2000 Whitetail Articles


Deer totals point to new record (1/13/00)
Department schedules public deer meetings (3/9/00)
Department concludes stakeholder meetings (4/6/00)
Steering Committee briefs Commission (6/8/00)
Deer hunters set new record (6/15/00)
Committee proceeding with deer management plan (6/15/00)
Department receives deer video (6/22/00)
Deer Management Plan on Commission Agenda (8/14/00)
Plan encourages antlerless harvest (8/14/00)
Deer recommendations accepted by commission (9/11/00)
Deer archery season opens October 1 (9/11/00)
Muzzleloader season to run as scheduled (10/16/00)
Good field care ensures good venison  (10/30/00)
Harvest Could Top 100,000! (11/27/00)
Record muzzleloader deer harvest expected (11/06/00)
Another record deer harvest expected (11/20/00)
Public to hear proposed wildlife rule changes (12/18/00)
 

Deer totals point to new record (1/13/00)

True to expectations, Oklahoma deer hunters appear to be on course to set another all-time harvest record this year.

After tallying harvest totals from both muzzleloader and gun deer seasons, along with the early and late archery seasons, personnel from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation recorded a preliminary harvest total 76,322 deer. That number does not include deer recorded in personnel books, deer taken on land enrolled in the Deer Management Assistance Program, nor those harvested during the 1999 Controlled Hunts.

Last year, the preliminary total at the end of the regular deer seasons was 73,258, said Mike Shaw, the Department's wildlife research supervisor, and late entries boosted the total to the final figure of 80,008. Based on last year's numbers, Shaw projected this year's final harvest at about 82,250.

"We witnessed a fairly sizable increase in the harvest, but I'm disappointed that the biggest increase has been in the buck harvest," Shaw said. "Obviously, that's an issue of ongoing concern, but it's an issue that's going to gain importance unless something is done to correct it."

So far, Osage County yielded the highest preliminary harvest with 4,404, compared to a final tally of 4,185 last year. This year's preliminary total includes 3,072 bucks and 1,332 does.

Next in line was Cherokee County with 3,417 (2,038 bucks, 1,379 does). Cherokee Co. was also the 1998 runner-up with a final harvest of 3,332.

Osage and Cherokee were the only counties where hunters harvested at least 1,000 does. Craig Co. was third in that category with 998 does, followed by Sequoyah Co., with 886. Delaware Co., was fifth with 631. Overall, hunters took 25,099 does, accounting for 33 percent of the harvest.

Like last year, pleasant weather conditions during most of the gun and muzzleloader seasons contributed greatly to this year's success. Blackpowder hunters took 15,891 deer in 1999, compared to 12,538 in 1998. Bowhunters took 10,584 deer, including 4,454 does.

Department schedules public deer meetings (3/9/00)

As part of an effort to develop a comprehensive deer management program, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will hold a series of public meetings across the state.

The meetings will begin at 7 p.m. at the following dates and locations:

March 20: Tulsa (Tulsa Tech Center, Career Service Bldg., located at 3420 S. Memorial, north of the Broken Arrow Expressway on Memorial).

March 23: Oklahoma City (Langston University at OKC Auditorium, 4205 N. Lincoln Blvd.).

March 27: McAlester (Kiamichi Technology Center, 301 Kiamichi Dr.).

March 28: Lawton (Lawton Public Library, 110 SW 4th St.).

March 30: Woodward (High Plains Area Vo-Tech Seminar Room, 3921 34th St.).

The meetings are an important part of the planning process which will ultimately involve anyone and everyone who is interested in the state’s deer herd, said Alan Peoples, chief of the Department’s Wildlife Division. The process will invite interested parties - from hunter groups to farm and ranch organizations to wildlife biologists and game wardens - to identify issues and desires relating to managing deer populations and setting deer hunting regulations.

The meetings will not be a forum for debate, Peoples added, but they will allow individuals to express their concerns about the future of deer management in Oklahoma. Those who address the panel will be limited to about three minutes, so speakers should organize their thoughts beforehand.

“Essentially, we will be asking everyone to identify the issues, and then a core group that represents all of the major stakeholders will sit down together to try and comprehensively address those issues,” Peoples said. “The result of the core group’s efforts will be what we hope to implement as our deer management program, and it will cover all aspects of deer hunting seasons, regulations and bag limits.”

No specific management strategies will be considered, however, until the Department has identified all deer-related issues, concerns and opportunities. The process will ensure that everyone is represented on the core committee that will work to create the recommended deer management plan. To ensure that the program is biologically sound, the core group will contain biologists and other personnel from the Wildlife Department.

“At these meetings, people will get a chance to identify issues that are important to them, plus they will be asked to help identify persons willing to serve as representatives on the core committee,” explained Peoples. “From there, a core committee of about 30 people will look to formulate a plan that addresses the multitude of issues that have been raised. Because everyone, or at least their issues, is represented in the process, the end result will be something that they should find acceptable, and something they can support.”

