NOVEMBER 2005 NEWS RELEASES 

WEEK OF NOVEMBER 24, 2005

WEEK OF NOVEMBER 17, 2005

WEEK OF NOVEMBER 10, 2005

WEEK OF NOVEMBER 3, 2005

 

And the survey says… another memorable year for quail hunters

         While Oklahoma quail hunters are likely still relishing last season’s improved quail crop, they now have good reason to anticipate another memorable year. Annual surveys conducted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation show a statewide increase of 32 percent over the previous 15-year average.

         “Many landowners and sportsmen from across the state are seeing good numbers of quail this year, with numbers as good if not better than last year. And these reports are backed up by our annual road-side surveys,” said Mike Sams, upland game bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

         The increase can be attributed primarily to the northwest and southwest regions, which reported increases over the average of 70 percent and 34 percent respectively. The statewide 2005 index, however, increased 44 percent over 2004. Only in the south central and southeast regions did quail sightings decline from 2004.

         “These survey results are certainly very encouraging, but as always, weather can have an enormous effect on hunting success,” Sams said. “We’ll keep our fingers crossed and hope that we’ll have a cool, damp winter so the dogs can find the coveys.”

         Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation biologists have conducted roadside surveys during both August and October for the past 16 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. 12 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 log onto wildlifedepartment.com, to see the complete survey, log on to www.wildlifedepartment.com

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Caption: Annual bobwhite quail surveys conducted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation show a statewide increase of 32 percent over the previous 15-year average. Biologists have conducted roadside surveys during both August and October for the past 16 years. The quail surveys, which consist of 20-mile routes, give biologists an estimate of quail abundance.

 Time is running short for students and teachers to enter to win hunts and great outdoor prizes

         Just a few weeks remain for students to enter an essay contest where two lucky winners will receive an all-expense-paid guided antelope hunt in New Mexico.

         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 educators. Through a youth writing contest and teacher application, one teacher and several students could win a trip of a lifetime.

         This fall, Aric Parenti, of Bixby, and Kristen Kennedy, of Eufaula, both harvested a trophy pronghorn antelope after winning last year’s contest in the 15-17 year old category. Once again, winners in the 15-17 year old 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.

         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.

        The theme of the contest is “Hunting: Sharing the Heritage.” 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. Essays and applications must be postmarked no later than Nov. 23, 2005, or delivered by 5:00 p.m. Nov. 28, 2005, 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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 Caption: By winning last year’s youth essay contest Aric Parenti, Bixby, had the opportunity to harvest a trophy pronghorn antelope. The contest was sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Oklahoma Station Chapter Safari Club International.

  Caption: By winning last year’s youth essay contest Kristen Kennedy, Eufaula, had the opportunity to harvest a trophy pronghorn antelope. The contest was sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Oklahoma Station Chapter Safari Club International. Kristen is pictured with her father Ed.

 More and bigger trout stocked in the Lower Illinois River

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation recently increased the number and size of trout stocked into the lower Illinois River.

Through a new agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Wildlife Department obtained an additional 50,000 pounds of rainbow trout from Norfork National Fish Hatchery in Mountain Home, Arkansas.  That translates into almost 92,500 more trout for the lower Illinois River this year and will bring the total number of trout stocked annually in the river to almost 177,000. 

“Not only did this increase the number of fish by 58 percent, but we are also obtaining some larger fish,” said Gary Peterson, northeast region fisheries biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.  “The trout we are now stocking in the lower Illinois will average 11-inches in length, rather than the 9-inch fish we were historically stocking and possibly the best news is that we will continue to stock these larger fish through 2010.”

In previous years, trout were stocked about once every two weeks, but now approximately 2,500 trout will be stocked every week into the lower Illinois River near Gore in Sequoyah County. 

“We’re confident anglers will be pleased with these additional stockings,” Peterson said.

The lower Illinois River is widely known for both beautiful scenery and great trout fishing.

         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.

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

Anglers are reminded that everyone who fishes the designated trout stream between Tenkiller Dam and Highway 64 bridge are required to possess a trout license. Trout anglers ages 17 and under can purchase a youth trout license for $5; trout licenses for anglers 18 and older $10. There are no exemptions from purchasing the trout license. Additionally, anglers must have a state fishing  or combination license and if 18 or older they must possess the hunting and fishing legacy permit unless otherwise exempt. Residents age 17 or younger, or age 64 and older are exempt from the legacy permit. Non-residents age 13 and younger are also exempt.

