NOVEMBER 2009 NEWS RELEASES 

WEEK OF NOVEMBER 26, 2009

 

WEEK OF NOVEMBER 19, 2009
 

 

WEEK OF NOVEMBER 12, 2009
 

 

WEEK OF NOVEMBER 5, 2009

Emergency paddlefish rules to maintain fishing opportunities while reducing harvest
            Oklahoma is known for having the best paddlefish fishery in the world, and emergency rules approved by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission will help ensure the fishing in northeast Oklahoma is as good in the future as it is now.
            At its November meeting, the Commission approved the following emergency rules for paddlefish angling:
* Paddlefish anglers will be required to immediately release all paddlefish caught on Fridays and Mondays, statewide.
* When an angler keeps a paddlefish, they will be required to immediately record the date and time of harvest of all paddlefish on their paddlefish permit.
* All snagging will be closed on the Grand River from the Hwy 412 bridge upstream to the Markham Ferry (Lake Hudson) dam from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. year-round.
* The Spring River will be designated a paddlefish sanctuary and will be closed to paddlefish angling by all methods from the Hwy 60 bridge upstream to the Kansas state line.
            All rules take effect Jan. 1, 2010.
            According to Barry Bolton, chief of fisheries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, these rules were put in place to reduce the harvest of paddlefish after two years of detailed data from the Department's Paddlefish Research and Processing Center indicated that the fishery was being supported primarily by the fish from the 1999 spawn. Female paddlefish must generally reach eight to 10 years of age before they can reproduce, making the huge fish sensitive to overharvest.
            “These measures should reduce our harvest by as much as 30 percent while still providing significant paddlefish angling opportunities, which can go a long way in sustaining the species for anglers to enjoy for generations to come,” Bolton said. “By establishing ‘catch-and-release' days on Fridays and Mondays, anglers can still enjoy a long weekend of fishing, but they may take home fewer fish than before depending on what days they fish. I am confident this will have a long-lasting positive impact on our paddlefish fisheries and future angling opportunities, while minimally impacting the fishing we enjoy today.”
            Prior to establishing the Paddlefish Research and Processing Center at Twin Bridges State Park near northeast Oklahoma's City of Miami, the Wildlife Department knew very little about the number of anglers fishing for paddlefish each year. The Department also knew very little about the annual harvest numbers of paddlefish, which is one of Oklahoma's largest fish and dates back to the time of the dinosaurs. As a result, management of the fish proved challenging, and data collection was a difficult and slow process, as fish generally had to be killed by biologists in order for pertinent biological data to be collected.
            The Research and Processing Center opened in the spring of 2008 and offers anglers free processing of their paddlefish in exchange for biological data and eggs collected from female fish that were going to be harvested by anglers anyway. The data is used to help make important management decisions, and eggs collected from fish are sold worldwide as caviar. Proceeds from egg sales are then used to fund the paddlefish program in Oklahoma, which includes management and projects to improve paddlefish angling opportunities, such as access to prime fishing waters. Since its inception, the Research and Processing Center has collected information from thousands of fish, far more than biologists could survey without anglers' help.
            The emergency rules come before a slate of town hall meetings and public hearings to be held in 2010, where these rules and others are scheduled for discussion before the Commission considers making the rules permanent.
            The Commission also approved an emergency rule that allows licensed aquaculture facilities to possess and grow diploid carp for human consumption, for selling outside the state and for control of vegetation on their farms. Diploids still may not be stocked in private waters of the state. Only non-reproducing triploid carp can be stocked in private waters. The rule is designed to limit reproduction of grass carp in Oklahoma's waters, which compete with native fish species.
            In other business, the Commission heard a presentation from Finley & Cook, PLLC, including the results of the Department's fiscal year 2009 annual financial audit. The independent audit, which also reviewed federal grant programs, revealed no material findings. A clean audit report was rendered.
            The Commission also heard a presentation on the Department's Lake Record Fish Program, which recognizes big fish caught from select reservoirs and the anglers who catch them. The program was initiated Feb. 1, 2008, and initially included 13 lakes across the state. Since then the program has grown to include 38 lakes. The program is managed electronically, and a unique search feature on the Wildlife Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com allows users to search a range of lake record information, including the species of lake records, the names of anglers who caught them and other facts such as what bait and tackle was used to catch record fish from various lakes. Since the program's inception, the lake records portion of the Web site has seen more than 63,000 hits and more than 350,000 page views, including viewers from 38 states and 17 foreign countries.
            The Commission also recognized Loren Damron, game warden supervisor for the Wildlife Department, for 35 years of service; Steve Spade, hatchery supervisor, for 30 years of service; and Dwight Luther, game warden stationed in Creek and Okfuskee counties, for 25 years of service.
            Richard Hatcher, director of the Wildlife Department, also recognized Todd Craighead, information and education specialist for the Department, for recently receiving the George Lewis Advocacy Award. This award recognizes an Oklahoma City area resident with a disability who has performed outstanding and notable feats to enhance the empowerment and/or employment of individuals with disabilities by rising above his or her own disability and encouraging others with disabilities to do the same. This individual displays these principles through community involvement and in his or her area of employment. This individual has also promoted overcoming social, attitudinal, and environmental barriers to enhance the lives of all persons with disabilities and shown good citizenship in his or her everyday activities.
            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. Dec. 7 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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Wildlife Department seeks public input for waterfowl stamp design winners
            Oklahomans can help choose the artwork that will be printed on the 2010-11 Oklahoma waterfowl stamp by dropping by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's office at the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks to vote on their favorite entry.
            Every year wildlife artists from across the nation submit their rendition of a specified waterfowl species to the Wildlife Department's duck stamp design contest. In recent years the Wildlife Department has relied on input from the public to help determine the winner, whose work is printed on the Oklahoma waterfowl stamp the following year. This year, artwork was centered on the ringneck duck (Aythya collaris), which is found across North America, including Oklahoma's wooded ponds and lakes and is known for its ability to plunge deeply into water. A powerful swimmer, the ringneck can forage to depths of 40 feet in search of underwater food.
            “This is a great opportunity to be a part of the contest,” said Micah Holmes, information and education supervisor for the Wildlife Department. “This is a stamp for sportsmen, so the sportsmen's input is important. This is also a great opportunity to visit a unique Wildlife Department field office based out of the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks.”
            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.
            Along with public input, entries will be judged on anatomical accuracy, artistic composition and suitability for printing.
            The winning artist will receive a purchase award of $1,200. In the past, the purchase award has been provided by NatureWorks, a Tulsa-based conservation organization. Additionally, the winner and three honorable mentions 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 can be purchased at 
http://www.wildlifedepartment.com .
            More information about the annual duck stamp design contest, including official rules, is available online at wildlifedepartment.com
 
