Waterfowl Seasons Set in Oklahoma; STEP Receives Donation

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Waterfowl Seasons Set in OklahomaWaterfowl hunters will get another generous duck and goose season now that the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission has set the dates and limits for the 2008-09 migratory bird hunting season.

“The federal framework sets our guidelines for the season, and then we set our season according to our situation,” said Alan Peoples, chief of Wildlife for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “This year nothing really has changed. We’re going back to the same seasons we had last year, only adjusting the calendar dates.”

In zone 1 (most of northwest Oklahoma), the first half of the duck season will run Oct. 25 through Nov. 30, with the second half beginning Dec. 13 and running through Jan. 18, 2009. Pintail and canvasback season will be open Oct. 25 – Nov. 30, and then re-open on Dec. 13 and run through Dec. 14. Youth waterfowl hunting days in zone 1 will be Oct. 11 and 12.

In zone 2, the duck season will run Nov. 1-30 and Dec. 13 – Jan. 25, 2009. Pintail and canvasback season will open Dec. 18 and run through Jan. 25, 2009. Youth waterfowl hunting days in zone 2 will be Oct. 25 and 26.

Panhandle counties will offer the longest duck season, running Oct. 11 through Jan. 7, 2009. Pintail and canvasback season for the Panhandle counties will be open Oct. 11 through Nov. 18. Youth waterfowl dates for the panhandle will be Oct. 4-5

Hunters will be allowed a daily limit of six ducks combined, no more than five of which can be mallards. Of those, only two mallards may be hens. No more than two scaup, two wood ducks and two redheads may be included in the daily limit, and no more than one pintail and one canvasback may be included during the specified time period in each of the established duck seasons.

Waterfowl Seasons Set in OklahomaThe statewide Canada goose season will run Nov. 1-30 and Dec. 13 – Feb. 15, 2009. The daily limit is three birds. The season for white-fronted geese will run Nov. 1-30 and Dec. 13 – Feb. 6, 2009. The daily bag limit is one. The regular season for light geese (snows, blues and Ross’) will run Nov. 1-30 and Dec. 13 – Feb. 15, 2009. The daily bag limit is 20.

Sandhill crane season will be from Oct. 25 – Jan. 25, 2009, west of I-35 only. The daily limit is three birds.

“Fortunately, we’ve been able to stay in a liberal package with our duck seasons, and now all we have to do is wait for the season and the ducks to arrive,” Peoples said.

Hunters who wish to participate in the waterfowl season must have a resident or non-resident hunting license, a 2008 Federal Duck Stamp, and unless exempt, a 2008 Oklahoma Waterfowl License, a Fishing and Hunting Legacy Permit and a Harvest Information Program Permit. The federal duck stamp costs $15 and is available at U.S. Post Offices. Hunters pursuing sandhill cranes must also purchase a separate sandhill crane hunting permit.

Hunters should consult the “2008-09 Waterfowl Hunting Guide,” available soon at hunting and fishing license dealers statewide, for complete hunting regulations and license requirements. Hunters also can obtain complete regulation information from the Wildlife Department’s Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.

In other business, the Commission accepted an $8,400 donation from the Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International to build upon its Shotgun Training Education Program (STEP). Through STEP, the Wildlife Department offers a broad range of learning opportunities for beginners as well as experienced hunters with special emphasis on teaching basic shotgun shooting techniques and fundamentals. The program projects a positive image toward hunting and general acceptance of responsible gun ownership. Another important purpose for the program is the recruitment of new hunters for future interest in wildlife conservation and outdoor activities.

“The Oklahoma Station Chapter of SCI is pleased to contribute to the ODWC STEP program as it is vitally important that we introduce outdoor sporting activities to youth and the public in general if we want to pass on the heritage of hunting and conservation to our next generation,” said Scott Holmes, current president of Oklahoma Station Chapter of SCI.

The STEP program currently operates out of 12 STEP trailers, and this donation will be used to purchase two additional trailers with target throwers and equipment.

“Thanks to partnerships with groups like the Oklahoma Station of SCI, the Wildlife Department can do more to introduce newcomers to hunting,” Peoples said.

The new Ouachita Wildlife Management Area – Cucumber Creek Unit was established as a walk-in only area when Commission voted for the finding of an emergency to establish regulations for the area, which will be open to public hunting this fall. The property, which covers 3,270 acres in LeFlore County’s Cucumber Creek area, is owned by The Nature Conservancy. The area will be used for public hunting, fishing, hiking, wildlife viewing and education purposes. Hunting seasons on the area will be the same as statewide season dates, and the agreement will be in place for 10 years with the possibility of renewal.

The Wildlife Department and The Nature Conservancy are also partnering with the US Forest Service, which owns approximately 13,000 acres on three sides of the Cucumber Creek WMA. The three organizations will work cooperatively on a variety of habitat projects. Combined, the area will provide about 16,000 acres of walk-in public access.

Southwest Oklahoma’s trophy-bass-designated Crowder Lake will be drained for repairs later this year, and while anglers will still be allowed to fish the lake, the Commission approved a resolution to close the lake to bass harvest until repairs are finished. Anglers can still catch and release bass.

According to Barry Bolton, fisheries chief for the Wildlife Department, the lake will not permanently remain closed to bass harvest. 

The Commission also accepted sealed bids to lease portions of the Department’s mineral interests on the Washita County Wildlife Management Area in Washita Co. and the Stringtown Wildlife Management Area in Atoka Co.

Several Wildlife Department employees were recognized by the Commission for tenure, including John Stahl, northwest regional fisheries supervisor, for 30 years of service; Bill Wentroth, north central region fisheries supervisor, for 30 years; Rod Smith, southwest region wildlife supervisor, for 30 years; Craig Endicott, northeast region wildlife supervisor, for 25 years; Jon Cunningham, warden supervisor, for 25 years; and Steve O’Donnell, fisheries research lab technician, for 20 years.

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. 6 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters (auditorium), located at the southwest corner of 18th and North Lincoln, Oklahoma City.