OCTOBER 2011 NEWS RELEASES 

WEEK OF OCTOBER 27, 2011

WEEK OF OCTOBER 20, 2011

WEEK OF OCTOBER 13, 2011

 

WEEK OF OCTOBER 6, 2011


 Third black bear season a success with season quota met in one weekend
            Oklahoma’s third black bear archery season opened Oct. 1 and closed the next day after the season quota of 20 bears was reached.
            The season was open in Latimer, LeFlore, Pushmataha and McCurtain counties, and hunters harvested a total of 31 bears with archery equipment. Last year hunters harvested 32 bears on opening day, and in 2009 hunters harvested only 19 bears over the course of 28 days.
            According to Joe Hemphill, southeast region wildlife supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the quota of 20 bears is very conservative.
            “When we planned the regulations for the season, we took into account the possibility of exceeding the harvest quota,” Hemphill said.
            According to Hemphill, the harvest of 32 bears last year and 31 this year are great signs that “we are doing things right in Oklahoma, since the presence of bears in an environment is considered an indicator of good habitat.”
            The season’s harvest includes four bears that were harvested by teenage girls, one of which weighed 450 pounds field-dressed and was harvested by 16-year-old Kaylin Russell of Eagletown, whose father, Joe, killed the first bear in the state’s first black bear hunting season in 2009. Kelsey Weaver of Poteau, who last year at age 17 became the first female hunter in Oklahoma to kill a black bear, also harvested a bear this year.
            Two of the bears had been previously been tagged as nuisance bears. State wildlife officials trap, tag and relocate bears that come up to trailers, cabins and homes in search of food. A total of 18 male bears and 13 female bears were harvested, including 15 from LeFlore Co., 11 from Pushmataha Co., four from McCurtain Co. and one from Latimer County.
            As with hunting seasons on all species, Department personnel review all available data following the season and work to provide optimum hunting opportunities while ensuring long-term conservation of the species.
            Black bear archery 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.
            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. 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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Wildlife Department now on Facebook
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is now updating sportsmen on Facebook with information about current and upcoming events, hunting dates, fishing reports, programs and more.
            “Facebook is a great way to reach people, and we know it will provide them with a lot of great outdoor news through a medium they like to use,” said Kristen Gillman, information specialist and Webmaster for the Wildlife Department.
            Some of the information being posted on the Department’s Facebook page includes news updates, pictures of wildlife and interactive dialogues on popular outdoor topics in Oklahoma.
            To find the page on Facebook, log on to facebook.com/wildlifedepartment.
            The Wildlife Department’s Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools program also is on Facebook at facebook.com/OKNASP, updating instructors and students with program news. Coordinated by the Wildlife Department, the program is part of the National Archery in the Schools Program, which partners wildlife agencies with school’s and the nation’s archery industry to introduce 4th-12th-graders to the sport of archery.
            The Wildlife Department also updates sportsmen on Twitter and communicates with thousands of sportsmen through its free Weekly Wildlife News, which is sent to subscribers by e-mail. Follow @OkWildlifeDept to receive tweets from the Wildlife Department, or sign up for free at
http://www.wildlifedepartment.com  to receive the Department’s free weekly news release by e-mail.
            More information about the Wildlife Department is available online at wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Calling all young outdoor writers to compete for outdoor getaways
            Oklahoma youth are getting a chance this year to share their outdoor heritage to competing for 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.
            “The tradition of hunting runs deep in Oklahoma,” Berg said. “Each year, when I review the youth essay submissions, I’m reminded about how important it is to pass along our heritage of hunting.”
            To participate, students must be 11-17 years of age and currently enrolled in any Oklahoma school or home school. Students also must use the theme of “Hunting: Sharing the Heritage” or “Archery: What I like about Archery in the Schools and Bowhunting” or the concept of the theme to develop a descriptive essay or short story. Winners of the previous year’s contest are not eligible. Applicants must have successfully completed an Oklahoma Hunter Education course by the entry deadline, which is Nov. 18, 2011. 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 2012.
            “If you don’t enter, you can’t win,” Berg said.
            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.
            “We have had past winners from all across the state,” Berg said. “Public school, private school and home school students can all enter.”
             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. 18, 2011, or delivered by Nov. 18 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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Deer muzzleloader season to kick off Oct. 22

            With big game hunting opportunities for black bear, antelope, elk and mule deer available, Oklahoma is becoming a “land of opportunity” to hunters. But the whitetail deer remains the most abundant big game hunting opportunity in Oklahoma, with archery season already underway and muzzleloader season to open Oct. 22.

