Landowner of the Year 2007 - John Miller

Ellis County rancher John Miller is a steward of the land - so much so that he recently received the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Oklahoma Landowner of the Year Award.

At its June meeting, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission presented the award to Miller and recognized his efforts to manage his working cattle ranch for both cattle and wildlife as well as provide recreation for youth and adults alike.
"I think rangeland can and should be managed for cattle and wildlife at the same time,"

Miller said. Miller's father brought his family to the western Oklahoma ranch in 1959 from south Texas, and since then land management has been a priority.

Mike Sams, senior wildlife biologist for the Wildlife Department, said Miller's cattle grazing management strategy is the most important part of his success as a land manager. Sams added that, although managing for sound grazing is often difficult for landowners, doing it yields benefits for wildlife.

Along with sound grazing strategies, Miller's land management also includes prescribed burning, planting 500 acres of rye and vetch annually and removing cedars from underneath prime turkey roosting trees.

Miller said proper management combined with the natural habits of wildlife can lead to a balanced, sustained land.

"People need to remember that cattle are grazers, deer are browsers and birds eat insects and seeds," Miller said, "and that in a carefully managed setting, they coexist well and are essential in helping each others' habitats."

According to Sams, Miller has demonstrated a passion for sharing his outdoor heritage with others.

"What makes him stand out is his dedication to youth in fostering an interest in hunting," Sams said.
Miller and his wife, Juanita, host hunts for youth every year during the Department's youth deer hunting seasons. He said he believes that youth are the future and that sportsmen should take them hunting and fishing.

"People should not let the television and handheld games shape their kids," Miller said. "They need to get active with them."

Though Miller spends time teaching youth about the outdoors, he also has learned a few things for himself since beginning to use the youth hunts to help manage his property.

"We have been working with the Wildlife Department using their youth hunt program since December 1999," Miller said. "The first thing I realized from this program was how much I enjoyed the youth. Seeing them and their parents come in with tears in their eyes with their first deer was and is the highlight of my year. The second thing I realized was the need for places for folks to take their kids to hunt. I don't have enough time or property to do it alone, so I am hoping other landowners will come around and realize that this program is an easy way to get the deer population down."

The Wildlife Department has been recognizing landowners with the Oklahoma Landowner of the Year Award since 1989.