Statewide Deer Harvest Could Top 100,000
While breaking the annual harvest record may be a long shot, Oklahoma deer hunters could break the 100,000 deer mark for the third time in just a four-year span.
After tallying harvest totals from the recent deer gun season, personnel from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation registered a preliminary harvest total of 87,241 deer, which is 3,853 deer ahead of last year’s tally at this time. That number does not include deer that will be taken in the late archery season, the special antlerless deer season, controlled hunts or on land enrolled in the Deer Management Assistance Program.
“We’re on track for another great harvest. If past performance holds true, our final harvest figure should be very close to 100,000 deer,” said Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor for the Department. “Our deer herd is in good health and the weather conditions as well as the timing of the rut were generally favorable to hunters.”
According to Shaw, all five wildlife regions reported an in increase in harvest over last year, with the exception of the northeast region, which was down by two percent.
“Although it is still a little too early to tell, it looks like hunters took advantage of the new 16-day season. Hunting pressure seemed to be spread out over all three weekends,” Shaw said. “Once we have all the data, we will do a statewide analysis of harvest by day so that we can better understand the effects of the 16-day season.”
There is still plenty of opportunity for deer hunters to harvest a deer during the special antlerless deer gun season.
"Right now about 38 percent of the harvest is antlerless deer, but we would like to see it around 45 percent. So it is important that hunters get out and participate in this season,” said Shaw. “These special antlerless deer gun seasons were established to better manage the state's deer population, and so far they have been a success. By increasing the antlerless deer harvest, hunters will be helping to balance the state's deer population with available habitat, improve buck to doe ratios for better herd health, reduce agricultural depredation and reduce deer/vehicle collisions.”
The first three-day hunt, to be held Dec. 19 through 21, will be restricted to the northcentral and northwestern portion of the state. Much of the state, except for the far southeast and panhandle, will also have three days of antlerless-only gun hunting running from Dec. 26 through 28. Hunters should consult the antlerless deer hunt zone map on page 14 of the “2003 Oklahoma Hunting Guide” to determine which areas will offer the special antlerless deer gun seasons.
Hunters who participate in the special antlerless deer gun season must possess a special antlerless deer gun license in addition to their annual hunting license. Lifetime hunting and combination license holders are exempt and do not need to buy the special antlerless deer gun license.
The statewide season limit during the special antlerless deer gun season is one antlerless deer. All hunters participating in the special gun season must comply with the same blaze orange requirements as set forth for the regular deer gun season, as well as tagging and checking requirements. Archery deer hunters afield in areas open to the special antlerless gun hunting and those hunting other species (quail, squirrel, pheasant, etc.) must wear either a blaze orange hat or vest.
To learn more about the special antlerless gun season and deer management in Oklahoma, consult the “2003 Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or log on to the ODWC's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.