SEPTEMBER 2004 NEWS RELEASES
WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 30, 2004
WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 23, 2004
WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 16, 2004
WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 9, 2004
WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 2, 2004
First waterfowl seasons just days away
The long wait is nearly over. Oklahoma waterfowlers across Oklahoma have September 11 circled on their calendars.
“We’ve already been hearing some good reports of teal beginning to move through,” said Mike O’Meilia, migratory game bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
Bluewing and greenwing teal are the first ducks to migrate through Oklahoma each fall and a little scouting can go a long way in improving your hunting success.
“We’ve gotten quite a bit of rain this summer, so many of our wetlands are in great shape throughout the state. It should be a great season, but the important thing is to get out there and go,” O’Meilia said.
Teal prefer shallow water and rely on tender vegetation to provide fuel for their long journey. Large migrations can occur through the state as the days grow shorter and northern cool fronts give hunters the first taste of fall. Hunters will have the opportunity to pursue the small birds September 11-19 as they migrate southward on their traditional journey to wintering grounds in Mexico and Central and South America. Many teal are also available for harvest in later waterfowl seasons.
As an added bonus, the resident goose season (Sept. 11-20) opens the same day as teal season. Sportsmen in the right place could have the chance at bagging both species in Oklahoma, all in the same day.
Flocks of localized non-migratory Canada geese can be found in many areas throughout the state and for the past four years sportsmen have had the opportunity to harvest the big birds. Sportsmen will meet with more success if they spend some time scouting and patterning the birds’ movements before the hunt. Many localized flocks of Canada geese frequent municipal water supply reservoirs, golf course ponds and other water bodies within city limits, so hunters should check with municipal authorities for information regarding lands open to hunting.
To participate in the fall teal or resident goose season, you need a resident or non-resident Oklahoma hunting license, an Oklahoma waterfowl hunting stamp, a federal duck stamp and a Harvest Information Program (HIP) permit available free at www.wildifedepartment.com or available for $3.00 from any license dealer. For complete regulations, consult the “2004-05 Oklahoma Hunting Guide" or log ontowww.wildlifedepartment.com.
Oklahoma Aquarium offers discounts for hunters and anglers
It pays to be a hunter or angler - at least it does at the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks.
Hunters and anglers who show their Oklahoma hunting or fishing license at the Aquarium will receive $2 off the regular admission price every Tuesday through the end of the year.
The Aquarium is quickly gaining a reputation as a top destination spot in northeast Oklahoma. The Aquarium, located along the bank of the Arkansas River in Jenks, features 200 exhibits, including a 400,000-gallon shark tank. The facility also showcases many of Oklahoma's native fish species, including the current state record flathead catfish.
Anglers will want to be sure to visit the Karl and Beverly White National Fishing Tackle Museum located at the Aquarium. The Museum houses an historic collection of over 20,000 antique lures and tackle pieces. The $4 million collection is the most complete and comprehensive collections of vintage fishing tackle in existence.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Tulsa-area offices are located at the Aquarium complex.
“We encourage everyone who comes by the Aquarium to stop in and see us,” said Colin Berg, education supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “Visitors can stop in and pick up a Hunting Guide, buy a fishing license or find out about other Department services.”
For more information about the Oklahoma Aquarium call (918) 296-FISH (3474), or go to their Web site at www.okaquarium.org
The Oklahoma Aquarium is open daily 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Tuesdays until 9:00 p.m. General Admission prices are $12.95 for adults, $10.95 for seniors and military (I.D. required) and $8.95 for youth (ages 3-12). Children under three are admitted free.
Department schedules pre-employment exam
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will hold a standardized pre-employment examination Friday, Sept. 24, at the Tom Steed Development Center Auditorium at Rose State College.
The exam is for individuals seeking employment as fisheries or wildlife biologists, game wardens, hatchery managers, technicians and information and education specialists. It will cover state and federal wildlife laws and regulations, Oklahoma geography, biological and environmental sciences relating to fish and wildlife, environmental education and journalism.
Individuals may take the exam once in a 12-month period, and test scores are valid for 12 months from the test date. Applications for employment will be sent to individuals with the top 25 scores. Taking the exam does not guarantee employment, nor does the exam necessarily indicate the Department currently has openings. Interviews will be scheduled only when an opening is available.
