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Oct. Brings in Big Game & Turkey Archery Seasons

By: 
Don P. Brown
Thursday, September 16, 2021

October 1 is opening day for several major archery hunting seasons in Oklahoma. And prospects are looking good for most of those seasons, experts with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation said. 

deer archery
Photo by Ty Scherman/RPS

Deer Archery — Oct. 1, 2021 to Jan. 15, 2022, statewide.

The most popular of all archery hunting seasons is for deer. Last year, a record 141,472 hunters ventured out with stick and string or other archery gear. Those hunters took home 35,337 deer in 2020-21, accounting for 28 percent of the total deer harvest for the year counting all methods.

And after ample rainfall across the state during the growing season, the 2021-22 season is shaping up to be another good one for deer hunters.

Early results from summer spotlight surveys conducted by Wildlife Department staff have shown that deer numbers have increased from last year.

“Healthy mature bucks are sporting impressive headgear,” said Dallas Barber, Big-game Biologist for the Wildlife Department. His advice for archers: “Early season bucks still tend to be in summer patterns, so focus on transition areas between bedding and summertime food sources.”

The annual bag limit is six deer, which may include no more than two antlered deer. For license requirements and information on field tagging and E-Checking, consult the Oklahoma Fishing and Hunting Guide or go online to wildlifedepartment.com.

elk
Photo by Michi White/RPS

Elk Archery – Oct. 1, 2021, to Jan. 15, 2022, statewide on private lands only (except in Special Southwest Zone)

The beginning of the elk archery season coincides with the end of the elk rut. 

For the statewide elk season, Oklahoma is divided into seven zones. Each zone has its own bag limit (one or two elk) and harvest quota. A Special Southwest Zone will be open for archery hunting on private lands on Oct. 2-6 and Dec. 4-8 only. 

Some areas of the state are known to have good elk populations. In the Northeast Zone, hunters would do well to target Mayes, Delaware, Cherokee, Adair, and Sequoyah counties. In the Southeast Zone, pockets of elk can be found in Pushmataha, Coal, Johnston, and Pontotoc counties. And hunters in the western Panhandle should find some success. 

By far, the largest concentrations of elk occur in the Special Southwest Zone consisting of Caddo, Comanche, and Kiowa counties. And while the season dates are more restrictive in this zone, there is no zone harvest quota. 

Last year, archery hunters took 40 elk. In controlled hunts and private land hunts combined, 559 elk were harvested in Oklahoma during all 2020-21 seasons. 

Hunters may harvest two elk combined for all elk seasons. All hunters must check online at wildlifedepartment.com before their hunt to find out if the season is closed for the zone they intend to hunt. Once the quota is met in each zone, the elk season will close in that zone. 

For details on license requirements, field tagging and E-Checking, landowner permission, zone bag limits, and zone harvest quotas for private land elk hunts, consult the hunting regulations guide

black bear
Photy by Desiree Branson Cline of Honobia /RPS

Black Bear Archery – Oct. 1-17, 2021, in Choctaw, Haskell, Latimer, Le Flore, McCurtain and Pushmataha counties; and those portions of McIntosh, Muskogee and Sequoyah counties south of Interstate 40; and those portions of Atoka, Bryan, McIntosh and Pittsburg counties east of U.S. Highway 69 

In 2020, hunters harvested 72 black bears in Oklahoma. Of those, 68 were taken by archery hunters. 

Jeff Ford, Southeastern Region Wildlife Biologist for the Wildlife Department, said this year’s bear season looks to be another banner year.  

 “We have had plenty of rain, and the mast crop in the portions of the open counties that weren’t hit by the late freeze in April are looking exceptional,” Ford said. “Bear hunters who can take advantage of hunting near the season opener of archery season seem to be the  most successful.” 

For archery bear hunters, there is no season harvest quota. So, these hunters can be more selective in making a harvest decision since they may hunt all 17 days. Hunters may take only one bear for all seasons combined. 

Bear archery hunting licenses must be purchased by Sept. 30, before the season opens. No bear archery licenses will be sold after that date. 

For more information about prohibited activities, field tagging and bear harvest check-in, consult the hunting regulations guide

pronghorn
Photo by Jacob Miller of Arnett/RPS

Pronghorn Antelope Archery – Oct 1-14, 2021, in Cimarron County and Texas County west of State Highway 136

The pronghorn archery hunting license is the only over-the-counter opportunity to harvest a pronghorn in Oklahoma. But the majority of pronghorns harvested in Oklahoma are taken through the Wildlife Department’s controlled hunts program or by permits secured by landowners.

Of the 169 pronghorns harvested in 2020, only 36 were taken by over-the-counter license buyers.

 “Archery pronghorn hunters are always facing a steep climb to filling their tag. This year is no different. Populations are spread out, depending on habitat quality,” Barber said.

“Rainfall in the hunt area has been sporadic, with many areas receiving enough rain to make water hole sits uneventful.”

Keep in mind that in addition to Rita Blanca Wildlife Management Area, other public-access hunting areas are offered through the Oklahoma Land Access Program (OLAP).

Hunters who successfully harvest a pronghorn are reminded that, like black bears, the animal must be physically checked in. For all the details, consult the hunting regulations guide.

Turkey Archery – Oct. 1, 2021, to Jan. 15, 2022, statewide

All counties are open for the fall turkey archery season. One change in regulations this year: Hunters may harvest just one tom turkey during the fall turkey seasons, regardless of method of take. A tom is any bearded turkey, regardless of sex. 

It’s common for deer hunters to head to the field along with the proper fall turkey license in case they get an opportunity to arrow a turkey while deer hunting. And remember, all turkey harvests must be logged using the E-Check system at GoOutdoorsOklahoma.com or on the Go Outdoors Oklahoma mobile app. 

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Hunting season dates on public lands may vary from statewide season dates. For complete regulations — including hunter education and apprentice-designated license requirements — consult the current  Oklahoma Fishing and Hunting Guide, available on the free Go Outdoors Oklahoma mobile app, online at  wildlifedepartment.com  or in print anywhere hunting licenses are sold.  

- Don P. Brown is a communication specialist for the Wildlife Department. All photography was originally submitted as part of Outdoor Oklahoma magazine's 2021 "Readers' Photography Showcase" contest. All winners were published in the July/August 2021 issue. To subscribe for just $10 a year, go here. 

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