New partner joins Honobia Creek Wildlife Management Area

The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission unanimously approved a land access agreement with Renewable Resources, LLC, a private forest investment company. Through the agreement, almost 30,000 acres of commercial forestland will remain open to public use as part of the Honobia Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA).

The cooperative agreement allows continued public access by hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers to Renewable Resources’ timber lands under the existing Land Access Fee permit. The property was previously owned by John Hancock and was part of the Honobia Creek WMA. Established in 1998, all revenues generated by the Land Access Fee permit are used exclusively in the management of Honobia Creek and Three Rivers wildlife management areas, both of which are privately owned WMAs made available to the public through special agreements.

Renewable Resources, LLC works closely with professional foresters from Sustainable Forest Technologies (SFT) to manage their property for timber production. Together, SFT and the Wildlife Department will work to enhance fish and wildlife habitat and provide additional hunting and fishing opportunities. Using Land Access Fee revenue, the Wildlife Department will coordinate with SFT for various projects including the construction of wildlife watering ponds, establishment of forest openings, planting of supplemental food crops for wildlife and improving hunting opportunities. Land Access Fee revenue is also used to develop camping areas, conduct winter controlled burns, and improve roads that access popular hunting and fishing areas.

Although managed for timber production, Renewable Resources, LLC, and SFT are dedicated to enhancing Honobia Creek WMA’s fish and wildlife resources and providing quality public recreation. By purchasing a Land Access Fee $16 (Oklahoma residents) or $25 (non-residents), the Honobia Creek Wildlife Management Area offers year-round recreation for the entire family.

Also at the October meeting, commissioners heard a presentation on the Wildlife Department’s marketing efforts. Greg Summers, fisheries research supervisor, told commissioners that the Department is working to find out what customers want so that the agency can serve sportsmen better and more efficiently. The marketing efforts also focus on recruiting new hunters and anglers, as well as encouraging occasional sportsmen to head outdoors more often.

“These efforts of recruiting new hunters and anglers are key to the lifelong survival of this agency,” said Commission Chairman Bruce Mabrey, of Okmulgee.

In other business, Stan Kimbell, of the Kimbell Ranches, was named the Wildlife Department’s 2004 Landowner of the Year. The Kimbell Ranches encompass over 31,000 acres in southwest and south central Oklahoma. Throughout the history of the ranches, the Kimbells have kept wildlife considerations as a top priority when making land management decisions.

“The Kimbell Ranches are the epitome of true land stewardship,” said Rod Smith, southwest region wildlife supervisor for the Wildlife Department. “Very rarely will you find an operation so willing to commit to and enthusiastically complete such a wide variety of wildlife projects.

”The Commission also accepted a $1,750 donation from the 89er Chapter of Trout Unlimited. The money will be used to purchase food to feed trout in the Lower Mountain Fork River trout rearing pen below Broken Bow Lake. The trout will be placed in the rearing pen when they are about six inches long and then released into the Lower Mountain Fork River when they are approximately 14 inches in length.

“This trout rearing pen has been an outstanding success for fishermen and the Wildlife Department,” said Commissioner Lewis Stiles, of Broken Bow.

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

“Anytime you have this many employees with such a long tenure, it speaks well of the Department and of the state,” said Mabrey.

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

The Commission also voted to accept high bids to lease the mineral rights on 51 acres of Department-owned property in Atoka and McIntosh counties.

In other business, Commissioners were updated on the status on Lake Fugate located on the Stringtown Wildlife Management Area in Atoka County. The lake, which has very limited fishing access, suffered damages to the outflow structure and emergency spillway during a flood in 1990. Initial estimates indicate that repairs would cost between $500,000 and $1 million. No action was taken on the item.

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 8 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.



Department names landowner of the year

Stan Kimbell with Kimbell Ranches was named the Wildlife Department’s 2004 Landowner of the Year at the October meeting of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The Kimbell Ranches encompass over 31,000 acres in southwest and south-central Oklahoma. Throughout the history of the ranches, the Kimbells have kept wildlife considerations as a top priority when making land management decisions.

“The Kimbell Ranches are the epitome of true land stewardship,” said Rod Smith, southwest region wildlife supervisor for the Wildlife Department. “Very rarely will you find an operation so willing to commit to and enthusiastically complete such a wide variety of wildlife projects.”

