NOVEMBER 2012 NEWS RELEASES 


 

Current Deer Rut Activity At A Glance (November 20, 2012)
ODOT Bridge replacement on NS-452 County Road over Red Oak Creek in Wister WMA (Nov. 19, 2012)
ODOT Bridge replacement at EW-148 County Road in Wister WMA (November 19, 2012)
ODOT 14 Mile Creek Bridge Replacement (November 1, 2012)
ODOT Bridge replacement at EW-148 County Road in Wister WMA (November 19, 2012)
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces lesser prairie chicken status proposal (November 30, 2012)



Current deer rut activity at a glance (November 20, 2012)

Deer rifle season kicks off Saturday, Nov. 17, and promises as usual to be the biggest day of the year for hunting in Oklahoma.
Last year, rifle hunters accounted for 61 percent of the total deer harvest. Surveys indicate that last year, almost 153,000 hunters took part in the 16-day regular deer gun season alone. When taking into account the youth deer gun and holiday antlerless deer seasons, that number jumps to nearly 196,000.
According to Erik Bartholomew, big game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the overall deer harvest this year is down slightly from last year, but antlerless deer harvest is up from where it was this time last year.
That's good news, according to Bartholomew, and hunters also have reason to look forward to the deer gun season opener this weekend.
"Field reports say the rut is ramping up in parts of the state," Bartholomew said. "There's no time like the present. The weather is supposed to be great, so get out there and enjoy the deer woods this weekend."
As Oklahoma moves into what is hopefully another great year for deer gun hunters, personnel with the Wildlife Department are offering information just in time on the most current rutting activity in regions across the state. The rut, or deer breeding season, is a biological process that typically occurs around mid November. Deer activity during the rut picks up, but the amount of activity can be influenced by a host of factors such as day length, temperatures, moon phase and herd condition.

NORTHWEST

The northwest region of Oklahoma is known for big deer and good hunting, and so far Department personnel stationed in the region seem to agree that the rut could be well-timed with gun season.
"The rut should be going good by the opening of gun season," said Thad Potts, wildlife biologist stationed at Canton, Dewey County, Drummond Flats and Major County Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs). Potts as well as others have said that deer rutting behavior in northwest Oklahoma has been slow thus far, with some increased activity in the last few days.
Eddie Wilson, wildlife biologist stationed at Cooper and Ft. Supply WMAs, reports an increase in fresh scrapes, but still little movement during daylight hours.
"Hunter activity will be heavy opening weekend and throughout the week on the WMAs," Wilson said. "If the cool weather holds, bucks will most likely be very active during the entire nine day season, as rut is usually going on strong by the 20th of Nov. in the Woodward area. Hunters can focus on food plots areas and hope a hot doe will bring in a buck."
Wilson's reference to a "nine-day" season is a reminder to hunters that seasons on public lands may vary from the statewide 16-day gun season. For full details and dates for seasons on public lands, including a information on antlerless deer hunting days on both public and private lands, consult the current "Oklahoma Hunting Guide," available free online at wildlifedepartment.com.
Weston Storer, wildlife biologist stationed at Beaver River, Optima, Rita Blanca and Schultz WMAs reports that minimal rutting activity has been noted so far in the Panhandle counties, with a few exceptions of younger bucks "testing the waters." Storer said the majority of corn crops in his part of the region have been harvested and that deer "have been relocating to wheat fields."
"A good direction to start your hunt is to locate well utilized food and water sources to glass," Storer said, adding that if the rut is still not active the bucks may be hitting the wheat fields. "If a cold front starts the rut, the does will be going in the direction of the food sources. And the bucks will be hot after the does."
Larry Wiemers, biologist stationed at Cimarron Bluff and Cimarron Hills WMAs, also has noted a few bucks following does in the past week to two weeks, but heavy rutting activity has not yet been observed.
Northwestern Oklahoma hunters may be in for a treat of heavy deer activity on opening weekend.

