During its regular meeting Aug. 3, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission approved rule changes affecting Camp Gruber Joint Maneuver Training Center in Muskogee County. The Commission met at Great Plains Technology Center in Woodward after a Sunday evening opportunity to visit the Selman Bat Cave Wildlife Management Area.


The Camp Gruber emergency rules, which are included in the latest “Oklahoma Hunting” regulations guide, will be effective during this fall’s hunting seasons and will greatly expand public access for hunting on Camp Gruber.


Wildlife Division Chief Alan Peoples told commissioners the new rules were needed after a memorandum of understanding was signed in June by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Oklahoma Military Department. He said the two agencies spent many years pursuing this agreement giving Oklahoma sportsmen greater ability to use the military training area during times when it does not conflict with training schedules.


“The certainty of these opportunities will be very meaningful to many Oklahomans,” Peoples said.


In past years, hunters were required to check at Camp Gruber entry points to find out whether the area was open for hunting. Now, a schedule of areas open for hunting and open dates will be maintained on the CGTC website at www.ok.ng.mil/cgts/hunter.htm. With a published schedule, hunters will now know when they can access certain areas at Camp Gruber.


Wildlife Department Director Richard Hatcher praised Oklahoma’s Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Robbie Asher, for his willingness to work toward a policy that grants Oklahoma’s hunters and anglers more convenient access to Camp Gruber. Commission Vice Chairman John Groendyke said he was pleased by the good work by those involved in reaching the agreement.


Also during Monday’s meeting, migratory bird biologist Josh Richardson updated Commissioners about this year’s upcoming waterfowl hunting seasons.


Oklahoma’s duck and goose hunters will see few changes this year in season dates and regulations. As in year’s past, Oklahoma will take advantage of the most liberal season dates and bag limits as allowed in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service framework that all states must follow.


The 2015-16 duck, merganser and coot season will kick off in the Panhandle counties Oct. 17 and run through Jan. 13, 2016. Season dates in Zone 1 (northwestern Oklahoma) will be Oct. 31-Nov. 29, and Dec. 12-Jan. 24, 2016. Duck hunting season in Zone 2 will run from Nov. 7-29, and Dec. 12-Jan. 31, 2016.


Duck daily bag limits and possession limits will remain as they were in 2014-15, with one exception. This year, the daily bag limit for canvasback ducks will increase from one to two birds.


Goose hunters will be allowed to take two white-fronted geese per day this year, an increase from one bird last year. Season dates statewide for Canada and light geese will be Oct. 31-Nov. 29 and Dec. 12-Feb. 14, 2016. Season dates for white-fronted geese are Oct. 31-Nov. 29 and Dec. 12-Feb. 7, 2016.


For complete details on hunting season dates, bag limits and regulations, consult the 2015-16 “Oklahoma Waterfowl” hunting regulations guide, available soon online at wildlifedepartment.com or anywhere hunting and fishing licenses are sold.


Richardson also briefed commissioners on changes coming next year in how waterfowl seasons are set. Federal procedures are changing to allow previous year’s bird count data to be used in determining dates and bag limits, which means migratory bird hunting seasons can be finalized months in advance of when they have been in the past. Richardson said waterfowl hunters next year will be able to arrange their schedules months ahead to take advantage of duck and goose season opening days. The change will also allow waterfowl season dates to be included in the regular “Oklahoma Hunting” regulations guide, instead of in a separate publication as it has been for years.