SEPTEMBER 2010 NEWS RELEASES 

WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 30, 2010

WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 23, 2010

WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 16, 2010

WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 9, 2010

WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 3, 2010

Second “over-the-counter” antelope archery season slated for Sept. 13
            Sept. 13 marks the opening day of antelope archery season for Cimarron Co. and parts of Texas County.
            “Over-the-counter” antelope archery tags have been sold since last year when archery season hunters harvested 36 antelope during the first open archery season.
            “September is an awesome time of year, and what better way to kick off the fall season than a great hunt for a great animal on the high plains of Oklahoma?” said Wade Free, northwest region wildlife supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
            The 2010 antelope archery season will run Sept. 13-26 and will be open in Cimarron Co. and that portion of Texas Co. west of Hwy 136. The archery bag limit is two antelope, with no more than one buck allowed. Antelope harvested during the archery antelope season count against a hunter’s statewide combined season bag limit of two antelope, of which no more than one may be a buck.
            All other antelope hunting in Oklahoma is limited to hunts offered through the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s controlled hunts program, in which hunters must be drawn for an antelope hunt, or through a limited number of landowner permits.
            According to Free, the 36 antelope harvested during last year’s season may provide some useful information to hunters hoping to take an antelope this year.
            “Most were stalked or taken at water holes,” Free said. “Some were harvested along corridors to and from rangeland to cropland.”
            Free advises hunters that any time of day is a prime time to harvest an antelope.
            “Antelope will move around all day, unlike deer, so it is common for hunters to stay put all day,” Free said. Sitting for 10 to 12 hours a day can be quite a challenge, but it will pay off. Pack your lunch!”
            The wide open terrain of Texas and Cimarron counties provides added challenge in getting close to antelope, as judging distance can become difficult without landmarks, trees, and other indicators of distance. Free suggests carrying both binoculars and range finders. Additionally, decoys may help attract curious antelope and distract them from seeing the subtle movements of hunters adjusting for a shot.
            Free also suggests keeping comfort a priority since long hours may be required for a successful hunt.
            “Patience is key,” he said, adding that portable blinds and a chair are a must for concealment and comfort.
            After a successful hunt and after checking in their antelope, Free said hunters might wish to process their animal before heading home.
            “It can be over 100 degrees at times and cooling the meat down quickly is a must,” Free said.
            Free also reminds hunters to obtain the required written landowner permission before hunting.
            The state’s pronghorn population has seen a gradual increase over the past several years, and that might give archery hunters an edge Sept. 13-26.
            To hunt antelope during antelope archery season, resident hunters must have an appropriate hunting license or proof of exemption. Additionally, all antelope hunters must have an antelope license for each antelope hunted, or proof of exemption. All antelope hunters must carry written permission from the landowner while hunting antelope, unless exempt. For full season details, consult the “2010-11 Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Wildlife Department employment exam is first step to rewarding wildlife career
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation regularly recognizes employees for 20 and even 30 years of service to sportsmen and wildlife, making it one of the longest tenured state agencies in Oklahoma.
            “We even have employees with nearly 50 years of service to the Wildlife Department, yet we still continually have more and more people wanting to come work with us,” said Mikki Gutierrez, human resources administrator for the Wildlife Department.
            For most people looking to join the Wildlife Department’s workforce as game wardens, biologists, fisheries and wildlife technicians and fish hatchery assistant managers, the starting point is to take the Department’s open employment exam, which will be held Friday, Sept. 24, at Rose State College.
            The standardized employment exam is set for 10 a.m. in the auditorium of the Tom Steed building at Rose State College. The exam is free, and participants must have photo identification upon check-in. Late arrivals will not be permitted to enter the examination room after 10 a.m.
            Specific job and education requirements for Department positions as well as suggested study material for the exams are listed on the Department's official Web site at
http://www.wildlifedepartment.com .
            Individuals may take the exam once in a 12-month period. Test scores are valid for 12 months from the test date, and top scorers will be invited to submit an employment application. When a job opening becomes available, selected applicants from the test register will be scheduled for an interview. For more information, contact the Wildlife Department's Human Resource office at (405) 521-4640.
 
