MARCH 2008 NEWS RELEASES 

WEEK OF MARCH 27, 2008  

WEEK OF MARCH 20, 2008

 

WEEK OF MARCH 13, 2008

 

WEEK OF MARCH 6, 2008

New paddlefish management program already increasing fishing opportunities for anglers
            An agreement between the City of Miami and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will mean better and cheaper fishing for paddlefish anglers in Miami’s Riverview City Park.
            At a recent meeting, the Miami City Council unanimously approved a proposal from the Wildlife Department to eliminate the City of Miami spoonbill permit that has, up to this point, been a requirement for paddlefish anglers in the park. With the city permit abolished, paddlefish anglers will only need an appropriate state fishing license and the Wildlife Department’s free paddlefish permit. In return, the Wildlife Department will provide the City of Miami with $5,000, to be matched with up to $15,000 of Sport Fish Restoration funds, for increasing fishing and boating access in the area.
            “This agreement comes as a result of the Wildlife Department’s new paddlefish program,” said Keith Green, paddlefish program coordinator for the Wildlife Department. “This is a major increase in opportunity for Oklahoma paddlefish anglers. They don’t have to buy a permit from the City of Miami, and they can expect even better fishing access in the future. Improving and increasing fishing opportunities like this is only one of several important intended effects of the paddlefish program. So far, the program is working for anglers in exactly the way we had planned.”
            Mike Johnson, City of Miami parks and recreation supervisor, said the agreement benefits everyone involved, from the City of Miami to the Wildlife Department to the anglers who fish for paddlefish in the park.
            “It’s a win-win situation,” Johnson said.
            Green emphasized, however, that voluntary angler participation is important for the agreement to stay in place and for the paddlefish program to prosper.
            “The City of Miami is going to look at the agreement on a yearly basis, and base future agreements on the success of the paddlefish program,” Green said. “That means anglers need to participate. They need to go fishing for paddlefish and take advantage of the services provided by the paddlefish management program. ”
            The paddlefish management pilot program was established recently near the Twin Bridges area of the Neosho River and, as evidenced by the agreement between the Department and the City of Miami, is playing an important role in paddlefish management. The primary functions of the paddlefish research center are to collect important data for the Department’s paddlefish management plan, process paddlefish meat for anglers and salvage paddlefish eggs. Funds derived from the program go back to the resource, which means better fishing in the future, along with projects such as improved fishing access, paddlefish management, angler education and more.
            The Department’s paddlefish management program 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 Wildlife Department to not only help in the management of paddlefish in Oklahoma, but also to provide anglers with unique information about the individual fish they caught.
            The center is open during prime paddlefish snagging months (approximately Feb. 15 – May 15), and anglers can bring their catch to the center for cleaning and processing. Additionally, anglers such as those at Miami’s Riverview City Park also can call the paddlefish processing center to come pick up their paddlefish for processing. Anglers who take advantage of the service will take home meat from their own fish that has been safely cleaned and packaged.
            The paddlefish research center is seasonally staffed by employees trained in proper handling and processing of fish products, and other research centers may be set up at future locations.
            Paddlefish anglers are required to obtain a free paddlefish permit before fishing for paddlefish in Oklahoma. Each angler that obtains the permit will be assigned a number that must be attached to all paddlefish that are caught and kept. The permit system will provide clearer information about paddlefish anglers and help better manage paddlefish populations. The permit is annual, and the permit number can be used on every paddlefish tagged during that period. Permits can be obtained through any fishing license dealer or online by logging on to wildlifedepartment.com.
            For more information about paddlefish angling, including regulations and hot fishing locations, consult the current “Oklahoma Fishing Guide” or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Meeting to focus on wind power policy for wildlife management areas
            A public meeting will be held in Woodward to gather input from hunters and other wildlife enthusiasts about possible wind power development on areas owned by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
            The meeting will still be held Wed., March 12, at 6 p.m. at the High Plains Technology Center, despite OG&E recently withdrawing their interest in exploring possible wind energy development at Cooper Wildlife Management Area. The Wildlife Conservation Commission, the governing board that sets policy for the Wildlife Department, has created a subcommittee to look at wind power issues and make a recommendation to the full Commission regarding offers the Wildlife Department may receive for purchase or lease of its properties.
            “The Commission is looking at this issue closely because it is a policy decision that could impact several areas in western Oklahoma that are owned by the Department,” said Greg Duffy, Wildlife Department director. “Wind development is a topic that’s generating lots of interest from outdoor enthusiasts.”
            For people who are interested in voicing their opinion but will be unable to attend the meeting in Woodward, they can go to Department’s Web site and email in their comments. The Wildlife Department’s Web site can be accessed at www.wildlifedepartment.com.


