Jon Kocan

Jon Kocan

You spoke and those in charge of our state's wildlife listened. The results of the 2018 waterfowl hunter survey are in, and they could help to shape future regulation changes.

I was glad to provide my personal input when I received the email from the wildlife department last fall asking me to take a survey concerning waterfowl hunting, hunting zones, eliminating the split season and season dates.

Members of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission were presented with an overview of the results at their regular meeting last Monday. A recent news release provided an review of the findings and also included a link to the presentation on the wildlife department’s webpage.

I think the information from the presentation that jumps out the most is that hunters that wanted the split removed want the season to start later. More than 50 percent of those surveyed from Duck Zone 1 wanted the season to start later and end later. Nearly 20 percent wanted the season to open later and end as-is. If you throw out the 15 percent that had no opinion, it’s clear they prefer a later start date for duck hunting.

To further prove that point, hunters in Zone 2 that wanted the split removed were more concise with 65 percent wanting the season to start later and end as-is.

The funny thing about statistic is that hunters in both Zone 1 and 2 favored keeping the split season.

Most hunters also indicated they were neutral on zone boundaries and without a clear opinion on changing zone boundaries.

It would appear that landowners are very gracious when it comes to granting permission to waterfowl hunt. Deer hunting leases may be big business these days, but most waterfowl hunters indicated the use free private land to hunt. Zone 2 had slightly more than half of hunters indicate they hunted for free on private land, with nearly 64 percent of those in Zone 1 doing the same.

Hunters in Zone 2 rely on public land the most at more than 35 percent of hunters. Barely 20 percent of hunters in Zone 1 reported hunting on public land.

Some results of the survey were as expected. The majority of waterfowl hunting is done on the weekend and Christmas and Thanksgiving weekend were the most desirable days for having an open waterfowl season.

I think it’s fair to say that hunters should expect see changes to season dates, duck zones and the timing and duration of the split season. All can be changed annually except changes related to zones are allowed on 5-year intervals.

If you look at the how the survey results differ between hunters in Zone 1 and 2, I think you could make a case to expand the number of duck zones. I also think the split season will stay but be cut in half to handle starting the season one week later.

Take the time to check out the information. Any proposed changes should come with the more opportunity for public comment. Your opinion is helping to shape future regulation changes.

Jon Kocan is the Stillwater News Press outdoors writer and a longtime hunter. He can be reached at jkocan@stwnewspress.com.