WEEK OF JUNE 1, 2000

WEEK OF JUNE 8, 2000 

WEEK OF JUNE 15, 2000 

WEEK OF JUNE 22, 2000 



Resolution creates funding task force

At the end of this year’s legislative session, the House and Senate passed a concurrent resolution that set the stage to discuss providing additional funding for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) is the state agency responsible for managing Oklahoma’s fish and wildlife resources. Among its many accomplishments, the ODWC has successfully restored white-tailed deer and wild turkey across the state. It also manages some of the nation’s finest sport fisheries, creating unlimited fishing opportunities for more than 1 million Oklahoma residents.

Due to a lack of sufficient funding, however, the ODWC does not have the resources to maintain the long-term viability of its programs and services.

“I sincerely believe we need to get everyone involved in the funding mechanism because for the last two years, we haven’t passed any major funding for the Wildlife Department,” said Rep. Dale Smith (D-St. Louis), chairman of the House Wildlife Committee. “By including people from the Governor’s Office, Tax Commission and Office of State Finance, as well as from the House and Senate, I think it will really help in coming up with the most appropriate plan for bringing the Department’s funding to at least the national average.”

The resolution, HCR-1113, was co-authored by Smith and Sen. Frank Shurden (D-Henryetta). It calls for a 16-member task force composed of five House members, five senators, three members appointed by the Governor, and one member each from the Office of State Finance, Oklahoma Tax Commission and the Wildlife Department. Key items for review spelled out in the resolution include:

1. Reviewing current funding sources for programs and services administered by the ODWC.

2. Reviewing funding mechanisms for state wildlife programs being proposed or pending at the federal level.

3. Surveying funding mechanisms being used by other state wildlife departments and;

4. Evaluating potential, additional sources, including but not limited to, the dedication of a certain portion of sales tax receipts for wildlife programs and services.

Smith points to the task force as the type of comprehensive discussion needed to accomplish what hasn’t happened the last two legislative sessions - secure additional funding for state fish and wildlife programs. The last funding increase for the Wildlife Department occurred in 1994 and was only projected to provide the Department with sufficient income until mid-1997.

Operating under austere budgets, the agency has managed to survive without additional funding, but it has not been able to expand programs or services. Meanwhile, several years of across-the-board budget cuts and an agency-wide reduction in personnel through retirements and other vacancies have forced the Department to either secure additional funding or face the prospect of reducing additional services in the future.

Because of the funding crunch, the ODWC has been forced to impose mileage limitations on game warden patrols and suspend plans for a potential hunting and fishing access program. It has also been unable to budget funds for capital improvements to fish hatcheries, offices and other Department installations. It may also compromise the ODWC’s ability to effectively implement a new deer management plan, a plan that is being developed by a panel of Oklahoma sportsmen and landowners.

“The concurrent resolution sets up a group that will diligently look at all aspects of funding,” Smith said. “This includes looking at what other states are doing and hopefully as a result, we’ll come out with something that will create a major funding mechanism for the Wildlife Department. If we want top provide the best fish and wildlife programs and services for ourselves and future generations, we must look at long-range funding for the Department - something that at least gets us to the national average for wildlife agencies.”

Currently, the Department receives no general state tax revenues and is funded primarily through hunting and fishing license sales and a special federal manufacturer’s excise tax on sporting equipment. More than one-third of Oklahoma’s residents hunt or fish, and another significant percentage enjoy wildlife watching in one form or another. Combined, these outdoor enthusiasts spend about $1.3 billion in the state, generating almost $40 million in sales tax revenues and creating some 34,000 jobs.

During the last two legislative sessions, Rep. Smith and Sen. Shurden have co-authored bills designed to provide the ODWC with additional operating revenue. Both bills died in conference committees.

“Whatever we do, we must do enough to adequately fund the Wildlife Department to allow the agency to address salaries for all employees, as well as update equipment, improve existing programs and establish new ones that will provide additional services to the people of the state,” Smith said. “Our state deserves to have, and can have, the best hunting and fishing programs in the country. It’s just a matter of setting that priority, then funding it.”

