APRIL 2007 NEWS RELEASES 

 

WEEK OF APRIL 5, 2007

WEEK OF APRIL 12, 2007

WEEK OF APRIL 19, 2007

WEEK OF APRIL 27, 2007

 

 

Private lands elk season set; Department employee receives national honor

            Southwest Oklahoma private landowners will now have more days available to harvest elk, as well as increased chances to harvest quality bulls and more cow elk.

            At its regular monthly meeting held April 2, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission approved several private lands elk hunting regulations designed to improve the health of the state’s elk herds while meeting the needs and interests of landowners.

            Alan Peoples, chief of wildlife for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, said meetings with landowners in the affected counties revealed a desire to harvest more quality bulls.

            “Landowners want to see better bulls harvested during the private lands seasons in their areas, so we decided to raise the antler point restriction from at least five points on one side to six,” Peoples said. “That gives younger bulls more opportunity to grow into trophy-sized animals, and it helps create a healthier age structure of animals in the herd. Hunters are also going to have more days to hunt for these more elusive bigger bulls, and cows as well.”

            The Commission’s decision essentially recognizes the free-ranging elk on lands east and west of SH 115 in Kiowa, Comanche and Caddo counties as two independent elk herds.

            The land west of the highway is known as the “Granite” area and is very rocky, whereas the eastern side, known as the “Slick Hills” area, includes a transitioning point from rocky ground to soils more suited for agriculture.

            “The highway is like a dividing line between the herds, and research studies tell us there’s not much intermingling between the two,” Peoples said. “We are confident that managing the two groups of elk separately through different hunting seasons will improve their health and better serve the landowners’ desires.”

            The private lands elk hunting regulations approved by the Commission include a five-day bull or antlerless archery season spanning from the first Saturday in October through the following Wednesday (Oct. 6-10 for 2007) and from the second Saturday in December through the following Wednesday (Dec. 8-12 for 2007). The private lands elk gun season, however, will vary for areas east and west of SH 115.

            On both sides of the highway, the season will include the Thursday through Sunday period immediately following the October archery elk season (Oct. 11-13 for 2007) and the Thursday through Sunday period immediately following the December archery elk season (Dec. 13-15 for 2007). However, on the west side of SH 115, the season will be open to bulls only on the Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and open to both bulls and antlerless elk on the two Sundays. On the east side of SH 115, all season days are open to both antlered and antlerless elk hunting. Only one elk per year may be harvested per hunter, regardless of whether the elk is antlered or antlerless.

            In other business, the Commission received $32,000 in donations from an Oklahoma conservation organization Monday.

            NatureWorks, a Tulsa-based, nonprofit group dedicated to assisting conservation through education and financial support of various wildlife projects, donated the funds.

            “The money will be used to help support four specific Department projects, including Operation Game Thief, the Oklahoma Duck Stamp program, Hunters Against Hunger and the Lower Illinois River Stream Enhancement project,” said Richard Hatcher, assistant director of the Wildlife Department.

            NatureWorks sponsors an annual wildlife art show in Tulsa, and at its last show it sold over $600,000 worth of art. Over the years, the show has generated matching grants to assist a variety of state wildlife conservation projects.

            “NatureWorks is a great organization that does a lot for wildlife,” Hatcher said. “They have been a great supporter of conservation and the Wildlife Department over the years.”

            NatureWorks president John Reaves presented the donation and said NatureWorks looks forward to a continued relationship with the Department.

            Also at the meeting, one of Oklahoma’s own game wardens was recognized as the National Wild Turkey Federation State Game Warden of the Year for two years running and also as the first Oklahoma game warden to receive the National Game Warden of the Year Award.

            Shane Fields, game warden stationed in Pittsburg Co., was at the meeting to receive the honor from Gary Purdy and Don Chitwood of the National Wild Turkey Federation. Fields has been a game warden in Oklahoma for eight years.

            In other business, the Commission heard a presentation from Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts executive director Clay Pope and Garfield Co. Conservation District representative Jason Skaggs. The District presented Wildlife Conservation Commissioner John Groendyke with an engraved gun case in thanks for his hosting a Legislative meeting and hunt last December. The gathering established a partnership with natural resources agencies in Oklahoma. Groendyke, Enid, has served on the Commission since 1976 and currently holds the District Eight seat, which, along with Garfield county, includes Cimarron, Texas, Beaver, Harper, Woodward, Woods, Major, Alfalfa, Grant, Kay and Noble counties.