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Learn a skill at the Wildlife Expo
            Outdoorsmen find satisfaction in do-it-yourself-projects, and at the Oklahoma Wildlife Expo Sept. 25-26, visitors can try their hand at making their own birdhouses or even learn how to cook a camp setting meal in a Dutch oven, tie their own fly fishing lure, or gain an understanding of how to attract wildlife to their property.
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is partnering with a wide range of other state agencies, private individuals and outdoor-related companies to host the Wildlife Expo. Held at the Lazy E Arena, just north of Oklahoma City, the event is designed to promote and instill appreciation for Oklahoma's wildlife and natural resources and provide hands-on learning opportunities for all types of outdoor enthusiasts. The event is free and open to the public.
            Activities range from shotgun and archery shooting to fishing, kayaking, ATV riding, mountain biking and much more. Additionally, numerous learning opportunities are available at booths and exhibits at the Expo. Visitors can speak with wildlife biologists and outdoorsmen experienced in fishing, hunting, game calling, wildlife and fisheries management, reptiles and amphibians and more, as well as attend seminars on hunting dog training, wild game cooking and basic firearm safety, among other topics. And for Expo visitors who like to shop, a large area called the Outdoor Marketplace is set aside at the Expo for vendors who will be on hand showcasing and offering for sale their outdoor merchandise and services.
            “In short, the Expo is a celebration of everything outdoors in the state of Oklahoma,” said Rhonda Hurst, Expo coordinator for the Wildlife Department. “We want you to leave the Expo with a new appreciation for wildlife and the hobbies of hunting, fishing and wildlife watching.”
            The Expo is Oklahoma’s largest outdoor recreation event, drawing tens of thousands of people each year. The Expo will be held at the Lazy E Arena, just north of Oklahoma City. Expo hours will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily Sept. 25-26. Admission and parking are free.
 
