Third annual Oklahoma Wildlife Expo draws 40,000
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s third annual Oklahoma Wildlife Expo drew about 40,000 people to the Lazy E Arena Sept. 28-30.
            “This was our most successful Expo yet,” said Greg Duffy, director of the Wildlife Department. “But the success of this year’s Expo was huge on many levels. The people of Oklahoma came together for three days of enjoying our state’s outdoor heritage, and we did that in a big way.”
            More than 25,000 shotgun shells were shot at the Expo, and thousands of arrows were shot from bows at one of three archery ranges. In addition, visitors to the Expo’s popular Taste of the Wild booth consumed about 250 gallons of buffalo chili, 1,200 pounds of blue catfish fillets and 1,000 pounds of venison bacon.
            The 2007 Oklahoma Wildlife Expo featured more than 150 activities and booths related to the outdoors, many of which allowed hands-on learning experiences for people of all ages and skill levels. Among the activities available at the Expo were shooting sports, ATV rides, mountain biking, kayaking, fly fishing, castnetting, bowfishing, rock climbing, bird watching, wild game tasting and booths and seminars related to hunting, fishing, backpacking, camping, mule and horse packing, taxidermy, wildlife and land management, nature trails, reptiles and amphibians, upland game birds and waterfowl, treestand safety, Oklahoma history and more.
            The event drew thousands to the grounds of the Lazy E Arena, just north of Oklahoma City, to celebrate what many Oklahomans know to be an enriching part of life in Oklahoma—the great outdoors. But perhaps Expo spokesperson and rising country music star Blake Shelton explained the outdoor heritage best when he told the crowd at the Expo about his own introduction to the outdoors when his cousin took him hunting near Calvin, Okla., when he was only 14 years old. His cousin set him up near a creek and explained to him what to expect from his first hunt.
            “About 30 minutes later a doe walked in to about 10 yards from me and changed my life, and I want all these kids out here to experience what that feels like,” Shelton said regarding how the hunting and outdoor heritage became a significant part of his life once he experienced it firsthand.
            And experiencing the outdoors firsthand is what the Oklahoma Wildlife Expo is all about. The event is designed to promote and perpetuate appreciation of Oklahoma's wildlife and natural resources and provide hands-on learning opportunities for all types of outdoor enthusiasts.
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation partnered with a wide range of other state agencies, private individuals and outdoor-related companies to host the huge event.
            Though the third annual Oklahoma Wildlife Expo may be hard to top, volunteers and Wildlife Department employees are already looking ahead to the 2008 Wildlife Expo, slated for Sept. 26-28.
            “We have a talented bunch of individuals working on the Expo every year, and because of that and all that goes into making the Expo such a great thing, we are confident the Expo will continue to be the biggest outdoor recreation event in the state, as well as the best,” said Rhonda Hurst, Expo coordinator for the Wildlife Department.
Paddlefish permit established to help manage fisheries and simplify tagging process
            Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation have developed a new way to manage paddlefish while creating simpler tagging regulations for paddlefish anglers.
            At its October meeting, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission approved a rule change that will require anglers to obtain a free paddlefish permit before fishing for paddlefish in Oklahoma. Each angler that obtains the permit will be assigned a number that must be attached to all paddlefish that are caught and kept.
            “In the past, it has been a challenge to determine numbers of paddlefish anglers,” said Barry Bolton, fisheries chief for the Wildlife Department. “This permit system will give us a clearer picture of these anglers and help us better manage paddlefish populations.”
            According to Bolton, the free permits will also make the paddlefish tagging process easier for anglers.
            “Previously, anglers had to tag their paddlefish with personal information, including their first and last name, address and fishing license number. Now they will only be required to attach their paddlefish permit number to the fish,” Bolton said. “The permit is good for the whole year, and the permit number can be used on every paddlefish tagged during that period. That speeds up the tagging process and makes it less likely to make a mistake.”
            At its meeting last month, the Commission approved an extensive plan for a pilot paddlefish research program scheduled to open in February. A paddlefish research and processing center will be built near the Twin Bridges area of the Neosho River and will play an important role in paddlefish management. The primary functions of the center will be collecting important data for the Department’s paddlefish management plan, processing paddlefish meat for anglers and salvaging paddlefish eggs.
