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August 2013

 

 

Aug. 2, 2013
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

Aug. 16 deadline for youth bonus antlerless deer hunt applications
Beginning deer hunters have a unique opportunity to participate in four bonus antlerless deer hunts that will take place on private land in Osage County (Oct 4-6, 2013), Ellis County (Oct 11-12, 2013), and two in Love County (Oct 18, 2013, orientation on October 17, 2013).
This year 53 youth will be drawn to receive one of the bonus private lands antlerless deer gun permits. To be eligible, youth must have completed their hunter education requirements prior to applying and must be 12-17 years old at the time of their scheduled hunt.
"These hunts are on private property and should provide young hunters a great opportunity to see some deer as well as a chance to harvest a doe," said Bill Dinkines, assistant chief of wildlife for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission has endorsed the youth hunt program and we are thankful for the landowners' willingness to allow these kids the opportunity to hunt on their property."
To apply for a hunt, applicants must submit (mail or walk-in only) a 3x5 index card with the following information:
Hunter's first & last name
Date of birth
Mailing address
Telephone number
Hunter education certification number
Social security or driver's license number
Lifetime License number, if applicable
Accompanying Adult* first & last name
List of hunts by order of preference**
*Each child participating in this hunt must have an adult (licensed or unlicensed) who is at least 21 years of age accompanying them on the hunt.
**List of the hunts by order of preference (Please do not list any hunt that you are not interested in or know in advance you cannot attend.)

The envelope should be addressed to: OK DEPT OF WILDLIFE CONSERVATION, Attn: Wildlife Division: "Private Lands Youth Deer Hunts," PO BOX 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152. All applications must be received by Friday, August 16, 2013.
Antlerless deer taken by selected applicants during these hunts will be considered a "bonus deer" and will not count toward the hunter's season statewide limit.
Applicants who are successfully drawn will receive a notification letter in the mail that includes specific information about their hunt and the deadline for purchasing required license(s) as listed below:

Resident Options (Ages 12-15):
Lifetime Hunting or Lifetime Combination License; or
$10 CH Private Lands Youth Deer License**
Resident Options (Age 16-17):
Lifetime Hunting or Lifetime Combination License; or
Resident Annual Youth Hunting + $10 CH Private Lands Youth Deer License**; or
Resident Fiscal Year Youth Hunting + $10 CH Private Lands Youth Deer License**
Non-Resident Options (Ages 12-17):
CH Nonresident Private Lands Youth Deer License**

**NOTE: The $10 resident or the $201 non-resident CH Private Lands Youth Deer Hunt Permits will be issued in lieu of the open season license and must be purchased through our Central Office. No Apprentice Licenses will be allowed due to the Hunter Education requirement. For additional information, please contact Doug Schoeling at (405) 590-2584.


