OCTOBER 2010 NEWS RELEASES 

 

 WEEK OF OCTOBER 28, 2010

WEEK OF OCTOBER 21, 2010

WEEK OF OCTOBER 14, 2010

WEEK OF OCTOBER 7, 2010

Bear archery season quota met in one day
            In an unprecedented and unexpected turn of events, Oklahoma black bear archery season opened and closed in one day when hunters reached the quota of 20 bears Oct. 1 in southeast Oklahoma.
            A total of 32 black bears were harvested Oct. 1, which is 13 more than were harvested in about a month’s time last year.
            “The weather was perfect for hunting and sportsmen worked hard leading up to the season, and it culminated in an outstanding day of bear hunting in Oklahoma,” said Joe Hemphill, southeast region wildlife supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
            “We had a very conservative bear quota, and when we planned the regulations for the season, we took into account the possibility of exceeding the harvest quota slightly,” Hemphill said. “The harvest of 32 bears is a great sign that we are doing things right in Oklahoma, since the presence of bears in an environment is considered an indicator of good habitat.”
            According to Hemphill, biologists have seen two extremes in the two years since bear season was inaugurated in Oklahoma, with only 19 bears harvested in 28 days in 2009 and 32 harvested in just one day in 2010. Weather and environmental conditions also were starkly different during each of the two seasons. The 2009 season opened with thunder and lightning and a plentiful acorn crop, whereas the 2010 opener was marked with mild weather and few acorns to be found. As with hunting seasons on all species, Department personnel review all available data following the season and work to provide optimum hunting opportunities.
            Though black bear archery season draws fewer hunters than other species (177 resident bear licenses purchased for the 2010 season), the season includes both hard work and excitement for those who participate. Many hunters spend weeks leading up the bear season scouting, maintaining bait stations on private lands, and practicing archery. Counties open to black bear hunting during the archery season are Latimer, LeFlore, Pushmataha and McCurtain counties — all in the mountainous region of southeast Oklahoma.
            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.
            This success of this year’s black bear season is sure to be remembered by all who participated.
            “I had no idea the season would open and close so quickly, but I am glad I took advantage of the opportunity,” said Nels Rodefeld, information and education chief for the Wildlife Department and one of the successful hunters who harvested a bear on Friday. “Sportsmen in Oklahoma are so fortunate to have such a broad diversity of game to hunt. Even though bear season is now closed, there are still so many opportunities to hunt and so many game species to choose from.”
            Seasons such as deer archery, turkey archery, dove, rabbit and squirrel are currently open, with several other seasons ranging from deer gun, pheasant and quail still to open before the year ends.
            For more information about black bear hunting in Oklahoma, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Deer muzzleloader season to kick off Oct. 23
            After a successful black bear season ended Oct. 1 when hunters harvested 32 bears on opening day — reaching the season quota and therefore officially closing the season — sportsmen are now enjoying deer archery season and gearing up for deer muzzleloader season Oct. 23-31.
            Along with black bear archery season, deer archery season opened Oct. 1 and hunters are already enjoying cooler days afield and ample hunting opportunity statewide. Deer muzzleloader season is the first opportunity that all sportsmen can use firearms to harvest deer, and the season accounts for about 20-25 percent of the total annual deer harvest in Oklahoma.
            Muzzleloader season spans nine days. The modern gun season opens Nov. 20 and runs for 16 days. Archery season remains open through Jan. 15, 2011.
            Deer are plentiful in every part of Oklahoma, whether it be in wide-open prairie or pine-covered mountains, and several wildlife management areas across the state offer hunting for at least part of the muzzleloader season, some through special draw hunts that give sportsmen a unique opportunity to change up their usual hunting routine.
            To learn more about deer hunting on wildlife management areas, consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or log on to wildlifedepartment.com. The website offers regulations, useful hunting information and an award-winning digital wildlife management area atlas. And best of all, it is free. In addition to detailed maps, sportsmen can find information such as camping locations and contacts for local biologists.
            In the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s most recent Big Game Report, available in the current issue of Outdoor Oklahoma magazine, big game biologist Jerry Shaw calls muzzleloader season a “season of contrast.”
            “In the same hunting party one can see a hand-built flintlock shooting lead balls, hand molded and carefully loaded from a fringed buckskin ‘possibles bag,’ and then turn to see another hunter shooting a stainless-steel-barreled scoped rifle loaded with smokeless powder and pistol bullets sitting on top of a polymer sabot. While one hunter worries about keeping the powder ‘in the pan, dry, the other wonders if his kids have noticed that the battery powering his electronic ignition was pilfered from the television remote just hours before. No matter which end of the spectrum a muzzleloader hunter tends to gravitate toward, one thing remains constant, it is a fantastic time to be outdoors.”
            During muzzleloader season, hunters can harvest a buck and two antlerless deer (at least one antlerless deer must be harvested from Antlerless Deer Zone 2, 7 or 8), and most of the state is open to antlerless hunting every day during the season. Resident muzzleloader hunters must possess an appropriate hunting license and a deer muzzleloader license for each deer harvested. Nonresident muzzleloader hunters are exempt from a hunting license while hunting deer, but they must possess a nonresident deer muzzleloader license for each deer hunted or proof of exemption. For a map of Oklahoma’s antlerless deer zones, consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” available online at wildlifedepartment.com or anywhere hunting licenses are sold.
            Upon harvesting a deer, all hunters must attach a field tag to the animal. New this year, the date and time of harvest must be recorded on field tags placed on deer, turkey and elk in addition to the hunter’s name and license number. The field tag, which can be constructed of anything (such as a business card), must remain attached to the carcass until it is checked either at the nearest hunter check station, with an authorized Wildlife Department employee or online at wildlifedepartment.com.
            Hunters can harvest a turkey with their muzzleloaders Oct. 30-31 in most of the state. A fall turkey license is required, unless exempt. Turkey fall gun season runs Oct. 30 through Nov. 19, and details on the season are available in the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide.”
            Hunters age 10-35 who have not completed hunter education can buy an apprentice-designated hunting license and hunt while accompanied by a licensed hunter 21 years old or older who has completed the hunter education course, or a licensed hunter 21 years old or older who is otherwise exempt from hunter education (includes those 36 years old or older, those honorably discharged or currently active in the Armed Forces or members of the National Guard). Hunters under 10 years old must complete a hunter education course to hunt big game or to buy any big game hunting license.
            For specific information regarding which areas are open to muzzleloader season, licenses, bag limits, blaze orange clothing requirements or legal firearms, consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide" or log onto www.wildlifedepartment.com

