New hunting and fishing license changes immediately affecting sportsmen
            Some changes to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s hunting and fishing license structure will affect the way some sportsmen choose the licenses they need in 2011.
            At its January meeting, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission did not have a quorum and no actions were taken. The Commission did hear several presentations, however, including one from Melinda Sturgess-Streich, assistant director of administration and finance, detailing license changes that became effective Jan. 1, 2011.
            Particularly impacted by the new slate of changes are senior citizens, military personnel, non-resident sportsmen, trout anglers, wildlife management area users who are not hunting and fishing license holders and sportsmen whose favorite hunting seasons are still open at the start of a new year.
            Among the changes is one that impacts the price and terms of senior citizen lifetime hunting, fishing and combination licenses. The new prices are $15 for a senior citizen lifetime fishing or hunting license and $25 for a senior citizen lifetime combination license. Additionally, senior citizen lifetime licenses now include increased privileges equal to that of regular lifetime licenses.
            License changes for military personnel have taken place as well. All active military personnel and their dependents, regardless of their state residency, can now purchase hunting and fishing licenses at resident prices.
            License changes for nonresidents include the elimination of non-resident lifetime licenses as well as a simplification of nonresident deer licenses. Nonresident deer hunters now can choose between a nonresident deer archery license, a nonresident deer muzzleloader license or a nonresident deer gun license. Each license is $280 and is valid for all of the allowed deer for that method. The overall combined limit of six deer (to include no more than two bucks) remains unchanged, and all other nonresident deer licenses are no longer available. Nonresident anglers also must now purchase a $55 nonresident annual fishing license or a $35 nonresident six-day fishing license.
            Other significant license changes now in place include one that eliminates the separate trout license once required during trout season.
            The new $26 Wildlife Conservation Passport also is now required of all residents or nonresidents who enter or use Department-owned lands, unless exempt. Individuals who possess any current hunting or fishing license issued by the Wildlife Department are exempt from Conservation Passport requirements, except holders of the resident two-day fishing license and the nonresident six-day fishing license must still purchase the Wildlife Conservation Passport. Additionally, residents under 18 years of age are exempt from Conservation Passport requirements. The Conservation Passport replaces the Blue River Passport once required on the Blue River Public Fishing and Hunting Area.
            Additionally, sportsmen now have the option of purchasing a fiscal year hunting or combination license that expires June 30, rather than only having the option of a calendar year license that expires Dec. 31. The cost of the fiscal year licenses are $53 for a combination license, $32 for a hunting license, $19 for a youth combination license, $7 for a youth hunting license and $176 for a nonresident hunting license.
            Other license changes new for 2011, including a number of discontinued licenses, can be viewed along with a complete listing in the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” and “Oklahoma Fishing Guide.”
            In other business, the Commission heard a presentation from Chris O’Meilia, wildlife and fire consultation biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, on what he calls a “largely unprecedented” effort to help conserve the endangered whooping crane and the imperiled lesser prairie chicken.
            The effort partners the Wildlife Department with energy companies to create guidelines for future wind energy projects along the main migration corridor of the whooping crane and in important habitat for lesser prairie chickens. Known as a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), the guide would assist wind energy developers in minimizing effects of wind energy projects on whooping crane and prairie chicken habitat. Where effects cannot be minimized or avoided, the HCP would facilitate developers in mitigation efforts.  
            According to O’Meilia, the HCP is a way to “proactively address any threat” from significant future wind energy developments projected in the corridor. The 200-mile-wide stretch of land entailed by the plan extends from the U.S./Canadian border south to the Texas coast and includes critical wetlands for migrating whooping cranes as well as some of the most important remaining upland habitat for lesser prairie chickens. Along with portions of western Oklahoma, the plan encompasses parts of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Texas and portions of Colorado and New Mexico.
            The Wildlife Department applied for and received a $1.08 million grant from the USFW, which is passed through to the energy companies to fund the development and creation of the HCP. Building the HCP is part of an application process for participating energy companies to receive federal protections in the event their activities have adverse effects on whooping cranes and, if listed as an endangered species, lesser prairie chickens.
            According to Russ Horton, lands and wildlife diversity supervisor for the Wildlife Department, additional federal regulations and oversight can apply to land usage when a species in the area is listed as federally endangered or threatened. Additionally, conservation measures accomplished through the plan could help improve conditions for whooping cranes and help altogether halt the listing of the lesser prairie chicken.
