One of the best programs that has come down the pike in a while is Archery in the Schools.
With a grant from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, about 60 state schools are teaching Olympic-style archery in physical education classes.
On Wednesday, 1,200 students from these 60 Oklahoma high schools, junior highs and elementary schools will be competing in Archery in the Schools State Tournament at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City.
This is the fifth year for the state tournament. It’s grown each year.
State wildlife officials moved this year’s event to the Cox Convention Center because they had outgrown the University of Central Oklahoma gymnasiums where it had been held the past four years.
It’s easy for schools to get involved. All they need is a physical education teacher or coach willing to teach it. The state Wildlife Department will pay for half of the archery equipment needed and the schools pay for the other half, either through their general fund, fund raisers or private sponsors.
It’s not all altruistic on the part of the state Wildlife Department. The hope is that some of these students will become bow hunters one day and buy a hunting license.
But more importantly, the program seems to build the self-esteem of students who otherwise would be sitting on the sidelines watching other kids play the game.
I have written several stories on the program in the last five years, and all of the instructors I have interviewed just rave about it.
They all say the same thing. Archery has gotten students – who are not as gifted athletically as the school jocks - a reason to look forward to physical education class. Many of them have a great eye and excel at archery.
A kid may not be able to do 10 chin-ups, but he might be able to hit the bullseye with an arrow. The program raises the self-esteem and self-confidence of many students who are left off of the school’s athletic teams. Archery in the Schools also is a hit with some special education teachers.
In December, I interviewed Edgar Fowlkes, a physical education instructor at Moore’s Houchin Elementary School, who said archery actually had turned Houchin’s kids into better students.
If the students don’t keep their grades up and get their homework done on time, they can’t shoot the bow and arrow in physical education class.
Archery has been the incentive to make the students work harder in the classroom. He sees no downside to introducing kids to archery.
“Anything that develops a kid’s self-esteem, gets them coming to school and gets them to do their work is a good thing,” Fowkles said.
Hopefully, more Oklahoma schools will discover the same thing.
William Powell’s mother thinks the Oklahoma State University senior spends too much time fishing and not enough time studying.
“She keeps saying it’s going to be a problem, but I don’t see a problem,” said Powell, a 2005 graduate of Bishop McGuiness High School in Oklahoma City.
It worked out well last weekend. Powell and fellow OSU Bass Club member Jeremy Bersche of Skiatook won the FLW College Bass Fishing tournament at Lake Sam Rayburn.
Some snicker at the idea of college bass fishing, but it’s gaining momentum. FLW Outdoors created a college fishing trail this year.
There are four tournaments in each of five divisions, culminating with a regional championship then a national championship.
The college tournaments are held simultaneously with FLW pro events. The pro anglers who don’t make the cut for the final day of fishing provide boats and take out the college kids for a one-day showdown.
The pros can’t help the college anglers, except to provide equipment and take them to where they want to go on the lake.
In winning the tournament, Powell and Bersche won $10,000 which will be split evenly between the school and the OSU Bass Club.
Powell and his partner didn’t fare well in FLW’s first college tournament of the year. Powell said they didn’t stick to their game plan going in.
“This time around, we had been looking at maps (of Sam Rayburn) for a month. We decided we were going to fish this one area and decided to stick to that area no matter what, he said.”
They sight fished the same 75-yard stretch of water all day where fish were guarding spawning beds and came away with six fish for a winning stringer of 18 pounds, 6 ounces.
LSU-Shreveport was second with 17 pounds, 15 ounces. Lamar, Texas-A&M, and Angelo State rounded out the top five.
The University of Central Oklahoma – anglers Dustin Edwards and David Stine - finished 12th.
Powell is pursuing a business degree at OSU which he hopes will come in handy as a pro bass fisherman.
He wants to make a living on the water and not behind a desk.
“Tournament fishing is something I always wanted to do,” he said. “It’s just one of those things I really can’t get enough of.”
OSU, the University of Oklahoma and UCO have bass fishing clubs.