The Tom Steed Development Center Auditorium is north of Interstate 40 at the intersection of I-40 and Hudiburg Rd. in Midwest City. The doors will close promptly at 10 a.m. Those arriving after 10 a.m. will not be permitted to take the exam. The free exam is open to anyone who meets the education requirements for the tested positions.
For more information about the exam or hiring process, contact the Wildlife Department’s Human Resources office at (405) 521-4640 or check the Department's Web site atwww.wildlifedepartment.com
August quail roadside survey tabulated
Although roadside bobwhite quail surveys conducted in August showed a slight decrease of five percent over the 14-year average, all indications point to a good season for Oklahoma quail hunters.
"It’s been an unusual year. The spring was relatively warm and dry, but the summer was cool and wet. In fact, the high growth of vegetation made it difficult for biologists to see the quail on their surveys,” said Mike Sams, upland bird biologist for the Department. “The October counts should provide some more clarity about this fall's quail population. It is still early, but there is no reason right now for hunters not to have good expectations about the upcoming quail season."
Mild summers are often associated with good quail production which has been the common assertion of landowners and field biologists.
“Cover conditions are being reported as good to excellent across Oklahoma which might explain the modest survey results,” Sams said. “We have also had quite a few reports of late season hatches and results of the August survey generally don’t include quail broods that hatch late in the productive season. Veteran quail hunters know that a successful second hatch often determines the difference between an average and good quail season.”
Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation biologists have conducted the roadside surveys during both August and October for the past 15 years. The surveys, which consist of 20-mile routes, give biologists an index 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. 13, 2004 - Feb.15, 2005, quail season is one of the most popular events in the state, drawing hunters from all over the nation to enjoy some of America's finest bird hunting. For complete August roadside survey data, log onto www.wildlifedepartment.com.
Waterfowl season dates set at meeting
At its September meeting, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission approved 2004-2005 duck and goose hunting season dates and daily limits. The seasons and daily limits will be similar to last year, with most of the state enjoying a 74-day duck season and six-bird daily limit.
In zone 1 (most of northwest Oklahoma), the first split of the duck season will open Oct. 30 and run through Dec. 12, with the second split beginning Dec. 18 and running through Jan. 16, 2005. Youth waterfowl hunting days in zone 1 will be Oct. 23 and 24.
In zone 2, the duck season splits will be Nov. 13 through Dec. 12 and Dec. 18 through Jan. 30, 2005. Youth waterfowl hunting days in zone 2 will be Nov. 6 and 7.
Panhandle counties will offer the longest duck season. It will open Oct. 9 and close Jan. 12, 2005. Youth waterfowl dates for the panhandle will be Oct. 2 and 3.
The statewide Canada goose season will run from Nov. 6 through Dec. 12 and Dec. 18 through Feb. 13, 2005. The season for white-fronted geese will run Nov. 6 through Dec. 12 and Dec. 18 through Feb. 4, 2005. The regular season for light geese (snows, blues and Ross’) will run Nov. 6 through Dec. 12 and Dec. 18 through Feb. 13.
Hunters should consult the “2004-2005 Waterfowl Hunting Guide” for complete hunting regulations and license requirements. Waterfowl Guides will be available by Oct. 1 at hunting and fishing license dealers statewide or hunters can obtain complete regulation information from the Wildlife Department’s Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.
In other business, Commissioners received an update on fish and wildlife habitat improvements that have begun at Grand Lake. The Wildlife Department, the Grand River Dam Authority and the Oklahoma Water Resources Board recently began a three-year project to increase native aquatic vegetation in the lake as part of a federal order to make up for lost habitat when the lake was impounded decades ago and ongoing impacts of hydropower operations.
The aquatic vegetation project will cost $120,000 per year, and is only the first of many projects slated for the $2 million that has been earmarked for fish and wildlife habitat improvements at Grand Lake. A native plant nursery is being created at the Department’s Porter Office and more than a dozen species of native aquatic plants have been stocked at five sites in the Honey Creek and Horse Creek arms of the Lake.
Aquatic vegetation provides important cover for fish fry, allowing more fish to survive to catchable sizes. Native plants also provide important food sources for migrating waterfowl stabilize shoreline erosion and improve water quality.
