DECEMBER 2008 NEWS RELEASES

WEEK OF DECEMBER 24, 2008  

WEEK OF DECEMBER 18, 2008

 

WEEK OF DECEMBER 11, 2008

 

WEEK OF DECEMBER 4, 2008

 

Wildlife Department director announces retirement; assistant director to assume role
            Longtime Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Director Greg Duffy announced his retirement at the December 1 meeting of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission. He has served in the position for more than 15 years. The Commission voted unanimously to appoint Richard Hatcher, assistant director of the Department, to assume the role of director upon Duffy’s retirement, slated for early July 2009.
            The longest tenured director in Wildlife Department history and one of the longest tenured directors in the nation, Duffy has led the Department through a vast number of landmark changes that have impacted wildlife management as well as the future of hunting and fishing in Oklahoma.
            During Duffy’s tenure, the Wildlife Department has acquired over 105,000 acres of land for public hunting and fishing access, among them Hackberry Flat, Cimarron Bluff, Cimarron Hills and Drummond Flats WMAs and the Lower Illinois River Public Fishing and Hunting Areas. Other unique partnerships started under Duffy’s leadership has led to the opening of tens of thousands of acres of public land at Honobia Creek, Three Rivers and Cucumber Creek wildlife management areas in southeast Oklahoma. Significant wetland projects were initiated and completed, including projects such as Hackberry Flat, Billy Creek, Walker Creek, Oilton, Deep Fork/Harold Stuart and Deep Fork/Swift Bottoms.
            Additionally, antlerless deer hunting and youth deer and turkey hunting opportunities have expanded significantly, leading to several record deer harvest years during Duffy’s time as director and new opportunities to spread the tradition of hunting. Other hunting opportunities have been expanded, including season lengths and bag limits on deer, turkey and other species, and special emphasis has been placed on helping private landowners improve their properties for fish and wildlife conservation.
            In fisheries, numerous stocking programs and renovation projects have been completed over the last 15 years, including award winning trout habitat projects and wintertime trout fishing establishments, black bass bag limit expansions and more. The Department’s Close to Home Fishing program has grown and expanded to offer first class fishing opportunities for urban-dwelling families, and the Department has continued to enhance and improve fisheries in lakes, rivers and streams across the state. Additional landmarks in fisheries management have been achieved, including the establishment of the Department’s paddlefish research and processing center and the natural reproduction of rainbow and brown trout in Oklahoma streams.
            Duffy has also played a role in increasing the Department’s focus on educating and informing constituents on the value of hunting and fishing for conservation in Oklahoma. Examples of expanded educational opportunities during Duffy’s tenure include providing better availability and delivery of the Department’s Hunter Education program and the annual Oklahoma Wildlife Expo, which is one of the largest wildlife expos in the nation that draws tens of thousands of Oklahomans each year for a weekend of outdoor activities. Additionally, Duffy has helped ensure more and better licensing options to sportsmen in Oklahoma, which translates to more people getting out in the field and participating in the outdoors.
            “Greg Duffy has been an asset to the Wildlife Department and to the sportsmen of Oklahoma over the years,” said Bill Crawford, founder of the Hackberry Flat Foundation and former Wildlife Conservation Commissioner. “He’s been an ambassador for hunters, anglers and wildlife, and while Oklahoma’s outdoor traditions have always been strong, it’s clear that our sporting heritage is that much better since Greg has been a part of it.”
            Duffy came on board with the Wildlife Department in 1971 as an hourly worker at the Durant State Fish Hatchery. He was hired full-time in 1974 as a waterfowl biologist, and in 1977, he began work as a wildlife and lands biologist for Eufaula, McClellan-Kerr Navigation System, Fort Gibson and Okmulgee wildlife management areas. He has served the Department in an administrative capacity since 1979 when he took on the position of assistant chief of the wildlife division. He was promoted to chief in 1988 and director in 1993.
            Duffy is a 1969 graduate of Lomega High School. He received a Bachelor’s degree in wildlife management from Southeast Oklahoma State University in 1973.
            “I want to extend my thanks to the Commission for their support of me throughout my years as director,” Duffy said. “I also would like to express my appreciation for all of the great executive staff and field staff at the Department whose work has made my time as director so enjoyable.”
            The Commission voted to appoint Richard Hatcher, assistant director of the Wildlife Department, to assume the position of director upon Duffy’s retirement.
            “The Wildlife Department’s employees are the best at what they do and they are great to work with,” Hatcher said. “I know there will be challenges to face in the future, and I look forward to a smooth transition in the coming months. I am confident we can continue to build upon our success.”
 
