2001 Whitetail Articles


Deer Regulation Changes Adopted (2/8/01)

At its regular February meeting, held Feb. 5 in Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission voted to implement a slate of deer hunting regulation changes. On a 4-3 vote, the Commission also voted to keep the annual combined buck bag limit at three.

The deer proposals, several of which were discussed at length between members of the Commission and the audience, were mainly derived from a year-long planning process involving stakeholders representing numerous special interest groups. Most recently, the proposals had received public input at a series of eight hearings throughout the state, and through a special comment sheet that could be downloaded from the Department website - wildlifedepartment.com. Of the 17 individual proposals, Commission members voted to adopt 13 and reject four. All of the regulation changes were approved for this year's deer season.

Specifically, the Commission voted to:
• Increase the total annual combined bag limit from five deer to six.
• Keep the total annual combined buck limit at three.
• Establish a Jan. 1-15 antlerless-only archery season statewide.
• Reduce the annual archery bag limit for bucks from three to two (archers will now be allowed four deer per year, no more than two of which can be bucks).
• Allow hunters to use an unfilled buck permit to harvest an antlerless deer on the last day of the muzzleloader and gun seasons.
• Increase from one to two the antlerless bag limit during muzzleloader and gun seasons in designated zones.
• Create an additional antlerless deer gun season in designated management zones anytime between Dec. 15 and Jan. 6, and other times as approved by the Wildlife Commission.
• Prohibit the harvest of antlerless mule deer during the modern gun season.
• Create two levels for properties enrolled in the Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP): Level 1 is from 1,000-4,999 acres; and Level 2 is 5,000 acres and more. The cost for Level 1 will be $200, while the Level 2 cost will be $400. Requirements for both levels are the same, and include requiring cooperators to conduct spotlight counts and collect a variety of biological data when checking deer in.
• Allow the Department to issue deer depredation permits based on a history of previous crop damage.
• Make antlerless deer taken under Damage Control Assistance Program permits bonus.

Commissioners voted to reject several proposals, including measures intended to provide expanded hunting opportunities for properties enrolled in the Deer Management Assistance Program and additional antlerless hunting opportunities for private landowners and lessees whereby bonus doe permits would be issued based on acreage owned or leased.

Wildlife Division Chief Alan Peoples said he expects to present specific Department recommendations regarding additional antlerless gun hunts and changes in the antlerless bag limits, by zone, for muzzleloader and gun seasons to the Commission at its regular April meeting. Biologists need time to analyze this past year's harvest statistics before determining which management zones warrant recommendations for increased bag limits or additional management hunts, he said.

In other business, the Wildlife Commission voted to approve two special auction items, one an elk hunt at Cookson Hills WMA and the other a special fishing package. The elk hunt, which generated $10,100 last year, is a guided three-day hunt anytime in September, October or November. Past auction hunt high bidders have harvested a 7X8 bull and a 6X7 bull elk. The fishing package includes overnight accommodations for two and guided trips for trophy striped bass on the lower Illinois River, Ouachita smallmouth fishing on the upper Mountain Fork River, trophy largemouth bass fishing at McGee Creek Lake and topwater striped bass fishing at Lake Texoma. Both packages will be sold by sealed bid to the highest bidder. All bids must be received by Friday, March 23.

Also at the February meeting, Commissioners voted to grant a conservation easement to J. Duke and Dorothy Logan of Vinita for a portion of their property in Craig County. Under the easement, the Logans agree to deeded property restrictions that prohibit development of the land, while maintaining control of access and other uses of the property.
In another land-related item, Commission members voted to enter into a settlement agreement with the estate of Ellis Cowan and the Great Plains Council Boy Scouts of America that will transfer ownership of 40 acres in Garfield County to the Department.

With little discussion, the Wildlife Commission also gave its approval to advertise for sealed bids to lease the Department's quarter mineral interest on a 160-acre tract of Department-owned land in Ellis County.

Wildlife Department Executive Director Greg Duffy recognized four Department employees for their tenure with the agency at the February meeting. Gary Smeltzer, game warden supervisor from Creek County, was recognized for his 35 years of service to the Department. Smeltzer earned the Director's Award in 1971 for his efforts to enroll private land for public hunting. Also recognized for his dedication to state sportsmen was Garland Wright, central region fisheries supervisor, who has been with the agency for 30 years. Wright also received the Director's Award, which he earned in 1973 for risking his own life while trying to rescue fellow fisheries personnel from drowning below Keystone Dam. Randall Reigh, district five law enforcement chief; and Bob Mullinax, Love County game warden, were each recognized for their 25 years of service to the Department.