            O’Meilia said the USFS “appreciates both the wind industry and the states for stepping up to the plate,” and said approval of the HCP by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected pending the submitted plan meets federal requirements set forth for HCP projects.
            According to O’Meilia, the effort “gives the states a seat at the table” in discussing what effects they believe will occur from wind energy developments and how to minimize them and mitigate for them.
            The Commission also recognized the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Nature Conservancy, the Sutton Avian Research Center and the OSU Extension for their partnership and contributions in the development of the Wildlife Department’s Greater Prairie Chicken Spatial Planning Tool. The tool mimics the Department’s Lesser Prairie chicken Spatial Planning Tool, but is specific to the conservation needs of Oklahoma’s other prairie chicken species.
            While much attention in recent years has been directed toward Oklahoma’s lesser prairie chicken, which occurs in short to mid grass prairie portions of northwest Oklahoma, the state also is home to the greater prairie chicken. Native to the tallgrass prairie regions of northern and northeastern Oklahoma and north throughout the central Great Plains, the greater prairie chicken is fairing much better rangewide than their western counterpart in terms of conservation need. But wildlife officials are working now to maintain stability of the species in Oklahoma.
            According to Horton, the greater prairie chicken and lesser prairie chicken spatial planning tools encourage voluntary conservation and habitat restoration for land development activities that impact the species in their native ranges.
            The tool is a habitat-based model that quantifies the value of every acre within the greater prairie chicken range as it pertains to suitability for prairie chicken habitat, helping developers minimize impacts of their projects, establishing management priorities for the Wildlife Department and determining ecological and economical impacts of activities within specific portions of the species’ range. The Oklahoma Greater Prairie Chicken Spatial Planning Tool, available on the Wildlife Department’s website at wildlifedepartment.com, is provided in formats compatible with both GIS (.img) and Google Earth (.kmz). An 8.5” x 11” map also is available.
            On behalf of the Wildlife Department, Horton expressed appreciation for the cooperation, the efforts and the expertise of the partners that helped establish the tool for the Department’s website.
            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. 7, at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters (auditorium), located at the southwest corner of 18th and North Lincoln, Oklahoma City.
Public eagle viewing events offer winter wildlife experience for the family
            The bald eagle was struggling to survive in America's lower 48 states as recently as 30 years ago, but they are thriving today and offer a number of public viewing opportunities in Oklahoma each winter.
            As lakes in the northern U.S. and Midwest freeze, eagles migrate south to find open water and food, making Oklahoma an ideal location for bird enthusiasts to catch a glimpse of the national emblem in the wild. In fact, 11,600 miles of shoreline and over a million surface acres of water make Oklahoma one of the top 10 states in the nation for winter eagle viewing. Additionally, a number of scheduled public events throughout the winter enable birdwatchers to look for eagles with the assistance of a wildlife professional, such as a biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
            Public eagle watches are scheduled throughout the winter statewide at locations all over the state. Events are hosted by the Wildlife Department, state parks, lake management offices, national wildlife refuges and local Audubon Society chapters. Activities vary, but most eagle watch events are free. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation annually compiles a list of events to help Oklahomans discover where to view this majestic bird. A full listing of public eagle watches with dates, details and contact information is available on the Wildlife Department’s website at
            During the winter, Oklahoma is home to anywhere from 700 to 1,500 eagles that migrate in from the northern states and Canada, with numbers peaking in January and February. Promising winter eagle viewing locations include Lake Texoma, Lake Tenkiller, Lake Arcadia, Thunderbird State Park, the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, Kaw Lake, Ft. Gibson Lake, Beavers Bend State Park, Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge and others. In addition to migrant eagles that winter in Oklahoma, the state also has around 120 bald eagles that live here year-round. While there were no known pairs of nesting eagles in the state prior to 1990, there are now around 60 known breeding pairs.
            For more information about bald eagles, including natural history, viewing tips, fast facts and how Oklahomans can benefit bald eagles, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
Oklahoma grown seedlings available online
            All landowners can do something for wildlife, even if it just means planting some trees. And they can start by ordering tree seedlings from the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.
            In partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Oklahoma Forestry Services is offering three different packages of seedlings, called wildlife habitat improvement packages, that will enhance the habitat of deer, songbirds, turkey, quail and a variety of other wildlife. Each wildlife packet is made up of 25 each of four different species of trees and shrubs chosen specifically to improve the wildlife habitat of your property.