            Surveys performed in top paddlefishing locations in Oklahoma showed that anglers strongly supported the idea of a paddlefish research and processing center. About 99 percent of those surveyed said they would moderately or strongly support such a venture, and about 92 percent said they would likely participate by having their paddlefish processed at the center.
            The center will be open during the paddlefish spring spawning run, and anglers will be able to bring their catch to the center for cleaning and processing. They will take home meat from their own fish that has been cleaned and packaged.
            Paddlefish, which date back to the Jurassic Period, regularly weigh over 50 pounds, and anglers who have caught them say the action is better than deep-sea fishing.
            In other business, the Commission recognized a host of Wildlife Department employees for tenure and excellence in service.
            Larry Manering, chief of law enforcement for the Wildlife Department, presented Game Warden Jerry Henry with the “Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Outstanding Game Warden of the Year Award.” Henry is stationed in Sequoyah County and has been working for the Department for 23 years. A panel of past “Outstanding Game Warden of the Year Award” recipients recommended one of eight anonymous finalists from each law enforcement district to receive the award.
            In addition, Jim Edwards, assistant chief of law enforcement for the Wildlife Department, was recognized for 25 years of service to the Department and sportsmen of the state; Jack Witt, district six chief of law enforcement, for 35 years of service; Todd Tobey, game warden supervisor, for 20 years of service; Gary Peterson, northeast region fisheries biologist, for 25 years of service; Ron Folks, wildlife biologist, for 35 years of service; and Kelly Roberson for 25 years of service as a game warden. Roberson recently accepted the position of lands and minerals coordinator for the Department.
            Additionally, the Commission took no action after returning from executive session to discuss a pending investigation and possible litigation involving pollution from an active oil well located on the Osage West Wall Wildlife Management Area.
            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 Commission meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Nov. 5 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters (auditorium), at the southwest corner of 18th and North Lincoln, Oklahoma City.
Outdoor Calendar offers full schedule of fall activities
            The temperatures outside may be cooling off with the switch from summer to fall, but the outdoor activities available to sportsmen across the state are just heating up. Oklahomans looking for opportunities to share the outdoors with family and friends this fall need to look no further than the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Outdoor Calendar.
            Visitors to the Wildlife Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com can use the Outdoor Calendar to find out what activities are going on in their area — whether it is a wildlife tour, hunting season, shooting sports event, hunter education course or other activity.
            The Outdoor Calendar provides information about events sponsored by various conservation organizations, such as the Wagoner Chapter of Ducks Unlimited Waterfowl Extravaganza to be held Oct. 13 at Bass Pro Shops in Broken Arrow, and the Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International’s second annual Fall Rendezvous charity fundraiser Oct. 12 at the historic Elks Lodge in El Reno. The SCI event is open to the public and will include a cash bar at 6 p.m., a western barbecue dinner at 6:30 p.m., casino-style games from 7:30 - 9:30 p.m., a live auction of 20 hunt packages and firearms and a raffle of 20 hunting-related items. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased at the door, or reservations can be made. For more information or to RSVP, call (405) 721-7229. Oklahoma Station Chapter of SCI is a leader in protecting sportsmen’s right to hunt, supporting wildlife conservation projects, educating the public about the value of hunting for wildlife management and supporting humanitarian services such as the Hunters Against Hunger program. The Oklahoma Station Chapter has supported the Wildlife Department with over $200,000 in contributions over the past 20 years.
            Sportsmen also can use the Outdoor Calendar to plan to attend hunter education courses that are scheduled throughout the fall in many communities such as Oklahoma City, Norman, Sperry, Midwest City, Tulsa, Madill, Wagoner and others across the state. And travelers can use the calendar as a tool for planning a fall afternoon at the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge for a Bugling Elk Tour during the peak of the elk mating season or a hunting trip during their favorite season.
