Oklahoma’s 16-day deer gun season, the most popular in terms of participation, will run Nov. 21 through Dec. 6. And a familiar phrase is back this year for all to consider: “Hunters in the Know … Take a Doe!”
With about 160,000 deer hunters venturing into the woods last year, the deer gun season is also the one that boasts the greatest success rate in terms of harvest each year. Firearms accounted for 55.5 percent of all deer harvested in the 2019-20 seasons. That amounted to 59,045 deer, according to the most recent Big Game Report published in the September/October issue of Outdoor Oklahoma magazine.
Doe harvest amounted to 37 percent of the 2019-20 harvest, well short of the 40-45 percent target range.
Big Game Biologist Dallas Barber of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation said he’s hopeful that deer gun hunters will harvest more does this season, as the doe harvest has been declining the past four years. Antlerless deer harvest becomes even more important in the state’s deer management plan when populations continue to grow.
Doe harvest helps keep populations in balance with available habitat, helps maintain healthy buck-to-doe ratios, and helps synchronize fawning when conditions are most favorable for fawn growth. And new this year, the Wildlife Department has liberalized rules to allow increased bag limits and more open days for harvest of antlerless deer.
The deer breeding season, known as the rut, peaks in November. Deer are more active during daylight hours during the rut, which means some rifle hunters may observe some resulting deer activity. During the week prior to opening day, the Department will issue its annual Deer Rut Report, which will offer hunters valuable insights on deer movement and hunting prospects using the most recent information available from all regions of the state.
From the largest outdoor and sporting goods stores in the major metropolitan cities to the smallest of cafes and roadside motels in rural outposts across the state, deer hunting has a sizable economic impact estimated at more than $600 million a year.
It wasn’t always this way. From the time of Oklahoma’s first deer hunting season in 1933 until well into the 1960s, huntable populations were limited across the state. But as part of what has become one of conservation’s greatest success stories, the Wildlife Department began successfully trapping and transplanting deer from the 1950s through the 1970s. Now, the state’s deer population is estimated to be well over 500,000 animals. And deer hunters in Oklahoma have a better chance of harvesting a deer than at any other time in the state’s history.
Remember: The Outdoors Are Always Open! So make plans now to harvest some deer this season. For all the details, consult the Oklahoma Hunting & Fishing Regulations Guide available at www.wildlifedepartment.com, in the "OK Fishing and Hunting Guide" mobile app for Apple and Android, or in print free from license dealers statewide.
- Don P. Brown is an information & education specialist for the Wildlife Department