New Wildlife laws enacted

During the 2000 legislative session, which ended May 26, the Oklahoma Legislature passed several wildlife-related bills that were signed into law by Gov. Frank Keating.

Perhaps the most significant news from this session regards one important measure that did not pass. The Legislature failed to reach an agreement on House Bill 1717, which would have provided additional funding for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Therefore, the Department will not receive an increase in budget funds for at least one more year. The bill was in the General Conference Committee on Appropriations when the session ended.

However, the House and Senate passed a concurrent resolution, HCR-1113, during the final hours of the session, which provides the groundwork for the Legislature to discuss the Department’s need for additional funding during next year’s session.

Another bill of interest to many Oklahomans was HB-1927. This bill authorizes the Department to promulgate rules for the taking of feral hogs during established hunting seasons. It also establishes a hunting season for feral hogs at Honobia Creek and Three Rivers wildlife management areas. The season will run from Sept. 1 - April 1 of each year.

HB-2178 prohibits the use of a device that noticeably suppresses noise from a firearm, commonly known as a silencer, for the purpose of killing or capturing a game animal or game or non-game bird.

HB-2179 prohibits the possession of any threatened species. It also makes it unlawful to possess any meat, head, hide or any part of the carcass of any wildlife not legally taken.

HB-2318 authorizes the Director of the Wildlife Department to permit the hunting or taking of wildlife with a crossbow by persons, otherwise qualified, who have a permanent disability to the extent that they cannot use a conventional longbow. A physician licensed to practice medicine in Oklahoma or a bordering must certify such a disability.

HB-2326 allows taxidermists to dispose of hides, antlers, horns, meat or other parts legally obtained.

HB-2387 prohibits tampering with a trotline, throwline, jugline or limbline of another person without permission from the owner of those devices.

From the Senate, SB-1108 requires the Wildlife Conservation Commission to immediately develop a plan to address the overpopulation of deer in various areas of the state. It also requires the Commission, if it determines that such overpopulation does exist, to implement appropriate portions of the plan.

SB-1182 modifies the dates for mussel harvest season on Grand Lake to run from May 1 - Oct. 30.

Prepare for fall with summer shooting

With the hottest days of summer still before us, it’s hard to imagine that opening day of dove season is only three months away.

By Sept., 1, you’ll surely be prepared to hunt mentally, but will your shooting skills be up to snuff?

Unfortunately, too many hunters neglect their shooting skills between hunting seasons, which translates to poor success during the early parts of dove and quail seasons. If you really want to improve your wingshooting success, the best thing you can do is practice at a local skeet or sporting clays range.

In addition to sharpening your shooting skills, practicing on clay targets is an excellent way to relax, as well as to socialize with hunting buddies, said Mike Sams, upland game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

“As with any sport, hunting requires some practice during the off-season if you want to perform at your best in the field,” said Mike Sams, upland wildlife biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “Besides scouting for quality dove and quail habitat, the best way to improve the outcome of your hunt is to be a more proficient shooter. You can do that by practicing during the off-season on skeet or sporting clays.”

When shooting skeet, shooters fire at a total of 25 targets from eight different stations. Depending on the station, a shooter will face clay targets, or “birds,” going away or incoming, as well as passing shots and overhead shots.

Sporting clays, on the other hand, is often called “shotgun golf.” A typical round of sporting clays consists of 50 targets in a variety of settings designed to mimic actual hunting situations. Shooters will face “birds” launched to imitate flushing quail, fast-flying doves, high-flying mallards and scampering rabbits. Many stations feature a combination, requiring quick reflexes and the ability to make snap decisions.

While shooting skeet or sporting clays is generally inexpensive, shooters can usually get considerable discounts by joining a skeet or sporting clays league. Many ranges host summer leagues in which shooters often meet new friends, fellow gun enthusiasts and new hunting partners.

If you own land in an area where shooting is permitted, you can also practice on your own with equipment available at many retailers. You can buy a mechanical thrower for less than $40, and a box of clay targets usually costs less than $5.

