The hunting seasons are a little more than a month away, but the Wildlife Department is already getting ready. Hunters can now log on to wildlifedepartment.com to view the newest version of the “Oklahoma Hunting and Fishing Guide,” which provides regulations and dates for the 2020-21 hunting and fishing seasons.
The 102-page full-color guide, produced by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, also features a wide range of hunting-related articles and other helpful information, such as a sunrise/sunset table, hunter education requirements, game warden listings and detailed information on the state’s wildlife management areas, and frequently asked questions.
It was a busy year for regulation changes, but most are of harvest limit or season date changes. It is a hunter or angler responsibility to read up and know these changes.
Here are some of the new changes from the Hunting side of the regulations:
· Deer Gun Season: Season limit increased from three deer to four deer, only one of which may be antlered. See page 54.
· Deer Muzzleloader Season: Season limit increased from three deer to four deer, only one of which may be antlered. See page 54.
· Hunting Equipment on Wildlife Management Areas: It shall be unlawful to place any equipment, including but not limited to tree stands, ground blinds, or game cameras on Department-managed lands, without permanently affixing the owner’s Department issued customer identification number or lifetime license number to the equipment in a conspicuous manner. All equipment not properly identified will become the property of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and be disposed of in the best practical manner. See page 79.
· Waterfowl Blinds: There are new rules and definitions for waterfowl blind construction and permit drawings. See page 67.
· Pheasant: Hunting now open in all of Osage County. See page 62.
· Statewide Importation of Cervid Carcasses or Carcass Parts: New rules pertaining to cervid importation. See page 52.
· Antlerless Deer Harvest Zones/Days: Zone 1 will increase to allow antlerless hunting all 16 days of gun season with a one antlerless bag limit, white-tailed deer only. Zones 2, 7, & 8 will double the antlerless bag limit from 2 to 4 for muzzleloader and gun seasons. Zones 3, 4, 5, 6, & 9 will double the antlerless bag limit for muzzleloader and gun season from 1 to 2 for each season. Zone 10 will increase to allow antlerless harvest all 16 days of gun season with a one antlerless bag limit.
· In all “Management Zones” all deer taken count toward the hunter’s combined regular season limit of six deer. See page 55.
· Waterfowl Zones: Zones 1 & 2 now have the same season dates. See page 68.
· Holiday Antlerless Deer Gun Season: The special Holiday Antlerless Deer Gun Season will be extended from 10 days to 14 days, running December 18-31. The holiday antlerless bag limit will be increased from one to two. These deer do not count toward the hunter’s combined regular season limit of six deer. See page 54.
· Special Waterfowl Days: Veterans (as defined in section 101 of title 38, United States Code) and members of the Armed Forces on active duty, including members of the National Guard and Reserves on active duty (other than for training), may participate in the special waterfowl days. See page 67.
· NEW Sandhills WMA: Public hunting area. See Public Hunting Lands: Special Area Regulations.
· Feral Hogs: Hackberry Flat WMA/WRP, Kaw WMA, Sandy Sanders WMA and Waurika WMA are closed to all hog hunting. See Public Hunting Lands: Special Area Regulations.
· Fall Turkey Gun: Tom only, except the SE Region and Bryan, Delaware, Mayes, Ottawa, Rogers and Tulsa counties, which are closed to turkey fall gun season. See page 60.
· Spring Turkey: One-tom only bag limit per county, except for the SE Region, which has a combined county limit of one-tom only. See page 61.
· Antelope Checking: Antelope must be checked-in within 24 hours using the online E-Check system. There are no longer physical check stations. See pages 53 & 58.
The Oklahoma Hunting guide is an important publication for hunters, because it summarizes the laws and regulations that hunters need to know,” said Skyler St.Yves, information specialist and hunting guide editor for the Wildlife Department.