            Camp cooking enthusiasts can find out about the Red Dirt Dutch Oven Cook-off at Crow’s Secret Nature Center at Lake Thunderbird State Park. The event runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and includes cast-iron cooking competitions for several skill levels and age classes. Categories include meats, vegetables, breads and desserts. More information is available by calling (405) 321-4633.
            To learn more about other outdoor activities this fall, log on to wildlifedepartment.com and check out the Outdoor Calendar.
            Those interested in receiving the Outdoor Calendar by e-mail can also subscribe to the Department’s weekly Wildlife News at wildlifedepartment.com. The weekly news release provides detailed information about events, breaking outdoor news, hunting and fishing opportunities and more.
            For even more information about Oklahoma’s outdoors, log on to the Department’s Web site at wildlifedepartment.com. The site is a great source for brochures and other information to help sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts get the most from Oklahoma’s outdoors while benefiting wildlife at the same time.
            Whether you’re interested in learning more about the Wildlife Department, getting rid of aquatic vegetation in your pond or learning about wildlife species in Oklahoma, it can all be found with a few clicks of the mouse. In addition, the Department’s annual hunting and fishing regulations also are available on the site.


Muzzleloader deer season slated for Oct. 27-Nov. 4
            Oklahoma sportsmen who enjoy mixing their time afield with a little of the “good old days” will be taking to the woods soon for the 2007 deer muzzleloader season.
            Spanning nine days (Oct. 27 - Nov. 4) deer muzzleloader season offers hunters a chance to hunt deer weeks in advance of the popular deer gun season (Nov. 17 - Dec. 2).
            In recent years, participation in muzzleloader season has been on the rise, as well as the hunter success rate. Last year, hunters set a new muzzleloader harvest record with 29,519 deer taken.
            “This year looks like it could be another good one statewide,” said Jerry Shaw, big game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “After getting a lot of rain this past year, Oklahoma’s deer herd looks healthy, and hunters should do well by hunting areas that have proven successful in the past.”
            From wide-open prairie to pine-covered mountains, Oklahomans are blessed with a wide variety of terrain that whitetail deer call home. Many of the wildlife management areas in the state are open for all or at least a portion of the nine-day muzzleloader season. According to Shaw, though, it is always a good idea to do some scouting before the season no matter where you go.
            “It can really pay to know the land you are hunting as well as something about the deer that are moving in the area,” Shaw said.
            Hunters can do a little virtual scouting and never leave the comfort of home by logging on to wildlifedepartment.com. The Web site offers an award-winning digital wildlife management area atlas. And best of all, it is free. In addition to detailed maps, sportsmen can find information such as camping locations and contacts for local biologists.
            “Using some of these available resources may help some hunters harvest a nice deer this year,” Shaw said.
            Not only can hunters harvest a buck, but most of the state is open to antlerless hunting every day during the muzzleloader season. New this year, hunters can harvest three deer (one antlered and two antlerless) during muzzleloader season and must have a deer license to hunt for each, unless exempt. If hunters harvest two antlerless deer, at least one of those antlerless deer must be taken in antlerless zone two (see page 17 of the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide”). In addition, resident muzzleloader hunters must carry an appropriate hunting license and a fishing and hunting legacy permit, unless exempt. Nonresident muzzleloader hunters must also carry a fishing and hunting legacy permit. As an extra incentive for heading to the woods, hunters can harvest a turkey with their muzzleloaders Nov. 3-4 in most of the state. A fall turkey license is required, unless exempt. Fall turkey gun season runs Nov. 3-16, and details on the season are available in the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide.”
            For newcomers to the outdoors, going hunting during the muzzleloader season may be easier than ever. New to this year’s hunting seasons is Oklahoma’s apprentice-designated hunting license for certain individuals who have not completed the Wildlife Department’s hunter education course. Hunters age 16-35 who have not completed hunter education can buy an apprentice-designated hunting license and hunt while accompanied by a licensed hunter 21 years old or older who has completed the hunter education course, or a licensed hunter 21 years old or older who is otherwise exempt from hunter education (includes those 36 years old or older, those honorably discharged or currently active in the Armed Forces or members of the National Guard). Hunters under 16 years old must complete a hunter education course to hunt big game or to buy any big game hunting license.