Either way, you can save even more money by loading your own shotgun shells. This also allows a shooter to develop a load that best suits his gun, as well as specific shooting situations.

By spending just one afternoon per week at the range, you’ll find yourself in top form on Sept. 1 when dove season opens. The time spent practicing will pay off throughout the season.

Annual Illinois River clean-up set for June 9

A flotilla of canoeists will descend upon Oklahoma’s popular Illinois River this week with a worthy mission, to have fun and clean up the river. To that end, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission have designated June 9 as the 2000 Illinois River/Barren Fork Creek Clean-Up Day.

For those participating in the cleanup, local outfitters will provide canoes, paddles, life jackets and vehicle shuttles free of charge. Participants will also get a free lunch for their efforts. Those who do not want to float in canoes are invited to assist clean up efforts in Barren Fork Creek Area, a tributary of the Illinois River.

The annual event serves multiple purposes, said Paul Balkenbush, streams biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. In addition to removing several tons of trash and debris from the fragile stream ecosystem, the event also increases awareness and promotes appreciation for healthy streams in Oklahoma.

“We have tons of fun during this event,” Balkenbush said. “Every year, the cleanup allows many people to enjoy their first float-trip down the Illinois. They not only get to enjoy a fun day floating, swimming and fishing on the river, but they also get a sense of accomplishment from helping to clean up this beautiful area. I believe events like this also give people a better appreciation for just what we have here in Oklahoma, which are some outstanding stream resources.”

Several activities are planned for the event at the Round Hollow Access Area. A free lunch will be served from 1 - 3 p.m. There will also be a drawing for prizes, including a free canoe. Each full bag of trash will earn one ticket. You can earn extra tickets for having the largest piece of trash , the most unusual piece of trash, etc.

For maximum comfort, wear old tennis shoes or water sandals, sunscreen and plenty of water or soft-drinks while on the river.

Pre-registration is required for all participants. To pre-register, contact the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission at (918) 456-3251 or by e-mail at osrc@fullnet.net. Leave your name, telephone number and the number of people in their party.

Check-in for the clean-up will be from 8:30 a.m. - 9:15 a.m. at the Scenic Rivers Commission Headquarters on S. Hwy. 10. It is located two miles north of the US Hwy 62 & S. Hwy 10 junction near Tahlequah. At check-in, participants will receive trash bags and a river map. They will also receive directions to their designated canoe outfitter who will then shuttle them up river.

Steering Committee briefs Commission

In its regular June meeting, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission voted unanimously to encourage the Deer Management Steering Committee Monday to continue developing a comprehensive deer management plan for Oklahoma.

Containing 32 key Oklahoma deer stakeholders, the 21st Century Steering Committee submitted its five-step plan outline to the Commission. The Steering Committee developed the recommendations after a five-month process involving statewide public meetings and an intensive, three-day Steering Committee meeting. Major components of the plan included:

1. Creating new deer management zones based on habitat types and social considerations.

2. Maximizing doe hunting opportunity.

3. Reducing the buck aggregate limit from three to two.

4. Addressing landowner concerns.

5. Increasing education and communication regarding deer management and plan implementation.

After thoroughly reviewing each item and discussing several facets in depth, the Commission recognized the Committee for its work and encouraged it to continue working toward final recommendations. The Department has already finalized the framework for the 2000 deer season, so a new plan, pending approval by the Commission, wouldn’t go into effect until the 2001 season at the earliest.

Also at the June meeting, the Commission unanimously approved a slate of officers. Elected were Harland Stonecipher, chairman; Mark Patton, Vice-Chairman, and Ed Abel, Secretary. The officers were recommended by a nominating committee that included commissioners John Groendyke, Jack Zink and Louis Stiles. The officers will begin their terms on July 1.

In his monthly report, Director Greg Duffy briefed the Commission on a slate of wildlife laws recently signed by Gov. Frank Keating. None of the laws will dramatically impact Department operations or the state’s hunters and anglers, Duffy said, but there were two items of significant interest. One was House Bill 1927, which allows for the hunting of feral hogs on public land and private land. It allows for the Department to promulgate rules for hunting feral hogs on public land, which the Department plans to do over the next year.

