During the past deer hunting season, a former state legislator was ticketed for shooting a white or piebald deer without first getting written permission from the state wildlife director.
Now, there is a bill in the Oklahoma Legislature to allow hunting of white deer without written approval from the state wildlife director.
Coincidence? I think not. But no one is ever denied permission to hunt white deer anyway, so it’s a needless hoop that hunters have to jump through.
Other outdoor-related bills that have been introduced this legislative season include a bill to exempt all lifetime hunting and fishing license owners from any other additional permits or requirements, such as the black bear hunting license and sandhill crane permit.
Makes sense to me. A lifetime hunting license should include everything.
Another bill would allow for hunting with gun suppressors with landowner permission. A similar bill failed last year when game wardens opposed it.
And there are catfish anglers still upset with the blue cat fishing regulations.
The catfishing community was divided two years ago when the state Wildlife Department set a limit on the number of trophy blue cats that could be kept per day to just one.
Anglers could still keep a total of 15 catfish per day, but only one blue catfish can be 30 inches or greater.
Hundreds of anglers signed a petition last year trying to get the regulation repealed but that attempt failed. A bill has been introduced again this year to try and repeal the regulation.
State wildlife officials contend that too many big blue catfish are being harvested from Oklahoma waters. One big blue per day seems plenty to me. Keep raping the resources and no one will have any.
Wagoner bass fishing pro Tommy Biffle will be appearing at Bass Pro Shops in Bricktown tonight (Feb. 25) from 8 until 10.
Biffle, winner of last summer’s Sooner Run Elite Series bass tournament on Fort Gibson Lake, will be teaching a seminar on bottom buggin’ for shallow bass.
Also tonight, FLW angler Scott Martin, son of fishing personality Roland Martin, will be teaching fishing techniques beginning at 6 p.m.
On Sunday, four time Bassmaster Classic champion Rick Clunn will be teaching on fishing with square bill crankbaits. Clunn is scheduled to appear at 3 p.m.
At 2 p.m. Sunday, Lake Texoma striper fishing guide Gary Scarberry will be conducting a seminar. Scarberry also has seminars scheduled next weekend on striper fishing at the store.
It’s all part of Bass Pro Shops Spring Fishing Classic. On March 5, kids will be able to fish for trout at the store’s pond. Members of the North Oklahoma City Bassmasters Club will be assisting kids and all fishing gear will be provided.
Also on March 5, Keith Thomas, fisheries biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, will be conducting a power point presentation on farm pond management. That session begins at 1 p.m.
“Ridding the critters and the nasty stuff from your pond. Cleaning up and clearing up the water. Those are the common calls we get all the time,” Thomas said.
The Backwoods Hunting and Fishing Expo opens Friday at the state fairgrounds in Oklahoma City.
In its 24th year, the Backwoods Hunting and Fishing Expo is the longest consecutively running outdoor show in Oklahoma City.
The show runs through Sunday in the Travel and Transportation Building. Hours are noon to 8:30 p.m. on Friday, 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
Tickets are $8 for adults while ages 10 and younger receive free admission.
Deer hunters can bring their trophies to be scored for Cy Curtis records and to be displayed on the Oklahoma Whitetail Wall of Fame, the large display of trophy bucks featured each year at the Backwoods Show. Call Ron Owens at 681-1333 for information.
On Saturday, check out the Oklahoma State Turkey Calling Contest will be from noon to 4 p.m. Contestants can begin registering at 11 a.m.
Even if you are not a turkey hunter, you will likely find this entertaining. Be sure to catch the calling in the owling division. It’s the most colorful.
On both Saturday and Sunday there will be competition in 3-D archery with divisions for men, women and youth. Sign up for the contest beginning at 9 a.m. each day.
There will be plenty of hunting outfitters from all over the world and one – D.R. Harrison of Harrison Outdoors – will be giving away a whitetail hunt valued at $5,000. The hunt will be filmed. Register for the hunt at Harrison’s booth.
Fishing guides from Oklahoma and Arkansas also will be in attendance and there will be the usual kids’s activities such as a rock climbing wall and fishing in a catfish tank.
The following is Friday’s seminar schedule for the show.