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Quail season opens Nov. 14; conditions limit success of roadside surveys
            After a mild summer with periodic, timely rainfall, biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation are optimistic about the upcoming quail season, which opens Nov. 14, statewide.
            With a mild winter void of long-lasting snow and ice storms, the quail population was expected to have good carryover into the 2009 nesting season. Weather during the nesting season for the most part was favorable, and reports have been positive, with more quail being observed than have been in years. Above-average rainfall led to lush vegetation, which can be good for quail reproductive success but challenging for conducting roadside survey counts. This year, composite results from roadside surveys conducted during August and October show a decrease from surveys done in 2008 and remain below the long-term average.
            Each year, Wildlife Department employees run 83 routes in every county in the state except Oklahoma and Tulsa counties. Each route is 20 miles, and some larger counties like Beaver, Ellis, LeFlore, McCurtain, Osage, Pittsburg, and Roger Mills, have two routes. The survey provides an index of annual population fluctuations.  Observers count the number of quail observed and classify the size of the young birds in broods to provide an index of quail abundance (number seen/20 mile route) and reproductive success.
            To conduct the surveys, biologists drive county roads and record the number of quail they see. Spotting quail in dry years with sparse vegetation is much easier than spotting them in years when the vegetation is green, thick and abundant. Not only is it harder to see quail in lush vegetation, counts are also made more difficult by the fact that quail may not use roadside ditches as much when so much other cover is readily available.
            Additionally, during the October survey period, survey conditions were generally poor with much of the state receiving precipitation nearly everyday and many of the remaining survey days being heavily overcast.
            “These factors may have contributed to lower numbers of quail being seen on roadside surveys,” said Doug Schoeling, upland game biologist for the Wildlife Department.
            The full survey report is available online at wildlifedepartment.com.
            According to Schoeling, the true test of how well the quail did this nesting season will come when the season opens and hunters take to the field with their dogs.
            Quail season opens Nov. 14 and runs through Feb. 15. Opportunities for public quail hunting exist statewide, but perhaps none offer better chances than hunting quail on wildlife management areas in western Oklahoma.
            To hunt quail, hunters need a hunting license and, if their hunting license was purchased prior to July 1, a fishing and hunting legacy permit. Licenses purchased after July 1 have the cost of the legacy permit included in the purchase price.
            For more information about quail hunting, log on to the Wildlife Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.
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Fall offers different approach to turkey hunting
            With the excitement of deer season and the onset of seasons for several other species, such as quail which opens Nov. 14, hunters may overlook the unique opportunity to hunt turkeys this fall.
            With generous bag limits and the chance to harvest a turkey with a firearm, the fall turkey season opens doors for sportsmen to get serious about gobbler hunting or to take a more opportunistic approach and watch for them while participating in deer season. Regardless, a wild turkey dinner during the holidays is sure to be worth a hunter's efforts.
            During the fall and winter, turkeys can often be found foraging for acorns and other seeds. One method successfully used by hunters to harvest fall turkeys is to break up a flock and, while waiting in the general area from which they departed, use lost calls to draw the group back together. In the fall, hunters can use a range of calls, such as lost calls, purrs and the kee kee run.
            Fall turkey hunting opportunities includes an archery season that opened Oct. 1 and runs through Jan. 15 and a fall gun season that opened Oct. 31 and runs through Nov. 20. Depending on which county they're hunting, sportsmen can harvest one turkey of either sex or just one tom. Additionally, some counties are closed to fall firearms turkey and others are restricted to shotgun hunting only. Seasons on public lands may vary from statewide season dates. For complete season dates and regulations, consult page 28 of the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
            To hunt wild turkeys during the fall, residents must have a hunting license and, if their hunting license was purchased prior to July 1, a fishing and hunting legacy permit. Additionally, they must obtain a turkey license for each turkey to be hunted, unless otherwise exempt. Non-residents must possess a non-resident annual hunting license and a turkey license for each bird hunted, unless exempt.
            All fall turkey hunters must conspicuously wear either a head covering or an outer garment above the waistline consisting of hunter orange while hunting during any deer season in any open hunting area.
            For more information about turkey hunting in Oklahoma, including information about the state's spring turkey season which runs from April 6 to May 6 annually, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Deer gun season opens Nov. 21
            Last year deer gun hunters harvested 65 percent of the 111,427 deer that were harvested in Oklahoma during the 2008 season, and as this year’s 16-day gun season nears, hunters are preparing for another successful season.
            Hunters participating in the 16-day deer gun season will have from Nov. 21 through Dec. 6 to harvest up to one antlered and two antlerless deer. If a hunter harvests two antlerless deer, at least one must be taken in antlerless zone 2, 7 or 8. A map of antlerless deer zones as well as dates open to antlerless deer hunting are available on page 21 of the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide,” available anywhere hunting licenses are sold, or on the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.
            Resident deer gun hunters must have a hunting license and, if their hunting license was purchased prior to July 1, a fishing and hunting legacy permit, unless exempt. Hunting licenses purchased after July 1 include the cost of the legacy permit in the purchase price. In addition, they must possess a deer gun license (antlered or antlerless) or proof of exemption for each deer hunted.
            Resident youth hunters age 16 or 17 years old must purchase a youth hunting license and a deer gun license for each deer hunted, unless exempt. Resident youth under 16 years of age are exempt from the purchase of a hunting license and fishing and hunting legacy permit, but they must purchase a deer gun license for each deer hunted. Unless exempt, all hunters under 18 years of age must possess a valid deer gun license, but they have the option of purchasing a $10 youth deer gun license (antlered or antlerless) rather than the $20 deer gun license.
            Additionally, those youth who did harvest a deer during the youth deer gun season can still hunt during the regular deer gun season with a deer gun license, as deer harvested during the youth season are included in the hunter’s combined season limit but do not count as part of the regular gun season limit. Youth hunters who did not harvest a deer during the youth season may use their unfilled youth deer gun license during the regular deer gun season to harvest a deer.
            Nonresident deer hunters are exempt from a hunting license, but they must possess a nonresident deer gun license (antlered, antlerless or combination) for each deer hunted or proof of exemption. Holders of nonresident lifetime hunting and lifetime combination licenses are not exempt from purchasing deer licenses.
            Those ages 10-35 who have not completed a hunter education course can purchase an apprentice-designated hunting license and go deer hunting with an accompanying adult who is a licensed hunter age 21 or older and who possesses a certificate of hunter education or who is exempt from hunter education and license requirements. Youths age nine and under must successfully complete a hunter education course to hunt deer in Oklahoma.
            Upon successfully harvesting a deer, annual license holders must complete the Record of Game section of their license, and all license holders, including lifetime license holders, must immediately attach their name and license number to the carcass. What the hunter attaches can be anything, as long as it contains the hunter's name and hunting license number and remains securely attached to the animal until it is checked. All successful hunters must check their deer at the nearest hunter check station, with an authorized Department employee or online at wildlifedepartment.com.
            All deer gun hunters must conspicuously wear both a head covering and an outer garment above the waistline consisting of daylight fluorescent orange color totaling at least 400 square inches. Camo-fluorescent orange is legal as long as the total orange meets or exceeds the required 400 square inches.
            For additional regulations, antlerless zones, check station locations, season dates and a wealth of other information, consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide," available at all license dealer locations or online at wildlifedepartment.com.
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will help hunters prepare for deer season by releasing its “2009 Rut Report” during the week prior to opening day. The report will contain last-minute reports on the status of the rut across the state as well as other useful season information. Sportsmen can receive the free report by signing up to receive the Wildlife Department’s free weekly news release by email. To sign up, log on to http://www.wildlifedepartment.com. The weekly news release includes wildlife news, information on Department programs and hunting seasons, calendars and other timely outdoor-related information. It also includes a weekly fishing report and seasonal waterfowl reports. Plus, it is absolutely free. 