The other was House Concurrent Resolution 1113. Sponsored by Rep. Dale Smith (D.-St. Louis) and Sen. Frank Shurden (D.-Henryetta), HCR-1113 will provide a forum to study additional funding needs for the Department.

“Oklahoma’s hunters and fishermen pay a lot for conservation as it is, and license fee increases alone are not the answer for the Department’s funding needs,” Duffy said. “The last license fee increase that we had in 1994 was only supposed to provide sufficient funding through 1997, and although research shows that the overwhelming majority of Oklahoma hunters and anglers would support another increase, we don’t consider that to be a long-term solution.”

In other business, the Commission accepted a donation of two mobile display units from Matt Chilcutt, president of Chilcutt Direct Marketing. Valued at more than $20,000, the mobile display units will be used to enhance the Department’s presence at various public venues around the state. Chilcutt is the regional vice-president for Quail Unlimited. He has been a strong supporter of the Department’s conservation efforts.

Gary Purdy, regional director for the National Wild Turkey Federation, presented a plaque for Outstanding Hunting Heritage to Duffy on behalf of the Department. Purdy also presented a commemorative print to Assistant Director Richard Hatcher for his leadership in securing continued public hunting access to 725,000 acres of corporate timberland in southeast Oklahoma.

In personnel related business, the Commission voted to amend the Department’s retirement plan, which included increasing the death benefit to $5,000 for Department employees. The previous benefit was $4,000. Other language changes were incorporated as required by recent federal legislation. Also, the Commission authorized a two-percent cost of living increase for Department retirees.

The Commission will hold its next meeting July 10 at the Department’s headquarters in Oklahoma City. It will not hold a regular meeting in August..


Commission elects Stonecipher chairman

Harland Stonecipher of Centrahoma was unanimously elected as Commission Chairman Monday at the Commission’s regular June meeting in Oklahoma City.

Stonecipher represents Wildlife Conservation District 4, which includes Creek, Okfuskee, Seminole, Pottawatomie, Pontotoc, Hughes, Johnston and Coal counties.

The Commission also unanimously elected commissioners Mark Patton of Edmond and Ed Abel of Yukon as Vice-Chairman and Secretary, respectively. The officers will begin their terms July 1.

“It is a great honor to be elected to be chairman of this fine Commission,” Stonecipher said. “Along with this honor comes great responsibility, and I look forward to the added opportunities these responsibilities will bring in serving the sportsmen and sportswomen of our great state.”

Stonecipher has served as a member of the Commission, the governing board for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, since 1993. He was re-appointed to his second term on the Commission by Gov. Frank Keating in April and confirmed by the Oklahoma State Senate.

An avid sportsman and hunting dog enthusiast, Stonecipher is also the founder and chief executive officer of Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc., a company that is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

In addition to his passion for the outdoors, Stonecipher brings dynamic leadership and valuable experience to the Commission. He is keenly aware of the challenges facing the Department, and he said he is eager to continue working to ensure and maintain the integrity of the state’s wildlife resources.


Registration open for Selman bat watches

If you'd like to witness one of Oklahoma's most extraordinary events, then make plans to attend one of the summer bat watches at the Selman Bat Cave near Woodward.

Purchased by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation in 1996, the Selman Bat Cave is home to nearly 1 million Mexican free-tailed bats. During the summer, the bats emerge from the cave at sunset in such great numbers that they seem to blacken the sky.

This summer, the Department's Wildlife Diversity Program will offer 10 evening bat watches on Fridays and Saturdays from July 7 to August 5. Pre-registration is required, and walk-ups will not be allowed to attend. Admission is $5 for children between ages 3-12, and $8 for adults.

“For the past three summers, the Department’s Wildlife Diversity Program has conducted the Selman Bat Watches to give people an appreciation for bats and for what they do for us," said Melynda Hickman, natural resources biologist for the Department. "For example, the million bats in the Selman Bat Cave are estimated to eat 10 tons of insects nightly!”

