SEPTEMBER 2011 NEWS RELEASES 

WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 30, 2011

WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 22, 2011

WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 15, 2011

WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 9, 2011

WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 1, 2011

Yukon teenager finds lifelong hobby at Wildlife Expo
            After spending hours at the Oklahoma Wildlife Expo, 17-year-old Jake Sutton of Yukon knew falconry was the sport for him.
            “I’ve always seen it in history books and thought it would be a cool thing to do, so the Oklahoma Falconer’s Association booth really stood out to me,” said Sutton, who is now an apprentice falconer learning the sport from an experienced mentor.
             The Oklahoma Falconer’s Association has been an active participant at the Wildlife Expo for many years. Like other partners who come together each year with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to make the event happen, they operate a booth to introduce visitors to an outdoor activity and encourage them to try something new. Their booth includes live birds to give visitors an up-close glimpse.
            “My family went to the Expo and I could’ve spent all day at the one booth while they were doing the other activities,” Sutton said. “They pretty much told me everything I needed to know about going into falconry. I made great connections and two of the association members allowed me to go hunting with them to see if falconry was really something I wanted to do.”
            Finding quickly he had a love for falconry, Sutton began the two-year falconry apprenticeship designation phase of his falconry licensing process with the Wildlife Department, which he will complete in December. Sutton plans to attend this year’s Wildlife Expo as a booth volunteer for the Oklahoma Falconer’s Association to share what he has learned with other wildlife enthusiasts.
            The Wildlife Expo is a free public event designed to generate interest in the outdoors while providing hands-on learning opportunities. Hosted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation in partnership with a range of other state agencies, businesses, organizations and volunteers like Sutton, the Expo is the state’s largest outdoor recreation event.
            Some opportunities at the Expo are considered common and popular among outdoorsman — such as fishing at a pond or shooting a shotgun — while others, such as the booth operated by the Oklahoma Falconers Association, will provide experiences and learning opportunities for all involved.
            The Expo features archery and firearms ranges, a stocked fishing pond, bird watching areas, mountain bike trails, ATV test ride courses, Dutch oven cooking seminars, and even an indoor pond used for kayaking and sporting dog demonstrations. The event also features free wild game samples, live wildlife, and booths and activities that provide information, learning opportunities and recreation. Though admission and activities at the event are all free, visitors can shop at the Expo’s Outdoor Marketplace, a large area where vendors will be showcasing their outdoor-related goods and services.
            The Wildlife Expo is slated for September 24 and 25 at the Lazy E Arena, just north of Oklahoma City, and admission is free. Hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days.
 