The Wildlife Commission voted to advertise for sealed bids to lease mineral interests on two tracts of Department-owned land, one 40-acre tract in McIntosh County and one 11-acre tract in Atoka County.
Commissioners held their meeting at the newly constructed Durant State Fish Hatchery office in Caddo, Oklahoma. The largest of the Department’s four fish hatcheries, Durant has 83 fish culture ponds, two inter-linked water supply reservoirs totaling 100 acres and a new 4,300-sq. ft. office building constructed last fall.
The Durant Hatchery annually produces some 6 million fish and its main fish production program emphasizes Florida-strain largemouth bass, channel catfish and forage species used to feed larger brood fish. Fish from Durant are stocked statewide and have produced numerous state records, including the current state record largemouth bass, which weighed 14 pounds, 11 ounces, and was caught in 1999 at Broken Bow Lake.
The Commission’s next regular meeting will be Oct. 4 at the Wildlife Department’s headquarters in Oklahoma City.
The summer that never was
Each spring Oklahomans brace for the coming bone-dry heat of summer and last May it looked liked it was going to be a real doozy of a summer.
However, the summer we’ve come to expect never quite materialized. “It’s
probably going to get really hot and stop raining here in a couple of weeks,”
was the talk at cafes, co-ops and water coolers around the state. But it never
did get that hot and seemed liked it rained at least every other week.
And these aren’t the speculations of amateur meteorologists. The summer of 2004 was the fifth coolest and the 13th wettest summer on record according to the Oklahoma Climatological Survey which has been keeping track of such things since 1895.
With the exception of the agricultural community, there are not many more Oklahoma citizens who keep their eyes to the sky more than hunters and anglers.
“Of course, weather can play a big part in the state’s wildlife populations. You know a lot of times we focus on what the weather is on opening day of quail season, but in reality it’s the previous six months that play the biggest role in the state’s quail population,” said Alan Peoples, wildlife chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
According Peoples, the mild summer translates to abundant food and cover for wildlife.
“It would be hard to find something bad to say about this summer’s weather. It should be a good production year for quail and turkeys. Antler development and fawn growth should be good and many of the state’s wetlands are in great shape for migrating waterfowl this fall,” Peoples said.
Obviously, birds and mammals aren’t the only ones who have benefited.
“It’s been a good year for many of the state’s fish populations. High waters provide good nursery habitat for young fish and many of our farm ponds are fuller than they have been in years,” said Barry Bolton, assistant chief of fisheries for the Wildlife Department. “This summer has really been good for anglers too. There are some fisherman who would be out there if it was 110 degrees, but most of us prefer more mild temperatures and you would be hard-pressed to have picked a bad day to go fishing this summer.”
There is certainly no crystal ball to foresee what the weather will bring in the next few months, but Oklahoma’s inhabitants – both human and wild - have certainly enjoyed a fantastic summer.
Duck and goose hunters – mark your calendars
Dates have been set for Oklahoma's upcoming waterfowl season and waterfowl hunters across the state can look forward to another lengthy season.
Oklahoma's waterfowl season will remain essentially the same as last year. Many duck species experienced slight declines this year but are still above their long-term average, allowing for a liberal season and daily limits.
Duck Zone 1, which takes in most of northwest Oklahoma, will have a split season. The first half runs Oct. 30 - Dec. 12, and the second split runs Dec. 18 - Jan 16. Canvasback/pintail season will run from Oct. 30 to Dec. 7.
The rest of the state, except for the panhandle, is in Duck Zone 2, which will also have a split season. The first half runs Nov. 13 - Dec. 12, and the second half will run Dec. 18 - Jan. 30. The canvasback/pintail season will run from Dec. 23 to Jan. 30.
In the panhandle, the season will run continuously from Oct. 9 - Jan. 12. The canvasback/pintail season will run from Oct. 9 to Nov. 16.
Hunters will be allowed a daily limit of six ducks combined, no more than five of which can be mallards. Of those, only two mallards may be hens. Only three scaup, two wood ducks, two redheads may be included in the daily limit. There is a shortened season on pintails and canvasbacks with a daily limit of one pintail and one canvasback during the specified time period in each of the established duck seasons.
