Commissioners hear about the power of partnerships

      “Two heads are better than one,” according to the old saying, better make that, “Four or five heads are better than one.” Such is the case at Red Slough Wildlife Management Area in southeastern Oklahoma.

     The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission heard a presentation on the area at their Nov. 4 meeting at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters. Through a partnership of state, federal and private cooperators the Red Slough is rapidly becoming one of the more popular outdoor destinations in the state.

     “This is really a partnership that works,” said Mike Smith, ODWC wildlife biologist at Red Slough Wildlife Management Area. “We couldn’t do this alone, but with the help of other agencies this project has really come together.”

An inter-agency team comprised of the ODWC, the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), the U.S. Forest Service and Ducks Unlimited, share the responsibility for restoration, enhancement and day-to-day management of the 7,800-acre Red Slough wetland. Once a working rice farm, managers have transformed the wetland into a unique habitat for wintering, migrating, and breeding bird species.

According to Kevin Norton, assistant director for state conservationist programs for the NRCS, the area has become an increasingly important landmark for numerous species of waterfowl and shorebirds since coming into public ownership in 1997.

"The managers have done an excellent job of increasing wetland habitat by working together and pooling resources," Norton said. "It's fast becoming a premier birding and waterfowl hunting destination in Oklahoma."

Waterfowl hunters and bird watchers have traveled from as far away as Minnesota, North Carolina, Florida, and Illinois to see some of the nearly 300 species at Red Slough, including roseate spoonbills, black-necked stilts and fulvous whistling ducks.

In other business, commissioners recognized another project that demonstrates the power of partnerships. Bat watches at the Selman Wildlife Management area have awed thousands of visitors since the area was established in 1996.

     A maternal colony of over one million Mexican free-tailed bats winter in caves on the area. Each summer visitors have the opportunity to tour the area and watch the bats pour out of the caves on the way to their nightly insect-eating forays.

     “The partnerships that have developed with Alabaster Caverns State Park, local businesses and our invaluable volunteers have been crucial to the success of this project,” said Melynda Hickman, natural resources biologist for ODWC. “Our volunteers alone have worked over 4,000 hours and we couldn’t do it without them.”

Jane Jayroe, Oklahoma secretary of tourism and recreation, was on hand to commend the partnership and the value of wildlife-related tourism in the state.

“Wildlife is a big part of tourism,” Jayroe said. “The future prosperity of rural Oklahoma has everything to do with these type of projects. It is the natural, unique experience that brings visitors to an area.”

Commissioners voted to approve a donation of $22,400 from the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF). The donation will be used to fund habitat improvement projects spread throughout the state.

“We are excited about cooperating with the Department on these projects,” said Gary Purdy, regional director for the NWTF. “This donation would not be possible without the hard work and generosity of volunteers from National Wild Turkey Federation chapters all across Oklahoma.”

The diverse projects will help not only wild turkeys, but also a wide variety of other wildlife species. Efforts include controlled burns to improve brood areas, removal of invasive Eastern red cedars, regeneration of roosting trees and establishment of walk-in turkey hunting areas.

Commissioners also voted to approve a donation of $25,000 from Enid-based HANOR/Kronseder Farms. The funds will be used to make repairs and improvements to the Department’s Woodward office.

Director Greg Duffy presented a tenure award to Kelly Roberson, Oklahoma game warden stationed in Tulsa County. Roberson has served the sportsmen of Oklahoma for 20 years and was recognized in 1988 as the Oklahoma Game Warden of the Year.

“Kelly is one of the most outstanding hunter education instructors in the state,” Duffy said. “He is always willing to help out and he has taught countless students over the years.”

Duffy also recognized Jeff Boxrucker, senior fisheries biologist for the Wildlife Department for his 25 years of service.

“Jeff has exemplified a true professional biologist during his time with the Department,” Duffy said. “His knowledge and dedication to the fisheries resources has been a great asset to anglers of Oklahoma.”

The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation 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.

The Commission approved dates 2003 Wildlife Conservation Commission meetings. Meetings were scheduled for: Jan. 6, Feb. 3, March 3, April 7, May 5, June 2, July 7, Aug. 4, Sept 8, Oct. 6, Nov. 3 and Dec. 1.

