Biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation are urging waterfowl hunters to “think geese and cranes” between now and Nov. 27, as large numbers of early migrants have flocked into southwest and western portions of the state in the last five to seven days.

“People may not be thinking about geese and cranes yet, but we are encouraging hunters to take advantage of the opportunity while they are here. Typically, most of these early migrants don’t hang around long but move on to their wintering grounds further south,” said Josh Richardson, migratory game bird biologist for the Wildlife Department. There is good reason for waterfowl hunters to take advantage of the large numbers of migrants while they can, not only because the first half of goose season closes Nov. 27 — not to reopen again until Dec. 10 — but also to help farmers in the region who have already been impacted by record drought conditions which may have delayed planting of their winter wheat. “Young wheat that has not yet reached the tillering stage is more vulnerable to damage by birds pulling up the plant. It is when large numbers of these birds are allowed to concentrate for long periods of time on specific fields that we start seeing impacts to crops like winter wheat. We always encourage the use of hunting to help minimize the impact of geese and cranes using private agricultural land,” said Richardson.

Winter wheat fields are prime spots for finding migrants right now, since they are utilized as a green food source for birds flying to and from limited water sources. The refuge portion at Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area is one of the few places holding water now in southwestern Oklahoma, and large numbers of geese and cranes are being observed there. Hunters should obtain permission from local landowners whose properties are near these limited water sources

Richardson said he expects that hunters all across western Oklahoma should have good success if they scout agricultural areas and obtain landowner permission in areas where they find birds.

To hunt geese, hunters need a hunting license, an Oklahoma waterfowl license (unless exempt) and a federal duck stamp. In addition, all migratory bird hunters must carry an Oklahoma Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP) permit. Permits are available anywhere hunting licenses are sold for $3 or for free online at wildlifedepartment.com.

Sandhill crane season remains open until January 22, 2012. To hunt sandhill cranes, hunters need a hunting license, a HIP permit and a federal sandhill crane permit that is available for $3 from license vendors or at wildlifedepartment.com.

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