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Enjoy outdoor fun; sign up to win free prizes
            A stop by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters in Oklahoma City can give sportsmen a glimpse of the John Deere Gator utility vehicle that will be given away at the 2010 Oklahoma Wildlife Expo Sept. 25-26. Even better, they can attend the Expo and actually get behind the wheel of a Gator and drive it down an off-road trail as part of a weekend similar hands-on outdoor learning opportunities.
            The Gator that will be given away as well as the free off-road test driving course is being provided by P&K Equipment, a major Expo sponsor who has partnered with the Wildlife Department on the Expo for six years running. Offered as the grand prize at the Wildlife Expo, visitors need only sign up for the drawing at one of the prize registration stations located at the event, held at the Lazy E Arena just north of Oklahoma City.
            The Wildlife Expo is a weekend event designed to draw interest in the state’s wildlife and outdoors. Along with test driving and winning a Gator, visitors can also win a lifetime combination hunting and fishing license or one of many other prizes. Best of all, they can try over 100 hands-on outdoor activities like shooting a shotgun or bow and arrow, catching a fish in a stocked pond, riding a mountain bike or even kayaking. Events and seminars are scheduled throughout the weekend to give visitors a glimpse of everything Oklahoma’s outdoors have to offer, from hunting dog training and mule packing to wildlife identification, wild game meat sampling and camp cooking.
            “The entire event is free, but the experiences visitors can take home are priceless,” said Rhonda Hurst, Expo coordinator for the Wildlife Department. “It’s not every day you can try more than 100 hands-on outdoor activities in one trip. There’s something for everyone at the Expo, regardless of age or skill level.”
            The Expo is hosted by the Wildlife Department in partnership with a wide range of other state agencies, private individuals and outdoor-related companies to promote and perpetuate appreciation of Oklahoma's wildlife and natural resources.
            Expo hours will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 25-26. Admission and parking are free. For more information about the Wildlife Expo or the Wildlife Department, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Duck season openers confirmed
            With waterfowl hunting season just around the corner, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission recently confirmed regulations for the upcoming duck season, which can be found online at wildlifedepartment.com. Seasons will remain unchanged from last season, except for adjustment of calendar dates, and the number of pintail that may be included in the daily limit of six ducks has been increased from one to two.
            Every year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes frameworks to states for structuring their waterfowl seasons, and Oklahoma’s 74-day season and generous harvest limits represent a liberal season framework for hunters to enjoy.
            In the Panhandle counties, duck season will run from Oct. 9 through Jan. 5, and youth waterfowl days will be Oct. 2-3. In Zone 1, which includes most of northwest Oklahoma, excluding the Panhandle, duck season will run from Oct. 23 through Nov. 28 and Dec. 11 through Jan. 16. Youth waterfowl days in Zone 1 will be Oct. 16-17. Zone 2 duck season dates will be Nov. 6 through Nov. 28 and Dec. 11 through Jan. 30, with youth waterfowl days slated for Oct. 30-31.
            The daily limit of six ducks may include no more than: five mallards (only two may be hens), three wood ducks, two redheads, two scaup, two pintails and one canvasback. The daily limit of mergansers is five, of which no more than two may be hooded mergansers, and the daily limit of coots is 15.
            More information and regulations for waterfowl hunting may be found in the current “Oklahoma Waterfowl Guide,” available online at wildlifedepartment.com.
            The Commission also accepted a $1,000 donation in support of its annual Wildlife Expo from the Oklahoma Outdoor Society, highlighting the importance of partnerships between the agency and local sportsmen’s groups. The goals of the Kingfisher County-based group center on getting youth involved in the outdoors.
            “We’ve been wanting to do this for several years, but we had a real good banquet last year to help support this,” said Lary Helt, a representative for the group who attended the meeting.
            The group also volunteers with the Department’s hunter education program, holds fishing derbies, gives away lifetime hunting and fishing licenses to youth and holds banquets to raise money for projects such as the Expo.
            “I think they are to be commended,” said Robert Fleenor, law enforcement chief for the Wildlife Department. “The Outdoor Oklahoma Society is a perfect example of the tremendous attitude displayed by thousands of Oklahomans who give of themselves to nurture our youth in the ways of our state hunting and fishing heritage. It is this selfless giving of their time and money that will ensure that the generations to come will be well grounded in the outdoor ethic.”
            The 2010 Oklahoma Wildlife Expo is slated for Sept. 25-26 at the Lazy E Arena, just north of Oklahoma City, and features over 100 hands-on outdoor learning opportunities and activities.
            The Commission also approved the sale of water that will be drained from American Horse Lake while the dam structure is re-engineered. The 100-acre lake situated in Blaine Co. is scheduled for repairs that will require the water level to be reduced by up to 10 feet before the end of 2010. The re-engineering project comes after efforts to correct flood damage caused by Hurricane Erin in 2007 were unsuccessful.
            “This is going to require lowering the lake level probably somewhere between five and 10 feet,” said Barry Bolton, chief of fisheries for the Wildlife Department. “With the increase of oil and gas drilling in the area, this provides us with a unique and fortunate opportunity.”
            According to Bolton, several major oil companies are drilling horizontal wells in the area, each of which is requiring up to 100,000 barrels of water for operations.
            Only that amount of water needed to accomplish re-engineering of the American Horse Lake dam will be sold, and the Wildlife Department will maintain control of pump locations.
            “I’d like to emphasize the mission of our Department lakes is for sport fish and wildlife,” said Richard Hatcher, director of the Wildlife Department. “But this is a one-time unique situation where we have to draw the lake down anyway.”
            American Horse Lake is located 10 miles west of Geary and was constructed by the Wildlife Department in 1966. It features a boat ramp, picnic tables and a water well as well as abundant bass and bluegill fishing.
            In other business, the Commission recognized several Wildlife Department employees for tenure. Denise Pritchard, Holdenville Hatchery secretary, was recognized for 25 years of service; Ron Comer, game warden stationed in Canadian Co., for 20 years; David Robertson, game warden stationed in Okmulgee and McIntosh counties, for 20 years; Bryan Wilkerson, lieutenant game warden stationed in Ellis Co, for 20 years; and Linda Powell, game warden stationed in Marshall Co., for 20 years.
            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. Oct. 4 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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Learn to start a fire without matches at the 2010 Wildlife Expo
            When handed a stick and a weed, many sportsmen may have no idea what to make of it or what to do with it, but one game warden for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation knows just what to do – start a fire, of course.
            Mike Virgin is the district 3 law enforcement chief and game warden stationed in McCurtain Co., and he will be demonstrating how to start fire without matches at the 2010 Oklahoma Wildlife Expo Sept. 25-26.
            “There are a few different methods to getting a fire going with a match, and we are going to demonstrate each of them as well as teach visitors how to do it themselves,” Virgin said. “You may never have to use the skill in a survival setting, but it’s worth knowing, plus it’s just plain fun to learn.”
            The Expo is a free event held at the Lazy E Arena, just north of Oklahoma City, to introduce visitors to a broad range of outdoor opportunities in Oklahoma ranging from hunting and fishing to mountain biking and camping.
            Though modern conveniences such as matches and lighters make being an outdoorsmen easy when it comes to starting up a grill or campfire, there was a time when outdoorsmen had no such technology. The Expo offers a chance to learn the historic approach to getting a flame without a match, as well as hands-on opportunities to try over 100 other outdoor activities. Like starting a fire without matches, some of the activities offered at the Expo are primitive and even ancient art forms, such as building your own bow or shooting an arrow at a target. Others are fast-paced, such as riding a mountain bike on a dirt trail. Visitors also have a chance to shoot shotguns, catch a fish in a stocked pond, go kayaking, or even build a birdhouse to take home with them.
            “Two things all of the events at the Wildlife Expo have in common are that they are related to enjoying the great outdoors in Oklahoma, and they are all free, including admission into the event,” said Rhonda Hurst, Expo coordinator for the Wildlife Department.
            The Expo is hosted by the Wildlife Department in partnership with a wide range of other state agencies, private individuals and outdoor-related companies to promote and perpetuate appreciation of Oklahoma's wildlife and natural resources.
            Expo hours will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 25-26. Admission and parking are free. For more information about the Wildlife Expo or the Wildlife Department, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Introduce a youngster to fishing at the Wildlife Expo
            With summer on its way out, Oklahomans wishing they had a spent a little more time introducing a youngster to the pleasures of fishing still have plenty of opportunities, and they can start with the 2010 Oklahoma Wildlife Expo Sept. 25-26
            The Wildlife Expo, held at the Lazy E Arena just north of Oklahoma City, provides visitors a chance to fish for free in a stocked pond. Other angling-related opportunities at the Expo include seminars, bowfishing simulations, kids casting games, fly fishing and fly-tying lessons, fish filleting demonstrations and exhibits hosted by Wildlife Department fisheries personnel. Visitors can speak with experts on a range of fishing topics such as the Wildlife Department’s paddlefish program, black bass tactics, fishing tackle and more. Visitors can even sample delicious fried fish at the Expo’s popular Taste of the Wild booth, where volunteers serve up free samples of wild game snacks.
            According to Damon Springer, aquatic resource education coordinator for the Wildlife Department, the event can be the springboard for a lifetime of fishing excitement.
            “Oklahoma has thousands of ponds, lakes and streams that are teeming with fish, and several are open to public access,” Springer said. “Even with the abundance of open fishing waters, there are so many folks who still have not had the opportunity to fish. The Expo offers those folks with little to no previous exposure to fishing the opportunity to learn basic fishing and safety at the pond.”
            Fishing only scratches the surface of the activities, events, seminars and other opportunities provided at the Expo. Visitors can shoot shotguns and archery equipment with hands-on instruction from experts, ride an ATV, attend a hunting dog seminar, learn to identify wildlife and even paddle a kayak in an indoor pond built right into the floor of the Lazy E Arena especially for the Expo. While activities at the event are free, visitors can shop for outdoor goods and services at the Outdoor Marketplace, an area on the Lazy E designated for vendors showcasing their outdoor-related products.
            The Wildlife Expo is Oklahoma’s largest outdoor recreation event, drawing thousands of people to the Lazy E Arena, just north of Oklahoma City, for a weekend of hands-on outdoor recreation and learning. The Expo is hosted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation in partnership with a wide range of other state agencies, private individuals and outdoor-related companies.
            Designed to provide hands-on learning opportunities for all types of outdoor enthusiasts, the Expo offers something for everyone to try while promoting and instilling an appreciation for Oklahoma's wildlife and natural resources.
            The Wildlife Expo will be held at the Lazy E Arena, just north of Oklahoma City. Expo hours will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 25-26. Log on to wildlifedepartment.com regularly to stay up to date on this year’s Expo activities.
 