The next scheduled Commission meeting is December 2, 2002, at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters (auditorium), at the corner of 18th and N. Lincoln, Oklahoma City at 9:00 a.m.

  Red Slough waiting to be discovered

A hidden gem lies tucked away in the far southeast corner of Oklahoma. Red Slough Wildlife Management Area is rapidly becoming one of the more popular outdoor destinations in the state.

     “One of the most unique things about the area is the incredible diversity of wildlife,” said Mike Smith, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation wildlife biologist at the Red Slough Wildlife Management Area. “From alligators, to rare plants, to birds not found anywhere else in the state, Red Slough has it all.”

     The numbers are certainly there to back up Smith’s testimony. Over 260 species of birds, 313 species of plants and 47 species of snakes and lizards call the Red Slough home. Add in white-tailed deer, frogs, and hundreds of species of insects and it is easy to see that the 7,800-acre area is teaming with life.

     The area is becoming a Mecca for bird watchers anxious to check some of the numerous avian species at Red Slough off of their life list. Among the many birds that nest or migrate through include roseate spoonbills, black-necked stilts and fulvous whistling ducks.

     Waterfowl hunters are also beginning to learn about the potential opportunities on the nearly 5,000-acre wildlife management area. Located on the edge of both the Central and Mississippi flyways, thousands of ducks find refuge at Red Slough each winter.

     “We nearly always have an excellent early teal season,” Smith said. “During the second half of the waterfowl season, we often get some impressive numbers of ducks.”

     Snow geese also often make a stop at Red Slough during the fall and spring migrations. Waterfowl hunters have traveled from as far away as Minnesota, California, Florida, and Illinois to hunt the wetland.

Through a partnership of federal, state and private agencies the Red Slough has become a shining example of the merits of teamwork and cooperation.

     “This is really a partnership that works,” said Smith. “We couldn’t do this alone, but with the help of other agencies this project has really come together.”

An inter-agency team comprised of the U.S. Forest Service, ODWC, the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and Ducks Unlimited, share the responsibility for restoration, enhancement, and day-to-day management of the Red Slough wetland. Once a working rice farm, managers have transformed the wetland into a unique habitat for wintering, migrating, and breeding bird species

According to Kevin Norton, assistant director for state conservationist programs for the NRCS, the area has become an increasingly important landmark for numerous species of waterfowl and shorebirds since it was purchased by the U.S. Forest Service in 1997.

"The managers have done an excellent job of increasing wetland habitat by working together and pooling resources," Norton said. "It's fast becoming a premier birding and waterfowl hunting destination in Oklahoma."

For up to date waterfowl reports, wetland status reports or waterfowl hunting regulations, log on to

To find out more about the project, view a slide show or print off an area map, log on to and click on ”Red Slough” link.

Directions to the Red Slough wetland: from Idabel, travel U.S. Highway 259 south approximately 18 miles to State Highway 87. Turn east on State Highway 87 and travel approximately 3 miles. Turn north onto Mudline Road (by the old Getty gas station sign) and access the main area.



NWTF makes generous donation

The National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) recently donated $22,400 to fund habitat improvement projects spread throughout the state.

“We are excited about cooperating with the Wildlife Department on these projects,” said Gary Purdy, regional director for the NWTF. “This donation would not be possible without the hard work and generosity of volunteers from National Wild Turkey Federation chapters all across Oklahoma.”

Since inception in the early 1980's the NWTF has assisted in excess of 50 cooperative projects with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to improve wild turkey habitat. Additionally, the NWTF has assisted the Department in several trap and transplant efforts to restore turkey populations throughout the state.

The diverse projects will help not only wild turkeys, but also a wide variety of other wildlife species. Efforts include controlled burns to improve brood areas, removal of invasive Eastern red cedars, regeneration of roosting trees and establishment of walk-in turkey hunting areas. The following is a complete list of projects that will be funded through the NWTF donation:

Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area (McCurtain County): Signal Mountain walk-in turkey hunting area and controlled burn to improve brood areas for Eastern Wild Turkey hens. $1,200

Spavinaw Wildlife Management Area (Mayes County): Construction of fire breaks for controlled burning applications to improve habitat for various wildlife species. $1,000

