Deer gun hunting season will open Saturday, Nov. 23, and the state's big game biologist is urging hunters to harvest more antlerless deer this season to improve the white-tailed deer herd structure.
With habitat in good condition over most of Oklahoma this year, hunters can expect to have some opportunities for a harvest, Big Game Biologist Dallas Barber said.
“We’ve been blessed with timely rains this year, as we have the past several years. And as habitat continues to improve, deer populations also continue to grow,” said Barber.
Deer gun season remains the state’s most popular, with more than 150,000 taking part last year. It is also the deer gun season that boasts the greatest success rate in terms of harvest each year, as shown in the annual Big Game Report. The gun season accounted for 60.5 percent of all deer harvested in the 2018-19 seasons. That amounted to just over 66,000 deer, the highest total for gun harvest since 2011.
Barber is hopeful that deer gun hunters will harvest more does this season compared to the numbers taken the past few years. Antlerless deer harvest becomes even more important in the state’s deer management plan when populations grow.
According to the 2018-19 Big Game Report published in the September/October issue of Outdoor Oklahoma magazine, hunters took 39,409 does compared to 69,851 bucks. Doe harvest amounted to 36 percent of the 2018-19 harvest, well short of the 40-45 percent target range.
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.
“Doe harvest is critical to keeping a herd healthy,” Barber said. “It’s again time for hunters to meet the challenge to let young bucks grow and take a doe. It’s important to remind hunters not only to be deer managers, but to share their heritage with others as well, so that this tradition of success is passed down and continued.”
Everyone planning to go hunting this year is reminded to make sure that proper licenses or permits have been obtained and their online account is ready to E-Check their harvest. This is the first year for the Wildlife Department's new mobile app and online license sales and harvest check-in system with improved customer service features. This system is called Go Outdoors Oklahoma.
All hunters and anglers who have bought licenses in the past should already have a profile in Go Outdoors Oklahoma. Regardless, everyone — especially lifetime license holders — should take a moment to go online to GoOutdoorsOklahoma.com or click “Licensing” at wildlifedepartment.com and make sure their account is correct. Any new users should log on and create a new account.
Safe and legal hunting is critical to conserving wildlife and preserving the heritage of hunting. This comes from knowing and understanding the rules and regulations. For complete information and license requirements, see the current Oklahoma Hunting and Fishing Regulations Guide found online at wildlifedepartment.com, on the Go Outdoors Oklahoma free mobile app for Apple or Android devices, or in print across the state wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold.
The Wildlife Department partners with the National Rifle Association to offer an online hunter education course that certifies most residents age 10 and older to hunt without a mentor with the appropriate hunting license. The free course is available online at www.wildlifedepartment.com/education.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation participates in a variety of programs and projects.
The Age My Deer program lets hunters help biologists collect important data used in managing the state's deer herd. By uploading photos of the jaws of deer they harvest, hunters can learn the estimated age of their deer while providing data about the age structure of deer harvested statewide. Participating is free and completely online.
Many Oklahomans have limited or inconsistent access to adequate food. Hunters can help. The Wildlife Department's Hunters Against Hunger program lets hunters who legally harvest a deer during any of the state's deer seasons donate the meat to feed hungry Oklahomans. It's a cooperative program between hunters, local processors, food pantries and the Wildlife Department. It's easy.
The Wildlife Department's Stars and Stripes License Project is a donor-funded project that offers hunting and fishing licenses to military veterans and select survivors of veterans lost while serving their country. The Wildlife Department receives no state-appropriated funds, but this project allows the agency to show appreciation to veterans while maintaining revenue that supports important wildlife conservation in the state.