 
Caption: Seventeen-year-old Jake Sutton of Yukon discovered the sport of falconry at the Oklahoma Wildlife Expo and will be volunteering at the event this year with the Oklahoma Falconry Association. The Wildlife Expo is hosted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and is slated this year for Sept. 24-25 at the Lazy E Arena, just north of Oklahoma City.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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September geese and teal offer early waterfowling opportunities
            September is a big month for hunters across Oklahoma, and not just for those pursuing doves. The resident Canada goose and September teal seasons both open Sept. 10.
            Resident Canada goose season will run through Sept. 19, and September teal season will run through Sept. 25. Shooting hours for both seasons is one half hour before official sunrise to official sunset. Hunters can harvest eight geese daily and four teal daily.
            Bluewing and greenwing teal are the first ducks to migrate through Oklahoma as they migrate southward on their traditional journey to wintering grounds in Mexico and Central and South America.
            To participate in the September teal season or resident Canada goose season, hunters must possess a resident or nonresident Oklahoma hunting license and a Harvest Information Permit (HIP). Additionally, hunters 16 years old and older must carry on his person a valid federal duck stamp and Oklahoma waterfowl license, unless otherwise exempt.
            All waterfowl hunting is restricted to federally-approved nontoxic shot in all areas of the state. Possession of lead shot while hunting waterfowl is prohibited.
            For complete regulations, consult the “2011-12 Oklahoma Hunting Guide" or log on to the Wildlife Department’s website at wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Duck hunters look forward to another great season
            Waterfowl hunting season is just around the corner, bringing with it 74 days of duck hunting and liberal harvest opportunities. Full regulations and details are now available online at wildlifedepartment.com.
            New this year, Zone 1 will open one week later than normal to prevent overlapping with the opening of deer muzzleloader season. Additionally, hunters will have two extra days to hunt white-fronted geese.
            Every year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes frameworks to states for structuring their waterfowl seasons at an annual meeting held in August. The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission then approves the state’s seasons at its September meeting.
            In the Panhandle counties, duck season will run from Oct. 8 through Jan. 4, and youth waterfowl days will be Oct. 1-2.
            In Zone 1, which includes most of northwest Oklahoma (excluding the Panhandle) duck season will run from Oct. 29 through Nov. 27 and Dec. 10 through Jan. 22. Youth waterfowl days in Zone 1 will be Oct. 15-16.
            Zone 2 duck season dates will be Nov. 5 through Nov. 27 and Dec. 10 through Jan. 29, with youth waterfowl days slated for Oct. 29-30.
            According to Josh Richardson, migratory game bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, waterfowl breeding and production was very successful this year in the north central United States and Southern Canada and hunters may be in for a successful season.
            “We are experiencing a rather dry year, but provided we get some rainfall we should have a pretty good waterfowl season,” Richardson said.
            The daily limit of six ducks may include no more than: five mallards (only two may be hens), three wood ducks, two redheads, two scaup, two pintails and one canvasback. The daily limit of mergansers is five, of which no more than two may be hooded mergansers, and the daily limit of coots is 15.
            The Commission also authorized the director of the Wildlife Department to pursue an agreement with the Commissioners of the Land Office to enter into a long-term lease on property adjacent to Beaver River Wildlife Management Area in the Panhandle.
            In addition, the Commission authorized the Wildlife Department to solicit and negotiate lease agreements for mineral interests on Wildlife Department-owned properties in Beaver, Cleveland and Alfalfa counties. Certain measures may be required to minimize or mitigate the potential effects of drilling in the areas, and Wildlife Department officials are directed to ensure conservation priorities are met in agreements with potential lessees.
            The Commission also heard a presentation from Melinda Sturgess-Streich, assistant director of administration and finance for the Wildlife Department, on the Wildlife Department’s hunting and fishing license certification process. The number of licensed hunters and anglers in the state plays a critical role in conservation. The Wildlife Department receives no general state tax appropriations and is funded primarily by the sale of hunting and fishing licenses. Additionally, manufacturers of sporting goods pay federal excise taxes on the sale of certain products, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service disburses the funds back to state wildlife agencies based in part on the number of licensed hunters and anglers in the state. The funds must be used for conservation.
            In other business, the Commission recognized several Wildlife Department employees for tenure. Charles Baker, fisheries technician at the Blue River Public Fishing and Hunting Area, was recognized for 25 years of service; Dwight McKay, crew leader at the Durant State Fish Hatchery, for 25 years; David Routledge, south central region fisheries technician for 25 years; Keith Thomas, central region fisheries biologist, for 25 years; and Brett Gantt, wildlife technician stationed at McGee Creek WMA, for 20 years.
