The government shutdown is causing headaches for outdoorsmen.
In addition to campgrounds being closed on areas controlled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and popular destinations like the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge and the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, popular deer hunts also are being canceled.
This weekend's youth deer hunts on the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge were canceled because of the shutdown. Twenty-four youth hunts had been scheduled this weekend and another 39 are scheduled in two weeks.
Other youth deer hunts scheduled in the upcoming weeks at federally controlled wildlife refuges such as the Salt Plains, Sequoyah, Washita, Deep Fork and Little River are in jeopardy.
Bow hunters are not allowed on the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, which was open to buck hunting once again this year.
Micah Holmes, spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, said the agency has received numerous calls asking about the controlled hunts. Hunters will be notified if their hunts have to be canceled, he said.
The popular archery deer hunts at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, however, are expected to go on as planned, said Joe Hemphill, southeast region wildlife supervisor for the Wildlife Department. The first of six weekend archery hunts are scheduled next weekend in McAlester.
“From what we've been told, everything here is in good shape,” Hemphill said. “Now they could call us Monday and tell us to shut it down.”
Hunters, campers and anglers will feel the pain of a long shutdown. For Oklahoma trout anglers, less rainbow trout will be swimming in the Lower Illinois River in the future if the shutdown continues.
State wildlife officials normally add hatchery-raised rainbow trout to the Lower Illinois River near Gore once per week, but every other week the agency had been getting those trout from a federal fish hatchery.
That will now cease, and trout from the state's commercial provider only will be added to the river every other week until the federal furloughs end.
“There are thousands of fish in the river now,” said Barry Bolton, chief of fisheries for the Wildlife Department. “It's not a reason not to go, but if the federal furlough continues for several weeks, it certainly will impact the trout fishery.”
The shutdown doesn't affect any future fishing in the Lower Mountain Fork River near Broken Bow — the state's other year-round trout fishing area — because almost all of those trout come from a commercial trout producer in Nebraska.
Black bear season slower than last year
In addition to deer archery season opening statewide on Tuesday, it also was the opener for the black bear archery season in McCurtain, Le Flore, Latimer and Pushmataha counties. The season has started slower than past years.
“We're up to 20 bears (taken by hunters) after three days,” Hemphill said Thursday. “We had 20 bears after the first day last year.”
Bow hunters killed 66 black bears during last year's archery season, but it will be difficult to match that number this year.
Hemphill said bears have a large supply of acorns and muscadine grapes available to them this year in southeastern Oklahoma, and the persimmon trees are also loaded.
“We got a lot of (bear) groceries on the ground,” he said. “The big boys may have already left the bait and gone to the good food.”
Most of the bears that hunters have checked in have been taken in Le Flore and Pushmataha counties. The biggest bear checked in has weighed about 300 pounds, Hemphill said.
Bronchos are now bass fishing
The University of Central Oklahoma is the latest Oklahoma school to form a bass fishing club and compete in collegiate bass tournaments.
In just its first month as a club, the Bronchos' bass fishing club already has 43 members and won its first tournament earlier this month. The Broncho anglers participate in the Cabela's BoatUS Championship Series and won the first “Okie Challenge Series” on Fort Gibson Lake last month against 15 other state schools.
UCO anglers Colten Huston and Steven Isaacs brought in the winning stringer of 19.42 pounds ahead of runner-up Oklahoma State University.
The Bronchos will travel to Lake Eufaula next weekend for another Okie Challenge Series followed by tournaments on Grand Lake on Oct. 27 and Lake Tenkiller on Nov. 2.
A few of the 43 UCO anglers have experience fishing in bass tournaments, but most do not, said Alex Allen, club adviser and coordinator for recreation programs at UCO.
“A lot of the students who come out are not tournament-ready anglers,” he said. “They don't have a lot of experience with it. Mentors will take them out on boats and get them tournament ready.”
Allen said UCO's Bass Fishing Club has an advantage over most schools because it has access to the university's boathouse on Arcadia Lake, part of the school's outdoor recreation program.
“It gives us an edge on the competition,” he said.
The Bass Fishing Club set up an informational booth in the school's University Center last month and quickly had students signing up to join.
“It's really taken off,” Allen said. “I expect it to continue to grow.”
Allen said UCO anglers also will compete on the FLW and B.A.S.S. collegiate tournament trails.
Cowboys are now bowfishing
In addition to a bass fishing club, Oklahoma State University now has a bowfishing club.
“We have done some research and we haven't found any other college that has a bowfishing club or a bowfishing team,” said Hunter Kashwer, a sophomore at OSU.
The club's first organizational meeting is Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in Room 280 of the Student Union at OSU.
Kashwer doesn't anticipate any difficulty recruiting members.
The university just approved the club less than three weeks ago, he said.
Kashwer regularly competes in bowfishing tournaments.
“This summer I did five tournaments,” he said. “There is a tournament every weekend somewhere.”
The club plans to sponsor a tournament as a fundraiser, he said.
For more information on the club, email Kashwer at firstname.lastname@example.org.