Cool water, big fish: a perfect summer combination

Striped bass, rainbow trout and walleye, three of Oklahoma's most successfully introduced fish, have found their niche in the lower Illinois River.

"The stripers are doing really well right now," said Jim Burroughs, northeast region fisheries supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "I think they are doing better than they have in several years and anglers have reported some very nice catches this year of both stripers and walleye."

The Lower Illinois River is one of two year-round trout fisheries in Oklahoma. Water, drawn from the depths of Lake Tenkiller, flows into the lower Illinois River, keeping it at a fairly constant temperature range in the 50s and 60s. This cool, oxygen rich water serves two purposes, it keeps trout comfortable year round and the cooler water attracts stripers, white bass, walleyes and other fish when the nearby Arkansas River becomes too warm for their liking. This makes it one of the state's best year-round striper fisheries, particularly in the hottest part of summer.

"Those big stripers will lay up in deep holes in the Lower Illinois during the summer, just waiting for a gizzard shad or a trout to get a little too close," Burroughs said.

This is no fish story, and the numbers support the facts. The unique fishery consistently produces bragging size fish of 20 pounds or more. In fact, several of the last state record striped bass have come from the 10-mile stretch of river. The current record stands at 47-pounds, 8-ounces for a monster striper that Louis Parker horsed from the Lower Illinois River in June of 1996. The record fish measured a full four feet in length and 30 inches in girth.

When going after the big fish, bring some big tackle. Stiff rods, heavy-duty reels and strong line are a necessity when fighting one of the lower Illinois bruisers. A big striper can make quick work of mismatched tackle.

Although artificial lures such as jerk baits and topwater plugs can be effective in early morning hours, live bait is often the best way to catch stripers. Shad and trout are two of the most common bait fishes used by anglers. Trout are legal bait as long as they are caught using legal equipment or purchased from a licensed dealer. Be sure to keep the bait lively and remember that the daily limit on trout is 6 per person, regardless of whether you are keeping them to eat or you are using them for bait.

Anglers can go after the big stripers by themselves or they can go along with one of the several excellent guides in the area. Delmar Shoults ((918) 773-5213) has an excellent reputation for putting visitors into big stripers. Other sources of guides and local information can be obtained by calling Dave Sullivan at Dave's Bait and Tackle in Gore at (918) 489-2424.

There is no need to go to the Lower Illinois River without all the proper information, and the Internet offers all sorts of resources to interested anglers.

Both wildlifedepartment.com and okiefish.com offer excellent, up-to-date fishing reports so that you can time your trip when the fish are biting.

There are plenty of great places to stay while in northeast Oklahoma. Check out greencountry.com or laketenkiller.com to find a place to stay or to find out about special events during your visit.

One of the states premier private campgrounds, Marval Family Resort, is located right on the banks of the river. The resort offers log cabins, swimming pool, fly-fishing lessons and many other amenities. To find out more information, log on to marvalresort.com or call (918) 489-2295.

According to Sheryl Townsend with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, there are no ramp closures or river closures on the Arkansas River due to the I-40 bridge collapse last May.

To fish the river for any species, anglers must have an Oklahoma fishing license and those fishing above the Highway 64 bridge also need a trout stamp. For a complete list of regulations pick up a copy of the "2002 Oklahoma Fishing Guide."

Cutline: Fish over 20-pounds not only provide an adrenaline-inducing fight, they also provide a great meal of fresh fish.

Cutline: Louis Parker caught the current state record striper in the lower Illinois River, this fish weighed an impressive 48-pounds, 8-ounces.


Wildlife Commission elects new officers

Dr. Lewis Stiles was unanimously elected as the new chairman of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission at the Commission's regularly scheduled meeting held Monday, July 1.

"It is a real honor to serve as chairman," said Stiles, who represents District 3 in southeast Oklahoma. "I look forward to working with others in managing the great wildlife resources of this state."

Raised in Broken Bow, Stiles earned a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Oklahoma State University. He worked as a veterinarian in Holdenville until 1969 and then served 27 years as a veterinary medical officer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"I think one of the goals for the upcoming months will be to continue to operate the Department as efficiently as possible with the available funds," Stiles said.