Texas Snake Handlers with Joe Martin, 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.;
Bass Tank with Brad Campbell, 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.;
Antler Addiction with D.R. Harrison, 4 p.m.;
Whitetail Hunting with Adam Hayes, 5:30 p.m.;
Turkey Calling with Bill Decker, 7 p.m.
Turkey Calling with Bill Decker, 10 a.m.;
Texas Snake Handlers with Joe Martin, 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.;
Bass Tank with Brad Campbell, noon, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.;
Whitetail Hunting with Adam Hayes, 1 p.m.;
Antler Addiction with D.R. Harrison, 1:30 and 4 p.m.;
Whitetail Hunting with Adam Hayes, 4:30 p.m.;
Elk Calling with Barney Larue, 5 p.m.
Bass Tank with Brad Campbell, 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.;
Texas Snake Handlers with Joe Martin, noon and 3 p.m.;
Turkey Calling with Barney Larue, 1 p.m.;
Antler Addiction with D.R. Harrison, 1:30 p.m.;
Whitetail Hunting with Adam Hayes, 2:30 p.m.;
Turkey Calling with Bill Decker, 4 p.m.
Blue River news
Blue River had its annual trout derby over the weekend and Donny Carter of Stratford took this photo of a fly fisherman who knows how to relax.
Instead of wading the Blue, this fly fisherman put his camping or lawn chair in the river and did his fishing sitting down. Donny said the man wasn’t do much casting, however, mostly just relaxing.
Justin Sutton of Pickett Center (near Ada) won the fly fishing division of the tournament, weighing in a two-day total of rainbows of 13 pounds, 14 ounces. Trout fishing continues on the Blue River in southern Oklahoma through March.
Dolese trout fishing
Speaking of trout fishing, the trout season at Oklahoma City’s Dolese Park officially ends Feb. 28 but anglers can still fish until all the trout are gone.
When the season ends, the daily catch limit will remain six per day, but anglers will be allowed to use as many as three rods per person. Only one fishing rod per person is allowed during the regular season.
Still more on Bobwhite
I continue to receive emails from quail hunters about the quail demise in Oklahoma. I got this response from Monty Marcum of Washington, who has hunted quail in western Oklahoma and Collingsworth County, Texas, since 1982.
Marcum hunted quail in McClain County as a kid but said the birds were pushed out by development as more people moved to the area.
“The situation in the west is completely different. There are still wide open spaces out there. The habitat is there as it was 30 years ago,” Marcum wrote.
“I lease about 2,500 acres of prime quail habitat in Harmon County, north of Hollis along the Salt Fork of the Red River. This year I moved a total of 8 coveys in Harmon County, 2 coveys at Fort Supply, 2 coveys in Blaine County, no birds in Black Kettle or the west central part of Oklahoma, and I didn’t hunt the in Greer County this season.
“Instead, I spent more time hauling milo out to locations to see if I could hold quail, or bring quail in. I believe the only reason I have birds on my lease is because I have fed them and not over hunted them.
“The thing that really worries me is that I don’t believe it’s a predator/habitat problem. Our area hasn’t had extreme hail or any other weather condition that would have caused this decline either. “I have been at the lease during mating season and called birds up to my feet with calls and know that successful hatches occurred.
“In short, I have seen very good numbers of quail until early September when dove migration comes through that area. Then the quail just seem to disappear. Obviously, there is no way for me to prove that this is anything other than a coincidence but it has happened in 08, 09, with dwindling number occurring in 2010, but still noticeable.
“I’m afraid there is some kind of disease or parasite that is riding in on migratory birds. I really, really hope that I am completely wrong.
“The optimist that I am, I believe that nature will turn itself around in regards to the quail population. It has always been that way.”
The Federal Cartridge Company has issued a product safety warning about certain lots of recently manufactured 45 Auto ammunition which may contain an incorrect propellant charge.
Use of the ammo from those lots may result in firearm damage and possible serious injury, the company said.
Anyone with the brand name and parts numbers American Eagle AE4A, AE45N1, or AE45A250; Champion WM5233; GoldMedal (GM45B); Hi-Shok (45C, 45D) and Federal Personal Defense (C45C, C45D) should check to see if they have lot numbers 38X628 through 38X765 or 38T401 through 38T414.
Anyone with ammo from those lots should call 1-800-831-0850 or 1-800-322-2342 and ask for product service.
Federal will replace the ammo.
