FEBRUARY 2012

 

FEBRUARY 2012

Artwork to fund conservation thanks to NatureWorks show (February 29, 2012)

            Wildlife enthusiasts may find just the right painting, sculpture, carving or other piece at the 2012 NatureWorks Art Show and Sale March 3-4 at the Renaissance Tulsa Hotel and Convention Center.

            NatureWorks is the Tulsa-based conservation group that hosts the art show, bringing together wildlife and nature artists from across the United States and abroad for the event. Art at the show will be for sale, which will help generate matching grants to assist with a variety of state wildlife conservation projects.

            "This year, we anticipate exceeding 2011's attendance of 1,500 and sales in excess of $700,000," said John Reaves, NatureWorks spokesman.

            Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 3, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 4. Tickets are $5, and one ticket is good for both days.

            "Our optimism is based on the exceptional work of our featured artist, Jerry Ricketson, and the return of our encore artist, sculptor Diane Mason, as well as all of the other very talented artists who will be exhibiting at our show," Reaves said.

            Ricketson won the Williams Award for first place in painting at the 2011 Gilcrease Museum Collectors' Reserve Show in Tulsa. His works also have been included in the Gilcrease Museum Collectors Reserve Shows in 2010 and the Gilcrease American Arts in Miniature Show. He has also won the "Peoples' Choice Award" at last year's NatureWorks show. Ricketson paints in a realistic manner utilizing loose brushwork and strives for a strong three-dimensional feel in his work.

            Mason, who has exhibited at the National Geographic Society in Washington, DC, received the NatureWorks "Miniature Award" in 2009. She is the current president of the Society of Animal Artists and her works are on display at the Tulsa City/County Library and the City of Edmund.

            Mason and Ricketson will be joined by more than 60 artists at the third largest art show of its kind in America, now in its 30th year.

            NatureWorks, Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to wildlife conservation and education. NatureWorks donated a bronze monument to the Department last year as part of a plan to make the agency's headquarters in Oklahoma City more accessible to persons with disabilities and more aesthetically pleasing to motorists and pedestrians. The monument was created by wildlife sculptor Stephen LeBlanc and depicts three whitetail deer on the run. The whitetail monument is one of more than 20 heroic-sized wildlife monuments donated to others by NatureWorks, many of which can be seen along the City of Tulsa's Riverside Drive.

            "The donation of these statues is a great way to help beautify Lincoln Blvd and is a great reminder of the importance of hunting and fishing to wildlife conservation in Oklahoma," said Melinda Sturgess-Streich, assistant director of administration and finance for the Wildlife Department.

            NatureWorks has also partnered with the Wildlife Department on a number of different conservation projects, such as the Department's paddlefish management program, duck stamp print program and centennial duck stamp print. Additionally, NatureWorks has supported habitat work at the Harold Stuart Waterfowl Refuge Unit within the Deep Fork Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and the Grassy Slough WMA. NatureWorks also has been an important supporter of the Wildlife Department's Hunters Against Hunger program - in which hunters can donate their legally harvested deer to feed hungry Oklahomans. In addition, they have funded important projects to help schools and libraries in the state receive paid subscriptions to the Department's Outdoor Oklahoma magazine.

            The Tulsa Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center is located at 6808 South 107th East Avenue (71st and US-169) in Tulsa. For more information about NatureWorks or the art show, log on to www.natureworks.org.

 

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Important conservation supporter to host annual banquet (February 27, 2012)

            A local conservation organization is hosting a sportsmen-tailored event that offers a chance to pick up new outdoor merchandise while supporting wildlife conservation efforts in Oklahoma.

            The Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International's 27th Annual Convention Banquet and Fundraiser is slated for March 3 at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. The convention features an auction for a range of North American and international hunting and fishing trips, firearms, wildlife artwork, furs, jewelry and more. By attending, guests can help the Oklahoma Station of SCI support a number of conservation projects throughout the year that are supported by funds raised by the event.

            The chapter has used its funds to support several projects, including recent black bear research efforts in northeast Oklahoma. It also helped fund the purchase of the Department's Operation Game Thief trailer, used to educate people on the importance of wildlife laws and on how to report violations. The chapter also is a supporter of several other projects conducted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. It has helped fund the purchase of an airboat used by the Wildlife Department on waterfowl surveys and other wetland management tasks, as well as several trailers used in the Department's Shotgun Training Education Program, which introduces people to shotgun handling and shooting. The 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. Also, the chapter purchased eight elk for introduction into an existing herd in southeast Oklahoma.

