Oklahoma sportsmen may notice that several changes have been made to this year’s hunting seasons and most of these changes offer increased hunting opportunities.
The fall hunting seasons are just around the corner and begin with the opening day of dove season September 1. An early teal season and a special resident Canada goose season also will be open during September, and deer, turkey, rabbit, waterfowl, quail and pheasant will open in the months to follow.
"The biggest change to take place was revamping our deer seasons in response to recommendations made by the 21st Century Deer Stakeholders Committee," said Alan Peoples, wildlife division chief. "But, changes were also made to the pheasant season and the spring turkey season in the southeast, and for the first time sportsmen may legally harvest feral hogs on many of our public lands. The 2001-2002 Hunting Guides and Regulations provide details about any changes that were made."
The Guides are currently being distributed and will be available at any Department installation and at most license vendors and sporting goods stores across the state. Sportsmen can also download the regulations from the Department’s Web site, Peoples added.
Most of the regulation changes increased hunting opportunities for Oklahoma’s sportsmen. The following are highlights of this year’s changes and more detailed information is available in the 2001-2002 Hunting Guide.
• Statewide combined bag limit for all three deer seasons increased from five deer to six - only three of which can be bucks.
• Hunters will be allowed to use an unfilled primitive buck license to harvest a doe on the last day of the primitive deer season.
• Hunters will be allowed to use an unfilled gun buck license to harvest a doe on the last day of deer gun season.
• Special antlerless deer seasons were added in some areas. One bonus antlerless deer will be allowed with appropriate permit.
• Archery bag limit for bucks reduced from three to two.
• Archery season will be extended to January 15. From January 1 to January 15, only antlerless deer are legal.
• Fall archery turkey season dates change to correspond with deer archery season.
• Spring turkey season dates and bag limits have changed in the southeast turkey zone.
• The area open for pheasant hunting has expanded.
• The northwest Oklahoma season and panhandle season are now combined. The season opens December 1, 2001, and runs through January 31, 2002, with a daily bag limit of two cock pheasants.
• Feral hog hunting regulations were added for public lands.
For more information about the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, for questions and answers about feral hog hunting, or to download hunting regulations, log onto the Department’s Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.
Heat causes wildlife antics
"There’s a big black snake in my sprinkler!" exclaimed the woman who called the Wildlife Department recently to report an increasing trend - unusual wildlife behaviors due to the current statewide heat wave.
Members of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Wildlife Diversity Pro-gram answer a lot of calls on a huge variety of wildlife-related subjects, and when it’s this hot, call volume rises with the mercury.
"Many species of wildlife are stressed and suffering from the heat, but they know instinctively how to handle it," said Mark Howery, natural resources biologist. "As always, weather conditions play a huge role in affecting wildlife behaviors. Those behaviors may include birds and butterflies coming to lawn sprinklers for refreshment, armadillos digging-up recently watered flower beds in search of insects and worms, field mice and other rodents moving into peoples’ homes, and other circumstances that increase human-animal interactions."
One of the most common calls the Department has received lately involves one or more snakes moving into unlikely places - garages, under backyard decks, and even the kitchen. Howery said snakes commonly move to find water and food and these resources may be localized more around a house then in a snake’s normal habitat this time of year. He also said snakes adopt a mostly nocturnal (nighttime) habit during the hot Oklahoma summertime, and often find a cool, moist place to lay throughout the day.
Large gray and black predatory birds called Mississippi Kites can make themselves unpopular when they visit backyards and golf courses in the hottest months. Howery said that these sleek gray and black raptors nest and rear their young in large trees near open areas, where they eat large flying insects like grasshoppers and cicadas.
Mississippi kites often dive-bomb dogs, cats, and golfers who enter their nesting space, but very rarely connect with or harm anyone. Lately, these birds are moving into residential areas for nesting, where they also enjoy bathing and preening in lawn sprinklers.
In order to encourage positive experiences with wildlife, Howery suggested putting out water sources a good distance from the house to benefit wildlife. Many bird species, like mockingbirds, orioles, buntings, and bluebirds, will bathe and drink in bird baths and dishes, which can be placed on the ground or on pedestals. Birds benefit most from water sources less than two inches deep. Pieces of fruit such as oranges, apples, and bananas, are also good attractors of birds and even butterflies.