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Oklahoma big game season heating up
            Oklahoma’s deer and bear archery seasons kick off Oct. 1, not even a full week after the close of the second annual antelope archery season.
            “While Oklahoma has always offered tremendous opportunities to hunt big game, we are at a historical high point for hunting opportunity,” said Jerry Shaw, big game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “You can start your big game hunting season with the mid-September archery antelope season, take a few days break, and then continue hunting deer through the start of the new year.”
            Archery seasons for deer and bear run concurrent, with deer hunting available statewide and bear hunting limited to Latimer, LeFlore, McCurtain and Pushmataha counties in southeast Oklahoma.
            The whitetail deer is by far the most sought after big game animal in Oklahoma, with thousands of hunters taking to the woods each year and thousands of deer harvested.
            Last year, archery hunters harvested 19,887 of the 116,175 deer checked by hunters, for a total of 17 percent.  While that figure is low compared to rifle hunters who tagged 62 percent of last year’s harvest, archery still provides the longest deer season, the most generous harvest limits and most readily available opportunities on public lands.
            Though opportunities for archery hunting abound, the skill can be more challenging and require extra practice to become proficient. But according to Shaw, that added challenge and extra time afield can be rewarding.
            According the Shaw, the short-range nature of archery equipment and the lack of noise make bowhunting a great method of hunting in many suburban areas closed to firearms.
            “Many of these locations are within a few minutes drive of our major metropolitan areas and can be loaded with deer,” Shaw said.
            Throughout most of the year, deer can be described as “creatures of habit,” and early season archery deer hunters can be successful by patterning deer in August and September and setting up stands within shooting range of observed travel routes.
            “Scouting is the key,” said Shaw. “If you have been watching a deer or an area where deer frequent and you know their schedule, your chance of harvesting one goes way up.”
            To hunt deer during archery season, resident hunters must have an appropriate hunting license. Additionally, all deer hunters must possess a deer archery license for each deer hunted or proof of exemption. Nonresident deer hunters are exempt from a hunting license while hunting deer, but they must possess a nonresident deer archery license for each deer hunted, or proof of exemption. Holders of nonresident lifetime hunting and lifetime combination licenses are not exempt from purchasing deer licenses.
            New this year, successful hunters must also record the date and time of harvest in addition to their name and hunting license number on field tags, and deer must be checked within 24 hours of leaving the hunt area. Hunters must check in their animal at the nearest open hunter check station, with an authorized Wildlife Department employee or online at wildlifedepartment.com.
            “If you have not checked out the online game checking system, you need to,” Shaw said. “The system is fast, easy and open twenty-four/seven.”
            For those without Internet access, a county-by-county listing of hunter check stations is available in the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or at wildlifedepartment.com.
            Though fewer hunters take to the mountains of southeast Oklahoma for bear archery season, the excitement still draws hunters from across the state to the region in hopes of harvesting an Oklahoma bruin.
            Black bears once ranged across North America, including the entire area of what is now Oklahoma, but by the early 1900s, sightings had become rare. Factors like land use changes, unregulated hunting and habitat fragmentation caused black bear numbers to eventually decline drastically.
            In the late 1900s, however, black bears began making a comeback in Oklahoma after the successful reintroduction of black bears in the Ouachita and Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. That initial relocation of about 250 bears from northern Minnesota and Manitoba, Canada, turned into thousands of bears in the mountains of Arkansas, which then expanded into southwest Missouri and eastern Oklahoma.
            This successful reestablishment of black bears led to a renewed black bear hunting season in Arkansas in 1980.
            Today bears have a growing population in southeast Oklahoma and are an important part of the state's wildlife diversity. Biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation have collected biological data mainly from bear surveys and research projects.  Information has also been gathered from bears killed by vehicles, poachers or while responding to nuisance bear calls. The best information thus far has come from the 19 bears harvested in last year’s inaugural black bear season. Research projects conducted by the Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit with Oklahoma State University show the bear population in Oklahoma can sustain a limited hunting season.
            The bear archery season will run from Oct. 1 through Oct. 22 or until the season quota of 20 bears has been met. If the season quota is not met during bear archery season, black bear muzzleloader season will open Oct. 23 and run through Oct. 31 or until the season quota is met. Hunters must check by phone or online at wildlifedepartment.com before hunting each day to see if the quota has been reached. Once the quota of 20 bears is reached, the season will close. The use of dogs is prohibited, and baiting is prohibited on wildlife management areas.
            According to Jeff Ford, southeast region wildlife biologist for the Wildlife Department, hunters should concentrate on areas along ridge tops early in the season to take full advantage of white oak acorn crops, which fall earlier than other species of oak.
            Ford also suggests that hunters scout areas near where timber harvest has occurred, since plants and trees that produce soft mast thrive in such locations. Finding a watering hole near a food source can increase a hunter's chance for success as well.
            To hunt black bears in Oklahoma, resident hunters must possess a hunting license. Additionally, resident bear hunters must possess a bear license. Nonresident bear hunters are exempt from a hunting license while hunting bear but must possess a nonresident bear license.
            Lifetime license holders are not exempt from the purchase of a bear license. Bear licenses for the archery season must be purchased prior to Oct. 1 and bear licenses for the muzzleloader season must be purchased by 11:59 p.m. Oct. 22. An unfilled bear license from the archery season is valid for the bear muzzleloader season if the season quota of 20 bears has not been reached. Once the quota has been reached, the season has closed.
            Extra Wildlife Department personnel will be available in the four-county hunt area during early bear season to help check in bear harvests, visit with sportsmen, and to help ensure compliance of bear hunting regulations. Wildlife Department personnel will collect biological data from each bear harvested, including a tooth for age determination and specific size measurements. Additionally, bears harvested may be subject to forensic analysis to ensure legal means of harvest were observed. The Wildlife Department also will work in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service to establish several hunter check points throughout the hunt area for checking bear hunters.
            In addition to the opening of archery season for deer and black bear, Oct. 1 also marks the opening of turkey fall archery and rabbit seasons. For more information, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Pick up Sept. 19 Sunday Oklahoman for Wildlife Expo programs
            Sportsmen should watch the Sept. 19 Sunday Oklahoman for programs featuring the sixth annual Oklahoma Wildlife Expo. The programs serve as a complete guide to the event, slated for Sept. 25-26 at the Lazy E Arena, just north of Oklahoma City.
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is partnering with a wide range of other state agencies, private individuals, outdoor-related companies and sponsors such as The Oklahoman to host the Wildlife Expo. The event is designed to promote and instill appreciation for Oklahoma's wildlife and natural resources and provide hands-on learning opportunities for all types of outdoor enthusiasts. The event is free and open to the public.
            “Our sponsors and partners are a huge part of the Expo’s success,” said Rhonda Hurst, Expo coordinator for the Wildlife Department.
            For a full list of partners and sponsors, as well as an electronic copy of the Expo program, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
            Activities at the Expo range from shotgun and archery shooting to fishing, kayaking, ATV riding, mountain biking and much more. Additionally, numerous learning opportunities are available at booths and exhibits at the Expo. Visitors can speak with wildlife biologists and outdoorsmen experienced in fishing, hunting, game calling, wildlife and fisheries management, reptiles and amphibians and more, as well as attend seminars on hunting dog training, wild game cooking and basic firearm safety, among other topics. And for Expo visitors who like to shop, a large area called the Outdoor Marketplace is set aside at the Expo for vendors who will be on hand showcasing and offering for sale their outdoor merchandise and services.
            “In short, the Expo is a celebration of everything outdoors in the state of Oklahoma,” Hurst said. “We want you to leave the Expo with a new appreciation for wildlife and the hobbies of hunting, fishing and wildlife watching.”
            The Expo is Oklahoma’s largest outdoor recreation event, drawing tens of thousands of people each year. The Expo will be held at the Lazy E Arena, just north of Oklahoma City. Expo hours will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily Sept. 25-26. Admission and parking are free.
 