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Wildlife Department honored for major fisheries renovation project
            The American Fisheries Society recently honored the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation with the “Sport Fish Restoration Outstanding Project of the Year Award” for its renovation of the Evening Hole and Lost Creek areas of the Lower Mountain Fork River.
            The award, presented to the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission at its December meeting, was given based on sport fisheries development and management.
            The Evening Hole was once a wide, shallow water area that was susceptible to summer heat and provided little in-stream habitat, such as logs and boulders, to serve as points of concentration for trout to wait in ambush for passing insects. After draining the water from the Evening Hole, heavy equipment was used to place hundreds of tons of rock into the streambed to help shape a narrower, swifter-flowing stream. Using extensive stream research and knowledge of trout habitat, Wildlife Department biologists and personnel carefully embedded huge logs and rocks into the streambed. The end result was a faster-flowing stream with cooler water conditions and ideal habitat for trout. During renovations, a nearby 1,200 ft. long stretch of wooded area, now Lost Creek, was converted into a trout stream that empties into the Evening Hole. Ambitious trout stocking efforts since the completion of renovations have kept the area a hot spot destination for anglers from Oklahoma and elsewhere.
            The “Sport Fish Restoration Outstanding Project of the Year” award is one of several Sport Fish Restoration project awards intended to recognize excellence in fisheries management, research and education as well as emphasize the success of the Sport Fish Restoration program.
            Since 1950 the Sport Fish Restoration program has contributed about $3 billion to improving sport fishing and boating opportunities in the United States. Funding for the program is derived from special federal excise taxes on certain fishing gear, boats and motor fuel and then distributed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to state wildlife agencies such as the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation for fisheries improvements.
            “We think it’s really important that we identify and showcase outstanding uses of those Sport Fish Restoration dollars,” said Don Gablehouse, president of the Fisheries Administration Section of the American Fisheries Society, who presented the award to the Commission.
            The Commission also approved a resolution to work with the University of Central Oklahoma to develop archery facilities at the Wildlife Department’s Arcadia Lake Conservation Education Area. The facility will be part of a memorandum of understanding between the Department and UCO to work together in developing interest and participation in the sport of archery. The project will include an outdoor Olympic archery practice range for the University’s Paralympic athletes, and in the future, indoor archery training and shooting facilities at the Arcadia Lake Conservation Education Area.
            “This is a great opportunity to strengthen our partnership with UCO and to work toward common goals,” said Nels Rodefeld, information and education chief for the Wildlife Department. “This Olympic-caliber facility will also be a great compliment to the Wildlife Department’s Oklahoma Archery in the Schools program.”
            The Arcadia Lake Conservation Education Area is a unique property located in central Oklahoma that offers opportunities for fishing, wildlife viewing and more. Development and construction of a 7,000-sq.-ft. multi-purpose building on the area grounds is in progress and will be used for a number of educational and recreational purposes such as hunter education, aquatic education and wetland education. Additionally, a wetland boardwalk and outdoor teaching facility will provide educational opportunities as well as increased public access in the future for walk-in fishing access, wildlife viewing and nature hiking.
            The Commission also heard a presentation from Greg Summers, fisheries research lab supervisor for the Wildlife Department, explaining the results of the Department’s recent senior citizens licensing outreach campaign. The campaign was designed to inform senior citizens of the value of the senior citizen license and recruit senior citizens as lifetime sportsmen and conservationists.
            Summers called the campaign a success and reported an increase of more than 3,000 lifetime senior citizen combination hunting and fishing license purchases as a result of a direct mailing effort to inform sportsmen about the license. According to Summers, that increase equates to a 34 percent increase over the course of a five-year average. The $10 combination license helps the Wildlife Department through direct sales as well as potential federal funding in the future. The Commission approved a budget increase of $12,000 for the second year of the campaign.
            Additionally, the Commission approved an emergency rule to establish spring turkey season for 2009 on the Wildlife Department’s recently acquired Cimarron Hills Wildlife Management Area, a 3,770-acre area in Woods Co.
            In other business, after 35 years of service to the Wildlife Department and over 15 years as director of the Department, Greg Duffy announced his retirement to the Commission, to be effective in early July.
            “I want to extend my thanks to the Commission for their support of me throughout my years as director,” Duffy said. “I also would like to express my appreciation for all of the great executive staff and field staff at the Department whose work has made my time as director so enjoyable.”
            The Commission voted to appoint Richard Hatcher, assistant director of the Wildlife Department, to assume the position of director upon Duffy’s retirement.
            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. Jan. 5 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters (auditorium), located at the southwest corner of 18th and North Lincoln, Oklahoma City.
 
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Senior citizens fish and hunt for life, conserve wildlife for future generations through $10 license
            More and more senior citizens are taking advantage of an opportunity to become a licensed hunter and angler for life — and to leave a legacy of conservation for future generations — by purchasing a lifetime senior citizen combination hunting and fishing license.
            More than 3,000 senior citizens bought a $10 lifetime senior citizen combination license during the last fiscal year in response to a recent outreach campaign by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation designed to inform seniors of the special license. According to Greg Summers, fisheries research lab supervisor for the Wildlife Department, the increase in sales equates to a 34-percent increase over the previous five-year average. Additionally, sales of the lifetime senior citizen license helps the Wildlife Department through direct sales as well as potential federal funding in the future.
            “When a senior citizen purchases the lifetime senior citizen combination license, they benefit from having the privilege to hunt and fish for life, and the Wildlife Department benefits by counting that individual as a sportsmen when applying for critical Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration Program grants, which make up just as much of the Wildlife Department’s revenue as hunting and fishing license sales,” said Andrea Crews, responsive management senior biologist for the Wildlife Department. “That $10 goes a long way in securing conservation and outdoor traditions for future generations.”
            Funding for the Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration Program is derived from special federal excise taxes on sporting goods such as hunting and fishing gear, boats and motor fuel. The funds are distributed to state wildlife agencies by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
            The lifetime senior citizen combination hunting and fishing license may be purchased by senior citizens who will turn 64 years old or older during the current calendar year. Residents or former residents under 65 years of age possessing the senior citizen license are exempt from the purchase of the annual hunting license, the Legacy permit, one deer gun license, one controlled hunt deer gun permit, HIP requirements and the fur license.
            Upon reaching age 65, possessors of the senior citizen license are exempt from the annual hunting license, the Legacy permit, holiday antlerless deer gun season license, one controlled hunt deer gun permit, Oklahoma waterfowl license, HIP requirements, the fur license and two deer gun licenses. These two deer gun licenses are not good for muzzleloader or archery seasons. Senior citizen license holders who wish to kill their third deer during deer gun season must purchase an additional deer gun license.
            Holders of the senior citizen license are not exempt from the purchase of deer archery licenses, deer primitive firearms licenses, controlled hunts deer archery and primitive firearms permits, elk licenses, antelope licenses, turkey licenses, federal duck stamps, federal sandhill crane permits or the trapping license.
            The Wildlife Department attributes the increase in sales of the lifetime senior citizen combination hunting and fishing license to a direct mail outreach campaign that was a special effort to reach senior citizens. The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission, the governing board of the Wildlife Department, approved a budget increase of $12,000 at its December meeting for a second year of the campaign.
            Senior citizens also have the option of purchasing a $6 lifetime senior citizen hunting license or $6 senior citizen fishing license. License applications are available through the Wildlife Department’s Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.
            For more information about hunting or fishing licenses in Oklahoma, log on to wildlifedepartment.com or call (405) 521-3852.
 