The Kimbell Ranches, primarily a cow/calf operation, use an advanced rotational grazing system to ensure both nutritious forage for cattle and quality habitat for upland birds. Each pond and creek on the ranches has also been carefully fenced to improve wildlife habitat around these sensitive areas.

“As we all know Eastern red cedar can be a real detriment to livestock operations and wildlife habitat. The Kimbell Ranches have recently completed a massive cedar control project covering 15,000 acres,” Smith said.

According to Smith, the Kimbell Ranches have been very cooperative over the years in wildlife research projects conducted on their property. The Kimbell Ranch in southwest Oklahoma is home to the state’s largest private land elk herd. Researchers are studying elk movements and how they use available habitat. The ranch is also home to 40-acre wind turbine farm. Researchers are studying how these facilities affect wildlife.

The Kimbell Ranch in Love County is part of the state’s largest Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program (WHIP) and is currently the focus of a quail research project.

Those interested in more information on the Department's Landowner of the Year program can contact John Hendrix, the Department's private lands biologist at (405) 880-0994.

To be considered for the prestigious award, landowners must demonstrate a commitment to managing their property to provide benefits for wildlife.



Statewide meetings to discuss quail program and season outlook continue

With quail season quickly approaching the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) will be continuing a series of 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. Meetings have already been held in Oklahoma City, Elk City, Altus, Ardmore, Alva and Woodward.

“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 remaining meetings on the schedule:


Oct. 7
NW Electric
2925 Williams Ave.

Oct. 11 Tulsa
Tulsa Tech, Riverside Campus
801 E. 91st Street

Oct. 12
1st National Bank & Trust
1749 N. Main

Oct. 18
Ponca City
Pioneer Tech. Center
2101 N. Ash

Oct. 19
Enid Fire Department
301 W. Owen K. Garriett

Oct. 27
Kiamichi Vo-Tech
69 By-pass

Oct. 28
Kiamichi Vo-Tech
Hwy 70 N.



Special youth deer season opens Oct. 15-17

It’s not everyday an opportunity comes along to make a memory that will last a lifetime. But the special youth antlerless deer gun season, which will be held October 15-17, offers just that chance. The special season is a great opportunity for families to enjoy a weekend in the great outdoors.

“Not only is a great time of year to be in the woods, it is also a great time to introduce a youngster to the sport of hunting. The weekend offers a chance to really focus on the youth and teach the skills they will use over a lifetime of hunting,” said Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

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 who must partner at least 18 years of age.

For complete season dates and other regulations, pick up a copy of the “2004-05 Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or log onto wildlifedepartment.com.


Cost-share funding available for landowners who install field buffers

In many parts of the nation, grassland bird species, including bobwhite quail have suffered a significant reduction in population densities due primarily to the loss of habitat. Unfortunately, Oklahoma is no exception, but landowners will have a new management tool in their belt beginning Oct. 1.

In August, President Bush announced a new Conservation Reserve Program practice called habitat buffers for upland birds (or CP33). This new practice will provide cost-share assistance to establish field buffers, pay landowners a signing bonus, pay landowners a practice incentive payment, and pay landowners an annual rental rate per acre. Oklahoma has been approved to install up to 9,500 acres of buffers across the state under the CP 33 provisions.

“’Old timers’ are often quick to point out that the cleaner and larger farming operations have changed quail habitat. Years ago, fields were smaller and were bordered with thick, weedy, fencerows. These areas served as important nesting cover and feeding areas for bobwhite quail, pheasants and other upland bird species,” said Mike Sams, upland game bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

The new buffer areas are designed to restore habitat and provide food and cover for upland bird species in cropland areas. Secondary benefits will include reducing soil erosion from wind and water, increasing water quality, protecting and enhancing the on-farm ecosystem.

“This program makes great sense for landowners who are interested in wildlife habitat and their farm’s ecosystem health,” Sams said.

According to Rod Wanger with the Farm Service Agency, in an example enrollment of 160 acres of agricultural ground, this program will pay an incentive payment of $2,480.00 to install the buffers as well as an annual rental payment of $890.00 per year for the next ten years.