            The Commission also recognized recent graduates of the Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Resource Professional Program, a continuing education curriculum for Wildlife Department employees designed to broaden knowledge and skills in the professional management of the state’s fish and wildlife.
            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. Oct. 3 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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Wildlife Expo to feature hands-on outdoor learning and free giveaways
            A stop by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters in Oklahoma City can give sportsmen a glimpse of the John Deere Gator utility vehicle that will be given away at the 2011 Oklahoma Wildlife Expo Sept. 24-25. Even better, they can attend the Expo and register to win it. They also can get behind the wheel of a Gator at the Expo and drive it down an off-road trail as part of a weekend of hands-on outdoor learning opportunities.
            The Gator that will be given away as well as the free off-road test driving course is being provided by P&K Equipment, a major Expo sponsor who has partnered with the Wildlife Department on the Expo for seven years running. Offered as the grand prize at the Wildlife Expo, visitors need only sign up for the drawing at the prize registration booth at the event, held at the Lazy E Arena just north of Oklahoma City.
            The Wildlife Expo is a weekend event designed to draw interest in the state’s wildlife and outdoors. Along with test driving and winning a Gator, visitors also can win a lifetime hunting or fishing license or even a lifetime combination hunting and fishing license. Other giveaways include a kayak from OKC Kayaks, four kids’ bows from Heartland Outdoors, and much more. A full listing of giveaway at the Expo can be viewed online at wildlifedepartment.com.
            In addition to numerous giveaways visitors can try over 100 hands-on outdoor activities like shooting a shotgun or bow and arrow, catching a fish in a stocked pond, riding a mountain bike or even kayaking. Events and seminars are scheduled throughout the weekend to give visitors a glimpse of everything Oklahoma’s outdoors have to offer, from hunting dog training and mule packing to wildlife identification, wild game meat sampling and camp cooking.
            “The entire event is free, but the experiences visitors can take home are priceless,” said Rhonda Hurst, Expo coordinator for the Wildlife Department. “It’s not every day you can try more than 100 hands-on outdoor activities in one trip. There’s something for everyone at the Expo, regardless of age or skill level.”
            The Expo is hosted by the Wildlife Department in partnership with a wide range of other state agencies, private individuals and outdoor-related companies to promote and perpetuate appreciation of Oklahoma's wildlife and natural resources.
            Expo hours will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 24-25. Admission and parking are free. For more information about the Wildlife Expo or the Wildlife Department, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Waterfowl visiting Lake Eufaula to benefit from millet planting
            Thanks to a donation from the Oklahoma Waterfowlers Association, hundreds of acres of exposed shoreline on Lake Eufaula have been planted with Japanese millet seed to attract and benefit waterfowl this fall and winter.
            Along with providing the donation of 5,400 pounds of millet seed to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Waterfowlers Association members donated time to assist with the plantings efforts. The Wildlife Department’s millet seeding program on Eufaula has included three separate seedings this year, each at a different elevation zone and timed to take advantage of falling lake levels related to unseasonably hot weather.
            “Although the millet program is often a ‘boom or bust’ practice, if successful it has been proven to have a tremendous positive effect by providing a supplemental food base for thousands of waterfowl and migratory birds traveling through our state,” said Alan Stacey, wetland habitat biologist for the Wildlife Department.
            Due to fairly stable lake conditions earlier this spring, desirable natural foods have become established at Lake Eufaula above the “normal pool” lake zone, making this the first time in over six years that food resources of any significant quantity have become established on the lake. On the other hand, recent record temperatures combined with power generation needs have lowered lake levels and created conditions conducive to the growth of undesirable vegetation as well.
            Conditions like record heat and rapidly-dropping lake levels can create a recipe on exposed mudflats for quick germination of plants that provide little to no fall or winter food value for migratory birds. At Lake Eufaula, these plants typically include sesbania and cocklebur.
            “The millet seeding program is designed to ‘compete’ with undesirable vegetation and help compliment desirable natural food resources already established earlier this spring at higher lake elevations,” Stacey said.
            The Wildlife Department normally overseeds exposed mudflats and shoreline areas of the lake aerially by plane since those areas are inaccessible by tractor. If timed right and applied correctly, millet plants can actually dominate mudflats, provided they have a chance to germinate ahead of undesirable plants. Japanese millet, a somewhat "water tolerant" and rapidly maturing variety of millet, can produce an abundance of seed highly sought after by waterfowl and other migratory birds.
            Seeding operations by the Wildlife Department also were implemented this year on Texoma, Oologah and Kaw reservoirs, and the Wildlife Department works closely with U.S. Army Corp of Engineer hydrologists to monitor lake levels and growing millet stands. For information about waterfowl and waterfowl hunting in Oklahoma, log on to the Wildlife Department’s website at wildlifedepartment.com.
 
