Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Youths Get Early Shot at Ducks; Regular Season Soon

Youths in the southern and eastern parts of Oklahoma will be able to get an early jump on duck
season this weekend. Youth waterfowl hunting days will be Oct. 18-19 in Waterfowl Zone 2, providing two additional days outside of the regular waterfowl seasons for hunters 15 and younger.
   The regular season for ducks, mergansers and coots is already open in the three Panhandle counties. The season will open Oct. 25 in Zone 1, and Nov. 1 in Zone 2. Goose hunting season will open Nov. 1 statewide.
   Any youth hunting during the special early waterfowl weekend must be accompanied by an adult 18 or older who is hunter education certified (unless exempt). The adult hunter may not hunt ducks, mergansers or coots, but may participate in other open seasons. All daily bag limits for waterfowl are the same as those for the regular seasons.
   Duck population numbers were strong this past breeding season, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 2014 Waterfowl Population Status Report. The 2014 total duck population estimate was 49.2 million birds, an 8 percent increase from last year's estimate of 45.6 million. The estimate is 43 percent higher than the long-term average from 1955-2013.
   Although these population estimates boost optimism for a good duck hunting season, where and when waterfowl will be encountered this year depends on many factors. Weather, food availability and water conditions influence local duck abundance, distribution, behavior and, ultimately, hunter success, the USFWS said.
   Each year, the USFWS proposes frameworks to states for structuring their waterfowl seasons, and Oklahoma's 74-day season and generous harvest limits create a liberal 2014 hunting season framework for hunters to enjoy.
   The daily limit of six ducks may include no more than five mallards (only two may be hens), three wood ducks, three scaup, two redheads, two pintails and one canvasback. The daily limit of mergansers is five (only two may be hooded mergansers), and the daily limit of coots is 15.
   Duck hunting regulations and more information about hunting licenses, waterfowl stamps and permit requirements can be found in the current "Oklahoma Waterfowl" guide, available online at wildlifedepartment.com or at locations where hunting and fishing licenses are sold.