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Pheasant season opens December 1
            December 1 marks the opening of pheasant season in Oklahoma, and with it comes an increased daily harvest limit for the unique bird.
            The daily limit for pheasants has been increased from two to three cocks. The increase was approved by the Oklahoma Wildlife Commission in April as part of an effort to give increased hunting opportunities in years of high pheasant numbers.
            The Wildlife Department keeps tabs on these two critical factors through two different surveys. First, biologists conduct the annual crow count survey, which provides an idea of how many adult birds survived through the winter. In late April and early May, biologists drive county roads and listen for crowing cock pheasants in search of mates. These 20-mile surveys are conducted in Alfalfa, Beaver, Cimarron, Ellis, Garfield, Grant, Harper, Kay, Major, Noble, Texas, Woods, and Woodward counties.
            The other factor considered is results from the annual brood count surveys, which are conducted in late August to help biologist determine how many young pheasants were produced during the nesting season. The brood survey is conducted in the same counties as the crow count survey, and observers count the number of pheasants observed and classify the size of young birds to provide an index of pheasant abundance (number seen per mile) and reproductive success.
            This year crow counts and brood count surveys were up from last year, and Doug Schoeling, upland game biologist for the Wildlife Department, has a positive outlook on the upcoming season.
            “The surveys suggest an increase over last year in the number of adult cock pheasants going into the hunting season, and the brood count surveys indicate an increase in reproductive success over last year,” Schoeling said.
            According to Schoeling, though, the best way for sportsmen to investigate pheasant numbers in their area is to hunt them.
Pheasant season in Oklahoma runs Dec. 1 through Jan. 31 (only in open areas) and offers hunters a chance at a popular gamebird that, though not native to Oklahoma, thrives in northcentral and northwestern portions of the state.
            The ringneck pheasant was first introduced into Oklahoma in 1911, and the colorful birds prefer cultivated farmland habitat mixed with weedy fencerows and overgrown pastures common across northcentral Oklahoma and the Panhandle.
            Hunters should consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” for open counties and wildlife management areas. The daily bag limit for pheasants is three cocks, with a possession limit of six after the first day and nine after the second day. Evidence of sex (head or one foot) must remain on the bird until it reaches its final destination. When the deer gun and the holiday antlerless deer seasons overlap with pheasant season, all pheasant hunters must wear either a hunter orange cap or vest.
            Before going afield, be sure to pick up a copy of the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide,” available at all hunting and fishing license dealers or log onto wildlifedepartment.com. Resident and non-resident hunters must possess a valid hunting license and, if their hunting license was purchased prior to July 1, a fishing and hunting legacy permit or proof of exemption. Licenses purchased after July 1 include the cost of the legacy permit in the purchase price.

 

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Last call for young outdoor writers to share their heritage and win trip of a lifetime
            Oklahoma youth have until Nov. 20 to submit their entries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s youth essay contest for the chance to win an all-expense-paid outdoor getaway courtesy of the Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International.
            According to Colin Berg, education supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the essay contest is an ideal way for youth to show their love for the outdoors and, in the process, possibly win a vacation in the great outdoors.
            “Each year we receive a number of great essays, and that shows just how much Oklahoma’s youth enjoy archery and sharing their hunting tradition,” Berg said. “Teachers often comment about how some students jump at the chance to write about their hunting experiences. I myself always found it more enjoyable to write about topics I’m interested in, and this subject matter connects with lots of students who enjoy hunting.”
            To participate, students must be 11-17 years of age and currently enrolled in any Oklahoma school or home school. Students also must use the theme of “Hunting: Sharing the Heritage” or “Archery: What I like about Archery in the Schools and Bowhunting” or the concept of the theme to develop a descriptive essay or short story. Winners of the 2008 contest are not eligible. Applicants must have successfully completed an Oklahoma Hunter Education course by the entry deadline, which is Nov. 20, 2009. There are two age categories — 11-14 and 15-17.
            Winners in the 15-17 age category (one boy and one girl) will receive a guided antelope hunt in New Mexico, and winners in the 11-14 age category are competing for a scholarship within the Apprentice Hunter Program at the YO Ranch in Mountain Home, Texas. Safari Club International’s Apprentice Hunter Program is a unique, hands-on course designed for girls and boys aged 11-14. The program covers topics such as the history of hunting, the ethical basis of modern sport hunting, wildlife management, field identification, tracking and interpreting sign, game cooking and the SCI Sportsmen Against Hunger Program. There are three sessions — each a week long — during the summer of 2009.
            The four statewide winners and their legal guardians will be invited to Oklahoma City to attend an awards ceremony in March. In addition, the top 25 essay entrants will receive a one-year youth membership to Safari Club International. The winning student essays will be published in the OSCSCI newsletter, “Safari Trails.” Publication qualifies the winning entries for the Norm Strung National Youth Writing Contest sponsored by the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Several past national winners have come from Oklahoma, including two from last year’s contest.
            Steven Maichak of Edmond took third place in the senior prose division (grades 9-12) of the national contest, and Raini Stiles of Collinsville took first place in the junior prose division (grades 6-8). Both received national recognition and cash rewards.
            Essays may also be printed in Outdoor Oklahoma magazine.
            One educator also will be awarded an all-expenses-paid scholarship for an eight-day conservation education school at Safari Club International’s American Wilderness Leadership School (AWLS) at Granite Ranch near Jackson, Wyoming, according to Berg.
            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, language arts and creative writing in an outdoor setting, fly tying, shooting sports, wildlife management, the Yellowstone ecosystem, camping, white-water rafting, educational resources and how to implement outdoor education ideas. Six sessions will be offered June through August of 2010.
            Both the essay contest rules and teacher scholarship applications are available from the Department's Web site at http://www.wildlifedepartment.com.
            Essays and applications must be postmarked no later than Nov. 20, or delivered by Nov. 20 in person to the Department of Wildlife’s Jenks Office at 201 Aquarium Drive, Jenks. Address entries to: Essay Contest, Attn: Education Section Supervisor, ODWC Jenks Office, P.O. Box 1201, Jenks, OK 74037.
            For more information about the Oklahoma Station Chapter of SCI, log on to

