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Another Year Bites the Dust: Looking Back on the Outdoors in Montana

January 3, 2013

Another Year Bites the Dust

2012 is in the bag. It’s been a wild ride for hunters and anglers. We’ve seen some pretty low points, including the death of the Sportsmen’s Act, lack of passage of Forest Jobs and Recreation, Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, increased polarization of hunting and angling issues (especially funding these programs), conflicts over bison, wolves, trapping, bull trout, lake trout and land management. Relations between sportsmen and landowners/outfitters are at all time lows. This upcoming legislative session looks to be as contentious as the last one.

It’s easy to look around and see the negative. It’s human nature to focus on what went wrong in the hopes of fixing it later. But all of that pales compared to the highs of 2012.

This year I was able to watch the sun rise over the continental divide as I chased elk and wolves. I saw the sun set over river breaks that Lewis and Clark traveled. I helped a friend take a fine buck, the largest he’s ever harvested. I was with a friend when he shot his first deer. I’ve fished clear mountain streams, brawling tailwaters, and hiked in some of the most magnificent country in the world.

These things all might seem small in the bigger picture of wildlife conservation but this is what we work towards–our time in the woods.

In the bigger picture: We’ve blazed new trails. The Bully Pulpit nation has grown to almost 4,000 folks who care about conservation. We’ve had some fantastic discussions about the issues and for the most part, we’ve been able to find common ground. The influence and power of conservation organizations grow and become a force to be reckoned with both nationally and in Montana. New lands are open to hunters and anglers through programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund and Habitat Montana.

The vision is growing: the Montana model of wildlife conservation is taking off around the nation. How we ensure the future of hunting, fishing and wildlife conservation will surely change over the next few years, but we’re ready for the conversation, and we’re ready to continue to defend the legacy.

With the upcoming legislature, your time and money is needed more than ever.

Hellgate Hunters and Anglers will be at the legislature defending the Legacy. Will you?

Visit the Bully Pulpit here.

Read and join the discussion on Another Year Bites the Dust: Looking Back on the Outdoors in Montana at OutdoorHub.com.

Space Invaders: Close Encounters with Nuisance Animals

December 10, 2012

Space Invaders: Close Encounters with Nuisance Animals

The first clue that my space had been invaded was when I found the items once on a shelf now scattered all over the floor. I thought that was strange, picked up the items and checked the shelf for problems. When I walked into my office, I realized there was more to this story. Apparently I didn’t shut the door securely the night before, and a critter had leisurely pilfered my office.

When I looked at the top of my laptop, I realized what had transpired. Raccoon paw prints were all over the top of the laptop.

Now, I don’t know exactly what was going on, but I had just recently written a piece for Outdoor Alabama magazine on coon hunting. Maybe the masked bandit was just trying to check his Facebook page for any reaction to the story.

A couple of years before, I had a close encounter with another animal that gave me a great deal more pause. As you can guess, I have trouble shutting doors. My wife will tell you that also goes for dresser drawers and kitchen cabinets. Maybe I’ve got a phobia that I won’t get them open again. Who knows?

Anyway, I left the overhead door to my lawn mower shed open and a scary critter had taken up residence without my knowledge. I hopped on my lawn mower and reached for the ignition switch when none other than Pepe Le Pew strutted right in front of the lawn mower in all his black and white-striped glory.

Panic-stricken, I froze, not even daring a blink of the eye. Fortunately, Pepe kept moving and went to a hole he called home under a stack of pecan wood.

After getting my heart back into the 150 bpm range, I cranked the mower and threw it into reverse as quickly as possible. That night, I set my alarm clock for 2 a.m., when the skunk would be out foraging, and closed the overhead door. He decided to move on when he couldn’t easily get back into the shed, saving me from banishment from the house had I been sprayed.

Although my encounters with wild critters may be a bit humorous, these encounters are no laughing matter for most people, including the staff of the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, who most residents think of first when they encounter nuisance animals.

“In recent years, nuisance animal complaints have been our No. 1 call to our district offices,” said Ray Metzler, WFF Assistant Chief. “Here in Montgomery, at our main offices, we’ve had an otter in downtown Montgomery between Riverwalk Stadium and the Civic Center. It just wandered up from the river, looking for food.

