Southeast Oklahoma wildlife management area featured in national calendar

            Oklahoma’s own Red Slough Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is featured in a national calendar displaying 12 of the continent’s premier wildlife viewing destinations.

            Watchable Wildlife, Inc. created the 2007 calendar in cooperation with the American Bald Eagle Foundation to showcase some of the best locations in North America for observing wildlife. The March page of the calendar features a scenic image of Red Slough WMA. Watchable Wildlife, Inc. calls the wildlife management area a “premier birdwatching area” and a “top waterfowl hunting destination.”

            Red Slough WMA covers 7,800 acres in McCurtain County in southeast Oklahoma, just six miles south of Haworth. Over the past several years, wildlife biologists have made extensive efforts to restore over 1,500 acres of hardwoods that once flourished on the former rice farm. The area also includes thousands of acres of moist soil management units and open water habitat for migrating shorebirds and waterfowl.

            “Though still a work in progress, these areas are being restored once again to bottomland hardwoods and quality habitat that can be enjoyed by both wildlife and people,” said Mike Smith, Wildlife Department biologist at Red Slough WMA.

            The calendar says Red Slough WMA is home “to over 288 species of birds.” Other species spotted on the area include river otters, bald eagles and American alligators.

            Though wildlife-viewing opportunities abound at Red Slough, wildlife watchers are not the only ones with something to enjoy. The area is also home to healthy populations of deer, turkey, small game, furbearers, dove and waterfowl. For complete hunting regulations at Red Slough WMA, see the “2006-07 Oklahoma Hunting Guide.”

            Red Slough is managed by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

            To purchase the 2007 Watchable Wildlife calendar, log on to watchablewildlife.org. To learn more about Red Slough WMA, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.





“Outdoor Oklahoma” magazine seeks reader’s photos for special issue

            Readers of “Outdoor Oklahoma” magazine have an opportunity to see their own photography published this year in the magazine’s annual Readers’ Photography Showcase. Submissions are being accepted until March 31, 2007.

            The special July/August issue gives both professional and amateur photographers the chance to have their digital photos displayed in a magazine that consistently receives national recognition for its photography.

            According to Nels Rodefeld, “Outdoor Oklahoma” editor, this year’s showcase marks the first year the magazine will be accepting only digital photograph submissions for the Readers’ Photography Showcase.

            “The Readers’ Photography Showcase is always one of our favorite issues because of the wide range of images that are submitted by readers from all across the state,” Rodefeld said.  “There are all kinds of landscapes, sunsets and wildlife species in Oklahoma that make for stunning photographs, and it is great to see our reader’s getting out and enjoying it all. It’s rewarding to share those images with our readers each year in this special issue.”

             Rodefeld said that although reader submissions usually include a variety of subjects, the magazine has been focusing on “faces in the outdoors” to show hunters, anglers, kids and other outdoor enthusiasts enjoying the outdoors.

            “We are encouraging readers to submit outstanding photos of Oklahoma sportsman taking part in the outdoors,” Rodefeld said. “The smile on a young deer hunter’s face or two veteran anglers sharing a friendship and a love for fishing really captures what enjoying our state’s outdoors is all about.”

            Each participant may submit up to five digital images. Each submission must include a description of the photo, including the location taken, names and hometowns of subjects and what it took to get just the right shot. Photos should be in sharp focus, and images should be at least 300 dpi (dots per inch). The canvas size should be about 8 inches by 11 inches. Slides and print images will not be accepted.

Hopeful photographers can mail a disk to: "Outdoor Oklahoma" magazine, Oklahoma Dept. of Wildlife Conservation,  P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152.

            Individuals can subscribe to “Outdoor Oklahoma” by calling 1-800-777-0019. Subscriptions are just $10 for one year, $18 for two years, or $25 for three years. You can also subscribe over the Internet by logging on to the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.



"2007 Oklahoma Fishing Guides" available to anglers now

The "2007 Oklahoma Fishing Guide" is available now from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation at fishing and hunting license dealers across the state.

The full-color guide provides regulations for fishing in Oklahoma and well as a wide range of other helpful information such as contacts for Department lakes, "Close to Home" fishing locations, game warden phone numbers, license fees and fish identification tips.