            “Planting the appropriate trees can be a great way to enhance wildlife habitat on your property,” said Mike Sams, private lands biologist for the Wildlife Department. “Planting a tree today can be a long-term investment for future generations.”
            According to foresters, the fall is the best time for preparing planting sites for seedlings, and the best time for planting seedlings spans from December through early April.
            Oklahoma grown seedlings are available to landowners for a broad range of conservation projects. Landowners use the trees for windbreaks to protect crops and livestock, timber production, water quality protection, erosion control or other natural resource projects such as firewood plantings and Christmas tree production.
            An online store is available where landowners can purchase their wildlife habitat improvement packages, as well as choose from over 35 species of trees and shrubs. Seedlings are one year old, bare-root, and each species is packaged in multiples of 50 with a minimum order of 100 trees. They are to be used in rural conservation plantings and cannot be used for ornamental plantings or resold as living trees.
            All orders will be handled on a first-come, first-served basis, so landowners are encouraged to visit www.forestry.ok.gov today to choose their tree seedlings for planting this winter. The seedlings will be available for pickup or shipment starting in early January 2011, but orders are being taken now via the online store or you can request a paper order form by contacting the Department’s Forest Regeneration Center at 800-517-FOREST.

Outdoor Oklahoma readers’ photos wanted for “Readers Photography Showcase” issue
            Each year Outdoor Oklahoma magazine features a unique issue showcasing the digital photography of outdoor enthusiasts from all over Oklahoma. The annual “Readers’ Photography Showcase” issue is featured in the July/Aug issue, and submissions are being accepted from Jan. 1 through March 31.
            The special summer issue gives both professional and amateur photographers the chance to have their digital photos displayed in a magazine nationally recognized for its photography.
            “This is always an exciting time of year for Outdoor Oklahoma magazine,” said Michael Bergin, associate editor. “It can be difficult for the judges to make their selections, but we always end up with an exciting issue filled with quality photographs of Oklahoma’s outdoors — everything from hunting and fishing to wildlife, birds, insects, landscapes, and even lightning storms.
            Each participant may submit up to five digital images. Each submission must include a description of the photo, including the location taken, name and hometown of photographer, 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. All submissions must be digital. Slides and print images will not be accepted. Though images will remain the property of the photographer, actual submissions that are e-mailed or mailed on CD or other storage device will not be returned.
            Individuals can subscribe to Outdoor Oklahoma by calling 1-800-777-0019. Outdoor Oklahoma is known for providing decades of outdoor entertainment to both youth and adults. 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 wildlifedepartment.com. Hunters who purchase a new Oklahoma Wildlife Management Area Atlas, available from the Wildlife Department for $25, also get a one-year subscription to Outdoor Oklahoma magazine.
New full-featured wildlife management area atlas available now
            A proud owner of a new Wildlife Management Area Atlas from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, military veteran Ronnie Phipps says he has traveled around the world twice, but still there is “no place better to live than Oklahoma.” And part his reasoning, among other things, is the hunting and fishing available to Oklahomans.
            “You know there’s people all over the world that wish they had this hunting and fishing,” Phipps said.
            Phipps can use the new detailed atlas to find easily accessible public hunting and fishing areas in southeast Oklahoma where he was raised as well as all over Oklahoma. At almost 100 pages, the atlas depicts special features on each WMA such as roads, parking areas, designated campsites, food plots, ponds, wetland development units, non-ambulatory zones and more. Sportsmen can find acreage and contact information for each area as well driving directions.
            “I’m a disabled vet, and the atlas really comes in handy,” Phipps said. “I had one back after I got back from Vietnam. But somehow it walked off.”
            Most Oklahoma hunters remember the old version of the public lands atlas, but many share the same experience as Phipps, having lost their copy through the years. Those who can still find an original copy in their bag of hunting supplies or on the garage shelf may have a long-coveted piece of Oklahoma history, but now they can have their own fully-updated spiral bound edition filled with new details and features.
            Back by popular demand, this page-by-page guide to Oklahoma’s public hunting land features topographical maps of almost every wildlife management area in the state.
