OCTOBER 2003 NEWS RELEASES 

 

WEEK OF OCTOBER 30, 2003

WEEK OF OCTOBER 23, 2003

WEEK OF OCTOBER 16, 2003

WEEK OF OCTOBER 9, 2003

WEEK OF OCTOBER 2, 2003

 

Youth waterfowl hunts offered

Oklahoma youngsters age 12 to 15 have until October 20 to apply for special controlled waterfowl hunts sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

A total of 14 hunts will be offered, each designed to provide youth who do not have an adult mentor who waterfowl hunts an opportunity to learn and enjoy the traditions of waterfowling.

Youth hunters will be randomly drawn from a list of applicants for each area where a hunt will be held. Applicants must be 12 to 15 years of age, have proof of successfully completing a certified hunter education course, and have an adult guardian who can accompany them on the hunt.

A Wildlife Department employee will accompany each youth and their adult guardian on a controlled waterfowl hunt at one of several Department-managed areas. Only the youth hunter will be allowed to hunt.

Each youth applicant and their guardian may apply only once and must provide the following information on a 3x5 postcard to be eligible for the drawing: names, addresses, telephone numbers, youth’s hunter education number, and the name of the desired hunt location and two alternate hunt locations where they would like to hunt. The scheduled date of the hunt will be coordinated with successful applicants after the drawing. Applicants may apply only once and should specify the primary hunt area desired and two alternate locations.

Applications must be received by Oct. 20 and should be mailed to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Youth Waterfowl Hunts, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152. Successful applicants will be notified by Oct. 27.

The Wildlife Department will provide successful applicants the necessary nontoxic shotgun shells and a 20 gauge single shot shotgun will be available for use if the youth does not have his or her own shotgun.

The following is a list of the scheduled hunt locations.

2003 Youth Waterfowl Hunting Locations:

Ft. Gibson
Webbers Falls
Wister
Vann's Lake (near Muskogee)
Canton Wildlife Management Area
Hackberry Flat
Okmulgee
Ft. Cobb

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Fisheries biologists flexing their green thumbs

It’s not the most glamorous work in the world. Slogging around in the mud and the muck planting aquatic plants makes for some long, hard workdays in the summer.

But fisheries biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation are beginning to see the fruits of their labor. Three years ago biologists began an effort to restore the aquatic vegetation around the shores of Lake Thunderbird in central Oklahoma and biologists believe that their work is beginning to pay off.

“The plants are beginning to spread outside of the areas where we have planted them and we think these new areas of aquatic vegetation may have some very positive effects on the survival of young fish,” said Gene Gilliland, senior fisheries biologist for the Wildlife Department.

Wildlife Department personnel built 18 different cages to help protect the young plants from turtles and other herbivores. The 25 x 50 foot cages, or enclosures, were built using vinyl-coated chicken wire and fence posts and were placed at six different sites around the lake.

“Our primary goal, is to provide hiding places in the summer for recently hatched fish such as bass, bluegill and minnows,” Gilliland said. “Natural vegetation is just about the best nursery habitat available for these young fish.”

Biologists planted nearly ten different types of aquatic plants including plants that grow in deeper water and plants that can survive out of the water for a brief time during the dry summer months. The plants were obtained from a wide variety of sources, including purchasing them from greenhouses, transplanting them from local ponds and propagating plants at the Department’s Fishery Research Laboratory in Norman.

“We wanted to plant a wide variety of plants so that there would be some stability in the habitat. The more plant diversity that is in the lake, the more likelihood that at least a portion of the plants can survive through a range of factors like changes in water levels or changes in water clarity,” Gilliland said.

Gilliland added that the assistance of many different volunteers proved invaluable in completing the project.

“Projects like these are relatively cheap, for the return in the investment. However, they can be quite labor intensive and we couldn’t have done it with out the help of volunteers,” Gilliland said.

Similar re-vegetation projects are also ongoing on several lakes around the state including Eufaula, Texoma, Skiatook, Kaw and Wes Watkins lakes.

Landowners interested in improving aquatic habitats on their own ponds may want to log on to a habitat consultation Web site created by the American Fisheries Society. The Web site, www.sdafs.org/habitat, provides landowners with a list of the recommended plantings according to their pond description and location.

For more information about fisheries management in Oklahoma, contact the Oklahoma Fishery Laboratory at (405) 325-7288.

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Controlled hunts offer unique opportunities for Oklahoma sportsmen

When most sportsmen think about Oklahoma hunting, they think about the staples - deer, turkey and quail. But there is also some very unique opportunities available to Oklahoma hunters. Just imagine crawling over rolling granite mountains in pursuit of a trophy elk or stalking a pronghorn antelope on a wind-swept plain.

“The Wildlife Department’s controlled hunts program is one of our most popular programs, and it’s no wonder why - these hunts not only provide hunters with some special opportunities, but they often have a fairly high success rate,” said Alan Peoples, wildlife chief for the Department.

Peoples pointed to the recently completed buck antelope controlled hunt in the panhandle.