Aug. 2, 2013
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

E-check hunter check station brings convenience to checking in big game
Beginning this fall, all deer, all elk and those turkeys that require checking will be reported through the e-check system available online at wildlifedepartment.com within 24 hours of leaving the hunt area. The e-check system is provided by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation as a way to check game more conveniently, affordably and accurately. And while many hunters will check in their deer right from the deer woods, some local businesses will still provide a service to sportsmen by offering internet access for checking deer at their locations.
After a successful hunt, Oklahoma big game game hunters know how inconvenient and sometimes even difficult it can be to get their trophy to the nearest hunter check station. By the time an animal can be recovered, tagged, field-dressed and placed in a vehicle for transport, it may be late in the morning or well after dark, when hunters could be focusing on cooling their trophy or settling in with a cup of hot coffee around the campfire with good friends. Loading their deer into a vehicle and having to go in search of the nearest open hunter check station can be a chore, and now it is no longer necessary.
"Any computer or cell phone with internet access can be a check station," said Micah Holmes, information supervisor for the Wildlife Department.
Hunters do not have to own a computer or have good cellular signal to check in a deer. They can visit a local business that offers sportsmen access to the e-check system, or they can even relay the information by phone to a friend who does have access to a computer within 24 hours of leaving the hunt area. When a harvested game animal is reported through the e-check system, a number is generated on a carcass tag that can be printed or simply written on a field tag and attached to the harvested animal.
Not only is the online check station more convenient for the hunters, but it also saves the Wildlife Department time and money. Physical check stations require a minimum of five visits by a biologist or technician each year, taking up hours on the road and fuel expenses. In previous years, Department employees spent over 200 man-hours editing check station books by correcting mistakes and illegible handwriting. The instant data provided through the e-check system allows biologist and game wardens to quickly access up-to-date, accurate information.
Additionally, the e-check system makes it easier for Wildlife Department game wardens to review online game check information in real-time, and several cases of violations have been made in the last few years. Beginning Nov. 1, the penalties for failing to check game will increase substantially (up to $446 and/or up to 10 days in jail for first offenses) as a result of House Bill 1426, sponsored by State Rep. Scott R. Biggs, R-Chickasha, and Sen. Ron Justice, R-Chickasha.
Many hunters have already experienced the convenience of e-check. The online check system was first implemented during the 2009 deer season, when over 17,000 hunters experienced the ease of the new system. That number almost doubled in 2010 with over 30,000 hunters checking in almost 40,000 deer electronically. Last year about 60 percent of the 107,848 deer harvested were reported through e-check.
Those without Internet access can still check in their animal by having a friend or relative with Internet access check in the animal for them and provide the confirmation number to be used on the field tag. They can also visit a public library or any business location that offers access to the Department's e-check system.
To check in a deer, elk or turkey online, log on to wildlifedepartment.com. As hunting season approaches, a link to the e-check system will be provided on the homepage.


Aug. 7, 2013
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation


Lesser prairie-chicken CHAT Version 2.0 is available
Lawrence, KS - In cooperation with the five State Fish and Wildlife Agencies that fall within the range of the lesser prairie-chicken (LEPC) and the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA), version 2.0 of the Southern Great Plains Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (SGP CHAT) has been lauched, which can be found here. The online map viewer hosts the SGP CHAT, which is the spatial representation of the LEPCRange-Wide Conservation Plan, which is expected to be completed by November, and a tool that prioritizes conservation actions while assisting with the siting of industry development. Through the identification of a network of core LEPC habitat areas (Focal Areas) and corridors between them (Connectivity zones), the State Fish and W ildlife agencies of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas aim to conserveLEPC habitat while incentivizing energy development outside of high priority areas. In the coming weeks, tools, downloads and other features will be added to this website that will aid in guiding both conservation and industry actions. This is the second version of the SGP CHAT, with the first done in conjunction with the Western Governors Association's Initiative on Wildlife Corridors and Crucial Habitat. More info on that project can be found here.

For more information please contact the WAFWA Grassland Coordinator Bill Van Pelt, BVanpelt@azgfd.gov or visit theteam's website athttp://www.wafwa.org/html/prairie_chicken.shtml


Aug. 13, 2013
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

Oklahoma waterfowl seasons set
Season dates and bag limits for Oklahoma duck and goose hunting have been set, and new harvest limits on certain birds means more hunting opportunity for sportsmen.
While most season bag limits remain unchanged from last year, notable changes that were approved this year by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service include a daily limit increase on teal from four to six, on canvasbacks from one to two, on Canada geese from three to eight and on light geese (snow, blue and Ross') from 20 to 50. These changes are aimed at managing these bird species through protecting their habitats from overuse while providing more opportunity to hunters. There also was an adjustment in the daily limit of scaup from six to three.
According to Josh Richardson, migratory game bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the increases in daily harvest limits do not necessarily mean most hunters will significantly increase their harvests.
"These changes could benefit hunters who happen to find themselves in a lot of birds on a good day of hunting or in an area that birds use heavily," Richardson said. "Another group that will benefit includes those hunters who would likely spend more time hunting these species but couldn't justify the time and effort it may have required in previous years just to try to harvest four teal or three Canada geese. Now they might have more incentive to go, harvest some birds and help manage the populations."
Every year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes frameworks to states for structuring their waterfowl seasons, and Wildlife Department officials briefed members of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission on the changes at their August meeting.
In the Panhandle counties this year, duck season will run from Oct. 12 through Jan. 8, with youth waterfowl hunting days set for Oct. 5-6. In Zone 1, which includes most of northwest Oklahoma excluding the Panhandle, duck season will run from Oct. 26 through Dec. 1 and Dec. 14 through Jan. 19. Youth waterfowl days in Zone 1 will be Oct. 12-13. Zone 2 duck season dates will be Nov. 2 through Dec. 1 and Dec. 14 through Jan. 26, with youth waterfowl days slated for Oct. 19-20. The daily limit of six ducks may include no more than: five mallards (only two may be hens), three wood ducks, three scaup, two redheads, two pintails and two canvasback.
The season for Canada geese this year will be Nov. 2 through Dec. 1 and Dec. 14 through Feb. 16; for white-fronted geese, Nov. 2 through Dec. 1 and Dec. 14 through Feb. 9; for light geese including snow, blue and Ross', Nov. 2 through Dec. 1 and Dec. 14 through Feb. 16. The sandhill crane season will Oct. 19 through Jan. 19, and the Conservation Order Light Goose Season will be Feb. 17 through March 30. For more information consult the "2013-14 Oklahoma Waterfowl Guide," which will be available in mid-September.