Kaw Wildlife Management Area (Kay County): Creation of a walk-in turkey hunting area including materials and labor for construction of two gates to be closed during the hunting season and the crucial nesting period of the Rio Grande Wild Turkey. Vehicular traffic has been found to be a deterrent to good reproduction and quality hunting. In addition, providing for the construction of parking adjacent to the area. $3,500

Copan and Hulah wildlife management areas (Washington County): Removal of invasive tree species such as cedars, honey locust and Osage orange and establishment of vegetation in the cleared areas. Creation of 44 acres of openings. $3,900

Southern Great Plains Riparian Initiative: Includes all of western Oklahoma. This program is designed to restore critical wildlife corridors along streams in western Oklahoma. Cottonwood regeneration, control of cedars and providing artificial roosting areas for wild turkeys. $5,000

Choctaw County: Construction of fire breaks on Hugo Lake to allow for prescribed burns to improve general habitat conditions including brood habitat for poults. This area is the site of a highly successful recent relocation and restoration effort for the Eastern Wild Turkey. $2,400

Chickasaw National Recreation Area (Murray County): Removal of cedars encroaching on prime wild turkey openings on 300 total acres. $5,400


 Deer gun season looks promising

Falling leaves and falling temperatures signal one thing to Oklahoma hunters, the much-anticipated deer gun season is right around the corner.

Running Nov. 23 through Dec. 1, the deer gun season is undoubtedly Oklahoma’s most popular hunting event in terms of overall participation. Modern firearms hunters also enjoy the greatest success in terms of harvest. In 2001, for example, more than 160,000 gun hunters checked in more than 55,000 deer, about 55 percent of last year’s total harvest. With good weather, hunters can again look forward to excellent opportunities to harvest a deer this fall, according to Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

As always, pre-season scouting gives hunters a big advantage because it allows them to pattern deer movements and pinpoint areas of high activity. By spending a little extra time afield before the season starts, hunters can position themselves for an outstanding deer season. Keying on the right food source could make a big difference for hunters who spend some time doing a little legwork.

“It appears like we have had a good acorn crop in many areas of the state,” Shaw said. “The availability of acorns, along with the presence of green browse, may result in the deer being more spread out and make them a little harder to pattern. It will be important for hunters to know what type of food items are available for deer, which ones they are using and how the deer are moving in the areas where they plan to hunt.”

Shaw added that the overall condition of the deer is good due to a good growing season, although it is important that hunters continue to take advantage of antlerless hunting opportunities. In 2001, does accounted for 44 percent of the total deer harvest

“Hunters play a vital role in the management of the deer herd by taking does and keeping the buck to doe ratios in proportion, which ensure that the herd remains healthy,” Shaw said.

Hunters have an opportunity to take an antlerless deer in all 77 counties during the regular gun season and a special antlerless deer gun season is open in late December across much of the state. For antlerless deer hunt zones and dates open to antlerless hunting, pick up a copy of the “2002-2003 Oklahoma Hunting Guide.”

Oklahoma residents must have an annual hunting or combination license, lifetime hunting or lifetime combination license, senior citizen hunting or senior citizen combination license or proof of exemption. In addition, hunters must possess a deer gun (antlered or antlerless) license for each deer hunted, or proof of exemption. Resident hunters under 18 years of age may purchase either the youth deer gun license or the regular deer gun license.

All nonresident deer hunters must possess a nonresident deer gun (antlered, antlerless or combo) license for each deer hunted or proof of exemption. Holders of nonresident lifetime hunting and lifetime combination licenses are not exempt from purchasing deer licenses. Nonresident deer hunters are exempt from purchasing an annual nonresident hunting license.

Hunters may take a total of two deer, which may include no more than one antlered deer and one antlerless deer. Antlerless deer may only be harvested on specified days in certain zones. Harvest of antlerless mule deer is prohibited during deer gun season.

Upon successfully harvesting a deer, all license holders, including lifetime license holders, must immediately attach anything with their name and license number to the carcass. What the hunter attaches can be anything, as long as it contains the hunter's name and hunting license number and remains securely attached to the animal until it is checked at a hunter check station or with an authorized Wildlife Department employee.

