Archived Weekly Wildlife News

Produced by Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

Sign up for the Weekly News Release via e-mail

If you are with the media please call (405) 521-4630 to sign up. 

 

November 2013

 

 

Nov. 4, 2013
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation


Duck season now open statewide
Duck hunting season is now in full force statewide with the opening of Zone 2 this past weekend.
Josh Richardson, migratory game bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, said waterfowl numbers "look very good" this year, although slightly down from the last two record-setting production years. In addition, improved habitat conditions over much of the state as a result of drought relief should have a positive impact on duck hunting.
"To our benefit, water conditions across most of the state have improved, and recent rains and forecasts of more to come continue to bode well," Richardson said. "This year it should be a little easier, as water levels have climbed back up to the vegetation level. Or, in areas still lagging behind on rainfall, the vegetation level has encroached out to the water level, providing better cover to hunt from."
Richardson added that field hunters should find corn and soybean crops and new wheat crops that benefitted from recent rains as well.
With over 1 million acres of surface water and a spot right in line with the Central Flyway, Oklahoma hunters who invest some time and effort into duck hunting generally have successful seasons. Except for a small split in the Zone 1 and 2 seasons that runs Dec. 1-14, Oklahoma sportsmen can hunt ducks for the rest of the year and into 2014. Full season dates, details and regulations can be found in the current "Oklahoma Waterfowl Guide," available free online at wildlifedepartment.com and in print where hunting licenses are sold.
"As always, hunters should check the regulations to see what has changed from previous years," Richardson said. "This year the canvasback limit has increased to two birds per day, while Canada geese have increased to eight birds per day and light geese increased to 50 birds per day. Scaup limits were reduced this year to three birds per day."
Duck seasons are generous, with opportunities to hunt a variety of duck species that spend time in Oklahoma during their annual southward migrations from their northern breeding grounds. Every summer the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes frameworks to states for structuring their migratory bird hunting seasons. The Service publishes the federal hunting season frameworks for these species after their meetings, and state wildlife agencies like the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation can then make their season selections within the federal framework guidelines.


Nov. 14, 2013
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

Nov. 21 deadline for Wildlife Department guided youth waterfowl hunts
Youth have until Nov. 21 to apply for a chance to go on a guided duck hunt with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
The hunts are designed for youth ages 12-15 who have completed the Wildlife Department's free hunter education course.
Hunts are held at Deep Fork National Wildlife Refuge, Ft. Gibson Waterfowl Refuge, Ft. Cobb State Park, Okmulgee Wildlife Management Area, Packsaddle Wildlife Management Area and Vann's Lake (north of Muskogee).
The application deadline has been extended to Nov. 21, and all youth have to do to apply is write their first hunt choice preference and two alternate locations on a 3"x5" postcard along with their name, address, phone number and their hunter education number and mail them to OK Dept. of Wildlife Conservation, Youth Waterfowl Hunts PO Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152. Applications must be received by Nov. 21.
Other than meeting the age requirements, applicants must have proof of successfully completing a certified hunter education course and have an adult guardian who can accompany them on the hunt. Completing the hunter education course is simple, since hunters age 10 and older can take the course and test online, then print their official hunter education card on their home printer when they are finished.
The scheduled date of the hunt will be coordinated with successful applicants after the drawing, and a Wildlife Department employee will accompany each youth and their adult guardian for the controlled waterfowl hunt. Only the youth hunter will be allowed to hunt.
The Wildlife Department will provide successful applicants the necessary nontoxic shotgun shells, and a 20 gauge single shot shotgun will be available for use if the youth does not have his or her own shotgun. For more information, contact Jeff Neal, migratory game bird technician for the Wildlife Department, at (405) 396-2503 or jneal@zoo.odwc.state.ok.us.