Deer hunting regulations and seasons have already been set for this fall, so any potential changes recommended by the core committee would not be implemented until the fall of 2001. Although the Wildlife Conservation Commission, the governing board that sets policy for the Wildlife Department and oversees hunting and fishing in Oklahoma, must ultimately approve any changes, the Commission has expressed support for involving stakeholders in the process of formulating deer management recommendations.

In addition to publicizing upcoming meeting times and locations through normal media outlets, the Wildlife Department has the information on its web site, which can be accessed at www.state.ok.us/~odwc. For more information about the planning process, contact the Department’s Wildlife Division at 405/521-2739.

Department concludes stakeholder meetings (4/6/00)

After concluding a series of public stakeholder meetings, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is entering the next phase in developing a new statewide deer management plan.

Mandated last fall by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission, the process began in February with a series of public stakeholder meetings. The meetings, held in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Lawton, McAlester and Woodward, were designed to elicit information from stakeholders with interests in managing the state's deer herd. Parties represented included private landowners, ranchers, farmers, sportsmans' groups and the insurance industry, among others. The meetings provided those individuals the opportunity to express personal, corporate and regional concerns about the state's deer resources, as well as concerns about the future management of those resources.

"The meetings were very productive and enlightening," said Alan Peoples, the Department's Chief of Wildlife. "We found some common ground among the various groups, but we also found that there are some significantly different concerns from one region to another. For example, crop depredation is a major concern in the southwest, while deer/vehicle collisions are a big issue in the northwest."

Among the findings from the public meetings, Peoples added, is that many motorists do not report deer collisions to their insurance companies. Therefore, the incidence of deer/vehicle accidents may be underestimated.

"These are all things we have to consider when we sit down to hammer out a new management plan," Peoples said.

Equipped with such a diverse bank of public input, the Department will next form a steering committee composed of individuals representing the interests of the various stakeholders. Once formed, the steering committee will meet May 9-11 to draft a statewide deer management plan.

"It's taken us 30 years to get where we are, so it's going to be quite an undertaking to formulate a brand new plan in just three days," Peoples said. "However, we are confident that the people who will be on the steering committee will fully understand the importance of their mission, and we're confident we'll develop a plan that will serve the best interests of Oklahoma's citizens, as well as the best interests of our state's deer resources."

Steering Committee briefs Commission (6/8/00)

In its regular June meeting, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission voted unanimously to encourage the Deer Management Steering Committee Monday to continue developing a comprehensive deer management plan for Oklahoma.

Containing 32 key Oklahoma deer stakeholders, the 21st Century Steering Committee submitted its five-step plan outline to the Commission. The Steering Committee developed the recommendations after a five-month process involving statewide public meetings and an intensive, three-day Steering Committee meeting. Major components of the plan included:

1. Creating new deer management zones based on habitat types and social considerations.

2. Maximizing doe hunting opportunity.

3. Reducing the buck aggregate limit from three to two.

4. Addressing landowner concerns.

5. Increasing education and communication regarding deer management and plan implementation.

After thoroughly reviewing each item and discussing several facets in depth, the Commission recognized the Committee for its work and encouraged it to continue working toward final recommendations. The Department has already finalized the framework for the 2000 deer season, so a new plan, pending approval by the Commission, wouldn’t go into effect until the 2001 season at the earliest.

Also at the June meeting, the Commission unanimously approved a slate of officers. Elected were Harland Stonecipher, chairman; Mark Patton, Vice-Chairman, and Ed Abel, Secretary. The officers were recommended by a nominating committee that included commissioners John Groendyke, Jack Zink and Louis Stiles. The officers will begin their terms on July 1.

In his monthly report, Director Greg Duffy briefed the Commission on a slate of wildlife laws recently signed by Gov. Frank Keating. None of the laws will dramatically impact Department operations or the state’s hunters and anglers, Duffy said, but there were two items of significant interest. One was House Bill 1927, which allows for the hunting of feral hogs on public land and private land. It allows for the Department to promulgate rules for hunting feral hogs on public land, which the Department plans to do over the next year.

The other was House Concurrent Resolution 1113. Sponsored by Rep. Dale Smith (D.-St. Louis) and Sen. Frank Shurden (D.-Henryetta), HCR-1113 will provide a forum to study additional funding needs for the Department.

“Oklahoma’s hunters and fishermen pay a lot for conservation as it is, and license fee increases alone are not the answer for the Department’s funding needs,” Duffy said. “The last license fee increase that we had in 1994 was only supposed to provide sufficient funding through 1997, and although research shows that the overwhelming majority of Oklahoma hunters and anglers would support another increase, we don’t consider that to be a long-term solution.”