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Enjoy outdoor fun; sign up to win free prizes
            Up for grabs at the 2010 Oklahoma Wildlife Expo Sept. 25-26 is a brand new John Deere Gator utility vehicle from P&K Equipment. Offered as the grand prize, visitors need only sign up for the drawing at the outdoor license tent, located by the Outdoor Marketplace.
            Oklahomans can attend the Expo, held at the Lazy E Arena just north of Oklahoma City, and actually get behind the wheel of a Gator and drive it down an off-road trail as part of a weekend of hands-on outdoor learning opportunities.
            The Wildlife Expo is a weekend event designed to draw interest in the state’s wildlife and outdoors. Along with test driving and winning a Gator, visitors can also win a lifetime combination hunting and fishing license or one of many other prizes. Best of all, they can try over 100 hands-on outdoor activities like shooting a shotgun or bow and arrow, catching a fish in a stocked pond, riding a mountain bike or even kayaking. Events and seminars are scheduled throughout the weekend to give visitors a glimpse of everything Oklahoma’s outdoors have to offer, from hunting dog training and mule packing to wildlife identification, wild game meat sampling and camp cooking.
            “The entire event is free, but the experiences visitors can take home are priceless,” said Rhonda Hurst, Expo coordinator for the Wildlife Department. “It’s not every day you can try more than 100 hands-on outdoor activities in one trip. There’s something for everyone at the Expo, regardless of age or skill level.”
            The Expo is hosted by the Wildlife Department in partnership with a wide range of other state agencies, private individuals and outdoor-related companies to promote and perpetuate appreciation of Oklahoma's wildlife and natural resources.
            Expo hours will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 25-26 at the Lazy E Arena, just north of Oklahoma City. Admission and parking are free. For more information and directions about the Wildlife Expo or the Wildlife Department, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Wildlife Expo on schedule rain or shine
            Forecasted rain on Friday will not dampen the fun at this weekend’s Oklahoma Wildlife Expo. Indoor and outdoor activities will remain open throughout the weekend, but the presence of lightning will limit activities to the indoors.
            The Wildlife Expo, sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and coordinated by hundreds of volunteer organizations and individuals, is slated for September 25-26 at the Lazy E Arena, just north of Oklahoma City. The event offers nonstop outdoor action for all ages and levels of experience with the outdoors. And it’s free.
            The Expo takes a hands-on approach to educating visitors about the outdoors.  Guests can try their own hand at shooting a shotgun or bow and arrow, riding a mountain bike or ATV, floating in a kayak, building a birdhouse, painting their own fishing lure, catching a fish and more.
            One visitor will even win a brand new John Deere Gator utility vehicle from P&K Equipment. Offered as the grand prize, visitors need only sign up for the drawing at the outdoor license tent, located by the Outdoor Marketplace.
            Booths and other activities inside the arena offer information and resources about a range of outdoor activities opportunities available to them. Visitors can learn about fly fishing or deer hunting or even wildlife management.
            Snacking at the popular “Taste of the Wild” booth gives visitors a sample of wild game meat, and attending a seminar can enhance their knowledge on a number of outdoor topics ranging from aging deer on the hoof to training hunting dogs or caring for wild game meat in the field.
            Additionally, shoppers have a chance to glance through and buy some of the best outdoor gear available at the Expo’s Outdoor Marketplace, a huge area at the Expo where vendors are set up to display and sell outdoor-related products and services.
            Expo hours are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 25-26. Admission and parking are free, and all events and activities at the Expo are free.
 