 

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Cold water angling to heat up at Lower Mountain Fork River
            The Lower Mountain Fork River in Southeast Oklahoma is known as a trout angler’s paradise, and anglers who are enjoying some hot fishing now should only see the fishing get better thanks to a supplemental trout stocking scheduled for Nov. 19.
            According to Jay Barfield, southeast region fisheries technician for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the supplemental stocking will provide an additional 8,000 rainbow trout measuring about 11 inches each in length. This is in addition to stockings that take place regularly every two weeks in the Lower Mountain Fork River. Barfield said a regular stocking also is scheduled for the same day as the supplemental stocking.
            “Collectively, over 10,000 trout will be placed into the river,” Barfield said about Nov. 19. “Stream flow conditions will dictate specific stocking locations.”
            The additional rainbow trout are being provided to the Wildlife Department by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help offset the impacts caused by Broken Bow Dam on the LMFR. Wildlife Department personnel will transport the fish from the Norfork Fish Hatchery in Arkansas and then release them into the LMFR trout fishery for anglers to enjoy. The stockings will take place under the direction of Barfield and Jared Vanderpool, fisheries technician at the Wildlife Department’s Manning Hatchery.
            To view the regular, bi-weekly trout stocking schedule and specific regulations for all the state’s trout waters, including the LMFR, log on to wildlifedepartment.com. The Web site also includes tips on how to catch trout as well as a wealth of information about the state’s streams restoration program, which works to provide healthy streams and better trout angling in Oklahoma.

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 Teen applicants sought for 2009 Youth Waterfowl Hunt and Field Day

            The Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge is a waterfowl hotspot, and youth have a chance to hunt the area on a unique waterfowl hunt hosted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
            The Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge is located in far eastern Oklahoma in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains and is home to a range of wildlife, including ducks by the thousands.
            Youth must be 13-15 years old at the time of the hunt, and they can apply by mailing a postcard marked “Youth Hunt” to Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge, Route 1 Box 18A, Vian, OK, 74962-9304. The card also must include the applicants name and date of birth. Applicants must submit their entry by Friday, Dec. 4, after which a drawing will be held to select the winners. Successful applicants notified by mail.
            The hunt event will take place Dec. 29-30, with a field day Dec. 29 and the hunt Dec. 30. The field day will include waterfowl identification and waterfowl hunting techniques, a retriever demonstration and STEP training. Lunch will be provided.
            The next day, hunters will enjoy a guided hunt on the refuge. Guide will consist mostly of Wildlife Department employees, and ammunition, decoys, etc. will be provided. Shotguns also will be provided to those that do not have one. Breakfast before the hunt will be provided as well.