            For specific information regarding which areas are open to muzzleloader season, licenses, bag limits, blaze orange clothing requirements or legal firearms, consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide" or log onto wildlifedepartment.com.
Youth deer gun season hunters have opportunity to harvest a buck and doe
            Oklahoma's 2007 youth deer gun season runs October 19-21, and while past youth seasons have been open to antlerless hunting only, this year youth can harvest both a buck and a doe.
            "We hope that a lot of young Oklahoma hunters take advantage of the youth deer gun season this year," said Colin Berg, education supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "To maximize opportunity for youth participation, we tried to set the youth deer gun season so it falls during the week of fall break for many schools."
            Youth are already talking about the building excitement that comes with the youth deer gun season.
            “Fall break starts Thursday, and I'm looking forward to participating in this year's youth deer season,” said Corbin Craycraft, who lives near Cleveland. “I've been lucky enough to harvest a doe during two of the last four youth seasons, but what I really want to do is harvest a buck this year.”
            Corbin has been hunting with his step-father, Colin Berg, since he was nine, and has received a lot of mentoring from him.
            “I’ve taken Corbin hunting during three of the past four youth deer seasons, and I wouldn’t trade the time we’ve been able to spend together for anything,” said Berg. “I am really glad I’ve had the opportunity to pass what I know about deer hunting on to Corbin. He is 13 now and is well on his way to becoming a really good hunter. I'd have to say the most important part of our hunting together has been the shared memories and the great father/son relationship that we have developed. We've had some great hunts together. Corbin is a natural at everything he does. Hunting isn't any different. Last year I watched as he harvested a doe opening morning of the youth deer gun season, and that very same evening he harvested his first deer — another doe — with his bow. I told him he accomplished something I never have — harvesting a deer with two different methods during the same day.”
            The youth deer gun season was created to encourage youth to head afield. The youth season is open to kids under 18 years of age. Youth hunters must be accompanied by a hunter 18 years or older (21 years or older for apprentice hunters). Oklahoma kids under the age of 16 are exempt from the purchase of a hunting license, and youth 16 or 17 years old can purchase a combination youth hunting and fishing license for $9 or a youth hunting license for $5. Unless they hold a lifetime hunting or combination license, all youth participants must purchase a $10 youth antlered deer gun license and/or a $10 youth antlerless deer gun license if they want a chance to harvest a buck and a doe. Nonresident youth hunters must purchase a nonresident deer gun antlered, antlerless or combination license, and nonresident youth hunters ages 14-17 must also purchase a fishing and hunting legacy permit. Youth hunters who do not harvest a deer during the youth deer gun season may use their unfilled youth deer gun license during the regular deer gun season. Youth hunters who do harvest a deer during the youth deer gun season may purchase another youth deer gun license and harvest a deer during the regular gun season. Deer taken by youth hunters participating in the youth deer gun season are included in the hunter’s combined season limit.
            Youth under the age of 16 must be hunter education certified to participate in the youth deer gun season. However, due to a change in the hunter education requirements, youth 16 and 17 years of age can hunt with an apprentice-designated hunting license. For complete information on the apprentice-designated hunting license, youth season regulations and season dates, pick up a copy of the “2007-08 Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or log onto wildlifedepartment.com.
            For those youth who do not have their hunter education certification, the Department is offering several courses before the season opens in communities across the state, including Oklahoma City, Ardmore, Duncan, Tulsa, Madill and Jenks. Some require pre-registration. Log on to wildlifedepartment.com for more information on each available class.
Winners of 2008-09 Waterfowl Stamp contest announced
            The 2008-2009 Oklahoma Waterfowl Stamp design competition results are in, and first place goes to Russ Duerksen of Sioux Falls, S.D. His winning art, displaying mallards in flight as a Labrador retriever watches from a boat, will be featured on the 2008-09 Oklahoma Waterfowl Stamp.
            Honorable mentions went to James McKew of Minden, Nev., and Larry Simons of Lebanon, Ore.