            Additionally, the Oklahoma Station Chapter also supports the Wildlife Department's Hunters Against Hunger program, which coordinates the annual distribution of hunter-donated venison to needy, and the Department's Oklahoma Wildlife Expo.

            "Last year, the Oklahoma Station Chapter's banquet was rated one of SCI's top five best chapter banquets of all 200 chapters world-wide." said Mike Mistelske, current member and past president of the Oklahoma Station Chapter. "

            Mistelske also said last year's event was an early sell-out, so guests are urged to reserve their seats.

            Tickets are available now for $70, and a limited number of sponsor tables are available as well. 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.

            Registration begins at 4:30 p.m., along with the silent auction and various games. The banquet begins at 6:30 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. Bid cards for the auction are available to members at no cost. For questions relating to the banquet and auction, contact Dennis Elliott, current Oklahoma Station Chapter of SCI president, at (918) 298-8299.

            For more information on the Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International, log on to oklahomastationsci.org.

 

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Artwork to fund conservation thanks to NatureWorks show (February 22, 2012)

            Wildlife enthusiasts may find just the right painting, sculpture, carving or other piece at the 2012 NatureWorks Art Show and Sale March 3-4 at the Renaissance Tulsa Hotel and Convention Center.

            NatureWorks is the Tulsa-based conservation group that hosts the art show, bringing together wildlife and nature artists from across the United States and abroad for the event. Art at the show will be for sale, which will help generate matching grants to assist with a variety of state wildlife conservation projects.

            "This year, we anticipate exceeding 2011's attendance of 1,500 and sales in excess of $700,000," said John Reaves, NatureWorks spokesman.

            Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 3, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 4. Tickets are $5, and one ticket is good for both days.

            "Our optimism is based on the exceptional work of our featured artist, Jerry Ricketson, and the return of our encore artist, sculptor Diane Mason, as well as all of the other very talented artists who will be exhibiting at our show," Reaves said.

            Ricketson won the Williams Award for first place in painting at the 2011 Gilcrease Museum Collectors' Reserve Show in Tulsa. His works also have been included in the Gilcrease Museum Collectors Reserve Shows in 2010 and the Gilcrease American Arts in Miniature Show. He has also won the "Peoples' Choice Award" at last year's NatureWorks show. Ricketson paints in a realistic manner utilizing loose brushwork and strives for a strong three-dimensional feel in his work.

            Mason, who has exhibited at the National Geographic Society in Washington, DC, received the NatureWorks "Miniature Award" in 2009. She is the current president of the Society of Animal Artists and her works are on display at the Tulsa City/County Library and the City of Edmund.

            Mason and Ricketson will be joined by more than 60 artists at the third largest art show of its kind in America, now in its 30th year.

            NatureWorks, Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to wildlife conservation and education. NatureWorks donated a bronze monument to the Department last year as part of a plan to make the agency's headquarters in Oklahoma City more accessible to persons with disabilities and more aesthetically pleasing to motorists and pedestrians. The monument was created by wildlife sculptor Stephen LeBlanc and depicts three whitetail deer on the run. The whitetail monument is one of more than 20 heroic-sized wildlife monuments donated to others by NatureWorks, many of which can be seen along the City of Tulsa's Riverside Drive.

            "The donation of these statues is a great way to help beautify Lincoln Blvd and is a great reminder of the importance of hunting and fishing to wildlife conservation in Oklahoma," said Melinda Sturgess-Streich, assistant director of administration and finance for the Wildlife Department.

            NatureWorks has also partnered with the Wildlife Department on a number of different conservation projects, such as the Department's paddlefish management program, duck stamp print program and centennial duck stamp print. Additionally, NatureWorks has supported habitat work at the Harold Stuart Waterfowl Refuge Unit within the Deep Fork Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and the Grassy Slough WMA. NatureWorks also has been an important supporter of the Wildlife Department's Hunters Against Hunger program - in which hunters can donate their legally harvested deer to feed hungry Oklahomans. In addition, they have funded important projects to help schools and libraries in the state receive paid subscriptions to the Department's Outdoor Oklahoma magazine.