Before visiting one of Oklahoma’s trout areas, check the “2005 Oklahoma Fishing Guide” for complete regulations, as well as maps and additional information for each area.

 

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Caption: Through a new agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Wildlife Department obtained an additional 50,000 pounds of rainbow trout. That translates into almost 92,500 more trout for the lower Illinois River this year and will allow stocking each and every week of the year.

 

Partnerships benefit hunters and anglers across the state

         Staff from the Wildlife Department presented the Wildlife Conservation Commission with almost $100,000 of donations for fish and wildlife conservation work in the state at their November meeting.

         One member shy of a quorum, the Commission was unable to formally accept the donations, but Commission members stressed they will make the donations official at their next meeting.

         The first of those donations was $54,000 from NatureWorks, Inc. in Tulsa. Sam Daniel, president of NatureWorks, presented the Commission with the donation to be used on the Deep Fork/Eufaula Wetland Development Unit on the Eufaula Wildlife Management Area.

         The funds will be used to enhance a 700-acre green tree wetland complex by repairing the dikes and building a permanent pumping station on the area. The pumping station will use water from the Deep Fork River to flood different units on the area with a 30-inch underground pipeline.

         “NatureWorks is a loose-knit group of people from all walks of life in the Tulsa area. The one thing we all have in common is that we all love wildlife,” Daniel said.

         Since 1991, NatureWorks has brought some of the country's most talented wildlife artists to Tulsa through their annual Wildlife Art Show and Sale held each March. The non-profit organization uses funds from the show to provide grants to assist the Wildlife Department, and a variety of other organizations, with wildlife conservation projects. Each year in conjunction with the wildlife art show, NatureWorks presents the Wildlife Stewardship Award to recognize and honor persons in the community who have promoted conservation.  Each award is then memorialized with a bronze wildlife sculpture that is put on permanent display along Tulsa’s scenic Riverside Drive, next to the Arkansas River. To date, NatureWorks patrons have funded 12 monuments.

         In other business, Kim Erickson, chief of fisheries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, reported on a donation of a large pontoon boat from Bass Pro Shops and Tracker Marine. The habitat barge, valued at $40,000, will be used on fish habitat projects on lakes around the state.

         “This is a state-of-the-art work barge, in fact there is only one other in existence. It is 33-feet long, equipped with two 60-horse power, four-stroke, Mercury outboard motors and has about 100 square feet of work space,” said Erickson.

         The barge also has a large, hydraulic deck that will allow fisheries personnel to install brush, trees, aquatic vegetation and spawning substrate into the water more safely and efficiently than before. Bass Pro Shops and Tracker Marine donated the boat through a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

         “We are sincerely grateful to all the partners who helped in making this donation possible,” Erickson said.

         Also at the November meeting, “The Six Old Geezers,” a group of men who share a love of fishing and a love for the Lake Texoma area, offered a donation of $5,098 to the Wildlife Department. The money will be matched with Sport Fish Restoration Funds and will be used to purchase an outboard motor for use on Lake Texoma fisheries surveys.

         The Six Old Geezers share their passion for fishing through their popular Web site, sixoldgeezers.com. The site includes fishing reports, classified ads and other local information. Since the site was launched in 2001, it has registered more than 800,000 hits.

         In other business, Alan Peoples, wildlife chief for the Wildlife Department, presented Dale Rich as the 2005 Landowner of the Year.

         For 15 years, Dale Rich along with his family and friends have worked to improve wildlife habitat on his 3,000-acre property in Okfuskee County. Prescribed fire, tree planting and the construction of a large pond are just a few of the management practices Rich has used to revive the wildlife habitat on the property, which is near the North Canadian River.

         “I truly appreciate the honor, but the real thanks should go to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Their knowledge and technical assistance was just invaluable,” Rich said.

         In addition to his commitment to improving wildlife habitat, Rich has also made a commitment to sharing the hunting heritage with the next generation. More than 40 kids have harvested their first deer on the property.         

         “We appreciate your commitment to good land stewardship and we especially appreciate your commitment to providing hunting opportunities for so many kids,” said Commission Chairman Bill Phelps.

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

         Also at the November meeting, Lieutenant Gary Smeltzer, Wildlife Department game warden stationed in Creek County, was awarded a pair of special honors. Smeltzer was named the 2005 Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Game Warden of the Year. Additionally, Bill Crawford with the Shikar Safari, presented Smeltzer with the Shikar Safari Officer of the Year award.