            The Commission also voted to take sealed bids for disposal and salvage of several structures at the Lower Illinois River wildlife management area in Sequoyah Co. Additionally, the Commission voted to sell five acres of land in Tillman Co. The land, located along HWY 5 on the east side of Frederick, was originally purchased five years ago with non-Departmental funds for the construction of a Hackberry Flat visitor’s center but is no longer designated for that project. The visitor’s center is now under construction at the Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area, and Department officials hope to have it completed by the fall of this year.

            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. May 7 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters (auditorium), located at the southwest corner of 18th and North Lincoln, Oklahoma City.   

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Time to apply for the Department’s Controlled Hunts

            Hunters can now submit their applications for the “2007-08 Controlled Hunts” over the Internet by logging onto www.wildlifedepartment.com

            “Now that the Controlled Hunts applications are done completely online, hunters get the assurance of accuracy, peace of mind and convenience,” said Nels Rodefeld, information and education chief for the Wildlife Department. “That means a lot when you’re hoping to draw out on one of these highly sought after hunts.”

            Oklahoma was one of the first states in the nation to offer electronic applications, and last year, 85 percent of those applying for Controlled Hunts used the online application system.

            “Online applications have been available since 1999, and now people know how simple it is to apply. Applicants are prompted to fill out their information correctly, which helps avoid the chance of applying incorrectly and losing a chance to be drawn,” Rodefeld said. “There’s no reason why someone should have to go to all the work to fill out an application and then have to worry that they did it incorrectly, or that it didn’t arrive to its destination through the mail or that it didn’t arrive on time. Previously, there were so many variables that could limit applicants, but by switching to the online system completely, we’re helping applicants avoid a lot of that.”

            Besides simplifying the process for applicants, Rodefeld said online applications are the best thing for wildlife as well as sportsmen.

            “The Department will save money by not having to print an application booklet, and money saved on that is money that can be used on habitat programs and other projects to benefit hunters, anglers and wildlife,” Rodefeld said. “It’s a winning situation for everyone involved.”

            After an individual submits an online application, they receive a message immediately confirming that their application was accepted.

            “It’s easy to tell if you applied correctly, and you get instant peace of mind knowing that you have as good a chance as anyone at getting drawn on the hunts you applied for,” Rodefeld said.

            Applicants have until May 15 to apply online.

            Administered by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the Controlled Hunts Program offers a wide variety of highly desirable hunts through a random drawing. Some hunts are held to provide high-quality hunting experiences on high-profile areas where it is necessary to regulate hunting pressure. Others are held to achieve management goals for certain species, and others are held to provide hunting experiences in areas where access is otherwise limited.

            All applicants, including lifetime license holders, must pay a $5 application fee to enter the Controlled Hunts drawings. The fee is paid only once per person per year regardless of the number of categories entered.

             For complete application instructions, including tips on enhancing your chances of being selected, log on to http://www.wildlifedepartment.com.  

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Record rainfalls mean fantastic fishing for Sooner anglers

            After the state’s wettest March on record, biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation say recent rains are having positive effects on fishing.

            “The amount of rain we had in late March is enhancing the angling action across Oklahoma right now,” said Jeff Boxrucker, senior fisheries research biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “The rainfall and more daylight we get this time of year raises water temperatures, which results in more fish activity.”

            Not only was it the wettest March on record for Oklahoma, but it also was the second warmest. Oklahoma received about 8.02 inches of precipitation in March.

            Boxrucker said spawning runs of some fish, such as white bass, striped bass and paddlefish, are triggered by water flowing into lakes at this time in the year. The flowing water also replenishes the nutrients in lakes, which is vital for fish production.

            “Also, these warm inflows created from springtime rain drive fish into shallower waters because it’s warmer there,” Boxrucker said.

            The Department’s fishing report this week echoes Boxrucker, with reports that anglers are catching crappie and largemouth bass in shallow water at lakes all across the state.

            Rainfall also plays a role in habitat development in shallow waters. Because of severe drought across the state last year, lake levels stayed low long enough for vegetation to grow.

            “When water levels flood vegetation that has been growing along exposed banks, you end up with great habitat where fish can hide and hunt for food,” Boxrucker said. “That creates another fishing opportunity in the shallow waters, especially for anglers who don’t have a boat.”

            Rain also creates muddy water in creeks and rivers that tend to warm faster and cool slower than clearer water, further increasing fish activity.

            Although last year’s drought cycle did not significantly affect fishing, Boxrucker said the recent rains are still a nice relief for state lakes. Many lakes, especially in the eastern portion of the state, are currently at or near normal levels.

