Quail opener looks promising

Thanks to successful reproduction this spring and summer, bobwhite quail populations appear to be in fair shape heading into the 1999-2000 hunting season.

Running Nov. 1 - Jan. 31, quail season is one of the most popular events in the state, drawing hunters from all over the nation to enjoy some of America's finest bird hunting. Oklahoma typically ranks among the top three quail hunting states in terms of both quail populations and hunter success, and Oklahoma promises to be a major destination for bird hunters again this year.

Although observers counted fewer birds during the 1999 October Roadside Survey than they did in 1998, quail apparently produced a good late hatch across much of the state, said Steve DeMaso, upland bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Consequently, the age distribution of quail observed is similar to those of 1996-97, which was a good hunting season.

"Overall, we've been encouraged by reports from our field personnel," DeMaso said. "Quail seem to have had good reproduction this year, and good weather conditions during the rearing season have helped recruit a fair number of birds into the population."

Although the October Road Surveys have traditionally been accurate indicators for the statewide quail harvest, this year's survey may have been affected by several factors. For example, wet weather encouraged plant growth along the roadsides, making it more difficult to see quail than in 1998, when vegetation was sparse.

"Nesting season appears to have been later this year than in previous years, too," DeMaso said, "so quail production was delayed in many areas. Most of the chicks seen during this survey were fully-grown, however, and the number of young chicks increased from the October 1998 survey. Also, weather and habitat conditions were more favorable than last year's hot, dry nesting season."

The most important element to hunter success, DeMaso added, is simply to go hunting. Hunting conditions are a bit different early in the season than they are later, but hunters who adapt their strategies can enjoy productive outings almost anytime. In the early part of the season, DeMaso recommends not working dogs too hard for long stretches, to give them frequent rest breaks and to give dogs plenty of water to keep them from getting dehydrated. If possible, it's also good to rotate dogs in and out of the field to keep them fresh.

And remember, nobody ever has a good season sitting at home. The only way to enjoy it is to get out there and hunt.

Whooping Cranes migrating now

Nearly 195 whooping cranes are expected to visit Oklahoma over the next few weeks as one of North America's rarest birds makes its annual fall migration.

These birds represent the entire migratory population within North America, said Mark Howery, natural resources biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Despite its relatively small number, this flock contains the hope for a species that only recently seemed doomed to extinction.

"The whooping crane is a conservation success story in progress," Howery said. "From a remnant population of only 15 birds in 1941, the whooping crane is making a steady comeback. The current migratory population is about 195 cranes, a remarkable increase when you consider all of the obstacles these birds face. In addition to the hazards of long migration that occurs twice a year, they must also endure habitat loss, and also the impact of periodic droughts and excessively wet years."

In addition to the 195 birds in the migratory population, there are about 70 captive-reared cranes living in the wild in Florida as part of an attempt to establish a non-migratory population in that part of their former range. Nearly 130 other cranes live in captive breeding facilities in the U.S. and Canada. All of these birds descend from the migratory population of cranes. The cranes that will pass through Oklahoma this fall are migrating from their nesting grounds in the boreal marshes of northern Alberta, Canada to their wintering grounds on the Texas Gulf Coast.

"Whooping Cranes typically migrate during the day in small groups of two to six birds and will occasionally join groups of migrating sandhill cranes," Howery said. "At night, they roost in shallow water in marshes or along rivers."

In the fall, whooping cranes are mostly seen in the central one-third of the state during the last week of October and the first week of November. Distinguishing marks include their large size, white plumage, black wingtips and red forehead. Also, whooping cranes fly with their necks extended straight and their legs extending well behind their bodies.

Sandhill cranes have a similar body shape but are primarily gray and have dark gray wing feathers instead of black wingtips. White pelicans are similar in color, but they are stockier, and they usually travel in large flocks. Their legs do not extend far behind their tail feathers.