            “We added a few new elements to the stamp design contest this year, and we received some great entries,” said Micah Holmes, information supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “One of the biggest changes is that we gave artists a chance to include a retriever in their artwork, and this year Russell proved this could be an interesting new dynamic of the competition, not to mention a great addition to the stamp.”
            Also new to this year’s competition was the manner in which the artwork was judged.
            “In previous Oklahoma duck stamp design competitions, the winning artwork was determined by a small panel of judges,” Holmes said. “We asked for the public’s input to help choose the best artwork for the stamp. After all, they are the ones purchasing and collecting the stamps. Selected entries were displayed at the 2007 Oklahoma Wildlife Expo last month, and hundreds of visitors were able to voice their opinions on their favorite entries.”
            Duck stamp sales help finance many projects that benefit ducks and geese. Since the duck stamp program began in 1980, thousands of acres of waterfowl habitat have been created through duck stamp revenues.
            Entries were judged on anatomical accuracy, artistic composition and suitability for printing. The winner and honorable mentions also will appear in a future issue of Outdoor Oklahoma magazine.
            A selection of waterfowl stamp art from previous years is currently on display in the lobby of the Wildlife Department headquarters located at 1801 N. Lincoln, in Oklahoma City.
            Prints of previous winning waterfowl artwork can be purchased at wildlifedepartment.com

Special youth waterfowl hunt at Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge
            Oklahoma youth have a unique opportunity this year to draw out for a waterfowl hunt at the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge.
            The special two-day waterfowl hunt is coordinated by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, and will take place Thursday, Dec. 20 and Friday, Dec. 21 on the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge near Vian. Youth ages 14 or 15 are eligible to be drawn for the hunt.
            “This is an outstanding hunt,” said Brek Henry, game warden stationed in Rogers Co. and coordinator for the special waterfowl hunt.
            According to Henry, youth attending the hunt are sure to be in for a successful hunt.
            “If they’ve never taken waterfowl before, this will be an excellent opportunity for them to do that,” Henry said.
            Thursday will be a field day, where youth will participate in several waterfowl hunting related demonstrations including duck calling, hunting safety, decoy placement, waterfowl identification, shotgun shooting and retriever training.
            On Friday, the youth will be taken on a guided waterfowl hunt on the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge.
            The Wildlife Department will provide successful applicants the necessary nontoxic shotgun shells, and a shotgun will be available for use if the youth does not have his or her own shotgun.
            Participants must apply for the hunt by mailing a postcard including their name, age and address to “Attention: Youth Waterfowl Hunt:” Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge, Route 1 Box 18A, Vian, OK, by Nov. 1.
            Successful applicants will be notified after the drawing. Call the Refuge at (918) 773-5252 for more information.
Youth outdoor writing contest could mean trip of a lifetime for winning youth
            Oklahoma youth have a chance to show their interest in the outdoors and win the trip of a lifetime through the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and Oklahoma Station Chapter Safari Club International 2007 Creative Writing Competition.
            "By writing an essay or short story on an outdoor theme provided to them, youth can show their love of the outdoors and conservation, and in the process have a chance to win a great outdoors getaway,” said Colin Berg, education supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
            To participate, students must be 11-17 years of age and currently enrolled in any Oklahoma school or home school. Winners of the 2006 contest are not eligible. Applicants must have successfully completed an Oklahoma Hunter Education course by the entry deadline, which is Nov. 21, 2007. Students also must use the theme of “Hunting: Sharing the Heritage, Archery: What I like about Archery in the Schools and Bowhunting” or the concept of the theme to develop an expository essay or short story.
            Winners in the 15-17 age category (one boy and one girl) will receive a guided antelope hunt in New Mexico, and winners in the 11-14 age category are competing for scholarship for the Apprentice Hunter Program at the YO Ranch in Mountain Home, Texas. Safari Club International’s Apprentice Hunter Program is a unique, hands-on course designed for girls and boys aged 11-14. The program covers topics such as history of hunting, the ethical basis of modern sport hunting, wildlife management, field identification, tracking and interpreting sign, game cooking and the SCI Sportsmen Against Hunger Program. There are three sessions, each one week long, during the summer of 2008.
