I am sure the other reporters crowded around John Smith Sunday afternoon at Gallagher-Iba Arena wondered what the heck I was doing asking the Oklahoma State wrestling coach about his hunting seasons, but that’s what happens when editors send an outdoor writer to cover collegiate wrestling.
Smith is passionate about the outdoors and an avid hunter so I thought he might have some good hunting stories to share with me. It turns out he didn’t kill much this season.
“Pheasant, not many of them,” Smith said. “It was disappointing. But when you have that weather we had this summer it was a struggle for those birds to survive. But I got out several times. Just getting out is all I need, and see a few birds and maybe take a couple home, which I did. But it was a slow season.”
Smith did see a few coveys of quail on his pheasant hunts but didn’t kill many of those birds either.
“When you are pheasant hunting, you are just not quite ready for those quail,” he said. “You see a few of the pheasant get up, with a little slower reaction you can still get the bird, then all of a sudden a covey of quail breaks and you need to be a little faster. I felt like I was behind all day on the two or three (coveys) that we did have a chance.”
Smith also is a deer hunter but didn’t harvest a buck this season.
“I passed on several deer,” he said. “It was a good season though. I saw a lot of deer. It’s a healthy herd right now in Stillwater and Payne County.”
Unfortunately for Smith, the hunting and wrestling seasons overlap. Smith has to balance his time between hunting and coaching. He sometimes will pass on shooting a buck so he can get to wrestling practice on time.
“I just kind of judge it on my time,” he said. “If I see a deer in the morning, if I am able to take one pretty early, I got time to get it and clean it and take care of it,” he said. “But if it’s late, it’s got to be a special deer because that means I am going to be late for practice.”
Oklahoma’s Wildlife Director is urging the state’s congressional delegation to take action to protect the Lower Illinois trout fishery near Gore.
Richard Hatcher, director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, has asked Oklahoma’s senators and representatives to sponsor and pass federal legislation to ensure that the trout fishing stream will receive water from Tenkiller Lake when needed to keep fish alive.
Hatcher made the request this week in a letter addressed to U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa. The letter to Inhofe was also mailed to U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, and Oklahoma’s five representatives.
“The ODWC (Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation) requests your assistance in finding a viable long-term solution including, if necessary, sponsoring and passing congressional legislation to provide sufficient water storage in Tenkiller Reservoir to protect fisheries resources in the Lower Illinois River,” Hatcher writes.
State wildlife officials stopped stocking trout in the river for several weeks last year because of the lack of water releases from Tenkiller Lake. Many fish, both hatchery-raised trout and native species, died in the Lower Illinois River last year because of low dissolved oxygen levels in the water.
The Lower Illinois River is one of two year-round trout streams in the state. The Lower Mountain Fork River in McCurtain County is the other. That trout stream is entitled to water releases from Broken Bow Lake when necessary to ensure fishing opportunities are year-round.
The Wildlife Department has permanent water rights to sustain the Lower Mountain Fork River trout fishery through federal legislation.
Below is a copy of Hatcher’s letter to Oklahoma’s congressional delegation.
Dear Senator Inhofe:
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) has been directed by its governing body, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission, to seek solutions to water allocation issues currently impairing fisheries resources in the lower Illinois River in eastern Oklahoma.
As we have discussed with members of your staff, dissolved oxygen levels in the lower Illinois River are often well below state standards. Based on numerous studies, it is believed the lack of sufficient water releases from Tenkiller Dam contributes to the low dissolved oxygen levels resulting in numerous native fish species and trout being killed.
We have asked for cooperation from all interested parties, including the Tulsa District Corps of Engineers and the Southwestern Power Administration to assist in achieving a solution to this serious problem. The ODWC continues to work with these agencies on short term solutions.
It is also critical to begin the process of securing long-term solutions to protect these valuable fisheries resources. We believe an automated piping system at the Tenkiller Dam could provide a minimum sustained flow of water necessary to raise oxygen levels in the lower Illinois River to a satisfactory level.
Engineering plans for such a piping system have already been prepared. However, no water stored in Tenkiller Reservoir is currently allocated for this purpose.
The ODWC requests your assistance in finding a viable long-term solution including, if necessary, sponsoring and passing congressional legislation to provide sufficient water storage in Tenkiller Reservoir to protect fisheries resources in the lower Illinois River.
Winter is the best time for blue cat fishing in Oklahoma. Big blues are caught at twice the rate in the winter as they are in the summer.
That’s a fact that Andy Wilshire of Edmond does not need to be convinced of. While jug fishing for blue cats at Lake Texoma last weekend with three friends, they landed an 86-pound blue catfish.
“This is the biggest fish that any of us have ever seen, much less caught,” Wilshire said. “And odds are that this will be the biggest we catch or see for the rest of our lives.”
Wilshire, along with James Chapman of Blanchard and Conrad Cobb and Jacob Pressley, both of Arlington, Texas, were fishing an area about three miles west of the 377 bridge.
“We set our line of 20 jugs baited with fresh shad around 7:30 a.m. Saturday,” Wilshire said. “When we went to run the lines around 12:30 p.m. we noticed that the No. 2 jug was missing.