The following are the CP33, habitat buffer for upland bird guidelines;

Average buffer width must be a minimum of 30 feet and a maximum of 120 feet.

Buffers must be around the perimeter of the field or at least the inlet and outlet of the runoff area.

Buffer must be installed in a cropped field and the buffer cannot encompass the entire field.

Landowners can sign-up for this voluntary program at their local Farm Service Agency. More information on this and other initiatives is also available at the Farm Service Agency’s Web site at: www.fsa.usda.gov




Trout fishing offers the perfect centerpiece of a fall getaway

The heat of summer is now gone and the rush of the holidays is still a month or two away. Now is the perfect time to take a weekend vacation to do some trout fishing, some hiking with the family and a whole lot of relaxing.

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.

“The neat thing about many of these areas is that they are near some really great state parks. It is a great way to spend some real quality time with the family,” said Barry Bolton, assistant chief of fisheries for the Wildlife Department.

There are plenty of adventures to choose from. You can camp out at Roman Nose State Park near Watonga, you can stay in a cozy cabin at Robbers Cave State Park in southeast Oklahoma or you can really “rough it” at the first class Quartz Mountain State Park Lodge in southwest Oklahoma.

"The fall and winter are great times to give trout fishing a try," Bolton said.

Trout are stocked approximately every two weeks with catchable size rainbows providing a worthy challenge on fly fishing or light-spinning tackle.

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 visiting one of Oklahoma’s trout areas, check the “2004 Oklahoma Fishing Guide” for complete regulations, as well as maps and additional information for each area.

Winter trout fishing areas:

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.

Lake Carl Etling - This 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.

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 not only rainbow trout, but brown trout as well.



Mountain Man mentality not needed for muzzleloader season

While some may call it the primitive firearms deer season, you don’t have to have a coonskin cap or a grizzled gray beard to participate. It may conjure up images of mountain men, but even novice hunters can quickly learn the skills of using a muzzleloading firearm.

Hunting deer with a muzzleloading firearm is a special opportunity for Oklahoma hunters. The statewide season runs Oct. 23-31, offering nine days of prime hunting.

In addition, the fall woods are generally less crowded during the muzzleloader season compared with the modern firearms season, allowing hunters a chance to hunt deer that haven't been heavily pressured. Consequently, muzzleloader hunters stand an excellent chance of bagging a big buck.

Oklahomans are blessed with a wide variety of terrain that whitetail deer call home and a great diversity of wildlife areas managed by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Regardless of where you go it is always a good idea to do a little scouting before the season. Wildlife management areas offer a number of good deer hunting locations, here is a short list to get you started:

In southeastern Oklahoma, the expansive Honobia Creek and Three Rivers wildlife management areas offer thousands of acres of rolling oak and pine-covered hills. These areas are also the annual home of some of the state’s longest-running deer camps. Located in parts of McCurtain, Pushmataha and Latimer counties, these areas offer more than enough mountains, ridges and bottomlands for any hunter to test his new hunting boots.

Just barely in Oklahoma, the Love Valley Wildlife Management Area is a great destination. Located south of Marietta on the banks of the Red River, the area is characterized by open river flood plain habitat and deep thickets where the deer grow big.

If you enjoy stalking the woods for deer, Keystone Wildlife Management Area is hard to beat. Just a quick drive southeast from Tulsa, the area offers more than 16,000 acres of river bottomlands, mixed grass prairie and upland forests.

If the wide-open spaces of western Oklahoma are more to your liking. try the Cooper Wildlife Management Area. Located just a short drive from Woodward, the rolling plains offer plenty of room to get out and stretch your legs on a hunting trip. Ft. Supply WMA is a good choice nearby.

For specific information regarding public hunting areas, licenses, bag limits, clothing requirements or legal firearms, consult the “2004-05 Oklahoma Hunting Guide.”



Waterfowl hunters - the long wait is nearly over

Ever so slowly the winds are beginning to shift to the north bringing ducks and geese southward on the their annual fall migration.

Many Oklahoma hunters have spent the long summer months repainting decoys, training their retrievers and building blinds. The wait is just about over for these waterfowl enthusiasts with opening day approaching faster than a flock of green winged teal.

This year the waterfowl seasons 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 open on Oct. 30 and Duck Zone 2 will open on Nov. 13. Canada goose hunters will want to take note that goose season will open on Nov. 6. Sandhill crane season will open Oct. 30, west of I-35 only with a daily limit of three birds.

Duck 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.

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 on 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 $3 sandhill crane hunting permit.

Hunters should also be reminded that non-toxic shot must be used when waterfowl hunting. This year, three new non-toxic shot types (tungsten-bronze-iron, a new formulation of tungsten-iron, and tungsten-tin-bismuth) have been approved.

"Protecting our waterfowl populations while ensuring waterfowl hunting opportunities are two things we take very seriously,” said United States Fish and Wildlife Service Director Steve Williams. “With each new shot type approved, hunters will have a wider range of choices as they continue to play a key role in the conservation of waterfowl and its habitat."

For more information on toxic and nontoxic shot, log on to www.migratorybirds.fws.gov/issues/nontoxic_shot. 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 are available at Department installations or license vendors statewide or on the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.



A rare species travels through Oklahoma

One of the rarest birds in North America, the whooping crane, is currently migrating through Oklahoma and may be spotted during the next several weeks. The entire migrating population, 234 birds in all, will pass through the central one-third of the state between now and the first week of November, according to Mark Howery, natural resources biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

“The population size is remarkable, especially considering there were no more than 15 whooping cranes left in 1941,” Howery said.

Twice a year, whooping cranes face a long and potentially hazardous migration. In the fall, they travel from nesting grounds in Alberta, Canada, to wintering grounds along the Texas coast at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

“If you see a whooping crane, let us know,” Howery said. “Reports help us better understand the migration needs and behavior patterns of these birds.”

Report sightings to the Department’s Wildlife Diversity Program at (405) 521-4616. Reports should include the date, location, number of birds seen, and what they were doing (i.e. – flying, feeding, loafing). That information will be shared with a federal tracking program led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Howery said that Oklahoma’s sportsmen account for about one-third of whooping crane sightings each fall and are good at distinguishing the endangered species from more common birds.

A few distinguishing characteristics are the white body, black wingtips, red fore head, and height - it’s the tallest bird in North America. Also, the neck and legs extend straight when in flight.

Sandhill cranes have a similar body shape, but in contrast, are gray overall with dark gray wing feathers that do not have black tips. White pelicans are also sometimes confused with whooping cranes because they are similar in color. However, the pelican is stockier, usually travels in large flocks and does not extend its legs when in flight.

Two other species of confusion are snow geese and egrets. Snow geese are much smaller and do not extend their legs in flight. Egrets lack the black wingtips of the whooping crane and hold their necks in a “S” shape during flight.

Whooping cranes may be seen during the day foraging in small groups of two to six birds in open, marshy habitats like wet, agricultural fields or river bottoms. At night, they gather in communal roosts on mudflats and often roost alongside sandhill cranes.

Perhaps the most reliable place in Oklahoma to see a whooping crane is at Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge, which is designated critical whooping crane habitat. Recently, eight whooping cranes were seen from the Sand Creek Observation Area on the northeast side of the refuge.

Another place to see whooping cranes is Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area in Tillman County. Wildlife Department Biologist Kelvin Schoonover recently received a whooper report there. He has not yet confirmed the sighting, but said it came from a reliable source.




Time is running out for essay contestants

Students have until Nov. 24 to submit their best essay for a chance to win a guided antelope hunt in New Mexico or an all-expense paid week-long session at a summer camp for young hunters.

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 site www.wildlifedepartment.com/out_ed.htm. 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.



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 most waterfowl hunters.

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 created 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 may not be framed or under glass, but 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 the Department at (405) 521-3856.

Outlook is good for upcoming quail season

“You never really know till opening morning,” said Gordon Thomas.

Maybe not, but Thomas says he is very optimistic about the upcoming quail season. Thomas operates the Washita Hunting Camp near Reydon and annually hosts hunters from as far away as Florida and Alabama.

“With all the rain and vegetation we have this year, it has been a little difficult to see them throughout the summer, but that is a good thing. When we have a relatively wet summer, it seems like we usually have a good quail year,” Thomas said. “I’m really looking forward to opening day.”

While the consensus from the field is that this year’s bird crop will be good, annual surveys conducted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation show a statewide decrease of eight percent compared to the previous 14-year average.

“We have been getting good reports from both landowners and biologists. However, the cool wet summer has allowed the quail to really spread out instead of being forced to the roadside bar ditches where they can be spotted by survey participants more readily,” said Mike Sams, upland game bird biologist for the Department

The survey decrease is reflected in all regions with the exception of the Northwest and Southeast regions, which reported increases over the average of 26 percent and 49 percent respectively. All other regions reported numbers lower than the 13-year average. In fact, the statewide 2004 index decreased 20 percent over 2003.

According to Sams, quail populations in the Southeast region seem to be responding favorably to timber harvest practices. Both biologists and sportsmen have reported seeing a number of quail in the clear cuts and young pine plantations on the Honobia and Three Rivers wildlife management areas.

"Overall, I think the outlook for the quail season is good. We had good weather conditions throughout the spring and fall and as always, we are hoping for favorable weather during the hunting season,” Sams said.

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 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. 13 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.



Time running out to vote for the national conservationist of the year

Bill Crawford of Frederick has been named a finalist for a prestigious national award for his contributions to the cause of wildlife conservation.

Crawford, a former Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commissioner, is one of four finalists for Budweiser’s 2005 Conservationist of the Year award.

The winner of the award will receive a $50,000 grant and the runners up will receive $5,000 each to be used towards wildlife conservation efforts. Budweiser and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will award the grants. The award will be decided by votes registered at budweiser.com. To vote, log onto budweiser.com, click on “Game Time,” then “Outdoors,” and finally “Conservationist of the Year.” The deadline to vote online is November 26, 2004.

Crawford led a six-year effort to restore what was once the state’s largest natural wetland, Hackberry Flat. The effort involved various corporations, businesses, and the City of Frederick in a partnership that also included state and federal agencies and non-profit conservation organizations. The project began in 1993 and now covers 7,120 acres of wetlands and surrounding uplands.

“Hackberry Flat is the most important wetland restoration project ever attempted in Oklahoma,” said Greg Duffy, director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “Since its dedication, Hackberry Flat has been a haven to thousands of migrating waterfowl, and has provided sportsmen with amazing migratory bird hunting opportunities. The area has also attracted a diversity of wading birds and shore birds. It is rapidly becoming one of the states most visited watchable wildlife areas.”

To learn more about Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area log on to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

Additionally, Crawford is an active member in the Oklahoma Station of the Safari Club International. He has been strong supporter of the organization’s efforts to increase youth hunting opportunities.

Currently, he and his wife also are creating a natural history museum in downtown Frederick. The museum will house taxidermy mounts from across the world and the museum is designed to educate the public about the important role sportsmen play in wildlife conservation.



Special tower blind raises kids with disabilities to new heights

It’s quite an odd-looking contraption. A camouflage box with hydraulic stilts, all situated on a trailer that can be towed behind a truck. But to at least a few kids it’s a thing of beauty.

A portable tower blind was used in a special hunt for kids with disabilities during the special youth antlerless deer season. The innovative blind allows hunters with disabilities to enter the blind from the ground level and then raise up 20 feet in the air. The solar-powered blind was acquired by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation with donations from the Mid-America Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Oklahoma City Sportsmen’s Club.

“It is really a neat piece of equipment,” said Todd Craighead, with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “It’s just perfect for kids in wheelchairs and other individuals with disabilities.”

Craighead serves as coordinator of the annual hunt which is hosted by the Christian Sportsmen’s Fellowship at the Chain Ranch near Seiling.

“This year is our fourth year to host this Special Youth Challenge and it just seems to get better every year. There’s quite a few volunteers and organizations that are instrumental in putting on this event,” Craighead said.

According to Craighead, the Central Oklahoma Chapter of Buckmasters and the Friends of the NRA both donated funds to house and feed the kids and their parents for the three-day hunt.

For more information about next years Christian Sportsmen’s Fellowship Special Youth Challenge Deer Hunt contact Jerick Henley, national director of special events for the Christian Sportsmen’s Fellowship, jhenley@dowley.com.