DECEMBER 2009 NEWS RELEASES

WEEK OF DECEMBER 31, 2009

WEEK OF DECEMBER 23, 2009
 

WEEK OF DECEMBER 17, 2009

WEEK OF DECEMBER 10, 2009

WEEK OF DECEMBER 3, 2009

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 at public hearings and online, 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).”
            Hearings 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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Bottomland habitat restored at Eufaula Wildlife Management Area
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation recently worked with Ducks Unlimited and NatureWorks, Inc. to enhance 700 acres of bottomland hardwood forest in eastcentral Oklahoma. The work took place on the Deep Fork Unit of Eufaula Wildlife Management Area (WMA) located about five miles east of Henryetta.
            The project will allow biologists to independently flood each of the area's four green-tree reservoir units. By controlling the timing, duration, and depth of flooding in each management unit, biologists will attempt to mimic the natural wet/dry cycle of a bottomland hardwood forest.
            “This project will ensure that this piece of bottomland habitat will remain healthy and viable and provide key waterfowl habitat and fantastic duck hunting opportunities for generations to come,” said Alan Peoples, chief of wildlife for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
            Finished in spring 2005, the first phase of the Deep Fork Project included installation of pipelines. The second phase, completed last fall, involved installing of 2,900 additional feet of pipeline, several water-control structures, and an 8,000-gallons-per-minute pump station.
            On November 12, officials from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Ducks Unlimited and NatureWorks gathered at the WMA to dedicate the area to Harold and Frances Langford Stuart.
            Longtime members of NatureWorks, the Stuarts had a real passion for ducks and their wetland habitats. Contributions from the couple totaling $205,000 have assisted in the restoration and enhancement of nearly 5,000 wetland acres in Oklahoma. In 2003 the Stuarts donated $150,000 through Ducks Unlimited to be used at the Deep Fork Unit of the Eufaula Wildlife Management Area.
            In 1995, the Stuarts donated $20,000 dollars to be used at the Deep Fork Wildlife Management Area, in Creek and Okfuskee counties. The donation, which was facilitated through NatureWorks, Inc. was used to create a 90-acre waterfowl refuge.
            The Stuarts continued their support in 1996 when they donated $20,000 towards the restoration and enhancement of a 4,000-acre historic wetland in southwest Oklahoma. Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area, in Tillman County, has gained nationwide recognition for providing critical habitat for a large number of migrating birds in the Central Flyway.
            The couple also played a role in the acquisition of one of the most diverse wetland resources in the state. In 1997, the Stuarts donated $15,000, which went towards the purchase of the 1,100-acre Grassy Slough Wetland Reserve Program/Wildlife Management Area in McCurtain County. The area provides year-round research and educational opportunities for university students from across the state. The 160-acre moist soil wetland unit also provides excellent waterfowl hunting opportunities for sportsmen.
            NatureWorks, which also provided support for the project at the Deep Fork Unit of the Eufaula Wildlife Management Area, is a Tulsa-based conservation organization that has been supporting wildlife and sportsmen for years by providing money for habitat projects.
            “This project is another great example of the strong and effective partnership that NatureWorks shares with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. We look forward to working together on many other habitat projects in the coming years,” said Tiny Tomsen, former monuments chairman and board member emeritus for NatureWorks. Tomsen, along with NatureWorks members such as Ken Greenwood and Bill Cox, have been instrumental throughout the history of NatureWorks and its work in conservation.
            NatureWorks is the outgrowth of the Ducks Unlimited Wildlife Art Show that started 30 years ago in downtown Tulsa. Today, NatureWorks hosts the annual art show that draws both national and international wildlife artists to display their work. The art show and sale also generates funds that NatureWorks uses to support conservation projects.
            NatureWorks has help to fund many Wildlife Department projects including a wetland project at Keystone Lake, the Grand River Paddlefish study, habitat improvement on the Oologah Wildlife Management Area, the Hunters Against Hunger program, and many other Department projects across the state. NatureWorks also has paid out prize money to the winner of the state's duck stamp art design contest. Additionally, NatureWorks provided a grant in 2009 that puts the Wildlife Department's Outdoor Oklahoma magazine in every public school and library in the state, furthering outdoor education and putting wildlife information in the hands of future stewards of the outdoors.
            For more information of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Quail habitat restoration assistance available
            Farmers and ranchers in selected watersheds have the opportunity to apply for 2010 Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) funds for needed grassland management practices benefiting their livestock operation and providing additional conservation benefits to quail habitat.
            The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation are pleased to announce a cooperative effort available to farmers and ranchers through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) in Adair, Cherokee, Coal, Craig, Ellis, Johnston, Hughes, Pontotoc, Roger Mills, and Woodward counties. The NRCS and the Wildlife Department have worked together to develop a program tailored to the needs of agriculture producers that will also provide additional benefits to the Northern Bobwhite Quail.
            The Quail Habitat Restoration Initiative (QHRI) was developed to benefit quail and farmers in specific areas of the state. Initially, five focal areas were selected based on meetings with local resource professionals, local producers, and local habitat conditions.
            “Using information from the landowners, we tried to tailor a program to meet their production needs as well as address the habitat needs of quail,” said Erik Bartholomew, quail habitat biologist for the Wildlife Department.
            This program is unique in that more incentives will be offered to landowners than were previously available through the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP).
            “For those landowners who may not have the resources, there are incentives and cost-share assistance available to control cedars and thin timber to increase the amount of native vegetation for cows and wildlife,” Bartholomew said.
            Applications for quail habitat conservation in the EQIP are accepted on a continuous basis. However, only applications received by Dec. 31, 2009, will be ranked and considered during this selection period. Those applications that are received will then be ranked and will be put into a statewide pool for funding. Successful applicants will be notified soon after April 12, 2010, for eventual contract development until the available funds are obligated. Unfunded applications will be maintained for future funding consideration if the applicant chooses to remain on the waiting list.
            Farmers and ranchers interested in participation in EQIP may apply at any time at the local NRCS office.  For more information contact your local NRCS office or contact Bartholomew at (405) 684-1929. All applications received will be evaluated according to the statewide ranking criteria as workload permits and reviewed for potential funding as program allocations become available.
 