Dr. Stiles also pointed to the need to recruit young hunters and anglers to outdoor sports.

"We need to continue to look for ways to enhance opportunities and access for the next generation," Stiles said.

Dr. Stiles will serve a one-year term as chairman, he replaces Harland Stonecipher who served two terms as chairman. During the meeting Dr. Stiles presented Stonecipher with a plaque to commemorate his service as chairman of the commission.

Mac Maguire, representing District 5 in central Oklahoma, was elected as vice-chairman, and Douglas Schones, representing District 7 in western Oklahoma, was elected as Commission secretary.

In other business, the Commission approved hunting regulations for dove, snipe, woodcock and other early migratory birds. No changes were made to season dates or bag limits compared to previous years. Dove season will run from September 1 and run through October 30 with a daily limit of 15 birds. Complete regulations can be found in the upcoming “2002-2003 Oklahoma Hunting Guide," available at hunting license vendors and Department installations in mid-August.

The Commission approved the implementation of a state purchasing card. Pending approval by the Office of State Finance, the cards will be used by selected employees for supply purchases or emergency repairs.

Director Greg Duffy presented a tenure award to John Skeen, senior biologist in Wildlife Division. Skeen has served 20 years with the Department, most recently at the McCurtain County Wilderness Area.

"John has been a real asset to the Department over the years, particularly in his efforts in working with the red-cockaded woodpecker," Duffy said.

Skeen often climbs pine trees up to 75 feet tall to check on nesting woodpeckers. He has worked to bring birds into the state to re-establish populations and has also shared his expertise and knowledge about the endangered species to other states.

The Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The Wildlife Commission establishes state hunting and fishing regulations, sets policy for the Wildlife Department, and indirectly oversees all state fish and wildlife conservation activities. Commission members are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate.


Cutline: Dr. Lewis Stiles, District 3 representative, will serve as the new chairman of the Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Cutline: New Chairman of the Wildlife Conservation Commission, Dr. Lewis Stiles presents a plaque to outgoing chairman Harland Stonecipher.

Now is the time to get ready for archery season

Every time fall rolls around and the early archery season opens you lament the fact that you aren't in the woods and on the lookout for a big buck.

It is never too early to begin preparing and with a small investment of time and equipment, you'll be ready for the Oct. 1 opener.

The first of Oklahoma's big game seasons, the archery deer season is one of the most popular activities available to Oklahoma hunters. The season occurs in two segments, from Oct. 1-Nov. 22 and Dec. 2-Jan. 15, allowing three full months of hunting opportunity. Rich Fuller, information supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, said the archery deer season allows hunters an excellent chance of success at a more relaxing pace than firearms deer seasons.

"The best thing about archery season is that it allows hunters nearly 100 days in the field. Unlike the primitive or modern gun seasons, the long archery season allows most hunters plenty of opportunity without necessarily taking vacation days," Fuller said. "I know of several experienced bowhunters who annually harvest multiple deer by just hunting weekends."

According to Fuller, some would-be archery hunters may shy away from getting started in the sport because they believe it will cost too much. Not the case, says Fuller.

"If you spend a little time prowling around pawn shops or looking through catalogs, you would be surprised by the great deals you can find," Fuller said. "Although archery companies are making constant improvements to bows to make them lighter and faster, many older bows are suited for hunting. A razor sharp broadhead placed on an arrow traveling at over 150 feet per second from a 40 pound bow should cleanly harvest any white-tailed deer in Oklahoma, provided that the shot is made through the vital organs."

Shooting an arrow accurately and consistently is a skill that is earned through practice.

"The key is to have a few minutes in the morning or in the evening for disciplined practice," Fuller said. "The ethical hunter will do his best to duplicate hunting situations in his practice sessions to make sure he makes as clean a shot as possible when the opportunity presents itself."

In addition to 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. Harvesting a deer with bow and arrow is considered an ultimate test of skill, and successfully harvesting an animal requires a perfect blend of many elements.

The basics of getting started in archery hunting is the subject of an upcoming episode of "Outdoor Oklahoma" TV show which will air Sunday, July 14 at 8:00 a.m. on OETA-The Oklahoma Network.

Also featured on the show will be tips on improving your wingshooting skills. With dove season right around the corner, now is the perfect time to grab a few friends and spend an afternoon shooting clay targets.

