Three Rivers WMA more popular than ever

In its third year of existence, Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area is more popular than ever with Oklahoma hunters and anglers.

Located in McCurtain County, Three Rivers WMA comprises 450,000 acres of timberland in the rugged hill country of the Ouachita Mountains. To provide continued public access to the area, Weyerhaeuser and the Wildlife Department formed a landmark joint partnership in which the Department agreed to provide personnel to improve wildlife habitat on the area, and also to provide law enforcement personnel to reduce vandalism and other illegal activities.

As a result of the partnership, Three Rivers WMA is now a showcase attraction for sportsmen not only in southeast Oklahoma, but throughout the state, said Alan Peoples, assistant chief of the Department’s wildlife division.

"Since 1997, when Weyerhaeuser and the Department forged the agreement to keep these lands open to the public, Three Rivers WMA has proven to be a tremendous asset for the sportsmen of Oklahoma," Peoples said. "Maintaining public access to this area was an important accomplishment that will go a long way to preserving and enriching Oklahoma’s hunting heritage. Weyerhaeuser deserves a lot of credit for joining with us to form this partnership, but we also owe a debt of gratitude to the silent partners in this endeavor, the sportsmen who showed their support by purchasing the Land Access Fee Permit to use the area."

In order to use or otherwise access Three Rivers WMA, visitors must purchase an annual Land Access Fee Permit. It costs $16 for residents, $25 for non-residents, and it also extends access privileges to 260,000-acre Honobia Creek WMA, located nearby in Pushmataha and LeFlore counties.

In fiscal year 1999, sportsmen purchased 15,726 resident Land Access Fee permits and 1,963 non-resident permits, generating a total of $283,002. That’s a huge increase from fiscal year 1998, when sportsmen purchased 4,060 resident Land Access Fee Permits and 622 non-resident permits, generating $75,828.

All funds raised through the sale of Land Access Fee Permits are used for wildlife habitat improvement and law enforcement efforts on Three Rivers and Honobia Creek WMAs, Peoples said. Therefore, public support is critical not only for wildlife management on the area, but for continued public access, in general.

Composed primarily of mixed oak and pine forests, Three Rivers and Honobia Creek WMAs support large numbers of white-tailed deer and eastern wild turkey, as well as plentiful numbers of small game such as rabbits and squirrels. The area also supports an abundance of non-game wildlife, particularly songbirds.

Several highland streams flow through both areas, offering excellent fishing opportunities for a number of game species, particularly smallmouth bass.

Outdoor Oklahoma hits deer hotspots

If you’re trying to decide where to spend your deer season this fall, the "1999 Big Game Report," published in the September/October issue of Outdoor Oklahoma, can answer your most important questions.

Packed with harvest information and statistics from every county in Oklahoma, the "1999 Big Game Report" accounts for every legally harvested whitetail deer in the state last season. It provides harvest breakdowns for both bucks and does from every Oklahoma county and wildlife management area. It also breaks down individual harvests during the modern gun, archery and muzzleloader seasons.

In addition, the "1999 Big Game Report" also examines current trends relating to Oklahoma’s annual deer harvest to help hunters select a hunting spot based on solid information rather than guesswork. A special feature examines the tremendous deer hunting opportunities available at Three Rivers and Honobia Creek wildlife management areas.

Along with that for white-tailed deer, the "1999 Big Game Report" contains valuable information from last year’s elk and antelope harvests, as well as data on last year’s mule deer harvest.

One of Outdoor Oklahoma’s most popular annual features, the "1999 Big Game Report" highlights the thought-provoking articles that have become the hallmark of the award-winning magazine. Other articles in the Sept./Oct. issue include a feature on float fishing Oklahoma’s mountain streams, along with a special sidebar that explains how the Department is trying to improve fishing opportunities and access on these streams. Another feature focuses on bird banding at Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge and Ft. Gibson Waterfowl Refuge. Also, the popular "Getting Started" feature explains everything you need to know to enjoy camping. Also, a sidebar highlights some of the best places in the state to spend a night under the stars.

Outdoor Oklahoma is available on newsstands, or by sending $3 to Outdoor Oklahoma, 1801 N. Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City, OK 73105. Subscriptions to the bi-monthly magazine are $10 per year, $18 for two years and $25 for three years. Order by calling 1-800-777-0019.

States face challenges for wildlife funding

According to a recent survey, states lack the funding necessary to conserve most of our nation’s wildlife species.