Red River striper guide Norman O’Neal, who runs up and down the river bordering Texas and Oklahoma in his air boat, keeps finding some trophy stripers for customers.
The fishing is hit or miss on the Red River, but O’Neal had a couple of really good days this week.
On Sunday, Scooter Proctor, son of former University of Oklahoma defensive secondary coach Bobby Proctor, landed a 24-pound striper while fishing with O’Neal. The Red River coughed up seven fish that day weighing between 17 and 24 pounds for Scooter and his son, Bo.
Then on Wednesday, Bo Herrera of New Mexico was fishing with O’Neal when he landed a beautiful 30 pound, 3-ounce striper.
“The fishing started out slow Wednesday morning with big fish blowing my chum out of the water everywhere, but refusing to touch the ones with jewelry (hooks) in their nose,” O’Neal said.
“We landed a few smaller fish, with the biggest about 8-pounds in the morning. We also broke off a bigger fish this morning not knowing his actual size.
“After a few hours, I headed down river about 15 miles and started working the shallows with my 10-foot cast net acquiring some 8 to 12 inch trophy shad.
“After a long ride back to the top and two anchor settings we were on the good fish. We had around eight fish from 16 to 30-pounds in about 30 minutes. The fishing has been really good when I can find the bigger baits.”
O’Neal said all of the big fish caught by Proctor and Herrera were released so they might be caught again someday by a lucky angler.
To reach O’Neal, who operates out of Denison, Texas, about striper fishing on the Red River, call him at (903) 624-4900.
Some day, I hope to catch a rainbow like the one Glen Byrd of Norman did last month on the Lower Mountain Fork River in southeastern Oklahoma.
Bob Williams of the Prairie Fly Fishers in Oklahoma City took the photo and was kind enough to share it with me, immediately creating the urge to jump in my SUV (if it wasn’t still in the body shop thanks to last month’s baseball-size hail storm in Yukon) and take the four-hour trip to the state’s best fly fishing waters.
I am not a fly fisherman, yet. I’ve been fly fishing four or five times and lost a big Rio Grande brown one summer on a family vacation in Creede, Colo., because I didn’t know what I was doing. I tried to horse him too much. Even my guide was depressed because he knew it was a big fish.
However, my wife, knowing of my desire to become proficient with a fly rod before I die, cashed in bunch of her Cabela’s points and bought me a new fly rod and waders that are still in the box.
(I can no longer criticize her use of a credit card).
Why I want to be a fly fisherman so bad, I’m not sure. I’m certainly more comfortable with a spinning rod.
It’s probably because like Brian Ellis of the 89er Chapter of Trout Unlimited told me, “trout don’t live in ugly places.”
I suspect that line didn’t originate with Brian, but it was the first time I had heard it, so I give him the credit for such wisdom.
That’s certainly true on the Lower Mountain Fork River in McCurtain County, especially in the spring.
It’s a great place to visit whether the fish are biting or not. Plan a trip next month and work in both a turkey hunt and trout fishing.
As far as the fishing goes, it’s been great recently, as you might expect. Sean Baker of the Three Rivers Fly Shop provides this fishing report for the fly anglers.
“All colors of egg patterns (especailly chartreuse and dark red), san juan worms and March brown emerger pattern has been working really well at the top of Evening Hole.
“Small (size 20 and higher) Light Cahill have been working at Stump Hole for dries and Olive BH Scud patterns (size 16) for nymphs.
Finally the Miracle Nymph both sizes have been working great as have the various colors of Zebra Midges. Golden Stone Fly nymphs have been found in Spillway and by the Powerhouse, so make sure you have one or two of those with you.
“In Zone 2, be ready with the March Brown Dun & Emerger patterns. For you die hards, note that the CADDIS ARE HATCHING in Zone 2. If you’ve been holding off, now is the time to experience some fantastic dry fly fishing on the Lower Mountain Fork.
“On the Upper Mountain Fork, walleye, sand bass and smallmouth bass are moving upstream right now. The Narrows has been fishing really well. Take a chartreuse and a white Clouser for sure.”