Snow geese are considerably smaller than cranes and have short legs which do not extend far behind their bodies. Egrets lack the black wingtips of the whooping crane and fly with their necks held in an "S" shape.

Anyone who observes a whooping crane is requested to contact the Department's Wildlife Diversity Program at (405) 521-4616. Observers will be asked to share the date and location of the sightings as well as the habitat and the number of birds.

"By monitoring the birds during migration, we hope to gain a better understanding of their migration path and the most important habitats for them in terms of feeding and roosting," Howery said.

For more information about the whooping crane, a free informational brochure is available by writing to ODWC's Wildlife Diversity Program at 1801 N. Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City, OK 73105.

Winter opportunities for eagle viewing

In November, Oklahoma wildlife enthusiasts will have more than 100 opportunities this winter to see bald eagles at reservoirs throughout the state.

"Eagles are becoming a common winter sight at lakes and rivers across Oklahoma," said Jeremy Garrett, natural resources specialist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "With the help of 25 other partners, we're glad to provide opportunities for Oklahomans to see our national symbol up close."

The Winter Bald Eagle Tours are coordinated by the Department's Wildlife Diversity Program, which is funded primarily by contributions through the state wildlife tax check-off, wildlife license plate sales and direct donations.

For a schedule of the 1999-2000 Winter Eagle Tours, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: Eagle Tours, Wildlife Diversity Program, 1801 N. Lincoln, Oklahoma City, OK 73105. People also can look up the schedule on the Wildlife Department's website: www.state.ok.us/~odwc.

Wildlife license plates now available locally

Starting November 1, Oklahomans will be able to purchase pre-numbered Wildlife Conservation License Plates at most local tag agencies.

"People will be able to simply walk in, write a check for $25 and walk out with any of the four unique designs - large-mouth bass, bobwhite quail, white-tailed deer or scissor-tailed flycatcher," said Jeremy Garrett, natural resources specialist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

"Although sales of the Wildlife plates have increased annually since 1994, having them available locally should really boost their sales, thus boosting funds available for state wildlife efforts," Garrett said. "More than 2,000 plates were sold during fiscal year 1999, raising more than $40,000 for state wildlife conservation efforts."

Since the wildlife plate program began in 1994, nearly 8,000 plates have been purchased or renewed, raising $155,760 for the Wildlife Diversity Program, Garrett added. Funds from wildlife plate sales have been used to purchase the Selman Bat Cave property and to conduct special bat viewing opportunities. They have also been used to enhance Watchable Wildlife Areas at Byron Fish Hatchery and Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area, and to produce informational brochures and posters.

To order a wildlife plate, visit your local tag agency, call 405/521-4616, or visit the website: www.state.ok.us/~odwc.

Fall turkey season looks promising

With wild turkey populations in good shape across the state, Oklahoma turkey hunters are looking forward to a successful fall turkey season.

Except for some counties in the eastern and central parts of the state, the fall gun turkey season runs Oct. 30 - Nov. 19. Depending on which county they're hunting, sportsmen will be allowed to harvest one turkey of either sex or just one tom.

In some eastern counties, hunters are restricted to using shotguns only. Those counties are Washington, Nowata, Craig, Wagoner, Cherokee, Adair, Muskogee, Sequoyah, McIntosh and Haskell.

Archery enthusiasts may take one turkey of either sex statewide from Oct. 6 - Nov. 19 and from Nov. 29 - Dec. 31. Regardless of the hunting method, the total fall bag limit is one bird per hunter.

Though overshadowed by the spring season, the fall turkey season is a valuable opportunity for many hunters who wish to harvest a wild turkey for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. It also provides an opportunity to hunt this elusive bird under much different, and arguably more challenging, circumstances than those encountered in the spring.

