After a successful black bear season ended Oct. 1 when hunters harvested 32 bears on opening day - reaching the season quota and therefore officially closing the season - sportsmen are now enjoying deer archery season and gearing up for deer muzzleloader season Oct. 23-31.
Along with black bear archery season, deer archery season opened Oct. 1 and hunters are already enjoying cooler days afield and ample hunting opportunity statewide. Deer muzzleloader season is the first opportunity that all sportsmen can use firearms to harvest deer, and the season accounts for about 20-25 percent of the total annual deer harvest in Oklahoma.
Muzzleloader season spans nine days. The modern gun season opens Nov. 20 and runs for 16 days. Archery season remains open through Jan. 15, 2011.
Deer are plentiful in every part of Oklahoma, whether it be in wide-open prairie or pine-covered mountains, and several wildlife management areas across the state offer hunting for at least part of the muzzleloader season, some through special draw hunts that give sportsmen a unique opportunity to change up their usual hunting routine.
To learn more about deer hunting on wildlife management areas, consult the current "Oklahoma Hunting Guide" or log on to wildlifedepartment.com . The website offers regulations, useful hunting information and an award-winning digital wildlife management area atlas. And best of all, it is free. In addition to detailed maps, sportsmen can find information such as camping locations and contacts for local biologists.
In the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's most recent Big Game Report, available in the current issue of Outdoor Oklahoma magazine, big game biologist Jerry Shaw calls muzzleloader season a "season of contrast."
"In the same hunting party one can see a hand-built flintlock shooting lead balls, hand molded and carefully loaded from a fringed buckskin 'possibles bag,' and then turn to see another hunter shooting a stainless-steel-barreled scoped rifle loaded with smokeless powder and pistol bullets sitting on top of a polymer sabot. While one hunter worries about keeping the powder 'in the pan, dry, the other wonders if his kids have noticed that the battery powering his electronic ignition was pilfered from the television remote just hours before. No matter which end of the spectrum a muzzleloader hunter tends to gravitate toward, one thing remains constant, it is a fantastic time to be outdoors."
During muzzleloader season, hunters can harvest a buck and two antlerless deer (at least one antlerless deer must be harvested from Antlerless Deer Zone 2, 7 or 8), and most of the state is open to antlerless hunting every day during the season. Resident muzzleloader hunters must possess an appropriate hunting license and a deer muzzleloader license for each deer harvested. Nonresident muzzleloader hunters are exempt from a hunting license while hunting deer, but they must possess a nonresident deer muzzleloader license for each deer hunted or proof of exemption. For a map of Oklahoma's antlerless deer zones, consult the current "Oklahoma Hunting Guide" available online at wildlifedepartment.com or anywhere hunting licenses are sold.
Upon harvesting a deer, all hunters must attach a field tag to the animal. New this year, the date and time of harvest must be recorded on field tags placed on deer, turkey and elk in addition to the hunter's name and license number. The field tag, which can be constructed of anything (such as a business card), must remain attached to the carcass until it is checked either at the nearest hunter check station, with an authorized Wildlife Department employee or online at wildlifedepartment.com .
Hunters can harvest a turkey with their muzzleloaders Oct. 30-31 in most of the state. A fall turkey license is required, unless exempt. Turkey fall gun season runs Oct. 30 through Nov. 19, and details on the season are available in the current "Oklahoma Hunting Guide."
Hunters age 10-35 who have not completed hunter education can buy an apprentice-designated hunting license and hunt while accompanied by a licensed hunter 21 years old or older who has completed the hunter education course, or a licensed hunter 21 years old or older who is otherwise exempt from hunter education (includes those 36 years old or older, those honorably discharged or currently active in the Armed Forces or members of the National Guard). Hunters under 10 years old must complete a hunter education course to hunt big game or to buy any big game hunting license.
For specific information regarding which areas are open to muzzleloader season, licenses, bag limits, blaze orange clothing requirements or legal firearms, consult the current "Oklahoma Hunting Guide" or log onto wildlifedepartment.com