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

FBI HONORS 3 OKLAHOMA GAME WARDENS

The FBI recently honored three Oklahoma game wardens for their assistance in a priority law enforcement operation that took place in northwestern Oklahoma two years ago.
"It's always nice to know that there are wardens out who know the area and are ready to assist, and this was important that night," said James E. Finch, special agent in charge of the Oklahoma City FBI office.
Finch honored the three wardens during the Aug. 5 meeting of the Oklahoma Wildlife Commission.
He told the Commission that around midnight May 4, 2011, warden Ben Bickerstaff got a phone call. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol was asking Bickerstaff to assist with a law enforcement operation west of Orienta in Major County.
A short time later, Bickerstaff along with wardens Lt. Mark Walker and Lt. Frank Huebert were at an FBI command site near Gloss Mountain State Park. The FBI was on the trail of Sandlin "Sandy" Smith, a Florida man wanted in connection with the bombing of a Muslim mosque, and the suspect's cell phone had been traced to that rugged area of northwestern Oklahoma.
Huebert, who has good knowledge of the local terrain and access to the area, was able to help position members of an FBI SWAT team near the suspect's position. Bickerstaff and Walker had night-vision equipment to lend to the operation, and they also assisted in maintaining roadblocks around the perimeter.
"We approached the tent of Mr. Sandlin to get him to surrender. He ... came out of the tent armed with an AK-47, pointing it at the agents," Finch said. "At that time, he was fatally wounded."
Finch told commissioners the three wardens greatly contributed to the operation's success.
"The reason I'm here is because of my appreciation," Finch said. "These guys ... helped immensely with locating and securing that area. Guys, in my book, you're awesome."
Each warden received a certificate of recognition from the FBI, signed by FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III. The certificates recognize each warden for "dedication and contributions to a joint law enforcement operation carried out by your agency in cooperation with the FBI. Your skills, devotion to duty, and ability to work closely with other law enforcement officers were responsible for a significant part of the successes achieved in this priority investigation."
No law enforcement officers were injured during the operation. Finch told the wardens,"I owe you a lot, and certainly the families of our SWAT team owe you a lot.
"My hat goes off to these guys for doing something I pray about every time they (FBI agents) go -- that they all come home. I truly believe the support coming from the game wardens here made that possible," Finch said.

 

