Wildlife and Anglers
Oklahoma has a new smallmouth buffalo state record! Jeff Olinger from Sand Springs caught the 47 lb., 10 oz. record in Chimney Rock Lake on Sunday.
Hefner: December 17. Elevation below normal, water 45-48 and clear. White bass and striped bass hybrids good on grubs at 15-25 ft. along riprap and the dam. Walleye good on jerk bait and grubs at 3-10 ft. along riprap. Crappie good on minnows and jigs at 15-25 ft. along riprap. Channel catfish fair on cut bait at 20 ft. along riprap. Report submitted by Lucky Lure Tackle.
Ft. Gibson: December 12. Elevation above normal, water 47 and clear. Crappie fair on minnows and jigs at 18 ft. around docks and brush structure. White bass, channel and blue catfish fair on shad in the river channel and main lake. Largemouth bass slow on plastic baits and crankbaits at 15 ft. around brush structure and docks. Report submitted by Rick Stafford.
Kaw: December 17. Elevation rising, water 45 and clear. Crappie excellent on minnows and jigs at 18025 ft. around brush structure, riprap, water towers and bridges around Kaw City. Report submitted by Spencer Grace, game warden stationed in Kay County
Lower Illinois: December 15. Elevation normal, water 55. Trout good on Power Bait and jerk bait below the dam just past the split, around deep holes and below riffles. Report submitted by Jeremy Bersche, game warden stationed in Sequoyah County.
McMurtry: December 15. Elevation below normal, water murky. Largemouth bass fair on minnows, jigs and spinnerbaits at 3-8 ft. along docks, shorelines and brush structure. Crappie good on minnows and jigs at 4-10 ft. around docks. Report submitted by Jared Avilez, Park Operations Manager at Lake McMurtry.
Perry CCC: December 15. Elevation below normal, water murky. With the water level down there is good bank access. Trout good on spinnerbaits along coves and shorelines. Report submitted by Doug Gottschalk, game warden stationed in Noble County.
Arbuckle: December 13. Elevation 10 ft. below normal, water 51 and clear in the main lake and stained in the creeks. White bass excellent on chrome CC spoons, slabs, Alabama rigs and crankbaits at 8-45 ft. along creek channels and the main lake. Crappie fair on jigs, grubs and minnows around brush at 10-45 ft. and on 1/4 oz. CC spoons at 10-45 ft. along drop-offs in creek channels. Largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass fair on Alabama rigs, tube jigs, jigs and jerk baits at 5-18 ft. around brush structure, creek channels and rocks. Report submitted by Jack Melton.
Eufaula: December 14. Elevation 4 ft. below normal, water clear. Largemouth bass slow. White bass slow. Blue catfish fair on shad along shallow flats. Crappie fair on minnows and jigs around boat docks with brush and standing timber. Report submitted by Ed Rodebush, game warden stationed in McIntosh County.
Texoma: December 14. Elevation below normal, water 62 and clear. Largemouth and smallmouth bass fair on plastic baits, jigs and crankbaits at 15-20 ft. around points and creek channels. Striped and white bass fair on sassy shad, slabs and live shad at 15-30 ft. in the main lake and the river channel. Channel and blue catfish fair on live bait, stinkbait and worms at 10-20 ft. along creek channels, riprap and the main lake. Crappie and sunfish fair on minnows and tube jigs at 5-10 ft. around docks and brush structure. Report submitted by Danny Club, game warden stationed in Bryan County.
Attend a bald eagle watch this winter for a chance to see eagles and learn about the life history and recovery story of our nation's symbol.
Each winter, large numbers of migrant eagles congregate at our lakes and rivers to hunt fish and other prey. Several private groups and state and federal agencies are taking advantage of this annual migration by hosting public eagle watches. Over 30 dates have been set for this winter at several eagle watching hotspots. Most watches are held in January when the Oklahoma bald eagle population is at its peak.
Log on to wildlifedepartment.com for a compiled list of watch dates, locations and contact information. Be sure to contact the individual watch host for more information including any registration requirements.