Conducted by the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (IAFWA), the survey, titled, "State Wildlife Diversity Program Funding: A 1998 Survey," presents state-by-state funding information and comparisons. It found that program funding for species not hunted or fished totaled $134.9 million nationwide in 1998. Although this funding has doubled since 1992, it still falls far short of the $1 billion that biologists estimate is needed to protect and conserve the 2,000 species (90% of our nation’s fish and wildlife) that are not pursued by sportsmen.

"Every state fish and wildlife agency faces tremendous challenges trying to conserve a diverse array of wildlife, plus provide for recreation and education, on a shoestring budget," said Max Peterson, IAFWA executive vice president. "User fees paid by sportsmen primarily finance state wildlife agencies, so these funds are mostly used for conservation of game species and are not sufficient to address the needs of all species."

Oklahoma is one of 14 states having less than $500,000 available annually for the conservation of non-game wildlife resources, said Ron Suttles, natural resources coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Twenty-eight states spent less than $1 million. Only nine states had $2 million or more to conserve hundreds of fish and wildlife species.

"Oklahoma has worked hard to find alternative funding sources at the state level," Suttles said. "The Wildlife Diversity Program, which is responsible for management of the state’s non-game wildlife, receives revenue from five funding sources, including a wildlife tax check-off, sales of license plates, private donations, merchandise sales, and a percentage of field license revenues.

"Although these funding sources raised just over $140,000 for the program during fiscal year 1999, this amount is down by $70,000 from 1983 revenues," he added. "Since that time, the number of rare and threatened wildlife species has continued to increase, while the funds dedicated to their conservation has never even kept pace."

Many other states mirror Oklahoma’s financial circumstances. As a result, more than 1,000 species are currently listed under the Endangered Species Act, and hundreds more are under consideration for listing. Adequate and reliable funding would help states reverse this trend and prevent species from becoming endangered in a more flexible manner at far less cost.

Overall, less than 15% of state fish and wildlife funding is targeted at the conservation of 90% of our nation’s fish and wildlife species, the report concluded.

"State agencies have scarcely enough funding for game species conservation," Peterson said. "However, dedicated funding sources make a tremendous difference for those programs derived primarily from hunting and fishing licenses and from excise taxes paid by hunters and anglers. We believe it is time to infuse fish and wildlife agencies with the additional reliable funding they need to repeat the success stories of the past for all species."

The U.S. Congress is considering two bills that promise to go a long way toward remedying the funding shortage before more species become endangered. The Conservation and Reinvestment Act (H.R. 701/S.25) contains funding for state wildlife diversity under their Title III sections.

For more information and copies of the report, contact IAFWA at 202/624-7890, or visit IAFWA’s web site:

Special deer hunts at Ft. Cobb State Park

Citing concerns from area residents, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Oklahoma Department of Parks and Tourism have agreed to hold three special deer hunts at Fort Cobb State Park this fall.

The first hunt will be a Controlled Youth Hunt on Oct. 16-17, followed by a Controlled Primitive Firearms Hunt on Oct. 23-24. The last hunt will be a Controlled Archery Hunt on Dec. 18-19.

The hunts are necessary because the deer herd in and around Ft. Cobb State Park has become seriously overpopulated, said Paul Cornett, game warden for the Department in Caddo County. Deer are causing extensive damage to agricultural crops and posing a significant safety hazard to motorists. Hunting is the most effective management strategy used to control whitetail deer populations, and these hunts offer additional opportunities for Oklahoma hunters to enjoy a high-quality hunting experience.

"These hunts are necessary to manage a rapidly expanding deer herd at Fort Cobb State Park," Cornett said. "The damage caused by crop depredation is tremendous. Deer/vehicle collisions are almost a daily occurrence, so we also have some very serious safety concerns. There are just so many deer in this area, and this hunt is the best way to start getting that herd under control."

Although hunting opportunities will be generous, Cornett said a high hunter success rate would not damage the deer herd at the park. If anything, the projected harvest is very conservative, he added, but it is an important step in getting the herd under control.

For the Controlled Youth and Controlled Primitive hunts, the Department will issue a total of 70 antlerless deer permits (35 permits for each hunt) through a special drawing that will be held Oct. 1 at the Department's headquarters in Oklahoma City. The Department will issue 50 permits for the Controlled Archery Hunt. Permit applications must be received at Department headquarters no later than 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 30.

Any youth between ages 12-14 on the date of the hunt can apply for the Controlled Youth Hunt. To participate, however, youths who draw a permit must have successfully completed a hunter education course before the hunt date. Participants will be restricted to using either primitive firearms or shotguns with slugs only. A non-hunting adult must accompany each participant. The companion will not be required to possess an Oklahoma hunting license.