“Fifty hunters were drawn, forty-five hunters participated and 43 hunters went home with a buck. That’s a 96 percent success rate. I’d take those odds any day,” Peoples said.

The controlled hunts program offers a wide variety of highly desirable hunts through a random drawing each spring. Some hunts are held to provide high-quality hunting experiences on high-profile areas where it is necessary to regulate hunting pressure and others are held to achieve other management goals for certain species.

If you’re interested in applying for next year’s controlled hunts, there’s a way you can improve your chances for submitting a successful application.

The staff at “Outdoor Oklahoma,” the official magazine of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, is gathering all the numbers you need to know to up your odds of being drawn

A special article, which will appear in the January/February issue, will provide a comprehensive look at the odds for successfully drawing each of the controlled hunts. The article will break down each hunt in terms of available permits compared to the number of applicants, and then list the individual odds for successfully drawing a permit to participate in each hunt.

“The goal of the article is to help applicants decide which controlled hunts might offer them the best chances for getting drawn,” said Nels Rodefeld, “Outdoor Oklahoma” editor. “For example, a hunter stands a better chance of drawing a cow permit at the Wichita Mountains elk hunt than they do for drawing a bull permit. We hope that prospective applicants will use the information in the article to improve their odds for participating in the controlled hunts program.”

The January/February issue of “Outdoor Oklahoma” will be available for $3 at the Department’s headquarters at 1801 N. Lincoln in Oklahoma City and is also available at the Department’s regional offices. You can also subscribe to “Outdoor Oklahoma” for $10/year, or $18 for two years. To subscribe to “Outdoor Oklahoma,” call (800) 777-0019 or log on to www.wildlifedepartment.com

For more information about “Outdoor Oklahoma” magazine, call (405) 521-3856.

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Over 1,000 species found in 24 hours at northwest OK BioBlitz

Ready for the BioBlitz results? The final tally of 1,071 species topped last year’s count. The third annual, 24-hour species inventory brought together 135 volunteer biologists, naturalists, students and teachers to Boiling Springs State Park and the Cooper and Ft. Supply Wildlife Management Areas Sept. 12-13.

Collectors recorded one representative for each species. The breakdowns by category were: 471 terrestrial invertebrates (insects), 289 plants, 86 birds, 37 fungi (mushrooms), 30 reptiles and amphibians, 28 algae and 24 fish.

Two species were identified that had never been reported for Woodward County: the fulvous harvest mouse and nine-banded armadillo. Local residents may have known they were there, but biologists didn’t. That information is now in the scientific record. BioBlitz highlights may be viewed at www. biosurvey.ou.edu by following the “BioBlitz” link. Complete data results will also be posted and should be available by November.

BioBlitz takes place in a different part of the state each year. BioBlitz 2004 will occur the second weekend of September in Okmulgee County in Dripping Springs State Park and Okmulgee Wildlife Management Area.

The Oklahoma Biological Survey hosts the event and is partnered by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation, the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, the Oklahoma City Zoo and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Hunter ed classes abound during the second week in October

It may be hard to believe, but the fall season is here and in Oklahoma that means the fall hunting seasons will soon open in full force across the state. The cool winds and impending openers have new and old hunters alike finalizing plans, making last minute purchases and looking for a hunter education course.

"If you have been meaning to complete a hunter education course, but just haven’t got around to it, then you will want to check all the different courses available during the second week in October," said Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "There is about 20 different classes that week, but this time of year classes can fill up fast, so I would suggest enrolling in the next class you can."

Whether you live in Fairview in northwest Oklahoma or in Colbert in southern Oklahoma there are classes available. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation offers classes all across the state throughout the year, and the best thing is they are absolutely free.

"Parents will also want to remember that this will be just about the last chance to take their kids to a hunter education course before the new special youth antlerless deer gun season which runs Oct.17-19," Meek added.

For a complete list of hunter education classes, sportsmen can call the Department's hunter education hotline 24 hours a day at (405) 521-4650 or log onto the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

Oklahoma law requires 10 hours of hunter education and anyone under 16 years of age must successfully complete a hunter education course before hunting big game (deer, elk, antelope) during the primitive firearm or gun seasons. The law also requires that anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1972, upon reaching 16 years of age, must exhibit a hunter safety certificate from the Wildlife Department or a like certificate from another state to purchase or receive any Oklahoma hunting license. Once students are certified they are eligible to hunt anywhere in the nation.

Hunters born after the above date, who purchased a lifetime license before they turned 16, must carry their hunter safety certification or proof of exemption with them while in the field. Hunters should pick up a copy of the "2003 Oklahoma Hunting Guide" for complete information on hunting seasons and hunter education requirements.

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Wildlife Commission approves new position in southeast Oklahoma

Many hands make for light work. If that’s true, the work should be just a bit lighter in southeast Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Wildlife Commission approved a new wildlife technician position for the Red Slough and Grassy Slough wildlife management areas. Both are located in extreme southeast Oklahoma in McCurtain County, Red Slough covers 7,800 acres and is one of the Department’s newest and most popular wildlife management areas. Grassy Slough covers nearly 700 acres and is located just a few miles northwest of Red Slough. The new technician will assist with maintaining and improving the wildlife habitat on the areas. The new position is made possible entirely through grants and donations from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Ducks Unlimited. The Natural Resources Conservation Service has pledged $31,000 annually and Ducks Unlimited has pledged $15,000 annually to the position. The position will be contingent on the funds continuing.