 
Caption: The Wildlife Department’s millet seeding program on Lake Eufaula has included three separate aerial seedings this year to attract and benefit waterfowl this fall and winter.
 



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Deer and turkey archery seasons to heat up Oct. 1
            Thousands of Oklahoma archery hunters have Oct. 1 in their sights when they will kick off a season of deer and turkey archery hunting.
            The whitetail deer is by far the most sought after big game animal in Oklahoma, with thousands of hunters taking to the woods each year and thousands of deer harvested. Last year, archery hunters harvested 20,480 of the 109,314 deer checked by hunters, for a total of about 19 percent of the total harvest.
            This year’s drought may have an effect on the hunting season, but according to Jerry Shaw, big game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, it is no reason to stay out of the woods this October. Shaw said the warmer temperatures associated with early fall archery season can be used to hunters’ advantage.
            “The high temperatures can help focus deer movement to the hour or so just after dawn and then again to the final hour of daylight as deer, like the rest of Oklahoma, try to limit their activities during the heat of the day,” Shaw said.
            “From a biological standpoint, hunters might notice reduced weights for some deer as the drought takes its toll on food availability and nutritional content,” Shaw said, adding that dry vegetation is not as digestible or nutritious as lush, green browse.
            “Acorns may also be scarce in many areas, forcing hunters to adapt their stand location strategy,” Shaw said. “While there are still plenty of very warm days still ahead of us, hunters should not let the temperatures keep them from going to the woods. In fact, the smart hunter will use the heat to their advantage, focusing on available water sources to help increase their odds.”
            Shaw advises early fall hunters to pack plenty of water, wear loose fitting clothing, and carry bug-proof headnets and gloves to protect against insects during the long hours often invested by hunters.
            Additionally, Shaw said hunters should be prepared for the proper care of game meat that is harvested in warmer temperatures. One tip he offers is to place bags of ice in the chest cavity of a field dressed deer right away.
            “Also, if you plan to use a deer processor, call before your hunt to make sure that they will be open for you to drop off your harvest,” Shaw said. “Many processors have greatly different hours of operation for archery season as opposed to muzzleloader or gun seasons.”
            To hunt deer during archery season, resident hunters must have an appropriate hunting license and a deer archery license for each deer hunted or proof of exemption. Resident youth hunters 16 or 17 years old must purchase a hunting license, and all youth hunters under 18 years of age may purchase a youth deer archery license. Nonresident deer hunters are exempt from a hunting license while hunting deer, but they must possess a nonresident deer archery license. Holders of nonresident lifetime hunting and lifetime combination licenses are not exempt from purchasing deer licenses.
            Deer archery season runs through Jan. 15, and archers who hunt from Jan. 1-15 must possess a deer archery license for the current calendar year and either a fiscal-year license or current annual license.
            The archery season harvest limit is six deer, which may include no more than two antlered deer. Deer taken by hunters participating in archery season are included in the hunter’s combined season limit of six deer. Deer taken from Jan. 1-15, 2012, count toward the 2011 season limit.
            All hunters who harvest a deer must immediately attach their name, license number and date and time of harvest securely to the carcass. Annual license holders who harvest deer must also complete the “Record of Game” section on the license form.
            Hunters must check their harvested deer within 24 hours of leaving the hunt area either online at wildlifedepartment.com, at the nearest open hunter check station or with an authorized Wildlife Department employee Once checked, the animal will be issued a carcass tag or an online confirmation number that must remain with the carcass to its final destination or through processing and/or storage at commercial facilities.
            Turkey fall archery season runs concurrent with deer archery season, and hunters must possess an appropriate resident or nonresident hunting license and a turkey license for each bird hunted, unless exempt. Nonresident lifetime license holders are required to purchase a nonresident annual hunting license and turkey license. The nonresident five-day hunting license is not valid for hunting turkey.
            The turkey fall archery season limit is one turkey of either sex, statewide, and all hunters who harvest a turkey must immediately attach their name and license number securely to the carcass. Annual license holders must also include the date and time of harvest with their field tag and complete the “Record of Game” section on the license form. Additionally, turkeys harvested east of I-35 must be checked within 24 hours of leaving the hunt area. Turkeys harvested west of I-35 will not be checked.
            Seasons on public lands for both deer and turkey may vary from statewide season dates. For full details and regulations, consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide,” available free online at wildlifedepartment.com or anywhere hunting licenses area sold.
            To learn more about deer hunting in Oklahoma or to purchase a hunting license, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Pushmataha field tour enhances landowner management choices
            Landowners looking to get the most out of their natural resources should plan now to attend the Fire, Wildlife, Timber and Cattle Grazing Annual Fall Field Tour Oct. 11 at the Pushmataha Wildlife Management Area.
            The tour will take place from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. There is no cost to attend. The Pushmataha Management Area headquarters is located two miles south of Clayton off State Highway 271, approximately three miles west on a county road. Signs will be visible.
            Participants will gain a better understanding of how to use prescribed fire, timber harvest and cattle grazing to meet land management objectives; integrated timber, livestock and wildfire management; stocking rate and carrying capacity considerations for running cattle; and ways to maintain and promote overall forest health.
            Also included will be a history of the Pushmataha Wildlife Management Area and some of the many land use and efficiency insights and benefits that research on its 19,000 acres has yielded.
            Sessions will be led by Terry Bidwell, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension rangeland specialist; Jack Waymire, senior biologist and Pushmataha site manager for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation; and Ron Masters, director of research for Florida’s Tall Timbers Research Station and a former faculty member with OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.
            “Coming back to Oklahoma for the annual field tour is one of the highlights of my year,” Masters said. “We had no idea back in 1982 that the studies we began would still be yielding valuable insights today, or that they would generate such beneficial additional areas of research. It has been quite the land-management detective story.”
            Masters and Bidwell said research results from the Pushmataha Wildlife Management Area have been applied to hundreds of thousands of private and public land in the southeastern United States.
            “This research has given landowners the opportunity to diversify and the economic information to make good business choices and optimize their operations,” Bidwell said.
            The tour is being sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service and OSU department of natural resource ecology and management.
            Anyone seeking additional information about the Pushmataha Wildlife Management Area field tour should contact Waymire by phone at (918) 569-4239, or Bidwell by e-mail at terry.bidwell@okstate.edu or phone at (405) 744-9618.