The drawings for the Controlled Primitive Firearms Hunt and the Controlled Archery Hunt will be open to any legal hunter. As many as four hunters may apply for one hunt on the same application. Separate applications are required to apply for both hunts. Deer taken during these hunts will be considered a bonus deer and will not count against an individual's aggregate limit.

To apply for any of these hunts, applicants must send a sheet of paper or index card titled, "Fort Cobb Controlled Hunt Application." The application must contain the hunter's name, mailing address, telephone number and birthdate. For the youth hunt, applications must include the name of the hunting partner. Applicants must also specify which hunt they are applying for. To make it easier to sort applications, applicants should also write the name of their preferred hunt on the outside of the envelope. Applications must be received at Department headquarters no later than 4:30 p.m., Sept. 30. The drawing will be held Oct. 1 at 8 a.m. Successful applicants will be notified by mail or by visiting the Department's headquarters.

Applications must be sent to Fort Cobb Controlled Deer Hunts, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, 1801 N. Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City, OK 73105 City. You can also fax your application by dialing 405/521-6535.

Archery deer season opens Oct. 6

As September draws to a close, bowhunters across the state are counting the days until Oct. 6, the opening day of archery deer season.

The first of Oklahoma's big game seasons, the early archery deer season is one of the most popular activities available to Oklahoma hunters. The season actually occurs in two segments, from Oct. 6-Nov. 19 and Nov. 29-Dec. 31, allowing nearly three full months of hunting opportunity. Although increasing numbers of hunters are taking up the sport, Richard Hatcher, chief of wildlife for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, said the early archery deer season still allows hunters an excellent chance of success without much competition from other hunters.

"Many hunters enjoy the early archery season because they believe the lack of pressure improves their chances of taking a quality buck," Hatcher said. "It's an enjoyable time to be in the woods whether you harvest a deer or not, and that appeals to a lot of folks, too. For the most part, you're hunting deer that haven't been spooked by a lot of human activity in the woods, so the animals are more natural in their day-to-day activities."

Besides the extra opportunities, many hunters enjoy bowhunting because it presents a greater challenge than hunting with modern firearms. Shots are usually limited to less than 20 yards, and getting that close to an animal requires exceptional woodsmanship and concealment skills, not to mention advanced abilities at reading and interpreting deer sign. Actually taking a deer with bow and arrow is considered an ultimate test of skill, and ending a hunt successfully requires a perfect blend of many elements.

"Most bowhunters are already accomplished gun hunters, so they tend to be pretty knowledgeable about deer and hunting in general," Hatcher said. "They feel it takes them to another level, and they also tend to be pretty selective about the deer they choose to harvest."

During the 1998 archery deer seasons, bowhunters harvested 12,220 whitetail deer - more than 15 percent of the total deer harvest. Of those, 6,575 were bucks. This year, bowhunters will be allowed to take up to four deer, only three of which may be antlered. For more information, consult the 1999-2000 Oklahoma Hunting Regulations, available at all license dealers and most sporting goods outlets statewide.

Safety comes first for bowhunters

When archery deer season starts Oct. 6, bowhunters should take extra care to ensure that the 1999 season is a safe and enjoyable experience.

Though one of the safest outdoor pursuits, bowhunting has some inherent risks that result in a number of accidents every year. Most of those are not caused by mishandling a bow or misidentifying a target, but from falling out of treestands. More than half of Oklahoma's bowhunters use treestands to gain better visibility over their hunting areas, said J.D. Peer, hunter education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, allowing hunters to elude the sharp senses of whitetail deer by getting above the animal's lines of sight and smell.

Unfortunately, there's always a risk of danger when you leave the ground, so it's not surprising that some hunters suffer severe injuries every year by falling from their treestands.

"Most bowhunters in Oklahoma hunt out of some sort of elevated stand, and a number of things can happen that could result in an injury-producing accident," Peer said "By taking a few extra precautions, hunters can virtually eliminate the threat of hunting-related accidents this autumn. All it takes is some common sense and paying a little extra attention to detail."

The most important aspect of treestand safety is to use a safety strap or harness. They cost between $20 - $60 and are considered standard equipment by all hunters who use elevated stands.

"A safety belt or harness is cheap life insurance," Peer said. "If a mishap occurs in a stand, these devices can save you from death or severe injuries. I strongly recommend them for anyone who hunts from any kind of elevated stand."

Many hunters use portable treestands, but some hunters erect permanent stands on their own property or on leased property. However, stands that aren't built from treated lumber will deteriorate over time and become unsafe, even though they appear structurally sound.

