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Kaw Wildlife Management Area

By: 
Joey McAllister
Wednesday, September 15, 2021
Grass in the fall at Kaw WMA.

I should have known better. We were knee-deep in very birdy cover and the dog was on a rock solid, if not stylish, point. But when a dozen bobwhites exploded out of the tussock of grasses, I had the same reaction as always when the covey flushes. I was surprised, confused and finally distraught upon whiffing with three consecutive shots. The whirring of wings faded out in every direction and it was over as fast as it had begun. 

A few coveys and a few hours later, my shooting had improved little, but my excuse making skills had grown in both variety and speed . Too much wind, too much brush, sun in my eyes .. once I even claimed I was trying to pick out the bobs rather than hens. 

During my college years , the same scene repeated itself many times when a few friends made other quail hunting trips to Kaw Wildlife Management Area. My shooting skills never got much better and my legs were often sore after traipsing up and down the rolling hills, but it always seemed like the perfect way to spend an afternoon away from the library and classroom . 

Biologists say there are still plenty of quail to be found for the resourceful hunter. The 16.000- acre WMA may be better known for ducks and deer, but coveys are still flushing and hunters are still missing the fast flying birds. 

"We have quite a few hunters come and enjoy a day or two of quail hunting," Folks said . "One of the things that I like so much about the area is that there is a little something for every hunter. You could camp out for a week and never hunt the same game species twice and then you'd have to come back to go fishing in the spring." 

Kaw Wildlife Management Area covers 16,254 acres around the upper reaches of Kaw Lake in eastern Kay County in northcentral Oklahoma. Located just four-and a-half miles east of Newkirk. Kaw Wildlife Management Area is a mixture of upland and bottomland forest, tallgrass prairie, and cropland. 

Duck hunters aren't the only ones who prowl around Kaw Wildlife Management Area. Deer hunters harvest about 250 deer each year off the area, including the occasional wall hanger buck. Antlerless deer comprise about 40 percent of the total deer harvest, which Folks said is "just about right" to maintain a healthy buck to doe ratio on the area. 

Rabbit and squirrel hunters can find good populations of their favorite quarry all across the area . 

"It's a shame more small game hunters don't take advantage of the hunting opportunities, because there are lots of rabbits around the lake and quite a few squirrels in the wooded areas," Folks said . "In my opinion, it's a great way to spend a fall or winter afternoon and it offers a great chance to introduce a new hunter to the sport." 

One cannot talk about Kaw Wildlife Management Area without discussing the lake itself. Built in 1976 by the US Army Corps of Engineers, Kaw Lake was designed with three purposes in mind: flood control , water supply and recreation . The lake covers 17,000 surface acres and has 168 miles of shoreline. 

A wide variety of game fish can be found in Kaw Lake, but the area is perhaps best known for good numbers of large crappie. Anglers also have a chance to hook all three of the most popular catfish species, blue, flathead and channel But there's more than just crappie and catfish at Kaw, white bass, largemouth, sunfish and walleye are all thrive in the lake. Below the lake, fishermen flock to the Arkansas River when the warming temperatures and spring rains bring paddlefish up the river. 

However. not every fish in the lake is welcome by biologists and anglers. The non-indigenous white perch (Marone americana) was first discovered in Kaw Lake in 2000. The diminutive fish has not caused any noticeable conflicts with native fish . at least not yet. 

White perch are native to Atlantic coastal regions. but being a creature of opportunity, the white perch invaded the Great Lakes when the Erie and Weiland canals were built in the 1950's. Like striped bass, white perch can live in both fresh and saltwater environments. It is commonly believed that a few white perch hitched a ride with a load of striped bass headed for a Nebraska lake several years ago. Since that time white perch have been expanding their range southward along the Arkansas River basin. White perch now range from Nova Scotia to South Carolina. but are most abundant from the Hudson River to Chesapeake Bay. 

White perch are bottom-oriented fish and carnivores whose diet consists of insects, crustaceans and small fishes. In fact, due to their preference for dining on fish eggs, some blame the white perch for the decline of walleye populations in the Great Lakes. These fish , which seldom reach more than 12 inches in length, are silvery in color and frequently have irregular dusky longitudinal lines along its body. 

Fisheries staff are monitoring the white perches populations, as well as their impact on native fish populations. Fellow biologists are using gill nets to ascertain the number of white perch in Kaw Lake.  This research is being paid for through Sport Fish Restoration funds So far, white perch haven't become overpopulated in Kaw Lake, but they have started to spread beyond the reservoir. White perch were found in Lake Keystone fall gill-net samples in 2004. 

Each year from November through February, Kaw Lake becomes the seasonal home for 60 or more eagles, where they can avoid the frozen waters of the northern states and feed on shad, carp and other fish Kaw Lake annually hosts one of the largest eagle viewing events in Oklahoma. 

Whether you're a hunter, angler or just someone who enjoys watching wildlife, Kaw Wildlife Management Area has a little something for everyone. Take a friend or family member and explore the diverse opportunities Kaw has to offer.

Kaw at a Glance

Area Description

Kaw WMA covers 16,254 acres adjoining the upper two thirds of Kaw Lake in eastern Kay County in northcentral Oklahoma. Located just four and one half miles east of Newkirk, Kaw WMA is a mixture of upland and bottomland forest, tallgrass prairie, old fields, and cropland. Bluestem grasses and post oak-blackjack forests are predominate on upland sites, which are interspersed with sand plum thickets and agricultural fields. Bottom land forests consist of burr oak, hackberry, sycamore, sand plum and other species. The average annual precipitation for the area is 30 inches per year. 

Description of Fish and Wildlife Management Practices 

Approximately 4,000 acres of wheat, milo, soybeans, and corn are planted annually through an agricultural lease program. 

Camping and Facilities 

Several free primitive camping sites are available on the WMA. These sites are mowed in the early fall. Nine public use areas are available around the lake. Campers can select from over 250 campsites. many of which are equipped with water and electric hookups. Reservations for these campsites can be obtained from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Ten boat ramps provide boaters With easy access to Kaw Lake. Once on the water. boaters can find two full service marinas located at Pioneer Park and McFadden Cove. Swimmers are invited to enjoy designated swimming areas at Pioneer Park and Sandy Park. 

For Additional Information and Area Attractions 

Kaw Wildlife Management Area
Joey McAllister Wildlife Biologist at Kaw WMA
(405) 823-7936
Joseph.mcallister@odwc.ok.gov 

Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department
(800) 652-6552
www.travelok.com 

Ponca City Tourism
(866) 763-8092
www.poncacitytourism.com 

Ponca City Chamber of Commerce
www.poncacitychamber.com 

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kaw Lake Office
(918) 664-7366
www.swt.usace.army.mil

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