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Pick up Sept. 18 Sunday Oklahoman for Wildlife Expo programs
            Sportsmen should watch the Sept. 18 Sunday Oklahoman for a program featuring the seventh annual Oklahoma Wildlife Expo. The program serves as a complete guide to the event, slated for Sept. 24-25 at the Lazy E Arena, just north of Oklahoma City.
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is partnering with a wide range of other state agencies, private individuals, outdoor-related companies and sponsors such as The Oklahoman to host the Wildlife Expo. The event is designed to promote and instill appreciation for Oklahoma's wildlife and natural resources and provide hands-on learning opportunities for all types of outdoor enthusiasts. The event is free and open to the public.
            “Our sponsors and partners are a huge part of the Expo’s success,” said Rhonda Hurst, Expo coordinator for the Wildlife Department.
            For a full list of partners and sponsors, or to see the Expo program online, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
            Activities at the Expo range from shotgun and archery shooting to fishing, kayaking, ATV riding, mountain biking and much more. Additionally, numerous learning opportunities are available at booths and exhibits at the Expo. Visitors can speak with wildlife biologists and outdoorsmen experienced in fishing, hunting, game calling, wildlife and fisheries management, reptiles and amphibians and more, as well as attend seminars on hunting dog training, wild game cooking and basic firearm safety, among other topics. And for Expo visitors who like to shop, a large area called the Outdoor Marketplace is set aside at the Expo for vendors who will be on hand showcasing and offering for sale their outdoor merchandise and services. Expo visitors also can register to win a number prizes, such as a John Deere Gator utility vehicle, a lifetime combination hunting and fishing license and more. Giveaways can be viewed at wildlifedepartment.com.
            “In short, the Expo is a celebration of everything outdoors in the state of Oklahoma,” Hurst said. “We want you to leave the Expo with a new appreciation for wildlife and the hobbies of hunting, fishing and wildlife watching. And who knows, you may even leave as the proud winner of a great giveaway item!”
            The Expo is Oklahoma’s largest outdoor recreation event, drawing tens of thousands of people each year. The Expo will be held at the Lazy E Arena, just north of Oklahoma City. Expo hours will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily Sept. 24-25. Admission and parking are free.
 
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Seventh Oklahoma Wildlife Expo greeted with grateful Oklahomans and mild temperatures
            A grateful Oklahoma has been welcoming some rain and long-awaited mild weather recently, which has arrived just in time for this weekend’s free Oklahoma Wildlife Expo at the Lazy E Arena, just north of Oklahoma City.
            The Wildlife Expo, sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and coordinated by hundreds of volunteer organizations and individuals, is slated for September 24-25, bringing with it nonstop outdoor action for all ages and levels of experience with the outdoors. And it’s free.
            The Expo takes a hands-on approach to educating visitors about the outdoors. Guests can try their own hand at shooting a shotgun or bow and arrow, riding a mountain bike or ATV, floating in a kayak, building a birdhouse, painting their own fishing lure, catching a fish and dozens of other activities and learning opportunities. Booths and other activities inside the arena will offer information and resources about a range of outdoor activities available to them, and seminars and booths offering everything from fly fishing instruction to wild game tasting will be available.
            One visitor will even win a brand new John Deere Gator utility vehicle from P&K Equipment. Offered as the grand prize giveaway, visitors need only sign up for the drawing at the outdoor license tent, located by the Outdoor Marketplace. Other giveaways include a lifetime combination hunting and fishing license, a kayak from OKC Kayak, kids bows, and more. See the list of Wildlife Expo giveaways online at wildlifedepartment.com.
            Additionally, shoppers can visit the Expo’s Outdoor Marketplace, a huge area at the event where vendors will display and sell outdoor-related products and services.
            Expo hours are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 24-25. Admission and parking are free, and all events and activities at the Expo are free.
 