 

Nov. 14, 2013
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

NEW 1-DAY FISHING LICENSE ON SALE FOR NONRESIDENTS

Visitors to the Sooner State who want to enjoy a spur-of-the-moment fishing outing now have a more cost-effective alternative to obtain the necessary license. On Nov. 1, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation began offering a one-day nonresident fishing license for the first time.
"This new option allows people who are simply visiting for one day to enjoy fishing on Oklahoma's lakes and streams without having to buy the six-day license as they did before," said Michael Chrisman, license section supervisor for the Wildlife Department.
Previously, residents from other states who needed a fishing license in Oklahoma had the choice to buy either a six-day nonresident fishing license for $35 or an annual nonresident fishing license for $55. The nonresident one-day license costs $15.
Beginning Nov. 1, legislation sponsored by state Sen. Josh Brecheen (R-Coalgate) and state Rep. Charles McCall (R-Atoka) created the one-day nonresident fishing license. Senate Bill 780 also increased penalties for the improper disposal of wildlife.
"When someone visiting Oklahoma decides to go fishing for a day, this new license will be a great option in addition to the six-day license that they would have had to buy previously," said Melinda Streich, assistant director of the Wildlife Department. "The one-day license should appeal especially to those people who tend to make last-minute decisions when visiting family or friends for the weekend."
Nonresidents will still be able to buy the six-day and annual fishing licenses, in addition to the new one-day nonresident license.
The one-day license can be purchased ahead of time, and the buyer can choose the day that the license will be valid. These licenses expire at midnight at the end of the day the license is valid. Most fishing and hunting licenses are available for purchase at the Wildlife Department's web site at wildlifedepartment.com or from retail license vendors across the state.
An Oklahoma nonresident fishing license is required for any nonresident who takes, attempts to take or possesses fish or other aquatic-dwelling organisms by any method in Oklahoma. Nonresidents who are 13 and younger are exempt from license requirements. Also exempt are nonresidents 15 and younger who live in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Texas or Wisconsin.
Also, Oklahoma's reciprocal license agreement with Texas allows anyone 65 or older who is a resident of the Lone Star State to fish in Oklahoma without having to buy a license.


Nov. 15, 2013
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation


Calling all young outdoor writers to compete for outdoor getaways
Oklahoma youth and educators have until Nov. 22 to submit entries in a creative writing and scholarship contest sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International.
Students must use the theme "Hunting: Sharing the Heritage" or "Archery: What I like about Archery in the Schools and Bowhunting" or the theme's concepts to develop an expository essay or short story.
According to Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator 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 traditions of hunting and the new legacy being created by our Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools Program are important to Oklahoma, and this contest gives youth an important avenue to express their interest in these things," Meek said.
To participate, students must be 11-17 years of age and currently enrolled in any Oklahoma school or home school. Winners of the previous year's contest are not eligible. Applicants must have successfully completed the Oklahoma hunter education course by the entry deadline, which is Nov. 22, 2013. The hunter education course can be completed free online by logging on to wildlifedepartment.com. Additionally, entries must have the Department's student entry form attached.
The essay contest has 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.
"If you don't enter, you can't win," Meek said. "I encourage everyone to put in for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
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.
"Students from all over Oklahoma have won this contest," Meek said. "Public school, private school and home school students are eligible to 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. Six sessions will be offered June through August 2014.
Essays and applications must be postmarked no later than Nov. 22, 2013 and addressed and mailed to: Essay Contest, Education Section Supervisor, ODWC Jenks Office, P.O. Box 1201, Jenks, OK 74037. Hand delivered entries must arrive by 4:30 p.m., Nov. 22 at the Jenks office at 201 Aquarium Drive, Jenks. Fax entries will not be accepted.
Both the essay contest entry forms and teacher scholarship applications are available at the following links.