            “All kinds of factors are working together this time of year to heat up fish activity and angling opportunities, and now through the next few weeks is when people should get out and cast a line,” Boxrucker said.  

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 First youth spring turkey season a success for families and Oklahoma businesses

            When seventh-grader Seth Fuller, Jones, set out March 31 to participate in the state’s first Youth Spring Turkey season, he probably did not realize just what a successful and memorable weekend was in store for him — and neither did his father.

            After a long morning, Seth and his dad were walking back toward their vehicle when they saw four hen turkeys cross a meadow, followed by two toms.

            “We let the hens walk out of sight, and snuck around a big brush pile,” Seth said. “We waited, and the two turkeys’ gobbles got louder and louder, so we knew they were getting close. Soon, one came around the corner of the brush pile, and I got him!”

            Rich Fuller, Seth’s dad and an avid turkey hunter, said he was nearly as excited about the hunt as his son.

            “If you’ve never taken your kids turkey hunting, you really need to,” he said. “It sounds like a cliché, but it gets your heart thumping twice as much as any bird you hunt yourself.”

            Seth’s turkey had a nine and three-quarter-inch beard and one and three-eighths-inch spurs, but it is the memories shared with his father that will last a lifetime.

            Once back at home, Seth relived the hunt with his dad when they shared a meal of fried wild turkey and morels.

            “When it all comes together and you get a bird coming to the call, it’s almost more than I can take physically and emotionally,” Rich Fuller said about hunting with his son. “Until spring of 2012, when my son is too old to participate, the weekend of the youth season will be permanently circled on our calendars. Oklahoma’s Youth Spring Turkey season is a great opportunity for dads to spend some quality time with their kids.”

            The Fullers’ day in the woods was undoubtedly only one of many success stories from the first Youth Spring Turkey season offered in Oklahoma. The season even proved successful for the some of the state’s businesses, such as the Cheyenne Motel in western Oklahoma.

            “I can pick out 12 rooms that had to be hunters, and there may be more than that,” said Cheyenne Motel owner Wanda Purcell regarding the weekend of the youth season.

            Purcell said one group of guests consisted of a young hunter from Holdenville and his father and grandfather. The boy harvested a turkey, and Purcell said he told as many people as he could about his successful hunt.

            “That was the most excited little boy,” Purcell said.

            Department officials say the youth season should be successful every year, much like the youth deer season that opens every October.

            “We want to provide as many hunting opportunities as we can, especially for kids,” said Bill Dinkines, assistant chief of wildlife for the Wildlife Department. “The Youth Spring Turkey season is one more way people can share the heritage of hunting and have a great time outdoors.”

            Turkeys harvested during the first Youth Spring Turkey season are included in the youth hunter’s county and regular spring season limits. Those who participated in the youth season but did not harvest a turkey may use their unfilled turkey license during the regular spring turkey season, which runs from April 6 -May 6. For license information and other regulations for the regular spring turkey season, log on to wildlifedepartment.com or consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide.”

 

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Report reveals increase in fishing success of bass tournament anglers

            Bass tournament anglers caught more and bigger fish last year according to the most recent Oklahoma Bass Tournaments Report now available at wildlifedepartment.com.

            “The success of competitive bass fishermen can tell us a lot about the quality of angling opportunities across the state, and the newest report shows that bass fishing is getting better and better in Oklahoma.” said Gene Gilliland, senior fisheries biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “The Department has been gathering data on bass fishing tournaments across the state for the last 13 years, and the information we collect helps us manage bass populations.”

            In 2006, the overall success rate at tournaments was 65 percent, up three percent over the previous year. Success rates are measured based on anglers or teams who bring at least one bass to the tournament weigh-in.

            “Not only that, but the average winning weight rose once again in 2006 to 10.9 lbs., which is nearly a one-pound gain over the last three years,” Gilliland said. “The report summarizes the results of day-long weekend events as well as weekly evening jackpots across the state.”

            Additionally, tournament anglers on average caught bigger fish in 2006 than they did during other recent tournament seasons. In 2006, the average angler caught about two fish per day that weighed 2.2 lbs., up slightly from 2.14 lbs. in 2004 and 2005.

            Sardis Lake claimed the number one spot on the list of top tournament lakes, followed by Okemah, Keystone, Thunderbird, Konawa, Arbuckle, Hudson, Texoma, Oologah and McGee Creek. Only lakes that the Department received at least 10 reports from were considered in the rankings. According to Gilliland, information from lakes with fewer reports may not convey their actual fishing quality. To see the rest of the top 20 list as well as other tournament results, download and print the 14-page report for free by logging on to wildlifedepartment.com.

