Known as one of the biggest days of the year for Oklahoma hunters, the deer gun season opener is fast approaching. This year's deer gun season runs Nov. 20 through Dec. 5.
Annual deer harvest numbers over the past several years are at an all-time high, and last year 62 percent of the total annual harvest was accounted for during the deer gun season.
"In fact, in 2009 nearly 200,000 hunters participated in some form of deer rifle season," said Jerry Shaw in the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's most recent Big Game Report. Shaw is the big game biologist for the Department who watches harvest numbers, trends and other data to help the department manage deer populations and provide hunting opportunities statewide. According to Shaw, deer gun hunters harvested almost 72,000 deer last year during the regular deer gun, youth-only and holiday antlerless deer gun seasons combined. That number contributed to a total of 116,175 deer harvested in 2009 by all methods and seasons combined. According to Shaw, that was "a slight increase (4.3 percent) over the 2008 harvest and only 3,174 deer shy of our all-time record set back in 2006."
While the deer gun season open Nov. 20, hunters who subscribe to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s free weekly wildlife news release will receive a status report of deer rutting activity statewide. The information will be collected from biologist and Department personnel stationed in all regions of the state, and will be available before opening day. To sign up to receive the free weekly e-mail, log on to wildlifedepartment.com .
Deer are plentiful in every part of Oklahoma, whether in wide-open prairie or pine-covered mountains. Additionally, numerous wildlife management areas across the state offer public hunting for at least part of the deer gun 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.
During deer gun 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 gun season hunters must possess an appropriate hunting license and a deer gun license for each deer harvested. Nonresident deer gun hunters are exempt from a hunting license while hunting deer, but they must possess a nonresident deer gun season license for each deer hunted or proof of exemption. For a map of Oklahoma's antlerless deer zones, consult page 23 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 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 licenses, harvest limits, blaze orange clothing requirements, legal firearms requirements, or which wildlife management areas are open to deer gun season, consult the current "Oklahoma Hunting Guide" or log onto wildlifedepartment.com .