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Free Waterfowl Report to help hunters plan second half of season
            The second portion of the Oklahoma waterfowl season in Zones 1 and 2 will reopen Dec. 12, and hunters need only check their e-mail to find out just what is happening at their favorite waterfowling hotspots across the state.
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's weekly news release includes periodic waterfowl reports throughout the entire waterfowling season, and sportsmen can receive the information in their e-mail box by signing up on the Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com. The next updated Waterfowl Report is slated for the second week of December.
            The Wildlife Department works with cooperators across the state that help compile the reports. As a result, waterfowlers get the most up to date information.
            “Beginning with the every-other-week ODWC waterfowl reports is a good starting point in the waterfowl hunter's ‘success toolbox,'” said Alan Stacey, wetland development biologist for the Wildlife Department. “Although it does not give you a report within the last 24-hour period, it provides some good baseline information for any given public hunting area — not only general information about waterfowl numbers and use but important information about habitat conditions. For instance, a recent description of where a given reservoir lake level is in relation to available natural food resources. Or maybe a report description simply stating that food resources this season are severely limited due to high reservoir levels throughout most of the growing season. A specific description of food types available in the local area is usually provided. If describing WDUs, the number of units or acreage currently flooded as well as recent hunter success on any given area is helpful information. All these report descriptions can provide good baseline information to the average waterfowl hunter and where/when he plans to hunt.”
            According to Stacey, the waterfowl report is useful for those with inflexible work schedules or other time constraints, but he also offers two other suggestions to use in conjunction with the waterfowl reports.
            “The second important tool is keeping a close eye on weather movements,” Stacey said. “Again, relatively easy with all our information technology. Northern cold fronts approaching our state during the hunting season are the "triggers" which can increase bird numbers overnight. Bird movements moving just ahead or during the front are common, and choosing the right day to go afield can often be critical. Also, ‘fresh' birds moving into the state can often equate to greater hunting success since many have not yet been conditioned by local hunting pressure. Lastly, the most important of all — scouting in the field prior to any hunt.”
            Waterfowl hunters can sign up to receive the entire weekly news release by e-mail or choose to only receive the waterfowl reports. Stories in each week's news release provide subscribers with information on everything from hunting and fishing news to eagle and bat-watching activities, and they refer readers to additional sources of information on certain topics relating to Oklahoma's outdoors. Put simply, the Department's weekly news stories provide readers with important, timely information that Oklahoma outdoorsmen need to know.
            Hunters who wish to participate in the waterfowl season must have a resident or non-resident hunting license and, if their license was purchased prior to July 1, a fishing and hunting legacy permit. Licenses purchased after July 1 include the legacy permit fees in the purchase price. Additionally, waterfowl hunters must have a current Federal Duck Stamp and an Oklahoma Waterfowl License, unless exempt. The federal duck stamp costs $15 and is available at U.S. Post Offices. Hunters pursuing sandhill cranes must also purchase a separate sandhill crane hunting permit.
            Hunters should consult the current “Oklahoma Waterfowl Hunting Guide” for complete hunting regulations and license requirements. Hunters also can obtain complete regulation information from the Wildlife Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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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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Hackberry Flat Center represents success of wetlands statewide
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation recently recognized Tillman County Commissioner Joe Don Dickey for his role in the construction of an access road and parking lot at the Hackberry Flat Center.
            The Center is located at Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area, which is home to southwest Oklahoma's premier wetland and a destination point for hunters, wildlife watchers and an extraordinary range of bird species and other wildlife. Wetlands in the prairie region of the Great Plains produce more life in less space than almost any other environment on the planet, and Hackberry Flat is no exception. The area includes 3,500 acres of restored wetlands, 35 wetland units, 35 miles of dikes and canals and 99 water control structures that help make the historic wetland a beneficial habitat and resting point for more than 200 species of birds.
            According to Bill Dinkines, assistant chief of wildlife for the Wildlife Department, Joe Don Dickey has assisted with a number of roads and access issues over the years.
            “But more recently his work with the Hackberry Flat Center is why we're here today,” Dinkines said.
            Dinkines recognized Dickey for his lead role in securing funds to offset costs for the asphalt parking lot and access road to the Center, and the Commission presented Dickey with a plaque in recognition of his efforts.
            Standing as the centerpiece of a 15-year project, the Hackberry Flat Center overlooks the restored wetlands on the WMA.
            Following Dickey's recognition, the Commission heard a presentation from Melynda Hickman, wildlife diversity biologist for the Wildlife Department, and Alan Stacey, wetland development biologist for the Wildlife Department, on the significance of Hackberry Flat and the on-site Hackberry Flat Center, as well as the success and significance of wetland restoration projects statewide.
            According to Hickman, the Center stands as an example of “how successful government agencies, businesses, landowners, private individuals and conservation organizations can be when they're committed to a project.”
            The Center offers visitor amenities, a meeting facility, an office location for the Friends of Hackberry Flat volunteer organization, exhibits that educate visitors, a state-of-the-art wetland classroom and a developing wetland nature trail. It also allows the Wildlife Department to inform visitors of several important messages about the Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area, including the fact that sportsmen pay for wetland habitat restoration, that wetlands and wetland management are crucial to wildlife, and that the rich history of the area shows how wildlife habitat restoration can be achieved successfully even when the challenges seem daunting.
            The Hackberry Flat Center also offers an outlet for the Wildlife Department to provide services like outdoor skills workshops, hunter education courses, birding tours and wildlife identification seminars. The Center is open the second Saturday of each month, generally until 2 p.m., and for special events. To learn more about the center or to view a road map to the area, log on to the Wildlife Department's Web site at
http://www.wildlifedepartment.com . The site includes an online booklet full of information about the WMA as well as detailed instructions for visiting the Center or reserving the Center for special events.