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

Generous donation to fund shooting sports in Oklahoma schools
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation recently received a donation of $739,000 to support its new scholastic shooting sports program to be implemented in Oklahoma schools. The donation comes from the Brenda Potterfield Trust, and individual schools involved in the program will receive an endowed trust fund through the Midway USA Foundation, Inc. The Midway USA Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to perpetuating the shooting sports.
The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission heard a presentation on the donation as well as the Department's developing shooting sports program at its August meeting. Due in part to recent success of USA Olympic shotgun programs, competitive high school and college shooting sports have increased in popularity. Oklahoma's new program will be piloted this year with schools that are involved in other Wildlife Department education programs. The Wildlife Department will provide these schools with equipment kits that consist of target throwers, gun safes, clay targets and hearing and eye protection. The equipment kits will be funded in part by the Department and the Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International (SCI), a group dedicated to sportsmen and conservation.
The $739,000 donation from the Potterfield Trust will be used primarily to help fund the Scholastic Shooting Trust, which is owned and controlled by the Midway USA Foundation. Participating Oklahoma schools will be set up with an account within the Scholastic Shooting Trust, with which they can buy ammunition, safety supplies, clay targets and team uniforms or pay range fees for their programs.
According to Colin Berg, education supervisor for the Wildlife Department, the goal will be to train 50 schools by the end of the upcoming school year, with a plan to grow to 155 schools by 2016.
"The donation from the Potterfield family is significant in so many ways," Berg said. "Not only will it help participating schools to hit the ground running in our new scholastic shooting sports program, but it will help pave the way for students to become more interested in conservation. Students who participate in this program will also be participating throughout the school year in the Department's other programs, such as Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools, Fishing in the Schools, Hunter Education and Explore Bowhunting. As a result, they will already have a growing interest in the outdoors and conservation by the time they hold a shotgun in their hands in this program. From there, we hope they'll take interest in getting a hunting or fishing license and become conservationists."
While proceeds from the trust fund investments can be used by the schools to purchase shooting supplies, some of the donation will be used to defray expenses for the 2013 state shoot to be held Nov. 20, 2013 among the program's piloting schools.


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

Western Governors urge USFWS to approve state conservation mechanism for lesser prairie chicken
Governors of five western states have urged the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to approve the Range-wide Conservation Plan for the Lesser Prairie Chicken (RWP) as the key conservation mechanism for the species.
The Lesser Prairie Chicken is found in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas. In December of 2012, the USFWS proposed to list the species as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act.
The Western Governors who signed on to the Aug. 2 letter to USFWS - John Hickenlooper (Colo.), Sam Brownback (Kan.), Mary Fallin (Okla.), Susana Martinez (N.M.), and Rick Perry (Texas) - are instead urging Dan Ashe, the Director of USFWS, to make use of existing public-private partnerships to conserve the species rather than listing the species as threatened. Such a listing can unduly restrict land use and state land management.
Specifically, the Governors point to the RWP, which is the work of wildlife experts who comprised the Lesser Prairie Chicken Interstate Working Group. The Governors want the USFWS to approve the RWP as a conservation enrollment program for the Lesser Prairie Chicken, a step that could preclude the need to list the species as threatened. Recently, the USFWS extended the timeline for final determination of the species' proposed listing to March of 2014.
The Governors' letter echoes themes in existing Western Governors' Association (WGA) policy resolutions, including:

Policy Resolution 11-10, Lesser Prairie Chicken Conservation, which urged a policy of cooperative management among the states to maintain and restore LPC populations while encouraging responsible development;
Policy Resolution 13-08, The Endangered Species Act, which stated that USFWS should enhance the role of state governments in recovering species, such as through the development of conservation plans;
Policy Resolution 13-04, Conserving Wildlife and Crucial Habitat in the West, in which the Governors urged federal agencies to use state fish and wildlife data and analyses as principal sources to inform natural resource decisions.

The RWP uses state fish and wildlife data for its conservation strategy, including the Southern Great Plains Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (SGP CHAT), which depicts crucial habitat areas for the Lesser Prairie Chicken. Part of the RWP conservation strategy is to use the CHAT to identify areas where habitat improvements should be concentrated.
The SGP CHAT is one of many GIS-tools being developed by Western states that will depict crucial wildlife habitat areas in a single map layer that energy, transmission and land-use planners can use in the beginning stages of project planning. WGA also is supporting development of a Western Governors' CHAT, which will depict crucial wildlife habitat across the West when it launches this December.