            “The old atlases were always popular, and these books are even bigger and better,” said Nels Rodefeld, information and education chief for the Wildlife Department. “We have already sold about 2,000 copies, and this is one of our most popular products ever.“
            The “Oklahoma Wildlife Management Area Atlas” can be purchased for $25, which includes a free one-year subscription to Outdoor Oklahoma magazine, the official magazine of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Outdoor Oklahoma features everything related to hunting, fishing, wildlife watching and conservation in Oklahoma. Readers can catch the first glimpse of the Wildlife Department’s annual “Big Game Report, get insider tips on fishing from the magazine’s annual “Anglers’ Guide,” and read a range of articles and news about the outdoors in Oklahoma. Game meat recipes, how-to articles, stunning photography and more are all included.
            The new atlases are available at the Wildlife Department headquarters in Oklahoma City (1801 N. Lincoln Blvd) and the Department’s Jenks office (300 S. Aquarium Dr). Copies can also be ordered online at wildlifedepartment.com or by phone at (405) 521-3856. To order by mail, send a check or money order for $25 along with an Outdoor Store order form from wildlifedepartment.com to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, P.O. Box 53465 Oklahoma City, OK (specify address to which atlas should be mailed and, if different, the address to which the subscription to Outdoor Oklahoma magazine should be credited).
            For more information about hunting in Oklahoma, log on to the Wildlife Department’s website at wildlifedepartment.com.
Photo Caption: Back by popular demand, the “Oklahoma Wildlife Management Area Atlas” features topographical maps of almost every wildlife management area in the state. At almost 100 pages, the atlas depicts special features on each WMA such as roads, parking areas, designated campsites, food plots, ponds, wetland development units, non-ambulatory zones and more.
Trout fishing in Oklahoma City and Tulsa metros happening now
            Fanciers of the delicate art of fly fishing know well that catching a trout from a mountain stream is an exciting endeavor, but even metro residents surrounded by buildings and highways can enjoy trout fishing with simple equipment and a short drive to a local park.
            Both northwest Oklahoma City and Tulsa are off to good starts this winter in providing metro anglers with opportunities to catch trout practically in their own backyards.
            In Oklahoma City, a trout fishing season opened Jan. 1 at Dolese Youth Park Pond, located north of NW 50th and a half block west of Meridian Ave.
            A result of a partnership between the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation Department, the two-month long trout season runs through Feb. 28 and features several stockings of rainbow trout provided through a generous donation from BancFirst.
            Part of the state's Close to Home fishing program, the Dolese trout season provides an easy-access fishing location for metro families looking to spend a few hours or even a day outdoors.
            The “Close to Home” fishing program provides fishing areas that are often just a short drive away from even the most urban locations, saving families time and gas money. In addition, it allows parents and children to fish together after school or on a busy weekend. The Dolese trout season also offers anglers a chance to catch a unique fish that they don't catch at other times of the year when water temperatures are warmer.
            According to Bob Martin, fisheries biologist for the Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation Department, successful trout anglers at Dolese should keep several colors of powerbaits as well as an assortment of other trout baits in their tackle box, as the best baits to use often change throughout the day. Anglers should have success using 4- to 6-pound test line equipped with a slip sinker and small hook. Along with powerbaits, choice baits include corn, small worms, small minnows, small spinners, jigs and spoons.
            According to Martin, trout stocked in the pond range from nine to 24 inches, with 90 percent ranging from nine to 14 inches. Remaining stockings are scheduled for Jan. 20, Feb. 3 and Feb. 17.
            There is a daily limit of six trout per person during the Dolese Park Pond trout season. In addition, angling is permitted from the bank only, and each angler may only use one rod and reel while fishing for trout. Trout caught and placed on a stringer or otherwise held in possession cannot be released. Regulations for other species that may be caught at Dolese are available in the current “Oklahoma Fishing Guide” or online at wildlifedepartment.com.
            Those fishing for trout at Dolese must purchase an annual state fishing license, unless exempt. In addition, an Oklahoma City Fishing Permit is required for anglers ages 16-61 unless exempt.
            For more information about trout fishing at Dolese and other Close to Home fishing opportunities, contact the city's H.B. Parsons Fish Hatchery at (405) 755-4014, or visit the Lakes and Fishing page of the city's website at okc.gov. For more information on the “Close to Home” fishing program, log on to wildlifedepartment.com. Dolese Youth Park and the H.B. Parsons Fish Hatchery are operated by the City of Oklahoma City's Parks and Recreation Department.