Also at the October meeting, the Commission was presented, but took no action on a proposal for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and Weyerhaeuser Company to enter into a cooperative agreement to create a new public use area in southern McCurtain County.

Under the proposal Weyerhaeuser Company officials presented, an 11,785-acre wildlife management area would be created that would function similarly to the 450,000-acre Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The property is in an area of McCurtain County near Bokhoma and is located near the Department’s Red Slough Wildlife Management Area.

“Weyerhaeuser has the Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area in the central part of McCurtain County, but we wanted to provide more public access in southern McCurtain County. A second cooperative agreement with the Wildlife Department was the logical choice,” said Jimmy Wade Tucker, Weyerhaeuser Company representative. “We’ve had a solid working relationship with the Department on Three Rivers WMA for nearly five years and believe this new area would build on that."

The Three Rivers WMA, which is owned by Weyerhaeuser and covers about 90 percent of Weyerhaeuser’s Oklahoma holdings, is made available for hunting, fishing and other forms of public recreation through a cooperative agreement with the Wildlife Department. Under that agreement, resident sportsman pay $16 annually and can use either Three River’s 450,000 acres or some 175,000 acres of timberland in Pushmataha and LeFlore counties, known as Honobia Creek Wildlife Management Area, which is owned by John Hancock Timber Resources Group.

If a cooperative agreement were reached, sportsmen would be able to access all three areas with the same land access permit. The Wildlife Department would use the land access permit revenues to increase fish and wildlife habitat management on the new property, as it has on both Three Rivers and Honobia Creek. Weyerhaeuser officials would like the agreement to be in effect by Jan. 1, 2004.

In other business, Beckham County rancher Verline Chervenka was named the Wildlife Department’s 2003 Landowner of the Year. Over the years Chervenka has participated in numerous programs and efforts aimed at improving wildlife habitat on his 1,200-acre ranch in western Oklahoma.

“Verline’s ranch is unique in the fact that he manages as much for wildlife as he does for agriculture. His operation is evidence that ranching and wildlife can work hand in hand,” said Mike Sams, upland bird biologist for the Wildlife Department.

Chervenka’s wildlife habitat work includes removing Eastern red cedar, excluding cattle access to areas along creeks and creating a 20-acre wetland.

The Commission also accepted a pair of donations from generous Oklahoma sportsmen. Roger Hall with the Northern Oklahoma Chapter of Buckmasters of America Deer Foundation presented the Commission with a 12-gauge over/under shotgun. The gun will be used in the Department’s Shotgun Training Education Program which introduces new shooters, especially youth, to shotgun shooting and safe gun handling.

“We appreciate the Department’s efforts in introducing youngsters to hunting and we wanted to help do what we can to pass on our outdoor heritage to the next generation,” Hall said.

The Commission also accepted a donation of $1,000 from Dr. Doug Hill, Dr. Jim Drake and David Lee. The donation will be used to purchase a decoy deer that will be used by game wardens in eastcentral Oklahoma.

Also at their October meeting, Commissioners recognized 11 different Department employees who have served at least 20 years each.

“These individuals are a good representation of the many great employees that serve with the Wildlife Department. Their commitment to the sportsmen, as well as to the communities in which they live is truly outstanding,” said Greg Duffy, director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

The following employees were recognized for their service to the Department:

In housekeeping business, the Commission heard a presentation from Assistant Attorney General Gretchen Zumwalt-Smith regarding the Open Meeting Act and the Open Records Act. The Attorney General’s office is in the process of presenting the information to all state agencies.

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.

The next scheduled Commission meeting is November 3 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters (auditorium), at the southwest corner of 18th and North Lincoln, Oklahoma City at 9:00 a.m.

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First annual special youth deer season opens Oct. 17-19

Still haven't figured out what to do with the family over fall break? How about going deer hunting!

The special youth antlerless deer gun season, which will be held October 17-19, offers families a great opportunity to enjoy a weekend in the great outdoors. The inaugural season also falls on the same weekend as many school districts’ Fall Breaks.

The annual Fall Breaks of many public schools across the state, including both Oklahoma City and Tulsa, are scheduled during the third week in October. This provides parents and other hunters the perfect opportunity to share their love of hunting with a child.

Open to kids under 18 years of age, the special youth antlerless deer gun season was created to encourage youth to head afield and to provide additional opportunities to harvest antlerless deer. Participating youth are required to be accompanied by a non-hunting adult partner at least 18 years of age.

For complete season dates and other regulations, pick up a copy of the “2003 Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or log onto wildlifedepartment.com.

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Archery season off to a successful start

There is not any real rush. Oklahoma archery hunters have plenty of time to head to the woods, in fact they have over three full months. But at least one hunter wasn’t going to waste any time.

“I laid in bed with my eyes wide open all most the whole night before opening day of the season,” said Chad Hane, and avid bowhunter who resides in Payne County.