            According to Gilliland, the continued improved fishing can be attributed primarily to favorable water levels and good bass recruitment in the last few years.

             “2001-2003 were very good years for fish reproduction in lakes across Oklahoma, and the fish that were hatched then are now reaching good sizes for anglers to catch,” Gilliland said.

            With an estimated 1,200 tournaments held each year in the state, tournament anglers are an important part of the Department’s fisheries management team. In the course of their pursuits, they provide biologists with hundreds of thousands of hours of fishing data every year.

            “Since our biologists cannot survey every lake every year, tournament data is vital information in our monitoring program,” Gilliland said.

            The Department collects the data on “tournament report cards” that are submitted by tournament directors or through the Internet. Ninety-nine different organizations submitted almost 600 reports from 61 lakes for 2006.

            For more tournament information or to learn more about submitting tournament reports, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

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 Online Controlled Hunts applications pouring in

            Just in the last two weeks, more than 3,500 online Controlled Hunts applications have poured in to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

            “People are eager to apply for their favorite controlled hunt, and the Internet is making it simple and quick,” said Melinda Sturgess-Streich, assistant director of administration and finance for the Wildlife Department. “These early birds get to sit back now and wait for the drawings without worrying about their applications getting lost in the mail or arriving late.”

            According to Sturgess-Streich, Oklahoma was one of the first states to offer online Controlled Hunts applications in 1999, and 2007 marks the first year that applications are available only online.

            “Now all applicants receive immediate confirmation when their applications have been processed correctly, giving them peace of mind,” Sturgess-Streich said. “It’s also a responsible use of sportsmen’s dollars, since the money we save by not having to print booklets means more money available to spend on new and existing conservation projects.”

            Last year, nearly 85 percent of those applying for Controlled Hunts used the online application system.

            Hunters can now submit their applications for the “2007-08 Controlled Hunts” over the Internet by logging on to www.wildlifedepartment.com. After an individual submits an online application, they receive a message immediately confirming that their application was accepted.

            Applicants have until May 15 to apply online.

            Administered by the Wildlife Department, the Controlled Hunts Program offers a wide variety of highly desirable hunts through a random drawing. Some hunts are held to provide high-quality hunting experiences on high-profile areas where it is necessary to regulate hunting pressure. Others are held to achieve management goals for certain species, and others are held to provide hunting experiences in areas where access is otherwise limited.

            All applicants, including lifetime license holders, must pay a $5 application fee to enter the Controlled Hunts drawings. The fee is paid only once per person per year regardless of the number of categories entered.

             For complete application instructions, including tips on enhancing your chances of being selected, log on to wildlifedepartment.com, and submit an application by the May 15 deadline.

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 Outdoor camps slated for Oklahoma youth

            Youth interested in the outdoors have plenty of opportunities this summer to learn about wildlife, forestry and conservation from the state’s experts.

            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Youth Camp as well as the Oklahoma Forestry Service’s Youth Forestry and Wildlife Camp will both be held in June, but applications are due this month.

            “Youth can learn a lot about the outdoors by attending either camp, but they need to get their applications in as soon as possible to make sure they get a spot in the camp they want to attend,” said Jon Cunningham, game warden stationed in Payne Co. Cunningham also serves as the coordinator for the Wildlife Department Youth Camp.

            The Wildlife Department Youth Camp is scheduled for June 10-15, but applications are due April 27. The camp is free of charge and is aimed at youth interested in wildlife, fisheries and law enforcement.

            Held at Camp McFadden near Ponca City, the camp is open to Oklahoma youths ages 14 to 16 and is designed to give an increased awareness of protecting and managing Oklahoma's wildlife resources. Participants will attend courses in firearms handling, wildlife law enforcement, wildlife and fisheries biology, water safety, self-defense, rifle and shotgun training, waterfowl hunting and archery. The camp will be limited to 35-40 participants.

            Wildlife Department Youth Camp applicants should be interested in fish and wildlife management or law enforcement and must submit a 75-word essay explaining why they want to attend the camp, why they believe they should be selected and what they expect to learn while attending. They must also submit a letter of recommendation from a person of their choice other than a family member. Applicants must turn 14 prior to June 10, 2007. Obtain applications by logging on to the Wildlife Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com. Simply print off the application, fill it out and mail it in with the essay and letter of recommendation to: Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Law Enforcement Division Youth Camp P.O. Box 53465 Oklahoma City, OK 73152.

