Thanks to another productive year for waterfowl in the Prairie Pothole Region, Oklahoma waterfowl hunters could enjoy another good season. "If our habitat improves from the current drought conditions and we receive the necessary winter weather to move birds south into Oklahoma, we could be in for another good season," said Mike O'Meilia, migratory game bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "The key for us to have a great season, especially for mallards and geese, is lots of harsh winter weather in the northern Central Flyway states, and good habitat conditions here to hold the birds when they come down," said O'Meilia.
Approved last week by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission, Oklahoma's waterfowl seasons will have slight variations in different parts of the state.
Duck Zone 1, which takes in most of northwest Oklahoma north of I-40 and US-183, and west of I-35, will have a split season. The first half runs Oct. 28 - Dec. 3, and the second split runs Dec. 9 - Jan 14.
The rest of the state, except for the panhandle, is in Duck Zone II, which will also have a split season. The first half runs Nov. 4 - Dec. 3, and the second half will run Dec. 9 - Jan. 21.
In the panhandle, the season will run continuously from Oct. 7 - Jan. 10.
The seasons are essentially the same as last year, said O'Meilia.
Hunters will be allowed a daily bag limit of six ducks, no more than five of which can be mallards. Of those, only two mallards may be hens. Separate limits apply to scaup, wood ducks, redheads, pintails and canvasbacks.
The reason for the generous seasons and bag limits, O'Meilia added, is because of near record populations of breeding birds in the Prairie Pothole Region, coupled with good breeding and brood rearing conditions.
Sportsmen can also expect a good flight of geese this fall, he said. Although overall conditions in the artic were poor for breeding geese since snow, ice cover and cold weather persisted later than normal, all populations of geese in the Central Flyway are doing well. Numbers of Central Flyway geese in the fall flight should be similar to last year.
The Canada goose season will be split again this year with the first half running from Nov. 4 - Dec. 3, and the second split running from Dec. 9 - Feb. 11. The daily bag limit will be three birds. The split season on white-fronted geese will run Nov. 4 - Dec. 3, and Dec. 9 - Feb. 2. The daily bag limit will be two birds.
The season on light geese (snow, blue and Ross') will be split as well. The first split will run Nov. 4 - Dec. 3, and the second split will run Dec. 9 - Feb. 11. The daily bag limit will be 20 birds.
Sandhill crane season will be from Nov. 4 - Feb. 4. The daily bag limit will be three birds.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation are offering Oklahoma sportsmen some additional opportunity to waterfowl hunt this year. The youth waterfowl hunting day has been changed to a youth waterfowl hunting weekend, giving youngsters an extra day of hunting this year. The youth waterfowl hunting weekend will be Oct. 21-22 in both Duck Zones I and II. In the panhandle, the youth waterfowl hunting weekend will be Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.
Oklahoma hunters can also participate in the Conservation Order Light Goose Season this year. This special hunting opportunity to help reduce overabundant light geese will occur Feb. 12 - April 1. There will be no daily bag or possession limits on snow, blue and Ross' geese and hunters can use electronic calls, unplugged shotguns and take advantage of extended shooting hours during the Conservation Order.
For more specific information on rules and regulations regarding waterfowl hunting in Oklahoma, pick up a copy of the 2000-2001 Oklahoma Waterfowl Hunting Guide. Available at all license vendors statewide, the Waterfowl Hunting Guide lists all regulations for hunting on Department-owned lakes, wildlife management areas and waterfowl development units. It also has specific breakdowns on limits, as well as other information to make your 2000-2001 waterfowl season more productive and enjoyable.