            The Tulsa Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center is located at 6808 South 107th East Avenue (71st and US-169) in Tulsa. For more information about NatureWorks or the art show, log on to www.natureworks.org.

 

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Survey efforts planned for state's lesser prairie chicken (February 17, 2012)
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is working to conserve the lesser prairie chicken in northwest Oklahoma. Collectively - between the Wildlife Department, other state and federal agencies, conservation organizations and industries - over $40 million has been spent on or committed to habitat management and research efforts that benefit the lesser prairie chicken.

            "The Department supports responsible development and is working toward a shared goal of keeping the Lesser Prairie Chicken off the Endangered Species List," said Doug Schoeling, upland game biologist for the Wildlife Department.

            The lesser prairie chicken, a unique upland bird known for it's "booming" call during mating, has experienced population declines for many years. The species, found in northwest Oklahoma, has struggled to survive in its native habitat due to habitat fragmentation and land use changes over time.

            Lesser prairie chicken recovery efforts fall into three categories: habitat management, habitat protection and research.

            To encourage habitat management practices that will aid the native bird, state and federal agencies work closely with conservation-minded landowners on habitat projects including cedar control, prescribed burning, native grass planting and fence marking / removal.

            "Private landowners are key to wildlife conservation in Oklahoma, since about 95 percent of the land in Oklahoma is privately owned," said Schoeling.

            Additionally, the Wildlife Department has purchased several sections of prime habitat that will provide permanently protected areas for lesser prairie chickens. In the last three years, over 7,100 acres in Harper and Woods counties were purchased to create Cimarron Hills and Cimarron Bluff Wildlife Management Areas. Packsaddle and Beaver River, two other wildlife management areas in Ellis and Beaver counties, were expanded to include thousands more habitat acres. These lands are in key portions of the lesser prairie chicken's range.

            Finally, research initiatives like the spatial planning tool help responsible developers and planners as they search for sites where development would least impact Oklahoma's population of lesser prairie chickens. The tool, available at wildlifedepartment.com, rates the habitat quality of land within the lesser prairie chicken range.

            Data from population counts for the lesser prairie chicken has been collected for decades, and a new set of advanced population surveys will start this spring. Wildlife Department biologists and Oklahoma City Zoo personnel will conduct listening surveys from county roads in Harper, Woods, Woodward, Ellis, Roger Mills and Dewey counties. Biologists will listen for the distinctive "booming" call of the birds at preset listening locations along the roadway. This is the third year for these types of surveys, and the data gathered will be an important tool in evaluating the population.

            Also, from March to May, Department biologists will use helicopters for aerial surveys throughout the lesser prairie chicken range to locate additional groups of birds.

            "We are looking for birds that are not located near public roads. The more birds that we locate on these surveys, the more we can understand population status, which could help prevent the listing of the lesser prairie chicken on the endangered species list," said Schoeling.

            Surveyors will only document sightings of lesser prairie chickens, and landowners' information will be kept confidential.

            To learn more about landowner programs offered by the Wildlife Department to benefit the lesser prairie chicken or to sign up for regular updates on upland bird species, visit wildlifedepartment.com.

 

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Wildlife Department Youth Camp application available now (February 15, 2012)
Teenagers can apply now to attend the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's annual Wildlife Youth Camp slated for June 24-29 at Oklahoma University Biological Station at Lake Texoma.

The free camp increases awareness of conserving and managing Oklahoma's wildlife resources through courses on wildlife-related career opportunities, rifle and shotgun training, archery, wildlife identification, wildlife law enforcement, fishing, fisheries management, ropes, swimming and turkey and waterfowl hunting, management and law enforcement.

"We urge anybody between the ages of 14 and 16 that's interested in hunting or fishing or a career with the Department to apply," said Jay Harvey, game warden stationed in Choctaw and Bryan counties and coordinator for the Wildlife Youth Camp. "Anyone interested in coming should note that the camp is being held in June this year instead of July like the last three years."