Nov. 15, 2013
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

Hunting easier than ever for newcomers to learn
As some of Oklahoma's most popular hunting seasons approach, prospective hunters and those looking to introduce others to the outdoors should remember that it is easier now than ever to get involved in the sport of hunting.
As of Nov. 1, anyone age 30 or younger who is not hunter education certified may buy an apprentice-designated hunting license and go hunting under the supervision of an adult mentor hunter. Mentor hunters must be at least 18 years old and hunter education certified or exempt as well as licensed or exempt. Additionally, as of Nov. 1, prospective hunters ages nine and younger no longer are eligible to take the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's test for hunter education certification. Instead, they are able to buy an apprentice-designated hunting license and hunt with a mentor. Kids under 10 are still allowed to attend a hunter education course, but are not eligible to test.
"The new law fosters mentorship for new sportsmen and opens the door for young people to gain firsthand experience in safe hunting, since under the apprentice-designated license hunters must be accompanied by an adult hunter," said Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Mentorship is the best way to learn how to hunt."
The apprentice-designated hunting license was introduced in 2007 to help prospective hunters gain experience in hunting under the supervision of a mentor without having to first complete the hunter education course. It allows responsible adult hunters the opportunity to take friends and new hunters into the outdoors more readily, without them having to first complete what was then a lengthy, full-day class.
"Since then, gaining hunting experience has become more and more of a reality for so many people through the apprentice-designated hunting license," Meek said.
For big game hunting, anyone with an apprentice-designated license - and all youth age nine and younger regardless of hunter ed certification - must be accompanied. Accompanying adult hunters must be within arm's length of the apprentice hunter or close enough to take immediate control of the firearm or bow. For small game hunting, accompanying hunters must be within sight of and able to communicate with the apprentice in a normal voice without aid. When a hunting license is not required, such as is the case for resident youth under age 16 and nonresident youth under 14, apprentice hunters must still be accompanied.
"Another way we're getting people outdoors is through our online hunter education course," Meek said.
While learning to hunt under an apprentice-designated license is a good opportunity, Meek says taking the Wildlife Department's hunter education course is still an important plan of action, especially for those who plan to continue hunting in the future and those who plan to hunt out of state.
One of the most popular and most effective ways to obtain hunter education certification is through the Department's online course. By logging on to wildlifedepartment.com, prospective hunters can take the course and test at their own leisure from their own home. Meek says the online course is just as effective for teaching safe and ethical hunting as a physical course that takes all day to attend and complete.
"You can log on to wildlifedepartment.com right now, complete the course at your own pace and then print your hunter education card off when you are finished," Meek said. "The course covers the exact same material as our physical classes cover, but you can sit down with a mentor and learn it together."
"We want to pave the way for people to get outdoors and learn about our hunting heritage, not stand in the way," Meek said. "By making it simpler for newcomers to get involved in hunting, we are actually creating more conservationists for the future, since hunters and anglers are the primary source of funding for wildlife conservation through their purchase of hunting and fishing licenses and certain sporting goods."
Those 31 years old and older are exempt from hunter education requirements and therefore can purchase regular hunting licenses without the apprentice designation.
For more information about hunting in Oklahoma, consult the current "Oklahoma Hunting Guide," available free online at wildlifedepartment.com or in print anywhere hunting licenses are sold.

 