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Applications available for Wildlife Department Youth Camp
            Youth interested in wildlife, fisheries and law enforcement can apply now to attend the 10th annual Oklahoma Wildlife Department Youth Camp scheduled for June 2-6, 2008. This camp is free, and youth get a chance to learn about careers in wildlife conservation.
            Held at OU Biological Station near Lake Texoma, the camp is open to Oklahoma youths ages 14 to 16 and is designed to give an increased awareness of protecting and managing Oklahoma's wildlife resources. Participants will attend courses in rifle and shotgun training, hunting and wildlife identification, wildlife law enforcement, wildlife and fisheries biology and management, self-defense, and ropes and rappelling.
            The camp is free of charge, but will be limited to 35 youth. Applicants should be interested in fish and wildlife management or law enforcement and must submit a 75-word essay explaining why they want to attend the camp, why they believe they should be selected and what they expect to learn while attending. They must also submit a letter of recommendation from a person of their choice other than a family member and a photograph of a recent outdoor-related event or activity.
            Applications will be accepted Feb. 1 – April 18, and applicants must turn 14 prior to June 2, 2008. Obtain applications by logging on to the Wildlife Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com. Simply print off the application, fill it out and mail it in with the essay, letter of recommendation and photograph to: Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Law Enforcement Division Youth Camp, P.O. Box 53465 Oklahoma City, OK 73152.
 
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Deer hunting opportunities expanded with new regulations
            The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission passed several hunting and fishing regulation changes at its regular meeting Monday, particularly some deer hunting regulation changes aimed at improving Oklahoma’s deer herd while providing additional hunting opportunities for antlerless deer.
            Specific deer hunting regulation changes include the following:
 
* Archery hunters will be allowed to harvest a deer of either sex during the period of Jan. 1 to Jan. 15.
* The bag limit for archery season was increased from four to six deer.
* Legal firearms for muzzleloading season were redefined by allowing the current technology of electronic ignition and future technological changes for muzzleloading firearms to be legal for deer, provided the firearm is loaded from the muzzle and uses a powder and bullet set-up.
* Deer gun season on Honobia Creek, Three Rivers, Ouachita and Broken Bow Wildlife Management Areas were opened to same as statewide season dates.
 
The Commission voted 5-2 to reject one item in the list of hunting-related proposals, which would have allowed those persons certified to use crossbows to use a device that permits a regular bow to be held mechanically at full or partial draw.
            “These changes expand deer hunting opportunities in many ways, but they also serve to help manage the state’s deer herd,” said Alan Peoples, chief of wildlife for the Wildlife Department.
            Other changes that were approved affect fisherman and several popular fishing spots. The new rule amendments are as follows:
 
* Paddlefish anglers will be required to attach their paddlefish permit number to their fish, and it will be a requirement for paddlefish viscera to be removed before leaving the state. Additionally, paddlefish anglers will be required to have a free annual paddlefish permit. These paddlefish rules are currently in effect under emergency rules.
* The Illinois River was defined as the area from the confluence of Baron Fork Creek downstream to the Horseshoe Bend boat ramp.
* The boundaries on the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System were clarified.
* Spotted bass were exempted from length limits statewide except for certain streams.
* Spotted bass bag limits were removed statewide except for certain streams.
* Alligator gar rules were modified after public hearings to define the closed area, shorten the period of closure and restrict all angling methods.
* The use of non-metallic materials will be allowed where natural materials do not exist for attaching limblines.
 