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Rut reports flooding in; consensus good for opening day deer gun hunters
            Deer rifle season kicks off Saturday, Nov. 21, and reports from across the state indicate the timing of the rut is just right to provide an exciting opening weekend.
             The whitetail deer breeding season, or rut, is a biological process that typically occurs around the second week of November. Deer activity during the rut picks up but the amount of activity can be influenced by a host of factors such as day length, temperatures, moon phase and herd condition.
            In some parts of the state, biologists are reporting that the rut is only just now picking up and that action could be at its peak during deer gun season, a welcomed possibility for hunters hoping to have an exciting season.
            Prior to this past weekend, rut activity in the northwest part of the state had been slow and picking up gradually, but according to Wade Free, northwest region wildlife supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, cooler weather over the weekend boosted activity.
            “The cold rainy weekend — 35 degrees, rain, drizzle, and overcast — gave the bucks a needed jolt, and there has been a considerable increase in buck movement, mostly cruising, the past three mornings,” Free said the week leading up to the opener. “The hard chasing in the northwest is on track for the gun opener.”
            Before the weekend, Free had reported that most rut activity had been occurring at night and that it had been “trickling along and could really cut loose” if the forecasted weather arrived over the weekend. Food sources currently being used by deer in the northwest region of the state include mostly agricultural crops such as wheat, rye, alfalfa and milo. Before the recent cold front Free reported crop fields with high numbers of does and fawns together, indicating that bucks had not yet started chasing does intensely. The sudden swing in the weather could be just what hunters need for a successful, action-packed opening day.
            Reports from the southwest region indicate the rut is picking up there as well. According to Rod Smith, southwest region supervisor for the Wildlife Department, reports of smaller bucks chasing does have been coming in, with larger bucks just now beginning to chase does. Smith predicts strong rutting activity this week as the state heads toward opening day, with bucks still active during opening weekend.
            Smith said hunter success during muzzleloader season was similar to 2009, with some areas having a higher harvest than normal.
            “We anticipate a good deer gun season,” Smith said. “Deer numbers continue to increase in several areas. We look forward to seeing the impact of the increased antlerless opportunities in much of the region.”
            Much of the southwest region falls into antlerless zone 8, where does can be harvested every day during the deer gun season. In addition, two does can be harvested in the region during the deer gun season, along with a buck. For more information, consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide.” Hunters are reminded that the southwest has a rapidly growing deer population and that hunters can play a major role in maintaining a healthy herd with an adequate doe harvest. Hard work now on managing the herd can pay off in the future with good buck:doe ratios, mature bucks and good overall health.
            Reports are that deer are shifting toward winter-type food sources in the southwest region, such as agriculture, some left-over mast and browse.
            In the central region, pre-rut activity was observed toward the end of muzzleloader season. While most hunters may have expected the rut to peak in mid-November, above normal temperatures continued until this past weekend, and the rut appears to be continuing as a result.
            According to Rex Umber, central region senior biologist for the Wildlife Department, muzzleloader hunters enjoyed excellent weather and vibrant fall colors.
            “It was a good time to be in the woods, even if you didn't see or harvest a buck,” Umber said.
            Deer harvest has been up from 2008 in the central region.
            “If the acorn crop is good in your area, that's where your deer will be,” Umber said. “Do your scouting a few days in advance of your hunt, but stay out of your honey hole at least three days before because bucks will be on the move. Don't forget to shoot your rifle before you go hunting.”
            According to Craig Endicott, northeast region wildlife supervisor for the Wildlife Department, the northeast part of the state enjoyed a fair to good muzzleloader season with buck harvest up the last two days of the season, indicating the rut was drawing near. Bucks were starting pre-rut activity around Nov. 1. While some breeding activity will likely still be occurring on the opening weekend of the statewide deer gun season, hunters should expect the peak to be winding down and adjust techniques accordingly. Doe estrous calls, antler rattling, and grunt tubes may still work, but hunting travel lanes to and from bedding or feeding areas may be more effective.
            A possible Boone and Crockett record buck was reportedly harvested in Adair Co. during the muzzleloader season.
            Hunters in the northeast region are reminded of the importance of scouting out their hunting spots before the season, including searching out food sources, such as acorns. According to Endicott's report, “most all oak species produced acorns, and recent reports indicate deer are still on acorns where available.” Hunters should also be on the lookout for browse such as greenbrier and cool season forbs. Hunters searching for a mature buck  should use weekdays to their advantage if possible, and should not overlook the second week of the season, especially if hunting public land. Hunters not successful early on opening day should remember that deer frequently get up to feed and move about around mid-morning to mid-day. Those still in the woods during that time frame often go home with a deer.
             In the southeast region, the rut is reportedly in full swing according to Joe Hemphill, southeast region wildlife supervisor for the Wildlife Department. Deer muzzleloader season was a success alongside a successful inaugural bear season. Deer harvest numbers were up and hunters harvested 19 black bears toward the state quota of 20. Food availability may be part of the equation for both successful seasons. Hemphill said there was a good acorn crop in the region and that deer are still feeding on large quantities of acorns.
            “We seem to have a large number of deer and it seems like the pressure wasn't there as much as usual on public land,” Hemphill said. Deer gun season could bring more pressure, but deer hunting opportunities should be plentiful.
            Southeast Oklahoma is known for large expanses of public land open to deer hunting, particularly on wildlife management areas such as Honobia Creek and Three Rivers WMAs.  
            For just $40 — the cost of a Land Access Permit from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation — Oklahoma hunters can gain a year of hunting or fishing access on the Honobia Creek and Three Rivers Wildlife Management Areas in southeast Oklahoma, where some of the most rugged terrain and abundant cover in the state allows deer to grow to mature age classes.
            Additionally, the upcoming deer season is expected to be a good one on Honobia Creek and Three Rivers WMAs.
            “Our 2009 deer surveys produced the highest number of deer surveyed since the WMAs were established in the late 1990s,” said Kyle Johnson, Wildlife Department biologist stationed on Honobia Creek and Three Rivers WMA.
            He added that both black and white oak trees produced good crops of acorns this year, which offer food for deer and good areas for hunters to focus on when locating a great spot to hunt.
            Deer gun season runs Nov. 21 through Dec. 6. For more information about license requirements, regulations and antlerless deer hunting requirements, consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Deer gun season brings families together
            Since 1933, deer gun hunters have been making their way into the woods and fields of Oklahoma for a tradition as deeply rooted as any in the state. Every year a huge portion of Oklahoma's 356,257 licensed hunters join family members and friends for the opening day of deer gun season, and this year looks to be no different, with opening day slated for Nov. 21.
            “The opening day of deer gun season is the biggest day of the year for hunters in Oklahoma,” said Nels Rodefeld, chief of information and education for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “Not only that, it's a big day for families, friends and loved ones who come together for a pastime that brings them close to each other and closer to nature.”
            While deer hunting is a time for fun, family and the outdoors, it's also important to realize the critical role that hunting plays in wildlife conservation across the state. In fact, Oklahoma's record of restoring deer populations and other species of fish and wildlife and protecting natural habitat can be largely credited to the millions of dollars generated by the state's sportsmen and women.
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is the state agency responsible for managing fish and wildlife. The Wildlife Department receives no general state tax dollars and is supported by sportsmen through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses. Additionally, for each hunting gear purchase, a portion of the money is returned to state fish and wildlife agencies for conservation efforts. Through the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, passed in 1937 at the request of the hunting and shooting sports enthusiasts, special excise taxes on hunting gear have contributed billions of dollars for wildlife conservation.
            In the early part of the last century, when deer populations were down to just a few hundred animals, hunters and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation took up the call to once again have healthy deer populations across the state. Part of this conservation effort began with the historic deer trap-and-transplant projects of the mid-1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s. Today, Oklahoma can boast having deer in every county and a whitetail population in excess of 500,000 animals. Hunters have generous harvest limits and expansive opportunities statewide for hunting deer.
            For more information about Oklahoma's deer season, consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide,” or log onto wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Oklahoma economy made stronger by hunting
            Hunting may be a mainstream, popular pastime in Oklahoma, but it is also an important part of the state's economy, sustaining jobs, drawing in-state and out-of-state business, and flooding the economy with millions of dollars each year.
            The number of people who hunt in Oklahoma could fill both Owen Field and Boone Pickens stadium almost two times, and deer hunters make up a large portion of those hunters.
            The role deer hunters play in the state simply by participating in the outdoors is far-reaching. Original expenditures made by hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers generate rounds of additional spending throughout the economy. The total economic effect of deer hunting activity in Oklahoma during 2006 was estimated at nearly $500 million, and the total economic effect from 2006 hunting activity in Oklahoma in general was estimated to be $843 million.
            Expenditures made for hunting, fishing and wildlife watching activities support jobs throughout the state. Many of these jobs are in companies that directly serve recreationists, such as retailers, restaurants, motels and more. Others are in companies that support the first companies and employees such as wholesalers, utilities, manufacturers, grocers and more. Total jobs, full and part time, supported in Oklahoma in 2006 from deer hunting-related activities was estimated at 5,662.
            Given that outdoor recreation dollars are often spent in rural or lightly populated areas, the economic contributions of fish and wildlife resources can be especially important to rural economies.
            Deer season draws hunters to Oklahoma from across the country as well as thousands of sportsmen who live and work in Oklahoma. These hunters purchase gear — some of which is made right here in Oklahoma — and they stay in small-town hotels and spend money at local grocery stores, restaurants, and other vendors. Hunting is big business in Oklahoma and an important part of the fabric of the state's economy, which is relatively healthy compared to other parts of the country.
            During hard economic times, families and friends are drawn closer together through hunting, and the fabric of Oklahoma's economy is woven even tighter and stronger thanks to a pastime enjoyed by thousands and supported by Oklahoma's rich natural resources.
 