"No matter how long you've been hunting a certain stand, you always have to check it out before you start using it," Peer said. "Quite a few hunters have been hurt over the years from falling when they leaned against a rail or grabbed a rail and it collapsed."

One way to reduce the chance of an accident is to avoid carrying gear into the stand. Before climbing into a stand, tie a rope to your gear and leave it on the ground. Once you're safely in your stand and have secured your safety belt, use the rope to pull your gear into the stand.

Also, bowhunters should remember that any mishap involving broadhead arrows can be serious. To eliminate the threat of injury, Peer recommends carrying arrows in a case that secures the broadheads.

"Anyone who's ever bowhunted has dropped an arrow at one time or another," Peer said. "If you drop an arrow, go down and get it, even if deer are moving. Arrows can land with the head pointing up, and if something happens that causes you to land on it, you could bleed to death before you can make it to your pickup."

Fortunately, bowhunters rarely shoot one another. However, the possibility still exists when you consider that bowhunters are usually attired in camo from head to toe. In low-light situations, an inexperienced hunter could make a bad decision. To avoid making a tragic mistake, bowhunters must be extremely careful and observant before they pull the string. First, know your limits and your abilities. Never shoot at anything beyond your range of confidence. Most importantly, identify your target before shooting.

Other tips to improve safety during bow season include:

* Wearing blaze orange when entering and leaving the woods. You can put the garment in your pack when you reach your destination.

* Never carry a deer across your shoulders when removing it from the woods. In fact, Peer said it's also a good idea to drape some sort of blaze orange garment over a deer before moving it.

* Hunt with a partner. If you hunt alone, tell someone exactly where you're going to be hunting and when you expect to return. If you haven't returned after a reasonable amount of time, they'll be able to call someone to look for you.

Commission approves waterfowl seasons

At its regular September meeting, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission approved the dates for the 1999-2000 Oklahoma waterfowl hunting seasons.

Except for date changes to allow opening the split seasons on Saturdays, the 1999-2000 duck seasons are essentially the same as they were last year, said Richard Hatcher, chief of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Wildlife Division. Waterfowl Zones 1 and II will have 74 days available for duck hunting. Duck hunting will be allowed for 97 days in the three panhandle counties.

Limits will also be the same, except that the daily limit on scaup will be three instead of six.

The season for Canada geese will be 95 days this year, while the season for white-fronted geese increases from 72 days to 86 days.

"With the largest number of breeding ducks ever recorded in the northern pothole region, autumn should bring one of the largest fall flights of migrating waterfowl in recent history," Hatcher said. "Duck populations are in excellent condition, and we're hoping that translates to excellent prospects for Oklahoma's waterfowl hunters."

In another waterfowl related matter, the Commission accepted a donation of $22,500 from Ducks Unlimited. The donation will be used to purchase a portable pump and power unit to seasonally flood the Overcup Bottoms Wetland Development Unit, which is part of the Oologah Wildlife Management Area in Nowata County. John R. Belz, A DU representative from Jackson, Miss., presented the donation.

"Ducks Unlimited is one of the Department's strongest supporters, and they've helped us on all of the 40 wetland development areas in the state," Hatcher said. "We are very grateful for the partnership we have with this fine organization, and for their contributions to developing and enhancing waterfowl habitat in our state."

In other business, the Commission voted not to approve a process to seek proposals from non-profit or charitable organizations to auction two hunts for the year 2000. In 1998, the Oklahoma Legislature granted the Commission the authority to offer as many as five hunts outside the regular hunting seasons. In 1999, the Department offered one bull elk permit on Cookson Hills Wildlife Management Area and a spring turkey hunt at the McCurtain County Wilderness Area. By offering these hunts through a public auction, the Department raised $10,750.

Also, the Commission voted to postpone taking action on a proposal to close the Poteau River and its tributaries to commercial mussel harvest. The Commission voted to delay action while more information is gathered about the issue.

In his monthly financial statement, Robert Taylor, the Department's fiscal services coordinator reported that license sales were down less than one percent from fiscal year 1999. The Department's total revenue is up 10 percent from this time last year, he added, while total expenditures are up five percent.

In June, Taylor added, Lifetime License sales increased more than 24 percent from June 1998, but in July they decreased 11 percent. However, Lifetime License sales increased almost 9 percent from July 1998.

In addition, sales of the Land Access Fee (permit) for Three Rivers and Honobia Creek wildlife management areas were more than $283,000 in fiscal year 1999, compared to $75,828 in FY-98.