In other business, the Commission accepted a donation of two mobile display units from Matt Chilcutt, president of Chilcutt Direct Marketing. Valued at more than $20,000, the mobile display units will be used to enhance the Department’s presence at various public venues around the state. Chilcutt is the regional vice-president for Quail Unlimited. He has been a strong supporter of the Department’s conservation efforts.

Gary Purdy, regional director for the National Wild Turkey Federation, presented a plaque for Outstanding Hunting Heritage to Duffy on behalf of the Department. Purdy also presented a commemorative print to Assistant Director Richard Hatcher for his leadership in securing continued public hunting access to 725,000 acres of corporate timberland in southeast Oklahoma.

In personnel related business, the Commission voted to amend the Department’s retirement plan, which included increasing the death benefit to $5,000 for Department employees. The previous benefit was $4,000. Other language changes were incorporated as required by recent federal legislation. Also, the Commission authorized a two-percent cost of living increase for Department retirees.

The Commission will hold its next meeting July 10 at the Department’s headquarters in Oklahoma City. It will not hold a regular meeting in August.

Deer hunters set new record (6/15/00)

Once again, Oklahoma deer hunters have set a new harvest record.

After tallying harvest totals from both muzzleloader and gun deer seasons, along with the early and late archery seasons, personnel from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation recorded a final harvest total 82,724 deer. That number represents the state’s 15th record deer harvest in 18 years, said Mike Shaw, the Department’s research supervisor, and it’s a considerable jump from last year’s record of 80,008.

“We witnessed a fairly sizable increase in the harvest, but I’m disappointed in the relatively low number of antlerless deer in the total,” Shaw said. “Obviously, that’s an issue of ongoing concern, but it is something that we will continue to address. I simply cannot overstate the importance for hunters to harvest more female deer.”

Like last year, Osage County yielded the highest harvest with 4,382, which was a slight drop from last year’s total of 4,404. This year’s total includes 2,982 bucks and 1,400 does. The buck harvest in Osage Co. dropped three percent, while the doe harvest increased five percent.

Next in line was Cherokee Co., with 3,269 (2,014 bucks, 1,255 does). Cherokee Co. was also the 1998 runner-up with a final harvest of 3,332.

Osage, Cherokee and Craig were the only counties to yield at least 1,000 does. Sequoyah Co., was fourth in that category with 974 does, followed by Muskogee Co., (951) and Woods Co., (938).

Despite an overall harvest increase of more than 2,700 deer, hunters took 27,625 does, a decrease of 1,246 does from the previous year. In 1999, does accounted for 33 percent of the annual harvest, compared to 36 percent in 1998. The buck harvest was 55,099.

Like 1998, pleasant weather during most of the gun and muzzleloader seasons contributed greatly to last year’s success. Blackpowder hunters took 17,165 deer in 1999, compared to 15,891 in 1998. Of those, only 3,505 were does. Bowhunters took 11,757 deer, including 4,969 does.

Committee proceeding with deer management plan (6/15/00)

As Oklahoma’s deer herd grows at an unprecedented pace, it creates special challenges for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

While providing abundant hunting opportunities for sportsmen, record numbers of deer also create conflicts for many Oklahoma citizens. To address these issues, the Department initiated a process several months ago to design a new deer management plan for the 21st century.

Designed to involve all of the state’s deer stakeholders, the process began with a series of public meetings held across the state in which the Department gathered input regarding local and regional deer concerns.

Equipped with this information, the Department appointed a steering committee composed of individuals representing sportsmen’s groups, landowners, agricultural interests, insurance interests and other groups. After an intense, three-day planning session, this committee drafted a management plan to present to the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Department’s governing body. To ensure that the plan was biologically sound and reflected as many viewpoints as possible, the Committee also contained wildlife biologists, game wardens and other Department personnel.

“When you consider that the white-tailed deer was nearly extinct in Oklahoma at the beginning of the century, the abundance of these animals today is one of the Department’s most phenomenal success stories,” said Alan Peoples, the Department’s chief of wildlife. “However, there’s no denying the fact that the increasing presence of deer in some areas has created some unique problems for many citizens. Our challenge is to determine the future composition of the state’s deer herd, and to develop a comprehensive management strategy to accomplish that goal. This committee has put a great deal of time and effort into the initial part of that process, and it will continue to work toward a plan that will be most beneficial not only to the state’s deer herd, but also to the public.”

The plan contained four major components, including:

1. Creating new deer management zones based on habitat types and social considerations.

2. Maximizing doe hunting opportunities.

3. Reducing the buck aggregate limit from three to two.

4. Addressing landowner concerns and providing more opportunities for hunters to access private lands.

5. Increasing education and communication regarding deer management and plan implementation.

After a lengthy discussion, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission endorsed the Committee’s progress at its June 5 meeting in Oklahoma City and authorized it to continue fine-tuning the plan’s final recommendations. The Committee will likely present its final recommendations to the Commission at its regular September meeting in Oklahoma City.