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Hunters enjoy upswing in quail populations
            Reports from hunters say 2008 is proving to be a good year to be a quail hunter. In fact, hunters are reporting better hunting than they have enjoyed in a long time.
            This summer’s weather has for the most part been favorable for quail reproduction, and reports from landowners and biologists in the field indicate that quail populations are improving across the state from a near record low population in 2007.
            According to biologists, the quail population in Oklahoma appears to be in recovery mode from drought conditions in 2006, and some hunters and guides that have spent time in the field agree.
            Reports from hunters range from sightings of three to seven coveys a day on public land to even more on some private lands. Additionally, good numbers of birds per covey have been reported.
            Quail hunting guide Gordon Thomas, who operates the Washita Hunting Camp in Roger Mills Co., said his groups of hunters have typically been finding about eight coveys a day. He said hunting this season has been better than expected and expects it to get even better with increased moisture to help scenting conditions for dogs.
            “The birds have made a remarkable comeback in two years,” Thomas said.
            Thomas said hunters with his outfit have harvested 160 birds so far this season.
            Weekend hunters also have positive reports from the field. Brandon Cary, Yukon, hunted over Thanksgiving near his hometown of Hollis, and while his group found about six coveys in several hours of hunting over the course of two mornings, they noted high numbers of birds per covey.
            Wade Free, northwest region wildlife supervisor for the Wildlife Department and avid quail hunter, said quail hunting activity usually dies down somewhat around deer gun season and then picks up strong again afterward, but that those sportsmen who spent time chasing quail early in the season reported good success.
            Free said windy dry conditions typical of November may have slowed dog work so far this season, but that better hunting weather often common later in the season could benefit hunters.
            Free said that, along with good numbers of quail, this year hunters may run into exceptionally high crops of sandburs in typical quail hunting habitat, and he advises that hunters pack along a set dog boots in case sandbur conditions become a hindrance for working dogs.
            Quail season opened Nov. 8 and runs through Feb. 15. The daily limit is 10 birds, with no more than 20 in possession after the first day.
             Quail hunting is popular in Oklahoma for several reasons, among them the lengthy season and opportunities to hunt with family and friends while enjoying plenty of wingshooting at the same time. Additionally, only a hunting license and fishing and hunting legacy permit is needed to go afield.
            To learn more about quail hunting in Oklahoma, or to purchase a hunting license, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Holidays mean additional antlerless deer hunting opportunities for sportsmen
            Hunters having withdrawals now that deer gun season is over will be happy to know that, for the seventh year in a row, they will have an additional six days of antlerless deer gun hunting during the holidays.
            The season dates will be right before the Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays — Dec. 19-21 and Dec. 26-28. Most of the state will be open to antlerless hunting those days, excluding most of the panhandle and portions of southeast Oklahoma. For a map of Oklahoma’s antlerless deer hunt zones and to see which counties will be open for the antlerless season, consult page 21 of the “2008-09 Oklahoma Hunting Guide.”
            “The holiday antlerless deer season is a good chance to get more venison in the freezer as well as have a good time with family during the holidays,” said Jerry Shaw, big game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “Additionally, it helps the Wildlife Department accomplish some important deer harvest objectives.”
            Shaw said the cool weather the state has been experiencing may increase deer use of agricultural fields during the antlerless season, which could help hunters see more deer while afield.
            With deer muzzleloader and deer gun season behind them and archery season open through Jan. 15, hunters have been having a successful season both on public and private land across the state. Prior to deer gun season, harvest numbers were up from last year and deer gun season proved successful for hunters as well.
            To participate in the holiday antlerless deer gun season, resident hunters must possess a valid hunting license and a fishing and hunting legacy permit, unless exempt, as well as a holiday antlerless deer gun license. Resident lifetime hunting or combination license holders are exempt from purchasing these licenses. Resident youth hunters 16 or 17 years old must purchase a hunting license, and a $10 youth holiday antlerless deer gun license is available for all youth under 18 years of age.
             Nonresident deer hunters are exempt from a hunting license, but they must possess a nonresident holiday antlerless deer gun license and a fishing and hunting legacy permit or proof of exemption. Nonresident lifetime license holders are not exempt from purchasing deer licenses.
            In addition, hunters participating in the holiday antlerless deer season must comply with the hunter orange requirements for the regular deer gun season. Archery hunters and those hunting most other species in open holiday antlerless zones must wear either a hunter orange hat or upper garment while hunting.
            To learn more about this year’s antlerless deer season, refer to the “2007-08 Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or log on to www.wildlifedepartment.com