Doug Kliewer submitted this photo of a bald eagle with its catch to "Outdoor Oklahoma" magazine's Reader's Photography Showcase. Learn more about the annual showcase at wildlifedepartment.com
Deer gun hunters will have one more opportunity to harvest a white-tailed deer in Oklahoma this winter during the Holiday Antlerless Deer Gun Season, which will run from Dec. 19-28 in specified open areas.
And in the gift-giving spirit of the season, any antlerless deer taken during those 10 days is considered a bonus deer and does not count against a hunter's combined deer season limit.
Resident hunters who plan to participate in the Holiday Antlerless Deer Gun Season must have an appropriate hunting license and a Holiday Antlerless Deer License, unless exempt. Nonresident hunters must have a Nonresident Deer Gun License. Unfilled licenses from the previous Youth Deer Gun, Deer Muzzleloader or Deer Gun seasons are not valid for the Holiday Antlerless Deer Gun Season.
The Holiday Antlerless Deer Gun Season will be open in eight of the state's 10 Antlerless Deer Zones. Closed areas include the Oklahoma Panhandle west of U.S. 83, and most of southeastern Oklahoma. Also, many wildlife management areas are closed to Holiday Antlerless Deer Gun Season. For open areas, consult the public hunting area listings and the zone map on page 22 of the current "Oklahoma Hunting" regulations guide.
Additional doe harvest helps accomplish several important deer management benefits, said Erik Bartholomew, big-game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Some of those benefits are improvement of the buck-to-doe ratio for a more healthy herd structure; preventing localized overpopulation of does; reducing competition for forage to promote greater antler growth in bucks; reducing the potential for deer/vehicle collisions; and lessening the extent of potential crop depredation for landowners.
This is the first year that a Holiday Antlerless Elk Gun Season will be held on private lands in all elk zones except the Special Southwest Zone. This season will be Dec. 19-28 only in zones where harvest quotas have not yet been met. Hunters who plan to pursue antlerless elk from Dec. 19-28 may use any unfilled elk license from the previous elk firearms seasons or buy a resident or nonresident elk license. Elk taken during this holiday season will count toward the hunter's combined season limit, so any hunter who already has harvested a combined season limit is not eligible to participate in the holiday season. And zone quotas remain in effect, so any hunter planning to pursue elk must first check the status of the elk harvest quota at wildlifedepartment.com before going afield.
Season dates vary in the Special Southwest Zone (all private lands in Caddo, Comanche and Kiowa counties) for Elk Gun (Dec. 18-21) and Additional Antlerless Elk (Jan. 1-31, 2015) hunting seasons. For details, see the current "Oklahoma Hunting" regulations guide online at wildlifedepartment.com or in print where hunting and fishing licenses are sold.
In addition, Deer Archery and Elk Archery seasons remain open until Jan. 15.
All hunters are reminded that wearing hunter orange clothing is required during any open deer, elk, bear or antelope firearms season. Only hunters pursuing waterfowl, crane or crow, or while hunting furbearing animals at night, are exempt from hunter orange requirements. Hunters also are required to check-in all harvested elk and deer using the online E-Check system within 24 hours of leaving the hunt area.
Hunting licenses, deer licenses and elk licenses are sold by vendors statewide or online on the license sales page at wildlifedepartment.com. For additional regulations and information, see the current "Oklahoma Hunting" regulations guide online at wildlifedepartment.com or in print where hunting and fishing licenses are sold.
The Holiday Antlerless Deer Gun Season will give hunters one more opportunity this year to harvest an antlerless deer with firearms in open zones. (Photo by Don P. Brown)
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and Friends of Hackberry Flat are celebrating Christmas with a new exhibit featuring the wildlife photography of Bill Adams. Visitors are invited to the Hackberry Flat Center, south of Frederick, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 13, for the photography exhibit and open house. The event is free and refreshments will be provided.
The exhibit will showcase images Adams has captured during several visits to Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area. Adams, from Duncan, will be on hand to share tips and experiences with budding photographers and wildlife enthusiasts.