            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 national winners have come from Oklahoma.
             “One educator also 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,” Berg said.
            The AWLS program is conducted during the summer and presents an outdoor program for educators that concentrates on natural resource management. Participants learn about stream ecology, map and compass usage, fly tying, shooting sports, wildlife management, the Yellowstone ecosystem, camping, white-water rafting, educational resources, how to implement outdoor education ideas and language arts and creative writing in an outdoor setting.
            Both the essay contest rules and teacher scholarship applications are available from the Department's Web site at http://www.wildlifedepartment.com
            Essays and applications must be postmarked no later than Nov. 21, or delivered by Nov. 21 in person to the Department of Wildlife’s Jenks Office at 201 Aquarium Drive, in Jenks. Address entries to: Essay Contest, Attn: Education Section Supervisor, ODWC Jenks Office, P.O. Box 1201, Jenks, OK 74037.
Archery in Schools workshop available to teachers
            A program offering competitive archery to students has found its way into at least 75 schools in Oklahoma, and coordinators of the program say available grant money could make it easy for other schools to join up as well.
            The program, coordinated by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, is called Oklahoma Archery in Schools (OAIS) and is part of a national program that partners state wildlife agencies, schools and the nation's archery industry to introduce students to the sport of archery. The program curriculum is designed for 4th-12th graders and covers archery history, safety, techniques, equipment, mental concentration and self-improvement.
            “Teachers and students alike have many great things to say about the program,” said Lance Meek, OAIS coordinator for the Wildlife Department. “It’s a lot of fun, and teachers are reporting increased attendance, better attitudes and academic improvements.”
            And thanks to a recent grant made available through the Federal Wildlife Restoration Program, more than $50,000 is available for schools to acquire all the equipment, curriculum and training necessary to begin an OAIS  program in their communities at little or no cost.
            “We’ve worked out a deal where, after applying the grant money and a reduction in cost provided by the archery industry, schools can get $5,000 worth of equipment for $1,300,” Meek said. “That includes bows, arrows, targets, safety nets, and almost everything else needed to run the program.”
            About 6,500 Oklahoma students participated in the program last year, 400 of which attended the OAIS state tournament held at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond. Students have the opportunity to win bows, arrows, bow cases, trophies and medals through the program as well.
            “This is a great program because students of almost all sizes and physical abilities can excel,” Meek said.
            In order to be eligible for a grant, the school must send a couple of teachers to an eight-hour workshop where they will learn to how to conduct the program at their school and instruct students in archery.
            Teachers interested in learning more about the OAIS program or in starting an OAIS program at their school should contact Meek at (405) 522-4572.
Wildlife Miscellaneous Sale slated for Oct. 20
            Shoppers won’t want to miss the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Miscellaneous Sale slated for Oct. 20.
            The sale will be held at Lake Burtschi, just west of Chickasha at the Lake Maintenance Headquarters. Registration will begin at 7:30 a.m., and the sale will start promptly at 9 a.m.
            Items for sale range from Kawasaki and Polaris ATVs to boats, pickup trucks, digital cameras, computer monitors, truck tool boxes, riding and push lawn mowers, chainsaws and more. A complete list of sale items can be viewed on the Wildlife Department’s Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.
            High bidder must pay in full at the time of sale or bid will be rejected. Titles will be furnished with cash and cashier's check. Personal checks will be accepted; however, titles will be held for approximately two weeks. No warranty is given or implied. The State reserves the right to reject any and all bids. For additional information, call (405) 521-4600 or (405) 521-4618.
            Lake Burtschi is located 11 miles west of Chickasha on SH-92. In case of rain, the sale will be held Oct. 21, at the same time and place.

Youth waterfowl hunts hosted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation
            Oklahoma youth have an opportunity this fall to apply for one of several waterfowl hunts sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
            The hunts are designed to provide youth who do not have an adult mentor who waterfowl hunts an opportunity to experience the traditions of waterfowling.
