the Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com. For complete information on hunting seasons and hunter education requirements, consult the current "Oklahoma Hunting Guide."
 
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Youth outdoor writing contest could mean trip of a lifetime for winning youth
            Youth interested in writing and the outdoors have a unique opportunity to win a trip of a lifetime by participating in the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and Oklahoma Station Chapter Safari Club International 2007 Creative Writing Competition.
            “This writing contest is a great chance for youth to express their excitement for the outdoors,” said Colin Berg, education supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “And if selected as a winner, they’ll get to go on a trip that they’ll never forget.”
            To participate, students must be 11-17 years of age and currently enrolled in any Oklahoma school or home school. Winners of the 2006 contest are not eligible. Applicants must have successfully completed an Oklahoma Hunter Education course by the entry deadline, which is Nov. 21, 2007. Students also must use the theme of “Hunting: Sharing the Heritage, Archery: What I like about Archery in the Schools and Bowhunting” or the concept of the theme to develop an expository essay or short story.
            Winners in the 15-17 age category (one boy and one girl) will receive a guided antelope hunt in New Mexico, and winners in the 11-14 age category are competing for a scholarship for the Apprentice Hunter Program at the YO Ranch in Mountain Home, Texas. Safari Club International’s Apprentice Hunter Program is a unique, hands-on course designed for girls and boys aged 11-14. The program covers topics such as history of hunting, the ethical basis of modern sport hunting, wildlife management, field identification, tracking and interpreting sign, game cooking and the SCI Sportsmen Against Hunger Program. There are three sessions, each one week long, during the summer of 2008.
            The four statewide winners and their legal guardians will be invited to Oklahoma City to attend an awards ceremony in March. In addition, the top 25 essay entrants will receive a one-year youth membership to Safari Club International. The winning student essays will be published in the OSCSCI newsletter “Safari Trails.” Publication qualifies the winning entries for the National Youth Writing Contest sponsored by the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Several past national winners have come from Oklahoma.
             “One educator also will be awarded an all-expenses-paid scholarship for an eight-day conservation education school at Safari Club International’s American Wilderness Leadership School (AWLS) at Granite Ranch near Jackson, Wyoming,” Berg said.
            The AWLS program is conducted during the summer and presents an outdoor program for educators that concentrates on natural resource management. Participants learn about stream ecology, map and compass usage, fly tying, shooting sports, wildlife management, the Yellowstone ecosystem, camping, white-water rafting, educational resources, how to implement outdoor education ideas and language arts and creative writing in an outdoor setting.
            Both the essay contest rules and teacher scholarship applications are available from the Department’s Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.
            Essays and applications must be postmarked no later than Nov. 21, or delivered by Nov. 21 in person to the Department of Wildlife’s Jenks Office at 201 Aquarium Drive, in Jenks. Address entries to: Essay Contest, Attn: Education Section Supervisor, ODWC Jenks Office, P.O. Box 1201, Jenks, OK 74037.
 

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Keystone draw hunt application deadline approaching
            The Walnut Creek State Park on Keystone Lake will host two late season controlled archery hunts, Jan. 4-6, 2008 and Jan. 11-13, 2008 for antlerless deer only. Ten hunters will be drawn for each hunt. Since the hunts are not bonus hunts, deer taken will count toward the hunters annual combined deer season limit. Hunters with a 2008 hunting license, deer archery license, and fishing and hunting legacy permit, unless exempt, may harvest the number of antlerless deer that remain on their 2007 archery bag limit.  There is a mandatory pre-hunt briefing on the first day of the hunt. Up to four hunters may apply for the hunt as a group.  Each hunter may apply only once. Camping is also available at the State Park.
            To apply, mail an index card in an envelope to: Keystone Lake Project office; Attn: Controlled Hunt, 23115 W. Wekiwa Rd., Sand Springs, OK 74063.  The card should have each hunter’s name, mailing address, telephone number, hunting license number, and the first and second choice of hunt dates. Application deadline is December 10, 2007. Successful applicants will be notified by mail. For more information, contact Jeff Pennington at (918) 629-4625.
 
