What were the top outdoor stories in Oklahoma in 2012? Here are my top 10.
1. The Bassmaster Classic announcement: The City of Tulsa and Grand Lake will be the site next month of the premier fishing event in the world. It will be an even bigger story in 2013 when it happens, but just the fact that Oklahoma landed it makes it the top story in 2012.
2. Bass records broken: Benny Williams Jr. of Poteau caught a 14-pound, 12-ounce largemouth bass from Cedar Lake, breaking a state record by one ounce that had stood since 1999. Eight days later, Ryan Wasser of Pocasset caught a new state record smallmouth bass at Lake Lawtonka that weighed 8 pounds, 7 ounces. It marked the first time in Oklahoma that both state record fish was caught in the same year.
3. The drought: The state’s record drought continues to plague Oklahoma fish and wildlife and is most evident in the decline of the quail population in western Oklahoma and the number of dry ponds and low lakes.
4. Plight of the prairie chickens: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it is considering listing the prairie chicken as “threatened” which could hinder energy projects in northwestern Oklahoma. It’s a political hot potato.
5. Deer regulations: State wildlife officials proposed in 2012 that deer gun hunters be limited to just one buck for the deer and muzzleloader seasons combined. It’s created a tremendous debate in the deer hunting community where hunters are divided almost 50/50 on the issue, according to state wildlife officials.
6. Bears: Oklahoma’s black bear population continues to grow in eastern Oklahoma and black bear hunting was expanded this seasons. Oklahoma hunters killed a record 71 black bears this year and hunting might be expanded to more counties in the future.
7. Quail: The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and Oklahoma State University have joined researchers in Texas to try and determine what is happening to the bobwhite quail, where numbers have reached a record low.
8. Mountain lions: More Oklahomans are reporting seeing mountain lions on trail cameras and a cougar killed by a motorist near Minco last year was born in the Black Hills, according to a DNA analysis.
9: Hunter education goes online: The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation began putting its hunter education course online in September and it’s been extremely popular. A record number of residents in Oklahoma – more than 18,000 – completed hunter education last year, mostly because of the convenience of the online course.
10. Asian carp: Hopefully, this won’t be higher in the rankings on the 2013 list of top stories, but state wildlife officials have determined there are Asian carp in portions of the Red River and its tributaries and in the Neosho River in northeast Oklahoma. State wildlife officials are trying to manage the invasive species by proposing a new fishing regulation for 2013 that would prevent anglers from transporting live bait from one lake or river to another in Oklahoma.