            Deer are plentiful in every part of Oklahoma, whether it be in wide-open prairie or pine-covered mountains, and many wildlife management areas across the state offer hunting opportunity during the muzzleloader season.     Muzzleloader season runs Oct. 22-30, and the season accounts for about 18 percent of the total annual deer harvest in Oklahoma. The modern gun season opens Nov. 19 and runs for 16 days. Archery season remains open through Jan. 15, 2012.

            During muzzleloader season, hunters can harvest a buck and two antlerless deer (at least one antlerless deer must be harvested from Antlerless Deer Zones 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 a map of Oklahoma’s antlerless deer zones, consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” available online at wildlifedepartment.com.

            Muzzleloader hunters must conspicuously wear both a head covering and an outer garment above the waistline, both totaling at least 400 square inches of hunt orange.

            Upon harvesting a deer, all hunters must immediately attach their name, license number, and date and time of harvest securely to the animal. This “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.

            In many counties, hunters can harvest a turkey with their muzzleloaders Oct. 29-30. A fall turkey license is required, unless exempt. Turkey fall gun season runs Oct. 29 through Nov. 18, and details on the season are available in the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide.”

            Hunters age 8-30 who have not completed a hunter education course can buy an apprentice-designated hunting license and hunt while accompanied by a licensed hunter 18 years old or older who has completed the hunter education course, or a licensed hunter 18 years old or older who is otherwise exempt from hunter education (includes those 31 years old or older, those honorably discharged or currently active in the Armed Forces or members of the National Guard). All hunters under 10 years old must be accompanied when hunting big game, including those who have completed a hunter education course.

            For specific information regarding which areas are open to muzzleloader season, licenses, season limits, legal firearms or other details, consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide" or log onto wildlifedepartment.com.

 

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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. 19 are plentiful, and most hunters need the certification to hunt deer without supervision.

            Hunters have many class dates and locations to choose from across the state before deer gun season arrives, with nearly 30 classes scheduled for Nov. 5 and Nov. 12 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.”

            With hundreds of courses are offered throughout the year, most Oklahomans do not need to drive very far to find a class between now and 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 over 3,000 students the two weekends before deer gun season. That’s a significant percentage of the number of students certified all year.”

            Oklahoma hunter education courses cover a 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 most of the manuals used in the rest of the country, students will see more Oklahoma scenes and situations throughout the pages of the manual.

            “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.”

            Hunters 10-30 years old must be hunter education certified to hunt alone, while hunters under 10 years old must be accompanied by a licensed adult hunter 18 years old or older who is either hunter education certified or exempt. Hunters exempt from hunter education include those 31 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.

            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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Hunters reminded to check burn ban status before building campfires

            Rain has been falling in parts of Oklahoma in recent weeks, causing many governor and county-declared burn bans across the state to be lifted just as the state’s fall hunting seasons begin to come underway. But even with recent rains, a number of burn bans are still in effect in counties across the state, and officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation are reminding sportsmen in areas where campfires are legal to be extra mindful.

            “The fall is a favorite time of year for hunters, and campfires are often part of that,” said Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Wildlife Department. “This year, though, hunters need to be extra vigilant when camping to ensure whether a campfire is legal in the county in which they are camping and hunting. If there is no burn ban in effect, hunters still need to remember that Oklahoma has been in a period of intense drought, and they should make sure their campfires are well-contained, safe and completely extinguished before leaving the area.”

            Title 2 of the Oklahoma Statures authorizes the governor to declare a ban on outdoor burning based on drought conditions and the recommendation of the Forestry Division in order to reduce the threat of wildfire, and country commissioners have similar authority under certain conditions and restrictions. Bans proclaimed by the governor supersede county bans on burning, and hunters can see a map of counties under burn bans online at http://www.forestry.ok.gov/burn-ban-information.

