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ODWC is rolling out a plethora of virtual courses to learn how to hunt and fish

Children and their families fish during a fishing clinic at Oklahoma City's Crystal Lake in 2016. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Convservation has rescheduled family fishing clinics that were canceled in the spring because of COVID-19. The first one is Tuesday at South Lakes Pond in Oklahoma City. Two more clinics are set on the next two Tuesdays from 5 until 7 p.m. at the pond. To register, go to wildlifedepartment.com. [THE OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES]
Children and their families fish during a fishing clinic at Oklahoma City's Crystal Lake in 2016. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Convservation has rescheduled family fishing clinics that were canceled in the spring because of COVID-19. The first one is Tuesday at South Lakes Pond in Oklahoma City. Two more clinics are set on the next two Tuesdays from 5 until 7 p.m. at the pond. To register, go to wildlifedepartment.com. [THE OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES]

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is moving into the virtual world.

The agency is rolling out a spate of virtual hunting and fishing classes this fall through Google Meet. The free virtual classes are capped at 250 participants, but all of the classes will be recorded and archived on the Wildlife Department's website for future viewing.

The leap into the virtual world by the Wildlife Department began last week with a basic dove hunting class and continues Tuesday with a virtual course on fishing close-to-home waters and ponds. The virtual course will be presented from 1 to 3 p.m. and registration is required.

A traditional in-person family fishing clinic also will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the South Lake Parks Pond in Oklahoma City. The number of participants will be capped at 50 for the clinic. The deadline to register for either event is noon Monday at wildlifedepartment.com.

Normally, the Wildlife Department's family fishing clinics are held in the spring, but they were canceled this year because of COVID-19. The agency is trying to reschedule some of the sessions in the fall while rolling out its new virtual fishing curriculum.

Traditional family fishing clinics are scheduled the next three weeks, while a virtual fishing class has been scheduled once a month through the rest of the year. The topics of the virtual fishing classes will be stream fishing on Sept. 29, fall fishing tips on Oct. 13, trout fishing on Nov. 17, and winter catfishing on Dec. 8.

There also will be at least one virtual hunting course each month, but those have yet to be scheduled, said Skylar St. Yves, information and education specialist for the Wildlife Department.

The virtual courses were already being planned as part of the agency's recruitment and retention strategy before the pandemic hit, but the arrival of COVID-19 sped up the process, St. Yves said.

The agency already posts how-to videos on its Facebook page on various hunting and fishing topics, but the virtual classes will offer participants a chance to ask questions and engage in discussions, he said.

The Wildlife Department plans in the future to offer virtual classes for all levels of hunters and anglers, from novice to experienced.

"We are going to mix in things," St. Yves said. "That catfish one in September will be more of an advanced class because it is not addressing normal catfishing but winter catfishing and targeting bigger fish in those winter months."

Other virtual courses, such as fall fishing tips and trout fishing, will offer more general information on the topics, he said.

"Right now, we are offering one a month, but eventually we could get up to where we are doing one a week," St. Yves said of the virtual classes.

The plan in the future is to hold some of the virtual fishing courses not just from a classroom, but with instructors on the water while they are teaching if the technology allows it, he said.

"We are moving on from that basic worm and bobber clinic," St. Yves said. "We are now moving full steam ahead, not only covering the basics for anybody who wants to learn, but now incorporating intermediate and advanced level courses."

More advanced virtual courses will be added next spring, St. Yves said.

"We can make these as general or as specific as we want," he said. "The idea is to establish a good base of general information across both hunting and fishing and getting more advanced and specific as we move down the road."

The in-person traditional family fishing clinics will continue along with the virtual courses, he said.

Wildlife Refuge cancels its guided fall tours

The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge on Friday canceled all of its guided fall interpretive tours, which includes the popular bugling elk bus tours, because of COVID-19 concerns.

The refuge remains open to visitors for recreation and wildlife viewing. The elk on the refuge normally begin bugling in late August.

Ed Godfrey

Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more... Read more ›

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