With only three weeks left in duck season, it’s finally starting to feel like duck season.
The Arctic cold front has brought snow and freezing temperatures into the state, and it should bring more ducks as well.
Generally, it’s been a slow season for Oklahoma waterfowlers.
“We’ve had birds around all season but getting to them has been pretty tough,” said Josh Richardson, migratory bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
“The warm weather (earlier this season) kept more birds farther north than usual. Also, the birds down here have been spread out over every little piece of water.”
With lake levels low across the state, the best duck hunting has been on small water where ducks are able to find food nearby.
The major lakes have been so low that ducks haven’t been able to get to food: the natural vegetation and the millet planted along shorelines by the Wildlife Department.
Usually, ducks always will find something to eat on a big body of water, Richardson said.
“This year there is nothing. That’s part of the reason farm ponds are doing good. There is no added benefit to going to a big lake.”
However, the recent Arctic weather and snowstorm up north should benefit Oklahoma duck hunting the rest of the season, which ends Jan 30.
Kansas waters are freezing which should push more birds south to Oklahoma.
“I look forward to it improving,” Richardson said. “I am hoping for myself and everybody else that it will pick up some more.”
The last week of deer season is here as Saturday is the final day of Oklahoma’s bow season.
With that in mind, I thought I would share the story and photo of this great buck taken by Tim Jensen of Tuttle during gun season.
Jensen said it was his biggest buck in 25 years of hunting. The 188-pound, 10-point brute was killed in Grant County on Thanksgiving morning. It green scored at 147 6/8.
“I saw him about ½ mile away in a big CRP field chasing a doe,” Jensen stated in an email. “Luckily enough, they were headed my way and passed by at about 125 yards. I stopped the doe with a whistle and he stopped, too.
“The rut was really heavy all that week and I had been passing on several good bucks. Every buck I saw was with a doe.
“I saw a different 10 point in the same area whose inside spread probably was 21 inches. I actually watched him bed down with a doe in a CRP field on the neighbors property Wednesday morning about 8.
“I was hunting hard for him until this giant showed up. I guess I have no regrets!”
Stay tuned for more deer season photos and stories from readers on my blog in the future.
Outdoors Editor Ed Godfrey is doing a live chat from H&H Gun Range at 11:30 a.m. today, then hanging out until 1 p.m. to talk to folks. Stop by H&H Gun Range and chat with Ed, or join our live chat to ask a question.
Use of off-road vehicles around Lake Texoma and the damage they cause will be one of the topics of discussion at a “listening session” Saturday at the Enos Community Center, nine miles south of Kingston in Marshall County.
“Off-road vehicle use is tearing up the shoreline and destroying public lands,” said Col. Michael Teague, commander of the Tulsa District, in a news release.
“We need a clear policy that protects the land while accommodating all of our visitors.”
The meeting begins at 10 a.m.
“We are having the meeting at Texoma because it is a big issue there but it affects all of the lakes (managed by the Tulsa District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers),” said Mary Beth Hudson, public affairs specialist for the Tulsa District. “We are looking at it (policy) district wide.”
The Corps of Engineers will not recommend a proposed policy at the meeting in Enos, Hudson said.
Instead, officials will explain the problems and hope to get public input on what should be done about them, she said.
No other meetings are scheduled but Hudson thinks there will be more and at other Corps lakes.
“There are passionate people on all sides of the issue,” she said. “This is just the beginning steps… We have already been getting suggestions that we need to have more (meetings) scheduled. I would imagine this meeting would turn into other meetings.”
Golf carts also will be a topic of the Enos listening session.
“There are communities developing that are called like golf cart communities,” Hudson said. “The golf carts are not legal vehicles on state roads so that is part of the issue.”
Accomodating individuals with disabilities at Corps lakes also has been raised, she said.
The Tulsa District is not accepting public comments online at this time, but that might change in the future, Hudson said.
There is no timetable for when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hopes to have a policy in place, Hudson said.
The Washita National Wildlife Refuge will hold wildlife viewing tours on Saturday and again on Jan. 15.