Hane had good reason for his bout of insomnia - he had spotted not one, but four nice bucks near his hunting location.

“I got to my stand more than an hour before light,” Hane said. “I was just fortunate to be in the right place at the right time when a nice buck came by.”

“Nice” may be a bit of an understatement. One of the first deer harvested in 2003, Hane’s buck will likely go in the record book as one of the top ten Cy Curtis deer in Oklahoma.

The Cy Curtis Award, named in honor of the man most responsible for the restoration of white-tailed deer in Oklahoma, was established in 1975 to recognize trophy deer taken throughout the state. Sportsmen who harvest deer that meet minimum entry requirements (a score of 135) are acknowledged by receiving a certificate as well as having their names entered in the state record book.

Hane’s buck had an incredible 29 total antler points and measured an impressive 27 1/8 inch in the inside spread. The initial green score measured 223 inches. An official score can be taken after a 60-day drying period. The trophy buck tipped the scales at 202 pounds.

Hane may have already taken a trophy buck this archery season, but there is plenty of time for Oklahoma hunters to get their own deer of a lifetime. The deer archery season opened Oct. 1 and runs to Jan. 15, allowing more than 100 days of hunting. During the 2002 archery deer seasons, Oklahoma bowhunters enjoyed their best season ever, harvesting a record 14,278 deer. The archery harvest contributed 14 percent of the total deer harvest.

Before heading afield, hunters will want to be sure to pick up a copy of the “2003 Oklahoma Hunting Guide" available at all license dealer locations.

Hunters can also find updated check station locations, antlerless dates and zones, and a wealth of other information in the “2003 Oklahoma Hunting Guide,” or by logging on to the Department's Web page at wildlifedepartment.com.

For more information on the Cy Curtis Program, contact the Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Division at (405) 521-2739.

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Editor’s note: Below is a link for an accompanying photo that is 300 DPI and intended for newspaper publication. The ending link is .jpg for the photo. The photo will open in your browser. If you have a pc you should be able to right click, save picture as, choose the file type you want to save as and click save. The other way is on file in toolbar, save picture as, choosing the file type you want to save as and click save.

Hunters anticipating upcoming muzzleloading season

The brilliant fall colors and the cool winds of late October means there is one thing on the minds of most Oklahoma hunters - muzzleloader deer season.

Hunting with a muzzleloading firearm is a great opportunity for Oklahoma hunters to harvest a deer and it is a great time to be out in the woods as well, at least according to Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

“Although we just about got rained out last year, generally speaking, the weather is pretty nice during muzzleloader season,” Shaw said. “It’s just a great time to get outdoors and the deer are becoming more active as the temperatures cool down.”

The statewide muzzleloader season runs Oct. 25-Nov. 2, offering nine days of traditional-style hunting that harkens back to the early days of Oklahoma's hunting heritage.

According to Shaw, hunters may want to concentrate their efforts around deer feeding areas such as acorns and other natural foods.

Over 113,000 hunters participated in the muzzleloader season last year. These hunters contributed significantly to the $909 million economic impact produced by all of Oklahoma's nearly 300,000 hunters according to a recent survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

For specific information regarding licenses, bag limits, blaze orange clothing requirements or legal firearms, consult the "2003 Oklahoma Hunting Guide" or log onto www.wildlifedepartment.com.

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Oklahoma waterfowl stamps available

Waterfowl hunters who have been re-rigging their decoys and exercising their retrievers in preparation for the upcoming waterfowl seasons will also want to pick up a new Oklahoma waterfowl stamp. One of the most beautiful ducks in North America, the wood duck, appears on the 2003 Oklahoma Waterfowl Stamp.

"Over the years the duck stamp program has been very successful. Oklahoma waterfowlers have benefited greatly from the duck stamp program," said Alan Stacey, wetland development biologist for the Wildlife Department. "Through the program, critical funds have been generated to establish and maintain 40 wetland development units across the state. Not only do these areas provide resting habitat for migrating waterfowl, but they provide habitat for a host of other species such as wading birds and small mammals."

Mark Anderson of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, painted this year’s winning duck print.

The Oklahoma duck stamp program was designed to ensure quality habitat for the hundreds of thousands of ducks and geese that migrate through the state. The program, which began in 1980, features portraits of the state’s diverse waterfowl species by the nation’s best artists.

The program generates funding for waterfowl conservation projects through the sale of waterfowl licenses, which are required of waterfowl hunters, and stamp sales, many of which are purchased by collectors. The program has helped purchase 11,675 wetland acres and enhance, create, restore and maintain thousands of additional acres of critical waterfowl habitat. Wetland development units such as Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area in southwest Oklahoma and the Red Slough Wildlife Management Area in McCurtain County, have benefited from duck stamp funds.

A selection of the winning waterfowl stamp art from previous years is currently on display for the public in the lobby of the Wildlife Department headquarters located at 1801 N. Lincoln, in Oklahoma City.

