News of the Week

For Immediate Release: WEEK OF March 31, 2014

Statewide elk hunting season approved by Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission

March 31, 2014
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission has established a statewide elk hunting season in addition to approving several other hunting and fishing rule changes at its recent meeting in Oklahoma City.

      Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation say a statewide elk season addresses agricultural depredation problems for some landowners by allowing for a controlled thinning of elk herds while creating new opportunities for hunters.

      Elk can be found in at least 30 of Oklahoma's 77 counties, some of which have been open to controlled and private lands hunting for many years. Most are found in the southwest region in and around the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, where a highly sought after limited elk hunt is offered almost every year through the Wildlife Department's Controlled Hunts program. Elk hunting in the area outside the refuge also has been available for many years through a private lands season in Caddo, Comanche and Kiowa counties. Additionally, controlled hunts have been available on Pushmataha and Cookson Hills wildlife management areas and through a private lands season in six northeast Oklahoma counties. Elk are found in Oklahoma outside those areas, though, including in the Panhandle, where elk migrate through the state from Colorado and New Mexico.

      The new statewide elk season has been divided into seven hunting zones, some of which have their own quota and individual hunter harvest limits. In six of the zones, elk seasons will run concurrent with statewide dates for deer archery, youth deer gun, deer muzzleloader, deer gun and holiday antlerless deer gun seasons unless quotas are met earlier. Hunters will be required to check the Wildlife Department's website before hunting each day to determine if the quota for their zone has been reached. The seventh zone - labeled the special southwest zone - will be comprised of the previously established private lands hunting area in Caddo, Comanche and Kiowa counties, and the season dates and regulations there will remain unchanged from previous years.

     Resident elk licenses cost $51, from which resident lifetime hunting license holders are exempt. Non-resident elk licenses cost $306. While full season dates and regulations will be printed in the next "Oklahoma Hunting Guide," the following information includes information for each elk zone:

Panhandle zone: All private lands in Beaver, Cimarron, and Texas counties.
Zone bag limit: Two (2) elk, one of which must be antlerless.
Harvest zone quota: 60 elk.

Northwest zone: All private lands north of Interstate 40 and west of Interstate 35, excluding the counties in the Panhandle zone and counties or parts thereof in the special northwest zone.
Zone bag limit: One (1) elk regardless of sex.
Harvest zone quota: 8 elk.

Special northwest zone: All private lands in the counties of Woodward, Dewey, Ellis and a portion of Roger Mills County located north of State Highways 33 and 47 all the way to the north county line and west to the state border and east to the county line.
Zone bag limit: One (1) elk regardless of sex.
Harvest zone quota: 2 elk.

Northeast zone: All private lands north of Interstate 40 and east of Interstate 35.
Zone bag limit: One (1) elk regardless of sex.
Harvest zone quota: 20 elk.

Southeast zone: All private lands south of Interstate 40 and east of Interstate 35.
Zone bag limit: One (1) elk regars of sex.
Harvest zone quota: Five (5) elk.

Southwest zone: All private lands south of Interstate 40 and west of Interstate 35, excluding the counties in the special southwest zone.
Zone bag limit: One (1) elk regardless of sex.
Harvest zone quota: Five (5) elk.

Special Southwest Zone: All private lands in Caddo, Comanche, and Kiowa counties: Season dates:
* Archery - commencing the first Saturday in October for five consecutive days through Wednesday; bull or antlerless; and commencing the second Saturday in December for five consecutive days through Wednesday; bull or antlerless.
* Gun - commencing the Thursday immediately following the October elk archery season for four consecutive days through Sunday; bull or antlerless; and commencing the Thursday immediately following the December elk archery season for four consecutive days through Sunday; bull or antlerless.
* Additional Antlerless Season for only east of State Highway 115 - The Saturday before Thanksgiving and running for 16 consecutive days and Jan. 1 through Jan. 3; antlerless only.
Zone bag limit: Two (2) elk, regardless of sex.
Harvest zone quota: There is no quota in this zone.

      The total combined statewide season limit for elk is no more than two elk per individual. A legal bull is defined as any antlered bull, except in the special southwest zone, where a legal bull must have at least five points on at least one side of the antlers (a point is defined as the tip of the main antler beam and any projection arising from the main antler beam that is at least one inch in length). An antlerless elk is defined as any elk with no visible antlers, regardless of sex.

      All elk hunters must possess written permission from the landowner, or where appropriate, the lessee (tenant). Permission must be carried on the person while hunting, and elk hunters may only hunt on those lands for which they have written permission.

      A number of other hunting and fishing rule changes were approved as well, including one that prohibits the possession of dogs on Honobia Creek, Three Rivers and Pine Creek wildlife management areas during daylight hours of the youth deer gun, deer muzzleloader and regular deer gun seasons. The new rule allows dogs on those WMAs starting from one hour after official sunset to one hour before official sunrise. Outside of these hours, dogs must be removed from those areas. All other rules and dates pertaining to pursuit with hounds on WMAs remain unchanged.

      Among other approved rule changes are some aimed at better conserving populations of smallmouth bass in Oklahoma rivers and streams, increasing trapping opportunities, and allowing deer antler shed hunting on wildlife management areas for legal WMA users.

      All of the rules considered and approved at the meeting first underwent a public comment period in which Oklahomans had the opportunity to provide their thoughts on the proposed changes. They must now pass through the legislative process and be signed in the governor.

     Complete details regarding the list of approved changes will be published in the next "Oklahoma Hunting Guide" and "Oklahoma Fishing Guide."

      In other business, the Commission heard a presentation on the Wildlife Department's recent "Hunters in the Know Let Young Bucks Grow" education initiative. The campaign, launched over the last year, is aimed at encouraging hunters to choose to harvest mature bucks while passing on younger bucks. In recent years, hunters have increased their overall harvest of older bucks in Oklahoma while decreasing their harvest of bucks under a year-and-a-half old.

      Additionally, the Commission accepted a $40,000 donation from the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association to fund the development of an advanced digital mapping system of western Oklahoma, addressed updates to the Department's employee handbook and approved a revision to the Department's Fiscal Year 2014 budget.

      The Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The Wildlife Commission establishes state hunting and fishing regulations, sets policy for the Wildlife Department and indirectly oversees all state fish and wildlife conservation activities. Commission members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.

      The next scheduled Commission meeting is set for 10 a.m. April 7 at the Jenks Education Service Center located at 211 East A Street in Jenks. To see the agenda, click here: April 7th Commission Meeting Agenda.