            Tulsa area residents also have an opportunity to fish for trout without venturing far from home. This Tulsa trout fishing opportunity is possible by a partnership between the Trout Unlimited Oklahoma Chapter #420 and Tulsa-based conservation group NatureWorks. Trout Unlimited Oklahoma Chapter #420 and NatureWorks are non-profit organizations working for statewide conservation issues. For more information about Trout Unlimited Oklahoma Chapter #420, log on to tulsaflyfishers.org. For more information about NatureWorks, log on to natureworks.org.
            This year the selected pond is located in LaFortune Park at the corner of 51st Street and Hudson in Tulsa, and the season has been open since Dec. 26. The pond is stocked periodically.
            “Children only” days are scheduled for Feb. 21 and March 14. On these days fishing will be open to children under the age of 16 only, and children fishing on these days must be accompanied by an adult. The accompanying adult may fish on these days. All other days during the season will be open to all ages. All anglers over the age of 16 must have a valid Oklahoma fishing license. A bag limit of six trout per day per angler has been set, and catch and release of trout is discouraged.

Mountain Fork River to welcome thousands of trout in coming weeks
            Regular bi-weekly stockings of rainbow trout in the Lower Mountain Fork River will be combined with five additional stockings over the next few months and will result in a river teeming with fish for anglers to catch.
            Included in each of the next five regularly scheduled stockings of trout at the Lower Mountain Fork River will be an additional 1,200-1,500 fish.
            The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is providing the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation with the additional rainbow trout to help offset the impacts caused by dams on Oklahoma waters.
            Wildlife Department personnel will pick up the fish at the Greers Ferry Fish Hatchery in Arkansas and then release them into the LMFR trout fishery for anglers to enjoy.
            The Lower Mountain Fork River is a year-round trout fishery that supports excellent angling throughout the seasons thanks to water releases from Broken Bow Lake that feed the river and keep its waters cold enough to support the biological needs of trout. Trout are not native to Oklahoma, but year-round fisheries are possible at the Lower Mountain Fork and Lower Illinois rivers. Additionally, seasonal fishing opportunities are available at wintertime trout fishing destinations across the state.
            To view the regular, bi-weekly trout stocking schedule and specific regulations for all the state's trout waters, including the LMFR, log on to wildlifedepartment.com or consult the current “Oklahoma Fishing Guide.” The website also includes tips on how to catch trout as well as a wealth of information about the state's streams restoration program, which works to provide healthy streams and better trout angling in Oklahoma.
            To fish for trout, anglers need an appropriate state fishing license.
Learn to manage landscapes for wildlife at Sapulpa wild turkey woodlands field day
            Ask any wildlife biologist what it takes to keep wildlife healthy and close to home, and they’ll tell you it is all about having quality habitat.
            Landowners can learn to improve wildlife habitat on their property by attending the National Wild Turkey Federation’s Wild Turkey Woodlands Field Day on Saturday, Jan. 29, at the Creek County Fairgrounds, located on historic Route 66 in Sapulpa.
            During the workshop, landowners and managers will spend time with experts learning how to manage crosstimbers landscapes (woodlands and prairies) for wildlife, and what state and federal agency habitat programs are available in northeast Oklahoma. Attendees will be hosted by Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation biologists, Oklahoma Forestry Services foresters, and Oklahoma State University researchers on a morning field trip to the Keystone Wildlife Management Area west of Sapulpa and an afternoon field trip to the Okmulgee Wildlife Management Area near Okmulgee.
            The cost of the workshop is $15 for adults and $10 for youth 14 years and under (pre-registration) and $20 at the door, which includes a meal, resource packet, and transportation to field sites. The program will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and participation is limited to the first 200 people registered. Pre-registration deadline is Monday, Jan. 24 and is strongly encouraged. To pre-register, make checks payable to NWTF and mail to Pattie Bing, P.O. Box 993, Sapulpa, OK 74067 along with name, address, city, state, zip, phone, e-mail and number of acres owned/managed, to arrive by Jan. 24. Bing may be reached by phone at (918) 688-8097 for more registration information.
            The NWTF is a national nonprofit conservation organization that was founded in 1973 and has worked with wildlife agencies to restore wild turkey populations from 1.3 million wild turkeys to nearly 7 million today. Now, NWTF’s volunteers raise funds and work daily to improve critical wildlife habitat, increase access to public hunting land and introduce new people to the outdoors and hunting. Together, the NWTF's partners, sponsors and grassroots members have raised and spent more than $331 million preserving our hunting heritage and conserving nearly 15.9 million acres of wildlife habitat.