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Wildlife Department employment exam is first step to rewarding wildlife career
            Recently an employee of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation retired after 49 years of service to the sportsmen of the state, and the agency commonly recognizes employees for 20 and even 30 years of service. As one of the longest tenured state agencies in Oklahoma, the Wildlife Department still continually welcomes new faces onboard who are anxious to begin a career in wildlife conservation.
            For most people looking to join the Wildlife Department’s workforce as game wardens, biologists, fisheries and wildlife technicians and fish hatchery assistant managers, the starting point is to take the Department’s open employment exam, which will be held Friday, Sept. 30, at Rose State College.
            The standardized employment exam is set for 10 a.m. in the auditorium of the Tom Steed building at Rose State College. The exam is free, and participants must have photo identification upon check-in. Late arrivals will not be permitted to enter the examination room after 10 a.m.
            More Wildlife Department career information is available on the Department's official website a http://www.wildlifedepartment.com .
            Individuals may take the exam once in a 12-month period. Test scores are valid for 12 months from the test date, and top scorers will be invited to submit an employment application. When a job opening becomes available, selected applicants from the test register will be scheduled for an interview. For more information, contact the Wildlife Department's Human Resource office at (405) 521-4640.
 
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Two corners of the state boast most unique hunting opportunities
            Oklahoma is blessed with a tremendous diversity of landscapes and wildlife and at no time is that more evident for hunters than Oct. 1. That dates marks the opening for both bear archery and antelope archery seasons, two of the most unique outdoor opportunities in the state.
            The black bear population is growing in southeast Oklahoma and is an important part of the state's wildlife diversity. Biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation have collected biological data for years mainly from bear surveys and research projects.   Wildlife Department biologists also worked with researchers with the Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit with Oklahoma State University and the findings showed the bear population in Oklahoma can sustain a limited hunting season. Over the years, biologists have collected data on Oklahoma bears from these research projects, nuisance bear reports and now two years of successful legal hunting.
            The first season in 2009 resulted in 19 harvested bears and last season a total of 32 bears were harvested in a single day. Hunters are expecting another successful season in the mountains of southeast Oklahoma.
            The bear archery season will run from Oct. 1 through Oct. 21 or until the season quota of 20 bears has been met. If the season quota is not met during bear archery season, black bear muzzleloader season will open Oct. 22 and run through Oct. 30 or until the season quota is met. Hunters must check by phone or online at wildlifedepartment.com before hunting each day to see if the quota has been reached. Once the quota of 20 bears is reached, the season will close. The use of dogs is prohibited, and baiting is prohibited on wildlife management areas.
            To hunt black bears in Oklahoma, resident hunters must possess a hunting license. Additionally, resident bear hunters must possess a bear license. Nonresident bear hunters are exempt from a hunting license while hunting bear but must possess a nonresident bear license. Lifetime license holders are not exempt from the purchase of a bear license. Bear licenses for the archery season must be purchased prior to Oct. 1.
            “Wildlife Department personnel will be available in the four-county hunt area during early bear season to help check in bear harvests, visit with sportsmen, and to help ensure compliance of bear hunting regulations,” said Joe Hemphill, southeast region wildlife supervisor for the Wildlife Department. “We will collect biological data from each bear harvested, including a tooth for age determination and specific size measurements. Additionally, bears harvested may be subject to forensic analysis to ensure legal means of harvest were observed. The Wildlife Department also will work in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service to establish several hunter check points throughout the hunt area for checking bear hunters.”
            In the complete opposite corner of the state, Oct. 1 also marks the opening day of antelope archery season in the Panhandle in Cimarron Co. and parts of Texas County.  The season closes Oct. 14. This marks the third year that “over-the-counter” antelope archery licenses have been sold. Last year hunters enjoyed a very successful season harvesting 49 bucks and 12 does.
            The archery bag limit is two antelope, with no more than one buck allowed. Antelope harvested during the archery antelope season count against a hunter’s statewide combined season bag limit of two antelope, of which no more than one may be a buck. All other antelope hunting in Oklahoma is limited to hunts offered through the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s controlled hunts program, in which hunters must be drawn for an antelope hunt, or through a limited number of landowner permits. In total 253 pronghorn were checked in 2010.
Pronghorn antelope are true American natives. Found nowhere else in the world, pronghorns are unique in every sense of the word.  In fact the pronghorn is so unique, it is the only member of its family, Antilocapra. Its Latin name Antilocapra americana, literally means the "American goat-antelope." But the pronghorn is directly related to neither New World goats nor Old World antelopes.
            Pronghorns are the quintessential prairie animal. It is at home in the wide-open spaces of the American West where other animals may find food and cover in short supply. In Oklahoma, these striking creatures can be spotted in the short and mixed grass prairie of Cimarron and Texas counties.
If pronghorns are known for one thing it is speed – dazzling speed. They can sprint up to 70 miles per hour, making them the fastest animal in North America. They sometimes seem to fly across the prairie, covering up to 20 feet in a single stride. Besides their legs, pronghorns rely on their keen eyesight and sensitive noses to avoid danger on the prairie.  Both pronghorn bucks and does have horns, although the female’s horns are much smaller than the male’s, which are 10 to 16 inches long.
            Mature pronghorn bucks stake out their territories and assemble groups of up to 10 females each fall. Although brief fights may break out between rival males, confrontations are usually decided with a few head butts and a lot of posturing.
            The wide open terrain of Texas and Cimarron counties provides added challenge in getting close to antelope, as judging distance can become difficult without landmarks, trees, and other indicators of distance. Binoculars and range finders can be very useful. Additionally, decoys may help attract curious antelope and distract them from seeing the subtle movements of hunters adjusting for a shot.
            Hunters must obtain written landowner permission before hunting on private land. To hunt antelope during antelope archery season, resident hunters must have an appropriate hunting license or proof of exemption. Additionally, all antelope hunters must have an antelope license for each antelope hunted, or proof of exemption. All antelope hunters must carry written permission from the landowner while hunting antelope, unless exempt. For full season details, consult the “2011 Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
            In addition to the opening bear and antelope archery seasons, Oct. 1 also marks the opening of deer archery, turkey fall archery and rabbit seasons. For more information, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Trout stocking suspended at Lower Illinois River
            Trout stocking at the Lower Illinois River near Gore has been suspended until water quality improves according to officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The trout fishery is supported by water released from Lake Tenkiller. The majority of that water is released for hydropower generation. However during non-generation hours the only water available to maintain suitable flows, oxygen levels and water temperatures has come from an allocation loaned to ODWC by Sequoyah Fuels Corp. That allocation has run out.
            The Lower Illinois River is one of the only two year-round trout fisheries in the state and is managed by the Wildlife Department. While the long, dry summer of 2011 has contributed to poor water quality and insufficient water quantity, the underlying issue is that there is no permanent water allocation in Lake Tenkiller dedicated to the trout fishery. ODWC is pursuing possible solutions with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other users of water in Lake Tenkiller. Officials hope that trout stocking can resume once flows are restored and water quality improves.
 