Also, Taylor updated the Commission about the Department's Y2K preparations. To that end, he said, the Department has almost finished the claims portion of the Y2K conversion and has shifted its emphasis to upgrading its Universal Licensing System.

In personnel-related matters, the Commission recognized two employees for 25 years of continual service, and three employees for 20 years of continual service. Honored for 25 years of service were Rex Umber, central region senior biologist and Don Woodward, technician for the fisheries division. Honored for 20 years of service were game wardens Carlos Gomez, Larry Luman and Terry Swallow.

The Commission's next meeting will be Oct. 4 at 9 a.m. at the Department's headquarters in Oklahoma City.

Generous season awaits waterfowlers

Thanks to record populations of ducks and geese in the Prairie Pothole Region, Oklahoma waterfowl hunters will enjoy bountiful opportunities afield this fall.

Approved Monday by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission, Oklahoma's waterfowl seasons will have slight variations in different parts of the state. Duck Zone I, which takes in most of northwest Oklahoma north of I-40 and US-183, and west of I-35, will have a split season. The first half runs Oct. 30 - Dec. 5, and the second split runs Dec. 11 - Jan. 16. The rest of the state, except for the panhandle, is in Duck Zone II, which will also have a split season. The first half runs Nov. 6 - Dec. 5, and the second half will be Dec. 11 - Jan. 23.

In the panhandle, the season will run continuously from Oct. 9 - Jan. 13.

The seasons are essentially the same as last year, said Mike O'Meilia, migratory bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, except that the daily limit on scaup has dropped from six birds to three. Otherwise, hunters will be allowed a daily limit of six ducks, no more than five of which can be mallards. Of those, only two mallards may be hens. Separate limits apply to wood ducks, redheads, pintails and canvasbacks.

The reason for the generous seasons and bag limits, O'Meilia added, is because of record populations of breeding birds in the Prairie Pothole Region coupled with excellent breeding and brood rearing conditions.

"During its annual breeding pair surveys, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recorded 44.3 million breeding ducks," O'Meilia said. "That's the largest number since the surveys began in 1955. Combined with the excellent breeding conditions in the northern prairies, we can expect a fall flight of more than 105 million ducks. Of those, more than 13.6 million will be mallards. That's a 16-percent increase from 1998, which was a great year."

For the same reasons, sportsmen can also expect a record flight of geese this fall, O'Meilia added. The split season on Canada geese Nov. 6 - Dec. 5, and from Dec. 11 - Feb. 13. The daily limit will be three birds.

The split season on white fronted geese will run Nov. 6 - Dec. 5, and from Dec. 11 - Feb. 4. The daily limit will be two birds.

The season on light geese (snow, blue and Ross') will be a three-way split. The first part will run Nov. 6 - Dec. 5, the second part will run Dec. 11 - Feb. 13, and the third part will run Feb. 19 - March 1. The daily limit will be 20 birds.

Sandhill crane season will be from Oct. 30 - Jan. 30. The daily limit will be three birds.

"Most populations of geese in the Central Flyway are doing very well," O'Meilia said. "The fall flight of Canadas will be larger than last year, and white fronted geese continue to do well."

For more specific information on rules and regulations regarding waterfowl hunting in Oklahoma, pick up a copy of the 1999-2000 Oklahoma Waterfowl Hunting Guide. Available at all hunting license vendors statewide, the Waterfowl Hunting Guide lists all regulations for hunting on Department-owned lakes, wildlife management areas and waterfowl development units. It also has specific breakdowns on limits, as well as other information to make your 1999-2000 waterfowl seasons more productive and enjoyable.

Brochures address baiting questions

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has posted two brochures on the Internet to help hunters, guides, landowners, and others comply with new federal rules on baiting migratory game birds.

"Waterfowl Baiting Regulations Review" and "Dove Hunting & Baiting" can be reviewed and downloaded from the USFWS Office of Law Enforcement web site, (, where they are located under the heading "Wildlife Laws."

In June, the USFWS revised federal baiting regulations. These changes were made to promote the restoration and creation of habitat for migratory birds while providing increased opportunities for hunting waterfowl and other migratory game birds. The revised regulations also define key terms for hunters and landowners, and clarify conditions under which migratory game birds may be legally hunted. The new rules will be in effect for the 1999-2000 hunting season.

"Hunters need to know the rules before they take to the fields and marshes this fall," said John Streich, chief of law enforcement for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "There have always been a lot of questions regarding federal baiting laws, but the new guidelines should make it easier for hunters to enjoy the sport and obey the law."