To participate in the upcoming Oklahoma waterfowl season, hunters need a resident or non-resident Oklahoma hunting license, a $10 Oklahoma waterfowl stamp, a federal duck stamp and a $3 Harvest Information Program (HIP) permit available from any license dealer. For complete regulations, consult the “2003 Oklahoma Waterfowl Hunting Guide" or log onto www.wildlifedepartment.com.

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Special controlled waterfowl hunts offered to youth

Oklahoma youngsters have a few more days to apply for special guided waterfowl hunts sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The deadline for the special controlled hunts has recently been extended to October 31 and is open to youths ages 12 to 15.

A total of 14 hunts will be offered, each designed to provide youth who do not have an adult mentor who waterfowl hunts an opportunity to learn and enjoy the traditions of waterfowling.

Youth hunters will be randomly drawn from a list of applicants for each area where a hunt will be held. Applicants must be 12 to 15 years of age, have proof of successfully completing a certified hunter education course, and have an adult guardian who can accompany them on the hunt.

A Wildlife Department employee will accompany each youth and their adult guardian on a controlled waterfowl hunt at one of several Department-managed areas. Only the youth hunter will be allowed to hunt.

Each youth applicant and their guardian may apply only once and must provide the following information on a 3x5 postcard to be eligible for the drawing: names, addresses, telephone numbers, youth’s hunter education number, and the name of the desired hunt location and two alternate hunt locations where they would like to hunt. The scheduled date of the hunt will be coordinated with successful applicants after the drawing. Applicants may apply only once and should specify the primary hunt area desired and two alternate locations.

Applications must be received by Oct. 31 and should be mailed to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Youth Waterfowl Hunts, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152. Successful applicants will be notified by Nov. 14.

The Wildlife Department will provide successful applicants the necessary nontoxic shotgun shells and a 20 gauge single shot shotgun will be available for use if the youth does not have his or her own shotgun.

The following is a list of the scheduled hunt locations.

2003 Youth Waterfowl Hunting Locations:

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Hunters are up a tree

With deer hunting in full swing across the state, many Oklahomans can be found high in a tree during their spare time. Lance Meek wants them to stay up there - at least until they are ready to come down.

“Hunting out of a tree stand can be a fun and effective way to hunt deer, but we want to remind everyone to take a few safety precautions when using a tree stand,” said Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Meek and his small army of volunteers spend their weekends conducting hunter education classes. At these clinics young and old students alike learn about safe gun handling, hunter ethics, wildlife identification - and tree stand safety.

“That is one of the things we have been emphasizing over the past few years,” Meek said. “Just about every tree stand accident can be prevented by following a few simple safety rules.”

Meek offered the following rules for hunters, whether they have been using a tree stand for years or they will taking their first trip up to a tree stand this season,

  • Be particularly careful climbing up into and down from tree stands.
  • “This is where many of the accidents happen,” Meek said. “Take your time and don’t get in a rush. Make sure you have firm holding points and foot points.”

  • Once you get into the stand, always wear a safety belt.
  • “Good safety belts only cost about $10 - that’s cheap insurance to know that you will be protected if you happen to slip,” Meek said.

  • Make sure your stand is attached securely.
  • “Whether it is a portable climbing stand or a ladder tree stand it is important to check and double check all the fittings and supports on your stand,” Meek said. “Hunters need to be especially careful with homemade tree stands. In fact, I would not recommend using one at all.”

  • Use a rope or haul line to raise and lower you bow or unloaded gun.
  • “When climbing up and down out of tree stand you need to be focused on the task at hand - not trying to hold on to your gun or bow at the same time. Using a haul rope will leave your hands free to climb the tree.”

    For a complete list of hunter education classes, sportsmen can call the Department's hunter education hotline 24 hours a day at (405) 521-4650 or log onto the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com. Hunters should pick up a copy of the "2003 Oklahoma Hunting Guide" for complete information on hunting seasons and hunter education requirements.

    Survey shows quail numbers up in northwest and southwest Oklahoma

    One of the state's most popular game bird species, the bobwhite quail, appears to be in good shape going into this fall. Annual surveys conducted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation show a statewide increase of 17 percent over the previous 13-year average.

    The increase can be attributed solely to the northwest and southwest regions, which reported increases over the average of 21 percent and 68 percent respectively. All other regions reported numbers lower than the 13-year average. The statewide 2003 index, however, increased nine percent over 2002.

    "We’re hearing good reports from landowners and biologists from across the state, so I am pretty optimistic about the upcoming quail season," said Mike Sams, upland bird biologist for the Department. “The survey shows significant increases across the western half of the state. The quail numbers we are seeing in the western part of the state are a reflection of good weather and large-scale habitat.

    Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation biologists have conducted the roadside surveys during both August and October for the past 14 years. The surveys, which consist of 20-mile routes, give biologists an estimate of quail abundance. Observers count the number of quail seen to provide an index of quail abundance and reproductive success. There are 83 routes with at least one route in every county except for Tulsa and Oklahoma counties.

    Running Nov. 8 through Feb.15, quail season is much anticipated both by Oklahomans and non-residents. 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 and to see the complete survey, log onto wildlifedepartment.com.