Regardless of the reason, the fall turkey season is extremely popular among hunters, which reflects the success of the wild turkey management efforts conducted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

"We're very pleased to be able to offer this opportunity to the hunters of our state," said Rod Smith, southwest region supervisor for the Department. "Turkey populations appear to be doing well, and we should have an abundance of birds this fall. We've had good hatches and good recruitment the last two springs, plus a good carryover of adult birds from last year. Altogether, those factors could produce some outstanding hunting opportunities."

The Rio Grande sub-species attracts most of the hunting attention in the fall. During the 1999 winter turkey survey, biologists for the Department estimated the statewide Rio Grande population at more than 60,000 birds.

Meanwhile, the eastern wild turkey continues to thrive in southeastern and far northeastern Oklahoma. Although most of southeastern Oklahoma is closed to fall turkey hunting with a firearm, hunters may still pursue turkeys with archery tackle during the designated archery seasons.

Before heading afield, look carefully at the fall turkey hunting regulations in the 1999-2000 Oklahoma Hunting Regulations booklet. You can pick up a copy from any license dealer.

Hunting requirements are simple. You need a resident or non-resident hunting license and a resident or non-resident fall turkey hunting permit. Anyone born on or after Jan. 1 1972 must pass a certified hunter education class before purchasing a hunting license or permit.

Winter trout areas open Nov. 1

If you enjoy catching trout but don't have time to travel, you can enjoy some excellent fishing close to home at Oklahoma's winter trout areas.

Beginning Nov. 1, trout season opens at the six designated winter trout areas managed by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Sprinkled throughout the state, these fisheries provide trout fishing opportunities in areas where warm water temperatures are not suitable for trout during the summer. They are stocked regularly with catchable size rainbow trout, and they are very popular with anglers all over the state, said Barry Bolton, the Department's Assistant Chief of Fisheries.

"Oklahoma is blessed with a diversity of fishing opportunities, including our two year-round trout fisheries on the lower Illinois and lower Mountain Fork rivers," Bolton said. "However, the Department's winter trout fisheries provide additional opportunities that are very popular with many anglers who appreciate the experience of catching trout on their home waters. For that reason, they are valuable assets to Oklahoma's fishing community."

Seasonal trout fishing areas are at the following locations:

Lake Carl Etling - This 159-acre lake is at Black Mesa State Park in Cimarron Co. Trout season runs Nov. 1 - April 30. To get there, take US-325 28 miles west of Boise City. Boat ramps are on the south and east sides of the lake. Primitive and developed camping facilities are available at the park.

Quartz Mountain - The trout water is in the North Fork of the Red River directly below the dam at Lake Altus-Lugert. Trout season runs Nov. 1 - March 15. To get there from Altus, take OK-44A north about 18 miles. Lodging and camping facilities are available at Quartz Mountain State Park.

Blue River - The Blue River flows through the Blue River Public Fishing and Hunting Area near Tishomingo. Trout season runs Nov. 1 - March 31. To get there from Tishomingo, go four miles east on OK-78 and then six miles north. Bank access and wade fishing is available throughout the area. Primitive camping is allowed at the Blue River campground.

Robbers Cave - Located in Robbers Cave State Park, the Robbers Cave trout fishery is in the Fourche Maline River directly below Carlton Dam to the south boundary of the park. Trout season runs Nov. 1 - March 15. To get there from Wilburton, go five miles north on OK-2. Bank access and wade fishing is available anywhere within state park boundaries. Camping facilities and cabins are available at the park.

Lake Watonga - This 55-acre lake is in Roman Nose State Park. Trout season runs Nov. 1 - March 31. To get there from Watonga, go seven miles north on OK-8A. Bank access and a boat ramp are on the west side of the lake. Camping and lodging are available at the park.

Lake Pawhuska - This 96-acre lake is about three miles south of Pawhuska. Trout season runs Nov. 1 - March 31. During that time, the City of Pawhuska waives the City fishing fee. To get there from Pawhuska, go three miles south on OK-60, and then go 1.75 miles east on a marked County road. The lake has a boat ramp, fishing dock and restrooms. Primitive camping is available at the lake, and developed camping is available at nearby Lake Bluestem.