Department receives deer video (6/22/00)

To help landowners manage deer herds on private land, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation recently received 90 copies of a specialized deer management video.

The video, titled, Let Them Go So They Can Grow, will be available to Department wildlife biologists for use during presentations to sportsman’s clubs and other groups, said Alan Peoples, the Department’s Chief of Wildlife. It explains how harvesting does and sparing young bucks can help landowners balance deer herds and improve the size of individual bucks.

“The information in the video can be useful to landowners who have overpopulations of female deer and who are interested in improving the quality of their buck herd,” Peoples said. “Obviously, every landowner may have a different situation in regard to deer, but this video can provide some useful tips for landowners and hunt lease members.”

The videos were a cooperative gift from the Oklahoma Station of the Safari Club International and the Quality Deer Management Association. For more information on the QDMA, call 1-800-209-DEER (3337) or go online to www.qdma.com.

Deer Management Plan on Commission Agenda (8/14/00)

A six-month public input process has culminated with a comprehensive deer management plan designed to take Oklahoma well into the 21st century.

The plan, the work of a broad-based committee of representatives from every major group with an interest in deer, will be presented to the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission at its September 11 meeting in Oklahoma City.

In general, the plan calls for greatly increased hunting opportunities for antlerless deer, while calling for a decrease in the number of bucks hunters may take from three to two. Both measures are designed to curb and stabilize overall population growth, while ensuring long-term health of the herd by better balancing buck-to-doe sex ratios.

"This plan is comprehensive and the committee believes it is representative of the numerous stakeholder groups who were identified to serve on the steering committee," said Mike McCormick, executive editor for the Shawnee News-Star and chairman of the 21st Century Deer Steering Committee. "Our responsibility and purpose has been to develop a plan which we believe will best manage Oklahoma's growing deer population. We've attempted to fulfill that obligation. Many parts of the state are being heavily impacted by the deer herd in those areas. Others may not have quite the numbers, so our plan is designed to provide some balance and allow wildlife officials the flexibility needed in managing a herd estimated to be 450,000 strong and predicted to grow between 35 and 40 percent annually.

"Every member of the group certainly did not necessarily agree with every little detail of the plan," McCormick added. "However, a consensus was reached on each point of the plan which is to be presented for approval to the Wildlife Commission September 11."

Key elements of the plan include:

• Increasing the aggregate statewide bag limit to six deer, no more than two of which can be antlered.

• Adding 15 days of antlerless-only archery hunting from Jan. 1-15.

• Expanding antlerless harvest options for Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) cooperators to include 28 days of antlerless rifle hunting spread over three months, plus nine days during the primitive firearms season. These antlerless firearms hunting opportunities include a nine-day, antlerless-only hunt in early October. Other recommended DMAP improvements include increased contact between cooperators and wildlife personnel, and restructuring enrollment fees to eliminate cost of individual doe permits.

• Creating a statewide Landowner Deer Permit (LDP) to be available to private landowner or agricultural lessees with at least 100 acres which will allow any licensed hunter with appropriate permits to harvest antlerless deer during the same season dates and methods offered Deer Management Assistance Program cooperators. LDPs would be bonus permits costing $10 each and would not count toward the annual combined bag limit. They would be issued on a straight acreage formula, with one permit per 100 acres.)

• In management zones deemed appropriate by the Wildlife Commission, three-day, post-Christmas, antlerless only firearms hunts will be offered. Deer taken during this hunt would be bonus.

• In management zones deemed appropriate by the Wildlife Commission, the bag limit could be increased to two antlerless deer during the primitive and/or modern firearms season.

According to McCormick, the Deer Steering Committee tried to remain focused on providing recommendations for a sound management plan, one directed at improving the overall health of the herd while addressing certain specific problems such as localized overpopulation and skewed sex ratios.

"We realize elements of this plan, if approved by the Commission, would still probably have to go through the public hearing process, but we thought it was important to produce a comprehensive plan, rather than one that is piecemeal," he said. "We realize that adjustments will be needed as the plan is implemented and therefore we have provided wildlife officials with flexibility. This is a good starting point. We just hope the commission will approve it in September."

The 21st Century Deer Steering Committee, a 33-member group representing wildlife professionals, hunters, farmers and ranchers and others, met Aug. 7-8 in Ardmore to draft the plan recommendations. The committee is expected to present the complete plan at the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission's Sept. 11 meeting in Oklahoma City. Watch for future deer management developments on the newly-created deer section of the Wildlife Department's web site - www.wildlifedepartment.com.

Plan encourages antlerless harvest (8/14/00)

The comprehensive deer management plan being recommended by the 21st Century Deer Steering Committee is one of the most progressive in the nation, according to state wildlife officials.