The Canada goose season will be split again this year with the first half running from Nov. 6 - Dec. 12, and the second split running from Dec. 18 - Feb. 13. The daily limit will be three birds. The split season on white-fronted geese will run Nov. 6 - Dec. 12, and Dec. 18 - Feb. 4. The daily limit will be two birds.
The season on light geese (snow, blue and Ross') will be split as well. The first split will run Nov. 6 - Dec. 12, and the second split will run Dec. 18 - Feb. 13. The daily limit will be 20 birds. Oklahoma hunters can also participate in the Conservation Order Light Goose Season (COLGS). This special hunting opportunity to help reduce overabundant light geese will occur Feb. 14 - March 31. There will be no daily or possession limits on snow, blue and Ross' geese and hunters planning on participating in the COLGS should register with the Department through wildlifedepartment.com.
Sandhill crane season will be from Oct. 30 – Jan. 30, west of I-35 only. The daily limit will be three birds.
Youth waterfowl hunting weekends will be offered in all zones this year. The youth waterfowl hunting weekend will be Oct. 23-24 in Zone I, Nov. 6-7 in Zone 2 and Oct. 2-3 in the panhandle.
Hunters can log on to www.wildlifedepartment.com to check out the latest wetland status reports. Once the season begins, periodic waterfowl reports are also available at the Department’s Web site.
Hunters who wish to participate in the waterfowl season must have a resident or non-resident hunting license, a 2004 Federal Duck Stamp, and unless exempt, a 2004 Oklahoma Waterfowl License and a Harvest Information Program Permit. The federal duck stamp costs $15 and is available at U.S. Post Offices. Hunters should also pick up a new Harvest Information Permit (HIP) the permits are available free of charge at wildlifedepartment.com or for $3 at license vendors across the state. Hunters pursuing sandhill cranes must also purchase a separate sandhill crane hunting permit,
For more specific information on rules and regulations regarding waterfowl hunting in Oklahoma, pick up a copy of the “2004-05 Oklahoma Waterfowl Hunting Guide.” The Guides will soon be available at Department installations or license vendors statewide or on the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.
Golden alga causes fish kill at Altus City Lake
Fisheries biologists have corralled a golden alga bloom at Altus City Lake – at least for now. A toxic bloom of the alga killed thousands of fish recently in a 22-acre portion of the southwestern Oklahoma municipal lake.
“Fortunately, the area was small enough and we were able to treat it and keep the golden alga from spreading and killing even more fish,” said Larry Cofer, southwest region fisheries supervisor for the Wildlife Department.
Golden alga has caused massive fish kills on Texas lakes in recent years and a minor fish kill on Lake Texoma late last spring. Blooms from the aquatic plant produce a toxin that is deadly to fish. It is not a health threat to humans, other wildlife or livestock.
In cooperation with the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality and officials from the Wildlife Department, City of Altus personnel treated the Altus City Lake with ammonium sulfate to hinder the spread of the golden alga. Fisheries biologists spread the chemical at a specific dose in order to kill the alga while minimizing the harm to fish.
“It looks like it has worked. The most recent water tests showed no golden algae in Altus City Lake, and our sampling showed that we saved quite a few fish. Now we just have to hope it doesn’t come back,” Cofer said. “Most importantly we were able to stop or at least slow down the spread of this dangerous alga. This treatment will also help us further our knowledge for possible future treatments in case it turns up in other small lakes.”
Water samples were taken from waters located both above and below the lake, according to Cofer. All tests came back negative except for a sample taken from the western portion of Altus City Lake. Altus City Lake actually has two reservoirs (22 acres and 100 acres) divided by a road.
Cofer along with other aquatic resource biologists from around the state are continuing to monitor the golden alga status in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Golden Alga Response Team (OGART) was formed to unify these efforts. Made up of a diverse group of state, federal and educational organizations, the Team is working to devise efficient and effective plans to respond to potential golden alga fish kills. The Team is also looking for proactive solutions to potential future golden alga blooms.
To learn more about golden alga log on to http://www.wildlifedepartment.com. The site includes a wide variety of information about harmful golden alga blooms, including scientific research updates, frequently asked questions and up-to-date news.
Anglers who observe fish dying in a particular area of an Oklahoma lake can report their observations to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Fisheries Division at (405) 521-3721.