 
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Sixth annual Wildlife Expo draws massive crowds and rave reviews
            The popular Oklahoma Wildlife Expo held each year by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation drew record crowds Sept. 24-26, with an estimated attendance of more than 51,000 visitors. Additionally, onsite surveys of Expo visitors showed that 61 percent of visitors on Saturday and Sunday were visiting the event for the first time.
            “We’re continuing to reach many new and different people during the Wildlife Expo, and it’s the people and the outdoors that are going to benefit most from this great event,” said Rhonda Hurst, Wildlife Expo coordinator for the Wildlife Department.
            It’s not just an event that draws huge crowd, however. The event has lasting impacts. Letters received by the Wildlife Department after the Expo confirmed that attendees take home lasting memories.
            One parent of a student who attended the event on Friday’s School Day said their child continued to talk about the Wildlife Expo even after it had passed.
            “I’m a single mom,” the parent said. “Many of the things my son did, he hasn’t had the opportunity to do before. He told everyone who would listen to him about it for days.”
            According to Hurst, that testimony is a true measure of success.
            “The Expo draws a lot of people, but the fact that a simple opportunity to shoot a bow and arrow or catch a fish can provide so much excitement and appreciation for the outdoors is exactly what we want to accomplish with the Expo. That excitement leads people to understand the value of the outdoors and the importance of wildlife conservation to our environment and to our quality of life.”
            Held at the Lazy E Arena, just north of Oklahoma City, the free Oklahoma Wildlife Expo is hosted by the Wildlife Department in partnership with a range of organizations, other state agencies, individuals and outdoor-related companies to generate an interest in the outdoors and conservation. That mission is accomplished through hands-on education and learning opportunities in which visitors can try everything from shooting a shotgun to petting an alligator. Kayaking in a pond built into the floor of the Lazy E Arena, catching a fish from a stocked pond, or riding a mountain bike on a dirt trail are all part of the experience of the Wildlife Expo.
            Additionally, visitors can shoot archery, sample wild game meat, test-drive an ATV, see wildlife firsthand, watch hunting dog demonstrations and even win prizes such as a John Deere Gator off-road utility vehicle. Everything from birdwatching and birdhouse building to seminars on how to pack a mule for a hunting trip is included at the Expo, and it is all free of charge.
            To learn more about the Oklahoma Wildlife Expo, log on to www.wildlifedepartment.com