Annual license holders, upon harvesting a deer, must complete the Record of Game section on the back of the universal license. The information must be recorded on the license form prior to moving or field dressing the animal. To do this they must tear out one of the notches on the license and print in ink the time, date, type of game and method of harvest on the notched line in the appropriate columns. Lifetime license holders are not required to complete the Record of Game section on the back of the universal license.

All successful hunters must check their deer at the nearest hunter check station. A county by county listing of hunter check stations is provided in this year's hunting guide.

Deer gun hunters should always remember to keep safety the first priority. All deer gun hunters must conspicuously wear both a head covering and an outer garment above the waistline, both totaling 500 square inches or more of clothing, both consisting of daylight fluorescent orange color totaling at least 400 square inches. Camo-fluorescent orange is legal, if the total orange meets or exceeds the required 400 square inches.

Persons hunting with archery or muzzleloader equipment during deer gun seasons must have a deer gun license and must comply with blaze orange requirements for deer gun season.

Hunting hours during deer gun season are one-half hour before official sunrise to one-half hour after official sunset.

For additional regulations, antlerless zones, check station locations, season dates and a wealth of other information be sure to pick up a copy of the “2002-2003 Oklahoma Hunting Guide" available at all license dealer locations or log on to the Department's Web site at


Deer season is state's biggest single-day recreation attraction

It attracts more Oklahomans than the number of football fans attending sold out home games at Lewis Field, Owen Field, and Skelly stadium - combined! It draws more participants than the busiest day of the Oklahoma State Fair or the Tulsa State Fair. It may surprise many, but the state's largest single-day recreational attraction is arguably the opening day of Oklahoma's deer gun season. Hunting in Oklahoma is big business, all totaled spending from hunters pumps $573 million annually to the state’s economy.

The gun deer opener, Saturday, Nov. 23 this year, will draw an estimated 200,000 hunters and their non-hunting companions. The nine-day season, which runs through Sunday, December 1, will see these thousands of orange-clad hunters heading into Oklahoma's forests and prairies in search of the state's number one game animal, the white-tailed deer.

Through deer hunting license statistics and license holder surveys, officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) say at least 160,000 people hunt deer during the modern firearms season. When combined with non-hunting relatives, who participate in camping and other deer season related activities, the total number of participants is estimated at well over 200,000.

"We know that virtually all of our deer gun hunters are out on opening day of the season, and a significant number of those hunters have non-hunting family members either with them in the field, or back at their campsite or RV," said Rich Fuller, information supervisor for the Department. "It's pretty remarkable when you consider how many people might be sitting in the stands of all our major college football stadiums on a fall Saturday, and then realize there are many more sportsmen out enjoying the deer woods on opening day."

Department officials say that per capita participation in the deer gun season is traditionally strongest in the southeast part of the state, however, the trend is changing. Due to the expansion of the state's white-tailed deer herd, the popularity of deer hunting is growing throughout the state.

Thanks in large part to ODWC sponsored hunter education programs, the number of hunting related accidents have declined by more than 70 percent in Oklahoma over the past 30 years. ODWC officials say mandatory hunter education courses have not only reduced accidents within Oklahoma, but also in every state and Canadian province with similar programs. Approximately 13,000 hunter education students are certified annually within Oklahoma.

"Virtually all the states and provinces now require some form of hunter education for first-time hunters," said Lance Meek, ODWC hunter education coordinator. Meek added that serious deer hunting accidents have become extremely rare.

“Certainly, even one hunting accident is one too many as far as we are concerned. And that's why we are always looking for new and improved ways of teaching our courses to give young hunters the knowledge and good habits to prevent accidents," Meek said.

In 1987, the ODWC's hunter education courses became required by state law. Anyone born on or after January 1, 1972, upon reaching 16 years of age must have completed a certified hunter education course in order to purchase a hunting license. Additionally, any hunters under the age of 16 (below the age required to purchase a hunting license) must complete a hunter education course if they use a firearm to hunt big game (deer, elk or antelope).

For more information about Oklahoma's deer season and the ODWC’s Hunter Education Program, consult the “2002-2003 Oklahoma Hunting Guide,” or log onto


Wildlife calendar featured in magazine

A unique wildlife calendar is the centerpiece of the latest issue of “Outdoor Oklahoma,” the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s official bi-monthly magazine.