            According to Stacey, the wetland restoration work at Hackberry Flat has created a crucial habitat link for migratory birds, increased hunting opportunities for sportsmen, provided a premier birding area for wildlife watchers, and restored an important source of bird nesting habitat. Prior to restoration work at Hackberry Flat, some birds that now use the area for nesting had not nested in the area in 90 to 100 years.
            Stacey went on to say that, since the creation of the duck stamp program in 1980, over 35 Wetland Development Units have been created throughout state, totaling about 12,000 acres. These projects provide hunting opportunities as well as important habitat for wildlife.
            Since 1998, the Wildlife Department duck stamp program has shifted its focus from creating new wetland projects to renovating existing ones using updated technology and better knowledge of wetland management and engineering.
            Of the seven major wetland renovations undertaken by the Wildlife Department, five have been completed, with one scheduled for completion in 2010 at Cottonwood creek and the remaining project scheduled for completion in 2011 at Waurika WDU.
            Stacey credits Ducks Unlimited and its wetland engineering abilities as an important part of wetland restoration in Oklahoma.
            “They have tremendous management capability, they know what they're doing, and it's crucial that we have had them as partners,” Stacey said of Ducks Unlimited.
            In other business, the Commission presented its Wildlife Conservation Officer of the Year Award to Bud Cramer, game warden stationed in Johnston County.
            The award was presented along with the Shikar-Safari Club International Wildlife Officer of the Year Award by club member Bill Brewster along with his wife, Suzie Brewster, and member Tom Montgomery.
            Cramer has been nominated to receive the Game Warden of the Year Award three times in his seven-year career. He is active in many projects and programs of the Wildlife Department and has been involved in numerous public outreach events such as the Oklahoma Wildlife Expo. Cramer also has been instrumental in introducing over 800 youth to the sport of fishing.
            Shikar-Safari Club International was started more than 50 years ago and is limited to 200 members worldwide. While it is a social organization, its sole purpose is hunting and conservation and issues that affect hunters and conservation, according to Brewster. The club has a foundation that puts about $1 million into wildlife and conservation every year, including more than 30 scholarships a year for children of wildlife professional majoring in wildlife fields. The scholarships, each $4,000 a year, are designed to perpetuate an interest in wildlife careers and conservation.
            In a presentation, Brewster thanked the Commission for the opportunity to present the Wildlife Officer of the Year Award to Cramer.
            “We congratulate Mr. Cramer for being the recipient of that award,” Brewster said.
            Commission Chairman John D. Groendyke recognized Shikar-Safari Club International for its involvement in honoring Oklahoma game wardens and said the award “brings focus on the job and the efforts these people put out” to make conservation happen in Oklahoma.
            The Commission also heard a presentation of the Wildlife Department's fiscal year 2009 actuarial valuation report for its retirement plan.
            Also at the meeting, the Commission met in executive session and, upon returning to open session, voted to authorize the director to pursue land acquisition in Love County.
            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. 4, 2010, 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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Last chance for public input in waterfowl stamp design contest
            Oklahomans have until Dec. 15 to give their input on which artwork should be printed on the 2010-11 Oklahoma waterfowl stamp. Artwork entered in the contest is currently on display at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's office at the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks.
            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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Holidays mean additional antlerless deer hunting opportunities for sportsmen
            Hunters will have an additional six days of antlerless deer gun hunting during the holidays this year, making the eighth anniversary of the holiday antlerless deer gun season.
            The season dates will be right before the Christmas and New Year's Day holidays — Dec. 18-20 and Dec. 25-27. 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 current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide.”
            According to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's annual Big Game Report, written by big game biologist Jerry Shaw, doe harvest reached an all-time high last season when hunters harvested 48,358 through the course of the state's various gun, muzzleloader, archery, youth and holiday antlerless deer seasons.
            According to Jerry Shaw, high doe harvests help accomplish several important management benefits such as preventing localized overpopulations, improving buck:doe ratios for a more healthy herd, reducing competition for forage to promote greater antler growth in bucks, reducing the potential for deer/vehicle collisions, and lessoning the extent of potential crop depredation.
            “Every effort should be made by deer hunters to ensure that this emphasis on doe harvest continues,” Shaw said.
            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.
            To participate in the holiday antlerless deer gun season, resident hunters must possess a valid hunting license and, if their license was purchased prior to July 1, a fishing and hunting legacy permit, unless exempt. Hunting licenses purchased after July 1 include the legacy permit in the purchase price. Additionally, they must possess a holiday antlerless deer gun license, unless exempt. 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 while hunting deer, but they must possess a nonresident holiday antlerless deer gun license 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, consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Winter Bird Feeder Survey offers chance to help conservation
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Winter Bird Feeder Survey offers wildlife enthusiasts a chance to spend extra time outdoors this winter.
            Attracting birds and maintaining backyard feeders 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 by participating in the survey while also getting close-up views of a number of unique birds.
            Any Oklahoman with a backyard bird feeder can participate by choosing any two days between Jan. 7-10 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. Currently biologists have a 21-year history of the upward and downward trends of birds visiting winter feeders thanks to the support of avid birders across the state.
            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 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 2010 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. Other seed options are white proso millet, nyjer or safflower. 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.
            In 2009, there were 4,364 birds representing 52 species seen at feeders during the survey. Birders in 42 counties participated in the survey. The top 10 birds seen during last year's survey included the American goldfinch, dark-eyed junco, Northern cardinal, red-winged blackbird, house sparrow, mourning dove, Carolina chickadee, tufted titmouse, house finch and blue jay.
 