Nov. 20, 2013
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation


Game wardens' investigations lead to big fines paid in southeast Oklahoma poaching case
Recently, game wardens with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation wrapped up an important case that proves illegal hunting activity just isn't worth the cost.
In the landmark case - completed in October 2013 - a total of 73 wildlife violation charges were filed against 13 individuals who pleaded guilty in both Oklahoma and Arkansas courts, mostly for crimes involving the illegal killing of deer and obtaining fraudulent hunting licenses. They paid a total of $22,356 in state fines and court costs with no restitution, including over $10,306 paid for 18 charges filed in Oklahoma and $12,050 for 55 charges filed in Arkansas. In both states combined, only two charges were dismissed. Those charged were members of private hunting leases in southeast Oklahoma and adjoining leases in Arkansas.
The case began in June 2012, when McCurtain Co. game warden Kenny Lawson was contacted by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agent regarding an illegal lifetime license purchase and information that several private hunting lease members were involved in killing deer illegally in Oklahoma and transporting them into Arkansas.
Lawson followed up on the lifetime license information and learned that a resident of De Queen, Ark., had in fact used a relative's Oklahoma address to obtain an Oklahoma driver's license and lifetime hunting license. Then Lawson teamed up in mid-October 2012 with two USFWS employees to begin surveillance on the associated leases along the Oklahoma/Arkansas state line near Eagletown.
In all, law enforcement officers, including primary investigator and McCurtain Co. game warden Kenny Lawson, documented 45 illegal deer (29 bucks and 16 does) and one bear illegally killed by the group in 2012 - not including deer checked in Arkansas. All the deer killed in Oklahoma were determined to be illegally taken, as no person in the group had a valid Oklahoma hunting license or deer license - including the Oklahoma resident who killed two bucks. One of the suspects killed 13 deer in 2012, seven of which were killed illegally in Oklahoma. One of the suspects also aided a younger brother in illegally obtaining an Oklahoma lifetime hunting license by using his Oklahoma address. The primary poaching method observed by the officers included using dogs to run deer between the two leases, a technique legal in Arkansas but illegal in Oklahoma and most other states.
Through their covert investigations, officers identified suspects and 15 vehicles used in crimes. They also observed illegal hunting with rifles every day from mid-October throughout the nine-day Oklahoma muzzleloader season and the archery season as well as throughout the 16-day Oklahoma deer gun season. The officers then spent several months gathering other information and building a case. By August of 2013, the officers were able to interview the suspects. Lawson and fellow McCurtain Co. game warden Dru Polk undertook the interview process along with members of a special investigative unit with Arkansas Game and Fish Department and special agents with the USFWS.
Eventually all suspects were located and were very cooperative, confessing to the crimes and giving written affidavits to the facts.
The officers also interviewed the original suspect on the fraudulent lifetime license case and learned the father of this suspect had also obtained an Oklahoma lifetime license at the same time. Both father and son were charged with additional hunting violations in both states for killing deer illegally and the license fraud.
The officers confiscated approx. 30 sets of deer antlers and three illegally obtained Oklahoma lifetime hunting and fishing licenses with a face value of $2,175 combined and an estimated several thousand dollars in value over the course of a lifetime.
According to Lt. Arthur Joe Young, game warden supervisor stationed in Atoka County, this was the largest case of its kind that he could recall in District 3 in his 40 years as a game warden. Lawson credits the success of the case to good old fashioned investigative work and the interview skills of the team of officers, as well as the fact that the involved officers worked covertly to build the case before taking action.
"The evidence in this case was significant and would have been difficult for the suspects to dispute," Lawson said. "While modern technology proved to be a very valuable tool in this investigation, it cannot replace or serve as a substitute for fundamental investigative work and a desire to see that justice is served to those that steal from law abiding sportsmen and women."
While the suspects paid a monetary price for their crimes thanks to the efforts of Oklahoma game wardens, the real winners in the case are the sportsmen of Oklahoma, whose hunting license dollars go toward conservation work, including law enforcement efforts to protect wildlife.
"Our true sportsmen pay for conservation, whether it be law enforcement efforts or habitat work," Lawson said. "When you hunt illegally, you are taking from the people who pay for conservation and also hurting wildlife."
The Wildlife Department receives no general state tax appropriations and is funded primarily by sportsmen through their purchase of hunting and fishing licenses as well as certain sporting goods.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Law Enforcement Division is made up of about 120 game wardens stationed across the state with a commitment to make sure that wildlife is protected and conserved for the enjoyment of legal hunters, wildlife watchers and future generations of outdoor enthusiasts. Game wardens are available to assist sportsmen who have witnessed a wildlife violation. Their numbers are printed in the current "Oklahoma Hunting Guide," available free online at wildlifedepartment.com or in print anywhere hunting licenses are sold.
Wildlife violations also can be reported by phone - anonymously - by calling the Department's Operation Game Thief Hotline at 1-800-522-8039.