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Hunters making a difference for the hungry
            Every year thousands of hungry Oklahomans reap the benefits of deer season in Oklahoma through the Hunters Against Hunger program.
            Through the program, hunters who legally harvest a deer during any of this year's deer seasons can donate the meat to feed hungry Oklahomans. All they have to do is deliver their harvested deer to the nearest participating meat processor after checking the deer at a hunter check station.  To view a list of participating meat processors, log on to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Web site at
http://www.wildlifedepartment.com.
            To help with processing charges, each donator is requested to contribute a tax-deductable $10 to assist with the program.
            The ground venison is then distributed to the needy through a network of qualified, charitable organizations. During the 2007-08 season, hunters donated 39,765 pounds of venison that provided almost 160,000 meals to needy people.
            Participation by meat processors and hunters is the key to success to helping feed Oklahoma's hungry. The Wildlife Department pays a special thanks to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and the Community Food Bank of eastern Oklahoma for their participation in the Hunters Against Hunger program. Important donors to this program also include Tulsa-based conservation group NatureWorks, and the Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International. To learn more about NatureWorks, log on to natureworks.org. To learn more about the Oklahoma Station Chapter of SCI, log on to oklahomastationsci.org.
            To become more involved in the Hunters Against Hunger program, contact the Wildlife Department at (405) 522-6279.
 
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Savory venison recipes for your 2009 deer harvest
 
MARINATED VENISON BROCHETTES (ALSO KNOWN AS “DEER KABOBS”)
Ingredients:
2 pounds of venison loin, rump or flank steak. (will make approximately 12 to 15 brochettes)
vinegar and oil based Italian Salad Dressing (i.e. Zesty Italian).
10 oz. jar of either mild or hot jalapeno peppers (sliced).
1 pound bacon
1 8 oz. jar of pearl cocktail onions (a.k.a. Martini Onions), or 2 to 3 small yellow onions cut into 1/2 inch cubes.
salt, pepper, seasoned salt to taste
wooden toothpicks and/or skewers
 
Preparation:
Remove as much of the "silver skin" and any connective tissue (white) from venison as possible and cut into strips approx. one and a half inches wide, by 1/2 inch thick by approximately three  to four inches long. Place all strips into large bowl and mix with Italian Salad Dressing and refrigerate overnight (Hint: give the meat at least one stir overnight to marinate the venison strips evenly). Take each strip and place 2-3 slices of jalapeño at one end with one cocktail onion (or cube of onion). Roll (or fold) the onion/peppers inside the strip of venison, then take one strip of bacon and wrap around the venison roll, then secure in place by tooth picks (Hint: spearing the toothpicks through the onion in the center of the roll really helps to hold everything together). Season outside of each brochette with salt, pepper or your favorite meat seasoning (i.e. Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning, Cavender's Greek Seasoning etc.).
 
Grilling or Smoking:
Brochettes can be grilled on a normal gas or charcoal barbecue grill, but be careful not to cook in direct flame.  Grilling over an open flame can be dangerous once the bacon fat begins dripping on the open flame, which can cause flare ups. Place meat where it will not drip on the grill burners, or charcoal. Or, for the safest (and most tender) brochettes, place in a slow smoker (225 degrees for 2 hours). Brochettes can also be broiled in an oven, but a pan must be placed below to catch drippings from bacon. Although cooking the jalapeño peppers lessens their spiciness, you may want to prepare some brochettes with no jalapeños. Or, you may want to use milder pepper varieties (i.e. mild chili, banana or bell peppers) for those with a low tolerance for hot and spicy foods. A surprisingly tasty variation to the above involves placing a dried apricot in the brochette along with the onion and pepper!  
 
 
VENISON TIPS AND GRAVY
Ingredients
1-2 lbs. chopped venison (any choice cuts, diced to one-inch cubes)
1 packet brown gravy mix
1 cup water
salt, pepper, or steak & fajita spice
3-4 servings rice
 
Whisk brown gravy mix into one cup cold water. Set aside. Season venison cubes and brown in large skillet, then add gravy mixture. Cover and simmer at least one hour. Serve over rice.
 
 
VENISON STEW PAPRIKA
2 1/2-3 lbs. venison stew meat cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 C flour
3 T paprika
Salt and Pepper
2 T butter
2 med. Onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 t marjoram
1-11 oz. Can tomatoes or 1 can tomato sauce
1/2 C sour cream at room temperature
1/2 C wine or 7-Up
 
Shake meat cubes in plastic bag with the flour, 1T paprika, salt and pepper. In Dutch oven, melt butter and sauté coated venison cubes until browned (may have to brown the cubes in stages, do not crowd them to get nicely browned). Remove cubes to warm dish and in the same Dutch oven, sauté onions and garlic with 2 T paprika until soft. Then add marjoram, tomatoes and wine or 7-Up. Add browned venison cubes and simmer over low heat until meat is tender (45 min-1.5 hours). Just before serving, stir in 1/2 C sour cream. Serve with egg noodles or rice.
 