Most years offer some coffee shop provoking discussion with changes, but this is a rather boring year for wildlife laws, there are very few changes of significance. Some of the biggest changes in this year’s regulations include:
Deer Gun harvest limit has been increased from three deer to four, of those only one may be antlered. This is an effort to increase the harvest of does by the Wildlife Department. The deer herd is healthy, maybe too healthy in Oklahoma, and hunters are encouraged to help reduce that population by harvesting more does.
In addition the muzzleloader bag limit has been increased to four as well, with only one being antlered. Hunters should remember that the overall combined season bag limit is still six deer.
Another deer regulation that is getting a little “coffee shop time” is the Cervid Importation restriction. No person shall import any cervid (deer family) carcass or part of a carcass from outside of Oklahoma. There are a few execptions: Antlers or antlers attached to clean skull plate or cleaned skulls (all tissue removed); Animal quarters containing no spinal materials or meat with all parts of the spinal column removed; Cleaned teeth; Finished taxidermy products; Hides or tanned products.
The other big change is the combining of Waterfowl Zones 1 & 2. These have been separate as long as I can remember. These have now been combined to be one big zone – incorporating all of the state, except the panhandle. This should make remembering seasons and boundaries much easier.
Also don’t forget that Free Hunting days are September 5 & 6. This is a great opportunity to introduce someone new to hunting. And with Dove season starting Sept. 1, there is no better time to take someone afield.
Some of the more interesting seasons or regulations found in the Hunting Guide are:
· All birds except for house sparrows, starlings and game birds are protected by federal and state law.
· Hunters are permitted to harvest white deer as a part of their season limit.
· There is no season on mountain lions in Oklahoma, however they can be taken if they are committing depredation to livestock or other domesticated animal, or considered an immediate safety hazard.
· Migratory birds that have seasons include sora or Virginia rail, Wilson’s snipe, gallinule and woodcock.
· The use of computer software or services that allow a person to hunt while not physically present are prohibited
· To take bullfrogs with at gig or hook and line, you must have a fishing license; to shoot them with a firearm, you must have a hunting license.
· To hunt rattlesnakes during a festival, a 5-day rattlesnake permit must be purchased.
· There is an open season on prairie dogs in Oklahoma, but all Department of Wildlife lands are closed.
· There is a season for mink and weasel in Oklahoma.
· There is a season for striped skunk, but spotted skunks are closed.
· It is unlawful to possess and American alligator in Oklahoma.
· The season is closed for Texas horned lizards, alligator snapping turtles and northern map turtles.
· Oklahoma Endangered species are: Gray bat, northern long-eared bat, Ozark big-eared bat, Indiana bat, whooping crane, piping plover, interior least tern, black-capped vireo, red knot, red cockaded woodpecker, Ozark cavefish, leopard darter, Neosho madtom, Arkansas river shiner, blackside darter, longnose darter.
It is every hunter’s responsibility to look over the hunting regulations to see if there are any changes. If the online version is not available or if you are more of the traditional paper fan, then the free guide will also be available in printed form in late July anywhere hunting licenses are sold.
To find the new “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” online, log onto www.wildlifedeparment.com and follow the link.
Southwest Fishing Report
Ellsworth: Elevation below average, water upper 80’s and murky. Channel and blue catfish slow on cut bait around channels and points. Report submitted by Brayden Hicks, game warden stationed in Caddo County.
Ft. Cobb: Elevation below average, water cloudy and upper 80’s. Saugeye slow on jigs around points. Report submitted by Brayden Hicks, game warden stationed in Caddo County.
Lawtonka: Elevation below average, water clear and upper 80’s. Channel and blue catfish slow on cut bait around channels and points. Report submitted by Brayden Hicks, game warden stationed in Caddo County.
Waurika: Elevation normal, water 80’s and clearing. Largemouth bass good on spinnerbaits and spoons around docks, shorelines, and standing timber. Blue and channel catfish good on chicken liver and cut bait around channels, creek channels, and main lake. Report submitted by Matt Farris, game warden stationed in Jefferson County