         Shikar Safari is a 300-member international organization that has focused on wildlife conservation and wildlife law enforcement around the world since 1952.

         Smeltzer has served the citizens of Oklahoma since 1966 when he began his career as a warden in Blaine County.

         “Throughout his career, Gary has maintained the highest standards of performance and professionalism for himself and set the example for those around him,” said Larry Manering, law enforcement chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

         In other business, Andrea Crews, responsive management specialist for the Wildlife Department, provided Commissioners with a report on the participant surveys conducted following the first Wildlife Expo held last August.

         The free Wildlife Expo, which drew 45,000 people from around the state, offered hands-on learning opportunities at nearly 175 booths and activities. It attracted both avid outdoor enthusiasts and those new to hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities. Every visitor was sure to find something that interested them, from shotgun shooting, to a live bat exhibit, to mountain bike riding, to dog training, to wild game cooking.

         Immediately following last year’s event, those who registered for the Expo were sent an e-mail inviting them to participate in quick and easy-to-use online survey of their Expo experience. More than 1,600 people responded to survey revealing some very interesting data, such as:

         Wildlife Department Assistant Director Richard Hatcher also informed the Commission that the second annual Wildlife Expo will be a two-and-a-half-day event to be held, Aug. 25-27. Event hours will be from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.

         Also at their November meeting, Commissioners recognized Randel Currie, fisheries technician in the south central region, for his 30 years of service to the sportsmen of the state.

         “No matter what the job, or who needs help, Randel is always willing to lend a hand,” said Greg Duffy, director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

         In other business, Commissioners received a report from Finley and Cook, PLLC, the company that performed the Department’s 2005 annual financial audit. According to Nathan Atchison with Finley and Cook, the audit went smoothly and no irregularities were found.

         Also at the November meeting, Commissioners heard a report regarding the current status of the Department employee retirement plan. The plan saw a 6.8 percent increase last fiscal year and is relatively well-funded at 80 percent, according to Richard Mackesey with Buck Consultants. According to Mackesey, the Wildlife Department’s retirement plan is a “shining star” when compared to other public employee retirement systems.

         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 December 5 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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Migratory bird hunters need not fear “bird flu”

         Although the spread of avian flu has health officials around the world concerned, Oklahoma bird hunters have little to worry about according to officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Oklahoma Department of Health.

         “The ‘bird flu’ being talked about on TV hasn’t been found in North America and there’s never been a case of a migratory bird hunter contracting the disease from a duck or goose,” said Dr. Kristy Bradley with the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

          According to Dr. Bradley, birds have been carriers of a variety of relatively harmless flu strains for centuries. However, a particularly potent strain of bird flu, called H5N1, emerged in domestic poultry and wild birds in Asia eight years ago. This H5N1 strain is substantially different from other types of bird flu and has caused illness and deaths in Asia. There has been no evidence that the disease has ever been spread by person-to-person contact, or by eating game birds such as dove, ducks or quail.

         “There has never been a single documented case of the H5N1 avian influenza virus being transmitted from a migratory  bird to a human. And at this time, there is no indication that any wild birds  found in Oklahoma, or in all of North America, are infected with the H5N1 virus,” said Mike O’Meilia, migratory game bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.  “Waterfowl hunters concerns for personal health and safety would be better directed at planning their safe land and water travel on their next hunt.”

         The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center are diligently monitoring migratory birds in Alaska, one of the most likely points for the disease to enter into North America. To date, thousands of waterfowl and shorebird samples from Alaska have been analyzed, and no evidence of the H5N1 avian flu has been discovered.

         Bradley advised hunters to take the normal safety steps when preparing meat.

         “It doesn’t matter if you are handling chicken, hamburger or wild game, you should take a few basic precautions such as washing your hands and cooking the meat thoroughly,” Dr. Bradley said.

         For more information on avian flu, check out the State Health Department's Web site at www.health.state.ok.us or the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center’s Web page at http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/research/avian_influenza/avian_influenza.html.

 

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Deer harvest up 8.5 percent so far – deer gun season begins Nov. 19

         If you haven’t been deer hunting yet this year, you’re missing out on what is shaping up to be a great season. The numbers don’t lie - hunters have already taken 31,825 deer according to preliminary deer harvest totals, an 8.5-percent increase over this same time last year.

         Archery hunters have taken 6,954 deer. During the youth season, young hunters took 1,577 deer. Muzzleloader hunters accounted for 23,294 deer, including nearly 14,000 bucks.