“We get coyote calls. We get bat calls. We had one bat roosted on a wall in downtown Montgomery, and the caller said it had been there for hours and hours. Well, that’s what bats do. The problem was that the public didn’t think that was a suitable place to roost. They wanted us to do something about it. But it’s a bat. It’ll roost there until nightfall and then fly off in search of insects.”

While deer can at times be nuisance animals – just ask the folks trying to grow shrubs at homes that surround Oak Mountain State Park – the majority of the calls concern smaller animals like raccoons, opossums and squirrels, Metzler said.

“We get calls about coons and possums coming up and eating dog food or getting in the garbage or squirrels in the attic,” he said. “In the rural areas, the nuisance animals are going to be more like deer and wild hogs. Coons and possums in the country don’t cause as many issues. People in the country generally know how to handle those situations.”

A landowner or tenant can remove one squirrel, rabbit, raccoon, opossum, beaver or skunk that is causing damage any time of the year without a permit. A farmer or landowner experiencing damage to crops or other plants can obtain a permit to remove the animals. Of course, large animals like alligators and black bears require professional removal.

“In urban areas, people are reluctant to address the issues on their own,” Metzler said. “But they are allowed to remove one nuisance animal per incident. A lot of people are not aware of that ability, that they can actually take care of that situation themselves.”

Although WFF will direct people with nuisance animals to an animal control specialist, the Division does not have the manpower to cover nuisance animal calls.

“There are specific animal control companies that have the proper permits and can take care of the problem,” Metzler said. “Our agency is not tasked with removing nuisance animals.”

One of those animal control companies is Alabama Wildlife Removal, where Phillip Padgett has been taking care of problem critters for 15 years. Some of his stories would give mostpeople the heebie-jeebies.

“We’ve had a whole nest of snakes inside a couch that people had been sleeping on,” Padgett said. “I’ve been in houses with hundreds of wood rats. I’ve gone into people’s houses, opened up the cabinets and there’d be a raccoon sitting there.

“The biggest thing we’ve got right now in Alabama is coyotes. We get calls from people telling us they have a wolf in their backyard. We tell them, ‘No, ma’am, you don’t have a wolf. That’s probably a coyote.’ Coyotes have become a huge problem that’s getting worse every day.”

Calls concerning honeybees building hives in occupied homes were almost a daily occurrence last spring, and Padgett expects that to continue. Many of the calls from north Alabama deal with skunks.

“If you don’t startle a skunk, most of the time they’ll go on off,” he said. “If you chase one, you may get sprayed, and that’s bad. You’ll smell that way for a while.

“We’ve had a lot of calls about bats, too. We went to a house not long ago to take care of the bats. They didn’t know how long they had had them. When we got there, we removed a couple of hundred bats and I could still hear them. I put my ear up to the wall, and the wall was full of bats. I’m on the way to Gulf Shores right now to get the bats out of the walls of a house.”

Padgett said homeowners need to be aware that the removal of certain animals, some of which may be endangered, requires a licensed control agent.

“A lot of people try to do what we do, but some of them don’t have the licenses and permits to do it,” he said. “There are federal and state regulations that deal with certain animals, especially bats. We carry all the licenses and permits required to take care of these animals.

“And the main thing is that once these animals are removed, you’ve got to make sure they can’t get back in or we’ll be right back out there.”

Padgett predicts the nuisance animal that soon will become the most prominent, not to mention damaging to wildlife habitat and agricultural property, is the feral hog.

“The biggest problem we’re getting ready to have is wild hogs,” he said. “Hunters can’t kill them fast enough. They’re going to have to hire somebody to do it the right way. We’re going to have to start looking at that problem right away. If not, we’re going to be completely overrun with them.”

Read and join the discussion on Space Invaders: Close Encounters with Nuisance Animals at OutdoorHub.com.

Hunting With Suppressors Legal Nov. 1 in Oklahoma

November 2, 2012

Hunting With Suppressors Legal Nov. 1 in Oklahoma

On November 1, a new law went into effect granting hunters in the state of Oklahoma the right to use legally owned suppressors while hunting all game animals. With the help of ASA lobbyists, Senate Bill 1743 was signed into law by Governor Mary Fallin on May 25. The passage of the new law made Oklahoma the third state in 2012 to legalize suppressor use while hunting. Earlier in 2012, similar measures were also passed in Texas and Arizona.

