OK: Wildlife law enforcement and education efforts receive a boost from SCI

Safari Club International (SCI) is known for supporting
conservation and sportsmen, including their Oklahoma Station
Chapter’s generous support for many initiatives of the Oklahoma
Department of Wildlife Conservation. Their most recent contribution
to Oklahoma sportsmen is a $25,000 commitment to the Department’s
Operation Game Thief program in the form of $15,000 over three
years from the Oklahoma Station Chapter and $10,000 over two years
from the national chapter. The donation will be used by the
Operation Game Thief program to emphasize education of young and
adult Oklahomans in the importance of game laws to the future of
wildlife and hunting in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission voted to accept a
$10,000 portion of that amount at its April meeting, which will be
used to build an Operation Game Thief exhibit trailer for
displaying deer antlers and taxidermy confiscated from poachers by
the Wildlife Department. The trailers will be used at events across
the state to educate Oklahomans about game laws.

SCI’s active Oklahoma Station Chapter held its 26th Annual Awards
Banquet and Charity Fundraiser on March 5 at the National Cowboy
and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. This premier event
was a sell-out, attended by over 500 sportsmen and women; and it
featured a live auction where bidders bought guided hunts around
the globe, ranging from waterfowl hunts in Oklahoma and a variety
of whitetail deer hunts in several states and Canada to big game
hunts in Africa, Europe, the South Pacific, and South America, and
fishing trips from Alaska to Patagonia. Other auction items
included beautiful bronze wildlife sculptures and other outdoor
art, items especially for ladies, firearms, hunting gear and much
more.

“This was a heart-warming turnout of Oklahoma sportsmen and women
and many of their out-of-state friends,” said Mike Mistelske,
retiring president of SCI’s Oklahoma Station Chapter. “We were
literally sold out weeks in advance – a first in the 26-year
history of this event – and a testimony to the strong commitment of
today’s Oklahoma hunters to continuing our hunting heritage.
Funding from this one event is largely what enables us to support
ODWC projects throughout the year, and that so many Oklahomans
turned out for our banquet and auction bodes well for our future.
We are already planning the 2012 event, again at the National
Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum the first Saturday in
March.”

The Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International offers
support and funding to many local conservation efforts that benefit
the sportsmen and wildlife of Oklahoma. The chapter is a major
supporter of many projects conducted by the Oklahoma Department of
Wildlife Conservation, including the Hunters Against Hunger program
that coordinates the annual distribution of over 30,000 of pounds
of venison to needy families; the Wildlife Department’s Oklahoma
Wildlife Expo, which educates tens of thousands of Oklahomans each
year on the value of wildlife and the outdoors to quality of life
in Oklahoma; and the Department’s Shotgun Training Education
Program (STEP), which introduces both youth and adults to shotgun
shooting techniques and the proper handling of firearms.

For more information on the Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club
International, log on to oklahomastationsci.org.

The Commission also voted to set new dates for the state’s antelope
archery season.

This fall, the antelope archery season will start Oct. 1 and will
run for 14 days, whereas the season had previously been held in
September.

According to Alan Peoples, chief of wildlife for the Wildlife
Department, the state has always had antelope in the Panhandle and
the Wildlife Department works to provide maximum hunting
opportunities. Like with elk in southwest Oklahoma, the Department
works with landowners in antelope-populated areas of the Panhandle
to address depredation concerns.

Up until 2009, antelope hunting in Oklahoma had been limited to
those offered through the Wildlife Department’s controlled hunts
program, in which a select number of hunters are drawn for an
antelope hunt, or through a limited number of landowner permits.
Antelope hunts drawn through the controlled hunts program are
“once-in-a-lifetime” rifle hunts, meaning that once a hunter draws
out for the hunt, they become ineligible for future controlled
antelope hunts. But in 2009, the first over-the-counter antelope
licenses were sold for a 14-day archery season that did not require
hunters to be drawn to hunt and that hunters could participate in
year after year. The season was held before the completion of some
of the once-in-a-lifetime hunts.

While the open archery season hunts have been successful,
landowners and constituents have requested that the Wildlife
Department move the archery season back to allow hunters who draw
the once-in-a-lifetime controlled hunts the first chance to go
afield.