            The Department also has been actively involved in recent years with the Oklahoma Forestry Service’s Youth Forestry and Wildlife Camp. Scheduled for June 4-9 at Beaver’s Bend State Park near Broken Bow, the camp will focus on the forestry profession in Oklahoma as well as the state’s wildlife. Students will learn about wildlife and forest management, stream ecology, fire management, urban forestry and more. The camp is for youth ages 13-15 years old, and the deadline to submit applications is April 25. Accepted applicants will have until May 11 to return medical forms and the $175 camp fee. Applications and other additional information are available at whatisforestry.org/pdf/camper-application2007.pdf. and should be sent to: OK Forestry Services/Youth Camp, 2800 N. Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City, OK 73105. They can also be faxed to (405) 522-4583 or e-mailed to info@whatisforestry.org.

 

Oklahoma road-based trail guiding travelers for a year and counting

            The Great Plains Trail of Oklahoma will turn one year old this month, but the heritage, landscape and wildlife in its path have been around since before statehood.

            The road-based trail, which spans the entire western portion of the state, consists of 13 road-based driving loops that guide travelers through first class wildlife viewing areas. In all, the trail covers about 1,777 miles and includes 33 counties.

            “This trail has been entertaining travelers for a year now, and because of the commitment of several groups and organizations in the state, the areas along the scenic trail will be conserved for years to come,” said Melynda Hickman, wildlife biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

            Hickman said each trail loop offers something different, whether it be opportunities to photograph bison and deer or watch for birds near one of the state’s playas.

            “The communities along the way offer great food, lodging and western Oklahoma hospitality,” Hickman said. “If nothing else, traveling one of the loops is just a good opportunity to get away from all the hustle of everyday life and to see the state. Making a trip along the Great Plains Trail can be as relaxing or as active as you want it to be.”

            A Great Plains Trail Scenic Drive Map is available on the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department’s Web site at travelok.com or by calling (800)-652-6552. It is also available at any Oklahoma Welcome Center. The map offers detailed outlines of each trail loop, including information about the terrain, wildlife and lodging opportunities in the area. The map also points travelers to historic sites and scenic roads throughout western Oklahoma.

            Travelers can also log on to greatplainstrail.com for detailed descriptions of each trail loop or to print off an individual loop map.

            The trail is a collaborative effort of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Oklahoma Wildlife and Prairie Heritage Alliance, Playa Lakes Joint Venture, Oklahoma Economic Development Authority, High Plains RC&D, Great Plains RC&D and the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department.

            Readers of Outdoor Oklahoma magazine, the official publication of the Wildlife Department, can catch a glimpse of the Great Plains Trail in upcoming issues. Each issue features a different loop with photos, locations and highlights of the surrounding area. Individual copies of “Outdoor Oklahoma” are available for $3 at the Department headquarters in Oklahoma City. Subscriptions are available for $10 a year, $18 for two years and $25 for three years. Log on to wildlifedepartment.com for more information.

            For more information about the Great Plains Trail of Oklahoma, log on to wildlifedepartment.com or www.greatplainstrail.com

 

 

Credit: wildlifedepartment.com

Caption: The Great Plains Trail of Oklahoma consists of 13 road-based driving loops that guide travelers to first class wildlife viewing areas in western Oklahoma. A Great Plains Trail Scenic Drive Map is available on the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department’s Web site at travelok.com or by calling (800)-652-6552.

 

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Space still available at Wildlife Department Youth Camp

            There are still open spots at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Youth Camp slated for June 10-15, but applications are due April 27.

            “The Department Youth Camp is free but limited to a certain number of applicants, so anybody who plans to attend will want to get their applications in quick before the deadline and before someone else beats them to it,” said Jon Cunningham, game warden stationed in Payne Co. and the coordinator of the Department’s Youth Camp.

            The camp is aimed at youth interested in wildlife, fisheries and law enforcement. Held at Camp McFadden near Ponca City, it is open to Oklahoma youths ages 14 to 16 and is designed to give an increased awareness of protecting and managing Oklahoma's wildlife resources. Participants will attend courses in firearms handling, wildlife law enforcement, wildlife and fisheries biology, water safety, self-defense, rifle and shotgun training, waterfowl hunting and archery. The camp will be limited to 35-40 participants.

