The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission was briefed on season dates and bag limits for the upcoming waterfowl seasons as well as a $739,000 donation from Midway USA Foundation, Inc. The Commission also heard a presentation from the Federal Bureau of Investigation honoring three Oklahoma game wardens for their assistance in an  important FBI initiative and honored two employees of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation for tenure. Highlights of the meeting are as follows:

  • Every year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes frameworks to states for structuring their waterfowl seasons, and seasons for Oklahoma have been set. While most season bag limits for waterfowl 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 September 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. 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.

  • A presentation was given on a donation of $739,000 to support the Wildlife Department’s 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 $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. 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, which include schools that have already been involved in other Wildlife Department education programs such as Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools, Fishing in the Schools, Hunter  Education and Explore Bowhunting.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.

    Schools interested in bringing the Wildlife Department’s suite of outdoor education programs to their schools should contact Colin Berg, education supervisor for the Wildlife Department, at (918) 299-2334.

  • James E. Finch, FBI Special Agent in Charge, presented citations to game wardens Ben Bickerstaff, Alfalfa Co.; Lt. Frank Huebert, Major Co.; and Lt. Mark Walker, Blaine Co., for their assistance in a joint law enforcement operation carried out in the Glass Mountain area of western Oklahoma in 2011. The game wardens were commended for using their knowledge of the terrain and skills to secure the area  during the operation, which involved the apprehension of a wanted suspect.
  • The Commission accepted a donation of $8,000 from the 89er Chapter of Quail. Forever to be used for equipment purchases for habitat work at Cross Timbers Wildlife Management Area in southern Oklahoma. The 89ers Chapter was formed in 2005 because of the concern for declining quail populations in Oklahoma and nationwide. It was the first chapter formed in Oklahoma and among the first in the nation. The 89er  Chapter has been an important conservation partner for the Wildlife Department,  donating time and funding to a number of habitat and conservation projects. For  more information about the chapter, log on to centralokquailforever.org.
  • The Commission heard a presentation on the water quality and status of the Lower Illinois River fishery below Tenkiller Dam. The Wildlife Department recently joined with partners such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Southwestern Power Administration to put in place a new system for providing water and oxygen to the river during periods of high temperature and low flow. Also, a system has been put in place to monitor downstream water quality.Currently, none of Lake Tenkiller’s water is allocated for managing the popular fishery. Instead, the Wildlife Department has relied on a limited supply of water made available by other water rights holders, such as Sequoyah Fuels. Leakage in  the dam had provided some water flow as well until being repaired recently, leaving the Wildlife Department with access to just two hours of water flow or less per day for managing the 7.75 miles of trout fishery.The inability to secure adequate water flow from the dam has caused problems for  the fishery, including high water temperatures, low dissolved oxygen levels, algae blooms and significant fish kills. Studies indicate the fishery has an economic impact of up to $5 million per year, meaning that local businesses may feel the ache of the water shortages as much as the fishery itself.

    The new system includes a low-flow pipeline that the Department can use to deliver borrowed water to the river even if there are no other water releases being made  through the dam. It also includes a dissolved oxygen enhancement system that can increase oxygen in the water immediately below the dam. Together, these tools can help prevent conditions that have caused fish kills in the past.

    The new system will help address issues facing the fishery, but a long-term solution is still needed, which must include a dependable source of water to maintain the fishery downstream.

  • An online donation program to be offered through the Wildlife Department’s website was discussed and approved. Constituents may in the future see tabs on wildlifedepartment.com where they can make financial donations to specific Wildlife Department initiatives.
  • Richard Hatcher, Director of the Wildlife Department, recognized Doug Gottschalk, game warden stationed in Noble Co., for 30 years of service to the Wildlife Department, and Steve O’Donnell, fisheries technician stationed at the Department’s research  lab, for 25 years.
  • The Wildlife Conservation Commission also recognized its newest member, Bartlesville rancher Robert S. Hughes, who was in attendance for the first meeting of his eight-year term over District 1, which includes Ottawa, Delaware, Craig, Mayes, Nowata, Rogers, Washington, Tulsa, Pawnee and Osage counties.

The Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and is responsible for establishing  state hunting and fishing regulations, setting policy for the Wildlife Department and indirectly overseeing all state fish and wildlife conservation activities. Commission members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.

The next scheduled Commission meeting is set for 10:30 a.m. Sept. 9 at the Durant State Fish Hatchery in Caddo.

Logo courtesy Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

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