 
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Land management tour on Wildlife Department WMA to offer insight for all landowners
            Landowners looking to get the most out of their natural resources should plan now to attend the Fire, Wildlife, Timber and Cattle Grazing Annual Fall Field Tour slated for Oct. 12 at the Pushmataha Wildlife Management Area.
            The tour will take place from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. There is no cost to attend. The Pushmataha Management Area headquarters is located two miles south of Clayton off State Highway 271, approximately three miles west on a county road. Signs will be visible.
            “American Indians have managed this country with fire for more than 10,000 years, and to great benefit to people, plants and animals,” said Terry Bidwell, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension rangeland specialist. “Our scientific inquiries are helping to rediscover the extent of those benefits. The application of science-based management can and has helped provide for sustainable, healthy ecosystems.”
            Participants will gain a better understanding of how to use prescribed fire, timber harvest and cattle grazing to meet land management objectives; integrated timber, livestock and wildfire management; stocking rate and carrying capacity considerations for running cattle; and ways to maintain and promote overall forest health.
            Also included will be a history of the Pushmataha Wildlife Management Area and benefits that research on its 19,247 acres has yielded.
            Sessions will be led by Bidwell; Jack Waymire, senior biologist and Pushmataha site manager; and Ron Masters, director of research for Florida’s Tall Timbers Research Station and a former faculty member with OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.
            “Coming back to Oklahoma for the annual field tour is one of the highlights of my year,” Masters said. “We had no idea back in 1982 that the studies we began would still be yielding valuable insights today, or that they would generate such beneficial additional areas of research. It has been quite the land-management detective story.”
            The tour is being sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, OSU Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, and the Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.
            Anyone seeking additional information about the Pushmataha Wildlife Management Area field tour should contact Waymire by phone at (918) 569-4329, or Bidwell by phone at (405) 744-9618.
 
