Several changes in migratory bird hunting seasons are coming later this year, creating additional opportunity to harvest doves and giving youth waterfowl hunters a late-season option. The changes are outlined in the annual migratory bird hunting resolution approved by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commis-sion during its regular meeting May 1.

Dove season will increase by 20 days for 2017 and future years. The additional days were made possible by a change to the national dove harvest strategy and federal guidelines that states use when setting hunting seasons.

"The traditional dove season from Sept. 1 to Oct. 31 will remain just as it has been," said Josh Richardson, migratory game bird biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "The change will come in December, when we usually have dove season reopen for nine days around Christmas. This year, dove season will reopen Dec. 1and run through Dec. 29."

Most doves migrate through Oklahoma during the first several weeks of September, depending on the weather. But Oklahoma has a smaller population of resident mourning, white-winged and Eurasian collared doves that remain through winter.

"These additional dove days aren't going to provide a traditional dove hunting experience, where people stand around the edges of plowed fields in short-sleeve shirts," Richardson said. "But it will give hunters who are out pursuing quail or pheasants the chance to take a few doves should the opportunity arise."

Another change will take place in youth waterfowl hunting days. Federal guidelines allow states to offer two days outside of regular waterfowl hunting seasons for hunters 15 and younger. Instead of two consecutive days, this year's two youth waterfowl days will be split, with one youth day Sept. 30 (before the regular waterfowl seasons open), and the other Feb. 3 (after the regular waterfowl seasons close).

"Since we began offering special youth hunting days, we've heard complaints that there weren't enough ducks in the state yet, or that it was too hot to enjoy hunting," Richardson said. "With this new opportunity, youth hunters will have a late-season hunting experience where the adult's attention will be focused entirely on the youth and on passing along the tradition."

By keeping one of the youth days earlier, youth hunters will have warmer weather, and those who decide they enjoy waterfowl hunting will then be able to continue hunting in the regular seasons that follow. Moving the earlier day closer to the end of teal season should provide ample opportunity because many teal should still be moving through on their southbound migration. In addition, the youth hunters will be able to harvest wood ducks, Northern pintails and Northern shovelers, species often present but off-limits to traditional teal hunters.

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