Primitive Deer Harvest Likely Down; Gun Outlook Better

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Deer hunting across the state has been slow and biologists are reporting that although some hunters have had good success, they anticipate the rut is still ahead.

"I believe the deer harvest is down compared to last year at this time," said Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "We don't have a reliable indication of the actual numbers because we have added so many check stations, but reports of light movement is fairly consistent across the state. A number of factors have limited movement so far, but the weather has been the biggest detriment.

"The good news is that it looks like we may hit the rut during the gun season," Shaw added.

Regional wildlife biologists across the state report similar findings that indicate the primitive season harvest may be down compared to the record harvest of 2000.

"Hunters saw some rutting activity during the cooler mornings during the early part of muzzleloader season," said Johnny Herd, central region wildlife supervisor. "It slowed down due to the warmer weather we had later in the week, but did pick up a little due to the rain we received the last Saturday. Acorns are spotty, but the rut should break open pretty soon and I believe we will have a good gun season in this region."

Hunters across the eastern half of the state experienced spotty success as well, according to biologists.

"They took some nice deer early in the mornings and in the middle of the day during the latter half of the muzzleloader season," said Jack Waymire, southeast region senior biologist. "Most along creeks and rivers where water oaks and red oaks produced some good acorn crops. There are a few being taken in the mountains around recent clear-cuts or in areas that were recently thinned for timber management.

"The doe harvest is down though and any rutting activity is taking place at night. I anticipate the majority of the rutting activity is still ahead so the gun season looks good."

Things are spotty but seem typical across the northeast, said Craig Endicott, northeast region wildlife supervisor.

"It was warm and dry during the muzzleloader season other than the second Saturday which was pretty much a rain out," Endicott said. "There are always variations from one area to another and some hunters seem to be taking advantage of the expanded opportunities to harvest antlerless deer. Some areas have a good acorn crop and there are some bucks chasing does or working scrapes.

"The weather is the key. It is nice enough to keep hunters out and about but is hampering rutting activity so many hunters are using their time in the woods to scout for the gun season."

Biologists say the western half of the state faced many of the same conditions.

"I have some reports of hunters taking nice deer, but the muzzleloader season was extremely slow," said Rod Smith, southwest region wildlife supervisor. "It has been hot, dry and windy and it is hard to walk without everything crunching underneath you or without kicking up dust. Typically, if it is slow this time of year we can have a gangbuster gun season, but it depends on the weather and time will tell."

"Although we had high hunter activity in the northwest part of the state, we too experienced a slow primitive season," said Wade Free, northwest region wildlife supervisor. "It was unusually mild weather, and several hunters reported that the only deer they saw, moved right at dark. Even a slight cool front, could trigger the rut which would jumpstart things going into the regular gun season," Free added.

As many hunters are aware, the 2001 antlerless hunting opportunities have been significantly increased from those in 2000. For a full listing of deer hunting regulations, including the new antlerless deer hunting zones, refer to the 2001-2002 Oklahoma Hunting Guide and Regulations, or, log www.wildlifedepartment.com/huntregs.htm.