Statewide meetings set to discuss quail program and season outlook
With quail season quickly approaching the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) will be holding public meetings to discuss efforts and future directions in restoring Oklahoma’s bobwhite quail.
“We are really excited about new landowner incentives to help restore bobwhite quail habitat,” said Mike Sams, upland game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “With greater financial support many landowners can now finally start executing habitat improvement plans and get the ball rolling toward on-the-ground restoration.”
While restoration efforts for deer, ducks and turkey have been largely successful, quail restoration presents a unique set of challenges. To date habitat restoration is the only means identified by science to provide long-term solutions to quail restoration. A variety of land-use trends have destroyed or isolated quail habitat throughout Oklahoma.
The ODWC is sponsoring the series of public meetings to inform landowners about several habitat incentive programs, including the Farm Bill’s new Bobwhite Buffers Initiative.
“We are excited about our new direction in quail restoration and will detail a variety of programs and efforts at these meetings,” said Sams. “Specifically, the Bobwhite Buffers Initiative will pay farmers an enrollment bonus, restoration cost and annual rental payments to restore native grass buffers around their agriculture fields. We will also outline the very latest scientific computer modeling that we will use to enhance restoration efforts.”
In addition, both hunters and landowners will also be able to hear a report on this year’s quail forecast. All meetings will run from 7-9 p.m.
Following is a list of scheduled meetings:
215 W. Broadway
Tulsa Tech, Riverside Campus
801 E. 91st Street
Teachers and students eligible to win hunts and great outdoor prizes
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) and Oklahoma Station Chapter Safari Club International (OSCSCI) are looking for Oklahoma’s top conservation minded students and teachers. Through a youth writing contest and teacher application, OSCSI and ODWC will reward a state teacher and several students with trips of a lifetime.
"There’s some really great prizes offered through this contest. In fact, I wish they had this contest when I was a kid,” said Colin Berg, education supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
The theme of the contest is “Hunting: Sharing the Heritage” and 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 ethical basis of modern sport hunting, wildlife management, field identification, and wild game cooking. 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. Funding for the trips, including a full shoulder taxidermy mount, is provided by the Oklahoma Station Chapter Safari Club International.
“Not only are there some great prizes, this contest offers teachers a innovative way to get students to write about two of the things they enjoy the most – their families and their hunting adventures,” Berg added.
The four statewide winners and their legal guardians will be invited to Oklahoma City to attend an awards ceremony in March. In addition, the top 25 essay entrants will receive a one-year youth membership to Safari Club International. The winning student essays will be published in the OSCSCI newsletter Safari Trails. Publication qualifies the winning entries for the National Youth Writing Contest sponsored by the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Several past winners have come from Oklahoma.
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 sitewww.wildlifedepartment.com. Essays and applications must be postmarked no later than Nov. 24, 2004, or delivered by 5:00 p.m. Nov. 24, 2004, 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.
Wetland status reports available on the Internet
Waterfowl seasons are quickly approaching and wetland status reports are now available on the Department’s Web site atwww.wildlifedepartment.com.
"We have had a relatively wet summer so many of our wetlands are in great shape across the state. Conditions can change quickly on these areas, but the reports should give people a good idea of the current status of the wetland," said Alan Stacey, wetland development biologist for the Department. "Hopefully, these reports will be a useful tool as they prepare for the upcoming waterfowl seasons."
Wetland development units are managed by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and are funded through sales of Oklahoma waterfowl licenses. Wetland status reports include the size of the area, the percent of the unit that is flooded, as well as forage conditions.
In addition, maps of the wetland development units, waterfowl hunting zone maps, waterfowl reports during the season and more are available on the Internet athttp://www.wildlifedepartment.com. For complete details pick up a copy of the "2004-2005 Oklahoma Waterfowl Hunting Guide" available soon at hunting license vendors statewide, or log onto www.wildlifedepartment.com to read the Waterfowl Guide online.
Youth waterfowl hunts offered
Oklahoma youngsters age 12 to 15 have an opportunity to apply for special controlled waterfowl hunts sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
The hunts are designed to provide youth who do not have an adult mentor who waterfowl hunts an opportunity to experience the traditions of waterfowling.
