Hunting area

If they haven’t already done it, waterfowlers will be able to unpack their waders from summer storage and get their feet wet. Saturday marks opening day for two early waterfowl seasons in Oklahoma. The September teal season will run Sept. 12-27, and the resident Canada goose season will run through Sept. 12-21.

“These seasons give people an opportunity to get back into the field, brush off their decoys and check their waders for leaks,” said Josh Richardson, migratory bird biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Much of Southwest Oklahoma had dried out from spring rains, but last week’s storms have rejuvenated some of the water holes and ponds that teal love to frequent. A check of area lakes show that they are still in decent shape as well. Good water and good water and cover vegetation surrounding those waters should make for good hunting.

Because blue-winged teal and green-winged teal usually migrate through Oklahoma much earlier than many other ducks, hunters are offered the chance to harvest these birds before the regular duck seasons. Teal are small, fast fliers and usually are seen in flocks of six to 15 birds. They have an erratic flight pattern, challenging even the best of wing-shooters.

Hunters are reminded that only teal are in season, and bird identification is important. Hunters may see other ducks while teal hunting, such as resident mallards or wood ducks, along with some other early migrants.

Waterfowl hunters also have a chance to hunt resident Canada geese during the September season. These geese have established healthy populations in areas across the state, particularly near some larger urban areas. Goose hunters must obey all hunting restrictions for any area in which they are hunting.

Teal hunters are allowed a daily bag limit of six birds. Hunters taking resident Canada geese are allowed a daily bag limit of eight birds. All other state and federal migratory bird hunting regulations are in effect for these two early waterfowl seasons, including the use of only federally approved nontoxic shot. Migratory bird regulations can be found in the Oklahoma Hunting & Fishing Regulations Guide, available online at wildlifedepartment.com or in print at license vendors statewide.

With the much needed rain, many of the public areas in Southwest Oklahoma will be ready for some good teal and goose action. Consult the Public Hunting atlas at the Wildlife Department’s website for area maps.

Here are some tips from Ducks Unlimited and call maker Rod Hydel to help your teal season start with a bang:

· Think small — here is no need for a huge decoy spread. Hydel hunts over as few as 3 hen mallard decoys, and had success. Typically he uses about 6 to 12 decoys in his “early season” spread.

· Add motion — spinning decoys really attract teal, so a small spread with a spinner is perfect.

· Hunt the front – a change in weather can really bring teal in. Small birds like teal will ride the cold fronts south, so watch the weather forecast.

· Make a little noise — Teal are not extremely vocal birds, but peeps and whistles are beneficial in helping bring birds in the final few yards.

· Attract Teal, not bugs — insect repellent may be the most important item in your marsh bag.

· Use smaller shot — #6 or #4 steel shot is best for teal. And open up the choke with an Improved Cylinder or Modified choke tube.

· Shoot for the beak – Nine out of ten misses on teal are behind the fast flying birds. So increase your lead and keep your gun moving after the shot.

· Stay legal — while the basics of needing a valid Oklahoma hunting license, HIP certification, any required hunter education, a state waterfowl stamp, a Federal duck stamp, a plugged shotgun and only non-toxic shotshell loads certainly applies, there are other rules and regulations to heed. As always, read the current Oklahoma hunting regulations book carefully before venturing afield.

· Don’t forget the duck stamp – They are not just pretty, and required, the purchase of waterfowl stamps directly helps save critical waterfowl breeding areas. You can purchase Federal stamps at Post Offices, license dealers, or the ODWC website.

Richardson said he hopes waterfowlers will take advantage of the early seasons. “Things are looking good, and we encourage hunters to make it out for some teal and resident Canada goose hunting,” he said.

New hunting opportunities at Wildlife Refuge

Continuing last year’s opening of hunting seasons per the Trump Administration’s efforts to increase recreational access on public lands, the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge will be open for some hunting opportunities.

“This is the largest single effort to expand hunting and fishing access in recent history,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. “President Trump has made increasing public access and streamlining government functions priorities of his administration, and this new rule delivers on both fronts given the unprecedented expansion of public acreage and removal or revision of 5,000 hunting and fishing regulations to more closely match state laws. This is a big win for sportsmen and sportswomen across the country and our collective conservation efforts.”

Close to home, the Wichita Mountains will expand opportunities for waterfowl and turkey hunting, said Lynn Cartmell, Visitor Services Manager for the refuge. “People can now hunt waterfowl, such as duck and goose, during their respective season in specific areas.”

Here are the regulations for hunting at the refuge:

· Hunting of duck, goose, merganser, and coot is allowed on refuge waters (e.g., lakes, pond, creeks) east and south of the paved road between the Cache and Medicine Park entrance gates.

· Season dates and general hunting regulations follow those established by ODWC for Duck Zone 2 and statewide goose seasons, except closed during elk/deer controlled hunts.

· Hunting hours are from a ½-hour before legal sunrise until 1:00 p.m.

· Waterfowl hunters may hunt on a first come first served basis from the bank or by boat; jump shooting is not allowed.

· Hunters must possess a current signed refuge hunting tearsheet (signed brochure) while hunting on the refuge.

· Hunters must follow all refuge, state and federal laws regarding legal sporting arms. Non-toxic ammunition is required.

· Waterfowl hunting is only allowed on refuge waters (lakes, pond, creeks) within designated areas.

· Use of hunting dogs is allowed only for waterfowl hunting, provided the dogs are under the immediate control of the hunter at all times.

· Blinds may be constructed but must only include natural vegetation materials from the refuge; hunters may not cut trees. Decoys and blinds must be removed at the end of each day’s hunt.

· The use of motorized decoys is prohibited in portions of the refuge designated as Wilderness Area.

As for turkey hunting, that’s going to happen during a controlled hunt multiple times a year like the Elk and Deer hunts.

Before they go, hunters will have to sign a permit and keep it on them. Those permits will be at the Visitors Center and different places around the refuge.

Hunter Education Class canceled

With COVID 19 still active in Southwest Oklahoma, changes have been made in the scheduled Hunter Education courses originally scheduled for this Fall.

It’s unfortunate, but we have had to cancel the in-person classes we have had scheduled,” said Mike Carrol, Comanche County Game warden. “But the good news is that the on-line version is available so people will not miss out on this hunting season.”

There is still time to get in on the great dove action, and with deer seasons quickly approaching new hunters can go to www.wildlifedepartment.com and take the online course.

“Hunter education covers a variety of topics including firearms safety, wildlife identification, wildlife conservation and management, survival, archery, muzzleloading and hunter responsibility,” said Carrol. “There is an internet home study course and a workbook home study course. Hunters must be 10 years of age to take the hunter education course.”

Over the past 30 years, hunting related accidents and fatalities have declined by more than 70 percent in Oklahoma. Mandatory hunter education courses have not only reduced accidents within Oklahoma, but also in every state and Canadian province with similar programs

To hunt big game or small game alone, hunters ages 10-30 must be hunter education certified. Hunters age nine and under can hunt big game or small game by purchase of the apprentice hunting license, and must be accompanied by a licensed hunter 18 or older. Hunters exempt from hunter education include those honorably discharged from or currently on duty the U.S. Armed Forces, and members of the National Guard.

Oklahomans who are not exempt from hunter education but who are not hunter ed certified may be eligible to hunt with an apprentice-designated hunting license. For full details and license requirements, log on to wildlifedepartment.com or consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide.”

Even those hunters who can hunt with an apprentice-designated hunting license are encouraged to enroll in a hunter education course.

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