            Wildlife Department Youth Camp applicants should be interested in fish and wildlife management or law enforcement and must submit a 75-word essay explaining why they want to attend the camp, why they believe they should be selected and what they expect to learn while attending. They must also submit a letter of recommendation from a person of their choice other than a family member. Applicants must turn 14 prior to June 10, 2007. Obtain applications by logging on to the Wildlife Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com. Simply print off the application, fill it out and mail it in with the essay and letter of recommendation to: Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Law Enforcement Division Youth Camp P.O. Box 53465 Oklahoma City, OK 73152.

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Public comments welcomed at water plan meetings across the state

            Oklahoma residents still have plenty of chances to share their opinions on what should be included in the state’s upcoming 50-year water plan at one of several remaining public meetings.

            Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation are encouraging the sportsmen of the state to remember wildlife when offering their opinions at the meetings.

            “Water management affects not only people, but also the state’s wildlife,” said Barry Bolton, assistant chief of fisheries for the Wildlife Department. “Sportsmen who attend these meetings have a chance to speak up for the resources and recreation that they enjoy so much.”

 

            All meetings start at 6:30 p.m. The next scheduled meetings are set for:

·         April 26 at the City of Woodward Pioneer Room, Woodward

·         May 3 at the Woods Co. Fairgrounds Women’s Building, Alva

·         May 8 at the Western Technology Center Conference Room, Sayre

·         May 15 at the Great Plains Technology Center Worley Center, Lawton

·         May 17 at the Southwestern Oklahoma State University Conference Center, Weatherford

·         May 29 at the Western Technology Center Conference Center, Hobart

·         May 31 at the Western Oklahoma State College Student Center, Altus

·         June 5 at the Northern Oklahoma College Walters Conference Center, Tonkawa

·         June 7 at the Grady Co. Fairgrounds Community Building, Chickasha

·         June 12 at the Stephens Co. Fair and Expo Center, Duncan

·         June 19 at the Garfield Co. Fairgrounds Hoover Building, Enid

·         June 21 at the Canadian Valley Technology Center Conference Center, El Reno

·         June 28 at the Kingfisher Co. Fairgrounds Exhibit Building, Kingfisher.

 

            For a complete list of meeting dates and locations for the rest of the year, log on to okwaterplan.info.

            The Oklahoma Legislature mandates that the Oklahoma Water Resources Board develop and periodically update a comprehensive water plan. The OWRB, in conjunction with the Army Corps of Engineers and other organizations, is also conducting technical studies of projected water demands and water supply infrastructure needs.

            The Water Research Institute, located at Oklahoma State University but serving all of Oklahoma, is assisting the board with the planning process. The institute focuses on two major thrusts: citizen input and research to investigate identified issues and concerns.

            Though the ultimate responsibility for writing the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan lies with the OWRB, officials say every issue raised, concern expressed, question asked and suggestion offered will be communicated to the OWRB.

            More information on the planning process is available at okwaterplan.info.

            For more information about the upcoming Local Input Meetings, contact Jeri Fleming by e-mail at waterplan@okstate.edu or by phone at (405) 744-9994. 

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  Spring turkey hunting and stream fishing combine for a great trip

            Mid April can be full of decisions when it comes to outdoor recreation — spring weather means warmer waters, longer days and excellent fishing on the state’s many rivers, streams and ponds, but it also means gobbling toms and the heart of the spring turkey season.

            “The choice is easy,” said Todd Craighead, avid turkey hunter and angler and host of the Wildlife Department’s Outdoor Oklahoma TV show. “Plan a trip where you can do both.”

            With healthy turkey populations in all 77 Oklahoma counties, sportsmen can hunt anywhere and still be only a short distance from a prime spring fishing hole. Spring turkey season falls right in line with the spawning seasons of some of the most popular fish in Oklahoma. Rivers, streams and ponds in Oklahoma can offer excellent fishing for black bass, white bass, crappie, catfish and sunfish, all of which can be caught on simple tackle. Not only that, but public lands such as certain Department-managed wildlife management areas across the state offer opportunities to pursue both activities at the same time.

            “It’s hard to beat chasing longbeards all morning, then topping it off with a stringer full of fish,” Craighead said. “You could also do both at once — fish at a great spot while keeping your ears open for the gobble of a lonely tom.”

            Great combo trip destinations include the Honobia Creek and Three Rivers wildlife management areas in southeast Oklahoma, where anglers can pursue the Eastern turkey subspecies on thousands of prime turkey hunting acres all morning before heading to one of several hot fishing destinations such as the Glover River. Oklahoma’s last major free-flowing river, the Glover offers outstanding smallmouth bass, spotted bass and rock bass fishing. Fishing opportunities in tributaries of the Mountain Fork and Little Rivers also make a trip to the southeast corner of the state worth a sportsman’s time. The two WMAs also offer primitive camping and scenic landscapes.