Youth hunters will be randomly drawn from a list of applicants for each hunting area. 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 for the 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, the name of the desired hunt location and two alternate hunt locations where they would like to hunt. The specific date of the hunt will be coordinated with successful applicants after the drawing.
Applications must be received by October 20, 2004 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 October 27, 2004.
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.
Ft. Gibson Refuge
Webbers Falls Refuge
Wister Lake Refuge
Vann’s Lake - Wagoner Co.
Ft. Cobb Lake Refuge
Lincoln County Wetland
Archery season coming soon
Believe it or not the annual kick-off of Oklahoma deer seasons is just around the corner.
The first of Oklahoma's big game seasons, the archery deer season is one of the most popular activities available to Oklahoma hunters. The season runs non-stop, from Oct. 1 to Jan. 15, allowing more than 100 days of hunting opportunity.
According to Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, archery hunters have plenty to look forward to this fall.
"Right now, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have another great archery season," Shaw said. "Both the amount and quality of forage available to deer is excellent and that will have a positive effect on body weight and antler growth, as well as the deer's overall health going into the winter."
Shaw added, that deer hunters may want to do some additional scouting this fall. Picking a good stand may be particularly important this year as deer may not have to travel far to a good food source.
During the 2003 archery deer seasons, bowhunters harvested 13,326 white-tailed deer. The archery harvest contributed 13 percent of the total deer harvest.
Before heading afield, be sure to pick up a copy of the “2004-2005 Oklahoma Hunting Guide" available at all license dealer locations.
Hunters can also find updated check station locations, season dates, and a wealth of other information by logging on to the Department's web page at wildlifedepartment.com.
Fourth annual BioBlitz reveals diverse life in Okmulgee County
The 24-hour, rapid biological inventory at the Fourth Annual BioBlitz unveiled 1,160 different species of plant and animal life present at Dripping Springs/Okmulgee State Park and the Wildlife Department’s Okmulgee Wildlife Management Area. The Oklahoma Biological Survey hosted the event, which had 186 volunteer biologists, students and educators stirring up life hidden in crevices, under leaves, in the dirt and around trees.
This was State Park Manager Roger Wyrick’s first experience with a BioBlitz. The scientific expertise of the volunteers and excitement of the visitors impressed him.
“Kids and people that had never been to the park were here to see what was being discovered. It was fun working with the biologists, and it answered a lot of personal questions I had about what was in the park,” Wyrick said.
Volunteers swept nets through vegetation to scoop insects. Metal boxes, the shape and size of Velveeta cheese boxes, caught rodents. People with long metal sticks, bare hands and pillowcases roamed the area catching snakes and lizards. Many of the animals collected were brought to base camp for public display.
Display tables caught the attention of families swimming in the lake. Children and adults peered into glass tanks holding soft-shell turtles, fence lizards and collared lizards. White-footed mice burrowed into one tank’s corner. Other tanks held venomous snakes such as copperheads, pigmy rattlesnakes and water moccasins. Yet others contained non-venomous species such as the speckled king snake, ribbon snake, and common water snake.
The event fosters awareness about the diverse number of living things in Oklahoma. It also adds to the general scientific knowledge of what species occur in an area according to Caryn Vaughn, director of the Oklahoma Biological Survey at the University of Oklahoma.
“It was a great year,” Vaughn said. “Not only was the participation incredible, but we verified the presence of five mammal species and 159 plant species previously unreported for Okmulgee County.”
Ken Hobson, a volunteer BioBlitz collector and faculty lecturer at the University of Oklahoma, felt this was the most successful BioBlitz to date. Hobson, an entomologist (someone who studies insects) was thrilled to have faculty and students from eight different universities helping inventory invertebrates.
Insect collectors poured over field guides and magnifying glasses to identify collected species before the 24-hour period ended. Collectors identified 450 separate insect species. This figure didn’t come as a surprise to Hobson however. Hobson said insects are the most abundant life forms on earth and account for 75 percent of animal life forms.
Observing, collecting and peering closely at invertebrates was a metaphorical and literal “day in the park” for the invertebrate team of volunteers.
“Insect collection is infectious,” Hobson said. “You don’t realize how exciting it is until you start to do it. The BioBlitz helps to reawaken people’s natural affinity and enthusiasm for enjoying and observing insects.”