The open house will not only celebrate Adams' camerawork but also present a photographic "Year in Review" highlighting various school programs, events and activities on Hackberry Flat WMA. Hands-on activities for children will be provided.
The Hackberry Flat Center offers amenities for visitors, a meeting facility for events, outdoor classrooms for school children and programs to help develop outdoor skills. Planned programs for 2015 include a star party in January, a raptor program in February, Hackberry Flat Day in April, a nighttime nature program in August and monarch watching event in October. Go to wildlifedepartment.com for more information.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2015, Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area is a 7,120-acre wildlife oasis of wetland and upland habitats near Frederick in southwestern Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, along with many conservation-minded sponsors, restored this legendary wetland to create a refuge of millet, sedges and smartweed for prairie waterfowl, shorebirds and other wetland-dependent birds. Upland areas of native grasses and forbs interspersed with mesquite, hackberry and sand plums have become one of the state's premier dove-hunting destinations. Anyone seeking quality outdoor recreation can satisfy their craving at Hackberry Flat WMA.
To get to the Hackberry Flat Center, from Frederick, take U.S. 183 south for one mile, then go east on Airport Road for three miles. Follow the blacktop road south, and continue six miles. Watch for signs to the center.
Elk hunting season in the Southwest Zone is now closed. The zone quota of five harvested elk was met Wednesday. This closure brings to three the number of Oklahoma's seven private-lands hunting zones that are now closed to elk hunting.
Elk season quotas have yet to be met on private lands in the other three zones with quotas: Northeast, Northwest and Panhandle. Elk hunting seasons continue in those zones, along with the Special Southwest Zone, as outlined in the "Oklahoma Hunting" regulations guide.
The status of elk harvest quotas is updated daily on the elk quota page online at wildlifedepartment.com. Hunters must check the harvest quota status before going afield to ensure the season remains open for the zone in which they intend to hunt.
Signup is now open for the Illinois River Fly Fishing School, which has become one of the most popular fishing education workshops held each year in Oklahoma. The 2015 session will be Feb. 20-21 at Tenkiller State Park and on the banks of the Illinois River.
Traditional fly fishing is the preferred method of angling for trout stream fishing. This basic course will feature sessions on tackle and gear, knots, flies, fly selection and casting techniques. On Saturday afternoon, participants receive on-stream instruction. Fly rods will be available for loan on Saturday. A state fishing license is not required for students during course instruction.
Instructors will be Mark Patton and Tom Adams. Patton Fly Fishing has been offering this course for 27 years, and early registration is suggested to ensure a spot.
Participants should bring a hat, sunglasses, rain gear, flashlight, alarm clock and appropriate clothing for Saturday's outdoor session. If available, participants are urged to also bring their own equipment including rod and reel, flies, 3X leader and waders.
A welcome session and orientation will begin at 8 p.m. Friday, with indoor sessions from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, followed by actual fishing instruction on the Illinois River. A fly selection and discussion session will begin at 7 p.m. after dinner break.
Course fee is $150. An additional $35 provides three meals, drinks and snacks. Lodging is available separately through Tenkiller State Park at (918) 489-5643. For more information or to enroll, call (405) 340-1992.
Hefner: November 3. Elevation below normal, water 66-68 and clear. Blue and channel catfish good on cut bait at 15-20 ft. along riprap. Walleye good on gay blades and grubs at 3-6 ft. along riprap and shorelines. White bass and striped bass hybrids good on grubs and jigs at 6-12 ft. along riprap and shorelines. Crappie good on minnows and jigs at 15-20 ft. along riprap and on a slip cork suspended at 15 ft. in 20-25 ft. of water. Report submitted by Lucky Lure Tackle.
Wes Watkins: November 3. Elevation below normal. Crappie slow on minnows around standing timber. Largemouth bass slow on crankbaits in coves. Report submitted by Mike France, game warden stationed in Pottawatomie County.
Heather Jones shared this picture of a recent fishing trip her family took in northeastern Oklahoma.