Also recognized at the meeting as the 2000 National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) Law Enforcement Officer of the Year was Kay County Game Warden Tracy Daniel. Gary Purdy, regional director for the NWTF, awarded Daniel with a plaque of appreciation, adding that he is one of the most well-rounded wardens in the state. Daniel will compete for the title of National Officer of the Year later this month at the NWTF's annual convention in Columbus, OH.

As an information item, Bill Dinkines, assistant chief of wildlife, told Commission members that the Department plans on holding public hearings in March to discuss increasing turkey hunting opportunities for the spring of 2002 in the southeast management zone, and adjusting the pheasant season in northwest and northcentral Oklahoma to be more like the season in the panhandle. The pheasant changes could be adopted in time for the fall 2001 season.

In his monthly report, Executive Director Duffy reported that a number of wildlife management areas (WMAs) in eastern Oklahoma were damaged by the recent ice storm. Fences, signs and roads were especially affected, but the Department was fortunate in that little structural damage was reported on its WMAs. Duffy also said there are numerous bills beginning the legislative process in the House and Senate, including several provisions that would provide additional funding for the agency and protect hunters' and anglers' privileges. Further details will be forthcoming as the session unfolds, Duffy said.

The Commission's regular March meeting will be held Monday, March 5, at 9 a.m. at the Wildlife Department's headquarters in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma Venison and Elk Safe To Eat (2/1/001)

Recent media reports linking eating wild deer meat to a form of “mad cow disease” have been sensationalized, and hunters should not been worried about their venison, according to officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

A degenerative brain disease similar to mad cow disease - called Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in deer and elk - has been recently confirmed in a captive elk herd in Oklahoma County, but has never been documented in wild deer or elk in Oklahoma. Even if the disease did exist in wild herds, there has never been a confirmed case of a hunter contracting it through hunting or eating venison.

“Chronic Wasting Disease has occurred in Colorado and Wyoming for 30 years, but nobody who has hunted there or eaten venison from those animals has come down with CWD,” said Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor for the Wildlife Department. “A hunter from Vinita contracted Creuztfelt-Jacob Disease (CJD), a related spongiform encephalopathy, in 1999, but the National Center for Disease Control never established a positive connection to his eating deer meat. We even investigated the possible link by sampling 16 deer from the area where the man hunted. None of the deer tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease. In addition, we have tested more than 200 deer from other parts of the state, and those deer have all been negative for CWD.”

In fact, nationally there are over 11 million big game hunters, and only two confirmed reports of hunters contracting Creuztfelt-Jacob Disease, Shaw said. The Center for Disease Control investigated both cases and concluded that their contracting CJD was coincidental to hunting.

“There is always a risk involved with handling any type of animals, domestic or wild, but that risk is very small,” he said. “The odds are many times greater that someone would be struck by lightning or die from a bee sting.”

Shaw said there are two precautions that anyone concerned about chronic wasting disease can take. Wearing protective gloves when dressing and butchering animals and avoiding consumption of brain and spinal cord tissue are good precautionary measures.

Dr. Gene Eskew, a veterinarian with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, said the captive elk in Oklahoma County are under quarantine, and they do not believe any infected elk have been killed for human consumption. Only four of the 140 elk have contracted the disease thus far. Agriculture Department officials will be watching for additional elk deaths, and will test the animals immediately through the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa.

“As a biological scientist who has studied deer most of my life, I can honestly say that I don’t see any danger in eating deer meat because there just isn’t any scientific evidence proving that Chronic Wasting Disease can cause Creuztfelt-Jacob Disease,” Shaw said. “There are far too many other things to worry about; real dangers like driving to work, having a heart attack because you don’t exercise enough or getting stung by a bee.

Deer hunting opportunities adopted (4/5/01)

At its regular April meeting, held April 2 in Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission voted to implement a special three-day antlerless-only deer hunt immediately before New Year’s, in some areas of the state.

The bonus hunt will be available over most of the state, except for part of the panhandle, the far southeast and a portion of southwest Oklahoma. Most of the northwest will be afforded two special hunts, one immediately before Christmas and the other just before New Year’s. Also set at the April meeting were antlerless hunting days during the regular muzzleloader and deer gun seasons. Most of the state will see increased opportunities to harvest does during the regular muzzleloader and gun seasons, part of an increased emphasis to encourage hunters to help control deer populations and balance the herd.