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Four Oklahoma youth win outdoor getaways through writing contest
            Youth from Muskogee, Owasso, Henryetta and Coweta 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 15-17 category will receive an all-expenses-paid antelope hunt in New Mexico. They were Timothy Allison of Muskogee and Hannah Stinson of Owasso. Winners in the age 11-14 category receive a scholarship to the YO Ranch Apprentice Hunter Program in Texas. They were Carson LaValley of Henryetta and Alexis Marmion of Coweta.
            “I enjoy the chance to review each and every essay submitted,” said Colin Berg, education supervisor for the Wildlife Department. “We always have some great stories. Oklahoma's hunting heritage is strong and these essays show that hunting is still a vital part of our culture.”
            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. Last year, two Oklahoma students' essays placed at the national level.
            Students are not the only winners, however. Colby Cagle, 8th-12th-grade agricultural education instructor at Bethel Schools, has been awarded an all-expense-paid scholarship to attend an eight-day conservation education school at Safari Club International's American Wilderness Leadership School (AWLS) at Granite Ranch near Jackson, Wyoming. Cagle also is an Oklahoma Archery in the Schools instructor. 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.
            “Each year we find that Oklahoma students step forward and reach new pinnacles of success not only through their writings and sharing of their experiences through prose, but in establishing lifelong relationships with others they meet and become acquainted with through this writing adventure,” said Sam Munhollon with the Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International. “One of the more exciting developments has been the interest not only in the essay contest but wildlife management and appreciation of the outdoors by those students being home-schooled as well as those who attend more traditional schooling venues. We are very proud of the Oklahoma youth and look forward to sharing their experiences and accomplishments now and in the future.”
            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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Assistance available for landowners looking to increase habitat
            The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced the opportunity to apply for assistance through the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) for fiscal year 2010.
            The Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) provides cost-share and technical assistance for development and/or improvement of wildlife habitat on private lands. Through a cooperative agreement, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation provides support staff to assist in the administration of the WHIP. Technicians with Wildlife Department are responsible for evaluating and ranking all applications received and will provide technical support for contract implementation upon contract approval.
            Conservation practices applied in the past include such things as removing invasive brush and non-beneficial weedy plants that degrade native grasslands and livestock grazing management practices such as wells and tanks, fencing and vegetative plantings that establish or enhance cover and food for wildlife. Conservation buffers and wetland projects have also been established to improve water quality and provide critical habitat for wildlife.
            Applications will be taken on a continuous sign-up basis, and high priority applications based on specific ranking criteria will be selected for funding from four regional evaluation pools. County NRCS field offices will begin accepting applications immediately, and previous applications will be considered if the applicant desires. Only applications received by Dec. 31, 2009, will be ranked and considered during this application ranking and selection period. Applications after that date will continue to be evaluated and maintained for possible future funding as workload permits. Successful applicants will be notified after April 12, 2010, for immediate contract development. All successful applicants will be required to develop, implement, and maintain a Wildlife Plan of Operations (WPO) during their individual WHIP contract period. For details about the WHIP program or to make an application, contact your County NRCS or Conservation District office.
 
