The first week of September might seem too early for fall hunting, but seasons for doves, ducks, and geese all start up this month! One advantage of these early hunts is that the birds are “uneducated” and unwary and can really zoom into your set ups and respond to your calls. Optimism is running high for this year’s dove hunting season, which will arrive on its traditional opening day of September 1st. And the fast-flying action will continue Sept. 2-3 as Oklahoma offers Free Hunting Days for state residents.
Josh Richardson, migratory bird biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, said he’s heard some encouraging news from the field. Observers have reported seeing sizable flocks of mourning doves. “This time of year, we start seeing birds really beginning to group up.”
Still, while there might be plenty of doves around, they could be harder to hunt if cooler weather remains in place.
But do you know the ins and outs of migratory-bird hunting regulations? They can get confusing: Migratory-bird hunting is regulated by numerous state and federal game laws, and those laws can vary considerably from state to state. That means even the most conscientious waterfowl and dove hunters can find themselves paying fines instead of enjoying the hunt.
Brush up on what you need to know before you head afield this month for some bird hunting.
Duck, Duck, Goose
Migratory-bird hunting seasons, bag limits, and hunting methods are state-specific, so check with your state’s game agency beforehand. The Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies has provided an easy-to-reference list of agencies and links, which can be found here. The Wildlife Conservation Dept. also publishes a list of specific dates and bag limits for Oklahoma.
Early September is the traditional opener for that speedy little duck, the teal. The Oklahoma teal season runs September 9-24 statewide, with bag and possession limits being 6 teal daily, 12 in possession after the first day, 18 in possession after the second day. Cinnamon, blue-wing, and green-wing teal are all legal game.
The Early Canada goose season also opens this month. The Special September Resident Canada Goose Season runs September 9-18, statewide. The bag and possession limits are 8 daily, 16 in possession after the first day, 24 in possession after the second day.
Doves and Zones
Seasons for mourning and white-winged doves start now, too. Mourning, White-winged and Eurasian Collared season dates apply statewide and run September 1 to October 31. Bag and possession limits are 15 daily, 30 in possession after first day combined, 45 in possession after the second day combined. The limit may consist of any combination (aggregate) of mourning doves, white-winged, and fully dressed (those without a head or fully feathered wing naturally attached to the carcass) Eurasian collared doves. However, there is no bag limit on Eurasian collared doves if the head or one fully feathered wing remains naturally attached to the carcass of all such birds while being transported to their final destination.
The best hunting occurs in the mornings and late afternoons when the birds come to watering holes and agricultural fields in search of food and a chance to wet their beaks.
Know the Law for Migratory Bird Hunting
The most common migratory-bird hunting violations concern baiting. Simply put, you can’t hunt ducks, geese, or doves over bait. But what constitutes bait?
It’s not that easy to define. Consider this from “Waterfowl Hunting and Baiting,” published online by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement here.
“Hunting waterfowl over a crop that has not been harvested but that has been manipulated (rolled/disked) is considered baiting under current regulations. The presence of seed or grain in an agricultural area rules out waterfowl hunting unless the seed or grain is scattered solely as the result of a normal agricultural planting, normal agricultural harvesting, normal agricultural post-harvest manipulation, or normal soil stabilization practice.”
In an interview, Josh Richardson, bird biologist, commented that Wildlife Department technicians and biologists at many Wildlife Management Areas have been working for several months planting and preparing fields to entice more doves to their public hunting areas. But unusual rainy weather during early August might curtail doves’ use of those ag fields.
“The wet weather causes the grain to spoil, if left in the head, or sprout if exposed and on the ground. This of course reduces the available food, and thereby the attractiveness, of a field for the birds.
“There will still be some food around, and there will be birds that use it, but it won’t be premium like it could be if we had our standard 95- to 100-degree dry days.”
As we can see, Wildlife Department technicians plant food plots to attract migratory birds in Oklahoma for the purpose of helping hunters bag their limits. This may be normal for the Wildlife technician, Okay, but what is “normal for the everyday hunter?” Every year, what seems “normal” to duck and dove hunters near ag fields might not be “normal” to the game wardens who might cite them for illegal baiting! Best advice: chat with local game wardens for their take on baiting.
The other most common violation is not having a plug in your pump or semi-automatic shotgun that limits only two shells in the magazine. Frequently, hunters get dinged on this because they removed the plugs for upland game hunting and just forgot to replace them before the migratory opener.
Legal Help for Hunters and Anglers
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