            For more information about hunting in Oklahoma, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

 

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Wildlife Department seeks youth who want to hunt waterfowl
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is searching for young hunters who want to go on a guided duck hunt this fall at one of six lakes across Oklahoma.
            The hunts are designed for youth ages 12-15 who have completed the Wildlife Department’s free hunter education course. Hunts are held at Altus-Lugert Lake, Ft. Gibson Waterfowl Refuge, Ft. Cobb State Lake, Hackberry Flat Waterfowl Refuge, Vann’s Lake (north of Muskogee), and Wister Lake Refuge.
            The application deadline is Nov. 7, and all youth have to do to apply is write their first hunt choice preference and two alternate locations on a 3”x5” postcard along with their name, address, phone number and their hunter education number and mail them to OK Dept. of Wildlife Conservation, Youth Waterfowl Hunts PO Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152. Applications must be received by Nov. 7.
            Other than meeting the age requirements, applicants must have proof of successfully completing a certified hunter education course and have an adult guardian who can accompany them on the hunt.
            The scheduled date of the hunt will be coordinated with successful applicants after the drawing, and a Wildlife Department employee will accompany each youth and their adult guardian for the controlled waterfowl hunt. Only the youth hunter will be allowed to hunt.
            The Wildlife Department will provide successful applicants the necessary nontoxic shotgun shells, and a 20 gauge single shot shotgun will be available for use if the youth does not have his or her own shotgun. For more information, contact Jeff Neal, wildlife technician for the Wildlife Department, at (405) 396-2503. Information also is available on page 6 of the “2011-12 Oklahoma Waterfowl Guide.”
 
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See the “decoy deer” and Oklahoma game wardens in action Oct. 30 on Outdoor Oklahoma TV
            Game wardens are employees of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation who are responsible for enforcing the state’s fish and wildlife laws, and like with any profession, certain tools help them accomplish their mission.
            On October 30, the Wildlife Department’s television series — Outdoor Oklahoma — will air real footage of game wardens using the state’s decoy deer, or “dummy deer,” designed to help them catch would-be law violators who shoot at the deer from a public road.
            It is considered poaching, or taking wild game illegally, to shoot at any wildlife from a public road, so when game wardens get word of an area receiving pressure from road hunters, they may choose to set up the decoy deer so that it is visible from the road while they wait nearby. If a poacher drives by and shoots at the decoy while believing it to be a live animal, game wardens are able to witness the violation and issue the poacher a citation. Under some situations, some or all of the poacher’s equipment may be confiscated.
            “In some cases, poachers can even lose their firearm or their vehicle,” said Robert Fleenor, law enforcement chief for the Wildlife Department.
            Using the decoy deer is effective, according to Fleenor, who said many deer across the state have remained protected from poachers as a result of using the decoy deer over the last 25 years.
            “Game wardens have been able to catch many poachers in the act using this method, and of course the good thing is that a real, live deer doesn’t get killed or wounded illegally in the process. The decoy helps us catch them in the act, hold them accountable and hopefully educate them in a way that prevents them from breaking our game laws in the future.”
            According to Fleenor, most hunters are responsible, legal sportsmen who follow the state’s wildlife laws, which are designed to conserve wildlife and keep hunters safe while in the field.
            To see the decoy deer and game wardens in action, tune into Outdoor Oklahoma TV Oct. 30 at 8 a.m. on OETA (channel 13 in Oklahoma City, 11 in Tulsa, 3 in Eufaula, and 12 in Cheyenne).
            Outdoor Oklahoma also airs at 4 p.m. Saturdays on KSBI (UHF coverage includes channel 52 in Oklahoma City, channel 21 in Stillwater and channel 35 in Ada and KSBI cable channels in more than 30 communities in central Oklahoma). Additionally, the show airs on KWEM-UHF (Channel 31 out of Stillwater, Monday at 8:30 p.m. and Saturday at 11 a.m. Channel 31's approximate coverage area includes the southern half of Noble Co. including Perry and Morrison; the western portions of Payne Co. including Stillwater, Glencoe and Perkins; the northeastern half of Logan Co. including Orlando, Mulhall, Langston and Coyle; the northwest corner of Lincoln Co. (Tryon and Carney); on KXOK-UHF 32 in Enid and nearby communities (carried on Enid's local cable network on Channel 18); on KTEW (Channel 20 in Ponca City); and free online through podcasts found at wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Stop traffic with a new wildlife plate
            Oklahomans are enthusiastic about wildlife, even showcasing their love of the outdoors with a specialty license plate from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. And now drivers will have even more wildlife specialty plates to choose from with the introduction of plates featuring the Texas horned lizard, mallard duck, and striped bass.
            Even while recent reports from the Oklahoma Tax Commission show a decrease in the sale of the state’s 241 specialty tags, wildlife plates still lead the way as the most popular specialty tags sold during the 2011 fiscal year, excluding physically disabled or university tags. And the best part, according to Rachel Bradley with the Wildlife Department, is that funds from the plates are used by the Department to help fund much needed wildlife conservation projects.
            “Few realize the Department does not receive tax appropriations, so we truly rely on wildlife enthusiasts to help us support Oklahoma’s wildlife and are grateful for all of their contributions,” said Bradley, who is the wildlife diversity information specialist for the Wildlife Department. “The funds generated by the Wildlife Department’s specialty plates are essential for keeping Oklahoma’s wildlife and wild places healthy.”
            The three new plates join six other wildlife plates currently available at local tag agencies featuring the whitetail deer, scissor-tailed flycatcher, largemouth bass, bobwhite quail, wild turkey, and rainbow trout. Order a pre-numbered or personalized tag for $38.
            The large portion of the proceeds that go to the Wildlife Department are designated for the agency’s Wildlife Diversity Fund, which supports conservation of Oklahoma’s wildlife that are not hunted or fished through promotion of education, research, habitat conservation and other various means to maintain healthy populations.
            To order a new wildlife conservation license plate, visit a local tag agency or the Oklahoma Tax Commission’s website at tax.ok.gov for an application form.
 