All of the changes will be outlined in the 2001-2002 Oklahoma Hunting Guide and Regulations, available this summer at sporting goods stores statewide. And for those hunters who just can’t wait for the Hunting Guide, a complete listing of the antlerless hunting regulations is currently posted under the “Deer Hunting” link on the Wildlife Department’s website - wildlifedepartment.com.

“The Commission has been keenly interested in expanding hunter opportunity and these special hunts are a significant step toward that end,” said Alan Peoples, Wildlife Division chief for the Department. “In addition, we believe the hunts will lead to increased harvest of antlerless deer, which is something that will help with herd health. It should also help alleviate depredation conflicts and reduce car/deer accidents.”

Also approved by Commissioners at their April meeting were a slate of elk season dates for private lands in Kiowa, Comanche and Caddo counties. This year, there will be five-day either sex archery hunts in October and December, along with two two-day modern firearms hunts, also one in October and one in December. The archery hunts, which are set for Oct. 15-19 and Dec. 10-14, will be either sex, while the gun hunts, which are set for Oct. 20-21 and Dec. 15-16 will be bull-only Oct. 20 and Dec. 15, and either sex Oct. 21 and Dec. 16. Legal bulls must have at least five points on one side, while cows must not have any visible antler.

Another change for this coming fall’s hunting seasons will be a uniform pheasant season running from Dec. 1 through Jan. 31, with two cocks allowed per day. Commission members unanimously approved the change in the season, which creates uniform hunting opportunities for the panhandle and northwest. The southern boundary also was expanded south from Hwy. 412 to Hwy. 51. All areas west of Hwy. 18 and north of Hwy. 51 will be open to pheasant hunting.

The final hunting regulation change adopted by the Commission was changing the spring 2002 turkey season in the eight southeastern counties. This year, the southeast turkey season runs from April 11-May 1, but those dates will be extended for 2002 when the season will begin April 6 and run through April 28. Additionally, hunters will be allowed two toms per county in the southeast, except for Choctaw County, where the limit will be one tom. The Department is undertaking a trap and transplant restoration effort in a portion of Choctaw county and biologists want to ensure the flock is established before increasing hunting pressure on the birds.

Also at the April meeting, Commission members voted to accept a bid of $70,469.18 to lease the Department’s mineral interest on 921 acres of Department-owned property in Atoka County, and agreed to solicit sealed bids on another proposed mineral rights lease, this one encompassing 10 acres in Beaver County.

Hunters reminded to use check stations (9/27/01)

Oklahoma's deer archery season opens Oct. 1, and hunters who harvest a deer are reminded to have it checked at the nearest check station.

"Check stations provide critical information to develop future harvest regulations," said Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Data collected at the check stations allows biologists to determine the exact number of deer harvested, and during which season they were taken. Biologists may also gather information to evaluate the age and physical condition of harvested animals."

The Department tries to provide several check stations in each county to help hunters meet the check station requirements, Shaw added. A list of stations is provided in the 2001-2002 Oklahoma Hunting Guide and Regulations. However, there have been several check station changes since the Guide's were published. The most up-to-date list of check stations, along with other valuable hunting information is available on the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.


Hunters encouraged to harvest antlerless deer (10/18/01)

Oklahoma's deer herd continues to grow and biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation believe the only way to manage for a healthier, balanced herd is to harvest more antlerless deer.

Outdoor Oklahoma will highlight new regulations that will affect the state's deer seasons and the reasons behind those regulations when "Hunters in the Know Take a Doe," airs Oct. 28 on OETA.

"The Department knows that many of the state’s deer hunters still have a strong buck preference," said Rich Fuller, information supervisor with the Department. "But, unprecedented regulations are in place to allow hunters more opportunity than ever to harvest a doe. This show provides insight into the importance of antlerless harvest and we hope it will encourage more hunters to consider taking a doe. It's the right thing to do."

Outdoor Oklahoma features such topics as fishing, hunting, and wildlife management. The 30-minute program is produced by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, and can be seen at 6 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. Sunday on OETA. It also airs Mondays at 5:30 p.m., Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. and each Saturday at 1:30 p.m. on KSBI.

For a complete listing of show times and channels in your viewing area, consult the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com or your local TV guide.