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Early winter angling heating up
            Early winter fishing is great right now according to biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, and Oklahomans focused only on current hunting seasons are in danger of missing it.
            “Fall and early winter is an absolutely gorgeous time to go fishing,” said Gary Peterson, fisheries biologist for the Wildlife Department. “Once the bass tournaments are over and deer season begins, there are fewer people on the lakes and rivers. It is quieter without boats roaring by, and many fish species are more willing to bite. In northeast Oklahoma, the osprey fly in and go fishing with you, and sometimes eagles try to steal the osprey’s catch.”
            Peterson noted that while some fish species prove more elusive in cooler temperatures, others are active and abundant.
            “Crappie actually are more active as the weather gets colder, and we’ve found some nice blue cats and channel catfish out there,” Peterson said.
            Crappie, blue catfish and channel catfish aren’t the only catch awaiting winter anglers.
            “Right now is prime time for trout,” said James Vincent, senior fisheries biologist with the Department. “For streams and rivers in southern Oklahoma, this is our Monday Night Football game, and we’re getting ready to kick off.”
            Vincent points out several advantages to fishing this time of year.
            “During the summer, trout areas often have diverse usage like swimming and boating, and trout are not as willing to bite,” Vincent said. “However, those other users are gone now. Our cooler weather has brought cooler water, making it ‘go’ time for trout fishing, especially in the Lower Illinois and the Lower Mountain Fork rivers.”
            Trout are not the only fish to catch, however.
            “A few weeks of prime fall fishing for the native smallmouth bass still remain,” Vincent said.
            For Oklahoma anglers who venture out in winter temperatures, Northcentral Region Fisheries Supervisor Bill Wentroth urges anglers to use common sense while fishing.
            “It is vitally important that anglers stay dry in winter weather,” Wentroth said. “Enclosed fishing docks are good places to catch fish like crappie but also allow anglers to stay safe and comfortable.”
            Consult the current “Oklahoma Fishing Guide” for a listing of enclosed docks throughout the state.
            Statistics from 2006 reveal that over 611,000 anglers fished in Oklahoma last year, but the vast majority of those anglers fished in spring and summer. Even though there are great hunting opportunities right now, fisheries biologists hope Oklahomans won’t forget about angling. With such great fishing abundant in the state, and so few anglers taking advantage of it, it may be time to grab a fishing pole and head for water in the coming weeks.
            “The fish are there,” Peterson said. “They are there, and they are available.”
 
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Furbearer season opens Dec. 1
            December 1 marks the opening day of furbearer season in Oklahoma, offering outdoorsmen the chance to hone their outdoor skills, harvest a variety of game species and perhaps earn some extra cash in the process.
            Leo Farmer of Muskogee is a trapper who says that harvesting furbearers is not only important for predator management, but also for helping in the management of other wildlife. He also said his time spent trapping makes him a more skilled sportsman.
            “We have to study the animals that we are trying to trap,” Farmer said. “It definitely makes you a better outdoorsman. I’m a much better deer hunter now than I was 10 years ago. Ten years ago, I didn’t trap. Now, I’m studying all animals. And I’m learning a lot about deer just by being conscious of looking for sign.”
            Furbearing animals include raccoons, minks, badgers, muskrats, opossums, weasels, bobcats, beavers, skunks, river otters and gray and red foxes to name a few, and many hunters and trappers harvest these furbearers and sell their pelts. Check the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” for requirements on tagging, selling and possessing furbearing wildlife.
            In recent years, bobcat pelts have generally sold for higher prices than other furbearing species.
            Hunters and trappers tagged 7,741 during the 2006-07 season, which was a 21-year high according to biologists with the Wildlife Department. The good news continued for sportsmen when they sold their furs. The values of bobcat pelts were the highest they had been since the 1987-88 season, with the average pelt selling for about $63.
            Glen Johnson, a licensed Oklahoma fur buyer and owner of KanOkla Fur Company located on the Oklahoma/Kansas border, said that he usually pays anywhere from $80-$175 for top quality Oklahoma bobcats. But bobcat pelts of lower quality can sell for considerably less. According to Johnson, bobcat prices have risen because of higher demand overseas in places such as Italy, where he said he does most of his fur selling.
            Johnson said bobcat pelts taken later in the season can sell for more than those taken earlier, and since Oklahoma’s bobcat season spans Dec. 1, 2007 – Feb. 28, 2008; statewide, sportsmen have the opportunity to harvest a bobcat when its pelt is at its best. According to Johnson, pelts from species like raccoon are at their best when taken earlier in the furbearer season. Seasons on raccoon, badger, mink, muskrat, opossum, weasel and gray and red fox run Dec. 1, 2007 – Jan. 31, 2008, statewide; river otters can be taken Dec. 1, 2007 – Jan. 31, 2008 in select counties. Beaver, nutria, striped skunk and coyote seasons are open year-round statewide. Check the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” for open areas, daily limits and other important regulations for each furbearer species.
For a list of fur buyers in Oklahoma, log on to the Wildlife Department’s Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.
            A hunting license and fishing and hunting legacy permit are required for all residents and nonresidents who hunt or trap furbearers in Oklahoma, unless exempt. Additionally, those wanting to take bobcats, river otters, raccoons or gray or red fox must possess a fur license. It costs $10 for residents or $51 for non-residents. Resident lifetime hunting or combination license holders are exempt from having to purchase the fur license.
            In addition to a valid hunting license and fur license, a trapping license is required for all persons who trap. The cost is $10 for residents and $345 for nonresidents. A resident professional trapping license for the use of more than 20 traps costs $68.50. Only resident landowners or tenants or their children who trap on land they own or lease (not including hunting leases) are exempt from purchasing trapping licenses.
            Hunters and trappers are also reminded that all bobcat pelts must be tagged with an official identification tag, available from several Department installations and selected check stations statewide. For a list of bobcat check stations, log on to the Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com or contact the Wildlife Division at (405) 521-2739.
 