The main waterfowl seasons have ended but Oklahoma’s special light goose season opened Monday and will continue through March 30.
Populations of of light geese (snow, blue and Ross) have grown to the point that they are causing damage to their arctic breeding grounds in Canada.
In 1999, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued its first Conservation Order Light Goose Season to encourage hunters to harvest additional light geese in an effort to reduce the population and help restore the breeding grounds.
During this season, hunters may use unplugged shotguns and electronic calls. There is no daily or possession limit.
All licenses are required as in the waterfowl season. Hunters, however, are required to register at www.wildlifedepartment.com to participate.
State wildlife officials must report the number of light geese harvested to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Quail season ending
The last day of Oklahoma’s quail season is Tuesday and for most hunters it’s been a pretty sorry one.
But some have found a few pockets of birds. One avid bird hunter, Earl Stephenson of Weatherford, emailed me this report on his quail hunting this season.
“Kendall Johnson and I hunted 12 times this season. We walked many miles each hunt. It was not until the final hunt of the year for us (Feb. 11) that we killed our limit of quail.
“We developed a motto for the year: “Walk on!” Our perseverance eventually paid off. We are hopeful for next year, as on the final hunt we found six coveys. We left plenty of birds in each covey we found this year to have a good hatch next year. It was a hard year, but again a very fun year.”
Southwestern anglers place third
The Southwestern Oklahoma State University bass fishing team of Nathan Colwell and Shane McGlothlin finished third Sunday in the FLW college fishing tournament on Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Jasper, Texas.
The pair weighed in five bass for a total of 13 pounds, 10 ounces to win $2,000.
The top five teams from each tournament qualified for the regional championship where the first-place team will win $12,500 cash for their school plus $12,500 cash and a Ranger 177TR bass boat with a 90 horsepower Evinrude or Mercury outboard wrapped in school colors for their fishing club.
The top five teams from each regional tournament advance to the national championship where the first-place team will win $25,000 for their school plus $50,000 cash and a Ranger 177TR bass boat with a 90-horsepower Evinrude or Mercury outboard wrapped in school colors for their fishing club.
Anglers from Sam Houston State and Stephen F. Austin finished first and second. Lamar captured fourth and fifth.
James Tucker of Ardmore pulled in a 192-pound, 1-ounce alligator gar Jan. 27 from the Red River in Love County, establishing a new state record, state wildlife officials announced Friday.
The record-breaking fish measured seven feet, seven and a half inches long and was an impressive three feet, three inches in girth, according to a news release from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
Tucker snagged the monstrous fish about 10 a.m. using a 65-pound test line.
Tucker’s fish broke the previous alligator gar record by more than six pounds. Sean Chatham, also from Ardmore, held the former record for a 184-pound, 3-ounce fish caught from the Red River in 2006.
Alligator gar are truly unique fish and can be found in warm, sluggish rivers in the southeast quarter of the state.
Alligator gar feed primarily on fish, but are known to eat ducks and other water birds.
The second largest freshwater fish in North America, the alligator gar is second in size only to the white sturgeon. Reaching weights of up to 300 pounds, the alligator gar can stretch to lengths over nine feet.
Historically, the alligator gar’s home range included the Mississippi River and its tributaries from the lower reaches of the Ohio and the Missouri rivers southward to the Gulf of Mexico.
Today the range is significantly smaller. The fish are primarily restricted to coastal rivers, with inland populations not only in Oklahoma, but also in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas.
Female alligator gars don’t reach sexual maturity until 11 years of age, whereas males take about six years. Gar have a unique ability to use their gills or a lung-like gas bladder that enables them to come to the surface and gulp for air. Studies indicate that gizzard shad are the top food of choice when populations are present in lakes.
Alligator gar also are known to eat certain sport fish as well as other gars, including their own kind. One study in Texas found they even eat coots.
Anglers once believed that the alligator gar was a significant threat to sport fish species and often were viewed as a nuisance, but today, with better knowledge of the species’ habits and behaviors, the fish is recognized as an important part of Oklahoma’s waters.
The Bowhunting Council of Oklahoma’s annual banquet will be Saturday at the Clarion Meridian Hotel & Convention Center at I-40 & Meridian in Oklahoma City.
The general meeting will start at 9 a.m. The Noble Foundation will present a 5-hour whitetailed deer management seminar.