I hope those waders of mine fit.
The paddlefishing in northeastern Oklahoma has been steady but unspectacular thus far. However, that could soon change.
Some paddlefish, or spoonbills, already have started moving up the river systems around Grand and Fort Gibson lakes. Anglers are catching some fish but most spoonbills are still staging at the upper end of the lakes or in the deeper holes of the rivers.
Nolen Cleaves of Edmond said that was the situation last weekend at Chouteau Bend on Fort Gibson Lake. His group caught three males that weighed 20, 24 and 25 pounds.
At the state Wildlife Department’s spoonbill cleaning station at Twin Bridges State Park on Grand Lake, around 400 paddlefish were processed last weekend.
Since it was spring break, there were a lot of paddlefishing addicts on the water, many of them fishermen from out-of-state who make an annual trek to Grand Lake for the spoonbill runs.
Oklahoma has one of the largest populations in the country of paddlefish, a pre-historic looking critter that doesn’t eat bait and must be snagged.
Spoonbills, nicknamed The Oklahoma Marlin, for its size and the way it jumps in the water, can reach 100 pounds or more in size. The state record is 121 pounds. An average size at Grand Lake is 45 pounds.
The state Wildlife Department will clean the one paddlefish you are allowed to keep per day for free in exchange for the eggs from females. Paddlefish eggs are a tasty substitute for beluga caviar, and the state Wildlife Department made $1.5 million last year in its first attempt at selling Oklahoma-made caviar.
One female spoonbill can produce 5 to 7 pounds of caviar.
As the water temperature increases, spoonbills start moving up the rivers to spawn. However, big runs are triggered by water flow from heavy rains. When that happens, the fishing can be phenomenal.
Grand Lake has several paddlefishing guides and the when the fishing is hot, anglers will line up elbow to elbow at Miami’s Riverview Park on the banks of the Neosho River.
The state Wildlife Department has posted popular paddlefishing locations on its Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com
Anglers across Oklahoma continue to catch some big bass during the the pre-spawn.
Roger Hughes of Bartlesville caught this 10.6-pound largemouth on March 13 at Sardis Lake near McAlester.
He landed the lunker on a Terminator Spinnerbait and it is being certified by state wildlife officials as a lake record.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation started keeping records on 13 state lakes a year ago.
The fishing is getting hot across the state.
Jeremiah Johnson of Bristow caught a 14-pound, 6-ounce largemouth out on Wetumka Lake on March 7.
The fish now is in quarantine at the Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Mo., but eventually will be on display at the Broken Arrow store.
On Friday, Sardis Lake near McAlester produced a 10-pound, 10-ounce brute that state wildlife officials are planning to certify as the new lake record.
On Sunday, a 12 pound, 6-ounce largemouth was pulled from Lake Longmire near Pauls Valley.
And get ready for the sand bass runs. Down at Broken Bow, the sand bass have just started running on the Mountain Fork River – the first place it occurs in the state – so runs likely will be happening soon on Hugo, Texoma and then move to the northern lakes.
An old adage is when the red buds are blooming, the sand bass are running, but the red buds seem to be ahead of the sand bass runs this year.
Sand bass runs depend a lot on water flow so watch for rains.
Next time you buy some worms from an Academy store, check the bottom of the container and it should say from C&J Bait Co.
C&J Bait has been in business for 30 years in Purcell. It was started by John Buterbaugh, who one day went to see a man about buying dirt for his roses and ended up in the worm business.
The way his daughter, Kelly Evans, tells it, her father struck up a conversation with the man, who also sold worms, but who confided to Buterbaugh that he wasn’t very good at it.
Buterbaugh, a fisherman, told him that he could sell worms.
“Dad could sell the bark off a tree,” Kelly said. “He was a born salesman.”
Buterbaugh started selling the worms to bait shops around the state and the C&J Bait Co., was born. C stood for his wife, Clarisa, and J, of course, was John.
Daughter Kelly also helped in the family worm business.
“I would get up in the morning and go feed the worms,” she said.