Anglers can also find the "2007 Oklahoma Fishing Guide" online by logging on to wildlifedepartment.com. The Department's Web site also provides a weekly fishing report at www.wildlifedepartment.com, where anglers can find out how some of the state's most popular game fish are biting and what baits are working best at different fishing locations.

It may be cold outside, but according to this week's report, crappie fishing is good at several state lakes such as Foss and Ft. Gibson, bass are biting at Lake Arbuckle, and catfish are biting at Lake Tenkiller. Compiled by Wildlife Department personnel and independent reporters, the reports even include techniques and locations to increase angler success. To sign up for the weekly electronic news release, which also includes the weekly fishing report, go to www.wildlifedepartment.com

The Department Web site also provides the most recent "Oklahoma Hunting Guide," online hunting and fishing license sales and all kinds of information about conservation, hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing and other recreational opportunities across the state. Additionally, wildlifedepartment.com features online brochures, outdoor news reports, information on non-game species and digital interactive maps that allow hunters to do some virtual scouting on wildlife management areas across the state, all while never putting a single mile on a vehicle. Log on to www.wildlifedepartment.com to view the maps, which include a wealth of information such as topography and aerial photos.



National playa lakes conservation group meets in Oklahoma

Oklahoma's playa wetlands - shallow areas that hold water from rainfalls or runoff from surrounding prairies - are among the state's most unique and important habitat types, and hundreds of wildlife species as well as people benefit when they are properly conserved and managed. That is why the Playa Lakes Joint Venture (PLJV) exists.

The PLJV Management Board met this month in Oklahoma to review habitat, outreach and research projects being done in the playa region of six different states. The PLJV is an organization dedicated to conserving playa wetlands as well as other wetlands and associated landscapes. Made up of a partnership between several conservation groups and state wildlife agencies, its work involves areas in Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico and Texas.

Almost all playas are privately owned, making landowners a key cooperator in the conservation of these landscapes.

"Playas in this part of the world support a wide range of wildlife, and since so many of these areas are on private lands, it's important for landowners to get in on the effort to conserve these regions," said Mike O'Meilia, migratory game bird biologist for the Department and member of the PLJV Management Board. "Landowners are the real champions for wildlife conservation around playa lakes."

The wet-dry cycles of these seasonal wetlands support a diverse plant community as well as aquatic insects. The locations provide quality habitat for waterfowl and other birds passing through or wintering in the region. Additionally, playas benefit many mammal species. According to the PLJV Web site, 95 percent of the world's playa lakes occur within the boundaries of the joint venture's work, including several in Oklahoma, and they provide wildlife with vital water and forage.

In addition to providing habitat for wildlife, playa lakes also provide year-round recreational opportunities for hunters, photographers, wildlife watchers and tourists. Oklahomans can enjoy playas by making a trip across the Great Plain's Trail, the state's road-based wildlife viewing trail in western Oklahoma. The trail also offers opportunities to view wildlife from several designated stopping points on public and private areas. For more information about the trail, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

The PLJV Management Board meets twice a year with two committees-the Monitoring, Evaluation and Research Team and the Education and Outreach Team- to review habitat information and develop plans for creating awareness of playa lake regions and their importance to both wildlife and people.

The PLJV Management Board is made up individuals representing several groups, among them the Wildlife Department, other state wildlife agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, Pheasants Forever and ConocoPhillips.

To learn more about playa lakes, log on to wildlifedepartment.com or pljv.org.



Small game hunting offers cure for cabin fever

Oklahomans don't have to hang up their hunting vests and gear yet. Rabbit and squirrel seasons are still open and offer endless hunting opportunities at wildlife management areas across the state.

Rabbit season remains open statewide until March 15, and squirrel until Jan. 31. Resident hunters only need a hunting license and a fishing and hunting legacy permit unless exempt, and residents age 15 and under are exempt from having to purchase a hunting license and fishing and hunting legacy permit. For complete license information, see the "2006-07 Oklahoma Hunting Guide" or log on to wildlifedepartment.com. After obtaining the proper license, hunters only need a place to hunt. But when you consider that the Wildlife Department offers public hunting areas all across the state that often have minimal small game hunting pressure, having a place to go is not a problem.

"With so many wildlife management areas open to small game hunting, a hunter can just grab a gun, boots and a warm jacket and be well on his way to a great day in the outdoors," said Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Not only that, but chasing small game is a great way to introduce a child to hunting and to teach hunter safety."