 
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Winter Bird Feeder Survey offers chance to help conservation
            Providing food for wintering birds is popular in Oklahoma in both urban and rural areas, and people in both places can help the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation monitor the state’s birds this winter.
            By participating in the Wildlife Department’s 2009 Winter Bird Feeder Survey, Oklahomans can help accomplish more in just a few days than biologists could accomplish on their own.
            “To participate, all bird watchers have to do is choose any two days between Jan. 8-11 to count birds at their backyard feeders,” said Melynda Hickman, wildlife diversity biologist for the Wildlife Department. “Since there are so many people across the state who provide food to wintering birds, the information they can collect can be very useful to us.”
            Hundreds of households have participated in the feeder survey in years past, and the results can help the Department better understand bird ranges and populations, as well as help them foresee conservation needs.
            The survey includes counting birds at backyard feeders at least four times a day for two days during the survey dates and completing a form provided by the Wildlife Department. For detailed instructions and to take the survey, log on to the Wildlife Department’s Winter Bird Feeder Survey Web site at www.okwinterbirds.com  as the survey period approaches. The Web site is an extensive bird-watching resource, providing information such as bird identification tips, diets, feeding behaviors and winter ranges as well as links to other birding Web sites. The site also provides detailed recipes that bird watchers can follow for making healthy, beneficial bird attractants that will draw birds to their yards.
            Anyone who has a bird feeder can participate in the 2009 Winter Bird Feeder Survey, but certain efforts can be made to attract more birds to feeders. Black-oil sunflower seed is a good choice for bird feeders because of its high nutritional value that birds can use during the winter and because virtually all seed-eating Oklahoma songbirds will eat it. Suet cakes, animal fat that is sometimes mixed with grains or peanut butter, are good for drawing in species such as woodpeckers and birds that do not primarily eat seeds. Finally, a source of water and cover such as brush piles or dense shrubs located near the feeders help to draw more birds.
            Some of the unusual birds at feeders during the 2008 Winter Bird Feeder Survey included the ladder-backed woodpecker, snow bunting, black-headed grosbeak and even a ring-necked pheasant. Other interesting species that were found in yards included the American kestrel, Cooper’s hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, greater roadrunner, wild turkey, bald eagle, barred owl, turkey vulture, yellow-rumped warbler and loggerhead shrike.
 
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H&H Gun Range to host free hunter education instructor workshops
            Sportsmen who want to pass on the tradition of hunting have an opportunity to educate the next generation of hunters.
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has announced the dates for its 2009 hunter education workshops to be held free of charge at H&H Gun Range Shooting Sports Outlet in Oklahoma City.
             “Volunteer instructors are crucial to the success of our hunter education classes statewide,” said Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Wildlife Department. “We also rely heavily on our partners like H&H.  We couldn’t get hunter education done without the involvement of our community.”
            Miles Hall, founder of H&H Gun Range Shooting Sports Outlet, looks forward to hosting the workshops and adding to the number of Oklahoma hunters.
            “Having helped teach thousands of hunters in the past, we’re looking to build our base of instructors in anticipation of teaching thousands more,” Hall said.
            Volunteer instructors teach and assist in numerous classes throughout the state each year, making hunter education more readily available for more Oklahomans. Volunteers help set up and teach classes, assist other instructors and represent the Wildlife Department and sportsmen of the state.
            Annually, the Wildlife Department certifies approximately 15,000 new sportsmen and women to enjoy Oklahoma’s great hunting opportunities.
            According to Meek, the most important quality for a volunteer instructor is to be a safe and ethical hunter, but there are also a few steps to becoming certified, such as attending a workshop and receiving a background check.
            “Now is a good time of the year to start the process of becoming a hunter education instructor,” Meek said. “There is plenty of time to work through the process of becoming an instructor before our busiest time of year in the Fall, and there is time to gain confidence and learn everything you need to know to teach hunter education.”
            To become a volunteer instructor, contact Lance Meek at lmeek@odwc.state.ok.us
or call (405) 522-4572.
            Workshops are scheduled for Feb. 7, June 13, Aug. 8, and Dec. 12, 2009, at H&H Gun Range, located at the I-40 and Meridian area in Oklahoma City (400 S. Vermont, Suite 110).
            For more information about hunter education in Oklahoma, log on to www.wildlifedepartment.com