The business has changed over the years. Now, the worms C&J sells are Canadian night crawlers. When it rains in Canada, the worms come out of the ground in the millions, Kelly said.
The worms are trucked to Purcell where C&J employees cull them and package them for sale to wholesalers in Texas and Louisiana. During the busy fishing months – which will soon be upon us – C&J will sell a million worms a week.
“A truck came in today with 800,000 worms,” Kelly said.
Many mom and pop bait shops around Oklahoma lakes who were C&J customers have closed their doors over the years.
“You don’t hardly see bait stores anymore,” Kelly said.
So John Buterbaugh changed strategies and persuaded Academy to sell his worms. All worms bought at any Academy store are C&J’s, Kelly said.
C&J also makes sinkers and sells stink bait, including stink bait made by another Oklahoma company, Magic Baits of Guthrie.
I share this information about C&J because it’s just one example of how important the outdoors industry is in Oklahoma. There are numerous small businesses in Oklahoma that depend on anglers, hunters, campers.
I also share it because John Buterbaugh died recently at age 69. He suffered a heart attack on a vacation in Cancun.
But the business he and his wife successfully built will go on. Kelly is going to start running C&J Bait Co.
Now, feeding the worms are only part of her duties.
Oklahoma is another step closer to opening a black bear hunting season.
In anticipation of lawmakers passing bills that would create a bear hunting license, state wildlife commissioners on Monday approved rules for the possible fall bear season.
Commissioners still must vote next month on establishing a bear season and state lawmakers still must pass bear hunting legislation, but that seems certain.
Last month both the state House of Representatives and state Senate overwhelmingly approved identical bills that would legalize bear hunting.
The Senate bill must now be voted on by the House, and the House bill by the Senate, before being forwarded to Gov. Brad Henry for his signature.
Counties open for bear hunting would be Le Flore, Latimer, Pushmataha and McCurtain. (The above photo of a black bear was caught on a trail cam at a deer feeder in Pittsburg County.)
A proposed archery season for black bears would run from Oct. 1 through the Friday before deer muzzleloader season, which opens Oct. 25.
Only 20 bears could be killed – including no cubs or female with cubs. If bow hunters didn’t get 20, then bears could be hunted with muzzleloaders until the quota is reached. The bear muzzleloader season would be the same as deer muzzleloader season: Oct. 25-Nov. 2.
No dogs could be used when bear hunting. No cubs or sows with cubs could be killed. No den hunting would be allowed and no baiting on public land.
No rifle season would be allowed either. Nels Rodefeld, spokesman for the state Wildlife Department, said officials wanted to take the most conservative approach in the first year of bear hunting.
State wildife officials say the population of black bears has reached a point (perhaps as many as 500 to 800, depending on who is doing the guessing) to justify a hunt. Nuisance complaints about bears increase every year, they said.
Wildlife commissioners voted 6-1 to pass the bear hunting rules. Only Commissioner David Riggs of Sand Springs dissented.
In other news, wildlife commissioners also approved rules for a two-week September archery season for antelope, although they still must officially vote on the season next month.
They also established rules for opening an elk season on private lands in northeastern Oklahoma. Counties included are Adair, Cherokee, Delaware, Mayes, Muskogee and Seqouyah.
The season dates would be the same as they are now for the private land hunts in southwest Oklahoma around the Wichita Mountains: in October, December and January.
Opportunities for elk hunting in northeastern Oklahoma primarily would be around the Cookson, Spavinaw and Cherokee public wildlife management areas, and the Nickel Preserve Nature Conservancy in Cherokee County.
All of the those public lands in northeastern Oklahoma are home to elk herds, and like in the Wichita Mountains, the elk are spilling over onto private land. A legal bull is defined as having at least six points on one side.
All of the new hunting and fishing regulations proposed by the state Wildlife Department at public hearings earlier this year were passed Monday by state wildlife commissioners.
That includes limiting the number of trophy blue cats that can be kept by anglers. Beginning Jan. 1, only one blue cat of 30 or more inches can be kept per day.