To attend youth camp, applicants must be Oklahoma residents and must turn 14 prior to June 24, 2012, and be no older than 16. To attend, prospective campers must fill out an application form and write a 75-word essay describing why they want to attend the camp, why they should be selected and what they expect to learn. Additionally, they must provide a letter of recommendation by someone other than a family member and a photograph from a recent outdoor-related event or activity. Application forms are available online at http://www.wildlifedepartment.com/education/youthcamp.htm. The page also includes additional information about the camp and photographs from previous years.

The camp will be open to a maximum of 35 youth, and applications will be accepted through April 13, 2012.

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89er Chapter of Quail Forever donates $20,000 for upland habitat work (February 13, 2012)

            As the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation continues to stay at the forefront of research efforts to learn about declining quail populations, the agency's partners continue to lend their support.

            At its Feb. 6 meeting, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission accepted a donation of $20,000 from the Central Oklahoma 89er Chapter Quail Forever.

            The donation came from the estate of a Tillman Co. resident who wanted to benefit quail in Oklahoma, and the funds will be matched with $40,000 in Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program dollars to purchase a skid steer, a tree-cutting attachment and a trailer for enhancing upland game habitat, particularly in southwest Oklahoma. Wildlife Department personnel can use the equipment to remove invasive red cedar trees and other encroaching woody vegetation on wildlife management areas in Oklahoma.

            "It is partners like the 89er Chapter of Quail Forever that help make conservation happen in Oklahoma," said Bill Dinkines, assistant chief of wildlife for the Wildlife Department. "We're grateful for their support and glad they are willing to jump in and help us conserve wildlife in Oklahoma."

            In other business, the Commission voted to approve a memorandum of understanding with the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, or OIPA, to establish a collaborative working relationship for lesser prairie chicken conservation. Through the memorandum, the Department and OIPA will identify and develop voluntary steps that can be taken by OIPA's members to avoid and minimize the impacts of their operations on the lesser prairie chicken. Department and OIPA personnel have been meeting regularly to discuss ongoing conservation issues, including the needs of the lesser prairie chicken.

            "This memorandum demonstrates the good faith effort and commitment of both parties to address the needs of the lesser prairie chicken," Dinkines said.

            The Commission also heard a presentation from Barry Bolton, fisheries chief for the Wildlife Department, on renovations to Lake Elmer in Kingfisher County. The 55-acre reservoir is one of 15 Wildlife Department-owned and managed lakes across the state, ranging from as small 30 acres to more than 260 acres.

            "Several of these lakes are close to 50 years old, and as these lakes age, the fishing can decline and even fishing access can decline," Bolton said. "Several of these have been undergoing renovations that transform them into fishing showplaces that anglers can rely on as true fishing destinations."

            Lake Elmer was last renovated in the late 1970s, but a 2009 fish kill helped prompt the new renovation of the 55-acre lake. Renovations included removing over one million cubic yards of organic muck, rebuilding existing fishing jetties and constructing new ones, all of which would have cost about $2.2 million if contracted out. Instead, the Wildlife Department relied heavily upon the skill of its own lake maintenance crew and other Department employees for renovations at Lake Elmer.

            The Wildlife Department's law enforcement division helped secure donations and transportation for over 100,000 tons of concrete that was used for rip-rap in the renovations. Two silt trap ponds were constructed to prevent the need for future renovations, and upstream landowners are putting conservation measures into place to slow future erosion issues. Additionally, new fish habitat was installed including 200 brush piles and 100 spider blocks built and delivered by Dover FFA students. Spider blocks are manmade structures composed of rubber tubes that are concreted into cinderblocks, then placed at the bottom of lakes for fish cover. The Department also built and installed its own artificial fish structure.

            The Commission also voted on a motion to send a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) opposing the possible reintroduction of gray wolves to the San Luis Valley National Wildlife Refuge complex in southern Colorado. A 3-3 vote resulted in the motion not passing. Since the meeting, the USFWS has clarified that it has no plans to release gray wolves to the area, but that the proposition for reintroducing wolves was recorded during a public comment period conducted by the USFWS seeking comment for alternative management plans for the 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 scheduled Commission meeting is set for 9 a.m. March 5, 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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Conservation Order Light Goose Season approaching

            After enjoying some outstanding duck hunting opportunities this fall after a very successful nesting season, waterfowlers don't have to stop hunting yet. The Conservation Order Light Goose Season, also known as "COLGS," opens Feb. 13 and runs through March 30.