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Youth deer gun season offers young hunters first shot
            Youth hunters have the first chance at a buck or doe with a rifle during the youth deer gun season slated for Oct. 14-16.
            The youth season is open to hunters under 18 years of age. Youth hunters must be accompanied by a hunter 18 years or older. New this year, youth can hunt with an apprentice-designated hunting license if they are eight years old or older as long as they are accompanied by a licensed hunter who is 18 years old or older and hunter education certified or exempt.
            “In years past, hunters had to be at least 10 years old to hunt with an apprentice-designated hunting license, and the required accompanying hunter had to be at least 21,” said Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “These new rules went into effect Aug. 26, in time to benefit young hunters during the youth deer gun season.”
            Oklahoma youth under the age of 16 are exempt from the purchase of a hunting license but must possess a youth deer license.
            Youth 16 or 17 years old must possess a hunting license or proof of exemption, plus a youth deer gun license for each deer hunted. A $5 youth hunting license or a $9 youth combination hunting and fishing license is available to 16 and 17-year-old residents, and resident youth deer gun licenses are $10.
            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. 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.
            The youth deer gun season limit is one antlered and one antlerless deer, and the harvest of antlerless mule deer is prohibited. Deer taken by hunters participating in the youth deer gun season are included in the hunter’s combined season limit.
            For complete information on youth deer gun season details and regulations and the apprentice-designated hunting license, consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Seventh annual Wildlife Expo proves appealing to record crowds
            The popular Oklahoma Wildlife Expo held each year by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation once again drew record crowds Sept. 23-25 with an estimated attendance of more than 59,000 visitors. Last year’s record crowds were estimated at just over 51,000.
            In addition to record crowds, onsite surveys of Expo visitors showed that nearly half of visitors surveyed were visiting the event for the first time, about half tried an activity they had never done before, and the vast majority of those surveyed gave high rankings for their overall experience at the Expo.
            Held at the Lazy E Arena, just north of Oklahoma City, the free Oklahoma Wildlife Expo is hosted by the Wildlife Department in partnership with a range of organizations, other state agencies, individuals and outdoor-related companies to generate an interest in the outdoors and conservation. That mission is accomplished through hands-on education and learning opportunities in which visitors can try everything from shooting a shotgun to petting an alligator.
            Kayaking in a pond built into the floor of the Lazy E Arena, catching a fish from a stocked pond, or riding a mountain bike on a dirt trail are all part of the experience of the Wildlife Expo.
Additionally, visitors can shoot archery, sample wild game meat, test-drive an ATV, see wildlife firsthand, watch hunting dog demonstrations and even win prizes such as a John Deere Gator off-road utility vehicle. Everything from birdwatching and birdhouse building to seminars on how to pack a mule for a hunting trip is included at the Expo, and it is all free of charge.
            The 2012 Expo is already slated for Sept. 29-30 at the Lazy E Arena, just north of Oklahoma City. To learn more about the Wildlife Expo, log on to
www.wildlifedepartment.com .
 