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Free hunter education courses available throughout the fall season
            Oklahomans hoping to go hunting this year can prepare by enrolling in one of many hunter education courses to be held this fall by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
            The Department’s Hunter Education course teaches a range of topics including firearms safety, wildlife identification, wildlife conservation and management, survival, archery, muzzleloading and hunter responsibility. The course is available as a standard eight-hour course or as a home study course.
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation offers a full listing of available upcoming hunter education courses online at wildlifedepartment.com. Visitors to the site can learn when and where classes will be held and, if pre-registration is required, a phone number is provided.
            To hunt big game or small game alone, hunters ages 10-35 must be hunter education certified. Hunters age nine and under who are hunter education certified can hunt big game or small game alone except during youth deer gun and turkey seasons and on public lands, where additional regulations may apply. Hunters exempt from hunter education include those 36 years of age or older, those honorably discharged from or currently on duty the U.S. Armed Forces, and members of the National Guard.
            “For hunters who are exempt in Oklahoma but need hunter education to hunt in another state, a test-out option is available,” said Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Wildlife Department. “Call (405) 522-4572 for details.”
            According to Meek, it is not uncommon for hunters who are exempt from hunter education to make plans to hunt in another state that requires hunter education certification.
            “We get a lot of calls from people getting ready for a trip to Colorado or Kansas who don’t find out they need hunter education until right before they leave or even until they get out there. If you were born after 1949, you’ll need it in Colorado. And if you were born after 1957, you’ll need it in Kansas.”
            Oklahomans who are not exempt from hunter education but who are not hunter education certified may be eligible to hunt with an apprentice-designated hunting license. For full details and license requirements, log on to wildlifedepartment.com or consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide.”
            Even those hunters who can hunt with an apprentice-designated hunting license are encouraged to complete a hunter education course.
            Officials with Wildlife Department say hunter education courses have not only reduced accidents within Oklahoma, but also in every state and Canadian province with similar programs. Over the past 30 years, hunting-related accidents and fatalities have declined by more than 70 percent in Oklahoma.
            Hunter education courses are scheduled throughout the fall in a number of communities and are free to the public. To see a full schedule, log on to
http://www.wildlifedepartment.com 
 