NORTHEAST

In the northeast region of Oklahoma, the beginning stages of the rut have been underway, according to Craig Endicott, northeast region wildlife supervisor for the Department.
"Bucks were running hard in early muzzleloader season, but activity appeared to lessen toward the end of muzzleloader season," Endicott said, adding that the rut should peak between muzzleloader and gun season.
Endicott said deer movement has been reported as slow in the mornings and better in the afternoons, with lots of nocturnal activity.
"The weather patterns and moon phase are effecting deer movements but in general, they seem to be feeding on acorns on timbered ridges and benches during the morning and mid day, then moving onto fields/food plots in the late evening," he said. "Deer activity will no doubt pick up with some fronts, rain and cooler temperatures."
Biologists say acorn production was sporadic in the region, but better than anticipated. Some persimmons production occurred as well.
"Hunters need to scout the areas they hunt for deer sign," Endicott said. "Scout for food sources and locate travel lanes, creek crossings or pinch points where bucks may be patrolling to locate a hot doe. Once a good area has been located, hunters must be patient and stay in the woods as long as they can."
On northeast Oklahoma WMAs, successful hunters will need to spend time scouting, but they can find good deer hunting.
"There is good hunting on the WMAs, but with the high usage associated with these areas, hunters need to scout for some less used corners and back areas," Endicott said. "Remember to read up on the specific regulations for any WMA you may be hunting, and be respectful of other hunters."
Endicott also suggests carrying a grunt call to use as a tool for stopping a buck on the move, allowing for a clean shot. Also, be alert for does that are being trailed by bucks.
"Chased does will always act differently, especially looking behind them on several occasions," Endicott said.

SOUTHEAST

Deer gun season hunters may be entering the woods toward the end of the rut in southeast Oklahoma.
"The rut that I'm seeing is in full swing," said Joe Hemphill, southeast region wildlife supervisor for the Wildlife Department. "By the time next week gets here, we probably will be on the backside of the rut."
Still, deer should be on the move.
"They're going to be very active," Hemphill said. "They still have to eat. They're still going to be on the acorns."
Hemphill said lots of bucks are being observed fighting and sparring, and that "there's lots of scraping activity going on."
Hemphill reminds hunters to read the "Oklahoma Hunting Guide" before heading afield, noting any changes that may affect their hunting season. He also notes that that the fall colors in the region are as vibrant as they have been in years.

SOUTHWEST

Forage and water levels are below normal levels in the southwest, and unseasonably warm, dry weather has been dominating the region, according to Rod Smith, southwest region wildlife supervisor for the Wildlife Department. But according to Smith, hunters could see some active rutting on opening weekend.
"Pre-rut activity to date seems to indicate heavy rut activity will likely be in full swing for the opening of rifle season," Smith said. "Younger bucks have made themselves more visible, and hunters in the field report seeing an increased number of scrapes. Bucks have been observed tracking but not yet in full chase mode. Bucks observed mingling with does are showing increased interest, while does remain unreceptive."
Hunters in southwest Oklahoma may want to place greater emphasis on available water and fresh, succulent forage. Food plots on regional WMAs are reportedly in fair condition due to the drought. Wheat is in good enough condition to provide a usable food source. Hunter activity on WMAs has been average or slightly below average, while a number of hunters report they are waiting on cooler weather. Still, Smith said regional businesses such as motels and restaurants have reported normal activity through the muzzleloader season.
With the rut building in intensity, it could be a good time to be a southwest Oklahoma deer hunter.

CENTRAL

"So far, 2012 has been a mixed bag when it comes to rutting activity in the central region," said Jeff Pennington, central region wildlife supervisor for the Wildlife Department. "Most hunters saw higher than normal rutting activity early in the muzzleloader season with the excellent weather conditions. Daytime rutting activity decreased later in the season with warmer weather conditions."
Pennington said the rut picked up again during the first full week of November, with some bucks observed chasing does during the middle of the day. Increased observations of road-killed dear have been observed as well, often a sign of rutting activity.
"The rut will almost always peak in the central region between the tenth and twentieth of November, and this looks like it will be the case in 2012," Pennington said.
Prolonged drought conditions continue in the region. Pennington said the overall deer activity has been higher than normal due to the nutritional stress caused by the drought.
"Despite the dry conditions, patchy portions of the region produced a surprising number of acorns, especially the black oaks along creek drainages (most people will call these red oaks)," Pennington said.
Locations that still have good acorns will be prime hunting spots during gun season as drought stressed deer try to replenish energy reserves. Growth of wheat and other typical cool season foods have been limited by the drought.
"The height of grass and other vegetation is very low again this year, which should make deer highly visible to hunters," Pennington said. "The drought conditions will be tough for the deer, but should make for very good hunting conditions."