 
Texas horned lizard
 

 

 

 

Mallard
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Striped bass
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Caption: Three new wildlife specialty license plates featuring the Texas horned lizard, mallard duck, and striped bass are available to drivers in addition to plates featuring the whitetail deer, scissor-tailed flycatcher, largemouth bass, bobwhite quail, wild turkey, and rainbow trout. Order a pre-numbered or personalized tag for $38 by visiting a local tag agency or the Oklahoma Tax Commission’s website at tax.ok.gov for an application form.
 
 
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Rare endangered birds traveling through Oklahoma now
            Through mid-November, a flock of one of North America’s rarest birds will pass right through Oklahoma, and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is asking state residents to report sightings.
            “Just over 300 Whooping Cranes are en route from Canada to their wintering location along the central Texas coast,” said Mark Howery, wildlife diversity biologist for the Wildlife Department.
            By 1941, only 19 of the cranes were known to exist due to loss of wetland habitat and unregulated market hunting during the mid 1800s. Though the species has never been common, the five-foot-tall endangered birds are slowly developing into a conservation success story.
            “Conservation measures such as the protection of breeding and wintering habitats have helped the small population grow fifteen-fold over the past 70 years,” said Howery. “In Oklahoma, the Wildlife Department asks that you report any whooping crane sightings to aid this effort.”
            Howery said the birds tend to use shallow wetlands, marshes, river bottoms and partially flooded pastures and grain fields in the western half of the state.
            “Whooping cranes typically migrate during the day in groups of one to six birds,” Howery said. “They can be identified by their large size, bold white plumage, black tips on their feathers, red and black markings on their heads, and their long legs that extend beyond their tail feathers while in flight and long, stretched neck during flight.”
            Despite their distinct appearance, they are often confused with the white pelican (short legs with a large band of black feathers along the trailing edge of each wing — not just the tip), snow goose (short legs not visible beyond tail feathers, flies in large flocks of 30 or more birds), and great egret (no black feathers on its wings, holds its neck in an S-shape when in flight). Also, during low light or backlit conditions, whooping cranes and sandhill cranes will both appear dark and can look similar.
            To report a whooping crane sighting in Oklahoma, contact Howery at (405) 424-2728. The Department requests to receive information such as the date, time, approximate location, number of birds and habitat they were using during the sighting during the report.
 
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Department to hold vehicle auction
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has 31 pick-up trucks that will be up for public auction Nov. 3 at the agency’s headquarters located at 1801 N. Lincoln in Oklahoma City.
            "We've got a lot of great used trucks that will be up for auction,” said Johnny Hill, property manager for the Wildlife Department. “All the vehicles up for auction are four-wheel drive pickups, just in time for hunting season."
            The auction vehicles may fit the needs of sportsman who need a new hunting or fishing truck, someone looking to replace their daily driver or even a parent searching for just the right first vehicle for their teenage drivers.
            “They could be just right for someone who spends a lot of time outdoors, or even those who want a different vehicle to drive when there is snow and ice on the ground,” Hill said, since all of the vehicles are four-wheel drive.
            Most of the trucks available at the auction are and -ton Fords and Chevrolets, with one Dodge one-ton dump truck available as well. Information about the vehicles, including make, model, VIN and mileage, are available for viewing on the Wildlife Department’s website at
http://www.wildlifedepartment.com .
            "There's also a designated time period before the auction where buyers can come inspect the vehicles,” Hill said.
            Vehicles will be sold "as is" to the highest bidder and can be inspected from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Nov. 3 at the Department headquarters. High bidders will be required to pay the balance in full at the time of sale, and titles will be furnished with cash & certified cashier’s check only. Personal checks will be accepted (out-of-state checks not accepted); however, titles will be held for 14 days.
            For more information, call Johnny Hill at (405) 521-4600.
 