Generous bag limits on both rabbit and squirrel allow hunters to take plenty of game home from a day in the woods or field. Young hunters who are not used to sitting for long hours have a chance to move about and talk with their friends and family, and longtime hunters have a chance to sharpen their shooting skills. A shotgun or .22 rifle are both great for small game hunting.

"Small game hunters often get to shoot more often than when hunting big game, and doing so can help make them more confident with a big game rifle. One thing to remember, though, is to always be sure of your surroundings and your target when shooting," Meek said.

For bag limits and regulations on rabbit and squirrel, see the "2006-07 Oklahoma Hunting Guide" or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

Perhaps one of the most rewarding benefits of small game hunting comes after the hunt. Rabbit and squirrel make excellent table fare, and can often be substitutes for chicken in many recipes. For a simple way to prepare squirrel and rabbit, cut the meat into quarters, roll it in flour and dust it with a favorite spice. Then quickly brown the meat in a skillet filled with inch of vegetable oil until it is golden on all sides. Finally, add water until the meat is about half submersed, then simmer 45 minutes or until the meat is tender and a gravy is formed. Serve hot with mashed potatoes and buttered rolls.

Rabbit and squirrel seasons on public lands may vary from statewide seasons, so hunters should consult wildlife management area regulations beginning on page 37 of the "2006-07 Oklahoma Hunting Guide" before hunting. For more information on small game hunting in Oklahoma, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.


Lost Creek fishing area sees first trout stocking

            The new Lost Creek fishing area of the Lower Mountain Fork River was recently stocked with trout for the first time, and officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation say now is a good time to be fishing the stream.

            Lost Creek is a 1,200 ft. long stream constructed last summer as part of an extensive trout habitat project on the Lower Mountain Fork River. It branches off from the river and flows through a wooded area before emptying into the newly renovated Evening Hole trout fishing area.

            Paul Balkenbush, southeast region fisheries supervisor for the Wildlife Department, said Lost Creek is ready for fishing.

            “Compared to other streams in Oklahoma, Lost Creek is an untouched resource,” Balkenbush said. “Now that it has received its first stocking of trout, we encourage anglers to get out there and fish it.”

            Balkenbush said recent winter weather across the state should have minimal effects on fishing at Lost Creek since the area received mostly rain rather than ice.

            This week’s state fishing report echoes Balkenbush. According to the report, trout fishing on the Lower Mountain Fork River is currently “very good.” Flies that trout are reportedly biting include pheasant tails, red fox squirrel, San Juan worms, egg patterns and wooly buggers. Biologists have also reported fisherman having great success using bead head hare’s ear flies.

            There are 16 sites along the Lower Mountain Fork River, including two on Lost Creek and one at the Evening Hole, where trout are stocked regularly. For a complete stocking schedule, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

            At Lost Creek, as well as the Evening Hole, brown and rainbow trout both have a one-fish-per-day limit, and fish must be 20 inches or longer. Also, anglers in the areas may only use artificial flies and lures and barbless hooks. For complete fishing regulations and license information, consult the “2007 Oklahoma Fishing Guide” or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.





Prepare now for prescribed burns

            While the wildfires of 2006 may still be fresh in peoples’ minds, prescribed burning is an entirely different operation, and the months of February and March are ideal for conducting prescribed burns because the weather conditions are often more predictable and provide more safety for conducting burns.

            Prescribed burns should not be confused with "wild fires" and are crucial for enhancing wildlife habitat. They serve several purposes, such as removing accumulated leaf litter, stimulating new growth and controlling excessive wood growth. Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation say native rangelands that are burned periodically have a wider diversity of plants beneficial to wildlife, particularly quail, than unburned prairies. Burned units attract more insects for quail chicks and more seeds for adult birds. Additionally, quail can use the areas more easily and have less difficulty feeding.

            Prescribed burns also benefit cattle by providing new growth for grazing and by controlling cedar growth.

            Officials with the Department say landowners planning to conduct prescribed burns on their properties this winter should attempt to have them completed before April to avoid disrupting ground nesting birds, and those wanting to conduct burns next year should begin preparing now.