The Wildlife Department actively monitors its antelope herd. Recent
aerial counts have shown as many as 3,100 antelope in the hunt
area, and hunters harvested only 257 antelope last year.

“We’re harvesting less than 10 percent of our antelope herd,”
Peoples said. “And our antelope herd is doing great.”

According to Peoples, up to 20 percent of the herd could be
harvested annually without concerns.

To learn more about antelope hunting in Oklahoma, log on to
wildlifedepartment.com.

In other business, the Commission approved a memorandum of
agreement with the University of Central Oklahoma to continue the
Project WILD program. Project WILD is a wildlife-based conservation
and environmental education program that was conducted by the
Wildlife Department for more than 20 years and has been operated by
UCO, with funding from the Wildlife Department, for the past three
years.

“In those three years, we’ve seen the program grow,” said Mark
Herrin, assistant vice president of wellness and sport at
UCO.

Herrin said the program has been incorporated into the academic
curriculum of college students who are studying to become
educators.

“We’re actually training the teachers now before they go into the
field, and we think that is a real plus,” he said. “In addition to
that, we are continuing to work with teachers who are already in
the classroom. This is another opportunity for them to bring a
cutting edge program to the classroom.”

The Commission also voted to support the concept of a partnership
with the Medicine Park Museum of Natural Sciences in southwest
Oklahoma. The Medicine Park Museum of Natural Sciences is a native
wildlife zoo, aquarium and botanical gardens scheduled to open in
2012 or 2013 at Medicine Park. The museum is expected to become a
component of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge eco-tourism
appeal as well as a supplement to education in southwest Oklahoma
and family destination. The future site of the museum will be
located on Hwy 49 near the entrance to the Wichita Mountains
Wildlife Refuge.

“Our mission is conservation through education, bringing people,
nature and science together,” said Doug Kemper, executive director
for the museum.

The museum will focus on educating visitors about conservation
through living exhibits, wildlife biology, hands-on activities,
global issues and more in a rustic southwest Oklahoma
setting.

The Wildlife Department will most likely provide funding for
construction of exhibits at the museum focusing on the mission of
the Wildlife Department and in-kind services for the museum.

The Commission also voted to approve a two-year extension on its
May 2008 resolution to close to the waters of the state to
commercial turtle harvest. The moratorium had been put in place to
allow researchers at Southeastern Oklahoma State and at Oklahoma
State universities to investigate impacts of commercial harvest in
Oklahoma.

The Commission also heard a presentation from Colin Berg,
information and education supervisor for the Wildlife Department,
on the agency’s various education programs such as Oklahoma
National Archery in the Schools (OKNASP), aquatic resources
education, hunter education and the Explore Bowhunting program, all
of which are designed to introduce people – and especially youth –
to the outdoors, conservation, and hunting and fishing.

The Wildlife Department works to implement these education programs
into schools, and according to Berg, educators have success
incorporating the programs into their class work. The Oklahoma
National Archery in the Schools Program, for example, has been
introduced to thousands of students in about 250 schools across the
state. Over 1,150 students recently participated in the OKNASP
state shoot at the State Fair Park in Oklahoma City after a season
of practice at their schools.

Finally, the Commission heard a presentation on the elk population
status on private lands in southwest Oklahoma. Two distinct elk
herds have been identified on private lands in Comanche, Caddo and
Kiowa counties by animals that left the Wichita Mountains Wildlife
Refuge and established on private lands. The Wildlife Department
works with those landowners to manage the elk to provide hunting
opportunity and manage depredation impacts.

Rod Smith, southwest region wildlife supervisor for the Wildlife
Department, said the agency meets periodically with landowners in
the area to discuss their needs and desires and how those fit into
sound conservation of the private lands elk herds. Through the
years, Smith said the Wildlife Department has liberalized private
lands elk hunting considerably, resulting in 55 days of open cow
elk hunting each year as well as opportunities to harvest mature
bulls.

The Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing
board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The
Wildlife Commission establishes state hunting and fishing
regulations, sets policy for the Wildlife Department and indirectly
oversees all state fish and wildlife conservation activities.
Commission members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by
the Senate.

The next scheduled Commission meeting is set for 9 a.m., May 2, at
the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters
(auditorium), located at the southwest corner of 18th and North
Lincoln, Oklahoma City.

Categories: News Archive

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *