Waterfowl hunting season is just around the corner, bringing with it 74 days of duck hunting and liberal harvest opportunities. Full regulations and details are now available online at wildlifedepartment.com.
New this year, Zone 1 will open one week later than normal to prevent overlapping with the opening of deer muzzleloader season. Additionally, hunters will have two extra days to hunt white-fronted geese.
Every year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes frameworks to states for structuring their waterfowl seasons at an annual meeting held in August. The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission then approves the state’s seasons at its September meeting.
In the Panhandle counties, duck season will run from Oct. 8 through Jan. 4, and youth waterfowl days will be Oct. 1-2.
In Zone 1, which includes most of northwest Oklahoma (excluding the Panhandle) duck season will run from Oct. 29 through Nov. 27 and Dec. 10 through Jan. 22. Youth waterfowl days in Zone 1 will be Oct. 15-16.
Zone 2 duck season dates will be Nov. 5 through Nov. 27 and Dec. 10 through Jan. 29, with youth waterfowl days slated for Oct. 29-30.
According to Josh Richardson, migratory game bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, waterfowl breeding and production was very successful this year in the north central United States and Southern Canada and hunters may be in for a successful season.
“We are experiencing a rather dry year, but provided we get some rainfall we should have a pretty good waterfowl season,” Richardson said.
The daily limit of six ducks may include no more than: five mallards (only two may be hens), three wood ducks, two redheads, two scaup, two pintails and one canvasback. The daily limit of mergansers is five, of which no more than two may be hooded mergansers, and the daily limit of coots is 15.
The Commission also authorized the director of the Wildlife Department to pursue an agreement with the Commissioners of the Land Office to enter into a long-term lease on property adjacent to Beaver River Wildlife Management Area in the Panhandle.
In addition, the Commission authorized the Wildlife Department to solicit and negotiate lease agreements for mineral interests on Wildlife Department-owned properties in Beaver, Cleveland and Alfalfa counties. Certain measures may be required to minimize or mitigate the potential effects of drilling in the areas, and Wildlife Department officials are directed to ensure conservation priorities are met in agreements with potential lessees.
The Commission also heard a presentation from Melinda Sturgess-Streich, assistant director of administration and finance for the Wildlife Department, on the Wildlife Department’s hunting and fishing license certification process. The number of licensed hunters and anglers in the state plays a critical role in conservation. The Wildlife Department receives no general state tax appropriations and is funded primarily by the sale of hunting and fishing licenses. Additionally, manufacturers of sporting goods pay federal excise taxes on the sale of certain products, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service disburses the funds back to state wildlife agencies based in part on the number of licensed hunters and anglers in the state. The funds must be used for conservation.
In other business, the Commission recognized several Wildlife Department employees for tenure. Charles Baker, fisheries technician at the Blue River Public Fishing and Hunting Area, was recognized for 25 years of service; Dwight McKay, crew leader at the Durant State Fish Hatchery, for 25 years; David Routledge, south central region fisheries technician for 25 years; Keith Thomas, central region fisheries biologist, for 25 years; and Brett Gantt, wildlife technician stationed at McGee Creek WMA, for 20 years.
The Commission also recognized recent graduates of the Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Resource Professional Program, a continuing education curriculum for Wildlife Department employees designed to broaden knowledge and skills in the professional management of the state’s fish and wildlife.
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 is set for 9 a.m. Oct. 3 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters (auditorium), located at the southwest corner of 18th and North Lincoln, Oklahoma City.