Ft. Gibson: November 4. Elevation above normal, water 69 and clear. White bass fair on crankbaits, spinnerbaits and in-line spinnerbaits in white or silver at 6-10 ft. in the main lake and around points. Blue catfish good on worms and cut bait in the main lake, flats and creek channels. Report submitted by Rick Stafford.
Kaw: November 3. Elevation below normal, water 68. Crappie and white bass good on minnows and jigs t 12-20 ft. along brush structure and riprap. Report submitted by Spencer Grace, game warden stationed in Kay County.
Keystone: October 4. Elevation below normal, water 64. White and striped bass good on jigs around windy points. Blue catfish fair on cut bait in channels. Report submitted by Karlin Bailey, game warden stationed in Creek County.
Lower Illinois: November 2. Elevation normal, water 55-60 and clear. Trout good on in-line spinnerbaits, Power Bait and small Rapalas shallow in the tailwaters, below the dam and channel along the Watts area early and late. Report submitted by Jeremy Bersche, game warden stationed in Sequoyah County.
McMurtry: November 4. Elevation below normal, water 60 and murky. Crappie good on jigs, tube jigs and minnows at 6-12 ft. around docks, points and standing timber. Channel catfish fair on chicken liver, minnows, shad and punch bait at 5-15 ft. in creek channels and docks. Report submitted by Jared Avilez, Park Operations Manager at Lake McMurtry.
Oologah: November 2. Elevation above normal, water 65 and murky. Blue and channel catfish fair on shad on bottom below the dam. Report submitted by Brek Henry, game warden stationed in Rogers County.
Skiatook: November 3. Elevation below normal, water clear. Crappie fair on minnows and jigs at 10-20 ft. around brush structure. Report submitted by Paul Welch, game warden stationed in Osage County.
Tenkiller: November 3. Elevation 1 ft. below normal, water 68 and clear. Largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass slow on crankbaits, plastic baits and spinnerbaits at 3-15 ft. in creek channels, the main lake and around points. Crappie fair on minnows and tube jigs at 10-15 ft. around docks and brush structure. Channel, blue and flathead catfish fair on punch bait at 20-25 ft. and flip-flops and juglines baited with cut bait at 25-40 ft. around points and river channel. Report submitted by Monte Brooks of Cookson, OK.
Arbuckle: November 1. Elevation below normal, water 71 and clear in the main lake and stained in the creeks. Largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass slow on crankbaits, spinnerbaits and jigs at 2-15 ft. along brush structure, creek channels, points, rocks and ledges. Crappie and sunfish fair on minnows, crankbaits and chartreuse/pearl wiggle tail jigs at 7-33 ft. around brush structure, the main lake, creek channels and state brush piles; some bigger crappie being caught on crankbaits and small 1/4 oz. chrome spoons. White bass fair on jigs, spoons and slabs along creek channels and riprap. Report submitted by Jack Melton.
Eufaula: November 2. Elevation 2 1/2 ft. below normal, water clear. Largemouth bass fair on crankbaits and plastic baits flipping boat docks and around points. White bass fair on crankbaits and jigs around windy points. Blue catfish fair on shallow flats. Crappie fair on minnows and jigs around standing timber, boat docks with brush and riprap. Report submitted by Ed Rodebush, game warden stationed in McIntosh County.
Robert S. Kerr: November 4. Elevation normal, water 83. Blue, channel and flathead catfish good on cut bait, shad and shrimp in the main lake, along flats and the river channel. Largemouth, spotted and white bass fair on Alabama rigs and bill baits along riprap and points. Crappie fair on minnows along rocks and in the main lake. Report submitted by Allen Couch, game warden stationed in Haskell County.
Texoma: November 2. Elevation 7 ft. below normal, water 74 and clear. Largemouth and smallmouth bass good on crankbaits, plastic baits and spinnerbaits at 10-20 ft. along creek channels, brush structure and points. Striped and white bass good on live shad, sassy 10-25 ft. in the main lake, river channel and points. Channel and blue catfish good on live bait, worms, stinkbait and cut bait at 10-20 ft. along creek channels, riprap and coves. Crappie and sunfish fair on minnows, tube jigs and small lures at 10-15 ft. around docks, brush structure and creek channels. Report submitted by Danny Clubb, game warden stationed in Bryan County.