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Eagles soar in Oklahoma
            This winter come watch bald eagles soar at an eagle viewing event near you.  Each winter, as northern lakes freeze over, thousands of bald eagles migrate to warmer, southern waters. Oklahoma is visited by 750-1,500 eagles annually. According to the National Wildlife Federation, Oklahoma is one of the top 10 states in the nation for winter eagle viewing.
            “Events are hosted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, state parks, lake management offices and local conservation groups,” said Lesley McNeff, wildlife diversity information specialist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “There are plenty of opportunities to view a bald eagle in the wild. This winter there are more than 60 viewing events all across the state!”
            Most events are free or have a minimal charge and occur on weekends during January. Many begin with informative bald eagle programs led by naturalists and biologists. At all events, people will be on hand to assist visitors with viewing wild eagles.
“Not only is the bald eagle an American symbol, it’s also an endangered species success story, having recently been removed from the national threatened species list,” McNeff said.
When adopted as the nation’s symbol in 1782, eagles inhabited every large river and major concentration of lakes in North America. They nested in 45 of the lower 48 United States, but by the 1950s had been reduced to fewer than 400 nesting pairs. Due to nationwide concern and action, eagle numbers have increased seven-fold since the early 70s.  
View event descriptions, locations, dates and times by logging onto wildlifedepartment.com  or call (405) 522-3087 for more information.
 
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Keystone draw hunt application deadline approaching
            The Walnut Creek State Park on Keystone Lake will host two late season controlled archery hunts, Jan. 4-6, 2008 and Jan. 11-13, 2008 for antlerless deer only. Ten hunters will be drawn for each hunt. Since the hunts are not bonus hunts, deer taken will count toward the hunter’s annual combined deer season limit. Hunters with a 2008 hunting license, deer archery license, and fishing and hunting legacy permit, unless exempt, may harvest the number of antlerless deer that remain on their 2007 archery bag limit.  There is a mandatory pre-hunt briefing on the first day of the hunt. Up to four hunters may apply for the hunt as a group.  Each hunter may apply only once. Camping is also available at the State Park.
            To apply, mail an index card in an envelope to: Keystone Lake Project office; Attn: Controlled Hunt, 23115 W. Wekiwa Rd., Sand Springs, OK 74063.  The card should have each hunter’s name, mailing address, telephone number, hunting license number, and the first and second choice of hunt dates. Application deadline is December 10, 2007. Successful applicants will be notified by mail. For more information, contact Jeff Pennington at (918) 629-4625.
 
