Skip to main content

Did you know that the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has over 100 areas that we manage for hunting, fishing, and wildlife watching? 

Across five management regions, the Wildlife Department’s dedicated biologists manage these diverse habitats for a myriad of species (both plant and animal). There are many WMAs that we talk about a lot due to the exciting opportunities they provide via our social media channels or emails that we share with license holders. Although we give some WMAs the spotlight more often, every WMA in the state is protected for a reason, and management ongoing in these areas creates opportunities that you may be unaware of.  

Below, we will highlight one WMA, and an opportunity available there, from each ODWC management region: northeast, northwest, central, southeast, and southwest. The WMA highlighted for each region has been selected by the staff in that region to share with you. Let’s dig in! 

Northeast Region: Trapping at Cherokee Wildlife Management Area 

The northeast Oklahoma management region is incredibly lucky to have over 208,000 acres of public land. Stretching from the tallgrass prairie and cross-timbers of Osage County to the pine-covered Sans Bois Mountains of Haskell County, the northeast region has something for everyone. And even in a region with one of the highest populations, there are still plenty of missed opportunities available on our WMAs.  

One of these missed opportunities would be furbearer trapping. In the northeast part of the state, we have several WMA’s that are open to the use of foothold traps for both land and water trapping. In addition to the opportunity to do so, we also have a diverse collection of furbearing animals legal to harvest that includes striped skunk, opossum, coyote, grey fox, red fox, raccoon, bobcat, river otter, beaver, muskrat, and mink.

Cherokee WMA located just outside of Tahlequah is a great location to get started. With a total acreage of over 31,000 acres, and over 92 miles of public access road located on the area, there is plenty of ground to cover. The WMA consists of oak/hickory forest on rolling hills, with some lowland riparian area, fields, native grasses, and several miles of creeks. In addition to this, the area has a robust population of furbearers. 

Don’t let low fur prices keep you from trying out trapping. It’s a great way to learn to be more observant in nature, learn more about your target species, and make great memories with friends and family. The skills learned in becoming a trapper will make you a better and more well-rounded hunter.  

And if you’ve always been interested in trapping but had no one to mentor you, the Wildlife Department offers trapping workshops at multiple WMAs across the state. To find more information, visit and search events.  

Northwest Region: Cimmaron Bluff WMA Rattlesnake Hunting 

The northwest region of Oklahoma is unique in that it has the lowest rainfall totals in the state. Cimarron Bluff Wildlife Management Area (Cimarron Bluff WMA | Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation ( ) covers 3,590 acres in northeastern Harper County. This WMA is dominated by mixed-grass prairie vegetation with isolated pockets of sand sagebrush, sand plum, and sumac occurring on red clay and gypsum soils. Cottonwood, hackberry, and western soapberry trees exist along the creeks flowing through the property. A limited amount of Cimarron River floodplain exists along the east boundary of the WMA, dominated by salt flats, interspersed with salt cedar. 

Cimarron Bluff WMA has a stable population of western diamondback rattlesnakes and prairie rattlesnakes that are legal to hunt (for all reptile and amphibian regulations see here: Reptile & Amphibian Regulations | Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation ( To be able to take part in this exciting opportunity, you must have an Oklahoma hunting license. If you do not have an Oklahoma hunting license, you can purchase a 5-day rattlesnake permit. Rattlesnake season is open from March 1 – June 30 and there is no daily limit. Other snakes that can be hunted with no daily limit are prairie rattlesnakes, timber rattlesnakes, and massasauga. 

The most common method of snake hunting is with snake tongs and a restraining tube to put the snake into. This method can be utilized as a catch-and-release method for rattlesnakes at the many snake festivals, snake education clinics, and regulated snake hunts and roundups for spectators' entertainment. Another way to utilize the rattlesnake is through the harvest of the meat. Rattlesnake meat is considered a premium and healthy exotic meat in certain areas. Many people consider the flavor like alligator meat. It is highly recommended to have the appropriate gear for your next snake hunting adventure, including snake boots, snake chaps, snake tongs, restraining tube or sack and if possible, a well-educated snake hunter to show the appropriate steps to have a safe and fun adventure in the great outdoors. 

Watch Cimarron Bluff WMA on YouTube.


Central Region: Squirrel Hunting

The central region of Oklahoma is situated between the wetter forests of eastern Oklahoma and the drier shortgrass prairies of western Oklahoma. Portions of this region are referred to as the cross timbers and contain a mosaic of forest, woodland, and prairie. This region has a high percentage of the state's population (52%) and a very low percentage of the Department's overall WMA acreage (11%).  The Tulsa metro sits just to the east of the central region. This makes it a little harder to discover unknown areas, but focusing on less popular species can be a way to avoid the crowds.

Squirrels are plentiful on Kaw, Okmulgee, Deep Fork, Lexington, and Cross Timbers WMAs and are good places to start (in no particular order).  Be sure to check specific area regulations as season dates do vary from WMA to WMA. Hunters interested in pursuing squirrels should focus on blocks of timber that have mast-producing trees; trees that produce some type of berry or nut. 

Upon locating such trees (oaks, pecans, mulberry, walnut, etc.) the hunter can sit and observe the forest floor or canopy for movement.  Typically, squirrels will run along the forest floor when searching for or concealing food but will commonly run through the canopy, jumping from tree to tree to move throughout the woods.  If one is not observing movement, listening for squirrels barking, chattering, teeth grinding, or even the rustle of the leaves on branches or on the ground from squirrels moving around can be just as effective.  Sitting under a tree looking and listening for 20-30 minutes is more than enough time to know if squirrels are in the vicinity.  