In addition to these areas, the Department also manages year-round trout fisheries at the lower Illinois and lower Mountain Fork rivers. The Department stocks both of these areas with brown and rainbow trout.

To fish for trout in Oklahoma, angles need either a resident or non-resident fishing license, as well as a trout license. It costs $7.75. There are no exemptions from purchasing the trout license. Before going, check the 1999 Oklahoma Fishing Regulations regarding regulations and other information for each area.

Don't wait too late for hunter education

For those who need to obtain a hunter education card before going afield this season, a few classes still have openings. You'd better sign up fast, however, because space is limited, and demand is high.

According to Oklahoma State Law, anyone hunting in Oklahoma who was born on or before Jan. 1, 1972 upon reaching 16 years of age, must exhibit a hunter safety certificate from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, or a like certificate from another state, to purchase or receive a hunting license or permit. Before you can obtain the hunter safety certificate, you must first complete an accredited hunter education class administered by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Of course, the best time to take the course is in the summer, when demand for space is low. However, many people are unable to take the class until the last minute because of personal or professional reasons. Still others get in a bind because they procrastinate. Whatever the reason, there are still opportunities available to take the class and obtain the necessary qualifications to hunt this season.

"Aside from being required by law, taking a hunter safety class is just plain, good common sense," said J.D. Peer, hunter education coordinator for the Wildlife Department. "With more and more competition for our game resources, it's especially important for hunters to know their responsibilities in regard to ethics and firearm safety. A hunter safety class teaches a hunter the necessary elements to be competent and responsible afield. Ultimately, that's good not only for hunters, but for the sport in general."

Hunter education courses are free, 10-hour courses that cover firearm safety, hunting regulations, hunter responsibility and ethics. They also cover wildlife management, survival and other topics like proper handling of game, first aid and introductory specialty hunting, such as muzzleloading and bowhunting.

A limited number of home study hunter education courses are available in Oklahoma City until mid-November. Students enrolled in home study courses must complete an intensive workbook before attending a four-hour class.

For information on standard and home study course listings, call J.D. Peer at (405) 522-4572.

Muzzleloader season coming soon

For thousands of Oklahoma sportsmen, deer season is about to go up in smoke.

Smoke from the muzzle of a blackpowder firearm, that is.

One of the fastest-growing sports in the country, hunting deer with a muzzleloading firearm is a special opportunity for Oklahoma hunters. The statewide season runs Oct. 23-31, offering nine days of traditional-style hunting that harkens back to the early days of Oklahoma's pioneer heritage.

In addition, the woods are generally uncrowded during the muzzleloader season, allowing hunters a chance to hunt deer that haven't been heavily pressured. Consequently, muzzleloader hunters stand an excellent chance of bagging the buck of their dreams.

"For a lot of different reasons, the primitive firearms deer season is one of the most widely-anticipated events among Oklahoma deer hunters," said Richard Hatcher, chief of wildlife for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "It's a really nice time to be in the woods, and many hunters consider it the best time to harvest a high-quality deer. More importantly, it provides a valuable extra hunting opportunity."

For many who take up the sport, muzzleloading becomes an obsession. Success requires extremely careful selection and handling of equipment, as well as precise attention to detail. Skillful woodsmanship is also required to get within effective range to take a deer with a muzzleloader.

"Even if you think you've done everything right, there's always an element of chance when you're hunting with a muzzleloader," Hatcher said with a chuckle. "Sometimes the powder doesn't ignite, or an improperly-seated cap won't go off. You just never know."

Last year, muzzleloader hunters harvested 13,557 deer, accounting for more than 13 percent of the overall statewide harvest of 80,008 deer. Of those, 10,008 were bucks, and 3,549 were does.

