Background Information on Duck Season Regulations
Oklahoma’s duck season regulations are set by two groups, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Some things can be changed by ODWC and some cannot.
WHAT PART DOES THE USFWS SET?
(Things we can not change)
- Panhandle: Regulations in the panhandle counties (Cimarron, Texas and Beaver) are set for a broader region (the High Plains Mallard Management Unit) and cannot be changed by ODWC.
- Maximum season length: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sets the maximum number of duck hunting days each state may have, based on many types of research including breeding surveys. Oklahoma has been under a “liberal” package for sixteen years, allowing 74 days of duck hunting. If the duck population declined, the “moderate” package would allow 60 days and the “restrictive” package would allow 39 days.
- Earliest starting date, latest ending date: For our region of the country (the Central Flyway), the earliest duck season can open is the Saturday following September 24, and the latest it can close is the last Sunday in January. Duck hunting in February is not allowed.
- Maximum daily bag limit: The bag limit is set by the USFWS and
corresponds to the “package” assigned for the flyway (liberal,
moderate or restrictive), depending on the duck population
WHAT PART DOES ODWC SET?
(Things we can change)
- Dates: States determine when to offer duck hunting within the allowed starting and ending dates.
- Split: States can chose to have a split season or run the 74 day season straight through.
- Zones: States can set up a limited number of duck hunting
zones with different dates and splits.
WHY DOES OKLAHOMA HAVE ZONES WITH DIFFERENT DATES?
As ducks migrate from the north, they arrive in different parts of Oklahoma at different times. In the northwest, ducks generally begin arriving earlier and the freeze-up occurs earlier than most of the rest of the state. Therefore, Zone 1 season dates are set earlier to provide as much hunting opportunity as possible. In the eastern and southern parts of Oklahoma, ducks begin arriving a few weeks later. The opening date for Zone 2 is set as late as possible while still allowing 74 days of hunting.
HOW ARE THE BOUNDARIES BETWEEN ZONES SET?
The general boundaries of Zones 1 and 2 are set according to historical migration patterns and water conditions, in order to time duck hunting opportunities with the presence of ducks and availability of habitat. The boundaries between Zone 1 and 2 are set along highways instead of county lines because roads serve as better reference points for hunters. People may not know which county they are in, but they usually know where they are in reference to a road.
WHY DOES OKLAHOMA HAVE SPLIT SEASONS?
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 time period). It also enables ODWC to spread the season out within the wider range of dates allowed by the USFWS, providing both early and late season opportunities. The timing of the split is set to allow duck hunting over the Thanksgiving holidays, but then close 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.