Contrary to popular belief, suppressors, also referred to as silencers, do not render gunshots inaudible. However, often times they do reduce the report of a firearm to hearing safe levels, helping to protect the shooter and those nearby from permanent hearing damage.

In order for a civilian to purchase a suppressor, they must live in one of the 39 states that allow civilian ownership. All applicants must submit an ATF Form 4, in duplicate, to the National Firearms Act Branch of the ATF for each suppressor purchased. A Form 4, or Application for Tax Paid Transfer and Registration of Firearm, includes a stringent background check that is conducted by the FBI. In addition, applicants must submit a $200 payment for the transfer tax, duplicate copies of passport photos and fingerprints, and receive a signoff from a chief law enforcement officer (CLEO) in their jurisdiction. From start to finish, this transfer process takes anywhere from 30 days to one year to complete.

The American Silencer Association would like to congratulate Oklahoma, Texas and Arizona for enacting their new laws and regulations. The ASA will continue to work off of their momentum to push for additional suppressor regulatory reform in those states which do not allow civilian ownership or suppressor use while hunting.

Read and join the discussion on Hunting With Suppressors Legal Nov. 1 in Oklahoma at OutdoorHub.com.

Oklahoma Waterfowl Report for Nov. 1

November 1, 2012

Oklahoma Waterfowl Report for Nov. 1

Duck season is currently open for Panhandle Counties and Zone 1.  Zone 2 opens November 3.  For zone maps and complete waterfowl hunting regulations log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

NORTHWEST

  • Canton – Zone 1: Water level is 8.68 feet below normal. Native vegetation is in good condition, but currently not flooded. Winter wheat around the area is mostly planted and in fair condition. Duck numbers are moderate, with mostly divers. Goose numbers are low, with mostly residents. Hunting activity was moderate on opening weekend. Hunting success was fair on ducks and low on geese. The northwest portion of the lake is dry, and the only usable boat ramp is at the Canadian Campground day use area.
  • Ft. Supply – Zone 1: Water level is 2.54 feet below normal. Habitat conditions are fair. Duck numbers are good. Goose numbers are low. Hunting activity has been high, especially on weekends. Hunting success has been fair on ducks and low on geese. Good amounts of bird movement on and around the area over the past five days. The WMA portion of the lake is currently surrounded by approximately 50 yards or more of open shoreline, most boat ramps are closed, but small boats are still able to access the lake.
  • SOUTHWEST
  • Ft. Cobb – Zone 2: Water level is 5.43 feet below normal. Habitat conditions are poor due to water levels. Duck numbers are low. Goose numbers are low. No reports on hunting activity or success with season currently closed in Zone 2.
  • Hackberry – Zone 2: Water level is extremely low. Habitat conditions are poor, with some winter wheat present. Duck and goose numbers are low. No reports on hunting activity or success with season currently closed in Zone 2.
  • Mtn. Park – Zone 2: Water level is 10.50 feet below normal. Habitat conditions are poor. Duck numbers are low. Goose numbers are low. No reports on hunting activity or success with season currently closed in Zone 2.
  • Waurika – Zone 2: Water level is 10 feet below normal. Habitat conditions are poor, with some winter wheat present on private land. Duck numbers are low. Goose numbers are low. No reports on hunting activity or success with season currently closed in Zone 2. Wetland units are dry and expected to remain dry throughout season.