To hunt deer with a muzzleloader in Oklahoma, resident hunters must possess an annual hunting or combination license, a lifetime hunting or combination license, a senior citizen hunting or senior citizen combination license; or proof of exemption. Hunters must also possess a deer primitive (antlered or antlerless) permit for each deer harvested or proof of exemptions. Non-residents must possess anon-resident primitive (antlered or antlerless) permit. An annual non-resident hunting license is not required to purchase the permits.

Also, muzzleloader hunters must wear blaze orange garments, including a head covering, that covers their upper bodies. For specific information regarding licenses, bag limits, clothing requirements or legal firearms, consult the 1999-2000 Oklahoma Hunting Regulations.

Hopefully, your dream hunt will end with success.

Good field care ensures good venison

Although some say taking a deer is the highlight of every deer hunt, many feel that the best part of deer hunting comes later, at the dinner table.

To get the most enjoyment from your harvest, however, you need to take proper care for the meat. If properly handled, you'll be able to enjoy many meals of lean, high-protein meat that is 100-percent natural, with no additives or preservatives.

"People hunt for a lot of reasons, but every hunter agrees that eating game is an essential part of the hunting experience," said J.D. Peer, hunter education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "It's the key ingredient that connects the hunter to the game, that makes us participants in the cycle of life in the natural world instead of just being observers. Partaking of game, gives a hunter a deeper respect and reverence for that animal than those who don't understand that connection."

Upon harvesting a deer, the first think you must do is attach the proper tag to the carcass as required by law. Then, you should remove the animal's genitalia, or, if it's a doe, its udder. Make a circular cut around the area, and remove musk glands to avoid tainting the meat.

Split the hide from the tail to the throat, but be careful not to pierce the body cavity. Peel back the hide several inches on each side to keep from getting hair on the meat.

Cut through the pelvic bone. Tilting the carcass toward the rear will cause the innards to sag into the rib cavity, decreasing the chance of puncturing the viscera while cutting through the bone. Then, you can cut the large intestine from the pelvic cavity without severing it from the viscera.

Open the carcass by cutting the length of the breast bone and neck.

Working uphill, turn the carcass, free the gullet and pull viscera to the rear. Remove the head and legs, and then spray the carcass with Liquid Game Bag. Skin and sack.

Allow the carcass to cool before transporting if conditions allow. Many hunters recommend cooling a deer six hours before transporting.

Be sure to check deer

After harvesting a deer this fall, hunters must remember to have the animal checked at the nearest hunter check station.

Aside from being required by law, checking deer is important because it allows biologists for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to determine the exact number of deer harvested during Oklahoma's respective deer seasons, said Mike Shaw, the Department's research supervisor. It also allows Department wildlife biologists to evaluate harvest strategies in specific regions based on the needs of their respective deer herds. Furthermore, it allows biologists to evaluate the age and physical condition of all harvested animals.

"The information we collect at our check stations is crucial to developing harvest regulations in the best interest of the resource and hunters alike," Shaw said. "Checking deer is an accepted part of every successful hunt, and it can also be a lot of fun because it gives hunters an opportunity to visit with other successful hunters and compare notes."

This year, a number of changes have been made to the statewide list of hunter check stations. They are as follows:

