|The second half of Oklahoma’s hunting season for ducks, mergansers and cootsopens Saturday, Dec. 3, in Zones 1 and 2, which include all of the state except for the Panhandle. |
As the season reopens, hunters may see an increase in waterfowl numbers, even though drought has made waterfowl hunting more difficult this year.
“A few weeks of below-average temperatures recently have pushed good numbers of ducks and geese down from the north,” said Paxton Smith, migratory bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
“After a dry summer and fall, moist-soil areas were able to grow an abundance of waterfowl food. Unfortunately there has not been significant rainfall to fill these low-lying areas to make them available to waterfowl.
“Hunters will find success in bodies of water that contain any submerged aquatic vegetation,” Smith said.
The Wildlife Department operates dozens of Wetland Development Units on 21 Wildlife Management Areas. Limited waterfowl hunting is allowed on these WDUs. Biweekly reports on the status of WDU units and waterfowl abundance are posted on the ODWC website, including how much of each area is flooded, forage conditions, pumping status, bird numbers, and hunting pressure. Reports are also included for some popular waterfowl hunting areas across the state.
“Since the majority of our (WDU) wetlands are rainfall dependent, many of them remain dry,” Smith said.
Duck hunters may take six ducks combined each day, but no more than five mallards (only two may be hens), three wood ducks, two redheads, two canvasbacks, one scaup and one pintail. Mergansers are now included in the daily duck limit.
Duck season will close Jan. 30, 2023, except in the three Panhandle counties. Duck hunting in the Panhandle is open now and runs through Jan 4, 2023.
Statewide hunting for light geese and dark geese (except white-fronted geese) will close Feb. 12, 2023. The daily limit is eight for Canada geese, and 50 for light geese.
A special waterfowl hunting day only for youths, veterans, and active military members will be Feb. 4, 2023, statewide. Youths must be 15 or younger and accompanied by an adult.
This year, an outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) has caused concern among waterfowl hunters. As birds migrate through Oklahoma, the potential exists for harvesting a migratory bird infected with HPAI. Experts advise hunters to use recommended precautions when handling downed migratory birds to protect themselves as well as any domestic birds that hunters may contact.
Hunters looking for helpful tips and information on everything waterfowl need only visit the Waterfowl Hunting Resources Page at www.wildlifedepartment.com. Topics including how to decoy birds, hunting strategies, where to hunt, waterfowl ID, and even duck and goose recipes are just a few clicks away.
Complete waterfowl hunting regulations and license requirements are found in the Oklahoma Fishing and Hunting Regulations available at www.wildlifedepartment.com, in the Go Outdoors Oklahoma mobile app for Apple and Android, or in print free from license dealers statewide.
To get the required licenses for waterfowl hunting, go to https://license.gooutdoorsoklahoma.com/Licensing/CustomerLookup.aspx.