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    Sandhill cranes offer unique hunting experience

    With a dagger for a bill, stilts for legs and a wingspan nearly seven feet wide, the sandhill crane is certainly one of the most spectacular game birds in Oklahoma or in the country for that matter.

    “I consider sandhill cranes one of the top game birds anywhere,” said Mike O’Meilia, migratory game bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “There is really not anything like sandhill crane hunting, and we have some great opportunities for hunters in this state.”

    Sandhill cranes migrate through the central United States from their breeding grounds in Siberia, Alaska and Canada to their wintering grounds in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico. As the cranes migrate south, they typically stop in western Oklahoma for a couple of weeks in October and November with varying numbers remaining to over winter here.

    Hunters often attempt to harvest cranes with pass shooting techniques, but decoying the birds can also be effective. Those hunters willing to work at locating a feeding field and set up for them with decoys are often more successful, according to O’Meilia. He added that the key to a successful sandhill crane hunt is advanced scouting.

    Successful hunters are not only rewarded with a trophy game bird, but also a great addition to the dinner table. Sandhill cranes didn’t earn nicknames like "the prime rib of game birds” or “ribeye in the sky" by accident.

    Crane season runs from Oct. 25 through January 25 in Oklahoma (west of I-35 only). The daily bag limit on sandhill cranes is three with a possession limit of six birds.

    All sandhill crane hunters, including lifetime license holders, must purchase a $3 federal sandhill crane permit. Although state and federal waterfowl stamps are not required, hunters must also possess a valid Harvest Information Program (HIP) Permit. Hip permits are available at all license dealers. Each year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service selects a sample of crane permit holders from each state to answer a mailed harvest survey about their participation and hunting success. This information is critical to determine specific state level harvest and distribution in order to carefully regulate sport hunting take of this important migratory game bird.

    “The sandhill crane harvest survey is one of several tools essential to manage this great game bird,” O’Meilia added. “Sandhill cranes have been hunted in the Central Flyway since the 1960s and the mid-continent population continues to flourish. We can thank our hunters for supporting this effort and also contributing to funding the spring survey on the Platte River in Nebraska that annually tracks the population status.”

    O’Meilia added that sandhill crane hunters should also be on the lookout for whooping cranes as whooping cranes occasionally mix with sandhill cranes during migration. Whooping cranes are easily differentiated from sandhill cranes by three basic characteristics. First, whooping cranes are bold white in color where as sandhill cranes are light gray in color. Second, whooping cranes are considerably larger in size (they are the tallest North American bird). And third, whooping cranes have black tips on their wing feathers, whereas sandhill crane’s wings are uniform in color.

    For more information about sandhill crane hunting and to see pictures of both sandhill and whooping cranes, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

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    Outdoor prizes to be awarded to top state teacher and student writers

    Students and teachers are running out of time to enter to win a guided antelope hunt in New Mexico and a scholarship to the American Wilderness Leadership school in Wyoming. Entries must be postmarked by November 14 to be eligible.

    The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) and Oklahoma Station Chapter Safari Club International (OSCSCI) are looking to reward the top students and teacher through a youth writing contest and a conservation education leadership scholarship for teachers.

    Students aged 11-17 are eligible to enter the writing competition. Two winning essays (one boy and one girl) will be selected in an 11-14-age category, and two winners (one boy and one girl) will also be selected from youth aged 15-17.

    Students in the 11-14 age category are competing for an all expense paid trip to the Apprentice Hunter Program at the YO Ranch in Mountain Home, Texas. The Safari Club International’s Apprentice Hunters’ Program is a unique, hands-on experience which covers a wide range of topics including; the history of hunting, the ethical basis of modern sport hunting, wildlife management, field identification, and wild game cooking. There are three sessions, each one-week long, during the summer of 2004. The Oklahoma Station Chapter Safari Club International will provide travel reimbursements to attend the weeklong course.

    Winners in the 15-17-age category will receive an all-expense-paid guided antelope hunt in New Mexico. Winners in this category must comply with all requirements of New Mexico game laws for the 2004 hunting season. Funding for the trips is provided by the Oklahoma Station Chapter Safari Club International.

    Students aren’t the only ones eligible to win. A conservation education scholarship is also available for educators. One teacher will be awarded an all-expenses-paid scholarship for an eight-day conservation education school at Safari Club International’s American Wilderness Leadership School (AWLS) at Granite Ranch near Jackson, Wyoming.

    The AWLS program is conducted during the summer and presents an outdoor program for educators, which concentrates on natural resource management. Participants learn about stream ecology, map and compass, language arts and creative writing in an outdoor setting, fly tying, shooting sports, wildlife management, the Yellowstone ecosystem, camping, white-water rafting, educational resources, and how to implement outdoor education ideas. Lodging, meals and training materials will be provided by Oklahoma Station Chapter Safari Club International. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will cover transportation to Jackson, Wyoming.

    Both the essay contest rules and scholarship applications are available from the Department's Web site www.wildlifedepartment.com. Essays and applications must be postmarked no later than Nov. 14, 2003, or delivered by 5:00 p.m. Nov. 14, 2003, in person to the Department of Wildlife’s Jenks Office at 201 Aquarium Drive, in Jenks. Address entries to: Essay Contest, Education Section Supervisor, ODWC Jenks Office, PO Box 1201, Jenks, OK 74037.