Covering 26 pages in the November/December 2002 issue, the calendar not only showcases award-winning color photography of the state’s most scenic landscapes and wildlife, but it also provides tips for landowners and sportsmen on how to improve fishing and hunting on their property. Each calendar month includes suggested habitat management practices, along with interesting fish and wildlife notes for that month. Among others, featured photographs include a strutting tom turkey, a sunrise on a waterfowl hunter’s decoy spread, a pair of outstanding white-tailed bucks and scenic fall shots of a bull elk and archery hunting in the hills of southeast Oklahoma.

“We recognize the important role sound land management plays in promoting healthy fish and wildlife habitats,” said Nels Rodefeld, “Outdoor Oklahoma” editor. “Hopefully, these calendars can be a tool to provide timely management information to those who might implement it on the landscape. Of course, anyone with an interest in the outdoors will enjoy the stunning photography.”

Rodefeld added that the current issue is more than just a calendar. The magazine features information on how to get involved in the 2003 Winter Bird Survey. It also contains “Situation Sportsmen,” an article that examines some of the ethical dilemmas that sportsmen can face in the while hunting or fishing.

The issue includes two popular magazine mainstays - Off the Beaten Path, which features a photo of a 180-pound world record alligator gar recently caught in the Red River and the Watchable Wildlife Profile. The November/December Watchable Wildlife Profile covers the ring-necked duck.

Individual copies of the November/December 2002 issue of “Outdoor Oklahoma” are available for $3 if picked up at any of the Wildlife Department’s offices, or $4 by mail (mail to “Outdoor Oklahoma” magazine, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152). One-year subscriptions, which are only $10, are available by calling 1-800-777-0019, or you can order over the Internet by logging on to the Department’s Web site at


Check out deer check stations

Smart hunters plan for success, they make room in the freezer, they bring a friend along to help them haul their harvest out of the woods, and they also know the location of the closest deer check station.

As in the past, hunters taking a deer this fall must check the deer at the nearest hunter check station where it will be tagged with a carcass tag. Evidence of sex (head) must not be removed from the carcass until the carcass has been checked. Carcass tags must remain with the carcass through processing and/or storage at commercial processing or storage facilities. Remember check station hours vary by location.

A county by county listing of check stations can be found on page 28 of the “2002-2003 Oklahoma Hunting Guide.” For the most up to date list, log on to the Department’s Web site at

Successful hunters, including lifetime license holders, also are reminded that they must attach their name and hunting license number to the deer immediately after harvesting it. Annual license holders also are required to complete the “Record of Game” section on the back of the Universal License Form.


Pheasant season outlook promising

Most guests overstay their welcome in just a few days, but at least one Oklahoma visitor is here to stay - and sportsmen couldn’t be more happy. Ring-necked pheasants were introduced from Asia to Oklahoma in the 1920’s and 1930’s and have since found the state quite to their liking.

Pheasant season opens December 1 from north central Oklahoma all the way to the panhandle. For many, there is no better way to spend a day than to roam the rolling hills of northwest Oklahoma hunting the gaudy birds.

According to Mike Sams, upland bird biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, populations of the colorful game birds appear to be in good shape going into the season.

“Overall, it looks like it will be a fair to average pheasant season. Due to timely rains the habitat is in pretty good shape,” Sams reported. “The annual spring crow counts were down slightly over the last two years, but remained consistent with the long-term average.”

Over 16,000 hunters harvested 73,233 cocks last season and surveys suggest this year's population level is similar to last year's.

According to Sams, not all regions of the state are equal when it comes to pheasant habitat.

“The Oklahoma panhandle has traditionally been a popular pheasant hunting destination, but with the drought conditions the area has experienced the past few years, the habitat conditions, and therefore the pheasant numbers, are not as good as they have been in past years,” Sams said.

The season runs December 1 through January 31, 2003, and hunters should consult the “2002-2003 Oklahoma Hunting Guide for open zones. The daily bag limit for pheasants is two cocks, with a possession limit of four after the first day and six after the second day. Persons who hunt in two states having separate daily bag limits may not exceed the largest number of birds that can be legally taken in one of the states in which they harvest the birds. Pheasant hunters should note that the legal shooting hours are sunrise to sunset.

Evidence of sex (head or one foot) must remain on the bird until it reaches its final destination.