Hunters encouraged to harvest does (10/4/01)

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is encouraging the state's deer hunters to harvest more does and is providing hunters with more antlerless hunting opportunity.

Deer season regulation changes include increasing the statewide combined bag limit and lengthening the archery season. Special antlerless deer gun seasons were also added in some parts of the state to allow hunters the opportunity to harvest a bonus doe in December.

"The 2001 statewide bag limit has been increased to six deer for all three seasons combined, but only three of those may be bucks," said Alan Peoples, the Department's wildlife chief. "Slight changes were also made to the deer primitive firearms and the modern gun deer seasons, and those changes seem to be confusing some sportsmen."

The bag limit for the muzzleloader season is one buck and one doe with the appropriate licenses, Peoples added. In areas open to antlerless harvest, hunters may use their unfilled primitive buck license (permit) to harvest a doe on the last day of the season, but only if they have not already harvested a doe. They may not kill two antlerless deer with their primitive firearm.

The same regulations and bag limits apply to the deer gun season, he added. Hunters may harvest one buck and one doe with appropriate licenses. They may harvest a doe on their unfilled buck license on the last day in areas open to antlerless harvest, but only if they have not already harvested a doe during the gun season. Hunters may not take two does during the deer gun season.

"The bag limit has been changed for the archery season as well," Peoples said. "The bag limit for archery hunters will be four deer, but only two of those can be bucks."

The archery season has also been extended and will run through Jan. 15, 2002, he added. From Jan. 1 - Jan. 15, hunters may only harvest does and deer they harvest will count against the 2001 statewide combined bag limit. Peoples stressed however, that in order to hunt during January, annual license holders will need to have a 2002 deer archery license (permit) in addition to their 2002 hunting license.

"All licenses issued for this year, including a 2001 deer archery license, will expire on Dec. 31," Peoples said. "Hunters must purchase the new licenses before hunting deer in January, and if they do not harvest a deer, they may use the 2002 archery license to bow hunt next fall."

Biologists believe sportsmen need to harvest more antlerless deer and hope they will take advantage of the additional opportunities to help manage Oklahoma's deer herd. To learn more about deer hunting in Oklahoma, or for a copy of the 2001-2002 Oklahoma Hunting Guide and Regulations, go to the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

Deer season is state's biggest attraction (11/15/01)

It attracts more participants than the busiest day of the Oklahoma State Fair and the Tulsa State Fair -- combined. It attracts more Oklahomans than the number of football fans attending sold out home games at Lewis Field, Owen Field, and Skelly stadium --- combined. And although it may surprise many, the state's largest single-day recreational attraction is the opening day of Oklahoma's deer gun season.

The gun deer opener, Saturday, Nov. 17 this year, will draw an estimated 200-250,000 hunters and their non-hunting companions. The nine-day season, which runs Nov. 17-25, will see these thousands of orange-clad hunters heading into Oklahoma's forests and prairies in search of the state's number one game animal, the white-tail deer.

Through deer hunting license statistics and license holder surveys, officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) say at least 160,000 people hunt deer during the modern firearms season, although the actual number may be higher. When combined with non-hunting relatives, who participate in camping and other deer season related activities, the total number of participants is estimated at well over 200,000.

"We know that virtually all of our deer gun hunters are out on opening day of the season, and a significant number of those hunters have non-hunting family members either with them in the field, or back at their campsite or RV," said Mike Shaw, research supervisor for the Department. "It's pretty remarkable when you consider how many people might be sitting in the stands of all our major college football stadiums on a fall Saturday, and then realize there are many more sportsmen out enjoying the deer woods on opening day."

Department officials say that per capita participation in the deer gun season is traditionally strongest in the southeast part of the state, however, the trend is changing. Due to the expansion of the state's whitetail deer herd, other regions of the state are growing in popularity.

"For many hunters and their families living in the southeast, deer season is family tradition that has been passed down through generations," said Rich Fuller, information supervisor for the Department.

"From the time of Oklahoma's first deer hunting season in 1933 to the 1960s, the forests of southeast Oklahoma were about the only places with huntable populations, so consequently people in that area have the strongest ties to the activity. Certainly, with the expansion of our deer herd to all corners of the state, you'll see about as many people driving around wearing blaze orange caps in towns like Woodward or Vinita as you do in Antlers. The southeast, especially places like the Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area or Honobia Creek Wildlife Management Area, is still unique as far as big deer camps with grandparents and grandkids who are along to enjoy the camaraderie."