Along with honing their shooting skills, dove hunters will also need to obtain a free Harvest Information Permit (HIP). An explanation of the HIP program and information on how to get a permit will also be a part of the upcoming episode of "Outdoor Oklahoma."

"Outdoor Oklahoma" features such topics as fishing, hunting; and fisheries, game and non-game wildlife management. The 30-minute program can be seen on OETA-The Oklahoma Network Sundays at 8:00 a.m. and Saturdays at 6:00 p.m. "Outdoor Oklahoma" can also be seen on the following television stations: KSBI Network (greater OKC metro area), Mondays-5:00 p.m., Thursdays-10: 30 p.m., Saturdays-1:30 p.m., KTEN (south-central and southeastern Oklahoma) Sundays-5 a.m., KWEM (Stillwater), Wednesdays-8:00 p.m., Fridays-7:00 p.m. and Sundays-8:00 p.m.

For a complete listing of show times and channels in your viewing area, consult the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com or your local TV guide.


NRA supports Department shooting programs

Whether you enjoy the challenge of shooting clay targets or stalking game in the field, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has made it easier to brush up on your shotgun skills.

The Oklahoma chapter of the NRA recently donated $4,100 to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Shotgun Training and Education (STEP). The program, designed for all skill levels, offers seminars for shooters to learn more about shotgun shooting, from the basics to shooting tough doubles on a clay target course.

"We are proud to support this program," said Darrin Delong, chairman of the Oklahoma Friends of the NRA. "The shooting sports are great ways to not only improve your skills, but they also provide great camaraderie with friends and family."

Through banquets and other fund-raising events the Oklahoma Friends of the NRA has raised over $112,000 for programs such as STEP that promote shooting and outdoor sports in the state.

The shotgun seminars are offered free of charge for groups of 25 people. Guns, ammunition and targets are provided through the program. There is a different seminar for every skill level whether you have never picked up a gun before or you are a skilled shooter. Since all the classes use non-toxic shot, waterfowl hunters can improve their wing shooting by attending one of the seminars.

For more information about STEP or for information on how to set up a program call (918) 744-1039.


Eufaula anglers catching fish night and day

Sleep in, take an afternoon nap, just make sure you are on the water as the sun goes down. After hours angling is picking up across Oklahoma.

"Fishing at night can really be a lot of fun," said Barry Bolton, assistant chief of fisheries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "As it cools down in the evening many fish become more active and are out looking for a meal."

When heading out after dark, under water structure is the place to be for crappie and catfish, bass often move up into shallower water looking for unsuspecting baitfish. Whether in a lawn chair or in a boat, just about any lake or pond can produce good stringers of fish, but year in and year out Lake Eufaula in southeast Oklahoma has proven to be one of the best.

With over 600 miles of shoreline it is no wonder the sprawling reservoir has been dubbed the "gentle giant."

"One of the neat things about Lake Eufaula is the diversity of habitats that are present, there are rocky cliffs, submerged forests and aquatic vegetation. All these different types of habitat make it an excellent place to catch a wide range of fish species," Bolton said.

President Lyndon B. Johnson was on hand to dedicate the Eufaula Dam in 1964 and since then the lake has been a favorite among anglers and other outdoor recreationists. According to a recent survey, Oklahoma is home to over 774,000 anglers and many of these fishermen make a trip or two each year to Lake Eufaula. All these anglers have a significant economic impact on communities around the lake.

"Fishing has had a tremendous effect on our town," said town of Eufaula Mayor Bill Day. "People come from all around to fish in the many tournaments on the lake or just to relax for a few days. All these people need a place to stay, something to eat and this has a big impact on our local economy."

There is certainly no need to limit your trip to Lake Eufaula to a single day, there are plenty of places to rest up after a long night (or day) of fishing. For those who like to rough it there are spacious, well-maintained campsites scattered all along the lake shores. For those who prefer a bit more luxury, the lake boasts an outstanding resort. Fountainhead Resort Hotel ((918) 689-9173) is located at the north end of the lake offers not only great amenities, but also friendly Oklahoma hospitality.