 
GROUND VENISON FOIL WRAP
Take a 12" square piece of foil. Put a venison patty (about the size of a hamburger patty) on middle of foil. Pull up sides of foil to form a bag. Add about 1/4" slices of potatoes to top of meat, then add onion slices, put about a teaspoon of butter and 1/8 cup of water in foil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, & a little garlic powder. Close foil and put in hot charcoaler for about 20-30 minutes. Or you can cook at 350 degrees in an oven for about the same time. You can add other vegetables and sauces, such as barbecue sauce or ketchup, if you want to the foil wraps.
-Submitted by Susan Jones
 
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Wildlife Department to host new town hall meetings and public hearings
            Sportsmen will have a new opportunity this year to voice their thoughts on wildlife, hunting and fishing related issues at one of several town hall meetings held across the state by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
            “These town hall meetings are a chance for sportsmen to have open discussions with Wildlife Department officials about matters that affect them directly,” said Micah Holmes, information and education supervisor for the Wildlife Department. “In the past, the Wildlife Department has held public hearings where discussions are usually limited to a posted meeting agenda, and while the Department will still collect formal comments on proposals, these town hall meetings provide a better opportunity for sportsmen to discuss other matters on their mind.”
            At each town hall meeting, visitors will have the chance to speak with Wildlife Department officials about a range of topics of their choice. Law enforcement and wildlife and fisheries biologists from the Wildlife Department will be on hand to answer questions and facilitate discussion.
            Meetings are scheduled for Dec. 7, 8, 9 and 11 at locations statewide. All meetings begin at 7 p.m. The following is listing of dates and locations:
 
December 7, 2009, 7 p.m.
Enid – Central Fire Station, 410 W. Garriott
 
December 8, 2009, 7 p.m.
Ada – Pontotoc Technology Center, 601 West 33rd
Jenks – Tulsa Technology Center, Riverside Campus, 801 E. 91st Street
McAlester – Kiamichi Technology Center, 301 Kiamichi Drive:  SW corner of Hwy 69 and Hwy 270
Lawton – Great Plains Technology Center, 4500 W. Lee Blvd
 
December 9, 2009, 7 p.m.
Muskogee – Muskogee Public Library, 801 W. Okmulgee
Clinton – Senior Citizen Center, 323 S. 8th Street
 
December 11, 2009, 7 p.m.
Oklahoma City – Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Auditorium, 1801 N. Lincoln Blvd.
 
            In addition to the new town hall meetings, the Wildlife Department also will be hosting three public hearings Jan. 11-12. One of the three hearings — to be held in Oklahoma City — will have an agenda that includes a slate of proposed rule changes to Oklahoma's hunting and fishing laws, while two others held in Miami and Pryor will have agendas limited to fisheries topics.
            Unlike town hall meetings, public hearings discussion is limited to a pre-established meeting agenda that includes a slate of proposed hunting or fishing rule changes. Examples include increasing opportunities for hunters and anglers and adding new laws to better conserve wildlife. The meeting agendas will be posted online at wildlifedepartment.com Dec. 1, and the public can comment at the meetings or online.
            “If you are not able to make one of the public hearings, we encourage you to provide your comments through wildlifedepartment.com anytime before 4:30 p.m. Jan. 15, 2010,” Holmes said.
            Additionally, those interested can submit written comments by mail to our main office in Oklahoma City (P.O. Box 53465, OKC, OK 73152).
            Meetings will be held at 7 p.m. at the following locations:
 
January 11, 2010, 7 p.m.
Oklahoma City – Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Auditorium, 1801 N. Lincoln Blvd.
Miami – Miami Civic Center, 129 5th Ave NW, Banquet Room (Fisheries topics only)
 
January 12, 2010, 7 p.m.
Pryor – OSU Extension Office, 2200 NE 1st Street (Mayes County Fairgrounds) (Fisheries topics only)
 
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North American Falconers Association to meet in Woodward  
            During Thanksgiving week, hundreds of birds of prey — eagles, falcons, hawks and owls — and their falconers will flock to Woodward for the annual Field Meet of the North American Falconers Association (NAFA).
            Falconry can be defined as the taking of wild quarry in its natural state and habitat by means of a trained raptor.
            These trained birds will not only be flying in the Oklahoma skies in pursuit of game but also will be on display for the public. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Oklahomans to learn more about falconry — the ancient “sport of kings.” The event is slated for Monday, Nov. 23 through Friday, Nov. 27.  
             Several activities are available free to the public, including opportunities to take photos of birds in the weathering yard. Visitors also can meet falconers and their birds in person. The headquarters for the meet will be the Northwest Inn of Woodward, located at Highway 270 & 1st Street. The “weathering yard,” where birds rest and sun themselves, will be the field directly adjoining the hotel.
            The best time to see the birds in the yard will be daily from mid-morning to-mid afternoon. Many of the birds will be hunting in early morning and late afternoon.
            Because all raptors are protected by state, federal, and international law, all potential falconers must obtain necessary permits before acquiring a hawk or practicing falconry. After receiving their permits, they become apprentices for two years while learning the basics under a sponsor. Falconers can later obtain a General or Master classification, but practicing falconry is a lifelong learning process.  
             Falconers are men and women from all backgrounds and occupations. However, they all share one thing in common: the passion for their birds and the sport. They also have a keen understanding and appreciation for the environment. Falcons, hawks, eagles and owls are essential elements of our wildlife. Falconers follow sound and ethical conservation principles in the pursuit of the sport.
             Thought to have originated in Mongolia, Egypt and Asia, falconry is an ancient art and practice between man and essential elements of nature that has existed for at least 3,000 years in many forms and cultures.
            Today, the sport of falconry brings common ground and heritage to many people around the world. Falconers from all over the United States, Canada, Mexico and numerous other countries will be participating throughout the week.
            The meet is hosted by the Oklahoma Falconers Association (OFA) and the
Woodward Tourism and Convention Bureau. Additional information about the meet is available online at
http://www.n-a-f-a.com/Meet09.htm.
 
