Aug. 7, 2015

Waterfowl Seasons Set; Youth Hunters Get Extra Days

Dates for Oklahoma's 2015-16 waterfowl seasons have been set.

The 2015-16 duck, merganser and coot season will kick off in the Panhandle counties
Oct. 17 and run through Jan. 13, 2016. Season dates in Zone 1 (northwestern Oklahoma)
will be Oct. 31-Nov. 29, and Dec. 12-Jan. 24, 2016. Duck hunting season in Zone
2 will run from Nov. 7-29, and Dec. 12-Jan. 31, 2016.

Duck daily bag limits and possession limits will remain as they were in 2014-15,
with one exception. This year, the daily bag limit for canvasback ducks will increase
from one to two birds.

Goose hunters will be allowed to take two white-fronted geese per day this year,
an increase from one bird last year. Season dates statewide for Canada and light
geese will be Oct. 31-Nov. 29 and Dec. 12-Feb. 14, 2016. Season dates for white-fronted
geese are Oct. 31-Nov. 29 and Dec. 12-Feb. 7,

Each year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service establishes frameworks that states
use to structure their waterfowl seasons. The states select specific dates (and
if desired, more restrictive bag limits) within those frameworks for hunters to

Youth waterfowl hunting days will be offered Oct. 10-11 in the Panhandle Zone, Oct.
24-25 in Zone 1, and Oct. 31-Nov. 1 in Zone 2. These special days provide two extra
hunting days outside of the regular waterfowl seasons in each zone only for hunters
15 and younger.

Josh Richardson, migratory bird biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife
Conservation, said youth waterfowl days are set to provide youth hunters the first
opportunity to hunt waterfowl in Oklahoma, similar to youth deer gun and youth turkey
seasons. While the waterfowl numbers are not at their peak for youth days, a variety
of duck species are normally present and available for harvest, including resident
birds such as wood ducks, early-season migrants such as blue-winged teal, northern
shovelers, gadwalls and redheads, as well as a few late-season migrants such as
mallards, all of which are open to harvest.

The weather is generally milder in mid- to late-October than during the regular
season split or after the regular season closes, allowing youths to be in the field
without the need for additional specialty equipment. It is important to note that
while these weekends provide additional days to focus specifically on youth hunters,
the Department encourages waterfowl hunters to continue to bring youths with them
in the field to mentor them throughout the regular waterfowl seasons as well.

As ducks migrate south, they arrive in different parts of Oklahoma at different
times. In the northwest (Panhandle and Zone 1), ducks generally begin arriving earlier,
and freeze-up occurs earlier than in the rest of the state. Therefore, Zone 1 season
dates are set slightly earlier to provide as much hunting opportunity as possible.

In the eastern and southern parts of Oklahoma, ducks traditionally arrive a few
weeks later, and the larger and deeper water bodies generally remain open longer.
The opening date for Zone 2 is set as late as possible while still allowing 74 days
of hunting.

Zones 1 and 2 are closed at the same time (12-day split) for several reasons. The
split season provides migrating ducks a period of refuge (no waterfowl hunters are
afield during the split, allowing a resting period). It also enables the Wildlife
Department to spread out the season within the wider range of dates allowed by the
USFWS, providing both early- and late-season opportunities.

The timing of the split allows duck hunting over the Thanksgiving holidays, but
then closes to let wintering duck populations build up. The split also offers duck
hunters a second "opening day" experience. Having both zone splits at the same time
simplifies regulations for hunters and law enforcement.

"Onward up many a frightening creek, though your arms may get sore and your sneakers may leak. Oh! The places you'll go!" ~ Dr. Seuss