 
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Public input wanted for 2009-10 Oklahoma Waterfowl Stamp
            The 2009-2010 Oklahoma waterfowl stamp design competition is underway and Oklahomans are needed to help select the winning artwork. Oklahomans have until the end of December to make their way to the Oklahoma History Center, located just east of the state capitol, to voice their opinion on their favorite art.
            “This contest is a great tradition, and it has become even better over the last two years since the public started helping select the winners,” said Micah Holmes, information supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “This year’s waterfowl stamp design contest is a great compliment to the Field, Forest & Stream exhibit currently on display at the History Center. You can see the future waterfowl stamp art and our past conservation history all in one place.”
            The Field, Forest & Stream exhibit displays over 2,000 square feet of historic artifacts, images and photography, audio-visual elements and hands-on interaction relating to the outdoors in Oklahoma. Visitors to the exhibit also can view taxidermy dioramas as well as participate in interactive hunting and noodling simulations.
            Guests to the visitor center receive $1 off admission when they show an Oklahoma hunting or fishing license.
            For more information about the Oklahoma History Center, call (405) 522-0765 or visit okhistorycenter.org.
            Duck stamp sales help finance many projects that benefit ducks and geese. Since the duck stamp program began in 1980, thousands of acres of waterfowl habitat have been created through duck stamp revenues.
            In addition to consideration of public input, entries are judged on anatomical accuracy, artistic composition and suitability for printing. The winner and honorable mentions also will appear in a future issue of Outdoor Oklahoma magazine.
            A selection of waterfowl stamp art from previous years is currently on display in the lobby of the Wildlife Department headquarters located at 1801 N. Lincoln, in Oklahoma City.
            Prints of previous winning waterfowl artwork from 1996-2007 can be purchased at http://www.wildlifedepartment.com

 


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Holidays mean additional antlerless deer hunting opportunities for sportsmen
            Hunters having withdrawals now that deer gun season is over will be happy to know that, for the seventh year in a row, they will have an additional six days of antlerless deer gun hunting during the holidays.
            The season dates will be right before the Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays — Dec. 19-21 and Dec. 26-28. Most of the state will be open to antlerless hunting those days, excluding most of the panhandle and portions of southeast Oklahoma. For a map of Oklahoma’s antlerless deer hunt zones and to see which counties will be open for the holiday antlerless deer gun season, consult page 21 of the “2008-09 Oklahoma Hunting Guide.”
            “The holiday antlerless deer season is a good chance to get more venison in the freezer as well as have a good time with family during the holidays,” said Jerry Shaw, big game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “Additionally, it helps the Wildlife Department accomplish some important deer harvest objectives.”
            Shaw said the cool weather the state has been experiencing may increase deer use of agricultural fields during the antlerless season, which could help hunters see more deer while afield.
            With deer muzzleloader and deer gun season behind them and archery season open through Jan. 15, hunters have been having a successful season both on public and private land across the state. Following deer gun season, preliminary harvest numbers were up 16 percent from last year.
            To participate in the holiday antlerless deer gun season, resident hunters must possess a valid hunting license and a fishing and hunting legacy permit, unless exempt, as well as a holiday antlerless deer gun license. Resident lifetime hunting or combination license holders are exempt from purchasing these licenses. Resident youth hunters 16 or 17 years old must purchase a hunting license, and a $10 youth holiday antlerless deer gun license is available for all youth under 18 years of age.
             Nonresident deer hunters are exempt from a hunting license, but they must possess a nonresident holiday antlerless deer gun license and a fishing and hunting legacy permit or proof of exemption. Nonresident lifetime license holders are not exempt from purchasing deer licenses.
            In addition, hunters participating in the holiday antlerless deer season must comply with the hunter orange requirements for the regular deer gun season. Archery hunters and those hunting most other species in open holiday antlerless zones must wear either a hunter orange hat or upper garment while hunting.
            To learn more about this year’s antlerless deer season, refer to the “2007-08 Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Southwest zone to open for dove hunting Dec. 27
            The holidays have a way of bringing families and friends together, and in Oklahoma, that often means spending time afield hunting. Deer, quail, fall turkeys and small game have historically been the favorites this time of year, but for the second year in a row, hunters have an extended opportunity to hunt doves in the winter as well.
            In April 2007, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission approved a change to the state’s dove season to allow for more days to hunt doves in southwest Oklahoma. Known as the southwest zone, a portion of southwest Oklahoma was opened to winter dove hunting, offering a new opportunity to hunters looking for more days afield. The area includes both private and public land, such as the popular dove hunting destination of Hackberry Flat WMA.
            The southwest dove zone was open during the regular dove season Sept. 1-Oct. 30, 2008, but it will also be open Dec. 27, 2008 through Jan. 5, 2009, offering 10 additional days of dove hunting. The daily limit in the southwest zone is 12 doves.
            The southwest zone was established to provide additional dove hunting opportunity in an area where a number of doves winter. Hunters who take advantage of the southwest zone not only get to enjoy more days in the field, but since the season overlaps other popular seasons for game such as quail and rabbits, there is a chance hunters can bring home a mixed game bag. Additionally, southwest Oklahoma is home to a number of white-winged doves, which are far less common than mourning doves and Eurasian collared doves.
             “Hunting doves in the southwest zone adds to the opportunity to hunt during the holidays,” said Rod Smith, southwest region wildlife supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “Hunters who want extra days in the field should look for a chance to hunt the southwest zone this season.”
            Boundaries for the southwest zone start on U.S. 62 from the Texas border west of Hollis, east to Interstate 44, Interstate 44 south to OK 7, OK 7 east to U.S. 81 and U.S. 81 south to the Texas border at the Red River. The remainder of the state is considered the north zone, and regulations for that area did not change with the establishment of the southwest zone.
            To hunt doves in Oklahoma, hunters must possess a hunting license and a fishing and hunting legacy permit, or proof of exemption. In addition, all migratory bird hunters, unless otherwise exempt, must carry a Harvest Information Permit (HIP) while afield.
 