            “I am confident these changes will benefit the fisheries in Oklahoma as well as our state’s anglers,” said Barry Bolton, fisheries chief for the Wildlife Department. “Anglers are getting more opportunities in areas like spotted bass fishing, and activities like paddlefish angling will now be more simplified. Additionally, these changes establish some other very important guidelines for managing our state’s fisheries.”
            The Commission approved several other items at the regular meeting regarding nuisance wildlife control and feral hog nuisance and depredation rules. Approved amendments are as follows:
* An existing emergency rule regarding the poisoning of prairie dogs on public land was made permanent.
* Prior to shooting beavers at night, it will be a requirement that the game warden for that county be notified.
* Rules were established for issuing permits to landowners, lessees or their designated agents and to any entity of local government to control nuisance wildlife or feral hogs as authorized in statute (29:4-135.). The issuance of the permit was streamlined by allowing the area game warden or wildlife employee to immediately respond to a complaint and, upon verification of the problem, issue a permit immediately for an appropriate time period up to one year. The change also allows for the person doing the authorized control work to sell coyotes and beaver with proper documentation.
* Restrictions were tightened on the possession, importation, culture, sale or use of invasive Asian carp and blueback herring.
* The Commission will be allowed to add or delete aquatic plants from the “Species to Watch” list.
 
            In addition to wildlife changes, oil and gas rules were updated to reflect industry technology and procedure changes.
            The new regulations must now pass through the legislative process and be signed by the governor. Look for complete details in the next Oklahoma Hunting and Fishing Guides.
            In other business, the Commission recognized Gene Pester, game warden supervisor, and Arthur Joe Young, also a game warden supervisor, for 35 years of service to the Wildlife Department. Additionally, Jimmy Foster, communications manager, and Steve Webber, information specialist, were both recognized for 20 years of service.
            The Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The Wildlife Commission establishes state hunting and fishing regulations, sets policy for the Wildlife Department, and indirectly oversees all state fish and wildlife conservation activities. Commission members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.
            The next scheduled Commission meeting is set for 9 a.m. April 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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New Kaw lake record flathead hooked
            If Lesley B. Carson-McNeff of Mustang had caught her 78 lb. flathead catfish from Kaw Lake this time last year, she may have been the only one to cherish the sweet memory, but since she caught it March 8 of this year, the big cat will go down in the record books.
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation initiated its Lake Record Fish Program in February, 2008, to recognize the biggest fish from a number of lakes across the state, as well as the anglers who reel them in.
            McNeff’s catfish goes down as the first lake record flathead catfish and the third lake record caught since the inception of the program. It was caught on a trotline baited with whole shad, and McNeff, 25, and her father braved cold weather to bring home the fish.
            “It was really cold,” McNeff said. “It was 19 degrees when we got on the water.”
            The pair checked her father’s trotline first, coming up with three nice-sized flatheads, then switched to check Lesley’s trotline. There was only one fish on the trotline, but neither of them expected to find a Kaw lake record — weighing an even 78 lbs with a length of 51 inches and a girth of 34.25 inches.
            “I was not disappointed that it was the only fish on the line!” McNeff said.  
            McNeff enjoys running trotlines this time of year with her father, who learned the art of successful trotline fishing from his father.
            “My dad’s the best trotline fisherman I know,” McNeff said. “He knows how and where to set them, how to run them.”
            And McNeff’s father has been showing her the ropes since she was just a youngster. Her flathead catfish comes after two other lake records were set in late February. One was a 14 lb., 8 oz. largemouth bass caught by Allen Gifford, Davis, from Arbuckle Lake, and the other was a 40.1 lb. Grand Lake blue catfish caught by Illinois resident Denny Halgren.
            Besides Kaw Lake, there are currently 12 other major lakes included in the Lake Record Fish pilot program, including Arbuckle, Broken Bow, Canton, Eufaula, Ft. Cobb, Grand, Keystone, Sardis, Skiatook, Tenkiller, Texoma and Thunderbird.
            Species eligible for spots in the lake records book include flathead, blue and channel catfish and largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass in addition to crappie, paddlefish, striped bass, striped bass hybrids, sunfish (combined) walleye/saugeye and white bass. Minimum weights are set for each species and are detailed on the Wildlife Department’s Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.
            Anglers who catch a potential record fish from a participating lake should contact designated business locations around the lake that are enrolled as lake record keepers. A listing of official lake record keepers is available on wildlifedepartment.com.
            Once it has been determined that an angler has landed a record fish, the media is notified and the public will be able to view information about the catch on the Wildlife Department’s Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.
            An easily-operated search feature is available on the Web site that allows those interested to view a wealth of lake record fish information, ranging from the size of record fish caught to what kind of bait or rod and reel was used to catch them.
            All past and current state record fish are registered in the Lake Record Fish Program as records for their respective lakes.
            For more information about the new Lake Record Fish Program, or for more on bass fishing in Oklahoma, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
****Photo*****
 