Visitors passing by the invertebrate table had the opportunity to gaze upon living centipedes and tarantulas as well as display cases of butterflies, dragonflies, bees and beetles. Some visitors peered through microscopes to view tiny, obtuse-shaped diatoms collected from the park’s lake. A biologist stood by to explain that “a diatom is a type of algae, and its cell wall is made up of silica-dioxide, the components of glass.”
In addition to visitors dropping by the event, the BioBlitz education team taught more than 300 fourth and fifth grade students about local plants and animals. Lizabeth Ogle, a naturalist instructor at the Oklahoma City Zoo, found the kids’ energy contagious.
“The kids were so excited it made the learning and teaching fun,” Ogle said. “The BioBlitz is a great way to help adults and kids discover what’s in their own backyard. It creates a tangible excitement about the living diversity in Oklahoma.”
State duck stamp contest deadline nears
Entries for the 2005 Oklahoma Waterfowl Stamp design competition will be accepted through 4:30 p.m. October 29.
The snow goose is the waterfowl species selected for the 2005-2006 Oklahoma Waterfowl Stamp. All artists must depict this species, and any habitat appearing in the design must be typical for the snow goose in Oklahoma.
The winning art will be printed on the 2005-2006 stamp, which is required of all waterfowl hunters 16 years of age and older, with the exception of landowners hunting on their own land, lifetime hunting or combination license holders and senior citizen hunting or combination license holders.
Duck stamp sales help finance many projects that not only benefit waterfowl, but also several non-game species. Since the duck stamp program began in 1980, thousands of acres of wetland habitat have been enhanced through duck stamp revenues.
Artwork may be of acrylic, oil, watercolor, scratchboard, pencil, pen and ink, tempera or any other two-dimensional media. The illustration must be horizontal, 6 1/2 inches high and 9 inches wide. It must be matted with white mat board 9 inches high by 12 inches wide with the opening cut precisely 6 1/2-by-9. Artwork should not be framed or under glass, but an acetate covering should be used to protect the art.
Entries should be sent to the Duck Stamp Competition Coordinator, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152.
Entries will be judged on anatomical accuracy, artistic composition and suitability for printing. The winner and three honorable mentions will appear in a future issue of “Outdoor Oklahoma” magazine.
A non-refundable entry fee of $20 (cash, money order or cashier’s check) must accompany each entry. No entries will be accepted after 4:30 p.m. Oct. 29.
The winning artist will receive a purchase award of $1,200 and 50 prints (special artist's proof editions) of the design if the Department makes such a reproduction. The winning entry will become the sole and exclusive property of the Wildlife Department. The winning artist will be required to sign and number a minimum of 25 prints, if the Department makes such reproductions.
For more information about the contest call (405) 521-3856.
Department to hold equipment auction
The public is invited to attend the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s surplus auction to be held Saturday, Oct. 2, at 9 a.m. at Lake Burtschi near Chickasha.
“There is a wide variety of equipment that will be available for bid,” said Johnny Hill, property manager for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “We’re going to sell everything as is to the highest bidder.”
More than 100 items will be available at the event, including a large diesel trenching machine, three four-wheel drive trucks, two ATVs, a Ford 6600 tractor, nine boats and numerous boat motors. For those not looking for large items, there is also plenty to choose from including, fishing reels, office supplies, computer hardware, 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. The sale will start promptly at 9:00 a.m. at the Lake Burtschi Wildlife Department office, located 11 miles west of Chickasha on SH 92. Items may be inspected Oct. 1 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. In case of rain the sale will be held Oct. 3, same time and same place.
Farm Bill changes to benefit playa lakes
Playa lakes are getting long-deserved attention thanks to a recent push for more wetlands protection under the Farm Bill.
President Bush recently directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture to implement the new Wetlands Restoration Initiative. The initiative aims to restore up to 250,000 acres of wetlands and playa lakes through the Farm Bill's Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The initiative marks the first time playa lakes have been specifically targeted for protection through the Farm Bill.
"We are extremely pleased about this move and what it will mean for playa lakes," said Mike Carter, Playa Lakes Joint Venture (PLJV) Coordinator.
The initiative will allow more playas and other large wetland areas to be enrolled in the CRP. Previously, only wetlands that fell within the 100-year floodplain or sites less than 40 acres were eligible for the program.