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Molpus Timberlands Management, LLC Joins Honobia Creek WMA
            A new cooperative agreement between the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and Molpus Timberlands Management, LLC (Molpus) will allow continued public recreation on 16,311 acres of the Honobia Creek Wildlife Management Area in southeast Oklahoma.
            The portion of the WMA encompassed by the agreement is private commercial forestland that sportsmen will be able to use with the purchase of a Land Access Permit, available online at wildlifedepartment.com or anywhere hunting and fishing licenses are sold.  
            Wildlife Department biologists will work with Molpus’ professional foresters to enhance fish and wildlife resources on the property, which include wild turkey, deer, bear and quail. Some of the unique walk-in hunting areas for wild turkey will also be maintained as part of this partnership. All revenues from the Land Access Permits will be used by ODWC to manage, maintain, and enhance the WMA. This WMA is consistent with MTM’s objective of managing the timberland under a sustainable forest management program.
            “Molpus Timberlands Management is committed to sustainable forestry and sound stewardship practices. Well-managed forests support a tremendous variety of recreational opportunities. We are excited to be working with the State of Oklahoma in an effort to make these recreational opportunities available for the public’s enjoyment,” said Ken Sewell, Chief Operating Officer of Molpus Timberlands Management, LLC.
            Molpus Timberlands Management, LLC and its sister company, The Molpus Woodlands Group LLC, a Registered Investment Advisor, (collectively “Molpus”) have a history in the timber industry dating back to 1905. Molpus finds itself as one of the oldest timber-related companies in the nation with experience in all facets of timber management, manufacturing and marketing. Molpus acquires, manages and sells timberland as an investment vehicle for pension funds, college endowments, foundations, insurance companies and high net-worth individual investors. Molpus focuses on ensuring long-term optimum cash returns on investments while practicing responsible forest stewardship. For more information about Molpus, log on to
http://www.molpus.com .
            Together, Molpus and the Wildlife Department will work together to enhance the WMA’s fish and wildlife resources and provide quality public recreation. For $40 (Oklahoma residents) or $85 (non-residents) visitors to the Honobia Creek WMA can enjoy some of Molpus’ most scenic forests and create memories that will last a lifetime.
 
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Zone 1 waterfowl hunters to start off duck season Oct. 23
            Zone 1 duck hunters will kick off their season with youth days Oct. 16-17 and the regular season Oct. 23.
            The season on ducks, mergansers and coots in Zone 1 runs Oct. 23 through Nov. 28 and Dec. 11 through Jan. 16.
            Zone 1 includes most of northwest Oklahoma, excluding the Panhandle.
            Duck seasons statewide 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 began their hunting season first, on Oct. 9. 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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Wildlife Department miscellaneous auction like outdoorsmen’s garage sale
            Outdoorsmen and wildlife enthusiasts may find a treasure at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s upcoming miscellaneous auction, slated for Nov. 6 at Lake Burtschi.
            Bargain shopping sportsmen can find deals on a range of outdoor gear, tools, generators, mowers, farm equipment, office equipment and more. Watch wildlifedepartment.com in the coming weeks for a full listing of auction items that will be available at the sale.
            “There’s hundreds of surplus items that will be for sale at the auction, and anybody who purchases something will be supporting the Wildlife Department at the same time,” said Johnny Hill, property manager for the Wildlife Department. “Each year, buyers walk away with some real bargains, so come join us and get in on a good deal.”
            The public auction will be at 9 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 6 at Lake Burtschi, located 11 miles west of Chickasha on SH-92. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. In case of rain, the auction will be postponed until Sunday, Nov. 7 at the same time and location.
 