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Wildlife Department to host new town hall meetings and public hearings
            Sportsmen will have a new opportunity this year to voice their thoughts on wildlife, hunting and fishing related issues at one of several town hall meetings held across the state by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
            “These town hall meetings are a chance for sportsmen to have open discussions with Wildlife Department officials about matters that affect them directly,” said Micah Holmes, information and education supervisor for the Wildlife Department. “In the past, the Wildlife Department has held public hearings where discussions are usually limited to a posted meeting agenda, and while the Department will still collect formal comments on proposals, these town hall meetings provide a better opportunity for sportsmen to discuss other matters on their mind.”
            At each town hall meeting, visitors will have the chance to speak with Wildlife Department officials about a range of topics of their choice. Law enforcement and wildlife and fisheries biologists from the Wildlife Department will be on hand to answer questions and facilitate discussion.
            Meetings are scheduled for Dec. 7, 8, 9 and 11 at locations statewide. All meetings begin at 7 p.m. The following is listing of dates and locations:
 
December 7, 2009, 7 p.m.
Enid – Central Fire Station, 410 W. Garriott
 
December 8, 2009, 7 p.m.
Ada – Pontotoc Technology Center, 601 West 33rd
Jenks – Tulsa Technology Center, Riverside Campus, 801 E. 91st Street
McAlester – Kiamichi Technology Center, 301 Kiamichi Drive:  SW corner of Hwy 69 and Hwy 270
Lawton – Great Plains Technology Center, 4500 W. Lee Blvd
 
December 9, 2009, 7 p.m.
Muskogee – Muskogee Public Library, 801 W. Okmulgee
Clinton – Senior Citizen Center, 323 S. 8th Street
 
December 11, 2009, 7 p.m.
Oklahoma City – Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Auditorium, 1801 N. Lincoln Blvd.
 
            In addition to the new town hall meetings, the Wildlife Department also will be hosting three public hearings Jan. 11-12. One of the three hearings — to be held in Oklahoma City — will have an agenda that includes a slate of proposed rule changes to Oklahoma’s hunting and fishing laws, while two others held in Miami and Pryor will have agendas limited to fisheries topics.
            Unlike town hall meetings, public hearings discussion is limited to a pre-established meeting agenda that includes a slate of proposed hunting or fishing rule changes. Examples include increasing opportunities for hunters and anglers and adding new laws to better conserve wildlife. The meeting agendas will be posted online at wildlifedepartment.com Dec. 1, and the public can comment at the meetings or online.
            “If you are not able to make one of the public hearings, we encourage you to provide your comments through wildlifedepartment.com anytime before 4:30 p.m. Jan. 15, 2010,” Holmes said. “Additionally, those interested can submit written comments by mail to our main office in Oklahoma City (P.O. Box 53465, OKC, OK 73152).”
            Meetings will be held at 7 p.m. at the following locations:
 
January 11, 2010, 7 p.m.
Oklahoma City – Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Auditorium, 1801 N. Lincoln Blvd.
Miami – Miami Civic Center, 129 5th Ave NW, Banquet Room (Fisheries topics only)
 
January 12, 2010, 7 p.m.
Pryor – OSU Extension Office, 2200 NE 1st Street (Mayes County Fairgrounds) (Fisheries topics only)
 
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Oklahoma grown seedlings available online
            Planting trees is for the birds, and this year the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry has wildlife habitat improvement packages of tree seedlings that make that job even easier!
            In partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Oklahoma Forestry Services is offering three different packages of seedlings that will enhance the habitat of deer, songbirds, turkey, quail and a variety of other animals. Each wildlife packet is made up of 25 each of four different species of trees and shrubs chosen specifically to improve the wildlife habitat of your property.
            “Planting the appropriate trees can be a great way to enhance wildlife habitat on your property,” said Mike Sams, private lands biologist for the Wildlife Department. “Planting a tree today can be a long-term investment for future generations.”
            Oklahoma grown seedlings are available to landowners for a broad range of conservation projects. Landowners use the trees for windbreaks to protect crops and livestock, timber production, water quality protection, erosion control or other natural resource projects such as firewood plantings and Christmas tree production.
            “Now is the time to begin thinking about planting seedlings, and foresters from ODAFF are available to assist you,” said State Forester John Burwell. “Oklahoma’s seedling planting season runs from December through early April and fall is the best time to prepare the planting site to make the planting job easier.”
            New for 2009 is an online store where landowners can go to purchase their wildlife habitat improvement packages, as well as choose from over 35 species of trees and shrubs. Seedlings are one year old, bare-root, and each species is packaged in multiples of 50 with a minimum order of 100 trees. They are to be used in rural conservation plantings and cannot be used for ornamental plantings or resold as living trees.
            All orders will be handled on a first-come, first-served basis, so landowners are encouraged to visit www.forestry.ok.gov  today to choose their tree seedlings for planting this winter. The seedlings will be available for pickup or shipment starting in early January 2010, but orders are being taken now via the online store or you can request a paper order form by contacting the Department’s Forest Regeneration Center at 800-517-FOREST.
 
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Wildlife Department seeks public input for waterfowl stamp design winners
            Oklahomans can help choose the artwork that will be printed on the 2010-11 Oklahoma waterfowl stamp by dropping by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s office at the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks to vote on their favorite entry.
            Every year wildlife artists from across the nation submit their rendition of a specified waterfowl species to the Wildlife Department’s duck stamp design contest. In recent years the Wildlife Department has relied on input from the public to help determine the winner, whose work is printed on the Oklahoma waterfowl stamp the following year. This year, artwork was centered on the ringneck duck (Aythya collaris), which is found across North America, including Oklahoma’s wooded ponds and lakes and is known for its ability to plunge deeply into water. A powerful swimmer, the ringneck can forage to depths of 40 feet in search of underwater food.
            “This is a great opportunity to be a part of the contest,” said Micah Holmes, information and education supervisor for the Wildlife Department. “This is a stamp for sportsmen, so the sportsmen’s input is important. This is also a great opportunity to visit a unique Wildlife Department field office based out of the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks.”
            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.
            Along with public input, entries will be judged on anatomical accuracy, artistic composition and suitability for printing.
            The winning artist will receive a purchase award of $1,200. In the past, the purchase award has been provided by NatureWorks, a Tulsa-based conservation organization. Additionally, the winner and three honorable mentions will appear in a future issue of Outdoor Oklahoma magazine.
            “This is a great way for the public to get involved in this contest and help choose what will go on their waterfowl stamp,” Holmes said.
            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 can be purchased at http://www.wildlifedepartment.com/
            More information about the annual duck stamp design contest, including official rules, is available online at wildlifedepartment.com
 
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