            Sportsmen can also head west toward Canton, Packsaddle or Black Kettle WMAs for a chance at a Rio Grande turkey and crappie fishing at Canton Lake.

            Regulations and land use permit requirements on Honobia Creek and Three Rivers WMAs as well as other public hunting areas can be found in the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or at wildlifedepartment.com.

            Turkey hunters are now allowed to harvest more than one tom in a day, up to their season limit, so sportsmen might be fortunate enough to squeeze in some fishing between birds.

            Turkey season runs through May 6, statewide.

            For complete season dates and regulations, consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide" and “Oklahoma Fishing Guide” or log on to wildlifedepartment.com. 

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Crappie moving to shallow waters; fishing excellent from the banks now

                Anglers are reporting outstanding crappie fishing in shallow waters statewide now as the popular fish move toward the banks of lakes to spawn.

                “About this time every year, we begin hearing about excellent bank fishing for crappie, said Paul Mauck, southcentral region fisheries supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “Water temperatures at lakes across the state are staying in the upper 50s and warmer, and that’s what triggers crappie to move to shallow water this time of year.”

                Crappie usually spawn in water only two to three feet deep, making shallows along banks an excellent place for anglers to target the highly sought after fish as well to introduce youngsters to the sport of fishing.

                “This is the time for bank anglers to reel in a lot of crappie,” Mauck said. “Some light tackle and a handful of jigs is all that is needed. A child can pick up on it very quickly and have a great time.”

                According to this week’s state fishing report compiled by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, crappie are biting in shallow waters at Canton, Kaw, Kerr and other lakes all over the state.

                Mauck said anglers should fish around brush and rocky structure in shallow water for their best shot at catching crappie right now.

                The fact that crappie will bite a variety of bait and are easily accessible from the banks right now is only part of why they are so popular, according to Mauck.

                 “They’re excellent to eat, so you can’t go wrong with catching a bunch of them this time of year,” Mauck said.

                For a complete list of regulations, anglers should consult to the current “Oklahoma Fishing Guide” or log on to wildlifedepartment.com. Anglers can also subscribe to the Department’s weekly news release to stay current on fishing conditions at state lakes as well as other outdoor news at wildlifedepartment.com. 

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 2007 Oklahoma Wildlife Expo to include new Outdoor Marketplace

                Archery, shotgun shooting, kayaking, camping, fishing, mountain biking, hunting dog training and wild game sampling are a few things that many Oklahomans may never get to experience unless they are avid outdoorsmen — that was until three years ago.

                The first two annual Oklahoma Wildlife Expos, held by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation in 2005 and 2006, drew close to 80,000 people to the Lazy E Arena for a weekend of outdoor recreation. Officials with the Wildlife Department say the 2007 Expo, slated for Sept. 28-30, will be the biggest yet. The Wildlife Department is working with a range of organizations, individuals and outdoor-related companies to host the Expo, an event intended to promote and develop appreciation for Oklahoma's wildlife and natural resources.

                Expo visitors will learn about recreation in the great outdoors and even have a chance to win a variety of free prizes thanks to the Expo's sponsors. New this year, the Expo will feature the Outdoor Marketplace, a large tent where commercial vendors will be selling their hunting and fishing-related merchandise, services and memberships to outdoor organizations.

                "The Outdoor Marketplace will be good for the Expo and good for the state’s outdoor businesses,” said Nels Rodefeld, information and education chief for the Department. “Visitors will be able to shop while at the Expo, and businesses will be able to showcase their products and services to thousands of outdoor-minded shoppers.”

                For more information about obtaining a booth in the Outdoor Marketplace or to obtain an application for a booth, contact Rodefeld (405) 521-9723.

                Log on to wildlifedepartment.com regularly to stay up to date on the upcoming Oklahoma Wildlife Expo.

 

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Anglers catching tagged paddlefish can find out more on the Web

                Oklahoma paddlefish anglers are still reeling in the “spoonbills” in parts of the state, and some are finding that their fish have been previously caught and tagged.

                The fish were tagged by fisheries biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to learn more about the prehistoric species, and anglers who catch a tagged spoonbill can learn more about their fish by logging on to the Department’s Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.

                For months, Brent Gordon, fisheries biologist with the Wildlife Department, has been netting, weighing, measuring and marking paddlefish with metal tags on the front of the jaw before releasing them to be caught again by anglers.

