By John Pollmann, WF360 Central Flyway Migration Editor
Oklahoma waterfowl hunters are enjoying one of the better seasons in recent memory, and with good numbers of ducks and geese now in the state, the stage is set for strong finish.
The cold snap that helped usher in the New Year across the Central Flyway also brought in a wave of new birds to the Sooner State, says Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation migratory game bird biologist Josh Richardson. Though the cold temperatures did put a layer of ice on many open waters, he says hunters have been finding ways to take advantage of the influx of ducks and geese.
“Finding birds and getting access has been a little difficult, as the birds moved to bigger reservoirs, where they were keeping holes open in the ice, but the temperatures have moderated some and hunters have been doing well,” Richardson says. “We’ve had a better waterfowl season that we have in the past 4 or 5 years, because we’ve finally gotten some cold weather to push mallards and Canada geese into the state. We’re looking at a bit of another cold snap in the coming days, but we’ve got the birds and we’ve got food around. Things are looking pretty positive, and I’d say that we’re looking to make a strong finish.”
This includes southwest Oklahoma, according to Avery/Banded pro-staffer Cody Bower, who reports that the region is holding a significant number of both ducks and geese. And if hunters aren’t strictly targeting mallards and Canada geese, there are great opportunities for mixed bag hunts.
“We seem to be at peak migration numbers right now and there are a lot of great opportunities to shoot a limit without spending a full day in the field,” Bower says.
Hard Core pro-staffer and Oklahoma City hunter Nick Mathis agrees, doubling down on the observation that mallards and Canada geese are not the only game in town.
“Our diver numbers seem to be off the charts, especially canvasbacks,” Mathis says. “I haven’t seen this many around in a long time. There are big numbers of goldeneyes, buffleheads, and others, too.”
A post-New Year’s cold front thaw produced some of the best hunting of the season for all kinds of waterfowl, Mathis explains, but this weekend’s cold front had birds holding tight on open water.
Recent scouting efforts show birds on the move, however, and Mathis believes that lakes, rivers, smaller watersheds and fields all look to hold quality hunting opportunities as the duck season comes to a close across much of the state in a few weeks.
“I took some time off from work to hunt these final weeks of the season because I think it is going to be really good,” Mathis says. “I’m seeing quite a bit of other hunter traffic out there, so there is going to be some competition, but that’s just a part of it. If you can find some open water or create open water, you’re going to have some great hunting.”
John Pollmann is a freelance writer from Dell Rapids, South Dakota, who is an avid waterfowler and conservationist. Pollmann will provide hunting and habitat reports for the Central and Mississippi Flyways throughout the 2017-2018 waterfowl season.