The brochures discuss new definitions and requirements related to baiting; review penalties for hunting with bait and placing bait; examine a few potential problem areas; and provide a brief overview of other federal rules that govern migratory game bird hunting. They also include excerpts from the new baiting regulations as well as contact information for Service law enforcement offices throughout the country.

Printed copies of the two new brochures will be available from the USFWS later this fall.

Department plans equipment auction

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will hold a public auction Saturday Oct. 2 at 9 a.m. at Lake Burtschi near Chickasha.

More than 150 items will be available at the event, including a 24-foot, aluminum MonArk boat equipped with a 200-horsepower Mercury outboard motor, a 1968 Jeep 3/4-ton equipment carrier, three four-wheel drive pickup trucks and numerous computer systems. To see photographs of the boat and other items, visit the Department's official website on the Internet at

In the event of rain, the event will be rescheduled for Oct. 3. For more information, call 405/521-4600 or 521-4618.


Department schedules

pre-employment exam

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will hold a standardized examination Friday Sept. 24 at the Tom Steed Development Center Auditorium at Rose State College.

The exam is for individuals seeking employment as wildlife biologists, game wardens, assistant hatchery managers, technicians and information and education specialists. It will cover state and federal wildlife laws and regulations, Oklahoma geography, biological and environmental sciences relating to fish, wildlife and environmental education and communication; journalism, photojournalism, technical writing and editing.

Individuals may take the exam once in a 12-month period, and test scores are valid for 12 months from the test date. Applications for employment will be sent to the individuals with the top 25 scores. Taking the exam does not guarantee employment, nor does the exam necessarily indicate the Department currently has openings. Interviews will be scheduled only when an opening is available.

The Tom Steed Development Center Auditorium is north of I-40 at the intersection of I-40 and Hudiburg Rd. in Midwest City. The doors will close promptly at 10 a.m. Those arriving after 10 a.m. will not be permitted to take the exam.

Summer conditions favorable for quail

Because of favorable nesting and brood rearing conditions this summer, quail numbers may actually be higher than estimated.

According to the August Quail Roadside Survey, conducted annually by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, bobwhite quail appear to have had a productive nesting season this year. At Packsaddle Wildlife Management Area, some birds fitted with radio transmitters even nested a second time after rearing chicks earlier in the summer, said Steve DeMaso, upland bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. This is similar to the late hatch that occurred in 1997, when quail hunters harvested 1.4 million birds, he added.

“Weather and habitat conditions have been more favorable than they were last year,” DeMaso said, “and habitat for adult quail and chicks appears to be better throughout the state. There’s also an abundance of insects for chicks and adult birds to eat, and that’s a good sign.”

Because of the improved cover, quail sightings were actually down compared to 1998, DeMaso added. The abundance of cover near roadways could make it harder for observers to see quail, leading to fewer sightings during the survey. Also, results from the August survey generally don’t include quail produced from the second hatch, which occurs in late August.

“Most information this year indicates a better quail season than last year,” DeMaso said, “but it’s hard to say at this point whether it might be as good as 1997. Considering the excellent nesting conditions combined with the abundance of forage for the birds, it is possible we could be in better shape than meets the eye.”

Compared to 1998, statewide indices from the August roadside survey are down 45 percent. They are down 38 percent from the eight-year index average. Statewide, the average number of quail seen by observers per 20-mile route was nearly five birds, compared to about eight in 1998.

In the past, the August survey, combined with the October roadside quail survey, has been a fairly reliable gauge to predict the upcoming statewide quail harvest, DeMaso said. However, the August 1999 estimate is only slightly lower than that of 1997, which was a good year for quail hunters.

“During hot, dry weather like what we had for most of the summer last year, sparse vegetation near roads could make quail more visible to observers,” DeMaso said. “It’s possible that we had a lot more quail this year that simply weren’t visible to observers. As long as habitat and weather conditions are favorable, quail nesting season will usually be productive.”

Drawings announced for duck blinds

With excitement building over the upcoming season, duck hunters should be aware that drawings for permanent duck blinds will be held at various locations around the state on Sat., Sept. 25.

Although permits are not required for temporary blinds that are removed at the end of a day’s hunt, some hunters prefer to hunt from the comfort of a permanent duck blind.

• Anyone interested in applying for a permanent blind must appear in person at the drawing site.

• Applicants must be at least 16 years of age.

• Unless exempt, applicants must have a valid state waterfowl license and federal duck stamp, as well as a valid Oklahoma hunting or combination license.

• Anyone applying for a blind must also have a valid Migratory Bird Harvest Information program permit.

• Only one duck blind permit is allowed per person.