Tom Steed: November 3. Elevation below normal, water 55. Blue and channel catfish slow on cut bait and stinkbait on bottom along flats and standing timber. Striped bass hybrids and saugeye slow on live shad, cut bait and minnows at 5-8 f.t in the main lake and shorelines. Report submitted by David Smith, game warden stationed in Kiowa County.
Hunters who take a deer this season in Oklahoma are required by law to check in their harvest using the online E-Check system at wildlifedepartment.com. Those who choose to break the law are risking hefty fines and the loss of their hunting or fishing privileges not only in Oklahoma, but also in most every other state in the nation.
"The Wildlife Department's law enforcement division is putting special emphasis on enforcing the requirement for hunters to check in their harvest," said Bill Hale, assistant chief of law enforcement. "This is a top priority for the Department.
"If you get caught not checking your harvest, the fine just for illegally possessing wildlife and the restitution could be in the thousands of dollars," Hale said. "And you would also be in violation of the E-Check requirements, which would add more in fines.
"Also, you could easily have your hunting licenses suspended if you are convicted of failing to use E-Check," Hale said. Oklahoma is a member of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, which means that anyone convicted here of a game law violation could lose hunting and fishing privileges in all 44 Compact member states.
State wildlife law requires anyone who takes a deer, elk, turkey or paddlefish to check in their harvest within 24 hours of leaving the hunting or fishing area, and in all cases prior to processing the carcass. Hunters and anglers, or anyone acting on their behalf, must go online to wildlifedepartment.com and check in their harvest using the E-Check system. Anyone with a computer, smartphone or mobile device with access to the Internet may use the E-Check system. To view a video on how to use the E-Check system, go to youtube.com/OutdoorOklahoma and search for "online checking."
The Wildlife Department converted to the E-Check system in 2013 because of the many benefits it has for the Department and for the state's hunters and anglers. Those benefits include:
Harvest information that hunters report via E-Check is important in helping Wildlife Department biologists make the best management decisions to safeguard the state's natural resources for current and future generations.
E-Check provides 24-hour convenience to sportsmen, saving them money by not having to find an open check station.
The Department saves money because it no longer must send biologists or technicians to physical check stations to collect data.
The online database allows for "real time" analysis of harvest numbers.
Instant searchable information aids efficiency in law enforcement activities.
Hunters get a confirmation number immediately, which is then used in field-tagging the animal.
But not only is E-Check beneficial to the sportsman and the Department, it's also the law, said Robert Fleenor, chief of law enforcement for the Wildlife Department.
"Evading E-Check might appear to be easy, but it's actually harder than ever to get away with it. The E-Check system provides immediate information, and it's searchable by our game wardens.
"Just don't take that risk of getting caught, having your license suspended, and having to pay what could be several thousand dollars in fines," Fleenor said.
"Anyone who does not check in their harvest is actually harming the resources that belong to you and me. This person could be jeopardizing the future for all hunters and outdoorsmen," Fleenor said. "If you know of someone who is not abiding by the law, please report it to us."
Report game law violations by calling Operation Game Thief toll-free at (800) 522-8039. Callers can remain anonymous and might be eligible for a cash reward if the violator is convicted. Reports can also be made to the Wildlife Department's law enforcement division at (405) 521-3719 or your local game warden.
Using the online E-Check system is easy. Go to wildlifedepartment.com, and click on the E-Check link that is indicated by the red arrow in this screenshot.
Oct. 17 is the day many young hunters are awaiting. That Friday will be opening day for this year's three-day youth deer gun season for hunters 17 and younger.
"This year's youth deer gun season has the potential to be a great one," said Erik Bartholomew, big-game biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The fact that this season happens earlier in the year than other seasons is often a benefit for youth hunters.
"The youth deer gun season is set up so that kids can have a good time in the field. Deer are still in their summer feeding routines and are easy to pattern. And temperatures in October tend to be mild, and that makes for a more comfortable hunt," he said.