The internet is a great place to learn more about Lake Eufaula and the communities around it. The Lake Eufaula Association, at www.lakeeufaulaassoc.org, offers information about what to do and where to stay while in southeast Oklahoma. If you would like to do some shopping or would like to go out with a Lake Eufaula fishing guide, log onto www.shopoklahoma.com/fishingg.htm. For up to date fishing reports or to find out about fishing regulations check out www.wildlifedepartment.com.

Cutline: After hour anglers enjoy some great fishing as well as cool summer breezes.



Controlled hunt results coming soon

The moment of truth is drawing near for applicants in the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Controlled Hunt program. The results of the drawing will be announced on July 22. Hunters will be able to find if they were drawn by logging onto www.wildlifedepartment.com or by visiting a regional Department office.

The opportunity to harvest an animal from some of the best managed lands for wildlife have made the controlled hunts one of the most popular programs the Department offers. Several changes were made this year in an effort to ensure that the program remains as efficient and equitable as possible.

The chance to harvest an antelope or elk in Oklahoma is truly a special opportunity and beginning with 2002 it will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience through the controlled hunt program. Hunters who are drawn for an elk or antelope hunt will not be eligible in the future. This change was made in an effort to provide as many people as possible the chance to participate in these limited opportunity hunts.

In past years some lucky hunters were drawn for two or even three deer hunts in separate categories, while others were not selected. With the changes instituted this year, there is one comprehensive deer category instead of several different categories (gun, archery and primitive firearm ). Hunters had the opportunity to apply for five individual hunt choices. A hunter's preference points in the new comprehensive deer category will be equal to the highest number of preference points the hunter had accrued in any one of the previous deer categories.

For the first time a progressive draw for big game will be instituted. Elk hunts will be drawn first, followed by antelope, then deer. If a hunter is selected for an elk hunt, they will receive preference points in the other big game categories they have applied for (antelope and deer) but will not be eligible to be selected in those categories. Similarly, if they are not selected for elk but draw an antelope permit, they will receive a preference point in the elk and deer categories, but will not be eligible to draw a deer hunt.

A $5 fee was authorized by the 2001 Legislature in order to offset rising costs for administering the program. The fee was required of all applicants including lifetime hunting or lifetime combination license holders.

Additional information about the controlled hunt program can be found on an upcoming episode of "Outdoor Oklahoma" TV show which will air Sunday, July 21 at 8:00 a.m. on OETA-The Oklahoma Network.

Also featured on the program will be information about an exciting archeological find in northwest Oklahoma. A Clovis point, one of the oldest types of native American arrowheads, was recently discovered in the area.

For a complete listing of show times and channels in your viewing area, consult the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com or your local TV guide.


Oklahoma hunting and license fees remain steady

The Missouri Conservation Commission has recently approved a permit fee increase in an effort to maintain a strong voice from hunters and anglers in the Missouri Department of Conservation's activities.

At its May meeting, the Conservation Commission approved permit fee increases ranging from 50 cents to $2. Conservation Department Deputy Director John Smith said the increases are the first since 1999, when resident permit fees increased by $1 to $4.

"It has been three years since we had a permit fee increase," said Smith, "and the cost of doing business - even conservation business - does go up a little every year. And like everyone else, the Conservation Department has been affected by the recent economic downturn."

On the other hand, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) has not seen a general license increase in since 1994.

"It has been a long time since we have had an increase," said Richard Hatcher, assistant director for the ODWC. "We work hard to be fiscally responsible and to conserve funds where ever we can, but right now we are struggling to maintain the staff and areas that we have. We do our best to make the sportsman's dollar go as far as we can, but in order to improve our services we need to find additional financial support."

Oklahoma remains a bargain for hunters and fishermen, Oklahomans pay only $12.50 for either a fishing or hunting license. Minnesota charges residents $18 for an annual fishing permit. The fee is $19 in Texas, $20 in New Hampshire and $30.45 in California.

The Missouri increases will go into effect March 1, 2003, the beginning of the 2003-2004 permit year. Missouri is raising permit costs across the board. The price of Daily Fishing Permits will increase from $5 to $5.50. The price for Resident Fishing Permits will increase from $11 to $12.

A one day hunting permit will increase from $10 to $11, a resident firearms deer permit, as well as a spring turkey license will rise to $17.

The Missouri Conservation Department is generally considered one of the best funded state wildlife agencies in the country. A one-eighth cent statewide sales tax provides stable, reliable income. This funding, in addition to license sales, allows the department to maintain and increase the high standard of wildlife management in Missouri. The department's fiscal services section projects that the increase in resident permit fees, along with increases in nonresident fees approved earlier, will boost agency revenues by $185,000 this year, and by approximately $1.1 million in Fiscal Year 2003. After the price increases go into effect, approximately 23 percent of the agency's revenues will come from permit sales.

"The concern has been that more and more of the Conservation Department's funding would come from the sales tax, and as their permit fees made up less and less of our budget, their interests would get less and less attention," said Smith.

Oklahoma receives no such sales tax funds or general appropriations from the state legislature, but depends primarily on license sales to support the Wildlife Department.

"Our deer herd is growing, we have turkeys like never before and I would put our fishing opportunities up against just about any other state," Hatcher said. "I am proud to say it has all been done on a relatively tight budget. If we want to continue to provide excellent hunting and fishing, we need to find additional sources of revenue."


180-pound fish caught in Red River

A prehistoric creature nearly eight feet long and mostly teeth and temper, not exactly what Deryl Landers had in mind when he set out for a leisurely evening of catfishing on the banks of the Red River.

Landers broke the Oklahoma state record last week for alligator gar when he pulled in a 180-pound, seven feet nine inch monster using cut fish for bait.

"I couldn't believe my eyes when it surfaced the first time," Landers said. "When it splashed it looked like someone drove a car off into the water."

Landers’ feat would have been impressive enough if he was using a small crane and steel cable, but he landed it using just 20-pound test line and a rod that was a foot shorter than the fish. This puts Landers into contention for a new world line class record for alligator gar. He is in the process of sending the paperwork to the International Game Fish Association, the sanctioning body for world angling records.

The record didn't come easy for Landers, of Bokchito. He fought the fish, which measured 35 inches in girth, for a full hour and 45 minutes before bringing it to shore.

"I was absolutely wore smooth out," Landers said. "My arms felt like jelly after fighting that fish and I burnt my thumb on the spool trying to keep a little drag on it."

A long time taxidermist, Landers plans on making a reproduction of the monster fish.

"I think it will be really neat once I get it finished, the only problem may be finding enough wall space to hang it," Landers said.

Lander's fish smashed the previous alligator gar record by 27 pounds. Terry Dean Busby set the previous record a 153 pound fish also caught from the Red River in 1991.

Although certainly the biggest, this is not the first alligator gar he has caught. Landers said he normally releases the gar when he hooks them, a practice supported by Barry Bolton, assistant chief of fisheries for the Department.

"Alligator gar are truly unique fish and the Red River is one of the few places left where they can be found," Bolton said. "With shrinking habitat and increasing fishing pressure it is important that we look for ways to conserve their habitat."

For a complete list of record fish and the procedures regarding state record fish consult the "2002 Oklahoma Fishing Guide." If you think you may have hooked a record fish it is important that you weigh the fish on a Oklahoma State Department of Agriculture certified scale and the weight is verified by a Wildlife Department employee.

For more information on other state record fish, log on to www.wildlifedepartment.com.

Cutline: Deryl Landers of Bokchito sets new state record with 180-pound alligator gar taken by rod and reel from the Red River.


Top hunter education volunteer recognized

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Hunter Education program recently honored Mike Wingfield as the Instructor of the Year. Wingfield was recognized and presented with a Knight in-line muzzleloader at this year's instructor conference.

"I enjoy the opportunities to teach young people in hunter safety," said Wingfield. "I always try to teach them to practice safe firearm handling until it becomes second nature with them."

Wingfield has certified more than 2000 hunters and taught more than 60 classes in his 21 years as a volunteer. He also contributes to the program by teaching instructor workshops in Bryan County, which is necessary in order to certify new instructors. He is also active in aquatic education.

"Mike is a sparkling example of what you want in a volunteer," said Danny Clubb, Oklahoma Game Warden stationed in Bryan County. "He can do it all, from setting up courses, teaching classes and certifying students."

Oklahoma's hunter education volunteers are given several opportunities each year for continuing education and training, as well as using new and improved teaching aids.

Last year, more than 14,000 students were certified in 354 classes throughout Oklahoma. At least two classes are held in every county in Oklahoma each year, with as many as 40 classes in Tulsa County and 53 classes Oklahoma County. Classes are administered by Game Wardens and volunteers and coordinated through the Department's central office.

Persons born on or after January 1, 1972 must be able to prove that they have completed a hunter education course in order to buy a hunting license. Oklahoma's certification is accepted in all fifty states, Canada and Mexico.

"Most hunters were introduced to hunting by their father or grandfather," said Clubb. "Today's youth aren't exposed to the same opportunities we had, so it's harder for them to take up a lifelong sport like hunting. This is especially important when you consider that most hunters cut their teeth on squirrel or quail before the age of 12. If they don't start hunting before that age, there's a strong chance they never will."

Volunteer instructors are trained to coordinate and instruct hunter education classes and other events. The standard hunter education course runs ten hours in length and consist of a variety of segments including firearm handling and safety, survival, wildlife conservation, water safety and sometimes live fire. Hunters wishing to pass on their heritage by becoming a Hunter Education instructor should contact Lance Meek at (405) 522-4572 or log onto www.wildlifedepartment.com.


Study focuses on Pushmataha Elk

Oklahoma’s largest game animal recently received an infusion of new blood. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation recently relocated eight elk to the Pushmataha Wildlife Management Area (WMA) located in southeast Oklahoma.

According to Jack Waymire, senior southeast region wildlife biologist for the Department, elk were first reintroduced into the area over 30 years ago. As the herd expanded and time passed, the population had lost some of the genetic diversity that is so important to the health of the herd. This relocation is an effort to improve the herd’s genetic variability.

"We had approximately 40 animals in the Pushmataha herd. Our herd is isolated and unlike the large herds in western states, does not have the capability to mix with other elk and ensure genetic variability.” Waymire said. “Genetic diversity promotes greater immunity to certain illnesses and also results in better reproduction. These eight new animals should help restore some diversity back to the herd."

The elk, composed of three adult bulls and five adult cows were released on the Pushmataha WMA in late March. In addition to providing new bloodlines to the existing herd, biologists will also use the new animals to learn more about elk movement and habitat use on the area.

Six of the eight animals have been affixed with radio telemetry collars so biologists can determine their location and whether they have mixed with the existing herd.

“The collars have been a great tool in tracking and patterning elk movements, in fact, one bull traveled over 80 miles in about a week,” Waymire said. “The more we understand these animals, the better we can ensure they have what they need to thrive.”

Additionally, the collars will help biologists determine if the new bulls have been successful in acquiring a dominant position as a breeding bull and what types of habitat they prefer at different times of year.

“The new elk are doing really well right now,” Waymire said. “They are beginning to mix in with the main herd and this will be really important as the fall breeding season approaches.”

Through donations by the Oklahoma Station of Safari Club International, six elk were purchased from Timberline Ranch, a private commercial elk ranch in Cushing and the ranch donated an additional pair. The elk have been inoculated for tuberculosis and brucellosis and are determined to be in good health by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture.

"We want to extend our greatest thanks to the Safari Club and Timberline Ranch for making this restoration project possible," said Waymire.

More information about Oklahoma’s elk herd can be found on upcoming episode of "Outdoor Oklahoma" TV show which will air Sunday, August 3 at 8:00 a.m. on OETA-The Oklahoma Network.

"Outdoor Oklahoma" features such topics as fishing, hunting; and fisheries, game and non-game wildlife management. The 30-minute program can be seen on OETA-The Oklahoma Network Sundays at 8:00 a.m. and Saturdays at 6:00 p.m. "Outdoor Oklahoma" can also be seen on the following television stations: KSBI Network (greater OKC metro area), Mondays-5:00 p.m., Thursdays-10: 30 p.m., Saturdays-1:30 p.m., KTEN (south-central and southeastern Oklahoma) Sundays-5 a.m., KWEM (Stillwater), Wednesdays-8:00 p.m., Fridays-7:00 p.m. and Sundays-8:00 p.m.

For a complete listing of show times and channels in your viewing area, consult the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com or your local TV guide.