            Designed to reduce the mid-continent light goose population that has become so high as to cause severe habitat destruction, COLGS gives hunters the an opportunity to hunt snow, blue and Ross' geese with no daily or possession limits and all the way up until a half hour after official sunset. Electronic calls are allowed as well. All other waterfowl regulations apply, including federally approved, non-toxic shot requirements.

            According to Josh Richardson, migratory game bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, hunters who plan to hunt COLGS should try to secure hunting spots in the eastern portion of the state, such as at Webbers Falls and Ft. Gibson, where he said large concentrations of light geese can be found on public lands as they finish out the winter and begin migrating north.

            Since 1999, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has cooperated with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to offer the COLGS.

            "Adult snow and Ross' geese have a low natural mortality rate and benefit from the availability of agricultural crops in the south-central United States. These geese are living longer and reproducing more, and their overpopulation continues to degrade Arctic habitat," Richardson said. "Because snow geese feed by grubbing and pulling out plants by the roots, large numbers can literally destroy extensive areas of tundra."

            Hunters who participate in the COLGS must have all necessary licenses, waterfowl stamps and a Harvest Information Program (HIP) Permit in their possession while hunting. For complete license information, see the "2011-12 Oklahoma Waterfowl Guide" or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

            Federal law requires that the Wildlife Department estimate the harvest of light geese during the Conservation Order Light Goose Season. Hunters who plan to pursue snow, blue and Ross' geese during COLGS need to register for the hunt on the Internet by logging on to wildlifedepartment.com or by sending their name, address and phone number to: Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation; Attn: COLGS; P.O. Box 53465; Oklahoma City, OK 73152.

 

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Hunter helps researchers with banded quail harvest (February 8, 2012)

            Bernard Brown of Sand Springs harvested a quail Jan. 19 at the Cimarron Hills Wildlife Management Area in northwest Oklahoma that may have looked like any other when he shot at it on the flush. But when his German shorthaired pointer "Blade" retrieved the bird, it became clear that something was different.

            "I noticed immediately it was banded," Brown said. "I was stoked. Made my day!"

            Brown's bird was part of a group of 165 quail that were trapped, sampled and banded by Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation biologists at the end of 2011 for research. Specifically, Brown's bird was a juvenile male that had been trapped and banded in October and released after blood and other biological samples were collected from the bird.

            Hunters were notified by the Wildlife Department of the possibility of harvesting banded quail on several western Oklahoma WMAs this season and were asked to report banded birds if they harvested one. By doing so, biologists can keep tabs on the mortality of the sampled birds. In addition to the birds that were banded and released, close to 75 others were trapped and sent to research facilities for extensive studies.

            The bobwhites were trapped on 10 WMAs in western Oklahoma during August and October as part of the Wildlife Department's involvement in a research project called Operation Idiopathic Decline, or OID. Studying the decline of the bobwhite quail across its range is a primary goal of OID, which is made up of a partnership between several conservation and research groups including the Wildlife Department, the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch, Texas A&M, Texas A&M-Kingsville and Texas Tech universities.

            Samples from all trapped quail were sent to universities in Texas, where researchers are investigating the incidence of disease, parasitism, pesticides, toxins and contaminants in sampled quail.

            "We're waiting for researchers to give us information on things like West Nile Virus, avian influenza, aflatoxins - all of the various components they are looking at," said Alan Peoples, chief of Wildlife for the Wildlife Department.

            Over 40 percent of the birds trapped in Oklahoma were adults. However, Peoples said in a normal year of hunting, most of the birds seen by hunters are young of the year birds, or those that were born in the spring and summer. About 80 percent of the harvested quail in an average year will be young of the year birds as well, with the remaining 20 percent comprised of adult birds.

            Since young birds make up the large majority of the quail seen and harvested by hunters, reproductive success is critical. According to Peoples, extended drought conditions and record heat during the summer was detrimental for both quail nesting success and recruitment. In addition to the impact of heat on nesting sites, a lack of green vegetation led to reduced numbers of insects that young quail depend on for food in the first months of their life.

            In addition to working with trapped birds, the Wildlife Department is involved in a genetic research study through the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute at Texas A&M-Kingsville. The Department recently provided wing samples from hunter-harvested quail that will aid in research efforts.