 


Nov. 21, 2013
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation


December to bring pheasant season to Oklahoma
Drought relief and the most mild summer temperatures recorded in years have improved upland habitat this year, and that's good news for pheasants. Brood count surveys showed an increase of about 20 percent from last year, which should improve hunting opportunities for sportsmen headed to the field for the Dec. 1 pheasant season opener.
Brood count surveys take place in August. They help biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation determine how many young pheasants survived the summer.
"These brood count surveys are the primary means we use to help us understand the annual population status of pheasant and to give us an idea of what the hunting season may be like," said Scott Cox, upland game bird biologist for the Wildlife Department. "And thankfully, the results are up this year."
Biologists attribute the improved brood count survey results to better available habitat thanks to increased rainfall and mild temperatures this summer.
"More rainfall means more cover and more vegetation that attracts more insects for young pheasants to eat," Cox said. "Additionally, milder temperatures means better nesting success and better survival rates of young birds. In short, we got some much needed relief from the extreme drought and heat of the last few years, and all our upland birds such as pheasant and even bobwhite quail stand to benefit from it. The best thing we can do now as we head into the pheasant season is to go pheasant hunting. We have some birds to hunt, it's fun and your hunting license dollars go back into conserving their habitat. And that's what the Wildlife Department is committed to doing."
While brood count survey results were up, Cox reminds hunters that overall numbers are down from the numbers traditionally enjoyed by sportsmen. During the crow count surveys, which are conducted in April and May well before the brood counts, biologists drive county roads and listen for crowing cock pheasants in search of mates. These surveys provide an idea of how many adult males survived through the winter. Results from the crow counts were down from last year. Cox said some of the decrease could be due to the fact that weather events in the region presented a smaller window of opportunity for biologists to complete their surveys.
"The number of adult birds that make it to the breeding season is important because they will serve as the breeding stock for the new broods, but it's the number of young birds that they produce and that survive into the fall season that really makes or breaks the hunting season," Cox said.
Both brood surveys and crow count surveys are conducted in Alfalfa, Beaver, Cimarron, Ellis, Garfield, Grant, Harper, Kay, Major, Noble, Texas, Woods, and Woodward counties. The counties that traditionally have the highest pheasant densities during surveys are Alfalfa, Beaver, Cimarron, Grant and Texas counties.
First introduced to Oklahoma in 1911, the ring-necked pheasant thrives in the cultivated farmland habitat mixed with weedy fencerows and overgrown pastures common to northern and northwest.
Pheasant season runs Dec. 1 - Jan. 31 in Alfalfa, Beaver, Cimarron, Garfield, Grant, Harper, Kay, Major, Noble, Texas, Woods and Woodward counties, as well as that portion of Osage Co. west of State Highway 18 and the portions of Blaine, Dewey, Ellis, Kingfisher and Logan counties north of State Highway 51.
The daily bag limit for pheasants this year is two cocks, with a possession limit of four after the first day. Hunters must possess a hunting license and are required to wear appropriate hunter orange when the pheasant season overlaps with any deer gun season or holiday antlerless deer gun season. Complete details, including open wildlife management areas, are listed in the current "Oklahoma Hunting Guide," which can be viewed for free online at wildlifedepartment.com or in print anywhere hunting licenses are sold.

 