All seminars and the general meeting are free. The banquet will begin at 6 p.m. with a silent auction and door prizes.
The cost of the Old West BBQ banquet is $25 per person.
The “Big Buck” and other awards will be recognized and presented during the evening.
Vendors and exhibits will be available for participation and viewing.
Bring your archery harvested animals for scoring (past two years only with picture) and displaying on the “Wall of Fame”.
Rooms can be reserved at the Clarion Hotel at (405) 942-8511.
For more information, call Jeff Steele at 640-7470 or visit www.bowhuntingcouncilok.com
The stories on the quail decline is still generating discussion. Here are some more e-mails and theories that I have received.
“We have actually seen an increase in quail numbers this season, but not yet in the numbers I would deem ‘huntable’. We specialize in pheasants, but have in many years offered a ‘mixed’ bag of both quail and pheasant.
“I have heard this argument before about the turkeys being detrimental to quail either from eating the chicks to destroying the nest. I have no proof other than I hear so many of our hunters point out a correlation to the fact that they have more turkeys than ever, but the quail are almost non-existent. Is there something to that ratio switch? I don’t know for sure, but it is interesting to note.
“I would like to point out another factor I believe needs to be addressed. I have planted food plots, left uncut grain on edges of fields, placed waterers in the dry hot summers, left stubble taller during harvest, planted thousands of trees and shrubs, and other notable conservation efforts to encourage the propagation of native birds naturally.
“I have discovered that when you do all these good things for the targeted wildlife (such as quail and pheasant) that you literally ‘ring’ the dinner bell for all the undesirable predators such as hawks, feral pigs, owls, skunks, coyotes, coons, bobcats, wild domestic cats, opossums, etc.
“I contend and encourage all my hunters to go home and practice predator control in the ‘off’ season, especially around their grain release feeders and waterers. Encourage hunters to come and stake out those areas and ‘call’ in the predators for elimination or by trap.
“Our original intent in planting permanent cover 25 years ago was to encourage quail production but quickly learned that for my immediate area the quail were quite ‘fickle’ and could be here one year and not the next, but (it) attracted far more pheasants than anything so our focus changed accordingly.
“Today, with all the thousands of dollars invested in conservation we still do not have quail in sustainable numbers and we don’t have turkeys to blame, but we have an abundance of domestic cats, hawks, and owls around to keep the mice population down here at the farm… We are going to implement a trap set-up in the off season for the ‘wild’ cats that hunt our habitat hard. We always have a coyote alert going and hunt them hard year round.
Larry Flynt, Flynt Farms
“Why won’t the quail come back? I guided deer hunts all fall down around Hollis in the southwest part of the state and there were some birds down there but nothing like it should be but there was tons of turkey.
“I have never personally seen turkey eat quail chicks but have talked to numerous people that have seen it happen. We do not even guide wild bird hunts anymore, the success is so low. I believe it has to do with the number of predators mainly hawks and owls.
“There is one thing I have noticed and I am in the field a lot and have been guiding since 1985 and that is everything below your knees is not doing very well that includes snakes, turtles, frogs, quail and even song birds.
“I believe part of the problem is habitat but that is for sure not all of it. “
“I think the wild hogs have hurt the quail and turkey population by eating the eggs. Also, the raccoons, skunks and bobcats. No one hunts them anymore because the price of fur is down.”
I am not sure what has actually caused the decrease in the quail population. Years ago we brought out a wildlife biologist and I asked him what could be done to get some quail to start inhabiting our ranch again.
“He mentioned we build some natural covers for the quail….so all across our ranch in various places we have gathered up stacks of wood and limbs and we put a barbed wire fence around each one.
“We have in the recent years seen more and more quail on the place. I can’t tell you, although, that it is surely because of our fenced brush piles.”
Pennington Creek Hunting Club
“I’ve never seen any evidence of it and certainly don’t believe turkey depredation occurs in amounts sufficient to hinder quail populations. I’ve also heard Oklahoma chiggers are to blame… nonsense. A far more sinister source of quail depredation is the increasing house cat population as homes invade rural areas.
“Primarily lack of habitat, secondarily glazed snow (are the reasons for the decline). Quail can peck through soft snow and find food underneath, but when snow packs and melts and glazes over even an 1/8” thick it is devastating to quail.