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Many opportunities left for would-be hunters to attend hunter ed class before deer gun season
            Opportunities to attend an Oklahoma hunter education class between now and opening day of deer gun season Nov. 20 are plentiful, and most hunters need the certification to hunt deer without supervision.
            Hunters have about 40 class dates to choose from across the state before deer gun season arrives, with more than 30 classes scheduled for Nov. 6 and Nov. 13 alone.
            “People have busy schedules these days,” said Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “These courses are a huge benefit to those sportsmen who couldn’t make it to a class earlier in the year. While there have been more that 350 courses throughout the year, we have made a special effort to make sure no one will need to drive too far to find a class in the two weeks before deer gun season.”
            In recent years, the Wildlife Department has offered even more last minute courses during the weekend prior to the opening day of deer gun season, and according to Meek, the turnout is worth the effort.
            “Hunters have responded very well to these offerings,” Meek said. “Last year, we certified 3,236 students the two weekends before deer gun season. That’s almost 20 percent of the number of students certified all year.”
            Courses scheduled between now and deer gun season will debut the Wildlife Department’s new hunter education manual, designed specifically for Oklahoma hunter education students. Curriculum for the manual was developed by the University of Central Oklahoma with oversight from Department hunter ed instructors. Since it is an Oklahoma specific manual, unlike the manuals used in the rest of the country, students will see more Oklahoma scenes and situations.
            “The thing I love about this manual is that it really focuses on the things that are important for hunter education students to know,” Meek said.  “The majority of the manual focuses on safety and ethics, and those are the most important things you can teach new hunters.”
            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 in the U.S. Armed Forces, and members of the National Guard.
            Oklahomans who are not exempt from hunter education and 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.
            Courses slated for Nov. 6 and Nov. 13 will be held in cities such as Ada, Antlers, Ardmore, Bartlesville, Bokchito, Broken Arrow, Broken Bow, Burns Flat, Enid, Grove, Jenks, Kellyville, Lawton, Locust Grove, McAlester, Miami, Midwest City, Newcastle, Oklahoma City, Prague, Sallisaw, Stillwater, Sulphur, Tishomingo, Wagoner, Wayne, Wister and Woodward. Some courses on these dates require two day’s attendance, and others are offered as home study courses. For individual class details, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
            Every year, the Wildlife Department holds hundreds of hunter education classes taught by Department employees and volunteer instructors across the state.
            The Wildlife Department 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 a phone number is provided if pre-registration is required.
            Hunter education covers a variety of topics including firearm safety and handling, treestand safety, ethics, muzzleloader hunting, archery, wildlife identification and wildlife management. It is available as a standard eight-hour course, as an Internet home study course and as a workbook home study course. It is strongly recommended that anyone planning on hunting or shooting complete a hunter education class.
            For more information, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Sportsmen urged to vote online for favorite 2011-12 duck stamp art
            Oklahomans can help choose the artwork that will be printed on the 2011-12 Oklahoma waterfowl stamp with the click of their mouse on wildlifedepartment.com.
            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 bluewing teal which can be found near Oklahoma’s wetlands during early fall and spring.
            “In recent years, people who wanted to vote on the next duck stamp design had to travel somewhere to see the entries, but technology is allowing us to make voting possible from home or even on the go for those folks with laptops or smart phones,” said Micah Holmes, information and education supervisor for the Wildlife Department.
            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 provided by NatureWorks, a Tulsa-based conservation organization. Additionally, the winner and three honorable mentions will appear in a future issue of Outdoor Oklahoma magazine.
            “This is a good chance for duck hunters to weigh in on their favorite artwork,” Holmes said. “After all, it’s their duck season and their waterfowl stamp. They should have a say in what artwork is featured, and they should take the opportunity to give their input.”
            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
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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Motorists urged to exercise caution this fall when driving through deer inhabited areas
            With the onset of fall, officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation remind motorists to be on the alert for deer in roadways, especially at night.
            Fall marks the breeding season, also known as the rut, for Oklahoma’s most prevalent big game species — the whitetail deer. Deer activity drastically increases during this period as deer search out mates for breeding. As a result, collisions with vehicles are common, as are regular sightings of deer along roadways in both rural and semi-urban areas.
            According to Jerry Shaw, big game biologist for the Wildlife Department, that increased deer movement is accompanied by increasing hours of darkness each day.  