In some areas, many Oklahomans believe there are too many deer, and earlier this year, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission endorsed the concept of establishing a citizens "stakeholder" committee to address the overpopulation problem. In support of this the Legislature passed a resolution expressing their wishes to see a long-term management plan be developed.

In addition to the overpopulation issue, others believe that heavy harvest pressure on bucks and lack of harvest on does has resulted in an imbalanced herd sex ratio. Historical overharvest of yearling bucks can, over time, have a detrimental effect on the health of the herd.

"We are struggling with many of the same issues that states out east and up north have tried to deal with for years," said Alan Peoples, wildlife chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Fortunately, the growth of our herd hasn't reached the point where it is unmanageable. By taking an aggressive approach now, especially in the area of antlerless harvest, we hope to be able to curb growth and improve herd health.

"In looking at all of the individual elements of the plan, we recognize that several could no doubt be controversial," Peoples added. "The committee that put this plan together, though, deserves our appreciation for tackling a tough subject, and giving it the energy they did."

Peoples said that antlerless harvest is the key to controlling population numbers, and the recommendations of the Deer Steering Committee will not only help address overpopulation in certain areas, but should also work to improve buck-to-doe ratios. Overharvest of bucks can decrease overall herd health, a trend that has been identified and is concerning to wildlife biologists. The problem is especially acute across northern-tier counties.

"There is a great deal of flexibility built into the plan's recommendations," said Peoples. "Of course, the overall population and herd composition varies over time, and the committee recognized the need for making adjustments as harvest trends change."

Key elements of the plan include:

• Increasing the aggregate statewide bag limit to six deer, no more than two of which can be antlered.

• Adding archery antlerless hunting opportunity from Jan. 1-15.

• Expanding antlerless harvest options for Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) cooperators.

• Creating a statewide Landowner Deer Permit (LDP) to be available to private landowner or agricultural lessees with at least 100 acres which will provide them with additional antlerless harvest options.

• In management zones deemed appropriate by the Wildlife Commission, three-day, post-Christmas, antlerless only firearms hunts will be offered. Deer taken during this hunt would be bonus.

• In management zones deemed appropriate by the Wildlife Commission, the bag limit could be increased to two antlerless deer during the primitive and/or modern firearms season.

The 21st Century Deer Steering Committee, a 33-member group representing wildlife professionals, hunters, farmers and ranchers and others, met Aug. 7-8 in Ardmore to draft the plan recommendations. The committee is expected to present the complete plan at the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission's Sept. 11 meeting in Oklahoma City. Watch for future deer management developments on the newly-created deer section of the Wildlife Department's web site – www.wildlifedepartment.com

Deer recommendations accepted by commission (9/11/00)

Next step is public hearings

At its regular September meeting, held Sept. 11 in Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission voted unanimously to endorse deer management changes proposed by the 21st Century Deer Steering Committee, and send the proposals to statewide public hearings. Wildlife Department officials expect hearings on the proposed changes will be conducted in either December or January.

The changes, recommended by the 33-member committee of wildlife professionals, hunters, farmers and ranchers, mainly focus on maximizing antlerless hunting opportunities and harvest. The group also recommended reducing the total season buck bag limit from three to two to improve overall herd health and balance buck-to-doe sex ratios.

Antlerless harvest is the key to controlling population numbers, and these recommended changes will not only help address overpopulation in certain areas, but should also work to improve buck-to-doe ratios, said Alan Peoples, wildlife chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

"Fortunately, the growth of our herd hasn't reached the point where it is unmanageable," Peoples said. "By taking an aggressive approach now, especially in the area of antlerless harvest, we hope to be able to curb growth and improve herd health.

"Overharvest of bucks can decrease overall herd health, a trend we have identified that concerns wildlife biologists. The problem is especially acute across northern-tier counties."

Specific key deer management recommendations include:

• Increasing the aggregate statewide bag limit to six deer, no more than two of which can be antlered.

• Adding archery antlerless hunting opportunity from Jan. 1-15.

• Expanding antlerless harvest options for Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) cooperators.

• Creating a statewide Landowner Deer Permit (LDP) to be available to private landowner or agricultural lessees with at least 100 acres which will provide them with additional antlerless harvest options.

• Rezoning deer management zones based on habitat types and social considerations.

• In management zones deemed appropriate by the Wildlife Commission, three-day, post-Christmas, antlerless only firearms hunts will be offered. Deer taken during this hunt would be bonus.

• In management zones deemed appropriate by the Wildlife Commission, the bag limit could be increased to two antlerless deer during the primitive and/or modern firearms season.

• Increasing information and education efforts to better communicate with hunters and landowners about deer management issues.