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Heavy waterfowl traffic expected this season; Zone 1 duck season opens Oct. 29
            With North American waterfowl populations higher now than ever recorded, Oklahoma hunters who can find ample water supply this winter could be in for some outstanding hunting. Zone 1 waterfowl season kicks off Oct. 29, followed by the Zone 2 opener Nov. 5. Waterfowl season in the Panhandle opened Oct. 8.
            Every year wildlife biologists conduct waterfowl breeding population counts in the northern United States and Canada, and this year the counts show the highest numbers of ducks ever recorded, thanks to ideal breeding ground conditions and decades of cooperative waterfowl and habitat management efforts by state wildlife agencies, the U.S. and Canadian Fish and Wildlife Services, and sportsmen’s groups.
            Drought in Oklahoma combined with one of the hottest summers on record has caused many lakes and ponds to dry up. While recent rains have started to saturate the ground once again, finding significant amounts of water to hunt may be challenging for some hunters, according to Josh Richardson, migratory game bird biologists for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
            “Many lakes have a 100-yard stretch or more of dried lakebed before you even get to the water, which makes it difficult to find a good spot to hide,” Richardson said. “Still, the duck numbers are high this year and hunters who position themselves well should have ample opportunities.”
            Every year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes frameworks to states for structuring their waterfowl seasons and limits, and Oklahoma’s long season and generous harvest limits represent a liberal season framework for hunters to enjoy.
            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.
            To hunt ducks in Oklahoma, hunters must possess a valid hunting license, an Oklahoma waterfowl stamp, a federal duck stamp and a Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP) Permit. More information and regulations — including information on goose and sandhill crane seasons — is available online at wildlifedepartment.com or in the current “Oklahoma Waterfowl Guide,” available free at locations where hunting licenses and duck stamps are sold.
 
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Oklahoma’s wildlife brings fun to Halloween
            From snakes and spiders to bats and other night flyers, Oklahoma is home to an abundance of iconic Halloween-related wildlife. Oklahoma’s most iconic Halloween animal is the Mexican free-tail bat, declared the state flying mammal in 2006 by Governor Brad Henry.
            “Oklahoma has 23 species and sub-species of bats,” said Melynda Hickman, wildlife diversity biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “The Mexican free-tail, cave myotis, Eastern red bat and big brown bat are among the most common bats in Oklahoma.”
            While many people believe that bats are scary, dirty or that they carry diseases, they actually provide a valuable ecological and economic service to the state.
            “It is estimated that bats in northwest Oklahoma may save farmers up to $3 million a year by consuming significant numbers of agricultural pests,” said Hickman.
            At night, bats consume at least half their body weight in flying insects such as mosquitoes, moths, flying ants and beetles. The Mexican free-tailed bats that use the Selman Bat Cave in northwest Oklahoma each summer consume 20,000 pounds of flying insects each night. Many of these insects, such as corn earworms, damage crops.
            Make plans next summer to attend a Selman Bat Watch tour guided by Hickman and see millions of bats fly over your head and off into the twilight sky at Alabaster Caverns State Park near Woodward. Subscribe to the Wildlife Department’s Wildside monthly e-newsletter to keep up to date with summer 2012 registration periods. Wildside is an electronic newsletter that provides information about wildlife-viewing events; common, declining and endangered wildlife species; citizen-participation opportunities; Wildlife Department projects and more. To subscribe to the free newsletter, log
http://www.wildlifedepartment.com
.
            Depending on the type of bat, Oklahoma bats not only use caves, but also trees, bridges and other human structures such as buildings for their daytime roosts.
            Instead of having a pumpkin carving contest at your Halloween party, help bat conservation and build a bat house. Hickman said homemade bat houses can even be donated to the nearest state park or wildlife management area so the park naturalists and wildlife biologists can place the bat houses in the bats’ preferred locations. A 34-page Bathouse Builder’s Handbook is available through the Wildlife Department’s Outdoor Store on wildlifedepartment.com for $7.50. Additionally, the website provides more information on Oklahoma’s bats, owls, snakes and other Halloween icons.
 
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