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Long-term partnership conserves Oklahoma wetlands
            For over 15 years, Ducks Unlimited has worked with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to secure the future of waterfowl habitat and Oklahoma's hunting heritage. Soon to be completed improvements on Waurika Wildlife Management Area make it the tenth WMA to benefit from the partnership. The completed project will allow area managers to provide quality hunting opportunities on over 120 acres of seasonal wetlands.
            “Improvements to the Beaver Creek Wetland Development Unit at the Waurika WMA are wrapping up and should be completed soon,” said DU Manager of Conservation Programs Eric Held. “Ducks Unlimited, Inc. and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation have worked together to ensure this area will continue to provide waterfowl hunting opportunities for Oklahoma's sportsmen for years to come.”
            This is the 10th state WMA in Oklahoma on which Ducks Unlimited's engineers and biologists have provided the professional services required to complete wetland habitat improvements.
            “DU's expertise has been invaluable and their engineering and financial support have played a critical role in restoring and enhancing habitat on our publicly-managed wetland projects,” said Alan Peoples, chief of wildlife for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
            Since 1995, improvements have been made to nearly 8,000 acres of wetland habitat at the Copan, Eufaula, Fort Cobb, Hackberry, McClellan-Kerr, Mountain Park, Oologah, Red Slough, Waurika and Wister Wildlife Management Areas.
            Ducks Unlimited conservation staff is able to provide professional services as a result of the support garnered by its many volunteers and members, at a direct cost of more than $675,000.
            “Ducks Unlimited's many supporters throughout Oklahoma have provided the funding that allows these projects to take place” stated Charles Hurlburt, DU State Chairman.  “Seven additional wetland projects are underway and being led by DU engineers and biologists.”
            Ducks Unlimited is the world's largest non-profit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved nearly 13 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow, and forever.
 