“We ran all the other jugs and then began looking for the missing jug. We found the jug about ½-mile north of where it was originally set. After a good battle with the fish on the jug, we finally pulled it into a boat.”
The anglers traveled back to Lake Texoma Marina to take pictures and weigh the fish, which they later released.
“Once in the water for a few minutes he became very lively again and we decided to let the trophy go to fight another day,” Wilshire said. “I hope by others seeing this and hearing our story that they will feel compelled to help the trophy blue cat population in our state by catching and releasing these beautiful beasts.”
Two years ago, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation issued a regulation where anglers could only keep one blue catfish 30 inches or longer per day. That limit was imposed to help protect the population of trophy blues like the 86-pounder.
“Those big fish are very old and kind of rare,” said Gene Gilliland, assistant chief of fisheries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
Blue catfish feed more though the winter than their cousins, channel cats and flathead catfish, and stay more active. They have become a popular wintertime pursuit for Oklahoma anglers.
Why do blue cats bite better in the winter?
“They school up a little tighter and I think the forage, the shad they are feeding on, tends to be a little more concentrated,” Gilliland said. “I think that is a big part of it. It’s just a matter of locating fish.”
Creel surveys show that several Oklahoma lakes have an abundance of blue catfish but they grow very slowly. That’s why state wildlife officials imposed the one-fish daily limit for blue cats 30 inches or longer. And if you think that is a big catfish, the biggest blue ever caught in the state was 118 pounds. It was also landed on a jug line at Lake Texoma in 1988.
The U.S. Postal Service salutes five kings of the sky with its new “Birds of Prey” stamps: the northern goshawk, peregrine falcon, golden eagle, osprey and northern harrier.
The 85-cent definitive Birds of Prey stamps are being issued in self-adhesive sheets of 20 at a price of $17.00 per sheet. The stamps can be used with virtually all domestic First-Class Mail weighing up to 3-ounces.
“The stamps went on sale Friday nationwide.. They can be ordered online at usps.com and by phone at 800-782-6724.
Birds of prey, also known as raptors, thrive in diverse habitats and live on every continent except Antarctica. The roughly 500 species of raptors include birds that hunt by day, such as falcons, eagles and harriers and birds that hunt by night — owls.
They share several common characteristics, such as being carnivorous and using their powerful talons to capture prey. Their exceptionally keen eyesight allows them to see small objects in detail, even from a great distance. As predators high on the food chain, raptors play an important role in maintaining the balance of nature.
Collectors have 60 days to obtain the first-day-of-issue postmark by mail.
Blue River trout start getting a little larger beginning Thursday as state wildlife officials begin stocking the river with Missouri-raised rainbows.
Up until now, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation had been putting fish in the river that the agency receives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Those fish come from an Arkansas hatchery and are free to the state.
Beginning Thursday, the state will begin stocking the rainbows that it buys from Missouri and those fish are a little bigger than their Arkansas counterparts.
The Wildlife Department’s contract with the Missouri hatchery calls for 12 to 14-inch trout with 10 percent more than 14 inches long, so there should be some 2- and 3-pounders calling the Blue Rive home on Thursday.
Blue River is one of my favorite fishing holes in the state.
As I have written before, if you were to put on a blindfold and get dropped at the Blue River, you likely wouldn’t believe you were in south-central Oklahoma when the blindfold was removed.
The Blue River looks like a trout stream you would find in Colorado, New Mexico or Arkansas.
The Blue is a swift, clear, braided stream that arises in Johnston County from the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer, a giant underground water source.
The headwaters of the spring-fed Blue are southwest of Ada. The stream continues until it flows in the Red River in southeast Bryan County.
However, the river is most scenic along the 6 ¼- mile stretch through the Blue River Public Hunting and Fishing Area near Tishomingo.
Here, the granite rocks of the Arbuckle outcrop come to the surface and the river is energized.
Along these six miles, the river transforms from a sluggish, meandering stream to cascading water that forks through granite and limestone formations.
Matt Gamble is the state’s fishing biologist for the Blue River and gets to live there. With the weather being warmer than usual for January, it’s been a busy trout season on the Blue River.
In fact, the week between Christmas and New Year’s was as busy as Gamble can remember.
“On New Year’s, you almost couldn’t find a spot to fish,” he said. “People have really been getting out and taking advantage of the good weather.”
Gamble reports the trout fishing has been good lately with fly fishermen catching rainbows on brown woolly buggers, egg patterns, elk hair caddis fly pattern and some midge activity late in the evening.
For the non-fly anglers, small spoons and spinners have been successful but most fishermen are catching their trout on garlic-scented Powerbaits, he said.
The Blue River is normally busy with visitors on weekends but anglers still should be able to find some water to themselves, Gamble said. You certainly will not be fighting a crowd on a weekday fishing trip, he said.
Last week, state wildlife officials also stocked the river’s only catch and release for the final time. The catch and release only area of the river is on the far north portion of the stream.
“It’s been fishing well,” Gamble said of the catch and release area. ”Guys have been having good success up there.”
The trout season on the Blue River continues through the end of March. On Feb. 18-19, the weekend of President’s Day, there will be a trout derby on the river.