            To learn more about the workshop, call Gene T. Miller, NWTF regional biologist at (806) 655-9416. For information about the NWTF, log on to http://www.nwtf.org  or call (800) THE-NWTF.
Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International offers discounted tickets to banquet through Jan. 31.
            The Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International hosts a banquet and fundraiser each year, and those planning to attend this year can purchase their general admission ticket to the March 5 event for $45 if they act before the end of January. General admission tickets purchased after Jan. 31 will cost $70, and tickets purchased at the door will cost $95.
            Safari Club International is known for supporting conservation and sportsmen, and the active Oklahoma Station Chapter’s 26th Annual Awards Banquet and Charity Fundraiser is just one way supporters can help with the group’s cause to protect the freedom to hunt, educate others on the value of hunting for wildlife management, conserve wildlife and provide humanitarian services.
            The banquet, to be held at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, will feature a live auction where bidders will have a chance to buy guided hunts around the globe, ranging from feral hog hunts at Oklahoma’s Chain Ranch and a variety of whitetail deer hunts in several states to big game hunts in Africa and fishing trips in Alaska and Patagonia. Other auction items include selections of firearms, outdoor art, hunting gear and much more. A continually updated list of auction items can be viewed on the Oklahoma Station Chapter’s website at oklahomastationsci.org.
            “This is a particularly special celebration of our hunting heritage,” said Mike Mistelske, current president of the Oklahoma Station Chapter. “In 2010, our Chapter’s banquet program won best-in-class among all of SCI’s largest chapters worldwide, and the 2011 banquet will feature even more…over $500,000 worth of auction items, including many North American big-game hunts, a unique cape buffalo hunt in Mozambique, a number of bird hunts, fishing trips, and many other hunts and non-hunting trips around the world.  We’ll also have several incredible bronze sculptures. Banquet tickets remain at last year’s reduced prices.  There will be many activities, and there will be great value and fun for everyone — all for the benefit of Oklahoma hunters and non-hunters.”
            The banquet begins at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 5, but registration begins at 4:30 p.m., along with the silent auction and various games. Opportunity to visit with outfitters and vendors begins at 2:30 p.m. The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum is located at 1700 N.E. 63rd St. in Oklahoma City 73111.
            SCI membership is not required to participate in the banquet and raffles, or to be eligible for door prizes.
Tickets and a limited number of sponsor tables are now available. To purchase tickets or for further information, contact Judy Rork by e-mail at oscsci@yahoo.com or by phone at (405) 703-3381. Ticket forms also may be printed from the chapter’s website at oklahomastationsci.org and either mailed, faxed or e-mailed according to instructions on the form.
            Bid cards for the auction are available to members at no cost. For non-members, bid cards ($50) or memberships ($85 through January; $95 starting Feb. 1) may be purchased at the door if desired. For questions relating to the banquet and auction, contact Mike Mistelske, current Oklahoma Station Chapter of SCI president, at sciokpres@yahoo.com or (918) 695-8556.
            The Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International offers support and funding to local conservation efforts that benefit the sportsmen and wildlife of Oklahoma. The chapter is a supporter of projects conducted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, such as the Hunters Against Hunger program that coordinates the annual distribution of venison to needy families. Last year hunters donated over 42,000 pounds of venison, which provided 168,000 meals to hungry Oklahomans. The Chapter is also a sponsor of the Wildlife Department’s Oklahoma Wildlife Expo, which educates tens of thousands of Oklahomans each year on the value of wildlife and the outdoors to quality of life in Oklahoma.
            The organization also has helped fund the purchase of an airboat used by the Wildlife Department on waterfowl surveys and other wetland management tasks, and several trailers for use in the Department's Shotgun Training Education Program (STEP). The STEP program introduces both youth and adults to shotgun shooting techniques and the proper handling of firearms. The Oklahoma Station Chapter also partners with the Wildlife Department each year to hold an annual youth essay contest that provides youth a chance to share their feelings about Oklahoma’s outdoors and to win great prizes, including a guided pronghorn antelope hunt in New Mexico. Additionally, the chapter purchased eight elk for introduction into an existing herd in southeast Oklahoma.
            For more information on the Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International, log on to oklahomastationsci.org.