NORTHEAST

  • Copan – Zone 2: Water level is 3 feet below normal. Habitat conditions are excellent, just need water. Duck numbers are low, with mostly teal. Goose numbers are low, with mostly resident birds. No reports on hunting activity or success with season currently closed in Zone 2. Youth hunting days were slow, with low success. Bird movement in the area has been light, but increasing with each northern frontal passage.
  • Eufaula – Zone 2: Water level is 4.21 feet below normal. Habitat conditions are poor at current lake elevation. Farming activity in the area is light. Duck numbers are low. Goose numbers are low, with local resident birds present. No reports on hunting activity or success with season currently closed in Zone 2. A few migrant flocks were observed moving over the area in the past week
  • Hulah – Zone 2: Water level is 4 feet below normal. Habitat conditions are excellent, just need water. Duck numbers are low. Goose numbers are low, with resident birds present. No reports on hunting activity or success with season currently closed in Zone 2. Bird movement in the area has been light, but increasing with each northern frontal passage.
  • Kaw – Zone 2: Water level is 0.97 feet below normal. Habitat conditions are good, with Japanese millet, smartweed and good quantities of native food present. Duck numbers are fair. Goose numbers are low. No reports on hunting activity or success with season currently closed in Zone 2.
  • Keystone – Zone 2: Water level is 3.5 feet below normal. Habitat conditions are poor to fair. Almost all sloughs and potholes are dry due to extreme drought conditions. Cottonwood WDU over 50% full and filling with excellent food conditions in the majority of the units. Duck numbers are fair. Goose numbers are low. Hunting activity was low for the youth season, but youth hunters had good success. No reports on current hunting activity or success with season currently closed for Zone 2. Recent cold front showed a small increase in bird numbers last weekend.
  • Oologah – Zone 2: Water level is 3.11 feet below normal. Habitat conditions are fair to good at current lake level. 300 acres seeded with Japanese millet, but not flooded at this time. Duck numbers are poor, with mostly blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, gadwalls, American widgeon, northern shoveler and a few mallards. Goose numbers are poor, with resident Canadians present and a few migrants. Hunting acivity and success was fair for the recent youth season, but no other reports with Zone 2 currently closed. An increase in waterfowl migration is expected over the next several weeks with each northern frontal passage.
  • Sooner – Zone 2: Water level is 2.5 feet below normal. Habitat conditions are poor. Winter wheat around the area is also in poor condition. Duck numbers are low. Goose numbers are low. No reports on hunting activity or success with season currently closed in Zone 2.

SOUTHEAST

  • Hugo – Zone 2: Water level is 7.25 feet below normal. Habitat conditions are good around lake, with MS1 and Sawyer unit in fair condition. Duck numbers are low. No geese observed on the area. No reports on hunting activity or success with season currently closed in Zone 2.
  • Red Slough – Zone 2: Wetlands dry except for Unit 21 is 30%, Teal Lake 60% and large reservoirs in refuge 50-70%. Habitat conditions are poor, with plenty of forage but no water. Duck numbers are low, with around 1,600 birds. Goose numbers are low. No reports on hunting activity or success with season currently closed in Zone 2. Significant increase in bird movement with last cold front on the area.
  • Sequoyah NWR – Zone 2: In general, duck numbers at Sequoyah NWR are low. Green-winged teal and wood duck numbers are moderate. Very few gadwalls, mallards, and pintails are at the refuge. Snow geese have been spotted, but have not yet started using the refuge. Wetland management areas are about a 1/4 flooded.
  • Texoma – Zone 2: Water level is 5.24 feet below normal. Habitat conditions are poor, but a rise in water level would flood current Japanese millet and native vegetation present. No birds seen in the area over the past week. No reports on hunting activity or success with season currently closed in Zone 2.
  • Wister – Zone 2: Water level is 1 foot below normal. Habitat conditions are fair, with smartweed, sedges and acorns present. Duck and goose numbers are low. No reports on hunting activity or success with season currently closed in Zone 2.

Read and join the discussion on Oklahoma Waterfowl Report for Nov. 1 at OutdoorHub.com.

Oklahoma Muzzleloader Season Kicks Off Tomorrow

October 26, 2012

Oklahoma Muzzleloader Season Kicks Off Tomorrow

Oklahoma is rich with big game hunting opportunity ranging from black bear and antelope to elk and mule deer. But the whitetail deer still represents the most popular and widely available big game hunting opportunity in Oklahoma, with archery season already underway and muzzleloader season to open Oct. 27.

Muzzleloader season runs Oct. 27 – Nov. 4, and the season accounts for about 18 percent of the total annual deer harvest in Oklahoma.

During muzzleloader season, hunters can harvest a buck and two antlerless deer (at least one antlerless deer must be harvested from Antlerless Deer Zones 2, 7 or 8), and most of the state is open to antlerless hunting every day during the season. Resident muzzleloader hunters must possess an appropriate hunting license and a deer muzzleloader license for each deer harvested. Nonresident muzzleloader hunters are exempt from a hunting license while hunting deer, but they must possess a nonresident deer muzzleloader license. For a map of Oklahoma’s antlerless deer zones, consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” available online at wildlifedepartment.com.