Who says Friday the 13th is unlucky?
It wasn’t for Terry Redus of McLoud who bagged this beautiful buck with a bow on Jan. 13 on his lease in Logan County.
It is Redus’ biggest deer with a bow and a buck he had been hunting for two years.
“Can’t wait for next season,” Redus wrote in an email. “Got trail cam pics of his son, an 8-point that’s as big if not bigger.”
Sunday (Jan. 15) was the final day of the deer archery season in Oklahoma.
The state’s deer harvest is expected to be slightly down this season from a year ago, according to Alan Peoples, head of wildife division for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
But it will be months before state wildlife officials will have the numbers totaled.
Public meetings on proposed changes in the state’s hunting and fishing regulations are scheduled Tuesday (Jan. 10) in Poteau and Oklahoma City.
The Oklahoma City meeting will be at the headquarters of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, 1801 N. Lincoln Boulevard.
The meeting in Poteau will be at the Kiamichi Technology Center. Both begin at 7 p.m.
There also will be a town hall meeting in Antlers on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Wildlife Heritage Center where the hot topic of discussion is expected to be about the Honobia Creek Wildlife Management Area.
Restricting ATVs to established roads only on the Honobia Creek WMA is one of the proposed regulation changes the Wildlife Department is wanting to implement.
Ending off-roading on Honobia Creek has angered many recreational riders and businesses in the area who profit from the tourism.
Alan Peoples, head of the wildlife division for the state Wildlife Department said, the three timber investment groups that own Honobia Creek want to restrict ATVs to established roads only because of the damage they are causing to the land.
Off-roading already has been restricted at the nearby Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area and the new agreement with the landowners for public use of Honobia Creek calls for the same.
“If we don’t adhere to that agreement, we will lose use of the land entirely,” Peoples said.
Sportsmen have through Friday (Jan. 13) to comment on any of the proposed changes online at www.wildlifedepartment.com.
Other proposed rule changes to the state’s hunting and fishing regulations are:
- To make it unlawful to bait wildlife on all of the state’s wildlife management areas
- To change the bear archery season to Oct. 1 through the third Sunday in October and eliminate the 20-bear total quota for bear archery season
- To set the statewide daily limit of striped bass at five, except at Lake Texoma
- To eliminate daily harvest limits on furbearers so that only season limits apply.
- To make it legal to harvest two does during the deer youth gun season. The bag limit is currently one antlered deer and one antlerless deer. The total number of deer taken would remain two per hunter.
The Washita National Wildlife Refuge near Butler will host a wildlife viewing tour on Jan. 14.
People will have opportunities to view bald eagles, migratory waterfowl and deer in areas of the refuge that are ordinarily not open to the public.
Spotting scopes will be available for wildlife watching, but participants are encouraged to bring their own binoculars and/or spotting scopes as well.
Tour participants are also reminded to dress appropriately for January weather in western Oklahoma.
The tour group will caravan to the viewing areas from the headquarters in their own vehicles.
Contact the refuge for directions or check http://washita.fws.gov or call the refuge at (580) 664-2205 for more information.
Washita Refuge is home to a number of migratory and resident wildlife species, and is a wintering home for bald eagles. These birds of prey feed on fish from Foss Reservoir and geese from neighboring fields, and are often seen in trees along the lake shore.
Between 50,000 and 100,000 geese usually spend the winter on the refuge each year. Canada, white-fronted, snow, and Ross’s geese begin arriving in late October each year.
A record number of 144,971 geese were recorded at the refuge on November 21.
Some of these birds will continue their southern migration as the winter weather turns colder and wheat fields are eaten bare – but some will remain on the refuge until spring, when they begin their migration to nesting grounds in the northern United States and Canada.
These birds graze in the wheat fields, both on and off the refuge, close to the lake. About 2,000 acres of the refuge are planted in wheat annually to provide food for the geese.
White-tailed deer, coyotes, bobcats and other resident species are also abundant on the refuge.
If you ever wanted to question the chief of the wildlife division for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, you will get your chance Friday on NewsOk.com.
Alan Peoples, head of the wildlife division for the Wildlife Department, will join me at the H&H Shooting Sports Complex Friday at 11:30 a.m. for an online chat.
Log on to NewsOk.com and go to the Outdoors page to join the 30-minute discussion about all things outdoors.
Among the topics will be the proposed changes in the current hunting regulations and the agency’s quail research project now underway, but you are welcome to ask whatever you want.
The public comment period on the new hunting regulation proposals end Jan. 13. The most controversial new hunting regulation proposals involve bear hunting and the baiting of wildlife on public wildlife management areas.
The Wildlife Department wants to eliminate its 20-bear quota for the bear archery season and hold a three-week archery season with no limit on the total number of bears that can be killed. For the past two years, the bear archery season lasted just two days or less because hunters killed a total of 20 bears that quickly.
After the archery season, a 20-bear quota would be in effect for the bear muzzleloader season that follows. The Wildlife Department also wants to eliminate all baiting of wildlife on the state’s public hunting areas.
Log on to NewsOk.com Friday at 11:30 a.m. to join the online chat to see what Peoples has to say about the proposals.