Other ways to locate squirrels includes using calls and looking for sign.  Commercial calls are available for purchase through several sporting goods or outdoor stores.  The simplest call is using two quarters from your pocket.  Tap them together to mimic squirrel barking or rub the edges together to mimic the teeth-grinding sound.  Signs that suggest squirrels could be nearby include nests in the treetops and busted shells on the ground beneath trees.  Squirrels build nests in treetops using sticks and leaves and they are usually constructed toward the top of the tree in a fork of the branch.  Nests are much more noticeable than busted shells on the ground.  These pieces fall or are dropped while a squirrel is feeding.  Sometimes they will feed on a log lying on the ground or on a limb up in a tree.   

In summary, the best way to start squirrel hunting is to spend time in the woods looking for mast trees and looking/listening for squirrels. And, Kaw WMA is a perfect location for your next squirrel hunting adventure. 

Southwest Region: Coyote Hunting

Southwest Oklahoma is well known for its beautiful landscapes. One of the most visited national wildlife refuges in the country, Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge has over 1 million visitors every year; a testament to the amazing recreation opportunities that this area of Oklahoma provides to residents and nonresidents alike.  Ellis WMA, Packsaddle WMA, and Black Kettle WMA are three areas in this region that provide a variety of opportunities to hunters. These three WMAs reside in Ellis and Roger Mills counties. They are in the mixed grass prairie; a mixture of rolling sand hills and wooded bottoms with the South Canadian River as its southern boundary. Vegetation in these areas contains mixed grass species including big bluestem, indian grass, little bluestem, side-oats grama, and buffalo grass, and brush species like shinnery oak, sagebrush, and sand plum. 

A season that may not come to mind to try out is coyote or “predator hunting”. This season is a great one to attempt as it is open year-round and has no bag limit applied. You cannot night hunt coyotes by using lights or dogs. When we asked the area biologist for a few quick tips on predator hunting in this area, he suggested scouting locations on the WMA you choose beforehand so that you can move from one calling spot to another quickly. Predators will be more active with weather changes and fronts so make sure to pay close attention to the weather and focus on water holes and food plots to start. Everyone has their own preferences on calls and calling techniques but don't be scared to mix it up a little. 

Southeast Region: Ouachita WMA Something for Everyone! 

The southeast region is dominated by the Ouachita Mountains containing oak, hickory, and short-leaf pine forests. The Ouachita WMA - Le Flore Unit covers 223,823 acres of the Ouachita National Forest Lands in southeastern Oklahoma, Le Flore County. The WMA is managed cooperatively between the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the United States Forest Service. Located in the scenic, mountainous, oak-pine forest, this is a popular destination for many small game, turkey, deer, and bear hunters from all over the United States. However, hunting is just one of the many things available. The Ouachita WMA has something to offer for anyone who has an appreciation for the outdoors. 

This massive WMA contains hundreds of miles of public travelable roads, ranging from through highways, to gravel and dirt logging roads. In addition to roads, are miles of designated hiking, horseback riding, and ATV trails. As a result of the USFS timber management practices, the logging roads are rotationally maintained in areas where timber harvest occurs and consequently provide great access for hunters, trappers, and outdoor enthusiasts.

Oklahoma has two species of squirrels that are legal to hunt: the eastern fox squirrel and the eastern gray squirrel. Both are common on the WMA, but the gray squirrel is more abundant.  Oklahoma’s squirrel season usually runs from May 15 through February 28 with a daily limit of 25 fox and gray squirrels combined per day, 50 in possession after the first day.  Squirrel hunting is a great way to sharpen marksmanship, and stalking skills, and experience one of the best-tasting wild game delicacies out there. The preparation time, expense, and gear, required to bag a few bushytails for the dinner table is often far less than what is required to hunt big game or waterfowl. Squirrel season offers a perfect opportunity for experienced hunters to introduce a young hunter to all aspects of the sport, from gun safety to the skillet. There is no better way to get a young person hooked on hunting and share some deep woods wisdom, than by taking them to the woods and helping them harvest a few squirrels. The Ouachita WMA has plenty of habitat, squirrels, and elbow room to provide a chance to invest in our next generation of hunters, so don’t let the opportunity run across a limb and into a hole.

A photo of a sunset at the Ouachita Mountains in Oklahoma.
Kelly Adams

In addition to hunting, the Talimena Scenic Drive cuts the area in half running along the top of Winding Stair Mountain from Highway 271 to the Arkansas line. This drive offers many scenic vistas to pull off and enjoy the view. There are many primitive camping sites in the area and two sites at Cedar Lake and Winding Stair Vista that have modern facilities. The area also has two shooting ranges, one on the south side, off Hwy. 63, and one on the north, off Hwy. 59. 

Cedar Lake, an 80-acre impoundment, is the recreational gem of the Ouachita National Forest. It is the largest and most used recreation area on the Forest and has produced 2 state record largemouth bass. Crooked Branch Lake, a smaller 15-acre water body is also managed by ODWC and stocked with bass, channel cat, and blue gill. From hunting, fishing, hiking, riding, or just sightseeing, this WMA really does have something for every outdoor enthusiast.