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Oklahoma waterfowl hunters could be headed into a very successful hunting season.
According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife surveys, record numbers of ducks - including the third highest recorded number of mallards - have been surveyed on breeding grounds in the northern United States and southern Canada.
"A steady dose of cold temperatures and plenty of available water is going to be important in order for Oklahomans to get in on the best waterfowl hunting this year," said Josh Richardson, migratory game bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Ducks are thriving, and hopefully cold weather will drive them south and they'll find plenty of good habitat in Oklahoma."
At its August meeting, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission approved 2012-13 season dates and regulations for waterfowl and other early and late season migratory birds, like doves and September teal.
Every summer the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes frameworks to states for structuring their migratory bird hunting seasons. The Service publishes the federal hunting season frameworks for these species after their meetings, and state wildlife agencies like the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation can then make their season selections within the federal framework guidelines.
Ducks, mergansers and coots
This year, waterfowl season in the Panhandle counties will run from Oct. 13 through Jan. 9, and youth waterfowl days will be Oct. 6-7. In Zone 1, which includes most of northwest Oklahoma (excluding the Panhandle) duck season will run from Oct. 27 through Nov. 25 and Dec. 8 through Jan. 20. Youth waterfowl days in Zone 1 will be Oct. 13-14. Zone 2 duck season dates will be Nov. 3 through Nov. 25 and Dec. 8 through Jan. 27, with youth waterfowl days slated for Oct. 27-28.
The daily limit of six ducks may include no more than: five mallards (only two may be hens), three wood ducks, two redheads, two pintails and one canvasback. The daily limit of mergansers is five, of which no more than two may be hooded mergansers, and the daily limit of coots is 15.
Geese and sandhill crane
Canada goose and light goose seasons both will run from Oct. 27-Nov. 25 and Dec. 8-Feb. 10, with white-fronted goose season spanning Oct. 27-Nov. 25 and Dec. 8-Feb. 3. Sandhill crane season will run Oct. 20-Jan. 20 (west of I-35 only). The daily limits for Canada geese is three; white-fronted geese, one; light geese, 20, and; sandhill crane, three.
Dove, teal, special resident Canada goose, rail, gallinule, woodcock and snipe
This year, seasons and regulations for dove September teal, Special resident Canada geese, rail, gallinule, woodcock and common snipe will be the same as last year, except for adjustments to calendar dates. See the "2012-13 Oklahoma Hunting Guide" for details.
To participate in any migratory bird season in Oklahoma, hunters must possess a resident or nonresident Oklahoma hunting license and a Harvest Information Permit (HIP). Additionally, hunters 16 years old and older must carry a valid federal duck stamp and Oklahoma waterfowl license while hunting any waterfowl species, unless otherwise exempt. All waterfowl hunting is restricted to federally-approved nontoxic shot in all areas of the state. Possession of lead shot while hunting waterfowl is prohibited. For full waterfowl hunting season details and regulations, consult the "2012-13 Oklahoma Waterfowl Guide," which will be available in the fall.