            “That combination can increase drivers’ chances of being involved with a deer/vehicle collision,” Shaw said.
            Deer regularly weigh in excess of 100 pounds and can cause significant damage to both vehicles and the humans driving them when the two collide on roadways.
            "Be extra cautious early in the morning and late in the afternoon and early evening, as these are the hours when deer are most active," Shaw said.
            According to Shaw, deer spotted on the side of the road can still be a hazard for drivers.
            “If you spot a deer, be extra cautious,” Shaw said. “Many times it is not the deer that you see that causes the accident. While you are focused on the deer that safely made it across the road, other deer might be about to step into the roadway.”
            Shaw advises drivers to take it slow on roads where deer may be present or where crossings are common.
            Though deer on roadways are a potential threat to drivers year-round, deer become far less active when not engaged in fall breeding activity.
            For more information about deer and other wildlife in Oklahoma, log on to the Wildlife Department’s website at wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Deer gun season to open Nov. 20; Rut Report slated prior to season
            Known as one of the biggest days of the year for Oklahoma hunters, the deer gun season opener is fast approaching. This year’s deer gun season runs Nov. 20 through Dec. 5.
            Annual deer harvest numbers over the past several years are at an all-time high, and last year 62 percent of the total annual harvest was accounted for during the deer gun season.
            “In fact, in 2009 nearly 200,000 hunters participated in some form of deer rifle season,” said Jerry Shaw in the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s most recent Big Game Report. Shaw is the big game biologist for the Department who watches harvest numbers, trends and other data to help the department manage deer populations and provide hunting opportunities statewide. According to Shaw, deer gun hunters harvested almost 72,000 deer last year during the regular deer gun, youth-only and holiday antlerless deer gun seasons combined. That number contributed to a total of 116,175 deer harvested in 2009 by all methods and seasons combined. According to Shaw, that was “a slight increase (4.3 percent) over the 2008 harvest and only 3,174 deer shy of our all-time record set back in 2006.”
            While the deer gun season open Nov. 20, hunters who subscribe to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s free weekly wildlife news release will receive a status report of deer rutting activity statewide. The information will be collected from biologist and Department personnel stationed in all regions of the state, and will be available before opening day. To sign up to receive the free weekly e-mail, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
            Deer are plentiful in every part of Oklahoma, whether in wide-open prairie or pine-covered mountains. Additionally, numerous wildlife management areas across the state offer public hunting for at least part of the deer gun season, some through special draw hunts that give sportsmen a unique opportunity to change up their usual hunting routine.
            To learn more about deer hunting on wildlife management areas, consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or log on to wildlifedepartment.com. The website offers regulations, useful hunting information and an award-winning digital wildlife management area atlas. And best of all, it is free. In addition to detailed maps, sportsmen can find information such as camping locations and contacts for local biologists.
            During deer gun season, hunters can harvest a buck and two antlerless deer (at least one antlerless deer must be harvested from Antlerless Deer Zone 2, 7 or 8), and most of the state is open to antlerless hunting every day during the season. Resident gun season hunters must possess an appropriate hunting license and a deer gun license for each deer harvested. Nonresident deer gun hunters are exempt from a hunting license while hunting deer, but they must possess a nonresident deer gun season license for each deer hunted or proof of exemption. For a map of Oklahoma’s antlerless deer zones, consult page 23 the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” available online at wildlifedepartment.com or anywhere hunting licenses are sold.
            Upon harvesting a deer, all hunters must attach a field tag to the animal. New this year, the date and time of harvest must be recorded on field tags placed on deer, turkey and elk in addition to the hunter’s name and license number. The field tag, which can be constructed of anything (such as a business card), must remain attached to the carcass until it is checked either at the nearest hunter check station, with an authorized Wildlife Department employee or online at wildlifedepartment.com.
            Hunters age 10-35 who have not completed hunter education can buy an apprentice-designated hunting license and hunt while accompanied by a licensed hunter 21 years old or older who has completed the hunter education course, or a licensed hunter 21 years old or older who is otherwise exempt from hunter education (includes those 36 years old or older, those honorably discharged or currently active in the Armed Forces or members of the National Guard). Hunters under 10 years old must complete a hunter education course to hunt big game or to buy any big game hunting license.
            For specific information regarding licenses, harvest limits, blaze orange clothing requirements, legal firearms requirements, or which wildlife management areas are open to deer gun season, consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide" or log onto wildlifedepartment.com.