            The Wildlife Department also is contracting with Oklahoma State University to conduct quail research over the next six years on Packsaddle and Beaver River wildlife management areas in the northwest part of the state. Research facilities will be constructed on the WMAs, and researchers will be collecting extensive information that could lead to improvements in quail populations and habitat management.

            "We're going to focus primarily on reproduction and brood survival," Peoples said.

            The Wildlife Department is now providing periodic updates on upland game bird research and conservation through a free e-mail report called Upland Update. The updates are available free by signing up on the Wildlife Department's website, wildlifedepartment.com. Currently, more than 800 subscribers are receiving the updates.

 

Brown's banded bird

High res

Low res

Photo Caption: Bernard Brown of Sand Springs harvested this banded quail at Cimarron Hills WMA in January. The bird was banded and released back in October as part of an Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation research effort, and hunters were asked to report any banded quail harvested.

 

 

Blood sampling research

High res: http://www.wildlifedepartment.com/newsreleasearchive/2012/images/Quail_prep_highres.jpg

Low res: http://www.wildlifedepartment.com/newsreleasearchive/2012/images/quail_prep_low_res.jpg

Photo Caption: Doug Schoeling, upland game bird biologist for the Wildlife Department, prepares to take a blood sample from a quail before releasing it back onto an Oklahoma wildlife management area as part of a research study on the declining quail populations.

 

 

Quail release

High res: http://www.wildlifedepartment.com/newsreleasearchive/2012/images/quail_release_high_res.jpg

Low res: http://www.wildlifedepartment.com/newsreleasearchive/2012/images/quail_release_low_res.jpg

Photo Caption: Jena Donnell, quail habitat biologist for the Wildlife Department, releases a quail that was trapped on an Oklahoma wildlife management area and sampled as part of a research study on the declining quail populations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arrows flying in statewide student archery competition

            Though Oklahoma's popular archery hunting seasons for species like deer, black bear and antelope are done for the 2011-12 season, some might say the state is still "in the thick of archery season" - at least if you are involved with the Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools Program.

            The program, operated by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and often referred to as OKNASP, is hosting regional shoots across Oklahoma throughout February in which 2,500 students are competing for a spot in the upcoming annual state shoot. Three regional shoots have already been held in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and two more are scheduled before the end of the month - one Feb. 15 at the Stephens County Fair and Expo Center in Duncan, and another Feb. 29 at the McAlester Expo Center in McAlester.

            Those that advance from the regional shoots will be invited to the State Fair Park in Oklahoma City for the state shoot March 28, where an estimated 1,200 students from across Oklahoma will shoot for prizes and awards.

            Over 310 schools across Oklahoma participate in the program (OKNASP), which features in-class curriculum and a season of practice and competition in their respective schools.

            "Coaches have told me time and again that this program has helped every child see success," said Justin Marschall, OKNASP coordinator for the Wildlife Department. "From the typical athletic student to the child that does not usually excel in most other sports, archery is allowing all students to compete on a level playing field."

            Marschall said the regional shoots currently underway speak to the growth of the OKNASP program during its eight years of existence.

            "This is the second year that we've held regional qualifiers across the state, and we're seeing about a 25 percent increase in growth from last year's regionals," Marschall said. "Holding regional shoots helps make the number of shooters at the state shoot more manageable, but another upside is that they provide another fun and challenging opportunity for the students to shoot competitively against other schools."

            OKNASP partners state wildlife agencies, schools and the nation's archery industry to introduce students to the sport of archery. The Archery in the Schools curriculum is designed for 4th-12th graders and covers archery history, safety, techniques, equipment, mental concentration and self-improvement.

            Students in 4th-12th grade who are currently participating in OKNASP at their schools also are eligible to participate in an essay contest coordinated by the Wildlife Department in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. Five winners will be selected, and they will receive a free Oklahoma lifetime combination hunting and fishing license courtesy of Oklahoma Archery, to be presented at this year's state shoot. Log on to http://www.wildlifedepartment.com/education/oais.htm for full details.

            The OKNASP program can be followed on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/OKNASP and additional information about the program and the Wildlife Department is available at wildlifedepartment.com.

 

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