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Four Oklahoma youth win outdoor getaways through writing contest
            Youth from Vinita, Collinsville, Edmond and Leedey have been awarded outdoor getaways for winning an outdoor writing contest designed to help youth share their hunting heritage.
            Contestants in the annual youth writing contest — sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International — chose between two different topics and submitted entries to not only share their interest in the outdoors, but also to compete for a chance at a unique outdoor trip. Topic choices included “Hunting: Sharing the Heritage” or “What I like about Archery in the Schools and Bowhunting.”
            Winners in the age 11-14 category receive a scholarship to the YO Ranch Apprentice Hunter Program in Texas. They were Gibbon Simmons of Vinita and Raini Stiles of Collinsville. Winners in the age 15-17 category will receive an all-expenses-paid antelope hunt in New Mexico. They were Steven Maichak of Edmond and Randi Woodard of Leedey.
            “We received entries from students across the state, and as usual there were a number of really good essays that made the selection difficult,” said Colin Berg, education supervisor for the Wildlife Department. “It is always interesting to read about how the next generation values their hunting heritage.”
            The scholarship to the YO Ranch Apprentice Hunter Program and expenses for the antelope hunts are covered by the Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International with funds raised at the Chapter’s annual banquet.
            The youth writing competition is designed to promote America’s hunting heritage among Oklahoma’s youth. It provides them an opportunity to express the importance of hunting in their lives and to affirm their commitment to carrying on the hunting tradition. Students use the essays or short stories to relive memorable hunts, to explain why hunting is important to them and to recognize mentors who have influenced them to grow as hunters.
            The contest winners will be eligible for entry in the Norm Strung Outdoor Writers Association National Youth Essay Contest, whose winners are awarded cash prizes and scholarships.
            Students are not the only winners, however. Two educators have been awarded all-expense-paid scholarships to attend an eight-day conservation education school at Safari Club International’s American Wilderness Leadership School (AWLS) at Granite Ranch near Jackson, Wyoming. They are Josh Gwartney, who teaches and coaches at Catoosa High School, and Frank Blair, who teaches at the Owasso 8th Grade Center. 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.
            The Wildlife Department and the Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International will submit the winning essays to the National Youth Writing Contest held annually by the Outdoor Writers Association of America.
 
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Bear, antelope and elk seasons headline proposals
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will hold public hearings across the state Jan. 12, 13 and 15, 2009 to collect input from the public on proposed hunting and fishing regulation changes.
            Sportsmen are encouraged to attend and voice their opinions on proposals, which range from changes in size limits on blue catfish to opening an archery season on pronghorn antelope in portions of the Panhandle.
            Several of the proposals involve adjustments to hunting seasons and regulations both statewide and on designated wildlife management areas.
            One set of proposals would establish a black bear season in Latimer, LeFlore, McCurtain and Pushmataha counties. Under the proposal, bear season would open with deer archery season and run through deer muzzleloader season. Hunters would be required to report bear harvests, and the total season harvest would be limited to 20 bears. The use of dogs would be prohibited. Baiting would be prohibited on public land. A bear hunting license would need to be approved by the Legislature before the season is implemented.
            “This proposal is based on more than 15 years of biological data and information from responding to nuisance bear calls,” said Alan Peoples, chief of wildlife for the Wildlife Department. “Data points to a growing population of bears in Oklahoma, which is a great testament to the wildlife diversity and outstanding habitat in southeast Oklahoma. With an estimated population of as many as 500 bears in southeast Oklahoma, we’re excited about the opportunities that this renewable wildlife resource will provide for Oklahoma sportsmen.”
            Another new opportunity for sportsmen is outlined in a proposal to open a 14-day September archery season for pronghorn antelope in Cimarron Co. and that portion of Texas Co. west of Hwy 136. Licenses would be sold over-the-counter.
            “Just like with bears in southeast Oklahoma, the Panhandle’s antelope population is growing,” Peoples said. “The decision to pursue this proposal is based on years of biological data, aerial surveys and requests from landowners that tells us we have a pronghorn population that can sustain an archery season, which also creates new opportunities for our sportsmen.”
            Regarding upland game, one proposal would allow flexibility to adjust pheasant bag limits each year based on the population, which would allow for improved pheasant management capabilities and increased hunting opportunity in years of high pheasant numbers.
            “Research and data taken from annual spring and summer population surveys tell us that some years are better than others for pheasant, and by having some flexibility in our harvest limits each year, we can tailor our seasons based on the bird population,” Peoples said. “That means continued, consistent success for our hunters, too.”
            Other hunting-related proposals include the following:
 
* Creating a private lands elk season in northeast Oklahoma, including Sequoyah, Muskogee, Adair, Cherokee, Delaware and Mayes counties.
* Rita Blanca WMA: allowing archery pronghorn antelope hunting the same as statewide season dates.
* Adding language to allow for the use of mechanical broadheads during deer archery season that, when fully expanded, meet current minimum dimensions of legal broadheads for deer hunting. This would delete the requirement that broadheads legal for deer hunting must be one and a half inches in length.
* Tishomingo Wildlife Management Unit: allowing vehicle access except during deer muzzleloader and regular deer gun season and providing additional waterfowl hunting opportunities.
* Canton WMA: changing deer muzzleloader season to same as statewide season and allowing for the harvest of antlerless deer.
* Cimarron Bluff and Cimarron Hills WMAs: Establishing rules.
* Copan WMA: adding language to turkey fall archery rules reflecting one bird of either sex and opening turkey fall gun season to a one-tom limit.
* Cooper, Fort Supply and Beaver River WMAs: changing deer primitive season regulations to allow for whitetail antlerless harvest and changing deer gun season to remove controlled hunts during opening weekend.
* Fort Gibson WRP: restricting firearms to rimfire and shotgun with pellets only.
* Changing the Hulah Public Hunting Area (PHA) to a wildlife management area (WMA) and establishing a one-tom limit for turkey fall gun season and spring turkey season.
* Oologah WMA: removing the shotgun and archery only restriction on Goose Island at.
* Osage WMA Rock Creek Unit: changing turkey fall gun season and turkey spring season to a one-tom limit.
* Ouachita WMA: creating the walk-in-access-only Cucumber Creek Unit.
* Packsaddle WMA: changing deer muzzleloader season bag limits to allow for antlerless harvest and changing deer gun season to remove controlled hunts on opening weekend.
 