“Even if this glaze lasts only a few days the quail’s limited fat supplies can’t sustain them through and they will often die before the snow melts. Plus, they are more vulnerable to predators in the meantime.
“Add one more major disadvantage that most people don’t think of… LACK OF FIRE. Our environment is so controlled and interspersed with houses that the build-up of undergrowth in the forests contributes to the environments of quail predators like skunks, possums and coons.
“Plus, as more land is sold for house lots and subdivisions, plain old farm land becomes more scarce and more valuable, enticing farmers to convert previously abandoned or overgrown areas for farming, thus reducing natural quail habitat even further.
“Bottom line… more predators plus less habitat equal fewer quail.”
Dr. Tom Warren, Meadowlake Ranch, Tulsa,
“We do offer quail hunts here at our operation. I hunt over 12,000 acres and all of our birds are wild.
“We have seen dramatic swings in our bird population over the past 10 years,(mostly bad). Our best year ever was 2005 when it was nothing to get 10 to 12 coveys in 3 or 4 hours.
“2009 was an all time low that I have seen and you might get 1 or 2 coveys per day. This year is an improvement, but not great by any means.
“We have been averaging 4 or 5 coveys per day on good days and then we are having some random 2 covey days here and there. It is very strange because we are not finding coveys that I know to be in the area from repeat sightings during deer season.
“Extremely dry conditions are making it very difficult for dogs to catch any scent. All of my clients come from areas north and east of Oklahoma and say they have virtually no birds left to hunt.
“It is a major problem that no one seems to have an answer to. The theory that increased management for deer and turkey is having an adverse effect on quail makes absolutely no sense to me. If these efforts are having any effect at all on quail, it should be positive.
“More food plots and less pressure from cattle should do nothing but improve habitat. I don’t think that turkeys are eating all the chicks either. Turkeys and quail have lived side by side for who knows how many years.
“I think that the problem is something much bigger and widespread than anyone is thinking. I have huge, unbroken tracts of land that have not changed at all over the past hundreds of years, so how could habitat alteration be harming these bird populations.
“I am sure that there are millions of acres just like mine across Oklahoma just like mine that have not been changed. I have no explanation as to what is happening. We seem to have great hatches and see tons of chicks all summer only to have very few coveys by hunting season.
“I probably have not helped much but these are my thoughts on the matter. I hope that someone figures this out soon or the quail will be gone before we know it. If you come up with, or hear any logical explanations, please let me know.
Tanner Holder, Rio Rojo Outfitters
“I think with farming practices it’s a mixture of a lot of things. I have always been told that quail will not nest or roost in fescue. I know in the southeast part of the state you see a lot more fescue waterways.
“I think from what crop is planted to cutting trees out of pasture land it all has an impact. One thing I don’t understand or can’t figure out is how it seems to be such a growing trend to see the low numbers yet we really don’t have any good ideas on why. I don’t know if it’s because the research hasn’t been done or the answer is that hard.
“I grew up quail hunting every weekend and my dad was always a very active member of Quail Unlimited. As I’ve became more involved with a lot of that type of organizations it seems like to many of them are about how big of banquet can we have and what prints or guns can we get.
“I think with the quail it’s really going to take a change in the mindset of people before we can really get stuff done. Only good thing is, I think more and more people are beginning to realize how bad it is.”
Darren Wheeler, owner Homerun Outfitters and Homerun Taxidermy
“Many things have attributed to the decline in quail populations over the past 30 years. In the ‘70s we removed the coyote from western Oklahoma when fur prices were high. This led to an increase in nest predators (skunks, raccoons, possums, snakes, etc.)
“In the 80′s cattle prices were high so we overgrazed the pastures and reduced the nesting habitat. A quail prefers 2 year old clump grass as a nest.
“When you reduce these clumps you make it easier for the nest predators to hunt for the eggs. We have more turkeys and deer these days because we have changed the entire landscape. Turkeys prefer open short grass areas. Deer numbers have increased because of the lack of predators that hunt their young.
“We have not developed Oklahoma to support more deer and turkey. It has been an overall change in landscape due to economic needs and lack of stewardship to the wildlife that live on the land that we make our living off of.
“We no longer do wild quail hunts. The expectations of the client were too high and most of them could not put in a day of walking in our area.”
Rickey Squires, Rawhide Creek Ranch and Hunting Club, Inc.