            There are only so many days where conditions are right to conduct a proper burn, and landowners must be ready to capitalize,” said Mike Sams, senior wildlife biologist with the Wildlife Department. “Ideally, landowners wanting to conduct a prescribed burn this year would have already done most of the prep work, including a prescribed burn plan, so that all they need to do is wait on the proper weather conditions. If most of the prep work is not complete, landowners may be forced to put off burning another year. Planning for next year starts now by managing the amount of grass available to carry the fire.”

            Sams said those who prepared last year for prescribed burning in 2007 are the most likely to be able to burn when conditions are right.

            “The prime time for conducting burns is now through March,” Sams said.

            Sams says fire behavior is directly related to weather conditions, and he discourages the use of fire within 24 hours of a weather front.

            “You want weather to be predictable so you can conduct your burn accordingly," Sams said.

            Acceptable weather parameters vary depending on a landowner’s desired results and their capabilities, but a general rule-of-thumb is when winds are 5-15 mph, relative humidity is above 35 percent and temperatures are less than 60 degrees, it a good time to burn. Sams cautions landowners to contact the neighbors, fire departments and the sheriff’s office prior to lighting a fire.

            "Notifying emergency personnel is critical. You do not want to risk a life responding to a contained burn,” Sams said.

            When burning for wildlife, it is important to leave portions of an area unburned.

            "Unburned areas are needed to provide nesting structure for ground nesting birds," Sams said.

            For birds like quail, this allows nesting, brood rearing and foraging areas to exist in close proximity.

            Sams recommends landowners read the OSU Extension publication “E-927 Using Prescribed Fire in Oklahoma” and participate in prescribed burn training before using fire as a management tool.

            "Many County Extension offices can schedule training in the use of prescribed burning,” Sams said.

            For additional resources to help prepare for a prescribed burn, visit the OSU extension service Web site at http://www2.dasnr.okstate.edu/extension or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.





“Outdoor Oklahoma” readers encouraged to submit digital photographs for Showcase

            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is encouraging readers of “Outdoor Oklahoma” magazine to continue submitting digital photographs for this year’s annual Readers’ Photography Showcase. Submissions are being accepted until March 31, 2007.

            The award-winning magazine is the official magazine of the Wildlife Department. Submissions from both professional and amateur photographers are being accepted for the special July/August issue, and for the first time the magazine will feature only digital submissions in the Showcase.

            Nels Rodefeld, “Outdoor Oklahoma” editor, said using all digital submissions will improve the popular issue and make way for talented photographers to have their work displayed in a magazine frequently recognized for its photography.

            “There are some talented digital photographers out hunting, fishing and enjoying the outdoors this year, and the Readers’ Photography Showcase gives them a chance to share that once-in-a-lifetime shot of a hummingbird or a child catching their first fish,” Rodefeld said. “These are the things that make this issue so popular. I guess you could say we all want to be good photographers at some level.”

             Rodefeld said that although reader submissions usually include a variety of subjects, the magazine has been focusing on “faces in the outdoors” to show hunters, anglers, kids and other outdoor enthusiasts enjoying the outdoors.

            Each participant may submit up to five digital images. Each submission must include a description of the photo, including the location taken, names and hometowns of subjects and what it took to get just the right shot. Photos should be in sharp focus, and images should be at least 300 dpi (dots per inch). The canvas size should be about eight inches by 11 inches. Slides and print images will not be accepted.

            Hopeful photographers can mail a disk to: "Outdoor Oklahoma" magazine, Oklahoma Dept. of Wildlife Conservation, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152.

            Individuals can subscribe to “Outdoor Oklahoma” by calling 1-800-777-0019. Subscriptions are just $10 for one year, $18 for two years, or $25 for three years. You can also subscribe over the Internet by logging on to the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.




Wildlife Department officials study participation in hunting and fishing

A recent six-year study of hunting and fishing license sales in Oklahoma shows that the number of certified hunters is rising slightly and that participation in hunting and fishing activities continue to be popular Oklahoma pastimes.

Researchers took a detailed look into annual and lifetime license sales, annual license renewal rates, ages and household incomes of sportsmen and other factors. The study revealed that participation in hunting and fishing is steady, but that continued growth in the popularity of both sports is needed to keep up with the state's rising population.

Greg Summers, fisheries research supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, presented the findings to the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission at its monthly meeting Jan. 8.