            Other agenda items will be open for discussion during the public hearings across the state as well. To view the complete agenda for the public hearings, log on to www.wildlifedepartment.com.
            Among the fishing-related proposals is one that would limit an angler’s daily combined channel and blue catfish limit of 15 to include only one blue catfish greater than or equal to 30 inches.
            According to fisheries biologists with the Wildlife Department, research shows that only about one percent of the population of blue catfish in Oklahoma lakes falls above 30 inches in length.
            “We want this proposal to benefit anglers and blue catfish by bringing stability to that highly sought after population of blue catfish,” said Jeff Boxrucker, assistant chief of fisheries for the Wildlife Department. “This would ensure good fishing for trophy blues for years to come.”
            Another proposal would remove the 14-inch black bass length limit at Optima Lake and add tailwaters to the list of lakes that have 14-inch minimum length limits on walleye, sauger and saugeye (Altus-Lugert, Ellsworth, Fort Cobb, Foss, Lawtonka and Murray lakes). This proposal would also add Lone Chimney Lake to the list of lakes with 14-inch black bass length limits.
            Other fishing-related items are on the public hearing agenda as well, such as making fishing “catch and release” only for impoundments on the new Cimarron Bluff WMA, allowing cast netting for shad in the Lower Illinois River designated trout areas from the south boundary of the Marval trout camp downstream to the Hwy 64 bridge, adding seining and minnow traps to the list of legal means for collecting bait for personal use and adding certain turtle species to the list of prohibited species for commercial turtle harvest.
            Those unable to attend the hearings are encouraged to send their comments by mail to: Attn: Proposed hunting and fishing regulation changes – Wildlife Department, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152 or by e-mail through www.wildlifedepartment.com . All comments are weighted equally whether received in writing or delivered at the public hearings. Comments will be accepted at this address until 4:30 p.m. Jan. 16.
            The following is a list of public hearing dates, times and locations. The public is encouraged to attend.
 
Date: Jan. 12, 2009
Time: 7 p.m.
Clinton – City Hall, 415 Gary Blvd.
Enid – Central Fire Station, 410 W. Garriott
Jenks – Tulsa Technology Center, 801 E. 91 St.
Oklahoma City – Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Auditorium, 1801 N. Lincoln Blvd.
Okmulgee – Green County Technology Center, 1100 N. Loop 56, Seminar Room B
Poteau – Kiamichi Vo-Tech, 1509 S. Mckenna
 
 
Date: Jan. 13, 2009
Time: 7 p.m.
Ada – Pontotoc Technology Center, 601 W. 33rd
Idabel – Kiamichi Vo-Tech, Intersection of Hwy 70 & 259
Lawton – Lawton Public Library, 110 SW 4th
Muskogee – Muskogee Public Library, 801 W. Okmulgee
Ponca City – Pioneer Vo-Tech, 21-1 N. Ash
Woodward – Northwest Electric, 2925 Williams Ave.
 
 
Date: Jan. 15, 2009
Time: 7 p.m.
Durant – Durant State Fish Hatchery/Caddo Regional Office, 2021 Caddo Hwy
Guymon – OSU Extension Center, 301 N. Main
Hugo – Kiamichi Tech Center, 107 S. 15th St.
 
 
Any person with special needs or who wishes to request specific accommodations in order to attend a public hearing should call the Wildlife Department headquarters at (405) 521-3851 prior to the public hearing. Public hearings are held without discrimination on the basis of political or religious opinion or affiliation, race, creed, color, gender, age, ancestry, marital status or disability.
 