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Winter Bird Feeder Survey offers chance to help conservation
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Winter Bird Feeder Survey starts Jan. 7 and gives wildlife enthusiasts and their families an exciting way to kick off the New Year.
            Attracting birds and maintaining backyard feeders 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 by participating in the survey while also getting close-up views of a number of unique birds.
            Any Oklahoman with a backyard bird feeder can participate by choosing any two days between Jan. 7-10 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. Currently biologists have a 21-year history of the upward and downward trends of birds visiting winter feeders thanks to the support of avid birders across the state.
            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 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 2010 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. Other seed options are white proso millet, nyjer or safflower. 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.
            In 2009, there were 4,364 birds representing 52 species seen at feeders during the survey. Birders in 42 counties participated in the survey. The top 10 birds seen during last year's survey included the American goldfinch, dark-eyed junco, Northern cardinal, red-winged blackbird, house sparrow, mourning dove, Carolina chickadee, tufted titmouse, house finch and blue jay.
 
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Trout fishing at OKC and Tulsa urban ponds provide winter entertainment for the family
            Metro anglers have some trout fishing honey holes in their own backyard at Dolese Youth Park Pond in northwest Oklahoma City, along with a special trout season and trout fishing clinic to help anglers enjoy all the pond has to offer.
            Part of the state's Close to Home fishing program, the Dolese trout season will be held Jan. 1 through Feb. 28. The two-month long season features four stockings of rainbow trout, made possible through a cooperative partnership between the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation Department.
            The pond is located at Dolese Park, north of NW 50th and a half block west of Meridian Ave., and makes for an easy-access fishing location for metro families looking to spend a few hours or even a day outdoors.
            Trout are provided through a generous donation from BancFirst. These funds are crucial in providing the necessary match for Oklahoma's Sport Fish Restoration Program funding.
            “BancFirst's donation is matched with sport fish restoration dollars through the Wildlife Department to supply the trout for this popular local program,” said Barry Bolton, chief of fisheries for the Wildlife Department. “Their help makes this great opportunity possible for our metro anglers.”
            The “Close to Home” fishing program provides fishing areas that are often just a short drive away from even the most urban locations, saving families time and gas money. In addition, it allows parents and children to fish together after school or on a busy weekend. The Dolese trout season also offers anglers a chance to catch a unique fish that they don't catch at other times of the year when water temperatures are warmer.
            According to Bob Martin, fisheries biologist for the Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation Department, successful trout anglers at Dolese should keep several colors of powerbaits as well as an assortment of other trout baits in their tackle box, as the best baits to use often change throughout the day. Anglers should have success using 4- to 6-pound test line equipped with a slip sinker and small hook. Along with powerbaits, choice baits include corn, small worms, small minnows, small spinners, jigs and spoons.
            A free Dolese trout fishing clinic will be held at Putnam City High School's Old Gymnasium from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 28 to give anglers a complete understanding of how to be successful during the Dolese trout season. The school is located just south of the Dolese trout pond, on the south side of NW 50th Street. To pre-register for the clinic, call (405) 755-4014.
            According to Martin, trout stocked in the pond range from nine to 24 inches, with 90 percent ranging from nine to 14 inches. Stockings are scheduled for Jan. 7, Jan. 21, Feb. 4 and Feb. 18.
            The Dolese trout pond has seen up to 18,000 hours of angling a year, according to Martin, attracting returning anglers as well as first-time anglers each year. Anglers who have fished at Dolese have reported satisfaction with the size and taste of trout caught from the pond.
            There is a daily limit of six trout per person during the Dolese Park Pond trout season. In addition, angling is permitted from the bank only, and each angler may only use one rod and reel while fishing for trout. Trout caught and placed on a stringer or otherwise held in possession cannot be released. Catch-and-release angling is allowed all day long during the Dolese trout season, but once a fish is kept, such as put on a stringer or in a basket or bucket, it cannot be released and counts toward the angler's daily limit of six trout. Regulations for other species that may be caught at Dolese are available in the current “Oklahoma Fishing Guide” or online at wildlifedepartment.com.
            Those fishing for trout at Dolese must purchase an annual state fishing license, unless exempt. In addition, an Oklahoma City Fishing Permit is required for anglers ages 16-61 unless exempt. No state trout license is required. For more information about trout fishing at Dolese and other Close to Home fishing opportunities, contact the city's H.B. Parsons Fish Hatchery at (405) 755-4014, or visit the Lakes and Fishing page of the city's Web site at okc.gov.  For more information on the “Close to Home” fishing program, log on to wildlifedepartment.com. Dolese Youth Park and the H.B. Parsons Fish Hatchery are operated by the City of Oklahoma City's Parks and Recreation Department.
            Tulsa area residents also have an opportunity to fish for trout without venturing far from home.
            This year the selected pond is located in LaFortune Park, located at the corner of 51st Street and Hudson in Tulsa.
            This Tulsa trout fishing opportunity is possible by a partnership between the Oklahoma Chapter of Trout Unlimited, the Tulsa Fly Fishers and Tulsa-based conservation group NatureWorks. The season opens Dec. 26 and the pond will be stocked periodically through March.
            Special “children only” days will be a new addition into this year's schedule. “Kids Only Days” are slated for Dec. 26-31, Jan. 18, Feb. 15, and March 15, 2010. On these days fishing will be open to children under the age of 16 only, and children fishing on these days must be accompanied by an adult. The accompanying adult may fish on these days. All other days during the season will be open to all ages. All anglers over the age of 16 must have a valid Oklahoma fishing license. A bag limit of four trout per day, per angler has been set, and catch and release of trout is discouraged. For more information log on to tulsaflyfishers.org.
 