"Participation in hunting and fishing is stable," Summers said. "Oklahoma has strong traditions, but we want to make sure as many Oklahomans as possible get involved in hunting and fishing and enjoy all that Oklahoma's outdoors have to offer. Conservation depends on it."

In Oklahoma, about half the state's annual hunting and fishing license holders renew their licenses in consecutive years. While some do not hunt or fish in back-to-back years, annual license sales remain stable because other sportsmen come back into the sport after a year or more absence. The study shows that 43 percent of the total number of licensed resident anglers and 24 percent of licensed resident hunters are annual license holders. Despite a decrease in annual license sales over the years and sometimes inconsistent annual license renewal by sportsmen, Summers said lifetime and senior citizen license holders help keep participation steady. Oklahoma is one of the most stable among its neighboring states in per capita license sales. The study also shows that states such as Arkansas, Kansas and Texas also face stable numbers of participants in spite of growing populations.

The Wildlife Department is working on ways to maintain and increase participation in hunting and fishing as a key to sound conservation. Department officials encourage hunters and anglers who have not been active in recent years to once again take to the outdoors, and they urge newcomers to stay involved. Officials also remind sportsmen of the value in hunting and fishing as a way to spend time with family and connect with the outdoors.

"We're not selling fish and deer," said Greg Duffy, director of the Wildlife Department regarding license sales. "We're selling experiences. Spending time outdoors and sharing memories with your friends and family is what hunting and fishing is all about."

Department officials plan to continue studying license sale trends in an effort to increase future participation in hunting and fishing and to encourage continued participation by young or new sportsmen.

The Wildlife Department receives no general state tax revenues, and conservation in Oklahoma is funded by the purchase of hunting and fishing licenses by sportsmen, along with special federal excise taxes they pay on sporting goods.

In other business, the Commission voted to accept $824,570 for a five-year oil and gas lease on the Atoka Wildlife Management Area in Atoka County.

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 set for 9 a.m. Feb. 5 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters (auditorium) located at the southwest corner of 18th and North Lincoln, Oklahoma City.



Wildlife technical advisory committee meets to review conservation projects

Red-cockaded woodpeckers, big-eared bats, rich mountain salamanders, Neosho mussels and other rare species as well as a wealth of much more common wildlife all make homes in the rich habitats of Oklahoma, and dedicated wildlife enthusiasts work all year long to ensure they each receive the conservation attention they need.

About 55 wildlife enthusiasts met recently at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in Norman to review the year's conservation accomplishments and to share information about various projects being funded by the State Wildlife Grant Program. The annual meeting served as a gathering of the nongame wildlife technical advisory committee, a group of recognized wildlife experts who lend expertise to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Wildlife Diversity Program. Committee members provide a wealth of knowledge about habitat, birds, mammals, fish, mussels, reptiles, amphibians and other species of wildlife.

Committee members partner with Department officials to conduct a number of projects funded by the State Wildlife Grant Program that lead to greater knowledge and understanding of sound conservation.

"Several wildlife enthusiasts are focusing on important conservation needs across Oklahoma, and the Wildlife Diversity Program benefits from their dedication and knowledge," said Julianne Hoagland, senior biologist for the Department's Wildlife Diversity Program and coordinator for the annual advisory committee meeting.

The committee communicates all year long with Department officials concerning the Wildlife Diversity Program, but the formal meeting is held once a year to establish contacts, report accomplishments and learn about the various projects being conducted.

"About 20 projects funded by the State Wildlife Grant Program were represented at this year's annual meeting," Hoagland said. "The annual meeting plays an important role in the Department's Wildlife Diversity Program through the sharing of information among committee members and State Wildlife Grant project investigators."

Some of the presentations and projects discussed at the meeting were delivered and conducted by graduate students, professors and others whose projects receive funding from the State Wildlife Grant Program.

The committee has been relied upon in the past by the Department to review technical information as well as to study maps for conservation purposes.

To learn more about the Department's Wildlife Diversity Program, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.



Centennial habitat donor patches and caps available now

Oklahomans can now buy a 2007 centennial habitat donor patch or cap and at the same time help the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation provide public land access.