Editor's note: Below is a link for an accompanying photo that is 300 DPI and intended for newspaper publication. The ending link is .jpg for the photo. The photo will open in your browser. If you have a pc you should be able to right click, save picture as, choose the file type you want to save as and click save. The other way is on file in toolbar, save picture as, choosing the file type you want to save as and click save. Images can be viewed with the article


Photo Credit: wildlifedepartment.com
Caption: Lesley McNeff, Mustang, caught this 78 lb. flathead catfish March 8 on her Kaw Lake trotline. The fish goes down as the first lake record flathead caught since the Wildlife Department initiated its Lake Record Fish Program Feb. 1. It is the third fish overall to be caught and certified as a Lake Record since the program began.


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Oklahoma Aquarium opens new exhibit
            The Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks recently opened its largest addition since its opening in 2003. The Hayes Family Ozark Streams exhibit features Oklahoma fish such as smallmouth bass and sunfish as well as the aquariums first mammals, including beavers, raccoons and river otters.
            The unique design of the exhibit allows guests to come nose to nose with the animals, separated only by glass. Hand-carved concrete mimics the rocky cliffs of Northeastern Oklahoma at the foot of the Ozarks, and a crashing waterfall adds to the ambience, even the lighting and temperature contribute to the environment. This exhibit gives visitors to the already popular Oklahoma Aquarium a chance to learn about stream ecology and the importance of protecting Oklahoma’s native scenic waters. However, the Hayes Family Ozark Streams exhibit isn’t the only reason to visit the Oklahoma Aquarium.
            The Oklahoma Aquarium houses over 200 exhibits consisting of both salt and freshwater fish. Visitors to the Oklahoma Aquarium can learn about the biodiversity and adaptation of many different species. Learning is only half the fun, though, as the Oklahoma Aquarium holds within it some very special visual opportunities.
            The Fishes of Oklahoma exhibit holds the opportunity to see an alligator snapping turtle that is more than 120 years old, a state record blue catfish and seven-foot-long gars. The Ray & Robin Siegfried Families Shark Adventure has a walk-through tunnel and dome that allows you to see the largest bull sharks in captivity swimming alongside you and even right over your head. And the Carl and Beverly White Tackle Museum offers a glimpse at unique fishing equipment. And the best thing is it is all right here in Oklahoma for wildlife enthusiasts to enjoy.
            For additional information about the Oklahoma Aquarium and how you can plan your visit, log on to okaquarium.org or call (918) 296-3474.
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is proud to be a part of the Oklahoma Aquarium’s success. The Hayes Family Ozark Streams exhibit was partially funded through the Oklahoma Sport Fish Restoration Program.
            The Sport Fish Restoration Program is a tremendous example of a true partnership between hunters, anglers, boaters, private industries, state governments and the federal government. Fishing tackle, as well as boat trolling motors, firearms, bows and arrows and other outdoor related equipment, are subject to special federal excise taxes that help fund conservation efforts around the country. Additionally, federal fuel taxes attributed to motorboats are directed towards conservation.
            The federal government collects these taxes from manufacturers, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service administers and disburses the funds to the state fish and wildlife agencies like the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
             Hunters, anglers, shooters and boaters ultimately pay these taxes through the purchase of products. These same groups benefit from the funds, as states must spend the money on sport fish and wildlife habitat restoration/development, populations management, user access and facilities and education.
            The funds are used by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation for a wide range of important activities, including the purchase and maintenance of wildlife management areas, construction of fish hatcheries, research laboratories and user facilities, surveying and managing fish and wildlife populations, training volunteer instructors and educating young hunters and anglers in safe firearms handling, water safety, fish and wildlife resources and ethics afield.
 