Pheasant habitat consists primarily of row crops, such as milo and corn. Most of those crops have been harvested, but there's still plenty of milo stubble and cornstalks that provide good pheasant habitat. Some of the best areas are fields dedicated to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which are adjacent to the crop fields. Additionally, brushy edge areas adjacent to roads or the corners of cropfields that are irrigated via center-pivot sprinklers are likely places to find pheasants.

Safety is also extremely important. In many instances, pheasants are hunted by large groups of hunters. Groups should discuss safety procedures before hunting. Everyone involved in the hunt should be aware of each other's whereabouts and determine individual shooting zones beforehand.

When the deer gun and the special antlerless deer seasons (in open zones) overlap with pheasant season, all pheasant hunters must wear a blaze orange cap or vest.

Before going afield, be sure to pick up a copy of the “2002-2003 Oklahoma Hunting Guide and Regulations,” available at all hunting and fishing license dealers.



Trappers part of a long tradition

Some of the first non-Native Americans to ever set foot in Oklahoma were not cattlemen, business men, farmers or even Sooners. Rough and rugged individuals who made a living out of trapping and selling furs were among the first to explore the streams and woodlands of Oklahoma.

Today, trappers continue to carry on the tradition pursuing furbearers across the state. Oklahoma is blessed with a rich diversity of furbearers allowing hunters and trappers ample opportunities.

"Most furbearing species are plentiful, and bobcat continue to increase their populations across the state," said Russ Horton, central region senior biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Hunters and trappers have an important role in helping manage Oklahoma's furbearer populations."

Oklahoma's statewide furbearer season runs Dec. 1 - Jan. 31 except for bobcat season, which runs Dec. 1 - Feb. 28. Furbearing animals include raccoon, mink, badger, muskrat, opossum, weasel, bobcat, beaver, striped skunks and gray foxes. Consult a copy of the “2002-2003 Oklahoma Hunting Guide” for specific details on bag limits and other regulations concerning each furbearing species.

According to Horton, trapping and hunting furbearers has several benefits.

“These methods are the most effective tool and in most cases the only tool we have to manage predator populations,” Horton said. "From a management standpoint, harvesting furbearers benefits other wildlife such as ground nesting birds, especially wild turkeys. Bobcats prey on adult wild turkeys, and raccoons consume considerable numbers of wild turkey eggs.”

Horton added that trapping is a great way to become more familiar with the areas you ordinarily hunt other game.

“Some of the best woodsmen around are trappers,” Horton said. “Trappers learn to read sign and know not only where an animal has been, but where it is going to be. Trappers, more often than not, are the ones who really know what is going on in the woods.”

Last, but not least there is money to be made from furbearers.

“The average price for a bobcat pelt was around $65 last year and it looks like the fur prices overall may be little higher this year as compared to previous years,” Horton said.

For a list of fur dealers in Oklahoma log onto the Department’s web site at

Those wanting to take bobcats, raccoons or gray fox must possess a special bobcat-raccoon-gray fox license. It costs $9 for residents, $51 for non-residents. Resident lifetime license holders are exempt from having to purchase the license. The license is not required for those who pursue furbearers with dogs but do not harvest them.

A trapping license is required for all persons who trap. Cost is $6 for residents and $345 for nonresidents. Only resident landowners or tenants or their children who trap on land they own or lease (not including hunting leases) are exempt from purchasing trapping licenses.

Hunters and trappers are also reminded that all bobcats must be tagged with bobcat carcass tag, available at selected check stations statewide. For a list of bobcat check stations, log on to the Department's Web site at or contact the Wildlife Division at (405) 521-2739.



Canton crappie fishing heats up when waters cool down

It’s not time to put away the fishing rod and tackle box just yet, there is still plenty of fishing action to be found across Oklahoma.

One of the best places to try your luck is Canton Lake in northwest Oklahoma. The lake has long been known as a great walleye fishing hotspot and this summer the reservoir produced the state record channel catfish (Barry Bond caught the 34-pound 11-ounce fish), but there is more to the lake than teethy walleye and monster catfish. According to Donnie Jinkens, Canton is a great spot for winter-time crappie fishing.