Drawings for permanent blinds at lakes Eufaula, Oologah, Webbers Falls and Fort Gibson will be held at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Northeast Regional Office near Porter.

The drawing for blinds at Ft. Gibson Lake will be held at 8:30 a.m., followed by drawings for Lake Eufaula at 10 a.m., Lake Oologah at 11:30 a.m., and Webbers Falls at 1 p.m.

Registration for each lake begins one hour before the drawing. For more information, about the drawings for these lakes, call the Department’s Porter office at (918) 683-1031.

Drawing requirements and information for blinds permits for other lakes are outlined below:

Hulah Lake - Registration begins Sept. 25, at 8 a.m., followed by the drawing at 9 a.m. at the Copan/Hulah Lake Corps of Engineers project office (located at the intersection of Highways 10 & 75). For more information, contact Bill Sartin, Wildlife Department game biologist, at (918) 336-5113.

W.D. Mayo - Drawing will be held Sept. 25 at Spiro Town Hall (510 S. Main St.) at 10 a.m. For more information, call contact David Robertson, wildlife biologist, at (918) 647-5155.

Canton - Permits issued on a first-come, first-served basis from 8 a.m. to noon, Sept. 25, at the overlook on the south end of Canton Dam. Anyone wanting a permit after the drawing should contact Steve Conrady, northwest region senior biologist for the Wildlife Department, at (580) 227-3080.

Waurika - Permits are unlimited, but a drawing will be held for hunters to select the site of their choice Sept. 25 at 9 a.m., at the Waurika Corps of Engineers project office.

Ft. Supply - Permits will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis on Sept . 18 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Woodward office from 9 a.m. until noon. Those interested should call at (580) 254-9173.

Leedey student wins OWAA writing award

Kyle Blacketter, a ninth-grader at Leedey Junior High School, recently won third place in the Norm Strung Youth Writing competition sponsored by the Outdoor Writers Association of America.

Blacketter, 15, earned his award with an essay titled, “This Is My Heritage.” He received a plaque and $50. His essay will be reprinted in the November/December issue of Outdoor Oklahoma, the Department’s award-winning magazine.

“Young people like Kyle hold the future to the outdoor traditions that Oklahomans hold dear, and it’s especially impressive that so many Oklahoma youths are so eloquent in expressing their attachment to these traditions,” said Nels Rodefeld, assistant chief of information and education for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Designed to encouraged youths to express their love and appreciation for the outdoors, the Norm Strung/OWAA Youth Writing Award consistently attracts some of the most talented young writers in America. Oklahomans have placed in the top three of the national competition for four of the six years in which they have submitted material. Initially, youngsters submit articles to a statewide contest, which is sponsored by the Department and the Oklahoma Station of Safari Club International. Top entries from the statewide competition are then entered in the national competition.

For more information on this year’s state youth writing competition, contact the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, 1801 N. Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City, OK 73105; or call 405/521-4631.

Fur harvesters will hold reunion

The Oklahoma Fur Harvesters Association will celebrate its tenth anniversary with a fall reunion Saturday Oct. 9 at the Porum Landing Rural Fire Department.

Open to all trappers, hunters and other outdoors enthusiasts, the event will feature demonstrations on fur handling and knife sharpening, as well as a number of activities for children. A fish fry will also be held, and participants are asked to bring a salad or dessert. The event runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free, and participants will also be able to take a beaver conibear certification course.

For more information, call Shannon Sheffert at 405/372-6317, or Ron Scott at 918/426-6918.

Teal season opens Sept. 11

Waterfowl hunters itching for the cold weather of November can get a high-octane tune-up this month by participating in the fall teal season.

Due to record-high populations of blue-winged and green-winged teal, Oklahoma hunters will be able to enjoy 16 days of teal hunting for the second straight year, said Mike O'Meilia, migratory bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The season runs Sept. 11-26 statewide except for the Panhandle, where it runs Sept.11-19. If the weather cooperates, O'Meilia added, Oklahoma teal hunters could experience some excellent hunting. "Thanks to record-high breeding populations of teal, combined with excellent production conditions in the Dakotas, we're looking for an outstanding fall flight of both blue-winged and green-winged teal this fall," O'Meilia said.

"Like many migratory birds, teal migration is triggered by decreasing day-length as we approach fall. Spectacular migrations can occur on the northern fronts that occur with increasing frequency in September. Even small fronts that cause no appreciable change in temperatures will carry teal southward on their traditional journey to wintering grounds in Mexico and Central and South America.

"Like any other kinds of hunting, it's just a matter of going out and taking advantage of the opportunities," he added. "If you're out there when they come through, you'll have some great hunts. If you're sitting on the couch, you won't."