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Calling all young outdoor writers to compete for outdoor getaways
            Oklahoma youth are getting a chance this year to share their outdoor heritage to competing for an all-expense-paid outdoor getaway.
            According to Colin Berg, education supervisor for the Wildlife Department, the essay contest is an ideal way for youth to show their love for the outdoors and, in the process, possibly win a vacation in the great outdoors.
            “The tradition of hunting runs deep in Oklahoma,” Berg said. “Each year, when I review the youth essay submissions, I’m reminded about how important it is to pass along our heritage of hunting.”
            To participate, students must be 11-17 years of age and currently enrolled in any Oklahoma school or home school. Students also must use the theme of “Hunting: Sharing the Heritage” or “Archery: What I like about Archery in the Schools and Bowhunting” or the concept of the theme to develop a descriptive essay or short story. Winners of the previous year’s contest are not eligible. Applicants must have successfully completed an Oklahoma Hunter Education course by the entry deadline, which is Nov. 18, 2011. There are two age categories — 11-14 and 15-17.
            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 a scholarship within 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 the 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 2012.
            “If you don’t enter, you can’t win,” Berg said.
            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 Oklahoma State Chapter will reimburse trip travel expenses to New Mexico and Texas up to $500 per essay contest winner. The winning student essays will be published in the OSCSCI newsletter, “Safari Trails.” Publication qualifies the winning entries for the Outdoor Writers Association of America Youth Writing Contest. Several past national winners have come from Oklahoma. Essays may also be printed in Outdoor Oklahoma magazine.
            “We have had past winners from all across the state,” Berg said. “Public school, private school and home school students can all enter.”
             Two educators also will be awarded all-expenses-paid scholarships for an eight-day conservation education school at Safari Club International’s American Wilderness Leadership School (AWLS) at Granite Ranch near Jackson, Wyoming.
            The AWLS program is conducted during the summer and presents an outdoor program for educators that concentrates on natural resource management. Participants learn about stream ecology, map and compass, language arts and creative writing in an outdoor setting, fly tying, shooting sports, wildlife management, the Yellowstone ecosystem, camping, white-water rafting, educational resources and how to implement outdoor education ideas.
            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. 18, 2011, or delivered by Nov. 18 in person to the Department of Wildlife’s Jenks Office at 201 Aquarium Drive, Jenks. Address entries to: Essay Contest, Attn: Education Section Supervisor, ODWC Jenks Office, P.O. Box 1201, Jenks, OK 74037. Fax entries will not be accepted.
 
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Hunters reminded to check burn ban status before building campfires
            Fall has arrived in Oklahoma after one of the hottest summers on record, but the state still suffers from drought, leaving a number of counties under Governor and county-enacted burn bans. With the start of several hunting seasons Oct. 1, officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation are reminding hunters to be aware of burn bans in counties where they hunt and to be extra mindful around legal campfires in the outdoors.
            “The fall is a favorite time of year for hunters, and campfires are often part of that,” said Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Wildlife Department. “This year, though, hunters need to be extra vigilant when camping to ensure whether a campfire is legal in the county in which they are camping and hunting. If there is no burn ban in effect, hunters still need to remember that Oklahoma has been in a period of intense drought, and they should make sure their campfires are well-contained, safe and completely extinguished before leaving the area.”
            Title 2 of the Oklahoma Statures authorizes the governor to declare a ban on outdoor burning based on drought conditions and the recommendation of the Forestry Division in order to reduce the threat of wildfire, and country commissioners have similar authority under certain conditions and restrictions. Bans proclaimed by the governor supersede county bans on burning, and hunters can see a map of counties under burn bans online at
http://www.forestry.ok.gov/burn-ban-information .
            For more information about hunting in Oklahoma, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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