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Online comments taken until Jan. 15 on proposed hunting and fishing rules changes
            Oklahomans interested in commenting on a slate of proposed hunting and fishing rule changes are encouraged to do so through the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.
            The Wildlife Department is providing an online public comment period through Jan. 15, in which visitors to wildlifedepartment.com can submit their comments online through a user-friendly submission form as well as view proposed changes to the state's hunting and fishing rules.
            “This approach provides a simple and easy way for wildlife enthusiasts to provide us with their official comments,” said Nels Rodefeld, chief of information and education for the Wildlife Department.
            When filling out an online public comment form, visitors are guided through each proposal and given the option to comment.
            The Wildlife Department is also accepting written comments, which can be mailed to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation at P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152. Comments should indicate the specific rule change to which the comment applies.
            The Wildlife Department also will be hosting a public hearing Jan. 11 in Oklahoma City to accept comments on the slate of proposed rule changes. The hearing will be held at 7 p.m. at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters auditorium in Oklahoma City (1801 N. Lincoln Blvd). Two other hearings will be held to accept comments on fisheries-related topics only — one at 7 p.m., Jan. 11, at the Miami Civic Center Banquet Room in Miami (129 5th Ave NW), and the other at 7 p.m., Jan. 12, at the OSU Extension office in Pryor (2200 NE 1st St).
            For more information about hunting and fishing in Oklahoma, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Outdoor Oklahoma readers’ photos wanted for “Readers Photography Showcase” issue
            Every year, Oklahoma’s outdoor enthusiasts have a unique opportunity to see their best digital outdoor photography published in their very own Outdoor Oklahoma magazine, and now is the time to submit entries.
            Submissions for Outdoor Oklahoma’s 2010 “Readers Photography Showcase” are being accepted through March 31, and winners will have their work featured in the July/August 2010 issue of Outdoor Oklahoma.
            The special summer issue gives both professional and amateur photographers the chance to have their digital photos displayed in a magazine nationally recognized for its photography.
            “Photography is a great way to enjoy wildlife,” said Nels Rodefeld, editor of Outdoor Oklahoma. “We get to see so many great outdoor images. It seems to get harder every year to make the final selections.”
            Each participant may submit up to five digital images. Each submission must include a description of the photo, including the location taken, name and hometown of photographer, names and hometowns of subjects and what it took to get just the right shot. Photos should be in sharp focus, and images should be at least 300 dpi (dots per inch). The canvas size should be about 8 inches by 11 inches. All submissions must be digital and slides and print images will not be accepted. Images mailed on CD or e-mailed to Outdoor Oklahoma become the property of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
Hopeful photographers can mail a disk to: Outdoor Oklahoma magazine, Oklahoma Dept. of Wildlife Conservation, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152.
            Individuals can subscribe to Outdoor Oklahoma by calling 1-800-777-0019. Outdoor Oklahoma is known for providing decades of outdoor entertainment to both youth and adults. Subscriptions are just $10 for one year, $18 for two years, or $25 for three years. You can also subscribe over the Internet by logging on to the Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Bring in the New Year with a 2010 “paddlefish” habitat donor patch and hat
            Oklahoma anglers will not catch many fish bigger than a trophy paddlefish, and this year the fish is showcased on the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s 2010 habitat donor patch, available now through the Department’s Outdoor Store at wildlifedepartment.com. The patch is also available embroidered onto a khaki, camo or orange camo baseball cap.
            Paddlefish caught by Oklahoma’s anglers routinely weight over 50 lbs. and are found mainly in the Neosho, Grand and Arkansas River systems. Each spring when the paddlefish embark on mass migrations upriver to spawn, the Wildlife Department operates a full service Paddlefish Research and Processing Center near Twin Bridges State Park in Northeast Oklahoma, where anglers can have their paddlefish cleaned and packaged for free in exchange for biological data and eggs from their fish. The Wildlife Department uses the data to help make management decisions that benefit paddlefish and the sportsmen who enjoy catching them.
            Paddlefish eat microscopic plankton and will not bite a lure, but rather, are caught by snagging. Top paddlefish spots include locations on the Neosho River such as Riverview City Park in Miami, Conner and Twin Bridges (above Grand Lake), the Kaw Lake tailwaters, Ft. Gibson Lake and Oologah Lake.
            All proceeds go to the Department’s Land Acquisition Fund, which is used to provide public hunting and fishing access. This program has helped the Wildlife Department make available thousands of acres of land for public hunting and fishing.
            To purchase a habitat donor patch, visit the Department’s Outdoor Store by logging on to wildlifedepartment.com. Patches are $10, and caps featuring the patch are $15. Caps in camo orange color are in limited supply and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Outdoor Store order forms also can be found in copies of Outdoor Oklahoma magazine. Additionally, patches can be purchased at the Wildlife Department headquarters in Oklahoma City. To view the new patches and those from previous years, log on to the Department’s Web site at http://www.wildlifedepartment.com .
            The colorful patches have displayed a different game or fish species every year since 1986, and collectors can purchase a patch from any year.
            For more information about the Wildlife Department, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Editor's note: Below is a link for an accompanying photo that is 300 DPI and intended for newspaper publication. The ending link is .jpg. The photo will open in your browser. If you have a PC, you should be able to right click, then select “Save picture as,” then choose the file type you prefer and click “Save.” Another option is to select “File on your toolbar, choose “Save picture as,” then select the file type of your choice and click “Save.” Images can be viewed with the article at http://www.wildlifedepartment.com
 