Following public hearings on the deer management recommendations, Wildlife Department staff will present the results, along with specific hunting regulation change proposals, to the Wildlife Commission for approval. If any of the changes are approved by the Commission, they would go into effect next year, during the 2001-2002 hunting season. Watch for information on times and locations of upcoming deer management public hearings, as well as other future deer management developments, on the newly-created Deer Section of the Wildlife Department's web site –www.wildlifedepartment.com

In other business, the Commission voted to give all Wildlife Department employees a $2,000 annualized pay raise, effective October 1. They did so only after discussing the Department's current funding situation and history of employee pay raises, with several Commissioners expressing concern over the agency's ability to fill vacancies without additional funding. As a part of the pay raise action, the Commission also approved $2,500 annual increase retroactive to July 1, 2000, for employees in the executive compensation plan as approved last year.

In other action at the September meeting, the Commission approved a resolution establishing the 2000-2001 waterfowl hunting seasons. Wildlife Chief Alan Peoples said duck and goose populations look excellent, and he expects another outstanding season. Waterfowl Hunting Regulations are now available at license vendors throughout the state.

Several presentations also were made at the meeting. Commission Chairman Harland Stonecipher and Dr. Fred Guthery, head of the Bollenbach Chair at Oklahoma State University, presented each member of the Commission with a copy of Guthery's landmark quail management book, On Bobwhites. Stonecipher also announced that Guthery and the Widlife Department will co-host a quail management meeting Thursday, Oct. 12, at 7:30 p.m. at the Ada Technology Center (formerly called the Ada Vo-Tech). The meeting will focus on habitat improvements landowners can implement to improve quail populations, but hunters are encouraged to attend.

In a second presentation, Peoples recognized Paul Odom, III, as the 2000 Oklahoma Landowner of the Year. Odom, who owns the 640-acre Niles Canyon Ranch at Hinton, has spent five years intensively improving the fish and wildlife habitat on his property. Much of his efforts have focused on control and removal of Eastern red cedar, an invasive species that can outcompete native grass and timber. In his Director's report, Executive Director Greg Duffy pointed out that last year's Oklahoma Landowner of the Year, Veraman Davis of Tahlequah, recently won the National Landowner of the Year Award.

Two housekeeping measures were also addressed at the September meeting. The Commission approved a process whereby the Department can sell gravel, slate or other quarried rock from wildlife management areas, and in another matter, Commission members accepted an internal audit report of employment practices presented by Duffy.

The Commission's regular October meeting will be held Monday, Oct. 2, at 9 a.m. at the Wildlife Department's headquarters in Oklahoma City. Highlighting the meeting will be an informational presentation by a member of the Wildlife Legislative Fund of America, a national hunter advocacy group. The WLFA representative will discuss national and global trends concerning hunting rights, and discuss pending legislation at both the state and national level.



Deer archery season opens October 1 (9/11/00)

Oklahoma's archery deer season opens statewide October 1, and with a growing deer herd it could be another record year. Hunters will be allowed five more days of archery hunting opportunity this year.

"Archery deer hunters should be looking at a good deer season," said Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Last year, archers harvested 6,788 bucks and 4,969 does across the state which amounted to about 14 percent of the total deer harvested."

The northeast region of the state offers great deer hunting for the archery hunter. The state's top counties for archery harvest in 1999, included Cherokee (594), Osage (478) and Sequoyah (449). But, with good scouting and a little practice to fine-tune hunting tactics, archers statewide can have success.

Many early season trips can be successful while hunting over crop fields, and timber ridges can be another good place to start. "Creeks and river bottoms are also excellent areas to focus on and if the heat and drought persist, a set up near water may be the top ingredient for a successful hunt," Shaw said.

Concealment is the key to harvesting a deer with archery equipment. Hunters may use an elevated tree stand which can be very effective but can also be dangerous.

"Hunters using an elevated stand should be extremely cautious," said J.D. Peer, hunter safety coordinator for the Department. "Although hunting related accidents continue to decline, tree stand safety should not be overlooked."

Before heading afield, be sure to pick up a copy of the 2000 -2001 Oklahoma Hunting Guide (Regulations) available at all license dealer locations. This informative booklet contains all the hunting regulations and other information, including a list of hunter check stations.

Hunters can also find updated check station locations, season dates, 1999 harvest information and a wealth of other information by logging on to the department's web page at wildlifedepartment.com.

Tree stand safety tips:

*Check all steps to be sure they are safe.

*Permanent stands should be avoided. They are harmful to the tree and as the tree grows the stand shifts and nails become loose.

*Wear a safety belt while hunting from an elevated stand.

*Use a haul line to hoist equipment to the stand after ensuring a safe position in the stand and fastening the safety belt.

*Use a haul line to lower equipment before removing the safety belt and climbing down.