Muzzleloader hunters must conspicuously wear both a head covering and an outer garment above the waistline, both totaling at least 400 square inches of hunt orange.

Upon harvesting a deer, all hunters must immediately attach their name, license number, and date and time of harvest securely to the animal. This “field tag,” which can be constructed of anything (such as a business card), must remain attached to the carcass until it is checked either at the nearest hunter check station, with an authorized Wildlife Department employee or online at wildlifedepartment.com.

In many counties, hunters can harvest a turkey with their muzzleloaders Nov. 3-4. A fall turkey license is required, unless exempt. Turkey fall gun season runs Nov. 3-16, and details for the season are available in the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide.”

Hunters that are 10 years old and older who have not completed their hunter education course can do so completely online at wildlifedepartment. Upon successfully completing the course, hunters can print their hunter education card and purchase any license.

Hunters age 8-30 who have not completed a hunter education course can buy an apprentice-designated hunting license and hunt while accompanied by an adult hunter 18 years old or older who is licensed and hunter-education-certified or exempt. Exemptions from hunter ed requirements include those 31 years old or older, those honorably discharged or currently active in the Armed Forces or members of the National Guard). All hunters under 10 years old must be accompanied when hunting big game, including those who have completed a hunter education course.

The modern gun season opens Nov. 17 and runs for 16 days. Archery season remains open through Jan. 15, 2013.

For specific information regarding which wildlife management areas are open to muzzleloader season, licenses, season limits, legal firearms or other details, consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” available free online at wildlifedepartment.com or in print anywhere hunting licenses are sold.

Read and join the discussion on Oklahoma Muzzleloader Season Kicks Off Tomorrow at OutdoorHub.com.

Oklahoma’s Deer and Turkey Archery Seasons to Heat Up Oct. 1

September 21, 2012

Oklahoma’s Deer and Turkey Archery Seasons to Heat Up Oct. 1

Archery hunters are looking to Oct. 1 as the opener to what will hopefully be another memorable deer hunting season. Last year, archery hunters made history when they  harvested a season record of 24,908 of the 112,863 deer checked by hunters – about

22 percent higher than the previous record set in 2010.

The state has been in a drought, and while biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation agree that it would have been better to have more rain spread throughout the summer, the rainfall that the state did receive was well timed for deer.

“A lot of the rainfall we received arrived during the spring when young fawns could benefit from the nutritious, lush browse that resulted,” said Erik Bartholomew, big game biologist for the Wildlife Department. “And does got a good start on regaining their weight after carrying fawns and giving birth.”

According to Bartholomew, archery hunters this season should focus on patterning  deer and scouting out areas that have been productive in the past. Recent rains  will likely “kick start” cool season plants and provide additional food for deer, giving early season hunters places to focus their efforts.

To hunt deer during archery season, resident hunters must have an appropriate hunting license and a deer archery license for each deer hunted or proof of exemption. Resident youth hunters 16 or 17 years old must purchase a hunting license, and all youth hunters under 18 years of age may purchase a youth deer archery license. Nonresident deer hunters are exempt from a hunting license while hunting deer, but they must  possess a nonresident deer archery license. Holders of nonresident lifetime hunting and lifetime combination licenses are not exempt from purchasing deer licenses.

Deer archery season runs Oct. 1 through Jan. 15, and archers who hunt from Jan.

1-15 must possess a deer archery license for the current calendar year and either a fiscal-year license or current annual license.

The archery season harvest limit is six deer, which may include no more than two  antlered deer. Deer taken by hunters participating in archery season are included in the hunter’s combined season limit of six deer. Deer taken from Jan. 1-15, 2012, count toward the 2011 season limit.

All hunters who harvest a deer must immediately attach their name, license number and date and time of harvest securely to the carcass. Annual license holders who  harvest deer must also complete the “Record of Game” section on the license form.

Hunters must check their harvested deer within 24 hours of leaving the hunt area  either online at wildlifedepartment.com, at the nearest open hunter check station or with an authorized Wildlife Department employee. Once checked, the animal will be issued a carcass tag or an online confirmation number that must remain with the carcass to its final destination or through processing and/or storage at commercial facilities.