Centennial habitat donor patches are now available through the Department's Outdoor Store. For the first time ever, two different patch designs are available this year. The centennial designs feature embroidered patches displaying either a rainbow trout or bobwhite quail. The patches are $10, and the caps, displaying the centennial patch, are $18. All proceeds go to the Department's Land Acquisition Fund, which is used to provide public hunting and fishing access. To view the new patches and those from previous years, log on to the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com

"Displaying a habitat donor patch on your hunting vest or wearing a donor cap is an easy way to show others you care about wildlife and the tradition of hunting and fishing in our state," said Alan Peoples, wildlife chief at the Department.

The colorful patches have displayed a different game or fish species every year since 1986, and collectors can purchase a patch from any year.

"Collectors can choose from several species that have been displayed on patches over the years, from furbearers and big game to waterfowl and fish," Peoples said. "This year's trout and bobwhite quail designs are another great addition to years of great collectables, especially since they mark the state's centennial."

The caps are available in several colors and display the habitat patch.

To purchase a donor patch or cap, visit the Department's Outdoor Store by logging on to wildlifedepartment.com. Outdoor Store order forms also can be found in copies of "Outdoor Oklahoma" magazine. Additionally, patches and caps can be purchased at the Wildlife Department headquarters in Oklahoma City or at the Jenks office adjacent to the Oklahoma Aquarium.


Caption: For the first time ever, the 2007 centennial habitat donor patches from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation feature two different species - the rainbow trout and the bobwhite quail. Patches are available now for $10 from the Department's Outdoor Store at wildlifedepartment.com.



Bobcat harvest and prices reach highest point in nearly two decades

Hunters and trappers tagged 5,425 bobcats last year - a 21-year high according to biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The good news continued for sportsmen when they sold their furs. The values of bobcat pelts were the highest they've been since the 1987-88 season. Last year the average pelt sold for about $56.

The price for the best quality furs can reach even higher according to Shannon Sheffert, a long-time trapper who lives in Stillwater. Sheffert said he sold bobcat pelts for about $75 on average last year. However, Sheffert says those who participate in furbearer hunting and trapping do so for more than just the money.

"People who trap now are in it because they love it," said Sheffert.

Glen Johnson, a licensed Oklahoma fur buyer and owner of KanOkla Fur Company located on the Oklahoma/Kansas border, said he usually pays anywhere from $80-$175 for top quality Oklahoma bobcats. But bobcat pelts of lower quality often sell for considerably less, Johnson said. According to Johnson, bobcat prices are on the rise because of higher demand overseas in places such as Italy, where he said he does most of his fur selling.

Russ Horton, central region wildlife biologist for the Wildlife Department, says the sport is a valuable part of Oklahoma's outdoor traditions.

"Furbearer hunting and trapping is a great way to enjoy the outdoors. It offers a challenge to any seasoned hunter while providing a valuable service to wildlife conservation and management," Horton said.

Furbearing animals in Oklahoma include bobcat, raccoon, mink, badger, muskrat, opossum, weasel, gray and red fox, beaver and skunks. Squirrel skins and/or tails may also be sold and have brought up to $2 for whole skins in recent years. Those interested in learning more about trapping and furbearer hunting will want to attend one of the upcoming fur auctions that will be held Jan. 27 in Okmulgee and again Feb. 3 in Chandler by the Oklahoma Fur Bearer Alliance. Sellers must be members of the Alliance. For more information, contact John Weygandt at (918) 557-1282.

To hunt furbearers, residents are required to purchase an annual hunting license as well as a fishing and hunting legacy permit, unless exempt. In addition to a hunting license, a trapping license is required to trap any furbearer, unless otherwise exempt. The trapping license expires Jan. 31 of each year. A bobcat-raccoon-gray/red fox license is required for taking these species by any means, unless exempt, and is valid until Jan. 31, 2007, for raccoon and gray/red fox and until Feb. 28, 2007, for bobcat. Lifetime hunting or combination license holders or senior citizen hunting or senior citizen combination license holders must purchase a trapping license to trap.

Bobcat pelts must have a permanent tag affixed by an authorized employee of the Wildlife Department or designated private tagging agent and can be obtained from any game warden, wildlife biologists, state fish hatcheries, Department field offices or designated private tagging stations. Bobcat pelts must have the permanent tag affixed within 10 working days of the close of furbearer season in order to be held in possession of a hunter, trapper or buyer.

For specific tagging details, furbearer season dates and other furbearer regulations, see the "2006-07 Oklahoma Hunting Guide" or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.