1999 Archery harvest top-ten counties

County Total Harvest

Cherokee 594
Osage 478
Sequoyah 449
Craig 398
Pittsburg 318
Rogers 300
Delaware 292
Caddo 253
Muskogee 252
Mayes 251
 

Good field care ensures good venison (10/30/00)

Although some say taking a deer is the highlight of every deer hunt, many feel that the best part of deer hunting comes later, at the dinner table.

To get the most enjoyment from your harvest, however, you need to take proper care for the meat. If properly handled, you'll be able to enjoy many meals of lean, high-protein meat that is 100-percent natural, with no additives or preservatives.

"People hunt for a lot of reasons, but every hunter agrees that eating game is an essential part of the hunting experience," said J.D. Peer, hunter education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "It's the key ingredient that connects the hunter to the game, that makes us participants in the cycle of life in the natural world instead of just being observers. Partaking of game gives a hunter a deeper respect and reverence for that animal than those who don't understand that connection."

Upon harvesting a deer, the first thing you must do is attach the proper tag to the carcass as required by law. Then, you should remove the animal's genitalia, or, if it's a doe, it's udder. Make a circular cut around the area, and remove musk glands to avoid tainting the meat.

Split the hide from the tail to the throat, but be careful not to pierce the body cavity. Peel back the hide several inches on each side to keep from getting hair on the meat.

Cut through the pelvic bone. Tilting the carcass toward the rear will cause the innards to sag into the rib cavity, decreasing the chance of puncturing the ,viscera while cutting through the bone. Then you can cut the large intestine from the pelvic cavity without severing it from the viscera.

Open the carcass by cutting the length of the breast bone and neck.

Working uphill, turn the carcass, free the gullet and pull viscera to the rear. Remove the head and legs, and then rinse the carcass out with water. Skin and sack.

Allow the carcass to cool before transporting if conditions allow. Many hunters recommend cooling a deer six hours before transporting.

Muzzleloader season to run as scheduled (10/16/00)

Thousands of Oklahoma sportsmen are breathing a sigh of relief as recent rains will allow Oklahoma's muzzleloader deer season to run as scheduled, Oct. 28, through Nov. 5.

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation was concerned that muzzleloader season might need to be postponed due to the state's extreme wildfire danger. Rainfall across the state significantly reduced the risk of wildfires, and the Department has announced that muzzleloader season will run as previously scheduled.

One of the fastest growing sports in the country, muzzleloader season offers sportsmen the chance to participate in nine days of traditional-style hunting. The season also allows hunters to enjoy Oklahoma's autumn weather while hunting deer that have not been heavily pressured.

"The primitive firearms season is one of the most widely-anticipated events among Oklahoma deer hunters," said Alan Peoples, chief of wildlife for the Department. "It's a really nice time to be in the woods, and many hunters consider it the best time to harvest a quality deer. We are very glad that it rained, and that the season will be held as planned.

"We still urge sportsmen to be extra cautious," Peoples added. "The fire danger has been reduced, but it has not been eliminated. Those staying in deer camps can now have campfires since the burn ban has been lifted, however we're encouraging hunters to watch for updated fire alert information from the Department of Agriculture. Sportsmen spend a great deal of time in rural areas and can be the first to report problems such as wildfires, and I would ask that they continue their vigilance as they enjoy what looks to be a great season."

Last year, muzzleloader hunters harvested 17,165 deer, accounting for more than 20 percent of the overall statewide harvest of 82,724 deer. Of those, 13,660 were bucks and 3,505 were does.

"The weather was warm last year, but it was dry which allowed muzzleloader hunters a lot of opportunity to get out," said Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor for ODWC. "I'm happy that many hunters were successful, but I'm disappointed that we didn't kill more does. We need to balance the buck-to-doe ratios in many parts of the state, and I hope that muzzleloader hunters will take advantage of the extra antlerless days offered this year to harvest more does."

The Department has added additional antlerless days during muzzleloader season in nearly every region of the state, including the opportunity to hunt antlerless deer all nine days in the northwest region. Hunters possessing appropriate permits may take one antlered deer and during designated days, one antlerless deer, during the nine day season, except in Texas and Cimarron counties which are closed to antlerless hunting.

To hunt deer with a muzzleloader in Oklahoma, resident hunters must possess an annual hunting or combination license, a lifetime hunting or combination license, a senior citizen hunting or senior citizen combination license or proof of exemption. Hunters must also have a deer primitive (antlered or antlerless) permit for each deer harvested or proof of exemptions.

Non-residents must possess a non-resident primitive (antlered or antlerless) permit. An annual non-resident hunting license is not required to purchase the permits.

Muzzleloader hunters are also required to wear a blaze orange head covering and upper-body garment. For specific information regarding licenses, bag limits, clothing requirements or legal firearms, consult the 2000-2001 Oklahoma Hunting Guide and Regulations, then get out and enjoy one of Oklahoma's finest hunting opportunities – muzzleloader season.

Additional tips for muzzleloader deer hunters:
 


• Carry a cellular phone for reporting any problems you encounter.