Archery hunters can also hunt turkeys during the turkey fall archery season, which runs concurrent with deer archery season. Hunters must possess an appropriate resident or nonresident hunting license and a turkey license for each bird hunted, unless  exempt. Nonresident lifetime license holders are required to purchase a nonresident annual hunting license and turkey license. The nonresident five-day hunting license is not valid for hunting turkey.

The turkey fall archery season limit is one turkey of either sex, statewide, and  all hunters who harvest a turkey must immediately attach their name and license  number securely to the carcass. Annual license holders must also include the date and time of harvest with their field tag and complete the “Record of Game” section on the license form. Additionally, turkeys harvested east of I-35 must be checked within 24 hours of leaving the hunt area. Turkeys harvested west of I-35 will not be checked.

Seasons on public lands for both deer and turkey may vary from statewide season dates. For full details and regulations, consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide,” available free online at wildlifedepartment.com or anywhere hunting licenses area sold.

To learn more about deer hunting in Oklahoma or to purchase a hunting license, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

This figure shows last year’s Oklahoma archery harvest by week. The 2012-13 deer  archery season starts Oct. 1.

Read and join the discussion on Oklahoma’s Deer and Turkey Archery Seasons to Heat Up Oct. 1 at OutdoorHub.com.

Good Arizona Draw Year for Desert Rat

August 6, 2012

Good Arizona Draw Year for Desert Rat

After a bunch of years of some frustrating hunts and a bunch of vanilla tags, it looks like this year might be different! I learned in the early draw results that I drew a Unit 21 General Antelope tag. With 8 bonus points, this tag was a shocker. Odds to draw this tag ran at about 2%, as near as I could figure. My old friend Terry Herndon has been the point man on this hunt, from draw recommendation to guide to cheerleader. He seems pretty confident – what better way for me to obliterate “the curse”?

After drawing such an awesome and exciting tag, imagine my astonishment when the fall draw results were announced! A late December Unit 33 Coues tag! Looked at the stats and it seems the draw odds on this tag are just under 3%! I know his unit a bit, and have had several friends offer to help on this hunt. I am wayyy excited to do this hunt as well.

Outdoor Hub, The Outdoor Information Engine - Good Arizona Draw Year for Desert Rat

Oklahoma Controlled Hunts Application Online Now

April 11, 2012

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s popular controlled hunts program is open to online applicants now.

The controlled hunts program offers once-in-a-lifetime elk and antelope hunts, highly sought-after buck hunts, and a range of other quality deer and turkey hunting opportunities through randomized drawings that only cost sportsmen $5 to enter. Opportunities offered through the program include hunts on Department or other government-owned or managed lands where unrestricted hunting would pose safety concerns or where overharvest might occur.

The online application process takes just a few minutes and must be completed through the Wildlife Department’s website at wildlifedepartment.com. Applicants have until May 15 to submit their applications.

“You just can’t beat $5 for a chance at an Oklahoma big game or gobbler hunt in the unique areas offered through this program,” said Melinda Sturgess-Streich, assistant director of administration and finance for the Wildlife Department. “Whether you want to hunt a bull elk in the Wichita Mountains, an antelope in the Panhandle or a trophy buck at locations across the state like the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, the controlled hunts program is one of the best things going in Oklahoma hunting.”

All applicants, including lifetime license holders, must pay the $5 application fee to enter the controlled hunts drawings. The fee is paid only once per person per year regardless of the number of categories entered.

Applications are offered online through a secure process that only accepts applications once they have been filed correctly, and a print-out confirmation page is available for sportsmen to document their submitted application.

Log on to http://www.wildlifedepartment.com/controlledhunts.htm for complete application instructions, including tips on enhancing chances of being selected as well as a full listing of available hunts for elk, deer, antelope and turkey.

Read and join the discussion on Oklahoma Controlled Hunts Application Online Now at OutdoorHub.com.

Slate of Oklahoma Hunting and Fishing Regulation Changes Approved for 2012

March 9, 2012

A number of the approved changes will benefit hunters, such as increasing youth deer hunting opportunities and expanding the state’s black bear season to allow hunters more time to hunt. There were also changes to rules pertaining to the use of bait on Department lands and the use of ATVs on Honobia Creek Wildlife Management Area in southeast Oklahoma.