ATOKA CO. - Caney, Voca Store, 659 W. Voca Rd.
BECKHAM CO. - Sayre, Recess, Hwy. 66 at Exit 25 I-40.
BRYAN CO. - Durant, Durant Fire Dept. 204 N. 4th.
CADDO CO. - Apache, Swanda's Gas & Go, 604 E. Hwy. 19.
CANADIAN CO. - El Reno, Great Plains Taxidermy, 3 mi. W. of Country Club Rd. on Jensen Rd.
Yukon - No station
CHEROKEE CO. - Peggs, Peggs Gro. & Hardware., Hwy. 82 N.
CHOCTAW CO. - Kiamichi Park, Corps of Engineers Office, Hugo Lake.
CLEVELAND CO. - Lexington, Riverside C Store, 4th St. & Hwy 77.
CUSTER CO. - Weatherford, Kash & Karry Grocery, 309 W. Main.
ELLIS CO. - Lake Vincent, Lake Road Bait & Tackle, 3 mi. N. of Lake Vincent.
Shattuck, Police Dept., 405 S. Main.
GRADY CO. - Ninnekah,Brewer's Quick Stop, 4 mi. S. Hwy. 81 & 277.
Tuttle, Tuttle Police Dept., Main and SE 2nd.
GRANT CO. - Pond Creek, Bob's Easy Shop, 104 N. Hwy. 81.
JACKSON CO. - Olustee, Adam's Shooter Supply, 100 W. 4th.
LeFLORE CO. - Summerfield, Mike's Country Corner, 100 Main St.
McCLAIN CO. - Purcell, No station.
McCURTAIN CO. - Cisco, No Station.
NOWATA CO. - Alluwe, KC's Diner & Country Store, Hwy 28 & 99A.
STEPHENS CO. - Velma, To be announced.
WASHINGTON CO. - Copan, Joe's Bait and Tackle, Jct. Hwy. 10 & 75.
Vera - KaBo's Vera Grocery on 111 S. Hwy.
WASHITA CO. - Cordell, Fire Station, 117 E. Clay.
WOODS CO. - Plainview, No Station
      Waynoka, Police Dept., 201 E. Cecil.

Commission approves regulations changes

In its regular October meeting, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission approved several new hunting regulations which will go into effect in 2000.

One of the most significant changes will expand opportunities for bowhunters. Currently, deer archery season occurs in a split season, the first of which begins Oct. 6, and lasts for a total of 78 days. The new regulation will expand the split season to 83 days and establish Oct. 1 as opening day. Also, the Commission voted to approve the use of electronic tracking devices as a tool to recover harvested deer. The use of thermal tracking devices will not be allowed.

Other major regulations changes include:

o Opening a falconry season for greater prairie chickens. The season will run Nov. 1 - Feb. 15, with a daily limit of one bird and a possession limit of two. The season on lesser prairie chickens will remain closed.

o Opening fall turkey season in Kay County. The season limit will be one turkey.

o Opening fall archery turkey season on most Department-owned wildlife management areas in southeast Oklahoma.

o Making deer archery season at Sandy Sanders WMA the same as statewide.

o Deleting the camping restriction at Pushmataha WMA.

o Allowing the hunting of all legal waterfowl and coots at Sooner Lake.

o Numerous housekeeping items regarding hunting at public hunting areas around the state. Check the 2000-2001 Oklahoma Hunting Regulations for specifics.

Hatcher also addressed the Commission about reducing the annual bag limit for antlered bucks from three to two, and also for extending the number of doe days throughout most of the state. The Commission voted to table both measures for further study.

In other business, the Commission voted to approve a proposal to offer five permits for special auction hunts. The permits that will be auctioned will be for an elk hunt at Cookson Hills WMA, a modern firearms deer hunt at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, a spring turkey hunt at Osage/Western Wall WMA and two permits for a quail hunt at Packsaddle WMA.

During the 1998 legislative session, the Oklahoma Legislature authorized the Commission to offer as many as five special hunt permits for public auction outside the Department's Controlled Hunts program. In 1999, the Department auctioned two such permits. One was for a spring turkey hunt at the McCurtain County Wilderness Area, and the other was for a fall elk hunt at Cookson Hills WMA.

Also, the Commission voted to approve controlled, antlerless-only deer hunts on designated portions at Ft. Cobb State Park. The hunts are necessary because the deer herd in and around Ft. Cobb State Park has become seriously overpopulated, said Richard Hatcher, chief of the Department's Wildlife Division. 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.