Through a special $16 land access fee paid by hunters and other users of the area, the ODWC leases approximately 725,000 acres of timber company lands in southeast Oklahoma that are open for deer gun season. The Three Rivers WMA is comprised of 450,000 acres of Weyerhaeuser property, and approximately 275.000 acres are leased from John Hancock Timber Resources Group for the Honobia Creek WMA. Additionally, the Ouachita National Forest offers another 320,000 acres that is open for deer gun season. Deer season remains such a popular event in the southeast that many lucky youngsters get an entire week off from school during the season, rather than just two days at Thanksgiving.

Due to the successful trap and transplant restoration efforts of the ODWC beginning in the 1950s through the late '70s, Oklahoma deer hunters have a better opportunity to harvest a deer than at any time in the state's history. According to Department officials, the state's whitetail deer herd is estimated at between 500,000 and 750,000 animals, and is reaching levels considered to be excessive in some areas.

"This year, our deer hunting regulations underwent dramatic changes in order to encourage harvest of more antlerless deer," said Shaw. "We need more does harvested in order to balance the herd with available habitat, reduce agricultural depredation and reduce deer vehicle collisions."

For more information about Oklahoma's deer hunting regulations and opportunities, consult the 2001-2002 Oklahoma Hunting Guide and Regulations, available wherever hunting licenses are sold.

Primitive deer harvest likely down; gun outlook very good (11/8/01)

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.

Youth Deer Hunt Featured (11/8/01)

According to biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, an increase in antlerless harvest is needed to better manage the state's growing population of white-tailed deer. Hunters can find out more about antlerless deer harvest in an upcoming episode of Outdoor Oklahoma.

"Last fall, we had unique opportunity to film some seasoned hunters from the Christian Sportsmen's Fellowship (CSF) who introduced the sport of deer hunting to some young hunters," said Todd Craighead, associate producer for Outdoor Oklahoma. "The ranch we were on has an overabundance of does, and the CSF decided to sponsor a special youth hunt to help them manage the population.

"Many of the kids who participated in the hunt were physically challenged and had never had the opportunity to deer hunt, which made the event even more special. Whether or not, they succeeded in harvesting a deer, all of the kids had a good time and learned a great deal about wildlife management."

The program airs Nov. 18 on OETA. Outdoor Oklahoma features such topics as fishing, hunting, and wildlife management. The 30-minute program is produced by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, and can be seen at 6 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. Sunday on OETA. It also airs Mondays at 5:30 p.m., Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. and each Saturday at 1:30 p.m. on KSBI. For a complete listing of show times and channels in your viewing area, consult the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com or your local TV guide.

Archers get two extra weeks to hunt (12/20/01)

Due to wildlife biologist recommendations and requests from state archery groups, this year's archery deer season will run through Jan. 15, 2002, with only antlerless deer being allowed from Jan. 1-15.

According to Mike Shaw, research supervisor for the Department of Wildlife Conservation, the additional days were granted as part of the Department's comprehensive deer management strategy. A slate of changes were implemented by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission earlier this year, including extending archery season, increasing the antlerless harvest limit and eventually special antlerless only gun hunts in December.

"In many areas of the state we simply have too many deer, and the most cost effective means of reducing them is through hunting antlerless deer," said Shaw. "For several years, we've had bowhunters request a longer season into January, and we felt that the time was right for it.

"The period of January 1 through 15 will be for antlerless deer only, and will hopefully provide archers an opportunity to get back into their treestands after the Christmas and New Year holidays."

Archers planning to take advantage of the extended season are reminded 2001 annual hunting licenses and 2001 deer archery licenses expire December 31, 2001. Unless resident archers have a lifetime hunting or lifetime combination license, they will need to purchase both a 2002 hunting license and a 2002 deer archery permit in order to hunt deer in January. Holders of the lifetime senior citizen's hunting license will have to purchase only the 2002 deer archery permit.

Should bowhunters purchase a 2002 deer archery permit and not harvest a deer in January, the unfilled permit remains valid throughout the rest of 2002 open archery season dates (Oct. 1 through Nov. 22 & Dec. 2 through 31).