                 “Anglers have had a lot of success catching paddlefish this year and are still catching them,” Gordon said. “When a tagged fish is caught and the angler participates, everyone benefits. The angler gets to learn a little about their specific fish, the Department gets to collect useful data to help with future management, and the paddlefish are ensured a future in Oklahoma waters.”

                Paddlefish are caught by snagging, and top fishing spots include locations on the Neosho River such as the Riverview City Park in Miami, Conner and Twin Bridges above Grand Lake, the Kaw Lake tailwaters, Ft. Gibson Lake and Oologah Lake. Also, good paddlefishing can be found on Hudson Lake, where over 500 fish have already been marked with Wildlife Department tags to date.

                The skeleton of a paddlefish is made of cartilage instead of bones, much like a shark’s skeleton. The fish regularly weigh over 50 pounds, and anglers say the action is intense and can at times be compared to heart-pounding saltwater fishing. One of Oklahoma's largest fish, paddlefish feed on plankton made of up microscopic plants and animals, just as they did long ago during the Jurassic Period.

                Data collected through the Wildlife Department's paddlefish tagging program may assist other state wildlife agencies in restoring their paddlefish numbers. Some states have seen dramatic decreases in paddlefish numbers, but studies in Oklahoma indicate an increase in recent years. Paddlefish range throughout the U.S. from Montana to Louisiana.

                Anglers who catch a tagged paddlefish can find out the length of the fish when it was first caught in a gillnet as well as when and where it was netted by logging on to wildlifedepartment.com and entering the tag number. They also can learn more about the paddlefish tagging program. Gordon said it is important for anglers to participate.

                Paddlefish are unusual and require different management practices than other big fish. It takes a male paddlefish six to eight years to mature, and it takes a female eight to 10 years. In comparison, striped bass, another popular trophy fish in Oklahoma, can reproduce in their third or fourth year.

                Since the fish take so long to mature, Gordon said as much information as possible needs to be gathered on Oklahoma's populations.

                 “The Jurassic Period is long gone, but we are still catching the paddlefish that swam around then,” Gordon said. “Watching our paddlefish numbers and keeping track of the health of the fish we have will help us continue to manage them so people will be catching them a long time from now, too.”

                Recently, the Wildlife Department developed rules to help paddlefish continue to thrive in Oklahoma. The rules reduce the bag and possession limits from three to one paddlefish daily and require the use of barbless hooks. Any fish caught and kept must be immediately tagged with the angler's name, address and fishing license number. Anglers are allowed to catch and release paddlefish until they decide to keep a fish, a practice that was previously prohibited. For more information and regulations for paddlefishing, consult the current "Oklahoma Fishing Guide."

 

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Online Controlled Hunts deadline is May 15

                The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Controlled Hunts deadline is May 15, and many sportsmen have already submitted their applications.

                Oklahoma was one of the first states to offer online Controlled Hunts applications in 1999, and 2007 marks the first year that applications are available only online.

                Last year, nearly 85 percent of those applying for Controlled Hunts used the online application system.

                Hunters can now submit their applications for the “2007-08 Controlled Hunts” over the Internet by logging on to www.wildlifedepartment.com. After an individual submits an online application, they receive a message immediately confirming that their application was accepted.

                Administered by the Wildlife Department, the Controlled Hunts Program offers a wide variety of highly desirable hunts through a random drawing. Some hunts are held to provide high-quality hunting experiences on high-profile areas where it is necessary to regulate hunting pressure. Others are held to achieve management goals for certain species, and others are held to provide hunting experiences in areas where access is otherwise limited.

                All applicants, including lifetime license holders, must pay a $5 application fee to enter the Controlled Hunts drawings. The fee is paid only once per person per year regardless of the number of categories entered.

                For complete application instructions, including tips on enhancing your chances of being selected, log on to wildlifedepartment.com, and submit an application by the May 15 deadline. 

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Salt Plains Bird Festival to kick off Friday

                The Salt Plains Bird Festival will be held this weekend, Friday, April 27 through Sunday, April 29 at the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge in Cherokee and will be loaded with family friendly activities.

                Biologists from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be presenting workshops during the festival. Some of the activities will include bird watching, wildlife photography, plant and waterfowl identification, storm chasing, guided night walks, youth casting contests, and more.

                 “There will be activities for the entire family,” said Melynda Hickman, wildlife biologist for the Wildlife Department. “With the events being geared for all ages, there will be plenty to choose from.”

                For more information, call the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge office at (580) 626-4794, or log on to www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/saltplains/

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