More than 4,000 people have attended previous bat watches, coming from as far as Houston, Texas, and Kansas City, Missouri, to view one of the largest bat colonies in America, Hickman added.

In addition, the Wildlife Diversity Program will offer two separate “Nature at Night” evenings, which will take place 7 p.m.-midnight Saturday, June 24 and Saturday, August 12. After watching the evening’s bat emergence, participants will explore the sand sage prairie after sundown. Professional biologists and volunteers will demonstrate how to observe wildlife at night by identifying wildlife tracks and night sounds. Astronomy activities will also be held, weather permitting. These evenings are limited to 20 adults (18 and up) and cost $18 per person.

The Selman Bat Watches are made possible through the efforts of the Selman Bat Cave Volunteers, Alabaster Caverns State Park, Freedom Public Schools and the James Selman Ranch.

Attention MEDIA: If you wish to attend a Media Day for the Selman Bat Watches, please contact Melynda Hickman at 405/521-4616.

Deer hunters set new record

Once again, Oklahoma deer hunters have set a new harvest record.

After tallying harvest totals from both muzzleloader and gun deer seasons, along with the early and late archery seasons, personnel from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation recorded a final harvest total 82,724 deer. That number represents the state’s 15th record deer harvest in 18 years, said Mike Shaw, the Department’s research supervisor, and it’s a considerable jump from last year’s record of 80,008.

“We witnessed a fairly sizable increase in the harvest, but I’m disappointed in the relatively low number of antlerless deer in the total,” Shaw said. “Obviously, that’s an issue of ongoing concern, but it is something that we will continue to address. I simply cannot overstate the importance for hunters to harvest more female deer.”

Like last year, Osage County yielded the highest harvest with 4,382, which was a slight drop from last year’s total of 4,404. This year’s total includes 2,982 bucks and 1,400 does. The buck harvest in Osage Co. dropped three percent, while the doe harvest increased five percent.

Next in line was Cherokee Co., with 3,269 (2,014 bucks, 1,255 does). Cherokee Co. was also the 1998 runner-up with a final harvest of 3,332.

Osage, Cherokee and Craig were the only counties to yield at least 1,000 does. Sequoyah Co., was fourth in that category with 974 does, followed by Muskogee Co., (951) and Woods Co., (938).

Despite an overall harvest increase of more than 2,700 deer, hunters took 27,625 does, a decrease of 1,246 does from the previous year. In 1999, does accounted for 33 percent of the annual harvest, compared to 36 percent in 1998. The buck harvest was 55,099.

Like 1998, pleasant weather during most of the gun and muzzleloader seasons contributed greatly to last year’s success. Blackpowder hunters took 17,165 deer in 1999, compared to 15,891 in 1998. Of those, only 3,505 were does. Bowhunters took 11,757 deer, including 4,969 does.

Committee proceeding  with deer management plan

As Oklahoma’s deer herd grows at an unprecedented pace, it creates special challenges for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

While providing abundant hunting opportunities for sportsmen, record numbers of deer also create conflicts for many Oklahoma citizens. To address these issues, the Department initiated a process several months ago to design a new deer management plan for the 21st century.

Designed to involve all of the state’s deer stakeholders, the process began with a series of public meetings held across the state in which the Department gathered input regarding local and regional deer concerns.

Equipped with this information, the Department appointed a steering committee composed of individuals representing sportsmen’s groups, landowners, agricultural interests, insurance interests and other groups. After an intense, three-day planning session, this committee drafted a management plan to present to the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Department’s governing body. To ensure that the plan was biologically sound and reflected as many viewpoints as possible, the Committee also contained wildlife biologists, game wardens and other Department personnel.

“When you consider that the white-tailed deer was nearly extinct in Oklahoma at the beginning of the century, the abundance of these animals today is one of the Department’s most phenomenal success stories,” said Alan Peoples, the Department’s chief of wildlife. “However, there’s no denying the fact that the increasing presence of deer in some areas has created some unique problems for many citizens. Our challenge is to determine the future composition of the state’s deer herd, and to develop a comprehensive management strategy to accomplish that goal. This committee has put a great deal of time and effort into the initial part of that process, and it will continue to work toward a plan that will be most beneficial not only to the state’s deer herd, but also to the public.”