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Lake Record Fish weekly tracker now provided to Wildlife News subscribers
            With prime fishing season underway across the state, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s new Lake Record Fish Program is exploding with action. Nearly a dozen lake records have been caught and certified since the program’s Feb. 1 kick-off, and some records have been broken twice in just a matter of days.
            Canton Lake, for example, produced an 8.8-lb. walleye for Oklahoma City angler Flynn King March 9, and on March 14 produced a 9.2-lb. walleye for Jim Sweetwood of Norman. And though it was not a lake record, an 8.1-lb. walleye also was caught at Canton March 14 by Terry Duncan of Higgins, Texas.
            “New lake records just keep coming in,” said Greg Summers, fisheries research lab supervisor for the Wildlife Department.
            And though the Lake Record Fish program is brand new, Summers said it is no coincidence that this time of year is yielding so many records at lakes across the state.
            “If there is any time of year for the fishing to be good, it’s now through the next several weeks,” Summers said. “The Lake Records program is proving it. If people want in on some of the best fishing of the year, they better get out there.”
            To keep sportsmen informed, the Wildlife Department is providing a weekly Lake Record Fish program update in its weekly news release, showing all record fish caught and certified during the previous week. This resource is provided in addition to an extensive online database showing all lake record fish information on the Wildlife Department’s Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.
            To see the complete database of all lake record fish caught, or to learn more about the Lake Record Fish program, log on to the Wildlife Department’s Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.
 
LAKE RECORDS CAUGHT AND CERTIFIED MARCH 9 TO MARCH 16
 
Canton Lake
Walleye/Saugeye
Weight: 8.8 lbs.
Angler: Flynn King
Date: March 9
Bait: Hard baits/plugs
Photo link: http://lake-record.ou.edu/fishsite/public/fishView.php?id=385

 
Canton Lake
Walleye/Saugeye
Weight: 9.2 lbs.
Angler: Jim Sweetwood
Date: March 14
Bait: Hard baits/plugs
Photo link: http://lake-record.ou.edu/fishsite/public/fishView.php?id=403

 
Keystone Lake
Crappie
Weight:  2.3 lbs.
Angler: Mark Payne
Date: March 10
Bait: Jig
Photo link: http://lake-record.ou.edu/fishsite/public/fishView.php?id=387


 
Texoma Lake
Crappie
Weight: 2.6 lbs.
Angler: Michael Roger
Date: March 8
Bait: Jig
Photo link: http://lake-record.ou.edu/fishsite/public/fishView.php?id=389