"In addition to the dollars provided for playas, we now have a Farm Bill program that mentions playas specifically by name," Carter said. "We are very happy about that."
Playa lakes are primarily found in the panhandle counties and Oklahoma has been allocated 1,500 acres for playa enrollment. Payments will include: a wetland restoration incentive payment, an annual rental payment, and cost-share assistance of up to 50 percent of eligible practice costs to restore and enhance the playa project.
Sign up will begin October 1 and will run on a continuous basis until 250,000 acres have been enrolled or December 31, 2007 - whichever comes first. Interested landowners should contact their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office to enroll.
Playa lakes are shallow, seasonal wetlands that are scattered throughout the High Plains and are crucial to sustaining the region's wildlife and water. Annually, millions of waterfowl, cranes, shorebirds and grassland bird species utilize playas throughout the year. Playa lakes are also the primary source of recharge for the Ogallala Aquifer which supplies the majority of the region's water.
Because playa lakes are dry much of the year, many people do not recognize them as wetlands. But the wet-dry cycle of playas is a natural function of the wetlands. The seasonality of playas produces diverse vegetation which supports all types of birds - waterfowl, shorebirds, waterbirds and grassland species alike.
The Playa Lakes Joint Venture is a partnership of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and other state and federal wildlife agencies, conservation groups and private industry. The venture is dedicated to protecting playa lakes for the benefit of birds, other wildlife and people in the High Plains. Since its inception in 1989, PLJV partners have raised in excess of $50 million to conserve more than 100,000 acres of wildlife habitat.
For more information on playa lakes, visit the PLJV web site: www.pljv.org.
Waterfowl hunting guides available
`It is time once again to pick up a copy of the new "2004-05 Oklahoma Waterfowl Hunting Guide." The Guide, available at license vendors around the state, gives hunters all the information they need to know about upcoming waterfowling opportunities.
Duck and goose hunters will have ample opportunity to pursue migrating birds in marshes and fields all across the state. Located in the heart of the Central Flyway, Oklahoma offers hunters a chance to harvest a wide variety of both ducks and geese.
The 2004-2005 Oklahoma waterfowl dates and bag limits remain essentially the same as the last few years and young hunters can get an early start during the youth waterfowl days, see the guide for complete details.
Waterfowl hunters should be sure to pick up a new state and federal waterfowl stamp and a new Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP) permit before the season begins. The HIP permits are required of all migratory bird hunters in the United States. Data collected from the surveys help state and federal migratory bird biologists to improve migratory bird management, better gauge bird harvests and hunter numbers. The permits are available for free at wildlifedepartment.com or they may be purchased for $3 at license vendors.
All waterfowl hunters age 16 or older are required to purchase the Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp ($15 at U.S. Post Offices). Every resident age 16 or older, and all non-residents regardless of age must purchase the $10 Oklahoma Waterfowl Hunting License unless exempt (available at license vendors statewide). A Lifetime Oklahoma Waterfowl Hunting License (state duck stamp only) is available for $50.
Hunters reminded to use safety harnesses
It’s cheap, it’s lightweight, it’s easy to use and it might even save your life.
“As far as I am concerned, a full-body safety harness is the best and cheapest life insurance you can buy, if you’re like most Oklahoma deer hunters and hunt from an elevated stand,” said Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
Although there are several makes and models of safety straps and belts for tree stand hunters, full-body harness types are the best, Meek said.
“Not only will these halt your fall from a stand, but they’re designed to keep the hunter upright,” Meek said. “Also since these types of harnesses adjust around a hunter’s shoulders, waist and upper thighs, then the force of a fall is distributed more safely and evenly.”
The older belt-type safety straps might have stopped a hunter from falling to the ground, however the force of the single strap around a hunter’s waist or chest have the potential for cracked ribs or other internal injuries, and/or the hunter might be positioned upside down.
“If the only type of safety belt owned by a treestand hunter is the simple strap, then by all means use it in place of going hunting without one. But definitely treestand hunters should strongly consider purchasing one of the new and improved full-body harnesses that can be comfortably adjusted to individual body types and sizes without restricting movement,” Meek said.
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,
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 "2004-05 Oklahoma Hunting Guide" for complete information on hunting seasons and hunter education requirements.