         There is still plenty of time for hunters to head to the woods with the second half of archery season and the upcoming special antlerless seasons. The most anticipated opener of the year, deer gun season, is also right around the corner. Running Nov. 19 through Dec. 4, the deer gun season has undoubtedly been marked on hunter’s calendars for months.

         With good weather, hunters can again look forward to excellent opportunities to harvest a deer this fall, according to Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC).

         Hunter’s who spend some time scouting deer feeding areas are likely to increase their odds of taking a deer this year.

         “Across most of the state we had a good to excellent acorn crop depending on local conditions. That is good for the deer but it could make it a little harder for hunters to pattern deer this year,” Shaw said.

         More than 158,000 gun hunters took to the woods last fall, harvesting 58,733 deer for a 37 percent success rate.

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

         Unless exempt, hunters must possess a fishing and hunting legacy permit.

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

         Hunters may take a total of two deer, which may include no more than one antlered deer and one antlerless deer. Antlerless deer may only be harvested on specified days in certain zones. Harvest of antlerless mule deer is prohibited during deer gun season. For antlerless deer hunt zones and dates open to antlerless hunting, pick up a copy of the “2005-06 Oklahoma Hunting Guide.”

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

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

         All successful hunters must check their deer at the nearest hunter check station. A county by county listing of hunter check stations is provided in this year's hunting guide and the most up-to-date check station listing is available at www.wildlifedepartment.com

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

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

         For additional regulations, antlerless zones, check station locations, season dates and a wealth of other information be sure to pick up a copy of the “2005-06 Oklahoma Hunting Guide" available at all license dealer locations or log on to the Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.

         The Wildlife Department is continuing to monitor the state’s deer herd for chronic wasting disease as it has since 1999. To date, all of the 4,102 deer sampled statewide have tested negative for the disease. However, ODWC biologists will sample an additional 2,000 deer during this year’s deer hunting seasons. 

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Dates announced for 2006 Wildlife Expo

         Mark your calendars now – the second annual Oklahoma Wildlife Expo will be an event you don’t want to miss. The 2006 Wildlife Expo will be a two and half day event, Aug. 25-27 and will again be held on the expansive grounds of the Lazy E Arena. Expo hours will be from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.

         “Our first Expo was an outstanding success and we are already working hard to take what we learned last year and make the 2006 Wildlife Expo even better,” said Greg Duffy, director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “We’ve added another half day on Friday and we hope that even more families can come and learn about the great outdoor opportunities our state has to offer.”

         The free Wildlife Expo, which drew more than 45,000 people from around the state, offered hands-on learning opportunities at nearly 175 booths and activities. It attracted both avid outdoor enthusiasts and those new to hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities. Every visitor was sure to find something that interested them, from shotgun shooting, to a live bat exhibit, to mountain bike riding, to dog training, to wild game cooking.

         Immediately following last year’s event, those who registered for the Expo were sent an e-mail inviting them to participate in quick and easy-to-use online survey of the Expo experience. More than 1,600 people responded to survey revealing some very interesting data, such as:

 

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Tulsan named landowner of the year

         Dale Rich, of Tulsa, was recently named the 2005 Landowner of the Year by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

         For 15 years, Rich, along with his family and friends, have worked to improve wildlife habitat on his 3,000-acre property in Okfuskee County.

         “Ever since he has owned this property, Dale has been enthusiastic and committed to do everything he can to improve the wildlife habitat on his land. His hard work has paid off. Today, the area is a showcase for what private landowners can accomplish with hard work and dedication for wildlife habitat,” said John Hendrix, private lands biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

         “I truly appreciate the honor, but the real thanks should go to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Their knowledge and technical assistance was just invaluable,” Rich said.

         According to Hendrix, one of the most effective land management practices Rich has used has been prescribed fire.

         “When Mr. Rich first purchased the property it had been neglected for some time. Many of the fields were very overgrown and many of the wooded areas had completely closed canopies which provided limited wildlife benefits,” Hendrix said.

         Rich initiated a strategic prescribed fire plan that included creating eight miles of fire guards and 16 separate fire units. Prescribed burning has benefited a wide variety of species including deer, quail and perhaps most dramatically, turkeys. Now abundant year round, turkeys rarely, if ever, inhabited the property a decade ago.

         Additionally, Rich has planted trees to stabilize a river bank, constructed a large pond, and conducted many other management practices designed to revive the wildlife habitat on the property, near the North Canadian River.