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Kaw Wildlife Management Area to host annual BioBlitz!
            More than 100 of the region’s biologists, naturalists, and educators will race against the clock to collect and identify as many species as possible in a 24-hour period during this year’s BioBlitz! October 8-9 at Kaw Lake and Camp McFadden in north-central Oklahoma.
            The goal behind BioBlitz is to uncover the biodiversity, or the number of different things living in the area.
            BioBlitz! teams will search for the plants, mammals, birds, insects, fish, amphibians, and reptiles at Army Corps of Engineer lands and the Kaw Lake Wildlife Management Area.
            Ian Butler of the Oklahoma Biological Survey coordinates the event.
            “BioBlitz showcases the amazing diversity of species we have right here in Oklahoma,” Butler said. “You don’t have to go to South America to learn about biodiversity, there’s an impressive amount of life in your own backyard.”
            But it’s not always easy to see it. That’s where BioBlitz! comes in.
Base camp, located at Camp McFadden, is the hub for all BioBlitz! activity. It is there that biologists will identify collected species, and the tally of discoveries grows with each passing hour.
            Butler invites everyone to visit base camp Saturday to see, touch, and learn about Oklahoma’s diverse wildlife.
            “Come meet the naturalists and biologists doing the inventory,” Butler said. “We’ll show you what we’re finding and how we’re doing it.”
            Discover how to use a seining net and a Sherman trap — a device used to collect small rodents. Additional activities and interpretive displays highlight Oklahoma’s species, including owls, raccoons, plants, and snakes.
            Once a year the Oklahoma Biological Survey hosts BioBlitz!, along with sponsors like the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation, and the Oklahoma City Zoo. The event is held in different locations each year.
For complete BioBlitz! details, log on to
http://www.biosurvey.ou.edu/BioBlitz/BioBlitzCurrent.html.
 
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Youth deer gun season offers young hunters first shot
            With deer gun season slated for late November, young Oklahoma hunters the chance at a buck and a doe before the rush during the youth deer gun season Oct. 15-17.
            The youth season is open to hunters under 18 years of age. Youth hunters must be accompanied by a hunter 18 years or older. Youth hunting with an apprentice-designated license must be accompanied by a licensed hunter who is 21 years old or older who is hunter education certified or exempt.
            Oklahoma youth under the age of 16 are exempt from the purchase of a hunting license but must possess a youth deer license.
            Youth 16 or 17 years old must possess a hunting license or proof of exemption, plus a youth deer gun license for each deer hunted. A youth combination hunting and fishing license is available to 16 and 17-year-old residents for $9, and resident youth deer gun licenses are $10.
            Youth hunters who do not harvest a deer during the youth deer gun season may use their unfilled youth deer gun license during the regular deer gun season. Hunters who do harvest a deer during the youth deer gun season may purchase another youth deer gun license and harvest a deer during the regular gun season.
            The youth deer gun season limit is one antlered and one antlerless deer, and the harvest of antlerless mule deer is prohibited. Deer taken by hunters participating in the youth deer gun season are included in the hunter’s combined season limit.
            For complete information on youth deer gun season details and regulations and the apprentice-designated hunting license, consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
            For those youth who do not have their hunter education certification, the Department is offering several courses before the season opens in communities across the state. Some require pre-registration. Log on to wildlifedepartment.com for more information on each available class.
 