ODOT Bridge replacement on NS-452 County Road over Red Oak Creek in Wister WMA (November 19, 2012)
OKLAHOMA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION PUBLIC NOTICE OF PROPOSED SECTION 4(f) DE MINIMIS
FINDING AT WISTER WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA
LeFlore County, in coordination with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), is proposing to replace the County Bridge on NS-452 County Road over Red Oak Creek, located within the Wister Wildlife Management Area (WWMA). Right-of-way within the WWMA will be required in order to construct the bridge.
ODOT and the County have coordinated with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) with regard to avoidance and minimization of impacts of the project on the WWMA and the ODWC is supportive of these measures. This will be accomplished in part by rebuilding the bridge in its current location. This allows for minimal use of property located within the WWMA. The bridge will be closed during construction; however, the construction of the bridge will be conducted during the “off-peak” months when the WWMA experiences the least use of the area. In addition, the use of appropriate best management practices (including storm water, erosion and dust control, and chemical/fuel handling) will be conscientiously implemented.
Based on the avoidance and minimization of impacts to the WWMA as described above, the County and ODOT, in coordination with FHWA, are proposing a de minimisimpact finding with regard to Section 4(f) of the U.S. Department of Transportation Act (1966). ODOT and the county welcome your comments on the effects of this project on the projected activities, features, and attributes of the WWMA (the Section 4(f) resource). Please mail or e-mail any comments you have by December 3, 2012 to:
 
Dawn Sullivan
Environmental Programs Division Engineer
Oklahoma Department of Transportation
200 N.E. 21st, Room 3D3
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
environment@odot.org



ODOT Bridge replacement at EW-148 County Road in Wister WMA (November 19, 2012)
OKLAHOMA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION PUBLIC NOTICE OF PROPOSED SECTION 4(f) DE MINIMIS FINDING AT WISTER WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA
LeFlore County, in coordination with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), is proposing to replace the County Bridge on EW-148 County Road (Reichert Summerfield Road) over an unnamed creek, located within the Wister Wildlife Management Area (WWMA). Right-of-way within the WWMA will be required in order to construct the bridge.
ODOT and the County have coordinated with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) with regard to avoidance and minimization of impacts of the project on the WWMA and the ODWC is supportive of these measures. This will be accomplished in part by rebuilding the bridge in its current location with a temporary detour (shoo-fly) north of the existing bridge. This allows for minimal use of property located within the WWMA and accommodates local traffic. The construction of the bridge will be conducted during the “off-peak” months when the WWMA experiences the least use of the area. In addition, the use of appropriate best management practices (including storm water, erosion and dust control, and chemical/fuel handling) will be conscientiously implemented.
Based on the avoidance and minimization of impacts to the WWMA as described above, the county and ODOT, in coordination with FHWA, are proposing a de minimisimpact finding with regard to Section 4(f) of the U.S. Department of Transportation Act (1966). ODOT and the County welcome your comments on the effects of this project on the projected activities, features, and attributes of the WWMA (the Section 4(f) resource). Please mail or e-mail any comments you have by December 3, 2012 to:
 
Dawn Sullivan
Environmental Programs Division Engineer
Oklahoma Department of Transportation
200 N.E. 21st, Room 3D3
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
environment@odot.org