 
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Wildlife Department Youth Camp exposes teens to career opportunities
            Youth interested in attending the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s annual Wildlife Youth Camp still have time to apply, and those that attend may just discover a future career.
             Held at OU Biological Station near Lake Texoma, the camp is open to Oklahoma youths ages 14 to 16 and is designed to increase awareness of protecting and managing Oklahoma's wildlife resources, but participants over the years have even found the camp beneficial in helping choose a wildlife-related career for their future. Prime examples include Spencer Grace and Robin Pugh, both game wardens for the Wildlife Department who also attended the very first Department Youth Camp as teenagers 10 years ago.
            The free camp is slated this year for June 2-6 and offers teenagers a unique glimpse of what it is like to be a wildlife professional, but perhaps the most appealing part is the experience they get in a number of activities ranging from rifle and shotgun training to wildlife identification, wildlife law enforcement, wildlife and fisheries biology, wildlife management, self-defense, ropes and rappelling. Just ask Grace or Pugh, and they will tell you the same thing. In fact, when asked what their favorite part of the camp was 10 years ago, they both said it was the hands-on learning opportunities and time spent with game wardens. Not only that, but attending the camp helped confirm their already growing interest in wildlife-related professions.
            “Getting hands-on experience in the field helped solidify my desire for a career in law enforcement,” Pugh said.
            Pugh, who currently is stationed in Tillman County, had already spent the majority of her life around the outdoors and was leaning toward pursuing a career as a game warden, but getting to work with professionals in resolving various staged outdoor scenarios and being encouraged to discuss how situations should be handled in a day in the life of a game warden helped her choose a career path.
            Grace, now stationed in Osage County, agrees, saying the Youth Camp “creates a desire to want to learn more” about various careers the Wildlife Department offers, and if nothing else, it’s just plain fun to participate in all the activities available at the camp, whether it is shooting or another outdoor activity.
            “What kid would not enjoy that?” Grace asked.
            Pugh, who learned about the Youth Camp when her parents read about it in the newspaper, said the weeklong event has a way of opening the eyes of youth to how diverse the game warden position can be, and it also lets participants see just how many other job options there are in wildlife fields. She said if a youth is at all interested in wildlife, the camp is for them.
            “It’s free, and you are going to find out exactly what’s out there,” she said. “It’s a fun week out of the summer.”
            The camp will be limited to 35 youth. Applicants should be interested in fish and wildlife management or law enforcement and must submit a 75-word essay explaining why they want to attend the camp, why they believe they should be selected and what they expect to learn while attending. They must also submit a letter of recommendation from a person of their choice other than a family member and a photograph of a recent outdoor-related event or activity.
            Applications will be accepted until April 18, and applicants must turn 14 prior to June 2, 2008. Tell a youth they can get an application by logging on to the Wildlife Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com

They simply need to print off the application, fill it out and mail it in with the essay, letter of recommendation and photograph to: Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Law Enforcement Division Youth Camp, P.O. Box 53465 Oklahoma City, OK 73152.
            For Pugh and Grace, the Youth Camp was fun, but it helped them gain a better understanding of conservation and a clearer vision for their futures. And for Pugh, the experience has come full circle, as she is signed up to help with this year’s youth camp for her first time. She expects the camp to be very rewarding, and who knows, she might be just the right person to inspire a future wildlife professional.
 