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Panhandle duck hunters to start off duck season Oct. 9
            Panhandle waterfowlers have just days before hunting season begins, with youth waterfowl days slated for Oct. 2-3 and the regular season set to open Oct. 9.
            The season on ducks, mergansers and coots in the Panhandle runs Oct. 9 through Jan. 5, while seasons in the rest of the state have mid-season breaks.
            Duck seasons statewide will remain unchanged from last season, except for adjustment of calendar dates, and the number of pintail that may be included in the daily limit of six ducks has been increased from one to two.
            Every year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes frameworks to states for structuring their waterfowl seasons, and Oklahoma’s 74-day season and generous harvest limits represent a liberal season framework for hunters to enjoy.
            Panhandle hunters begin their hunting season first, followed by Zones 1 and 2. In Zone 1, which includes most of northwest Oklahoma, excluding the Panhandle, duck season will run from Oct. 23 through Nov. 28 and Dec. 11 through Jan. 16. Youth waterfowl days in Zone 1 will be Oct. 16-17. Zone 2 duck season dates will be Nov. 6 through Nov. 28 and Dec. 11 through Jan. 30, with youth waterfowl days slated for Oct. 30-31.
            The daily limit of six ducks may include no more than: five mallards (only two may be hens), three wood ducks, two redheads, two scaup, two pintails and one canvasback. The daily limit of mergansers is five, of which no more than two may be hooded mergansers, and the daily limit of coots is 15.
            More information and regulations — including hunting license, waterfowl stamp and permit requirements — may be found in the current “Oklahoma Waterfowl Guide,” available online at wildlifedepartment.com or at locations where hunting licenses and duck stamps are sold.
 
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Young outdoor writers share hunting heritage, win outdoor getaways
            A statewide youth outdoor writing contest is giving Oklahoma youth a chance this year to share their outdoor heritage while competing for the chance to win an all-expense-paid outdoor getaway.
            According to Colin Berg, education supervisor for the Wildlife Department, 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.
            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 previous year’s contest are not eligible. Applicants must have successfully completed an Oklahoma Hunter Education course by the entry deadline, which is Nov. 19, 2010. 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 one week long — during the summer of 2011.
            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 Oklahoma State Chapter will reimburse trip travel expenses to New Mexico and Texas up to $500 per essay contest winner. The winning student essays will be published in the OSCSCI newsletter, “Safari Trails.” Publication qualifies the winning entries for the Outdoor Writers Association of America Youth Writing Contest. Several past national winners have come from Oklahoma. Essays may also be printed in Outdoor Oklahoma magazine.
             Two educators also will be awarded all-expenses-paid scholarships for an eight-day conservation education school at Safari Club International’s American Wilderness Leadership School (AWLS) at Granite Ranch near Jackson, Wyoming.
            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.
            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. 19, 2010, or delivered by Nov. 19 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. Fax entries will not be accepted.
 
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Western Oklahoma’s Crowder Lake to remain open to anglers during repairs
            Anglers might not expect to find the nice surprise known as Crowder Lake just south of Weatherford, but the designated trophy bass lake is a known gem for western Oklahoma, and repairs to the dam in the coming months won’t stop fishing opportunities.
            While the lake will be lowered for repairs for the next few months, some water will remain in the lake and fishing will still be allowed. Anglers can keep fish under regular state harvest limits, but all largemouth bass must be released during the drawdown.
            Biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife hope to preserve enough adult bass to be sure they will spawn when the lake refills.
            Anglers will not be able to launch boats, but may fish from the bank during the drawdown.  The short-term inconvenience should be offset in the long run, according to Ryan Ryswyk, southwest region fisheries biologist for the Wildlife Department.
            "We plan to make improvements to the boat ramp and add a new dock while the lake is down," Ryswyk said.
            Biologists also expect fishing to improve significantly when the lake refills, due to what they call the "new lake effect." According to Ryswyk, newly impounded water stimulates fish to spawn prolifically and grow quickly in the new environment. Though Crowder will be a refilled lake, Ryswyk expects the effects to be similar.
            "Plants will grow in the lake bottom and then be flooded when the lake refills, and that creates perfect spawning and feeding habitat for bass and crappie," Ryswyk said. "Nutrients that were trapped in the mud will be released and act like fertilizer to a lawn or garden when the lake bottom floods again."
            The Wildlife Department also will restock channel catfish after the dam repairs are completed. Bass, crappie and sunfish are expected to spawn on their own and replenish the lake. Ryswyk expects that fishing should be better than normal as those fish mature in three to five years.
            For more information about fishing at Crowder Lake, contact Ryan Ryswyk at 580/529-2795.
 
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