The plan contained four major components, including:

1. Creating new deer management zones based on habitat types and social considerations.

2. Maximizing doe hunting opportunities.

3. Reducing the buck aggregate limit from three to two.

4. Addressing landowner concerns and providing more opportunities for hunters to access private lands.

5. Increasing education and communication regarding deer management and plan implementation.

After a lengthy discussion, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission endorsed the Committee’s progress at its June 5 meeting in Oklahoma City and authorized it to continue fine-tuning the plan’s final recommendations. The Committee will likely present its final recommendations to the Commission at its regular September meeting in Oklahoma City.

Stream cleanup a big success

Over the next few weeks, paddlers in northeast Oklahoma may notice that two of the region’s most scenic streams are a lot cleaner than before.

They are indeed, thanks to more than 250 volunteers who participated June 9 in the Illinois River/Baron Fork Creek Cleanup.

Sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission, the cleanup was part of the National River Cleanup Week celebration. The purpose of the event was to remove trash from the streams and to promote awareness for Oklahoma’s extraordinary stream resources, said Paul Balkenbush, streams biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

“Although we sometimes take clean water for granted, our streams are some of Oklahoma’s most precious resources,” Balkenbush said. “With events like this, we hope to promote a sense of stewardship for our streams and give people a greater sense of involvement in their management. This is also an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the impact that humans have on streams and to show that we can make a difference.”

In one day, volunteers collected more than two tons of trash, enough to fill 232 bags. In addition, volunteers also removed an additional ton of debris in the form of tires, drums, car parts and other items.

Many area merchants contributed to the event, Balkenbush said, donating food, drinks, prizes and other incentives. Outfitters provided canoes to the volunteers free of charge. Ft. Howard Paper Co. provided a canoe that was given away in a drawing. Reasor’s Grocery and Food-4-Less also provided food for the volunteers.

Because these streams are so popular, especially in the summer, Balkenbush said it doesn’t take long for them to show obvious signs of abuse.

“Careless and inconsiderate visitors can deposit an awful lot of trash in a stream in a very short period of time,” Balkenbush said. “Not only is it unsightly, but it also impacts the streams’ fish and wildlife resources. Our streams are natural treasures, and we hope that public treats them with the respect they deserve.”

When renting a canoe, outfitters always provide a trash sack for cans, bottles, wrappers and other items. If you use your own canoe, be sure to include a trash bag as part of your required equipment. Pack out discarded fishing line and plastic lures. Don’t throw them overboard, as birds often strangle on fishing line and plastic six-pack holders when they try to use them as nesting material.

For more information on the Department’s Streams Program, contact Paul Balkenbush at 918/297-0152.

Fishing thrives in urban Oklahoma

Although fishing is generally considered a rural pastime, recent surveys show that many of Oklahoma’s urban residents participate in the sport.

The sustained popularity of fishing among urban residents in the state’s large, medium and small metropolitan communities underscores the need for improved access to urban fishing waters, said Kim Erickson, chief of fisheries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. It also demonstrates the value of the Department’s Aquatic Resources Education Program. This highly successful program teaches urban youths how to fish, including knot tying, fish identification and basic angling skills. It also instills awareness about the state’s aquatic resources among young people.

"Needless to say, many of the youngsters who attend an Aquatic Education clinic continue to enjoy fishing when they grow older,” Erickson said. “Therefore, it’s not surprising that urban residents constitute a significant percentage of Oklahoma’s angling public.

“The importance of fishing among urban residents is evident in the popularity of urban fishing facilities in cities like Tulsa, Oklahoma City and their surrounding communities,” he added. “That’s also a major reason why these communities constitute the highest percentage of subscribers for all of the most popular fishing magazines.”

