Whitetail deer have started rutting across Oklahoma which means motorists should be wary of deer running across the roadways.
Game Warden Rick Cagle, whose district covers Kingfisher, Blaine, Canadian, Grady, Caddo, Comanche, Cotton, Jefferson and Stephens, said Monday night that he’s received 10 reports of vehicle-deer collisions just in the last few days.
“It’s just now starting (the rut) so it’s going to get worse,” he said. “People better be aware and watch out what they are doing when they are driving.”
The rut is the breeding season for whitetails and the time when bucks begin actively chasing does. When it starts, the deer are on the move and not paying much attention to roads and motorists.
“We are getting them hit everywhere,” Cagle said. “Northwest Highway is a popular place for hitting deer. There are lots of traffic and lots of deer.”
The Oklahoma Highway Safety Office reports that 15.8 percent of all reported vehicle crashes in Oklahoma last November involved an animal. Because November is the deer breeding season, the OHSO issued the following safety trips for drivers.
- Be sure everyone in the vehicle is buckled up
- Avoid distractions; Keep your eyes on the road
- Do not swerve and leave your lane to avoid an animal. Many crashes are caused not by the animal, but by driving into another tree, a sign or other object.
- Drive at a safe speed. Always obey the speed limit and drive more slowly in wildlife areas. Be able to stop within the space of your headlights.
- Heed the warning signs. A deer crossing road sign is there for a reason.
- Actively watch both sides of the roads for signs of wildlife
- Be especially careful at sunset and sunrise when animals are most active.
Ronald Comer enjoyed everything about the outdoors. He loved to hunt, fish, camp and hike. The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge was one of his favorite places.
Comer loved the outdoors so much that he made a career out of it. After 10 years of working as a police officer in Edmond, he became a game warden.
For 21 years, Comer was a game warden in Canadian County. He died Oct. 31 from a heart attack at age 50.
“He was a good warden,” said Comer’s captain, Rick Cagle. “He was very professional with the public and well-respected. I never, ever had a complaint on him in 21 years.”
Comer enjoyed all types of hunting and loved taking trips to Africa. He would proudly show friends photo albums from those trips.
“He just loved to go there,” said Bill Hale, assistant chief of law enforcement for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “He had a story for every animal.”
Hale said Comer also was a wonderful instructor in the department’s educational programs. “He loved the outdoors and teaching people about it,” Hale said.
Fellow game warden James Edwards said Comer was very passionate about the hunting heritage. He also cared for people.
“Like was said at his funeral, he just didn’t care about people. He cared for people,” Edwards said. “I think that’s very telling. He will be very much missed by all of us, not just game wardens, but the people of Canadian County and the sportsmen and women of Oklahoma.”
A list of Oklahoma’s best hiking trails can now be found online.
Kent Frates, an Oklahoma City attorney, and Larry Floyd, a photographer and writer from Yukon, have been hiking together for 15 years. Last year they published Oklahoma Hiking Trails, unquestionably the most comprehensive listing of the best hiking trails in the state.
Now, the two men have a website, (http://www.bestoklahomatrails.com) which lists all of the book’s 61 hike routes with the length, difficulty and location for each.
Their book also can be ordered on the website, but Floyd said he and Frates both wanted to make sure the information about the trails was shared with everyone online.
“Whether anyone buys our book we still want these routes available to the public,” Floyd said.
“If you Google hiking trails in Oklahoma or anything similar, a number of websites appear on the search-results page, but all are almost worthless when it comes to providing any meaningful listing of hiking trails in the state. Maybe our site will alleviate this problem.”
Either Frates or Floyd hiked every trail in researching the book.
Prior to working on the book, they had spent most of their 15 years of hiking together outside the state of Oklahoma. Floyd is a member of the Highpointers Club, a group of individuals which makes it their goal to hike to the highest point in every state.
It was Frates’ idea to visit every Oklahoma trail they could find and write a book because information was so scant about hiking in Oklahoma.
“We really didn’t know what was available in Oklahoma,” Floyd said. “What we found was there is good hiking in Oklahoma but it (wasn’t) well-documented and it was difficult to find the trailheads.”
