Shooting-sports industry icon and benefactor Larry W. Potterfield outlined his passionate desire to promote competitive shooting among youths during a personal presentation at the February meeting of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission on Monday in Stillwater, and then he backed up his words with his money.
Potterfield, co-founder of online shooting and sporting goods retailer MidwayUSA Inc., donated $756,410 to support the Oklahoma Scholastic Shooting Sports Program, which currently involves about 1,500 students in 85 junior and senior high schools in the state.
This donation is among the largest ever received by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. It represents the third consecutive year that the Potterfield family has given large sums in support of the OSSSP. This year’s donation brings the Potterfields’ total commitment to nearly $2.2 million.
“You guys are doing a great, great job of creating teams in Oklahoma. … The work that you all do here is very, very key to the future,” Potterfield said. “We very much appreciate the opportunity to work with you.”
Commissioners watched a presentation by Dick Leeper, executive director of the MidwayUSA Foundation, which outlined the Potterfield family’s support of shooting sports across the country. Through the foundation, Larry and Brenda Potterfield have personally given $96 million to support school-based shooting programs in 49 states.
Since its inception in 2013, OSSSP has been administered through the Wildlife Department’s Information and Education Division. It allows Oklahoma junior and senior high school students to learn about and participate in competitive shotgunning. Money donated by the Potterfield family helps defray the costs associated with shooting and participation for the high school teams. In addition, high school teams are rewarded with additional money for participating in regional and statewide competitive events. Individual endowment accounts that are set up for each team through the MidwayUSA Foundation play an important part in the program.
Wildlife Department Director Richard Hatcher recognized Colin Berg, education supervisor for the Wildlife Department, for his efforts to establish OSSSP, and Damon Springer, OSSSP coordinator, for his work in organizing and operating the program. During a status report on OSSSP, Berg said, “Because of the Potterfield donation, we’re actually about two or three years ahead of where we would have been as an agency if we didn’t have their funds.”
In other business related to shooting sports, the Commission accepted a $10,000 donation from Sam Munhollon of Oklahoma Station Chapter Safari Club International, which will allow more school teams to participate in OSSSP. And Oklahoma State University professor and club adviser Nathan Walker gave a presentation on the OSU Shotgun Sports Club.
Also during Monday’s meeting at OSU, the Commission:
• Heard updates on upland game bird and aquatic research ongoing at OSU. Drs. Sam Fuhledorf, Dwayne Elmore and Craig Davis, endowed chairs in Natural Resource Ecology Management, spoke about research on the lesser and greater prairie chicken and northern bobwhite. Dr. Shannon Brewer spoke about projects under way in aquatics research involving the Wildlife Department through the Oklahoma Cooperative Research Unit.
• Accepted a $4,000 donation from Sam Munhollon of Oklahoma Station Chapter Safari Club International. Robert Fleenor, chief of law enforcement for the Wildlife Department, received the donation. This is the first donation in a four-year commitment by OKSCI to fund the purchase of night-vision goggles for the Law Enforcement Division.
• Approved permanent rule changes to Title 800 Chapter 10, Sport Fishing Rules. These rule changes were proposed in 2014 and underwent public hearing and public comment. Highlights include reducing the limit on flathead catfish to five per day; reducing the length limit for saugeye, sauger and walleye to 14 inches statewide (with some exceptions); prohibiting the possession of filleted fish while fishing; requiring anglers to keep separate stringers with name and fishing license number attached when fishing in tailwaters; establishing catch-and-release-only rules for tiger muskellunge at Lake Carl Etling and for largemouth bass at American Horse Lake and Doc Hollis Lake.
• Approved permanent rule changes to Title 800 Chapter 25, Wildlife Rules. These rule changes were proposed in 2014 and underwent public hearing and public comment. Highlights include clarification of permitting, certification, reporting and procedures for the Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator permit; adjusting regulations on several smaller U.S. Army Corps of Engineers properties; standardizing seasons for Camp Gruber and Cherokee public hunting areas. Commissioners decided to table a rule-change proposal to eliminate the Oklahoma Waterfowl Stamp Design Competition.
• Approved a permanent rule change to Title 800 Chapter 30, Wildlife Department Lands Management. This rule change was proposed in 2014 and underwent public hearing and public comment. The rule prohibits the removal of live feral hogs from any Wildlife Management Area.
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 will be 9 a.m. March 2, 2015, at Wildlife Department headquarters, 1801 N. Lincoln, Oklahoma City.