Gar fishing can be great fun

It sounds like a fisherman's dream. A fish that routinely grows to ten pounds or more, fights hard and is not picky about what is thrown in front of them - it sounds too good to be true.

Anglers are discovering that gar can produce plenty of fast-paced action.

"There is not really that many people fishing for them, but it can be a lot of fun and they fight just about as hard as any fish out there," said Steve Burge, southeast information specialist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife. "Sometimes other fishing slows down a little in late summer, but it seems like the hotter it gets the more the gar are ready to bite."

According to Burge, no specialized equipment is needed to go after the long scaly fish. He said a standard bass rod will do and many local bait shops sell gar lures or you can use just about any lure with a long shank hook.

Gar fishing will be the focus of an upcoming tournament in southeast Oklahoma. The annual Lake Wister Gar Rodeo will take place on August 17.

"Everyone always has a good time, people seem to really enjoy the tournament," said Robert Borden with Lake Wister State Park.

It is a bargain at only ten dollars to enter the contest and winners with the big fish and most pounds win cash prizes.

"It is something a little different and we have several families that come back every year to fish the tournament," Borden said.

Lake Wister State Park is also running a gar tournament special. For only $20 visitors not only get a ticket to dine at the tournament awards banquet and stay in air conditioned cabins Saturday night, they also receive a tournament hat.

For more information about the Lake Wister Gar Rodeo call Lake Wister State Park at (918) 655-7886.



New state record grass carp

Oklahoma bowfishermen have a new high mark to shoot for. The state record grass carp was easily toppled July 13, when a pair of archers took a 68-pound, 6-ounce lunker. The big fish, taken from Arbuckle Lake, dwarfs the previous record by more than 18 pounds.

But perhaps the bigger story is that two men share the honor. David Carter of Seminole and Steven Edgar of Sulphur were bowfishing from a boat along the water's edge when they spotted the huge fish.

"We had been bowfishing since about 10 o'clock that night and had both missed a pretty big fish earlier. At about 3:30 in the morning, Steven and I were ready to pack it in so I started to turn the boat around for deeper water. That's when we both saw this monster at the same time. I'd like to say we timed out our shots, but actually we just instinctively drew our recurves and shot at the same instant," said Carter.

With the perfect timing of a Swiss watch, both bowfishermen hit their mark and the fight was on. The only close call during the 10-minute retrieve was when their lines got tangled in the trolling motor.

"When we first saw the fish in the water, we knew it was a good one, but it really didn't hit home how big it was until we tried weighing it on a 50-pound digital scale. We tried it a couple times, but it just read zero," said Carter.

The men said they knew the current state record for the unrestricted division was in the 50-pound range and that they had a possible contender. But little did they know how right they were. The previous record grass carp, also taken from Arbuckle Lake in 1993, weighed 50 pounds, was 43 1/2 inches long and a girth of 32 1/4 inches. The Carter/Edgar record weighed 68-pounds, 6-ounces and was 48 3/4 inches long and had a 35-inch girth.

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation recognizes two divisions of state record fish. Restricted division records are limited to those fish legally caught with a rod and line and played by no more than one person. The unrestricted division records are for fish legally taken by methods other than rod and line and can be played by more than one person.

"This is actually unprecedented to have two anglers submit a record fish together," said Barry Bolton, the Wildlife Department's assistant chief of fisheries. "We're excited for them both."

Carter and Edgar want to have the fish mounted but discovered that taxidermy supply manufacturers don't make a grass carp form big enough.

For a complete list of state record fish and for instructions on what to do if you think you have caught a record fish, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.


Cutline: David Carter of Seminole (left) and Steven Edgar of Sulphur set a new unrestricted state record with 68-pound, 6-ounce grass carp taken by bow and arrow from Arbuckle Lake.

Sharpen your shooting skills this summer

It may be hard to envision north winds and cold mornings right now, but the fall hunting seasons will be here before you know it.

While many hunters begin checking their equipment and planning hunting trips months in advance, too many hunters neglect their shooting skills between hunting seasons. A lack of practice can translate to frustrating days afield and if you really want to improve your wingshooting success, one of the best things 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 or to introduce friends to shooting.

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.

You don't have to travel far to find a place to shoot. A Web site sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, www.wheretoshoot.org, lists over 25 locations where Oklahomans can go to hone their shooting skills. Shooting sports articles, fact sheets and links to other conservation organizations can also be found on this useful site.

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 fall, spring and summer leagues through 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 hand held thrower for just a few dollars and a box of clay targets usually costs less than $5.

What better way to spend a summer afternoon than to practice your shooting while enjoying the company of friends and family.




Cutline: Check www.wheretoshoot.org for a list of more than 25 shooting location locations in Oklahoma.

Bollenbach quail symposium slated for Aug. 9

An Oklahoma morning without a bobwhite’s whistle just wouldn’t be the same. Wildlife professionals from Oklahoma and surrounding states are gathering to ensure that the quail’s call will be heard for many mornings to come. The third annul Bollenbach Quail Symposium will be held August 9 in Kingfisher, to educate landowners, sportsmen and wildlife professionals on what can be done to improve bobwhite habitat and populations.

Population surveys show historic quail numbers are down over most of the state, a trend observed throughout the entire southeastern United States. Even with recent declines, Oklahoma is one of the few remaining states where hunters can pursue relatively large numbers of wild quail. The symposium is designed to ensure Oklahoma remains one of the top quail states in the nation through sound management and cooperation with landowners.

Mike Sams, upland bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, will be one of the many wildlife professionals on hand to discuss the future of quail. Sams will outline the state's new 10-point quail initiative which focuses on maintaining healthy quail populations in Oklahoma. Parts of the plan include seeking funding to provide incentives to landowners to enhance habitat, identifying key areas for habitat improvements, educating the public about quail and working with public utilities and the Department of Transportation in developing right of way management practices that conserve nesting habitat for quail and other grassland birds. Sams will also discuss programs that are available to landowners to improve quail habitat on their property.

Sams will be joined by quail experts from across the country who will be on hand at the Kingfisher County Fairgrounds. Through the symposium professionals will share knowledge and advise landowners and bobwhite enthusiasts on what works and what doesn’t in increasing quail numbers.

Additional speakers include:

Roger Wells, national habitat coordinator for Quail Unlimited, will give management particulars for the Kansas farm he manages. He has good densities of bobwhites.

Reggie Thackston, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, will address Georgia’s quail initiative, which is showing early indications of success.

Butch Taylor, Texas A&M University and Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, will speak about landowner cooperatives in Texas. These cooperatives have waged successful campaigns against cedar encroachment through prescribed burning and other methods. Cedar, which invades native prairie, is a major problem for both livestock and quail production in Oklahoma.

Wade Anderson from the Natural Resource Conservation Service will focus on how to manipulate habitat by using livestock.

Stephanie Harmon, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. USFWS has been assisting landowners with habitat development in western Oklahoma. Harmon will review some of the successes and discuss assistance from USFWS.

Fred S. Guthery, Oklahoma State University, will discuss the latest scientific research on quail and quail habitat.

The Bollenbach Symposium will be held at the Kingfisher County Fairgrounds, Kingfisher, OK, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, August 9. Registration is $25. Students 18 or younger do not have to pay the registration fee, but need to register. Mail registration checks to Fred S. Guthery, Dept. of Forestry, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078 or call (405) 744-9431 for additional information.


Wildlife Department scores high on plan

"If you fail to plan, then you to plan to fail."

This old saying may be true, but it doesn't apply to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The Department was given a near perfect score on it's five-year strategic plan.

In 1999 the Oklahoma Legislature passed a measure requiring each of the 170 state agencies to increase the efficiency of state government and provide a method for reviewing how services are being provided and how they can be improved.

"I think it really helped that the Wildlife Department already had a long-term plan in place before it was even required," said Amanda Storck, budget analyst for the Office of State Finance. "I could tell that there was a lot of thought and effort put into this strategic plan."

The plan considers a wide range of factors such as employee effectiveness, outreach goals and fiscal responsibility. The Department received 219 point out of 222 possible points and was awarded a rating of excellent.

"We are pleased that the Office of State Finance recognizes the hard work and vision that went into this strategic plan from all levels of Department employees," said Richard Hatcher, assistant director of the Wildlife Department.