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Time running out to submit images to Outdoor Oklahoma
            Oklahomans with a digital camera and an interest in the outdoors may just see their work published in this years Annual Reader’s Photography Showcase edition of Outdoor Oklahoma magazine but they better act fast. Submissions will no longer be accepted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation after March 31.
            Last year’s competition marked the first all digital Reader’s Photography Showcase.
            “We are encouraging everybody who enjoys the outdoors in Oklahoma to make a submission this year,” said Nels Rodefeld, editor of Outdoor Oklahoma. “Photos can be of anything related to the outdoor heritage in Oklahoma, such as shots of wildlife, birds, insects, landscape and people enjoying hunting and angling trips or even watching bird feeders in their own backyards. We just want to see how people participate in Oklahoma’s great outdoors.”
             Although the editors of Outdoor Oklahoma encourage readers to submit images including a variety of outdoor-related subjects, the magazine has been focusing on “faces in the outdoors” to show hunters, anglers, kids and other outdoor enthusiasts enjoying the outdoors.
            Each participant may submit up to five digital images. Each submission must include a description of the photo, including the location taken, names and hometowns of subjects and what it took to get just the right shot. Photos should be in sharp focus, and images should be at least 300 dpi (dots per inch). The canvas size should be about 8 inches by 11 inches. Slides and print images will not be accepted.
Hopeful photographers can mail a disk to: "Outdoor Oklahoma" magazine, Oklahoma Dept. of Wildlife Conservation, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152.
            Individuals can subscribe to “Outdoor Oklahoma” by calling 1-800-777-0019. Subscriptions are just $10 for one year, $18 for two years, or $25 for three years. You can also subscribe over the Internet by logging on to the Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Gobbler season opens April 6; hunters allowed multiple birds a day
            April 6 marks the first day of spring turkey season in Oklahoma, and thousands of hunters will make their way in to the woods for another year of hunting.
            The season runs through May 6 and is open to shotgun and archery equipment. Youth spring turkey season is open March 29-30, giving youth a unique opportunity to hunt during their own season. For regulations, specific firearms and archery requirements and a state map showing individual county bag limits, consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide.”
            Oklahoma is home to two main subspecies of wild turkeys — the Rio Grande and the Eastern — but occasionally the Merriam subspecies can be found in the far western edge of the Panhandle. According to biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, hunters should be successful during turkey season in areas across the state.
            “Rio Grande turkey populations are in really good shape,” said Rod Smith, southwest region wildlife supervisor for the Wildlife Department. “In most parts of the state, last summer’s flooding didn’t impact turkey populations like we thought it would, and hunters should be able to find plenty of birds to hunt.”
            According to Smith, though, hunters should not rely on areas where they saw turkeys during deer season to be successful this spring, but instead should pay attention to what the birds are doing now.
            “Now is the time to start watching for birds, because the areas where you see them now will be the same places you will find them during turkey season,” Smith said.
            Jack Waymire, southeast region senior biologist for the Department, said a good approach for hunters in southeast Oklahoma is to look for turkeys in the same places they saw them last spring.
            “The birds have been in larger flocks and are just now breaking up for the breeding season,” Waymire said. “Turkey hunting makes for a great experience, so hunters need to get out and enjoy this spring season.”
            The wild turkey in Oklahoma is part of an enormous conservation success story. In the 1920s, wild turkeys were very rare in Oklahoma and all across the nation. Overharvest from market hunting, timbering for construction of homesteads, land use changes and market logging in Oklahoma’s early years took a toll on the wild turkey, but a stocking program by the Wildlife Department in the late 1940s helped re-establish the wild turkey to its former range across the state.
            Today, turkeys are so plentiful that huntable populations exist in all 77 counties. Every county in Oklahoma has either a one- or two-tom season limit, and an eight-county region in southeast Oklahoma has a combined two-tom season limit. However, persistent hunters can harvest up to their season limit of three tom turkeys in one day, but individual county limits still apply.
            To hunt turkeys, sportsmen need an appropriate state hunting license and fishing and hunting legacy permit as well as a turkey license, unless exempt. Upon harvesting a turkey, all annual license holders are required to complete the “Record of Game” section on the license form, and all hunters, even lifetime license holders, must attach their name and hunting license number to their turkey as soon as it is harvested. Only toms, or bearded turkeys, may be taken during the spring season.
            First-time hunters who purchased an apprentice-designated hunting license for deer season can do the same thing for the upcoming 2008 spring turkey season. They simply need to purchase their 2008 apprentice-designated license, a turkey license and a fishing and hunting legacy permit, then be ready for the April 6 turkey season opener.