Other regulations that January archers need to be aware of are the archery season bag limit and the combined season bag limit. Through the archery season (all open dates from Oct. 1, 2001, through Jan. 15, 2002), archers are allowed to take up to four deer, which may include no more than two antlered deer. Additionally, deer hunters are allowed a combined season (all deer archery, deer primitive and deer gun seasons from Oct. 1, 2001 through Jan. 15, 2002) limit of six deer, which may include no more than three antlered deer.

"Of course, January archers are prohibited from harvesting bucks, but they still need to be mindful of the archery bag limit and the season bag limit," said Shaw. " If, for example, an archer took two bucks and two does with his bow, then he's reached his archery limit of four deer and can't harvest any more until next October. Likewise, he can't hunt during January if he's already taken a combined total of six deer through all of the deer seasons up to that point."

The second half of deer archery season has typically accounted for less than 10 percent of the state's total deer harvest. However, wildlife officials hope the additional days combined with the special antlerless deer gun seasons in late December will boost the state's post-gun season harvest.

"Considering our numbers of deer hunters and our current framework, we really don't expect dramatic increases in our gun season harvest. For our harvest to grow, it's going to take more hunters taking advantage of these other opportunities like the extended archery season and the special antlerless season," said Shaw.

To learn more about the state's deer seasons and management strategies, consult the 2001-2002 Hunting Guide and Regulations, or log onto wildlifedepartment.com.

Deer harvest record still a possibility (12/6/01)

Preliminary results from Oklahoma's deer harvest show the total harvest through the end of gun season is down nine percent compared to the same point in last year's deer hunting seasons.

Unusually mild and often windy weather contributed to the decline, according to officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC). Harvest figures show 85,645 deer were harvested through gun season, compared with 93,327 at the same time in 2000. Last year, additional deer harvested on properties enrolled in the Deer Management Assistance Program, along with the late season archery harvest, resulted in an end-of-year record of 102,100 animals. ODWC officials say that with the establishment of special antlerless gun seasons coming up in December, a new record is still possible.

"Since the special antlerless hunts are new, we really don't know how many hunters will take advantage of these hunting opportunities, and we certainly don't know what kind of weather we're going to have," said Mike Shaw, research supervisor for the Department. "We have been encouraging hunters to harvest antlerless deer, and that message seems to be translating to action. Based on that, we certainly can't rule out the possibility of another record harvest."

Shaw said that unusually mild weather during the first half of archery season through both the primitive and regular firearms seasons resulted in hunters reporting poor deer movement. Bucks often become less cautious during the rut, thus becoming more visible to hunters. Although primarily influenced by photoperiod, or diminishing day length, cooler temperatures can result in a marked increase in deer activity. Many hunters believed that the temperatures and gusty winds had a detrimental affect on this year's deer rut and kept deer from moving during daylight hours.

"Reports from field biologists across the state said hunter participation levels were equal to last year's regular gun season," Shaw said, "but most said that rutting activity was significantly off compared to last year."

In April, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission approved special antlerless deer gun seasons for large areas of the state. The first three-day hunt, to be held Dec. 21 through 23, will be restricted to the north central and northwestern portion of the state. Much of the state, except for far southwest, far southeast and panhandle, also will have three days of antlerless-only gun hunting running from Dec. 28 through 30. Hunters should consult the antlerless deer hunt zone map on page 22 of the 2001-2002 Oklahoma Hunting Guide and Regulations to determine which areas will offer the special antlerless deer gun seasons.

Hunters who participate in the special antlerless 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. Youths under the age of 18 may purchase a special youth antlerless deer gun license for $14.75.

The statewide season limit during the special antlerless deer gun season is one antlerless deer, which does not count against the annual combined statewide bag limit of six 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.

"These new special antlerless deer gun seasons were established to better manage the state's deer population," said Shaw. "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."

Getting hunters to shift from a strong buck preference to an attitude that encourages the harvest of antlerless deer has been a slow evolution. In 2001, the ODWC adopted the slogan, "Hunters in the know . . . take a doe!" to increase hunter awareness with harvesting antlerless deer.

"Hopefully with the new special antlerless deer gun season and changing attitudes toward harvesting does we can reach our management objectives," Shaw said. "In many areas of the state we simply have too many deer, and/or we have local populations where the does far outnumber the bucks. The most sound management strategy that can be employed in those areas is to harvest more antlerless deer."

To learn more about the special antlerless gun season and deer management in Oklahoma, consult the 2001-2002 Oklahoma Hunting Guide and Regulations or log on to the ODWC's official Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com. Look under the "Hunting" link for complete deer season information.