Their website also contains scenic photos from the Oklahoma trails and a contact page with their email addresses. Floyd said they hope that fellow hiking enthusiasts will contact them with trail updates.
“We have found trail signs and even trailheads morph with an alarming frequency, so we appreciate any input we can get from hikers to keep new information available.
“We plan to start a hiking blog on this site before long to keep new information on hiking routes available to everyone and to include in any future book revisions.”
A motorist on State Highway 81 near Minco late Tuesday struck and killed a mountain lion.
Another motorist passing by saw the animal on the roadside and called the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. State game wardens recovered the carcass and will have a DNA test done to try and determine the origin of the animal.
There is no indication that it had been a captive mountain lion which had been released or escaped, said Micah Holmes, spokesman for the Wildlife Department.
The mountain lion was a young male that appeared to be between 12 and 20 months old, Holmes said.
State wildlife officials think the cat was traveling along the South Canadian River in search of new territory, a behavior typical of young male mountain lions that are pushed out their home range by older and stronger males.
State wildlife officials acknowledge there are mountain lions in Oklahoma, but don’t have an estimate of how many of the wild cats there are in the state. They are most often found in far western Oklahoma, Holmes said.
“We do have them statewide,” Holmes said. “They use rivers as travel corridors. They are here and they are native, but we don’t have an exact number how many are here. Most are probably like this one, on the move.”
A DNA hair analysis may help to determine if the mountain lion began his journey in another state such as New Mexico or Colorado, Holmes said.
Mountain lions can roam great distances. In 2004, a young male mountain lion that was wearing a radio transmitter collar attached by researchers in the Black Hills of South Dakota was hit and killed by a train in Noble County near Red Rock.
More mountain lions are showing up in trail camera photos in Oklahoma as trail cameras are becoming more widely used, but it’s still rare to see the secretive cats. Bobcats are commonly mistaken for mountain lions by eyewitnesses, Holmes said.
It used to be illegal to kill a mountain lion in Oklahoma but that law was changed in 2007. Now, it is lawful to shoot a mountain lion in Oklahoma as long as the shooter deems the animal to be a threat to persons or livestock. However, the carcass must be brought to the Wildlife Department within 24 hours so biologists can examine it.
It’s been almost five years since that law changed and no hunter or anyone else has turned in a mountain lion to the Wildlife Department that they have shot and killed.
“That’s an indication of how many mountain lions there are out there,” Holmes said. “We have a lot of hunters out there.”
The Wildlife Department would like all mountain lion sightings be reported to the agency, Holmes said.
The mountain lion killed near Minco will be mounted by the Wildlife Department and likely used in some type of educational display, Holmes said.
Based on roadside surveys conducted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the bobwhite quail population is at an all-time low.
The severe drought has hurt all wildlife, but especially the bobwhite quail where the number of birds are rapidly diminishing.
Central Oklahoma Quail Forever members Laura McIver and James Dietsch will join me Friday during my online chat from the H&H Shooting Sports Complex to answer questions about the upcoming quail season, what has happened to the birds and what, if anything, can be done to try and restore them to healthy populations.
The online chat begins at 11:30 a.m. on NewsOk.com or you can come by and visit us in person at the H&H Shooting Sports Complex, near I-40 and Meridian.
The third annual Fish and Chips combination poker and bass tournament returns to Grand Lake on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
The unique team format will pair each professional angler with an amateur of their choice for two days of bass fishing. On Friday, the anglers’ only Texas Hold ‘Em poker tournament will be held at Downstream Resort Casino in Quapaw.
Weigh-ins during the bass tournament will be held at the casino beginning at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. Among the pros competing are Oklahoma pros Terry Butcher and Jeff Kriet, Dean Rojas, Rick Clunn, Kelly Jordan, Boyd Duckett, and Paul Elias.
Anglers will launch out of Martin Landings on Grand Lake at 9 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday. The tournament champion will be determined by points each team earns in the bass tournament and each pro earns in the poker tournament.
On Saturday, a separate Texas Hold ‘Em poker tournament will allow bass fishing fans play against the professional anglers.