“The Wildlife Department is trying to simplify our hunting regulations and improve opportunities for sportsmen, so there are a number of changes this year that will help us do that,” said Alan Peoples, chief of wildlife for the Wildlife Department.

Youth hunters participating in the youth deer gun season will be allowed to harvest two deer, which may include no more than one buck. This allows them the option to harvest two does, whereas in previous years the season limit for the youth deer gun season was one antlered and one antlerless deer.

The Commission also voted to change the black bear archery season to Oct. 1 through the third Sunday in October with no quota. A bear muzzleloader season with a quota of 20 bears also was guaranteed, set to run concurrent with the deer muzzleloader season. Two of the three black bear seasons that have been held in Oklahoma since its inauguration in 2009 have closed within 48 hours due to quotas being met early.

Effective in July, the use of bait will be unlawful on all lands owned or managed by the Wildlife Department. What is considered baiting was clarified as the placing, depositing, exposing, distributing or scattering of shelled, shucked or unshucked corn, wheat or other grain or other feed.

The use of ATVs on Honobia Creek Wildlife Management Area in southeast Oklahoma will be changed to reflect rules requested by the landowners of the area. Full details will be printed in the “2012-13 Oklahoma Hunting Guide,” available this summer.

The Commission also clarified responsibilities for enrollees in the Department’s Deer Management Assistance Program as well the Department responsibilities for operating the program. Another proposal to increase the minimum required acreage for enrollment in the DMAP program from 1,000 to 2,500 acres was discussed at length but not approved.

Also discussed but not approved was a proposal to change several regulations pertaining to the daily and season bag limits on certain furbearers, such as eliminating daily bag limits on raccoon, gray fox and red fox as well as increasing the season limits on gray fox, red fox and river otter. No changes were made to the furbearer season regulations.

Other wildlife-related rule changes that were approved by the Commission will accomplish the following:

  • Expand hunting opportunities on Corps of Engineers land around Keystone Lake by opening a 570-acre area south of the town of Prue (old Walnut Creek #1) to archery hunting and a 135-acre area on the west side of Walnut Creek (old Walnut Creek #3) to archery and shotgun hunting.
  • Eliminate requirements to have a valid antelope license when hunting small game or furbearers with a rifle larger than a .22 caliber after September in an area with an antelope season.
  • Require antelope and elk annual license holders to complete the “Record of Game” section on their hunting licenses when they harvest an animal.
  • Revise regulations on transfer of landowner doe antelope permits so that a landowner may transfer permits no later than 14 days prior to the opening date of each appropriate season.
  • Establish permanent rules on camping and non-hunter use of the Cross Timbers WMA. Temporary rules already were in place and were not changed.
  • Increase opportunities on Vann’s Lake Refuge.
  • Increase opportunities on several wildlife management areas across the state, particularly for small game hunters and those who pursue game with hounds on Cherokee Public Hunting Area and Game Management Area, the Copan and Hulah WMAs and on the Rock Creek Unit of Osage WMA.
  • Change the spring turkey limit at the Cherokee PHA and GMA to one tom combined.
  • Change the fall turkey season at Three Rivers WMA to be the same as statewide season dates with an either-sex bag limit.
  • Change the spring turkey season at Three Rivers WMA to be the same as the southeast season dates with a bag limit determined annually and published in the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide.”
  • Open the deer muzzleloader season at Mountain Park WMA concurrent with statewide season dates.
  • Make it unlawful to possess an American alligator.

The Commission also was informed of a change to spring turkey season harvest limits in central and northeast regions of the state that will go into effect for the 2013 spring season. In order to address low reproductive success of wild turkeys in recent years, the harvest limit is being changed from a two-tom limit to a one-tom limit in Osage, Kay, Grant, Pawnee, Creek, Payne, Logan, Canadian, Lincoln, Okfuskee, Okmulgee, Hughes, Seminole, Pottawatomie, McClain, Grady, Pontotoc, Garvin, Johnston, Murray, Carter, Love, Washington, Nowata, Craig, Wagoner, Cherokee, Adair, Muskogee, McIntosh, Sequoyah and Haskell counties. The change will not affect the 2012 spring turkey season.