 

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Zone 2 waterfowl hunters to start off duck season Nov. 6
            Zone 2 duck hunters will kick off their regular duck season Nov. 6
            The season on ducks, mergansers and coots in Zone 2 runs Nov. 6 through Nov. 28 and Dec. 11 through Jan. 16.
            Zone 2 includes most of Oklahoma, excluding the northwest portions and the Panhandle. The Zone 2 opener will bring the entire state into duck season, as the Panhandle and Zone 1 seasons have already begun.
             According to Josh Richardson, migratory game bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the outlook on the season has both positive and negative key points.
            “On the bad side, warm weather has so far kept birds farther north of us, and an unusual dry stretch has wetland habitat in many areas in poor condition,” Richardson said. “On the good side, this was another banner production year in the prairie pothole region and the birds will have to come through at some point. They may not stay for long, but they will definitely come through. Hunter's wanting the best chance of success this year will really need to pay attention to the weather and do their scouting to know when the birds are coming through and where to catch them when they're here.”
            Though Oklahoma weather can change and dry spells can end with a single rainstorm, sportsmen should be prepared in case dry conditions persist.
            “If it does stay dry, it would be a good time to try some of our public wetland areas,” Richardson said. “While many lakes and private ponds, sloughs and wetlands are dependent on natural rainfall, many of our wetland units are set up with alternate means of flooding, such as wells, pumps, or irrigation lakes — alternatives that are often unfeasible for private landowners or hunters.”
            Duck seasons statewide 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 began their hunting season first, on Oct. 9, followed by Zone 1 hunters who started Oct. 23. Youth days for Zone 1 were Oct. 16-17, and youth days for Zone 2 are 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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Rare whooping cranes on annual migration through Oklahoma
            One of the rarest birds in North America, the whooping crane, is expected to migrate through Oklahoma over the few weeks. The entire Central Flyway migrating population will pass through central and western Oklahoma between now and the second week of November, according to Mark Howery, wildlife diversity biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
           The 2010 nesting season was a good one for the cranes.  A record number of nests (74) were found by the Canadian Wildlife Service during their summer monitoring flights, and at least 46 chicks were successfully reared.  The current population numbers between 285 and 300 birds, which is nearly a 10 percent increase over last winter’s population.
            “Although it’s still small, this population size is remarkable when you consider that there were no more than 15 whooping cranes left in the early 1940s,” Howery said.
            Twice a year, whooping cranes face a long and potentially hazardous migration. In the fall, they travel from their nesting grounds in the remote bogs and marshes of northern Alberta, Canada, to their wintering grounds along the Texas coast at Arkansas National Wildlife Refuge.
            “If you see a whooping crane, please let us know,” Howery said. “Reports help us better understand the migration patterns of these birds and the types of habitats that they use.”
            You can report sightings to the Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Diversity Program at (405) 522-3087 or (405) 424-2728. We are especially interested in information such as the date, location, habitat, number of birds seen, and what they were doing (i.e. – flying, feeding, loafing). That information will be shared with a national monitoring program coordinated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.             Howery said that Oklahoma’s sportsmen account for between one-half and one-third of the whooping crane sightings each fall because they are often in areas with good habitat conditions and they are good at distinguishing this endangered species from more common birds.
            A few distinguishing characteristics of the whooping crane are its white body and neck, black wing tips, red forehead, and height – at nearly five feet, it’s the tallest bird in North America. Also, the neck extends out straight from the body when the crane is in flight rather than in an “S” pattern like the neck of a heron, egret or pelican.
            Sandhill cranes have a similar body shape, but in contrast, are gray overall with dark gray wing feathers that do not have black tips. White pelicans often are confused with whooping cranes because they are similar in color. However, the pelican is stockier, usually travels in large flocks and its legs are barely visible when in flight.
            Two other similar species are the snow goose and great egret. But snow geese are much smaller and egrets lack the black wingtips of the whooping crane.
            Whooping cranes may be seen during the day foraging in small groups of two to eight birds in open, marshy habitats, wet grasslands, agricultural fields and river bottoms. At night, they often gather at communal roosts on mudflats and often roost alongside sandhill cranes.
            Perhaps the most likely place in Oklahoma to see a whooping crane is at Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge in Alfalfa County, which has been designated as critical whooping crane habitat. Another area where these cranes have been found multiple times is the Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area in Tillman County.
            For more information about wildlife in Oklahoma, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

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