            Apprentice-designated hunting licenses allow individuals ages 16-35 who have not completed a hunter education course to purchase a license and hunt under the supervision of a qualified licensed adult hunter. Resident youth under 16 and non-residents under 14 are not required to have a hunting license, but they are required to have a turkey license. Youth who have completed a hunter education course can purchase a turkey license and hunt unaccompanied (except for during the youth turkey season, when they must be accompanied by an adult age 18 or older). Resident youth under 16 and non-residents under 14 who have not completed a hunter education course can purchase a turkey license, but it will have an apprentice designation and they must be accompanied by a qualified licensed adult hunter. For requirements on who must accompany apprentice hunters in the field, or for more information about the spring turkey season, consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or log on to the Wildlife Department’s Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.
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New Oklahoma Water Atlas offered free to the public
            Whether your idea of fun is setting up in a duck blind at first light, an afternoon of water-skiing or catching a big bass as the sun sets, you need one thing – water, and lots of it. And thanks to the new Oklahoma Water Atlas, it is now easier than ever to decide where to go next to pursue your favorite hobby on the water.
            The Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB), with support from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, has produced the most useful water-related publication to come off the presses in years. The new Oklahoma Water Atlas includes 146 detailed lake maps containing comprehensive recreational information, such as boat ramps, water depths, road maps and other important features.
            “This free publication is certainly a book that every angler and boater will want to have,” said Barry Bolton, chief of fisheries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “There is really a wealth of information in the book from groundwater maps to historical rainfall statistics to the history of fishing in Oklahoma.”
            The book’s 190 pages and 11” x 14” size is packed full of color maps and images.
            “Oklahoma is blessed with so many unique water resources,” said Brian Vance, director of information for the OWRB. “What’s special about the Water Atlas is that it showcases our many lakes and rivers all in one book.”
            The book was created by the Water Board, and published in partnership with the Wildlife Department, which provided funds through the Sport Fish Restoration program grant number F-76-O. Fishing tackle as well as boat trolling motors and fishing-related equipment are subject to special federal excise taxes that help fund conservation efforts around the country. Additionally, federal fuel taxes attributed to motorboats are directed toward conservation.
            The federal government collects these taxes from manufacturers, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service administers and disburses the funds to state fish and wildlife agencies such as the Wildlife Department. Anglers and boaters ultimately pay these taxes through the purchase of products. These same groups benefit from the funds as states must spend the money on fishing and boating-related projects.
            “The Oklahoma Water Atlas is a great example of a Sport Fish Restoration Program project,” Bolton said. “I’m confident this book will greatly improve the access to information anglers and boaters need to spend a weekend at the lake with their family.”
            Sport Fish Restoration funds are used by the Wildlife Department for a wide range of other important activities, including the construction of fish hatcheries, research laboratories, managing fish populations and educating young anglers.
            The Oklahoma Water Resources Board was created in 1957 and now directs staff in many areas, including the administration of permits for the beneficial use of stream and groundwater, studies of the quality and quantity of water resources, oversight of nonfederal dam safety, encouragement of responsible floodplain management, monitoring of stream flows and groundwater levels, administration of loans and grants to communities to assist in the construction of water and wastewater facilities, identification of pollution sources, and restoration of water quality. Late last year, the OWRB also initiated the update of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan, which will be completed in 2011.
            Individuals can pick up a free Water Atlas at the Wildlife Department headquarters located at 1801 N. Lincoln in Oklahoma City or at the OWRB’s Oklahoma City office, 3800 N. Classen Blvd, 73118. Water Atlases may also be picked up any of the four OWRB branch offices: Lawton, 601 "C" Avenue, Suite 101, (580)248-7762; Tulsa, State Agencies Building, 440 S. Houston, Room 2, (918)581-2924; McAlester, 321 S. 3rd St. Suite 5, (918)426-5435; and Woodward, 2411 Williams Avenue, Suite 116, (580)256-1014
            To have a book mailed to your home, send a $6 check or money order (for postage and handling) made payable to “OWRB” to Oklahoma Water Resources Board Main Office 3800 N. Classen Oklahoma City, OK 73118.
            For more information about the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, log on to owrb.ok.gov. For more information about the fishing in Oklahoma, log on to the Wildlife Department’s Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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