Aug. 28, 2013
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

Dove season opener looks promising
With dove season opening Sept. 1, sportsmen have a lot of reasons to start preparing to go afield.
Reports from across the state are all pointing to the same thing, according to Josh Richardson, migratory game bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
"It's been a good year for doves in Oklahoma," he said. "People are seeing large groups of birds forming up, and with the summer-like weather forecast for the next seven days, those groups should continue to grow."
The previous two years had been especially hot and dry, which may have affected many hunters' approach to dove hunting.
"Concentrating on water holes the last couple of dry years has been a good strategy, but for much of the state this year, water is far from being a limited resource," Richardson said.
While Richardson said hunting watering holes is still a good strategy, it may not be quite as effective as in the past few years.
"The best strategy for this year is to do your scouting, find a field birds are concentrated on before the opener, and hunt it."
With food sources more abundant this year compared to the past few seasons, Richardson said it won't take much hunting pressure for birds to move on from heavily used fields
"So don't think you've got the whole season figured out when you find the field they're using now and gain access to it. Try to scout around for several likely fields and get permission or at least make a quick initial contact with the landowner. This should help tip the odds in your favor if and when you have to change locations because the birds' patterns have changed."
In short, Richardson sums up his outlook on the 2013 dove season this way: "Bird numbers look very good, weather looks good, habitat looks good - should be a good season if hunters do their homework (scouting) and keep hunting where the birds want to be."
This year dove season will run Sept. 1 - Oct. 31, statewide, followed by another nine-day period open from Dec. 21-29, statewide.
Dove hunters are required to have a valid hunting license or proof of exemption and a free Harvest Information Program (HIP) permit, both available online at wildlifedepartment.com.
Full details and regulations for dove hunting are available in the current "Oklahoma Hunting Guide," available free online at wildlifedepartment.com or at any location where hunting licenses are sold.

 

Aug. 30, 2013
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

WILDLIFE EXPO POSTPONED, WILL RETURN IN SEPTEMBER 2014

The annual Oklahoma Wildlife Expo that normally takes place during late September has been postponed this year and will be back in 2014. Instead, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will play host to a national conference of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA) around the same time the Expo normally is held.
"The Wildlife Expo is an enormous undertaking on the part of hundreds of Wildlife Department employees and volunteers," said Rhonda Hurst, Wildlife Expo coordinator for the Wildlife Department. "The manpower, time, money and personnel resources required to host the SEAFWA conference would not allow us to provide the high-quality experience normally enjoyed by Expo guests. So, the Expo will be back in 2014."
The Wildlife Expo is an annual, multiday event featuring hundreds of booths and activities to introduce people to the outdoors by letting them experience it firsthand. It's usually held the last weekend in September at the Lazy E Arena north of Oklahoma City. Expo visitors have the opportunity to participate in shooting sports such as archery and shotgun shooting, float in a kayak, catch a fish in a stocked pond, ride an all-terrain vehicle or mountain bike, attend a hunting dog training seminar or even build a birdhouse to take home with them.
"We want the Wildlife Expo to remain at the top of the list of great outdoor-related events and experiences in Oklahoma, and it will be in 2014," Hurst said.
In the meantime, the SEAFWA conference will be attended by representatives from at least 15 state wildlife agencies across the southeastern United States, where some of the best minds in wildlife and fish management can share ideas, progress, research, future plans and information to help all states better manage fish and wildlife.
"We know there will be some disappointed folks who won't get to attend the Wildlife Expo this year, especially kids," Hurst said. "We're disappointed as well. But one important thing to remember is that about 50,000 students from across the state will, in a way, get to experience the Wildlife Expo all year long by participating in the Wildlife Department's various outdoor education programs offered in about 400 schools this year."
Currently the Department offers schools an outstanding suite of program curriculum including Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools, Fishing in the Schools, Hunter Education, Explore Bowhunting and now a scholastic shooting sports program. Students are learning about outdoor activities through these programs, and Wildlife Department officials hope they will take an interest in conservation as a result of the introduction they receive in the classroom.
"Of course, the concept only works if an adult is willing to take them into the outdoors on their own time, outside of the classroom," Hurst said. "That's where you come in. We're challenging you to carry the spirit of the Wildlife Expo into the fall this year by taking a youth outdoors for a fishing or hunting experience. You'll have fun and you'll create a memory for a youth while helping them see the benefit of conservation and the role that sportsmen play in it."
The next Wildlife Expo is planned for Sept. 27-28, 2014.