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Five-year license offers expanded options to hunters and anglers
            With 2009 just days away, it’s time for sportsmen to renew their annual hunting and fishing licenses, but with that reminder comes a new opportunity to purchase a fishing, hunting or combination license that will last five years.
            “Every year we remind Oklahoma sportsmen that their annual hunting and fishing licenses need to be renewed in order for them to head to the field after the start of a new year,” said Mike Chrisman, license supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “That means different things to different people, depending on what outdoor activities they are pursuing such as trout fishing or archery hunting. For a lot of people, the new five-year hunting, fishing or combination license will be just the right choice to meet their hunting and angling license requirements.”
            Not only is this five-year hunting, fishing or combination license a nice convenience, but it’s also a money-saver. The fee for these licenses is set at $88 for a five-year fishing license, $88 for a five-year hunting license and $148 for a combination license, which also includes the five-year fishing and hunting legacy permit. Normally, hunters and anglers pay $5 each year for the legacy permit, or $25 over five years.
            “This is a $62 cost reduction for sportsmen who normally purchase a combination annual license,” said Melinda Sturgess-Streich, assistant director of administration for the Wildlife Department. “There’s no question that this is a significant savings, and we here at the Wildlife Department encourage you to take advantage of it.”
            The majority of annual hunting and fishing licenses, including deer, turkey and trout, expire Dec. 31. Sportsmen should remember to pick up their 2009 deer archery licenses to hunt for the remainder of the archery season (Jan. 1-15) or a 2009 trout license in addition to their hunting, fishing or combination license.
            Three licenses that are valid until June 30, 2009 are the harvest information program (HIP) permit and state and federal waterfowl licenses. In addition, trapping licenses expire Jan. 31. A 2009-2010 trapping license must be purchased to trap beaver, bobcat, nutria, striped skunk and coyote after Jan. 31. The fur license expires Jan. 31 for raccoon, gray/red fox and river otter and Feb. 28 for bobcat.
            All annual licenses can be purchased from the Wildlife Department’s Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com or from any license vendor statewide. The new five-year license also will be available from the Wildlife Department’s Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com, or an application can be printed off from the site and mailed to License Section, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152. Complete license requirements and exemptions are outlined in the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” and “Oklahoma Fishing Guide.” These publications are available at hunting and fishing license dealers statewide or by logging on to the Department’s Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com. Information is also available from the Department's licensing section at (405) 521-3852.
 
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Winter Bird Feeder Survey offers chance to help conservation
            Kids and adults alike can enjoy a hands-on, interactive outdoor activity and help wildlife at the same time this winter by participating in the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Winter Bird Feeder Survey.
            Providing food for wintering birds is popular in Oklahoma in both urban and rural areas, and people in both places can help the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation monitor the state’s birds this winter.
            By participating in the Wildlife Department’s 2009 Winter Bird Feeder Survey, Oklahomans can provide food for wintering birds and enjoy close-up wildlife viewing opportunities while helping biologists monitor bird populations.
            Any Oklahoman with a backyard bird feeder can participate by choosing any two days between Jan. 8-11 to count birds at their feeders and record their observations. With participants observing birds across the state for four days straight, biologists can obtain important information that can help the Department better understand bird ranges and populations.
            The survey includes counting birds at backyard feeders at least four times a day for two days during the survey dates and completing a form provided by the Wildlife Department. For detailed instructions and to take the survey, log on to the Wildlife Department’s Winter Bird Feeder Survey Web site at www.okwinterbirds.com as the survey period approaches. The Web site is an extensive bird-watching resource, providing information such as bird identification tips, diets, feeding behaviors and winter ranges as well as links to other birding Web sites. The site also provides detailed recipes that bird watchers can follow for making healthy, beneficial bird attractants that will draw birds to their yards.
            While anyone who has a bird feeder can participate in the 2009 Winter Bird Feeder Survey, certain efforts can be made to attract more birds to feeders. Black-oil sunflower seed is a good choice for bird feeders because of its high nutritional value that birds can use during the winter and because virtually all seed-eating Oklahoma songbirds will eat it. Suet cakes, animal fat that is sometimes mixed with grains or peanut butter, are good for drawing in species such as woodpeckers and birds that do not primarily eat seeds. Finally, a source of water and cover such as brush piles or dense shrubs located near the feeders help to draw more birds.
            Some of the unusual birds at feeders during the 2008 Winter Bird Feeder Survey included the ladder-backed woodpecker, snow bunting, black-headed grosbeak and even a ring-necked pheasant. Other interesting species that were found in yards included the American kestrel, Cooper’s hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, greater roadrunner, wild turkey, bald eagle, barred owl, turkey vulture, yellow-rumped warbler and loggerhead shrike.
 
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Public input wanted for 2009-10 Oklahoma Waterfowl Stamp
            The 2009-2010 Oklahoma waterfowl stamp design competition is underway and Oklahomans are needed to help select the winning artwork. Oklahomans have until the end of December to make their way to the Oklahoma History Center, located just east of the state capitol, to voice their opinion on their favorite art.
            “This contest is a great tradition, and it has become even better over the last two years since the public started helping select the winners,” said Micah Holmes, information supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “This year’s waterfowl stamp design contest is a great compliment to the Field, Forest & Stream exhibit currently on display at the History Center. You can see the future waterfowl stamp art and our past conservation history all in one place.”
            The Field, Forest & Stream exhibit displays over 2,000 square feet of historic artifacts, images and photography, audio-visual elements and hands-on interaction relating to the outdoors in Oklahoma. Visitors to the exhibit also can view taxidermy dioramas as well as participate in interactive hunting and noodling simulations.
            Guests to the visitor center receive $1 off admission when they show an Oklahoma hunting or fishing license.
            For more information about the Oklahoma History Center, call (405) 522-0765 or visit www.okhistorycenter.org.
            Duck stamp sales help finance many projects that benefit ducks and geese. Since the duck stamp program began in 1980, thousands of acres of waterfowl habitat have been created through duck stamp revenues.
            In addition to consideration of public input, entries are judged on anatomical accuracy, artistic composition and suitability for printing. The winner and honorable mentions also will appear in a future issue of Outdoor Oklahoma magazine.
            A selection of waterfowl stamp art from previous years is currently on display in the lobby of the Wildlife Department headquarters located at 1801 N. Lincoln, in Oklahoma City.
            Prints of previous winning waterfowl artwork from 1996-2007 can be purchased at www.wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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