According to Jinkens, Canton supports a good population of crappie, particularly around the dam and brushy cover in the lower part of the lake. Crappie are a favorite winter fish all across Oklahoma. They form loose schools and often when you find a fish, others are often close by. Crappie can be caught year-round and its sweet meat makes exquisite table fare.

“One of the best crappie lures available is the tube jig,” Jinkens said. “Color can be a matter of personal preference, but I think the most productive colors are black, red or chartreuse.”

Donnie and son Mark are the feature of an upcoming episode of "Outdoor Oklahoma" on OETA-The Oklahoma Network Sunday, December 2 at 8:00 a.m.

The show also features crappie fishing tips, wildlife management techniques on Canton Wildlife Management Area and information about black-capped vireo restoration efforts in northwest 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 or your local TV guide.


Quail season off to a good start

There are not too many things more exciting in the sporting world than a covey of quail exploding right before you in all different directions. If hunters’ early reports are any indication, those covey flushes could be a lot more common occurrence this winter.

“Initial field reports are encouraging,” said Mike Sams, upland bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “It seems like people not only are seeing more coveys, but bigger coveys as well.”

As always, it still takes some persistence, but hunters are reporting that quail populations have really rebounded, Sams added.

“In some areas where good habitat is nearby, some hunters have reported seeing quail in areas they thought were gone for good after last season,” Sams said.

Sams said there are two major reasons why quail populations have seen such an increase.

“There are many small factors that play a role in the annual cycle of quail populations, but the overwhelming reasons why quail numbers rise and fall from year to year are the weather and habitat conditions,” Sams said.

For most quail hunters the ideal weather conditions are a cool, damp, mid-winter day, with a slight breeze to carry the scent of quail to their dog’s nose. But perhaps quail enthusiasts should be wishing for quite different weather - more along the lines of a wet and mild summer day.

Most of Oklahoma got plenty of those balmy, rainy days this spring and summer which appears to have improved conditions across the state. The months of 2001 came and went bringing little precipitation, leaving little cover and food for bobwhites.

“Quail populations were certainly down last year and we heard all sorts of ideas to help bring the numbers back up, including cutting the seasons, stocking birds and predator control,” said Sams. “But when it comes right down to it, weather, and habitat conditions, are the driving force of the annual rise and fall of quail populations.”

Just like a Hollywood ending, the rains came in 2002 and hardy gamebirds took full advantage. During the annual October roadside surveys some regions of Oklahoma recorded fall populations in excess of the previous 12-year average.

“Besides the improved weather creating better habitat, nothing has really changed over the past 12 months, not predator numbers, farming practices, or even our management efforts. This shows what a powerful influence weather patterns have on quail populations,” Sams said.

According to Sams, the quail turn around is due to rains coming at the right time and a mild summer that provided favorable conditions for bobwhite quail production.

“Timely rains are critical for good habitat conditions, but temperatures are also an important part of the equation,” Sams said. “Relatively mild early summer temperatures can extend the breeding season and the milder summers are also less stressful for both young and old birds.”

Sams said it is important that hunters, landowners and biologists continue to look at quail populations from a long-term perspective.

“Of course, we can’t just sit back and wait for the rains every year. It is important that we continue to create and conserve quality habitat, so that it will be there for the birds when the weather does cooperate,” Sams said. “A large scale landscape approach to habitat restoration is the best thing that we can do to improve quail populations over the long term.”

Running Nov. 9 through Feb.15, 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 wild bird hunting. Oklahoma regularly 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.

For more information about quail hunting in Oklahoma log on to the Department’s Web site at or pick up a copy of the “2002-2003 Oklahoma Hunting Guide.”



Christmas Gifts for the Outdoor Enthusiast

You could get Dad another tie or Mom another pair of slippers for Christmas, but why not get them something they could really use this holiday season.

If you're struggling to find that perfect gift or stocking stuffer for the outdoor enthusiast in your family, check out the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Outdoor Store at

"The Department's Outdoor Store has something for just about everybody," said Nels Rodefeld, information and education assistant chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Whether your friends or family enjoy hunting, fishing or bird watching, there are great presents for the outdoor enthusiast. Don’t forget appreciation gifts for landowners when you are making your Christmas list."