         In addition to improving wildlife habitat, Rich has also made a commitment to sharing the hunting heritage with the next generation. More than 40 kids have harvested their first deer on the property. 

         “Dale has a real passion for sharing his love of wildlife with friends and family, and particularly with kids. There’s a reason why there are no TVs or video games in the cabin on the property. He wants kids to get outside, go fishing, go hunting and develop their own love for the outdoors,” Hendrix said.

         For years the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has worked closely with landowners by providing technical assistance and in some cases financial support for land practices that benefit wildlife.  Projects may include fencing, tree planting, timber thinning, wetland restoration and more.

            For more information about landowner assistant programs, call (405) 521-2739.

 

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 Caption: Dale Rich, of Tulsa, was recently named the 2005 Landowner of the Year by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

High Resolution - http://www.wildlifedepartment.com/newsrelease/11705/landowner.jpg 
Low Resolution - images\Landownerlow.jpg

 

Fire caution urged for state deer hunters

            Oklahoma’s 16-day modern firearms deer season opens Saturday, November 19, and hunters are being urged to take extra precautions to prevent wildfires. Gov. Brad Henry declared a statewide burn ban Nov. 15.

            “In 2004, we totaled more than 158,000 individual hunters participating in the deer gun season, and we know from surveys that the vast majority of them will be going afield during all or part of the opening weekend,” said Alan Peoples, chief of wildlife division for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

            “Opening weekend of deer gun season is arguably the state’s largest weekend for participation in outdoor recreation, and so by the sheer numbers of people traveling into rural areas, the danger of wildfires goes up.”

            According to the burn ban order, campfires are allowed but must meet certain restrictions. Outdoor campfires are permitted if constructed within a non-combustible fire ring with a distance of five feet to nearest wildland fuels and they must be attended at all times. Campfires must be properly extinguished when not attended.  Campfires that do not meet these standards are prohibited under the ban.

            Charcoal, Coleman-type pressurized stoves, LPG or natural gas-fueled grills and smokers also are allowed.

            According to Peoples, even deer hunters who aren’t camping should exercise extreme caution to prevent wildfires.

            “With no significant rainfall over the past several months in many areas, we’ve got some ‘tinder-box’ conditions, he said.” Obviously, nobody should toss a cigarette butt out of the window, but something as innocent as driving a vehicle into tall grass has a real potential of getting a wildfire started.

            “Last spring and summer we saw pretty good rainfall, which made for lush vegetation, but now that vegetation is extremely dry and flammable. Just the heat from your vehicle’s exhaust pipe may be enough to ignite a fire.”

            In addition to avoiding vehicle traffic through vegetation, hunters should be vigilant with how and where they store their firearms equipped with scopes.

            “It may sound pretty far-fetched to some hunters, but people need to be careful about their scoped rifles. Just the sunlight being magnified through a rifle scope could potentially ignite dry leaves or grass nearby – it’s that serious,” said Peoples.

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 Pheasant numbers on the increase

            Sometimes it’s easy to think of hunting as a solo sport, but you can throw that out the window when it comes to pheasant hunting which opens Dec. 1.

            These big, beautiful birds are at home in northwest Oklahoma and one of the best ways to hunt them is to get a small army of friends and family together and march across a cultivated field or native prairie.

            Populations of the popular game birds appear to be in fine shape going into the season, according to Mike Sams, upland game bird biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

            “According to our surveys, pheasant production was up 60 percent over last year,” Sams said. “In popular pheasant hunting areas like Alfalfa, Beaver, Cimarron and Texas counties, production was 28 percent over the 25 year average.”

            According to Sams, the average pheasant brood numbered 6.2 chicks, an increase from the 25 year average of 5.6 chicks. 

            The season runs December 1 through January 31, 2006, and hunters should consult the “2005-06 Oklahoma Hunting Guide” for open zones and wildlife management areas. The daily bag limit for pheasants is two cocks, with a possession limit of four after the first day and six after the second day. Pheasant hunters should note that legal shooting hours are sunrise to sunset, except on some wildlife management areas. Evidence of sex (head or one foot) must remain on the bird until it reaches its final destination. When the deer gun and the special antlerless deer seasons (in open zones) overlap with pheasant season, all pheasant hunters must wear either a hunter orange cap or vest.

            Before going afield, be sure to pick up a copy of the “2005-06 Oklahoma Hunting Guide,” available at all hunting and fishing license dealers or log onto wildlifedepartment.com.