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    Kids and adults alike enjoy first annual youth antlerless deer hunt

    There is nothing quite like the feeling of successfully harvesting a deer. But after last weekend, hundreds of dads, grandpas and uncles across Oklahoma will tell you there is something even better - seeing the smile on a kid’s face after they have taken their first deer.

    “It’s really special to see the kids get so excited,” said Colin Berg, education supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Berg accompanied his own step-son, Corbin Craycraft, on his first deer hunt during the first youth antlerless deer season which was held Oct.17-19.

    “The hunt was a great opportunity to spend time together,” Berg said. “Now Corbin is ready to go out again during the upcoming deer gun season.”

    Open to kids under 18 years of age, the special youth antlerless deer gun season was created to encourage youth to head afield and to provide additional opportunities to harvest antlerless deer.

    Jay Harvey, state game warden working in Choctaw and Bryan counties, reported that the youth antlerless deer season seemed to be a big success in southeast Oklahoma.

    “Participation seemed to be pretty high,” Harvey said. “There were a lot of dads, grandpas, and of course kids, out enjoying the hunt and taking advantage of the great weather we had. The fact the hunt coincided with many schools’ fall breaks made it that much easier for kids to participate.”

    For information about upcoming deer seasons, pick up a copy of the “2003 Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or log onto wildlifedepartment.com.

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    Trout areas offer winter fishing opportunities

    While many Oklahoma sportsmen may be making last minute preparations for the upcoming hunting seasons, it’s not time to put away the fishing rods yet.

    Beginning Nov. 1, trout season opens at the six designated winter trout areas managed by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. From the panhandle to southeast Oklahoma, these fisheries provide trout fishing in areas where warm water temperatures are not suitable for trout during the summer. They are stocked regularly with catchable size rainbow trout and are very popular with anglers all over the state, said Barry Bolton, assistant chief of fisheries for the Department.

    "The fall and winter is a great time to go out and try trout fishing," Bolton said. "These winter trout fisheries provide additional opportunities for anglers to enjoy all winter long."

    Savvy anglers can find maps, fishing tips and even up-to-date trout stocking schedules on the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's official Web site, www.wildlifedepartment.com.

    "The trout stocking schedules have proven to be a popular service," Bolton said. “We have always tried to provide anglers with the information they need to make their time outdoors as enjoyable as possible.”

    However, Bolton noted, anglers need to be aware that trout stockings are subject to change without notice due to circumstances beyond the Department’s control.

    Once logged on the Fishing page within the Department's Web site, choose “Trout Areas” then "Stocking Schedule" for the complete schedule.

    To fish for trout in Oklahoma, anglers need either a resident or non-resident fishing license, as well as a trout license, which costs $10. Youth trout licenses are available for just $5. There are no exemptions from purchasing the trout license. Before going, check the “2003 Oklahoma Fishing Guide” for complete regulations, as well as maps and additional information for each area.

    Winter trout fishing areas:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    *****Photo*****Editor’s note: Below is a link for an accompanying photo that is 300 DPI and intended for newspaper publication. The ending link is .jpg for the photo. The photo will open in your browser. If you have a pc you should be able to right click, save picture as, choose the file type you want to save as and click save. The other way is on file in toolbar, save picture as, choosing the file type you want to save as and click save. Images can be viewed with the article at http://www.wildlifedepartment.com.

    Cutline: There is nothing quite like the satisfaction of catching a beautiful rainbow trout. As an added bonus, Oklahoma’s trout areas are located in some of the most scenic parts of the state.

    Cutline: Fly fishing often offers anglers the chance to enjoy the river in solitude, like this angler on the Lower Mountain Fork River.

    Waterfowl hunters looking forward to upcoming season

    If you see a waterfowl hunter with his eyes to the skies in coming weeks - don’t be too surprised. This is the time of the year when ducks and geese begin to slowly filter down to Oklahoma from their breeding grounds in the north.

    According to Mike O’Meilia, migratory game bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, waterfowl hunters have reason to be looking up regarding the upcoming waterfowl seasons.

    “The main difference between this year and last is in the amount of duck production,” O’Meilia said. “With a wet spring and good nesting cover, all indications point to a very successful reproduction year for ducks and geese in the north-central United States and up into Canada.”

    But according to O’Meilia, there is more that goes into a great waterfowl season than just good numbers of birds.

    “You can never underestimate weather when it comes to waterfowl,” O’Meilia said.

    Weather is so important for two reasons. First, bitter winter weather to the north will require ducks and geese to move south in search of open water and food.

    “If snow and freezing temperatures force the birds to come south, it should be another great season,” O’Meilia said. "Our hunting will get better when it gets a lot colder up north. But, there will be some good hunting on opening day for those willing to go out and find the ducks."

    Second, good rains and quality waterfowl habitat in the state mean that ducks and geese will stick around once they get here.

