The Commissioners of the Land Office (better known as the School Land Trust) will hold its annual real estate lease auctions around the state starting with its first on Monday in Beaver County. Eight more are scheduled until the final one on Oct. 29 in Shawnee.
If history is any indication, there likely will be plenty of sportsmen at the auctions. Keith Kuhlman, assistant secretary at the School Land Trust, estimates about one-third of the bidders at the auctions are people looking to lease land for recreational use, either hunting, camping, fishing, horseback riding, etc.
The School Land Trust, a state agency, leases more than 740,000 acres it holds in 47 counties in central and western Oklahoma. The tracts of land range from 40 acres to 10,000. Each lease is for five years and one-fifth of the lease properties come up for auction each year.
Most of the land has been traditionally leased for farming and ranching, but over the last 20 years much of it has shifted to recreation, primarily people looking for a place to hunt.
At one time, the agency only tried to lease to farmers and ranchers, Kuhlman said. In the late '80s, the agency recognized the lands were also highly desired for hunting and other activities and began managing and advertising some of its properties for recreational use, he said.
“The amount of interest in the auctions leaped,” Kuhlman said. “We went from having 10 to 15 percent (of land) unleased to having less than 1 percent each year.”
The demand for land by sportsmen also increased the prices of the leases, proving to be a boon for the coffers of the School Land Trust, which distributes money to public schools in the state.
Some of the land the agency now manages is strictly for hunting and other recreation. This year's lease auction includes land in Pottawatomie County that is being marketed as a deer hunting site.
Kuhlman said the agency has other holdings that are desired by sportsmen, including land near Bent Canyon north of Woodward that “always brings a good price just because of the hunting interest.” That five-year lease, however, is still under contract this year.
The agency also leases land to the Wildlife Department that is part of the Beaver River Wildlife Management Area.
The School Land Trust even has wildlife conservation plans on some properties and has been active in eradicating eastern red cedars.
In the past, the Edmond Gun Club and Ducks Unlimited chapters have leased property from the School Land Trust, Kuhlman said.
To see a list of properties available for lease and auction dates and sites, visit the agency's website at www.clo.ok.gov.
Click on the 2013 Fall Real Estate Lease Auction Brochure link.
Deer harvest information must be made public
If you want to track this year's deer harvest in Oklahoma, you can do so at www.wildlifedepartment.com/harvestreport.
Now that all deer are checked online, the Wildlife Department will update the list every Monday. You can see the county and date of harvest, antler points, method of harvest and in some cases the name of the hunter.
The story behind the list is more interesting. Some newspapers in the state used to get the names of hunters and information about the deer they had killed from the local deer check stations and publish the information.
As you might imagine in some small towns in Oklahoma, the list of hunters who bagged a deer is as widely read in the local newspaper as the courthouse news.
As online checking became widespread and fewer deer were checked in at check stations, those newspapers no longer had access to the information. When asked to provide it, the Wildlife Department wouldn't disclose the information, contending it was private information about its license-holders and not public record.
With the support of the Oklahoma Press Association, a bill was then passed at the state Legislature that required the Wildlife Department to make the information public.
However, hunters are given the option by the Wildlife Department of having their names published with the statistical data provided on the agency's website.
OKC hosts fish and wildlife conference
The Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City will be the site of the annual meeting of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies for the next three days.
More than 500 fishery and wildlife biologists from 15 states are expected to attend.
Among the guest speakers are former University of Tulsa and New York Jets football player Dennis Byrd, an avid outdoorsman, and professional bass angler Edwin Evers. Both are scheduled to speak Tuesday morning.
*Oklahoma country crooner Blake Shelton, who loves to hunt to fish, donated $20,000 to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation for its outdoor education programs.
*The Wildlife Department was given approval Monday by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission, the agency's governing body, to negotiate for the purchase of 229 acres in northeast Oklahoma to be included as part of the Neosho Bottoms Wetland Restoration Project.
“It's an opportunity to provide public land in far northeast Oklahoma for sportsmen and other users," said Alan Stacey, wetlands biologist for the agency.
*The Wildlife Department also is looking to buy land in Greer County and recently had 40-acre tract donated in McCurtain County that will become part of the Grassy Slough Wildlife Management Area.
The land was donated by sisters Elizabeth Garrett of Oklahoma City and Mary Cook of Denver and will be named after their father, Harry L. Rimmer.