 

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Hunters sharing their harvest

         Last year Oklahoma hunters donated 33,227 pounds of venison, that’s more than 16 tons, to the Hunters Against Hunger program. That is enough meat to provide nutritious meals for nearly 133,000 people. The program facilitates the distribution of deer meat to hungry families in the state and is co-sponsored by the Oklahoma Station Chapter of the Safari Club International, Nature Works Inc. and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

         “For generations, hunters have shared their harvest with their friends and families and the Hunters Against Program is a great way for hunters to extend their generosity to needy families across the state," said Greg Duffy, director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “Oklahomans have been so generous in donating to victims of the tsunami in southeast Asia and Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast and this program provides hunters an opportunity to help hungry families right here in Oklahoma.”

Sportsmen and women donated 747 deer to the program last year at 50 different meat-processing facilities around the state. The ground venison is distributed to the needy through the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and the Community Food Bank of eastern Oklahoma and a network of qualified, charitable organizations.

 Hunters who legally harvest a deer during this year's deer seasons can simply deliver the deer to the nearest participating meat processor after checking the deer at a hunter check station. To help with processing charges, each donor is requested to contribute a tax-deductible $10 to assist with the program.

To find out more about the Hunters Against Hunger Program, or for a list of cooperating meat processors, check out page 24 of the “2005-06 Oklahoma Hunting Guide."

 

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Statewide waterfowl report offers tool for hunters

         With relatively warm temperatures and dry conditions across most of the state, waterfowl hunters need all the help they can get in pinpointing the ducks this year. Waterfowl hunters can add another scouting tool to their belt by logging on to the Wildlife Department’s Web site. Statewide waterfowl reports are available at www.wildlifedepartment.com

         For instance, this week’s reports indicate that Hugo Lake in southeast Oklahoma is beginning to see an influx of ducks including green-winged teal, mallards, ringneck ducks, and gadwall.

         Although habitat conditions are listed as fair to poor at Oologah Lake in northeast Oklahoma, good numbers of redhead ducks, gadwalls and teal are reported in this week’s survey.

         Goose numbers are slowly building across the state, however most areas report goose numbers as low.  About 30,000 snow and Canada geese are reported at the Washita National Wildlife Refuge in west central Oklahoma.

         Not only can hunters find a report of the number of ducks and geese in the area - the site also offers a status report of the habitat conditions at wetland development units across the state. Hunters visiting a wetland development unit (WDU) should be aware that some portions within several WDUs may be designated as a refuge where no hunting is permitted. Also, waterfowl hunting hours on WDUs close at 1:00 p.m. daily.

         Waterfowl hunters should be sure they have a state waterfowl license and a federal waterfowl stamp, along with their Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP) Permit. The HIP permits (free at wildlifedepartment.com) are required to be carried by all migratory bird hunters (unless exempt) in the United States. Data collected from the surveys helps state and federal migratory bird biologists better gauge bird harvests and hunter numbers, which are used to improve migratory bird management.

         For complete details see the “2005-06 Oklahoma Waterfowl Hunting Guide” available at hunting license vendors or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

 

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2006 wildlife calendar now available

         The year is slowly winding to a close and it is time to find a new calendar to record all your favorite outdoor-related events. Just in time, the 2006 calendar issue of “Outdoor Oklahoma” magazine, published by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, is hot off the press.

         The calendar not only showcases award-winning color photography of the state’s most scenic landscapes and wildlife, but it also provides tips for landowners and sportsmen on how to improve fishing and hunting on their property. Each month includes suggested habitat management practices, along with interesting fish and wildlife notes for that month.

         The current November/December issue is more than just a calendar. The magazine features information on how to get involved in the state’s 2006 Winter Bird Survey. It also contains an article examining the effects of the January 2005 ice storm on bobwhite quail. Also in the issue, the watchable wildlife feature includes fascinating information about the secretive barn owl.

         The calendar issue is a great gift for family and friends who enjoy the outdoors. Individual issues are $4 by mail and subscriptions for a full year are just $10.

         To obtain the calendar issue, mail a $4 (check, cash, money orders or cashiers check accepted) addressed to “Outdoor Oklahoma” magazine, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152. Subscriptions for one-year ($10), two-years ($18) or three-years ($25) are available by calling 1-800-777-0019. Additionally, you can subscribe over the Internet by logging on to the Department’s Web site at  www.wildlifedepartment.com.

 

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