ODOT 14 Mile Creek Bridge Replacement (November 1, 2012)
OKLAHOMA DEPT. OF TRANSPORTATION PUBLIC NOTICE OF PROPOSED SECTION 4(f) DE MINIMIS FINDING AT FT. GIBSON PUBLIC HUNTING AREA
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) and the Federal Highway Administration are proposing to replace the SH-51 bridge over Fourteen Mile Creek, located approximately 5 miles east of the Wagoner County line in Cherokee County, Oklahoma. The referenced project necessitates the use of land from the Fort Gibson Public Hunting Area (PHA) which is owned by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and leased and managed by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC). Due to the proposed use of property located within the PHA, Section 4(f) regulations of the U.S. Department of Transportation Act of 1966 applies to the project.
ODOT has coordinated with the USACE and ODWC with regard to avoidance and minimization of impacts of the project on the PHA and are supportive of these measures. ODOT is proposing to construct the new bridge on an offset alignment to the north of the existing bridge which will avoid most impacts to the PHA. This will also allow the road to remain open to traffic during construction. No facilities or access points to the PHA are located within the area of the proposed bridge replacement. Any impacts to jurisdictional wetlands and waters that cannot be avoided will be minimized and mitigated in accordance with the requirements of the Section 404 permit as issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In order to preserve the water quality of the stream, the use of appropriate best management practices (including storm water, erosion and dust control, and chemical/fuel handling) will be conscientiously implemented. 
Based on the avoidance and minimization of impacts to the Fort Gibson Public Hunting Area as described above, ODOT, in coordination with ODWC, is proposing a de minimis impact finding with regard to Section 4(f) of the U.S. Department of Transportation Act (1966). ODOT and ODWC welcome your comments on the effects of this project on the projected activities, features, and attributes of the Fort Gibson PHA (the Section 4(f) resource. Please mail or e-mail any comments you have by November 19th, 2012 to:
 

Laurie Effinger
Environmental Programs Division
Oklahoma Department of Transportation
200 N.E. 21st , Room 3D-2A
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
leffinger@odot.org
 

Nov. 30, 2012

A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces lesser prairie chicken status proposal

            The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) today announced a proposed "Threatened" listing of the lesser prairie chicken, and officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation say they will be taking all possible steps to convince the USFWS that state-led conservation efforts are the best approach to ensuring survival of the bird.

            "This is not a final ruling," said Richard Hatcher, director of the Wildlife Department. "This announcement is a reason to build on the momentum we've already gained with our partners in conserving the lesser prairie chicken. Over the next year, the Wildlife Department will work closely with other states in the lesser prairie chicken range and the USFWS to demonstrate that a final 'Threatened' listing is not necessary and a 'Not Warranted' listing is more appropriate."

            A final listing rule for the lesser prairie chicken is scheduled within one year of the announcement. In the meantime, there will be no impact from the proposed listing.

            In November, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission approved a final Oklahoma Lesser Prairie Chicken Conservation Plan to increase sustainable populations. The plan will focus on 15 "core areas" in western and northwest Oklahoma averaging 50,000 acres each. The Department will identify research needs and management actions to support responsible development as well as develop incentives for landowners to improve and restore suitable habitat in those core areas.

            Through the Lesser Prairie Chicken Interstate Working Group - comprised of biologists from the five states included in the bird's range - and other efforts, a plan is being developed to conserve birds range wide.

            The lesser prairie chicken once flourished in portions of northwest Oklahoma and four other states, but land use changes and habitat fragmentation have led to long-term population declines across the iconic upland bird's range. The lesser prairie chicken has been considered a candidate species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) since 1998. According to the first standardized range wide survey, there are an estimated 37,170 birds across the five-state range.

            "We've been and will remain focused on three key areas," Hatcher said. "Those include habitat management, habitat protection and research and planning. We've been working closely with landowners and industry leaders. We have acquired acreage in key areas where we can permanently protect critical habitat. And we're leading the way in research and planning tools that will help protect the birds, such as our Spatial Planning Tool that helps mindful industry professionals and developers to identify critical habitat before breaking ground on projects. In short, a 'Threatened' listing won't accomplish any more for the lesser prairie chicken than what we are already diligently doing."

            The proposed "Threatened" listing will now go through a one-year review process, wherein the USFWS will analyze the best available scientific information, including the effects of current ongoing conservation efforts. After evaluating conservation efforts and threats to the species, the Service could remove it from candidate status or proceed with a final listing. If specific circumstances and criteria are met, a six-month extension could extend this process.