In other business, the Commission voted to approve an Agency Organization Executive Compensation Plan. The plan includes salary adjustments for several administrative positions. Organizational changes include establishing two new positions. Those positions will be a Chief of Administration and an Assistant Director.

In a personnel-related item, the Commission recognized two employees for long tenures of continuous service to the Department. Loren Damron, Warden Supervisor, was honored for 25 years of continuous service. Steve Spade, manager of the Byron Fish Hatchery, was honored for 20 years of service.

In his monthly financial statement, Robert Taylor, the Department's fiscal services coordinator, reported that the Department's Lifetime License Account had more than $3.5 million in interest available for withdrawal. In addition, Taylor added that Lifetime License sales were up more than nine percent from this time last year. Total revenues were up more than 11 percent, and expenditures were up nearly nine percent.

Taylor also updated the Commission on the Department's Y2K compliance efforts. At this point, he said, the focus is on updating the Universal License system. Software development for that phase of the project should be complete by early November, and the system should be totally complete by Dec. 1. The next phase will be to update the hunter safety, inventory and Controlled Hunts databases.

The Commission will meet again on Nov. 1 at 9 a.m. at the Department's headquarters in Oklahoma City.

Bowhunters get more opportunities

If you've been wondering what the new millennium will bring for hunters and anglers, the forecast looks promising. Starting Oct. 1, 2000, Oklahoma bowhunters will get an additional five days of hunting opportunities during the early season.

The extended season, approved Oct. 4 by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission, moves the opening of deer archery season to Oct. 1. Previously, the season opener was Oct. 6. Consequently, bowhunters will be able to hunt for a total of 83 days instead of the 78 available in 1999.

The main reason for the change, said Richard Hatcher, chief of Wildlife for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, is to provide greater opportunities for bowhunters.

"In many parts of Oklahoma, there's an increasingly urgent need to reduce the number of antlerless deer, and bowhunting is one method in which that is possible," Hatcher said. "By adding an extra week to the early archery deer season, we feel that many bowhunters will take advantage of the extra opportunities to enjoy their sport and hopefully have a positive impact on the state's deer herd. Also, establishing the season opener on Oct. 1 just makes it easier to remember, and easier for bowhunters to plan their outings."

In 1999, the first half of deer archery season began Oct. 6 and ends Nov. 19. The second half runs Nov. 29 - Dec. 31. For more information on season dates and bag limits, consult the 1999-2000 Oklahoma Hunting Regulations.

Lease expires on Hajek Marsh

Although Hajek Marsh is no longer open to the public, sportsmen can still enjoy excellent public duck hunting throughout Oklahoma this fall.

Leased for more than a decade by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Hajek Marsh contains about 30 acres of productive waterfowl habitat in Kingfisher County, said Russ Horton, central region senior biologist for the Department. However, a private entity leased the area last summer, eliminating public access to the area.

"We had it for a pretty good while, and it was a good resource for the sportsmen of Oklahoma while it lasted," Horton said, "but one of the dangers of leasing is that somebody can always come in and offer more money. That's what happened in this case."

Nevertheless, Oklahoma offers excellent public waterfowl hunting in almost every part of the state. Some of the best are the 26 waterfowl development units managed specifically for waterfowl by the Department. High-quality hunting opportunities are also available at many of the reservoirs managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, such as Ft. Cobb Reservoir, Canton Lake and Lake Eufaula.

"While we are naturally disappointed to lose Hajek Marsh, we also want to emphasize that there are plenty of other places where you can enjoy superb waterfowling throughout our state," said Richard Hatcher, chief of the Department's Wildlife Division. "We hope that more and more sportsmen will take advantage of these opportunities."

For more information on waterfowl hunting in Oklahoma, pick up a copy of the Oklahoma Wetland Development Areas atlas. Available for $5, it contains maps of all 26 wetland development areas managed by the Department. You can order by calling (405) 521-3852 or by sending a check or money order to the Outdoor Store, 1801 N. Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City, OK, 73105.