Participants will get opportunities to see bald eagles, ducks and geese in areas of the refuge that are normally not open to the public.
Spotting scopes will be available for wildlife watching but participants are encouraged to bring their own binoculars as well.
Tour groups will caravan to the viewing areas from the headquarters in their own vehicles.
Tours will begin at the refuge headquarters located 5 miles west of Butler on SH 33 then 1 mile north and ½ mile west.
Washita Refuge is home to a number of migratory and resident wildlife species and is a wintering home for bald eagles.
According to refuge officials, these birds of prey feed on fish from Foss Reservoir, and geese from neighboring fields – and are often seen in trees along the lake shore.
Several mature eagles (with white heads and tails) and immature eagles (uniformly brown colored) have been observed in recent weeks, according to the refuge’s news release.
As winter weather freezes lakes to our north over the next several weeks, more eagles should join them.
Between 50,000 and 100,000 geese usually spend the winter on the refuge each year.
Canada, white-fronted, snow, and Ross’s geese begin arriving in late October each year.
Some of these birds will continue their southern migration as the winter weather turns colder and wheat fields are eaten bare – but some will remain on the refuge until spring, when they begin their migration to nesting grounds in the northern United States and Canada.
These birds graze in the wheat fields, both on and off the refuge, close to the lake. About 2,000 acres of the refuge are planted in wheat annually to provide food for the geese.
White-tailed deer, coyotes, bobcats and other resident species are also abundant on the refuge, and tour participants usually enjoy seeing a variety of resident wildlife in the wheat fields and grasslands.
For more information on the tours, call (580) 664-2205.
Anyone with an interest in canoeing, kayaking or rafting might want to check out Oklahoma’s new paddling association.
The Oklahoma Paddle Sports Association is an organization of people who enjoy paddling the rivers, streams and lakes in Oklahoma and surrounding states.
The new organization will be holding workshops, paddling classes and outings to fun places in Oklahoma and the region, said Bill Becquart, president of the group.
The association also promises to be involved in issues about water and paddling in the state along with helping keep Oklahoma’s rivers, streams and lakes clean.
The group is for anyone who enjoys recreational kayaking, rafting or canoeing.
For more information, check out the group’s website at http://www.ok-psa.org/.
The website contains a newsletter with dates of upcoming meetings, classes and events as well as stories on training, river techniques, paddling destinations in Oklahoma and more.
It’s estimated that as many as 1,500 bald and golden eagles winter in Oklahoma and several lakes offer opportunities for people to view the majestic birds in January.
This weekend, eagle watches are scheduled on Arcadia Lake, the Salt Plains National Refuge near Jet and the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, just to name a few.
Don’t forget to bring binoculars and a camera and to dress warmly because even on a sunny January day it always cold near the lakes.
For information on the Arcadia Lake eagle watch, call 216-7141.
The Salt Plains National Refuge is one of the best places to see eagles and this Friday and Saturday, visitors will get to learn about the birds then take a hayride to an eagle hotspot to see eagles fly in to roost for the evening.
The eagle watch is from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. each day and reservations are required. Call (580) 626-4794 for information.
The Wichita Wildlife Mountain Refuge also has organized eagle watches each weekend through Feb. 6. Reservations are also required. Call (580) 429-2151.
An eagle watch is scheduled Saturday on Lake Thunderbird from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Call 321-4633 for information and to register.
Other eagle watches at Thunderbird are scheduled Jan. 22, Feb. 5 and Feb. 19.
The Chickasaw National Recreation Area also has scheduled organized eagle watches on Jan. 15 and 29.
The event begins with a ranger program followed by a bus ride to Arbuckle Lake. Call (580) 622-7234.
Eastern Oklahoma has more wintering eagles than the rest of the state and other popular places around the state for eagle viewing include Beavers Bend State Park, Kaw Lake, the Tishomingo Wildlife Refuge, Sequoyah State Park and Greenleaf State Park.
To see a complete list of eagle watches around the state, visit www.wildlifedepartment.com.