Oct. 1 cannot come soon enough for thousands of hunters in Oklahoma. That Sunday is when several archery hunting seasons will open across the state. Those seasons are:
- Deer archery, running through Jan. 15, 2024.
- Elk archery, on private lands through Jan. 15, 2024 (or until zone quotas are met).
- Black bear archery, running through Oct. 15.
- Fall turkey archery, running through Jan. 15, 2024.
- Pronghorn antelope archery, running through Oct. 14.
The popularity of bowhunting continues to grow in Oklahoma. For yet another consecutive year, archery deer hunters set a record with 41,487 deer taken, which accounted for nearly 31 percent of all deer harvested in the state last year. The most popular of all archery hunting seasons is for deer.
The annual archery bag limit deer is six, 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 Regulations or go to wildlifedepartment.com.
The annual Game Harvest Survey (GHS), a scientific survey conducted by the Wildlife Department, has been tracking hunter metrics for decades. The GHS estimated that 102,116 bowhunters took to the field this past season with a deer license in hand.
According to the 2022-23 Big Game Harvest Report published in the current September/October issue of Outdoor Oklahoma magazine, archery hunters took 20,006 antlerless deer compared to 21,481 antlered deer for an impressive 48 percent antlerless harvest.
(NOTICE TO DEER AND ELK HUNTERS: As of Sept. 21, 2023, three Special Surveillance Areas are in place in Oklahoma, which carry special restrictions on transporting cervid carcasses due to chronic wasting disease. See below for more information.)
WEBINAR: Tune in from noon to 1 p.m. Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, as experts from ODWC and the National Wild Turkey Federation conduct a Learn to Hunt session on Deer Archery Basics. For more information and to register (required), go to license.gooutdoorsoklahoma.com/Event/ViewEvent.aspx?id=107090.
In southeastern Oklahoma, archery hunters took 57 black bears last year.
For archery bear hunters, there is no season harvest quota in the open hunting zone that includes all or part of 12 Oklahoma counties. Bear hunters can be more selective in making a harvest decision since they may hunt every day of the season. Hunters may take only one bear for archery and muzzleloader seasons combined.
Bear hunters (including lifetime license holders) must buy a bear license before the season opens, as those licenses will not be sold after Sept. 30.
The beginning of the elk archery season on private lands coincides with the end of the elk rut in most elk hunting zones.
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. The Special Southwest Zone of Caddo, Comanche, and Kiowa counties, where the most concentrated elk populations can be found, will be open for archery hunting on private lands on Oct. 7-11 and Dec. 9-13 only.
Some areas of the state are known to have good elk populations. In the Northeast Zone, hunters might consider trying in 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.
Last year, archery hunters took 83 elk. In all, 549 elk were harvested in Oklahoma during the 2022-23 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.
Pronghorn archery hunting is open 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 most pronghorns harvested in Oklahoma are taken through the Wildlife Department’s controlled hunts program or by permits secured by landowners.
Of the 150 pronghorns harvested in 2022, only 18 were taken by over-the-counter archery season license buyers.
Most of the land in the pronghorn hunting zone is privately owned. But 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).
Fall turkey archery season is open statewide. 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 have 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.
For complete regulations — including required licenses, open areas, harvest quotas, and reporting requirements — consult the 2023-24 Oklahoma Fishing and Hunting Regulations online at wildlifedepartment.com, on the Go Outdoors Oklahoma mobile app for Apple or Android, or in print free at license dealers statewide.
CWD in Oklahoma
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a neurological disease that affects the brains of deer, elk, moose, and other members of the deer family, creating holes that resemble those in sponges. It is always fatal to the animal, and no treatment or vaccine against CWD exists at this time. CWD has been confirmed in wild deer in Oklahoma and wild deer and/or elk in surrounding states including Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas.
When a wild deer or elk tests positive for CWD, ODWC activates its CWD Response Strategy. This includes designation of Selected Surveillance Areas (SSA) in Cimarron, Texas, and Woodward counties, and parts of Major and Woods counties.
Hunters who harvest deer or elk within the boundaries of an SSA must process those animals before leaving the SSA. Only the following items are allowed to be taken out of an SSA:
- Antlers detached from the skull plate, and antlers attached to a clean skull plate or cleaned skulls (all tissue removed).
- Animal quarters containing no spinal materials, or meat with all parts of the spinal column removed.
- Cleaned teeth.
- Finished taxidermy products.
- Hides or tanned products.
The Wildlife Department is providing freezers where hunters can leave deer heads for voluntary CWD testing. Supplies such as sampling tags are provided in the drop-off freezer. For more information, go to wildlifedepartment.com/hunting/resources/deer/cwd/ssa.
ODWC takes disease issues very seriously because of potential effects on the state’s rich hunting traditions, human health concerns, the risk to natural resources, and the $1.2 billion impact hunting brings to the state's economy annually. ODWC’s primary objective is to minimize the risk to Oklahoma's wild deer, elk, and other susceptible cervids within our borders.
ODWC is coordinating with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, and other agencies to monitor the state’s captive cervid herds and provide information to the public as it becomes available.
Additional human health information relating to CWD is available at https://www.usgs.gov/centers/nwhc/science/chronic-wasting-disease#publications.