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” guide, which provides regulations and dates for the 2021-22 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 quiet year for regulation changes, but there are some 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:
· Free Hunting Days – September 4-5, 2021.
· Safety Zones- Any areas displaying signs with the words, “Safety Zone” have restricted access and use as designated by signs posted. The act of hunting within the boundaries of any area so marked is prohibited. Retrieval of hunting dogs or downed wildlife is allowed, without any means of take. See Page 80.
· Vehicles: Except as otherwise provided, use of All Terrain Vehicles (ATV), Off-Highway vehicles (OHV), Off-Road Vehicles (ORV), Utility Vehicles (UTV), and off-road motorcycles, is prohibited on all roads on lands owned or managed by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife except those roads maintained by county commissioners. See Page 80.
· Hunter Orange — Dove has been added to list of species hunted exempt from wearing hunter orange. See Page 56.
· 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.
· Unfilled Deer License — An unfilled antlerless youth deer gun license shall be valid during the holiday antlerless deer gun season in designated zones. See Page 57.
· WMA changes — A number of changes are in place for 2021on individual Wildlife Management Areas. See Public Hunt Lands: Special Area Regulations
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:
Turkey Season changes – Next Spring’s Turkey season will be different that it has in a long time. The dates have been moved back and limits are reduced. Biologists are still researching the effects of last winter’s freeze on turkey populations, but changes have been made to help take some hunting pressure off of wild turkeys.
Other turkey changes include:
· Restricting fall archery harvest to one tom only statewide; the fall seasonal limit is one tom only for gun and archery seasons combined.
· Restricting fall gun season method of take to shotgun only in all counties currently open to fall turkey gun hunting.
· Setting spring turkey season dates as April 16 to May 16 statewide.
· Restricting spring turkey harvest limit to one tom only statewide.
· Setting spring youth turkey season as the Saturday and Sunday before opening day of the regular statewide spring turkey season.
In addition to the change in spring seasons, fall turkey hunters need to consult the map on page 64 to see what counties are closed to hunting this fall. 13 counties in the far Northeast and far southeast have been closed this fall.
Another regulation that is getting a little “coffee shop time” is the Eurasian Collard dove season limits. While this change was made for last year’s season, it didn’t get noticed by some hunters. There is no bag limit on these invader species. Proof of identification, consisting of a head or one fully feathers wing must remain attached to the carcass of such birds.
The other big change remaining from last year’s regs 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.
Another addition for the waterfowl season is the addition to Veteran and active military to the youth waterfowl days. These days are special waterfowl hunting opportunities for youths, veterans and active military members providing two additional days outside of the regular waterfowl season.
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: Mammals: Gray bat, northern longeared bat, Ozark big-eared bat, Indiana bat. Birds: Whooping crane, piping plover, eastern black rail, red knot, red-cockaded woodpecker. Fish: Ozark cavesh, leopard darter, Neosho madtom, blackside darter, longnose darter, Arkansas River shiner. Invertebrates: Winged mapleleaf mussel, scaleshell mussel, Ouachita rock pocketbook, rabbitsfoot mussel, Oklahoma cave crayfish, Neosho Mucket mussel, American burying beetle. Plant: Harperella.
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
Altus-Lugert: Elevation below normal, water 78 and clear. For current elevation conditions go to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website at https://www.swt-wc.usace.army.mil/ALTU.lakepage.html. Channel catfish slow on minnows, punch bait, stinkbait and worms around brush structure, flats and river channel. Walleye and white bass slow on bill baits and crankbaits in the main lake. Report submitted by Brandon Lehrman, game warden stationed in Greer County.
Ellsworth: Elevation above normal with all floodgates closed, water upper 80s and murky. For current elevation conditions go to the U.S. Geological Survey website at https://waterdata.usgs.gov/usa/nwis/uv?07308990. Blue and channel catfish fair on cut bait, punch bait and shad in the main lake and around points. Crappie slow on jigs and minnows around brush structure and docks. Report submitted by Mike Carroll, game warden stationed in Comanche County.
Ft. Cobb: Elevation normal, water 80s and cloudy. For current elevation conditions go to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website at https://www.swt-wc.usace.army.mil/FCOB.lakepage.html. Saugeye, striped bass hybrids and white bass fair on jigs and small lures in the main lake and around points. Report submitted by Brayden Hicks, game warden stationed in Caddo County.
Lawtonka: Elevation above normal, water upper 80s and clear. For current elevation conditions go to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website at https://www.swt-wc.usace.army.mil/webdata/gagedata/LTKO2.current.html. Crappie slow on jigs and minnows around brush structure and docks. Report submitted by Mike Carroll, game warden stationed in Comanche County.
Tom Steed: Elevation normal, water 78. For current elevation conditions go to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website at https://www.sw. t-wc.usace.army.mil/TOMS.lakepage.html. White bass, striped bass hybrids and saugeye fair trolling crankbaits in the main lake. Blue and channel catfish fair on stinkbait along flats and rocks. Report submitted by David Smith, game warden stationed in Kiowa County.
Waurika: Elevation above normal, water 80s and murky. For current elevation conditions go to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website at https://www.swt-wc.usace.army.mil/WAUR.lakepage.html. Blue and channel catfish fair on chicken liver, cut bait and punch bait in coves and shorelines. Crappie slow on minnows and tube jigs around docks and rocks. The reservoir is open with a release of 246 cfs as of Monday, 7/26/21. Report submitted by Matt Farris, game warden stationed in Jefferson County.