“While we cannot control the weather and nesting success of our state’s wild turkeys, this is one measure we can use to help the birds recover from a few years that were not ideal for nesting success,” Peoples said. “Wild turkey populations in these regions have declined somewhat, and we want to do what we can to ensure they continue to thrive. Many of our sportsmen feel the same way.”

Fishing-related rule changes

Fishing-related proposals affecting anglers that were considered and approved by the Commission will accomplish the following:

  • Delete the 13-16-inch slot length limit on large and smallmouth bass at Lake Elmer Thomas to help increase opportunity for anglers to harvest what is currently a surplus of fish.
  • Add all the ponds on the Black Kettle National grasslands to the list of lakes with a 14-inch length limit on black bass.
  • Require Sooner Lake anglers to immediately release all striped bass under 20 inches in length to help manage the fishery for trophy striper fishing opportunities.
  • Set the limit on striped bass at five daily statewide except at Lake Texoma where limits would remain at 10 daily with no more than two measuring greater than 20 inches.
  • Allow anglers on Kaw Lake to keep up to 20 striped bass hybrids and/or white bass combined, with no more than five over 20 inches in length.

The Commission also approved a proposal to change the price of the Wildlife Department’s Cy Curtis book and include a subscription to Outdoor Oklahoma magazine with every sale of the book.

Additionally, the Commission approved an emergency rule to authorize WMA biologists to approve groups of up to 25 horseback riders on WMAs during periods closed to horseback riding provided the activity doesn’t conflict with hunting activity. Written approval from area managers or biologists is required.

As the governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the Commission considers and votes on proposed rule changes annually after the proposals are passed through the Department’s internal regulatory review committee and then presented to the public for feedback at public hearings and online. Once approved by the Commission, rule changes must pass through the legislative process and be signed by the governor. Complete details of all changes will be outlined in the next “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” and “Oklahoma Fishing Guide.”

Read and join the discussion on Slate of Oklahoma Hunting and Fishing Regulation Changes Approved for 2012 at OutdoorHub.com.

Deadline nears for Oklahomans to Comment on Proposed Regulation Changes

January 5, 2012

Sportsmen have the opportunity to voice their thoughts online now through Jan. 13, 2012, regarding hunting and fishing related rule change proposals currently under consideration.

Proposed rule changes are often considered to increase opportunity for sportsmen and improve wildlife conservation measures.

“This is an opportunity to discuss items that could lead to changes in our hunting and fishing regulations,” said Nels Rodefeld, information and education chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “We feel strongly that our constituents should have every chance to provide their comments, which is why we are providing an online comment form for those wanting to be heard on these specific subjects. We encourage you to provide your comments through wildlifedepartment.com anytime before 4:30 p.m., Jan. 13, 2012.”

Additionally, those interested can submit written comments by mail to the Wildlife Department’s main office in Oklahoma City (P.O. Box 53465, OKC, OK 73152).

To view a complete listing of proposed rule changes or to complete an online comment form, log on to http://www.wildlifedepartment.com/aboutodwc/public_meeting.htm.

Among others, some of the proposed rule changes this year include the following:

  • To make it unlawful to bait wildlife on wildlife management areas.
  • To change the bear archery season to Oct. 1 through the third Sunday in October and eliminate the quota for bear archery season.
  • To set the statewide daily limit of striped bass at five, except as designated.
  • To eliminate daily harvest limits on furbearers so that only season limits apply.
  • To establish permanent rules for newly purchased wildlife management areas while altering certain rules on already established public lands.
  • To adjust ATV usage rules on Honobia Creek Wildlife Management Area to match those in place at Three Rivers WMA.

The Wildlife Department also will be hosting public hearings and one town hall meeting on the proposed rule changes. The two public hearings will be held at 7 p.m. Jan. 10 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters auditorium in Oklahoma City (1801 N. Lincoln Blvd) and at the Kiamichi Technology Center in Poteau (1509 South McKenna). The town hall meeting will be held in Antlers at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 12 at the Antlers Wildlife Heritage Center (610 Southwest “D” Street).

Read and join the discussion on Deadline nears for Oklahomans to Comment on Proposed Regulation Changes at OutdoorHub.com.

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