    “We have had several good rains throughout the summer and early fall so the waterfowl habitat is in pretty good shape across much of the state,” O’Meilia said. “However, there are still areas such as Lake Eufaula and Texoma that need a significant rain in order to get the water levels up to where they need to be for waterfowl.”

    The 2002-2003 Oklahoma waterfowl dates and bag limits remain essentially the same as the last few years with one notable difference. A shortened season of 39 days will be allowed by federal framework on both pintails and canvasbacks in Oklahoma and throughout the Central Flyway.

    “Hunters should read the regulations to make sure that the pintail and canvasback seasons are open in the area they are hunting in,” O’Meilia said. “They should also take special care in identifying ducks especially during the early portion of the season when drake pintails may not yet be in their full winter plumage.”

    Waterfowl hunters should be sure to pick up a new state waterfowl license and a federal waterfowl stamp, along with a Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP) Permit before the season begins. The $3 HIP permits are required of all migratory bird hunters in the United States. Data collected from the surveys helps state and federal migratory bird biologists better gauge bird harvests and hunter numbers, which is used to improve migratory bird management, including increased hunting opportunity.

    For complete details regarding regulations and season dates see the “2003 Oklahoma Waterfowl Hunting Guide” available at hunting license vendors or log on to wildlifedepartment.com

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    Cutline: Waterfowl hunters anxiously await cooler temperatures each fall when north winds bring ducks and geese to Oklahoma.

    Cutline: A drake mallard is a true prize in any waterfowl hunters bag. In Oklahoma, 81,000 migratory bird hunters head to the fields and wetlands each fall.

    Department to hold firearm auction

    Looking for a deal on a firearm? If so, you will want to head out to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s surplus firearm auction. The auction is open only to bidders who possess a Federal Firearms License and will be held Thursday, November 6, at 6 p.m. at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters in Oklahoma City.

    “There is a wide variety of rifles and shotguns that sell to the highest bidder,” said Dennis Maxwell, law enforcement assistant chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “All items are going to sell as is.”

    More than 100 firearms, including some which were confiscated by law enforcement officials will be available for bid. Other firearms are surplus guns formerly used by the hunter education program. A variety of guns will be up for bid at the event, from 20 gauge shotguns to .308 caliber rifles and much more.

    For more information about the auction call (405) 521-4600 or for a complete list of auction items, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

    Bidders must provide a copy of their Federal Firearms License and proper identification to register. The sale will start promptly at 6:00 p.m. at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, located on the southwest corner of NE 18th and Lincoln, two blocks south of the state capitol. Items may be inspected Nov. 6 after 3:00 p.m.

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    Whooping crane fall migration underway

    One of Oklahoma’s rarest birds - the whooping crane - is making its annual fall journey through our state.

    “The last week of October and first week of November are normally the peak weeks of the crane’s fall migration in the Southern Plains” said Mark Howery, natural resources biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “Approximately 210 whooping cranes are en route to their wintering grounds along the Texas coast, after just leaving their nesting grounds in the bogs and marshes of northern Canada a few weeks ago.”

    The whooping crane is a large white wading bird that once occupied large wetland complexes in the prairie pothole and boreal plains regions from North Dakota through Saskatchewan and northern Alberta. Several small non-migratory populations of whooping cranes once lived along the Gulf Coast in Texas, Louisiana and Florida. Though never common in historic times, the whooping crane’s numbers declined substantially during the 1800s as a result of human population expansion into and agricultural development of their wetland habitat. By the early 1900s, the whooping crane had been reduced to a few dozen birds that nested in the remote wetlands along the Alberta/Yukon border and wintered nearly 2,000 miles south near Corpus Christie, Texas. Conservation measures such as the protection of the crane's breeding and wintering habitats have helped this small population to grow nearly twelve fold during the past 60 years.

    “The 2003 nesting season was a record breaking success with 28 chicks being successfully reared by 28 different pairs,” said Howery. “These young birds are migrating south with the adult birds and might be seen by lucky observers in Oklahoma over the next few weeks.”

    The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are seeking reports of whooping crane sightings from the public.

    “If anyone spots a whooping crane this fall, we would like for them to contact us by calling (405) 521-4616,” Howery said. “We would like information such as the date, time and approximate location that the birds were seen, as well as the habitat they were using and the number of birds observed. This data are being collected as part of the effort to monitor the progress of migrating cranes and to help identify important habitats and stopover points along their migration route.”

    Whooping cranes typically migrate in small groups of one to six birds. They are frequently seen in shallow wetlands, marshes, flooded pastures and fallow crop fields in the western half of the state. Whooping cranes can be identified by a combination of characteristics: their large size (they are the tallest North American bird), bold white plumage, black tips on their wing feathers, red and black markings on their heads, and long necks and legs. While in flight, a whooping crane’s neck is extended straight in front of its body and its long legs are visible beyond the length of its tail feathers. Despite their distinctive appearance, they are often confused with white pelicans, snow geese and great egrets at this time of year.

    For those interested in learning more about the whooping crane, a free brochure is available by calling the number above or by writing to the Wildlife Diversity Program of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, PO Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152.

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