Kelly Bostian: Oklahoma waterfowl outlook not great, but OK
BY KELLY BOSTIAN World Outdoors Writer
Thursday, December 06, 2012
12/06/12 at 5:10 AM
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SOMETIMES, ONE line seems to crop up that just really says it all.
Looking through reports ahead of Saturday's waterfowl opener, I appreciated the following line from one of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's waterfowl reports issued Wednesday afternoon: "Lower temperatures and higher water levels should result in increased waterfowl numbers."
That line is one massive understatement for the state of waterfowl hunting pretty much from Kansas to Texas, Iowa to Louisiana and east to Georgia.
It definitely holds for Oklahoma as the so-called split ends and the second season opens Saturday, but one point needs to be emphasized. It is going to be OK.
North America's waterfowl "factories" produced record numbers of ducks and geese this year and the latter part of the duck-hunting season could be great. It's just not looking great for at least the next couple of weeks.
That said, don't give up. There is no doubt that it will be OK in spots.
Geese will move into Oklahoma and collect on winter wheat fields sure as the farmers have planted that wonderful green browse for them. Sure, in some places the wheat is looking a little sad, but that's not the case everywhere, and the wheat situation can change with just a little precipitation and morning dew.
Duck hunting will indeed be OK in spots. Some folks out there will come home with limits of mallards, no doubt about it.
This is Oklahoma, and it is going to get cold at some point and more birds will filter south. In fact, those beautiful words "Arctic air mass" are in the forecast looking ahead to early next week, so that should get some birds up and moving. Every time a cold front pushes in from the north, we should see another push of birds.
Whether they stay here or simply pass on by is anyone's guess. Whether large groups of birds will move in and get into predictable patterns is another matter. Again, we're talking "OK" here, not great.
All you can do is put yourself in the position to get birds, and that simply means finding water and food. This season, that likely will involve a little more hiking or a little more use of an airboat, mud boat, kayak or piro boat to get to places where ducks will land.
The Wildlife Department's Wetland Status report, updated Wednesday, offers some clues. While an alarming number of listings contain the words "dry" and "poor," right at the top of the list is Billy Creek - here in our neck of the woods in Wagoner County - with a great report. That 100-acre waterfowl unit is 100 percent flooded and has good habitat. The nearby Fort Gibson Lake waterfowl report says bird numbers are low, but that can change overnight. The same goes for the Chouteau units in the same county that have good habitat and are 75 to 100 percent flooded.
The Cottonwood Creek area on Keystone Lake is 100 percent flooded and in good shape food-wise, according to the status report. The waterfowl report there notes "good numbers" of ducks - go figure.
Several of the Deep Fork/Eufaula units are flooded as well. While the main lake is low and waterfowl numbers are reported as low, that can change with a severe weather event up north. Other water bodies with fair to good reports within striking distance of Tulsa include Sooner, Kaw and Oologah lakes.
Does the hunting look great? No, but it's OK, and some groups that put in the time and effort likely will find hunting success and may even stumble into a great day afield if they put themselves in front of a migration.
It's duck hunting, not duck harvesting. All you can do is get out there and try.
Look for the waterfowl unit status report and the waterfowl report at tulsaworld.com/wildlife
Original Print Headline: Waterfowl outlook not great, but OK
Oklahoma Waterfowl Season
Dates for Zone 2:
Duck, Merganser and Coot: Dec. 8-Jan. 27
Canada Geese: Dec. 8-Feb. 10
White-fronted Geese: Dec. 8-Feb. 3
Light Geese (snow, blue, Ross'): Dec. 8-Feb. 10