Patch Image

Hat Image
 
Photo Caption: Sportsmen can support wildlife conservation by purchasing a 2010 habitat donor patch or cap from the Wildlife Department’s Outdoor Store on wildlifedepartment.com. This year’s patch features the paddlefish — one of the state’s largest trophy fish.
 
 
Stay up to date on Oklahoma’s outdoors with Twitter
            Sportsmen can now get the very latest, up-to-the-minute wildlife-related news updates through Twitter.
            Twitter users can follow the Wildlife Department’s frequent, brief updates to get information on subjects like hunting season updates, last minute outdoor opportunities, important reminders and even links to timely news stories that cover subjects immediately important to sportsmen, such as wildlife harvest updates, last minute hunter education courses, and where the most wildlife activity is taking place during current hunting or fishing seasons.
            “This is just another way to keep sportsmen informed in a timely manner, in addition to all of our other great information sources like wildlifedepartment.com, Outdoor Oklahoma magazine and TV, free weekly e-mail news releases and a range of other newsletters and publications,” said Micah Holmes, information and education supervisor for the Wildlife Department.
            Current Twitter users can sign up to follow “OKWildlifeDept” and get the latest updates, and even sportsmen who do not maintain a free Twitter account can follow the Wildlife Department’s Twitter updates by logging on to http://twitter.com/OkWildlifeDept
            For more information about Twitter or to set up an account and begin instantly following the Wildlife Department, log on to twitter.com. To sign up for the Wildlife Department’s free weekly e-mail news release, which provides full stories on the latest news and outdoor information from the Wildlife Department, log on to http://www.wildlifedepartment.com 
 
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