Rodefeld said that one of five Wildlife Conservation vehicle license plates will be appreciated by any outdoor enthusiasts. Choose from white-tailed deer, scissor-tailed flycatcher, largemouth bass, bobwhite quail or the new turkey plate available in January. The plates cost just $25 above your regular annual registration fee, and the best part is that $20 of this cost is earmarked for Oklahoma’s Wildlife Diversity Program. Applications for the unique tags can be picked up at any local tag agents and the plates can be customized for no extra charge.

For the gift that keeps on giving, consider a subscription to the Department’s official bi-monthly magazine, “Outdoor Oklahoma.” Six issues packed with stunning photography and informative articles will be delivered right to your loved ones door for only $10 a year. Subscriptions are available by calling 1-800-777-0019, or you can order over the Internet by logging on to the Department’s Outdoor Store.

For the do-it-yourselfer, pick up a bat house kit. Not only is the easy to assemble wooden bat house a fun project, but a single bat may also consume 2,000 insects per night! The new design is based on latest information about bats, making this house one of the best on the market.

Whether someone in your family is an avid birdwatcher or they just enjoy seeing birds at the backyard feeder, the 20-page “Attracting Birds” booklet is a great gift. Packed with information, this guide details types of feeders, seeds, winter foods, watering and more.

The “Bobwhite Quail in Oklahoma” handbook is for quail enthusiasts of all kinds - hunters, landowners and do-it-yourself game managers. This 40-page, full-color booklet contains tips for habitat improvements and everything you should know about the natural history of Oklahoma’s most popular upland game bird.

Fishing publications, posters, caps, t-shirts and bird houses are just a few of the other items found at the Outdoor Store. Pictures and a detailed description of each item are included on the Internet, or go check out the items for yourself at the Department's Oklahoma City and Tulsa offices.

A simple mouse click will download an order form. Simply fill it out and mail it in and your shopping is complete.



Waterfowlers plan ahead for boating safety

Only a duck hunter would see a cold, cloudy forecast and be anxious for the next boat ride. Waterfowlers know that nasty weather often translates to good hunting.

“Duck hunters are a dedicated group. But it is important they don’t let their love for the sport cloud their common sense when it comes to boating safety,” said Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Hunters often launch their boats in the pre-dawn darkness in cold, windy, even icy conditions. Cold air/wind chill, wind, water, precipitation, and fatigue mean hunters have to take extra steps to ensure a safe outing. Waterfowling gear, such as waders and bulky clothing, can hinder swimming and buoyancy making any capsizing a serious situation.

“Of course the most important thing is to always wear a life jacket (also called a personal flotation device) and make sure everyone on board is wearing one as well, it is just the smart thing to do,” Meek said.

Meek said it is important that hunters are aware of hypothermia - the dangerous combination of cold weather, wet clothes and dropping body temperatures. When someone falls into cool or cold water, their core temperature begins to drop within minutes. Cold water robs the body of heat 25-30 times faster than air.

The best cure for hypothermia is prevention, Meek said. Be extra careful when boating in winter. Don't take chances when an accidental soaking could leave you more than a few minutes from help. To avoid a soaking, never overload your boat. Also, don't head out in bad weather, and start for home at the first sign of a change for the worse in weather conditions.

Clothing is your first line of defense against hypothermia. Choose garments that retain their insulating properties even when wet. Wool and synthetic insulating materials are good choices. Cotton and down feel great when they are dry, but are virtually useless when soaked.

It is important to know the symptoms of hypothermia. The first is uncontrollable shivering. Begin treating for hypothermia immediately when you see this warning sign. Delaying could prove fatal.

Get the victim to a heated shelter and into dry clothing. If no dry clothes are available, leave the wet ones on. Even soaked clothing has some insulating value. Warm drinks are one of the best treatments for hypothermia. If food is available, have the victim eat to replenish lost energy.

According to Meek, following a few simple steps can make for a safe outing every time out: make sure weather conditions are safe before setting out and take a battery operated radio to keep updated on the conditions; do not overload your watercraft with people, gear, and dogs; proceed slowly and keep an eye out for logs and other structure; take along a cell phone or radio in case you need to call for help and always tell someone else about where you are going and when you plan to be back.

For more information about staying safe while on the water log on to the U.S. Coast Guard’s Web site at and for Oklahoma’s boating laws consult the “boating information link under “Fishing on the Wildlife Department’s Web site at