            “Taking our youth hunting is a very important part of keeping our hunting traditions strong, not to mention the sport can draw individuals and families closer together. These waterfowl hunts provide a way for Oklahomans to do just that,” said Mike O’Meilia, migratory game bird biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “We hope the kids who go on these hunts develop an interest in wildlife conservation, and discover the lifelong hobby of hunting as well.”
            Applicants must be 12 to 15 years of age, have proof of successfully completing a certified hunter education course and have an adult guardian who can accompany them on the hunt.
            A Wildlife Department employee will accompany each youth and their adult guardian for the controlled waterfowl hunt at one of several Department-managed areas. Only the youth hunter will be allowed to hunt.
            To be eligible for the drawing, each youth applicant and their guardian may apply only once and must provide the following information on a 3x5 postcard: names, addresses, telephone numbers, youth’s hunter education number, and the name of the desired hunt location and two alternate hunt locations where they would like to hunt. The scheduled date of the hunt will be coordinated with successful applicants after the drawing.
            Hunt locations include Altus-Lugert Lake, Canton Lake, Ft. Gibson Refuge, Ft. Cobb Lake Refuge, Hackberry Flat Refuge, Vann’s Lake, Wagoner Co., Webbers Falls Refuge, and Wister Lake Refuge.
            Applications must be received by November 15, 2007, and should be mailed to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Youth Waterfowl Hunts, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152. Successful applicants will be notified.
            The Wildlife Department will provide successful applicants the necessary nontoxic shotgun shells, and a 20 gauge single shot shotgun will be available for use if the youth does not have his or her own shotgun. For more information, contact Jeff Neal, Wildlife Department migratory game bird technician at (405) 424-0122.
            Additionally, youth ages 14 or 15 years of age have another opportunity to participate in a special two-day waterfowl hunt coordinated by the Wildlife Department. The hunt will take place Thursday, Dec. 20 and Friday, Dec. 21 on the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge near Vian.
            Thursday will be a field day, where youth will participate in several waterfowl hunting related demonstrations including duck calling, hunting safety, decoy placement, waterfowl identification, shotgun shooting and retriever training.
            On Friday, the youth will be taken on a guided waterfowl hunt on the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge.
            Participants must apply for the hunt by mailing an application to the Refuge Headquarters by Nov. 1. Call the Refuge at (918) 773-5252 for more information.

The cold fronts bring the big birds
            If you have ever wanted to witness the tallest bird on the continent, now is the time.  Whooping cranes have been spotted on and near Great Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge in northcentral Oklahoma.
            Whooping cranes have begun their annual 2,700-mile migration from Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta, Canada to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge along the Texas Gulf Coast.
            During the journey, whoopers and about 50,000 sandhill cranes stop off to rest at Great Salt Plains Lake, as well as other areas, including Hackberry Flat WMA. Generally, the birds will spend anywhere from a couple of days to two weeks in the state, resting up for the last part of their migration.
            “Sandhill cranes, a premier game bird whose hunting season opens Saturday, Oct. 27, and snow geese, migrate through Oklahoma around the same time as the whooping crane, and can appear similar under certain conditions,” said Mike O’Meilia, migratory game bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “Sandhill cranes and whooping cranes will commonly associate together and can often be seen flying together to go feed in the same fields.  While standing next to one another, whooping cranes and sandhill cranes can be relatively easy to tell apart.  However, hunters should be especially careful during low light or backlit conditions, as whooping cranes and sandhill cranes will both appear dark and can look similar.  Veteran sandhill crane hunters know that if you cannot positively identify the bird, you should not shoot.”
            For more information on identifying cranes, log on to www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/issues/SandhillCrane/SandhillCraneHunters.htm

            As adults, whooping cranes will lose their brown feathers and turn into magnificent white birds with black wingtips and long black legs.  Standing 5 feet tall with a wingspan of more than 7 feet, this is the largest bird on the continent of North America.
            The whooping crane is among the rarest of endangered species in North America.  In 1941, there were only 15 birds in the entire wild population.  With agencies throughout the entire North American continent pushing conservation efforts, the population now consists of over 275 wild birds and almost 150 living in captivity.
