With North American waterfowl populations higher now than ever recorded, Oklahoma hunters who can find ample water supply this winter could be in for some outstanding hunting. Zone 1 waterfowl season kicks off Oct. 29, followed by the Zone 2 opener Nov. 5. Waterfowl season in the Panhandle opened Oct. 8.
Every year wildlife biologists conduct waterfowl breeding population counts in the northern United States and Canada, and this year the counts show the highest numbers of ducks ever recorded, thanks to ideal breeding ground conditions and decades of cooperative waterfowl and habitat management efforts by state wildlife agencies, the U.S. and Canandian Fish and Wildlife Services, and sportsmen’s groups.
Drought in Oklahoma combined with one of the hottest summers on record has caused many lakes and ponds to dry up. While recent rains have started to saturate the ground once again, finding significant amounts of water to hunt may be challenging for some hunters, according to Josh Richardson, migratory game bird biologists for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
“Many lakes have a 100-yard stretch or more of dried lakebed before you even get to the water, which makes it difficult to find a good spot to hide,” Richardson said. “Still, the duck numbers are high this year and hunters who position themselves well should have ample opportunities.”
Every year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes frameworks to states for structuring their waterfowl seasons and limits, and Oklahoma’s long season and generous harvest limits represent a liberal season framework for hunters to enjoy.
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.
To hunt ducks in Oklahoma, hunters must possess a valid hunting license, an Oklahoma waterfowl stamp, a federal duck stamp and a Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP) Permit. More information and regulations — including information on goose and sandhill crane seasons — is available online at wildlifedepartment.com or in the current “Oklahoma Waterfowl Guide,” available free at locations where hunting licenses and duck stamps are sold.