"Since the deer aren't moving as much as they would be during the rut, the kids should have a good chance to set up on a known area and get an opportunity to harvest a deer."
The youth season is open to hunters 17 and younger who are accompanied in the field by an adult who is 18 or older. The adult is permitted to archery hunt while accompanying the youth hunter, but the adult may not hunt with a firearm.
Youths have generally had good success during this early season, which is a testament to the mentors who are taking the youths hunting, allowing them be successful.
Bartholomew urged mentors to take the youth hunters to scout out hunting areas before heading out on opening day.
"This is a fun way to get your kids outside and to learn about deer hunting. Take them scouting, and make it an experience.
"Point out the tracks, drop-pings, scrapes and rubs. Let them help you set up a blind, cut brush and conceal it. Make it a chance for them to learn about your passion for deer hunting!"
As the parent of a young deer hunter, Bartholomew offered some tips from experience. "Make sure that you bring plenty of snacks and drinks to keep kids happy. I know snacks are important!
"Also consider that the kids can move around a lot. Ground blinds are great for kids because they can mask a lot of movement that might otherwise spook the deer.
"Make sure that you practice scenarios with a young hunter, such as shot placement and shooting from a blind. This will help those young hunters have success. And for them, success means they will want to do it again!
"Remember, it is about passing on the traditions that we as adults enjoy so that they can do so in the future."
Youth hunters may harvest two deer during youth deer gun season, and one of those may be antlered. A deer license is required for each deer hunted, which means youth hunters wanting to harvest two deer can buy three deer licenses (one antlered and two antlerless) to maximize their opportunity. Additionally, resident youth hunters who do not harvest a deer during the youth deer gun season may use their unfilled youth deer gun license during the regular deer gun season. Hunters who do harvest a deer during the youth deer gun season may buy another youth deer gun license and harvest a deer during the regular gun season.
In specified counties, youth hunters may also harvest a turkey during youth deer gun season, provided they have the appropriate fall turkey license. See the "Oklahoma Hunting" regulations guide for details.
Deer taken by hunters participating in youth deer gun season are included in the hunter's combined season limit (six deer, of which no more than two may be antlered). If a youth harvests a buck during the youth deer gun season, that youth can harvest another buck during either the regular gun season, archery season or muzzleloader season, for an overall total of two.
Oklahoma youths 15 and younger are exempt from the purchase of a hunting license but must possess a youth deer gun license or apprentice-designated youth deer gun license or proof of exemption.
Residents who are 16 or 17 years old must possess a hunting license or proof of exemption, plus a youth deer gun license for each deer hunted. A $5 youth hunting license or a $9 youth combination hunting and fishing license is available to 16 and 17-year-old residents, and resident youth deer gun licenses are $10.
Youths can hunt with an apprentice-designated hunting license as long as they are accompanied by a licensed hunter who is 18 or older and hunter education certified or exempt from certification. For complete details on the apprentice-designated hunting license, consult page 11 of the current "Oklahoma Hunting" regulations guide.
For complete information on youth deer gun season regulations, consult the current "Oklahoma Hunting" regulations guide online at wildlifedepartment.com, or in print at any hunting or fishing license vendor statewide.
Youth deer gun season for 2014 will open Friday, Oct. 17. Mom points out a potential target to her daughter from their stand during Youth Deer Gun Season. Youth hunters 17 and younger will have the first shot to harvest a deer with a firearm during this season from Oct. 17-19, 2014. (wildlifedepartment.com)
Elk season is now closed in two of Oklahoma's seven private-lands hunting zones. As of Monday, hunters in the Southeast Zone had harvested the season quota of five elk, and hunters in the Special Northwest Zone had harvested the season quota of two elk. Elk archery season remains open on private lands in the other five zones; Northeast, Northwest, Panhandle, Southwest and Special Southwest zones.
The status of elk harvest quotas is updated daily online at wildlifedepartment.com. Hunters must check the harvest quota status before going afield to ensure the season remains open for the zone in which they intend to hunt.