Nov. 22, 2013
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation


Quail season boasts positive early reports
Quail season has not been open very long, but early reports from the field indicate that conditions have improved over the previous two years that were stricken by record heat and drought.
According to Scott Cox, upland game bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, hunting has been reportedly good in certain areas, even amid what he believes were poor to fair scenting conditions for bird dogs.
"Coveys were found, covey sizes were good, age structure was good, birds were healthy, crops were full of good forbs," Cox said.
Hunters were even reportedly harvesting birds as young as six weeks old. Birds were also known to be on nests as late as October.
Cox said that it's been common for groups of hunters to see about four to five coveys each, with covey sizes ranging from about 12-18 birds. He estimates hunters are harvesting about four to five birds each on average.
Some hunters have even had more marked success. Clinton hunter and former Wildlife Commissioner Mart Tisdal was optimistic earlier in the year after hearing more quail calls than expected while out horseback riding. Then when he hunted opening weekend in northwest Oklahoma, his party moved six coveys, including one group with as many as 30 or more birds.
"We were surprised and happy," Tisdal said, admitting that while the birds are there, the successful hunter may still have to put in some effort and some walking to find them.
Cheyenne attorney and lifelong Rogers Mills Co. resident Tom Goodwin said opening weekend was too warm for his tastes to be considered ideal quail hunting conditions, but he still hunted because he has every year for the past 50 years. But as it turned out, he had good luck.
"I hunted maybe about three hours," he said. "I found seven coveys of birds."
One of those coveys was much larger than normal, he said. Goodwin owns about 1,000 acres in Rogers Mills County that he tries to manage to the benefit of bobwhite quail.
Hunters on public land saw birds, too. At Sandy Sanders Wildlife Management Area, hunters reportedly moved coveys, and even better success was reported on Hackberry Flat WMA. Biologists and private landowners in western and northwest Oklahoma reported seeing more birds, bigger coveys, and healthy birds, and hunter success was reportedly even better than in southwest Oklahoma. Single work was non-existent across the state, but as the weather cooperates for better dog work, that should pick up.
Still, overall the number of quail hunters out in the field opening weekend was reportedly low. Cox said hunters will likely "come out later in the year when scent conditions are optimal." The rain or snow forecasted for this weekend should provide for better dog work as well.
On the Wildlife Department's Facebook page, fan Max Nelson states that he lives in southwest Oklahoma, "and you can tell that the birds have had a better year this year compared to the last couple of years."
Such has been the sentiment of a number of hunters this season. Deer hunters have also reported seeing and hearing more coveys from deer stands.
As recently reported by the Wildlife Department, a model year in terms of Oklahoma rainfall and milder temperatures during the spring and summer the 2013 statewide quail index has increased 31 percent from last year and is up eight percent from 2011. Since quail tend to be a "boom-and-bust" species - meaning their numbers can fluctuate up and down drastically based on annual weather and habitat conditions - this year is being viewed as an important step toward the next "boom."
"We've always said that quail success depends on weather and habitat and that populations will move up or down in direct correlation with rainfall and mild temperatures," said Alan Peoples, chief of wildlife for the Wildlife Department. "This was the best summer we've had in seven years in terms of favorable quail conditions. While our birds have been hit hard in recent years with record heat and drought, we got a break this year that brought us greener habitat and mild temperatures."
The improved quail index - which is determined using roadside surveys conducted by Wildlife Department personnel - supports the idea that reproductive success will be better during years of more rainfall and milder temperatures.
Wildlife Department officials are noting better habitat and weather conditions for quail, observing improved survey results and are hearing positive reports from the field. And while they acknowledge that the range-white struggle of the bobwhite have not simply come to an end - the state is still 78 percent below the 23-year average when it comes to quail count survey results - they are welcoming the relief for a population of birds that truly need it. And they are encouraging hunters to keep heading afield to enjoy the tradition of quail hunting in what is still the best remaining habitat in the nation.
Those interested in receiving information from the Wildlife Department on quail research and other upland birds can sign up to receive the Department's free periodic newsletter, Upland Update by logging on to wildlifedepartment.com.

 