            “If you see a whooping crane, let us know,” said Mark Howery, wildlife biologist for the Wildlife Department. “Reports help us better understand the migration needs and behavior patterns of these birds.”
            Report sightings to the Department’s Wildlife Diversity Program at (405) 522-3087. Reports should include the date, location, number of birds seen, and what they were doing (i.e. – flying, feeding, loafing). That information will be shared with a federal tracking program led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
All about whoopers:

- The cranes return to the same nesting area each year, often to the same nest.
- The birds mate for life but will take a new mate if one of them dies.
- The cranes perform a strange mating dance consisting of weaving, bobbing, jumping, and picking up sticks in their beaks and tossing them, along with vocalizations.
- Usually two brown to buffy-green eggs are laid; both parents incubate them, but usually only one chick survives because the second egg is pushed out of the nest.
- Hatched in May or June, the chick is able to swim quickly and will leave the nest with its parents.
- Chicks are able to fly in 90 days and will be ready for the 2,700-mile fall migration.
- In 1860, numbers were between 1,300 and 1,400. By 1941, numbers had dropped to 15. With efforts by government and private organizations, the total number, including captive birds, has grown to over 400 birds today.
Trout opener just around the corner
            The wait is almost over for trout anglers growing anxious for the opening of seasonal trout areas in several state waters.
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation operates two year-round trout fisheries — at the Lower Mountain Fork River (LMFR) and the Lower Illinois River — but in the six other areas, including Lake Pawhuska, Robbers Cave, Blue River, Lake Watonga, Quartz Mountain and Lake Carl Etling, the season kicks off Nov. 1.
            “Anglers should try to get out and do some trout angling this year,” said Paul Balkenbush, southeast region fisheries supervisor for the Wildlife Department.  “There’s a lot of people who may be missing out on a great new hobby in trout fishing.  You can bet that if you like to fish, you will love fishing for trout.”
            Rainbow trout usually are stocked about every two weeks at all eight of the state’s trout areas during designated trout seasons, while the Lower Illinois River and LMFR below Broken Bow Dam also are occasionally stocked with brown trout.
            “Trout are an introduced species to Oklahoma, and they are stocked regularly at all eight trout areas.  Anglers can view the trout stocking schedules by visiting our web site at wildlifedepartment.com,” Balkenbush said. “While you are there, check out all the other great information about trout and trout angling that is provided.”
            The Wildlife Department’s streams management team works vigorously on projects to enhance trout habitat in certain state waters. Recent trout habitat improvement projects have included renovations at the Evening Hole portion of the LMFR during summer 2006.  At the same time, a new trout stream dubbed “Lost Creek” was also created that is providing additional trout fishing opportunities. The team is now setting their sights on improving trout habitat within the Simp and Helen Watts Management Unit portion of the lower Illinois River.
            Habitat is not the only thing getting attention at state trout fishing areas.  This past summer, streams management program staff and other Wildlife Department fisheries personnel worked with engineers to complete installation of three bubble plume diffusers near the dam of Broken Bow Reservoir.
             Bubble plume diffusers are designed to pull up the deep, cold water within reservoirs so it is more accessible to intakes that supply water to tailrace fishing areas. In the case of Broken Bow Lake, cold water is found at a lower elevation than that of the intake structures at the dam, so when water is released from the lake, the temperature of the LMFR becomes warmer than that which is optimal for trout.
            “The initial phase of bubble plume diffuser testing has been completed, and analysis of the results is ongoing,” Balkenbush said. “We hope the project will ultimately provide long-term access to cold water for the trout fishery during warm seasons.”
             Trout anglers must carry a resident or nonresident fishing license and a fishing and hunting legacy permit, unless exempt, while fishing.  Additionally, a trout license is required for all who fish in state-designated trout areas or in tributaries of state-designated trout streams during trout season.
             Trout angling tips as well as daily trout limits, season dates and other trout fishing regulations for each area are available on the Wildlife Department’s Web site at wildlifedepartment.com or in the current “Oklahoma Fishing Guide.”