Despite the abundance of opportunities, teal hunting is somewhat of an undiscovered treasure in Oklahoma. Last year, for example, Oklahoma hunters took an estimated 5,600 teal, compared to about 200,000 teal taken by hunters in Louisiana during the September season.

One reason the season is underutilized, O'Meilia said, is because the hot weather conditions normally prevalent in mid-September are so vastly different from the traditional image of cold-weather duck hunting. Generally, you can hunt in short sleeves, and if you don't mind wearing wet trousers, you can even hunt without waders. It's a unique experience, but those who give it a try quickly become enamored with it.

"People who don't participate in the fall teal season are missing out on a great experience," O'Meilia said. "This time of year doesn't produce what many consider classic duck hunting conditions, but it's a tremendous season. It's a great time to take a kid hunting, and it's a great time to train a young dog."

Perhaps the most important thing to remember about fall teal hunting is that you're only allowed to harvest blue-winged, green-winged and cinnamon teal. All other waterfowl species are off-limits.

"There are always variable numbers of other ducks around at this time depending on the weather," O'Meilia said. "You might see pintails, shovelers, mallards and wood ducks, so you have to be aware of waterfowl identification. Wood ducks are very common, and the first hour of shooting time is when they are most active. Shovelers have blue wing patches, too, so you can't depend on that for ID. You've got to look at their heads to pick out their much larger bills for which they are named."

To participate in the fall teal season, all you need is a resident or non-resident Oklahoma Hunting License, an Oklahoma Waterfowl Hunting Permit ($4) and a federal duck stamp ($15). Don't forget your Harvest Information Program (HIP) permit. It's free from any license vendor, but you can't hunt without it. That's how the Department determines the harvest of all migratory game birds, including waterfowl.

Project WILD earns awards

For its contributions to promoting environmental awareness, Oklahoma Project WILD recently received two major state and federal awards.

Oklahoma Project WILD earned the Region 6 1999 Regional Administrator's Award for Environmental Education from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the 1999 Outstanding Organization Award from the Oklahoma Association for Environmental Education.

While the awards recognize the effectiveness and popularity of the program, they also honor the volunteers who form the backbone of the program, said Lisa Anderson, Oklahoma Project WILD coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

"Oklahoma Project WILD owes its success to its volunteer facilitators," Anderson said. "Three people have been active facilitators since Project WILD's inception in Oklahoma, and several others have been with the program for 10 or more years. All are dedicated and willing to donate their time to help spread environmental education across Oklahoma. These are the people who conduct most of the workshops in the state, and without them, the program wouldn't be as effective."

Established in 1984, Oklahoma Project WILD is sponsored jointly by the Wildlife Department and the Oklahoma Conservation Commission. During those 15 years, the program has held 700 workshops through which it has trained more than 16,000 educators and reached an estimated 500,000 students.

"Project WILD features hands-on activities that help educators incorporate environmental education into their regular curricula," Anderson said. "It's very effective in a classroom setting as well as with youth enrichment programs such as 4-H and Scouts. It helps make students aware of things they may otherwise take for granted about the world around them."

The core of the program are two activity guides that contain more than 150 activities. The activity guides can be used from Kindergarten through twelfth grade. Each activity is designed to teach awareness and appreciation for wildlife, human values and wildlife resources, wildlife and ecological systems, wildlife conservation, cultural and social interaction with wildlife, and wildlife issues and trends, alternatives and consequences. Educators can obtain the guides by attending a six-hour workshop which is approved for staff development credit. Courses for college credit are also available.

Department schedules pre-employment exam

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will hold a standardized examination Friday Sept. 24 at the Tom Steed Development Center Auditorium at Rose State College.

The exam is for individuals seeking employment as wildlife biologists, game wardens, assistant hatchery managers, technicians and information and education specialists. It will cover state and federal wildlife laws and regulations, Oklahoma geography, biological and environmental sciences relating to fish, wildlife and environmental education and communication; journalism, photojournalism, technical writing and editing.

Individuals may take the exam once in a 12-month period, and test scores are valid for 12 months from the test date. Applications for employment will be sent to the individuals with the top 25 scores. Taking the exam does not guarantee employment, nor does the exam necessarily indicate the Department currently has openings. Interviews will be scheduled only when an opening is available.

The Tom Steed Development Center Auditorium is north of I-40 at the intersection of I-40 and Hudiburg Rd. in Midwest City. The doors will close promptly at 10 a.m. Those arriving after 10 a.m. will not be permitted to take the exam.