Nov. 22, 2013
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation


Wildlife Department hosts first Scholastic Shooting Sports State Shoot
More than 300 youth from 20schools across Oklahoma competed Nov. 20 in the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's first ever Scholastic Shooting Sports Program State Shoot.
While the event's top shooter was Hunter Burkett of Durant High School, the real winners may be students from all over the state who will soon be participating in the shooting sports in their own schools.
High school and college shooting sports programs are growing in popularity across the country, due in part to the recent success of USA Olympic shotgun programs. Burkett and others who competed in the State Shoot are getting involved through the Wildlife Department's new Scholastic Shooting Sports Program.
Aimed at introducing youth to firearms safety and competitive shotgun shooting, the Scholastic Shooting Sports Program was piloted this year with schools that are involved in other Wildlife Department education programs. The State Shoot, held at the Shawnee Twin Lakes Trap Club, served as the culminating event for the programs first year.
"The state shoot was a successful ending to a successful first year of this great program," said Damon Springer, coordinator for the Department's Shotgun Training Education Program (STEP), the Department's popular educational shooting program that implements the scholastic program in schools.
Students compete in a trap-shooting contest where they are presented 25 single clay targets launched from in front of the shooters. Shooters are ranked according to how many targets they break. Top shooters were awarded with trophies, and top school teams also earned endowments for their schools' shooting sports programs along with trophies.
Since its inception in 1995, the Department has used STEP to provide tens of thousands of Oklahomans with the chance to learn and be involved with the shooting sports through extracurricular events like the annual Oklahoma Wildlife Expo and other workshops. Now, the program aims to take its Scholastic Shooting Sports Program to even more students through its classroom curriculum.
"We're excited to get even more schools and students involved in shooting sports through our program," Springer said. "It's fun to shoot a shotgun. The youth love it. They are learning to safely handle a firearm and are learning a sport that just about any kid can excel at, regardless of their athletic ability."
Through the Scholastic Shooting Sports Program, the Wildlife Department provides schools with equipment kits that consist of a target thrower, gun safe, clay targets and hearing and eye protection. The equipment is funded in part by the Department and the Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International (SCI), a group dedicated to sportsmen and conservation. During the summer of 2013, the Department also received a donation of $739,000 in support of the program from the Brenda Potterfield Trust, which is being used to help fund a Scholastic Shooting Trust from which participating schools can use interest accrued to purchase supplies and pay range fees for operating their shooting programs. The trust is owned by the Midway USA Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to perpetuating the shooting sports. Each school that attended the State Shoot earned $2,500 in endowments for their school's trust. The top five high school teams earned additional endowments for their schools, including $5,000 for first place, $4,000 for second place, $3,000 for third place, $2,000 for fourth place and $1,000 for fifth place.
According to Springer, the Department has trained 30 schools this year and plans to add 20 more schools next year. Long term plans include growing the program to 155 participating schools by 2016.
Educators interested in bringing the Scholastic Shooting Sports Program to their schools should start by getting involved in the Wildlife Department's suite of other outdoor education programs, which include Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools, Fishing in the Schools, Hunter Education, Explore Bowhunting and Explore Bowfishing. For more information, contact Springer at (405) 317-6316 or by email at dspringer@odwc.state.ok.us.
"By getting students involved in these programs, we can build a growing interest in the outdoors and conservation among our youth," Springer said. "From there, we hope students will take interest in getting a hunting or fishing license and becoming conservationists."

The results from the first Scholastic Shooting Sports Program State Shoot are as follows:



Top Shooting High School Boys
1st - Hunter Burkett, Durant (above, right)
2nd - Noah Edwards, Calumet (not pictured)
3rd - Nevin Lawson, Altus (above, left)



Top Shooting High School Girls
1st - Abby Abernathy, Altus (above, center)
2nd - Karissa Fent, Chandler (above, left)
3rd - Sierra Arsenault, Altus (above, right)




Top Shooting Junior High Boys
1st - Couch, Bryce, Beggs (above, right)
2nd - Stone Breathard, Wister (above, left)
3rd - Chase Louthan, Seiling (not pictured)



Top Shooting Junior High Girls
1st - Bryttnie Turner, Locust Grove (above, center)
2nd - Jasmine Martinez, Altus (above, left)
3rd - Audra Cunningham, Locust Grove (above, right)

***

Top High School Teams
1st - Altus
2nd - Durant
3rd - Depew
4th - Locust Grove
5th - Seiling

Top Junior High Teams
1st- Locust Grove
2nd - Seiling
3rd - Wister
4th - Beggs
5th Altus