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First rainbows, now brown trout reproduce naturally in Lower Mountain Fork River
            In 2006, fisheries biologists for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation confirmed the natural reproduction of rainbow trout in the Lower Mountain Fork River in southeast Oklahoma, and this year, the same can be said for brown trout.
            For the first time ever, fisheries biologists have documented natural reproduction of brown trout in Oklahoma. As with rainbow trout, the discovery was made in the Lower Mountain Fork River trout fishery below Broken Bow Lake.
             “Anglers on the Lower Mountain Fork River have been catching young brown trout that were not stocked,” said Jeff Boxrucker, assistant chief of fisheries for the Wildlife Department. “We can tell because of the age and size of the fish being caught. The brown trout that we stock are bigger than some of the young fish being caught.”
            The Wildlife Department first stocked the Lower Mountain Fork River with trout almost 20 years ago. Since that time the 12-mile designated trout stream has seen many habitat improvements, among them the renovation of the Evening Hole and Lost Creek areas that are now providing fishing opportunities to anglers. Additionally, thanks to the efforts of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation, the U.S. Congress passed the Water Resources Development Act in 1996 to ensure that cool water from Broken Bow Lake is released throughout the year to sustain the trout fishery.
            “The natural reproduction of both rainbow trout in 2006 and now brown trout in the Lower Mountain Fork River are prime examples of what happens when people come together for cooperative habitat initiatives,” Boxrucker said. “We could have never completed these efforts nor seen these milestones in trout management without generous donations, support and effort from several trout clubs in Oklahoma and Texas. This is exciting news, but just like when the naturally reproduced rainbow trout were documented, we don’t know if this is a one-time thing or if reproduction will occur each year. Hopefully, natural reproduction will continue.”
            Wildlife Department fisheries biologists will monitor possible future trout reproduction and track the survival of these young trout.
            In the meantime, fisheries biologists will continue improving habitat in the area through projects like the national award-winning Evening Hole Restoration Project — the most ambitious stream restoration project undertaken by the Department — and other projects such as the bubble plume diffuser installation in Broken Bow Lake, designed to provide colder water to the Lower Mountain Fork River.
            Because brown trout feed a great deal on the surface, they have become very popular with fly fishermen. The stocky brown is a bulldog fighter when hooked, occasionally leaping out of the water. Fishing for browns is best on overcast days, in early morning before the sun is up and at night. On bright days, fish are more often found in the shade of undercut banks or overhanging vegetation.
            Browns commonly feed on mayfly and caddisfly nymphs, grasshoppers, worms, crayfish and minnows. The brown’s varied diet enables anglers to employ some of the same methods used to catch rainbows. However, at the Lower Mountain Fork River designated trout area, fishing in some areas is restricted to artificial flies and lures with barbless hooks only.
            To learn more about trout fishing, log on to wildlifedepartment.com or consult the current “Oklahoma Fishing Guide.”
 
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Pheasant season opens December 1
            With the start of December comes the kick-off of pheasant season in Oklahoma, running Dec. 1 – Jan. 31.
            According to Doug Schoeling, upland game bird biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, hunters could be in for a successful season despite some limited visibility.
            “With the abundant cover we have this year, pheasants could be harder to see, but there should be a lot of birds for hunters to chase,” Schoeling said. “According to roadside brood surveys, it looks like the pheasants had a good hatch this year.”
            The ring-necked pheasant was first introduced into Oklahoma in 1911 and are a popular game bird from northcentral Oklahoma to the Panhandle. The colorful birds prefer cultivated farmland habitat mixed with weedy fencerows and overgrown pastures.
            Hunters should consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” for open zones and wildlife management areas. The daily bag limit for pheasants is two cocks, with a possession limit of four after the first day and six after the second day. Pheasant hunters should note that legal shooting hours are official sunrise to official sunset, except on some wildlife management areas, which close at 4:30 p.m. Evidence of sex (head or one foot) must remain on the bird until it reaches its final destination. When the deer gun and the special antlerless deer seasons (in open zones) overlap with pheasant season, all pheasant hunters must wear either a hunter orange cap or vest.
            Before going afield, be sure to pick up a copy of the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide,” available at all hunting and fishing license dealers or log onto wildlifedepartment.com. Resident and non-resident hunters must possess a valid hunting license and a fishing and hunting legacy permit or proof of exemption. The non-resident five-day hunting license is not valid for hunting pheasant.
 
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Keystone draw hunt application deadline approaching
            The Walnut Creek State Park on Keystone Lake will host two late season controlled archery hunts, Jan. 4-6, 2008 and Jan. 11-13, 2008 for antlerless deer only. Ten hunters will be drawn for each hunt. Since the hunts are not bonus hunts, deer taken will count toward the hunter’s annual combined deer season limit. Hunters with a 2008 hunting license, deer archery license, and fishing and hunting legacy permit, unless exempt, may harvest the number of antlerless deer that remain on their 2007 archery bag limit.  There is a mandatory pre-hunt briefing on the first day of the hunt. Up to four hunters may apply for the hunt as a group.  Each hunter may apply only once. Camping is also available at the State Park.
            To apply, mail an index card in an envelope to: Keystone Lake Project office; Attn: Controlled Hunt, 23115 W. Wekiwa Rd., Sand Springs, OK 74063.  The card should have each hunter’s name, mailing address, telephone number, hunting license number, and the first and second choice of hunt dates. Application deadline is December 10, 2007. Successful applicants will be notified by mail. For more information, contact Jeff Pennington at (918) 629-4625.
 
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