In 1997, according to data compiled by the Department’s license section, the Department issued more than 300,000 annual fishing licenses. Nearly 33 percent (about 100,000) were purchased by anglers living in Oklahoma City, Moore, Norman, Bethany, Yukon, Midwest City, Edmond, Spencer, and Del City; Tulsa, Broken Arrow, Jenks, Glenpool, Sand Springs, Sapulpa and Bixby.

That does not account for urban anglers who purchased combination hunting and fishing licenses or senior citizen licenses, nor does it reflect those who hold lifetime fishing licenses or lifetime combination licenses. If you include anglers who purchased those types of licenses, the number swells to about 150,000.

Also in 1996, the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, showed that 56 percent of all Oklahoma resident anglers lived in an urban area as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. That would include residents of communities like Enid, Broken Bow, Weatherford, Miami, etc.

In 1999, Oklahoma State University conducted a random telephone survey of Oklahoma households. This survey used the same definition for “metro” as the Department’s license sample, and it showed that 41 percent of the metropolitan respondents had fished in Oklahoma during the previous 12 months. Of those that had not fished, 31 percent expressed strong or moderate interest in fishing.

According to the numbers, fishing is a strong activity in Oklahoma’s cities and towns, and the Department is committed to serving the anglers in those communities.

Don’t bother deer fawns

With the spring fawning season nearly over, outdoor enthusiasts may have noticed more young deer than usual.

If you see a fawn without its mother, don’t worry. The parent is nearby. She’s just waiting for you to leave so she can move her fawn off to safety.

In Oklahoma, most fawns are born in May and June, and start becoming visible in mid to late June. Unfortunately, some well-meaning wildlife enthusiasts often see fawns alone in the open and mistake them for being abandoned. Attempting to “save” the fawn, they actually compromise the fawn’s ability to survive in the wild by separating it from its mother, said Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

“Don’t be tempted to rescue a newborn fawn because you think it’s abandoned,” Shaw said. “Interfering with wildlife in such a matter creates a multitude of problems which could ultimately affect the welfare of the animal. Take photographs, if you wish, but don’t linger too long, and do not touch or attempt to touch the animal.”

Most whitetail deer fawns are born in a relatively short time frame as part of a phenomenon called, “predator swamping.” By birthing most of their fawns in a narrow time window, whitetail deer ensure their overall survival by “swamping” the woods with more fawns than predators could possibly consume. Predators will eliminate some deer, of course, but the overwhelming majority will survive until they are able to fend for themselves.

When deer herds are out of balance, the rut and fawning periods often last longer than they do in well-balanced herds. If there aren’t enough bucks to breed all the does during their first estrous cycle, the does will cycle again about a month later. Consequently, the fawns conceived during the second cycle will be born a month later than normal. With a longer fawning season, coyotes and other large predators can consumer a greater percentage of the annual supply of newborn fawns.

“By educating hunters about the importance of herd health and balance, we hope to encourage them to harvest does and achieve better reproduction,” Shaw said, “both in terms of breeding and fawning.”

While coyotes do not kill a significant number of adult deer, they will consume fawns whenever possible. This is especially true during the first few weeks of a fawn’s life when it is unable to travel with its mother.

So, if you see a fawn that appears to be alone, leave it alone. Nature is always an animal’s best defense.

Department receives deer video

To help landowners manage deer herds on private land, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation recently received 90 copies of a specialized deer management video.

The video, titled, Let Them Go So They Can Grow, will be available to Department wildlife biologists for use during presentations to sportsman’s clubs and other groups, said Alan Peoples, the Department’s Chief of Wildlife. It explains how harvesting does and sparing young bucks can help landowners balance deer herds and improve the size of individual bucks.

“The information in the video can be useful to landowners who have overpopulations of female deer and who are interested in improving the quality of their buck herd,” Peoples said. “Obviously, every landowner may have a different situation in regard to deer, but this video can provide some useful tips for landowners and hunt lease members.”

The videos were a cooperative gift from the Oklahoma Station of the Safari Club International and the Quality Deer Management Association. For more information on the QDMA, call 1-800-209-DEER (3337) or go online to www.qdma.com.