• Avoid driving through or parking in tall grass. Consider carrying a fire extinguisher in your vehicle.

• In areas where camp fires are allowed, take extra safety precautions, and do not leave fires unattended.

• Consider pre-cooked meals if you will be camping.

• Be extra careful in properly dispersing of cigarettes and cigars.



Harvest Could Top 100,000! (11/27/00)

With more than a month of archery hunting left, Oklahoma deer hunters can celebrate a new record harvest for the fourth straight year and 16th time in the last 19 years. Increasing populations, good weather for hunting, timing of the rut and increased opportunities to harvest antlerless deer all played a role in setting the new record. Biologists expect the final harvest total could top 100,000 when all the data is collected.

After tallying harvest totals through the recent deer gun season, personnel from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation registered a preliminary harvest of 93,327 deer. That is more than 10,000 deer above last year's total record harvest, and it does not include deer that will be taken in the late archery season, deer recorded in personnel books, deer taken on land enrolled in the Deer Management Assistance Program, nor deer harvested during controlled hunts.

"Obviously, I'm pleased with the new record, but what I am really pleased with is the increase in the number of does harvested," said Mike Shaw, the Department's wildlife research supervisor. "We won't know the exact numbers until January, but early indications show a much needed increase in the antlerless harvest, especially in the northwest."

Last year, the preliminary total after deer gun season was 74,818, and late entries boosted the overall total to 82,724. Based on the last couple of seasons, Shaw projected this year's final harvest will top 100,000.

"We have seen substantial increases in every region," Shaw said. "It looks like a lot of the increase can be attributed to an increase in the antlerless harvest. I want to thank hunters for that. We said we needed to harvest more does to offset skewed sex ratios and produce better overall herd health, and it appears that the sportsmen of the state responded accordingly."

Of the state's five geographic regions, the biggest increase in harvest came from the central region, where hunters took 31,635 deer. That's 6,407 more than 1999's total of 25,228. Hunters in the northeast region took 26,517 deer, an increase of 2,717 over the 1999 total of 23,800. In the southeast region, hunters took 14,801 deer, compared to 11,771 in 1999, an increase of 3,030.

Biologists believe populations are growing faster in the southwest region than anywhere else in the state, and hunters in that region harvested 10,671 deer, an increase of 3,130 over last year's harvest of 7,540. In the northwest, where every day of both the muzzleloader and modern gun season were antlerless days, the preliminary harvest was 9,703 compared to 6,479 a year ago, an increase of 3,224.

"I don't think we could have hit the rut any better than we did during this year's gun season," Shaw said. "That was key, as were the additional antlerless days. It looks like everyone took advantage of both.

"We also had favorable weather. It was warm during early archery season and a little wet in some areas at times during the muzzleloader and gun seasons, but we didn't have any sleet or snow. There were a lot of hunters out there enjoying themselves, and that's what it takes."

Final harvest totals will be available in January, when the Department tallies results from all outstanding sources. As it stands now, Oklahoma deer hunters can already celebrate their best season ever, and look forward to even better hunting in the future thanks to conscientious efforts to harvest antlerless deer.

Another record deer harvest expected (11/20/00)

With an encouraging opening weekend gun deer harvest, Oklahoma deer hunters may see last year's record surpassed.

In an annual survey conducted after opening weekend of deer gun season, personnel from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation monitored 30 check stations across the state. Hunters checked in 5,368 deer at those stations, including 3,373 bucks and 1,995 does. That's a 2.44 percent increase over last year's opening weekend of deer gun season. The sample has proven to be a reliable indicator of statewide harvest success because the same check stations are monitored every year. However, this year the Department was forced to monitor different stations in the northeast region, which may have skewed the numbers for that particular area. The harvest data showed a decline in both bucks and does in the northeast, but is likely not as significant as reported.

"Even with the changes in reporting procedures in the northeast, we're seeing an overall increase in harvest statewide, " said Mike Shaw, research supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Excluding the northeast's statistics, the harvest is either up or stable in every other region.

When you add the harvests to date, including the first half of archery season and muzzleloader season, the combined harvest is up 17.3 percent, well on track to break last year's record 82,724 deer.

"Even though the opening weekend's gun deer harvest isn't as high overall as we had anticipated, we are encouraged so far by the amount of antlerless harvest," said Shaw. "We hope that even more deer hunters will continue to see the value in taking a doe instead of a yearling buck."

In the span of a mere generation, the Oklahoma deer management tables have turned. Along with trapping and transplanting whitetail deer beginning in the 1940s, the Department's restoration efforts were supported by a "buck-only" harvest strategy. Later in the 1980s and 90s, the Department liberalized antlerless hunting opportunities in order to maintain healthy buck-to-doe ratios. Today, biologists with the Department are encouraging even greater doe harvest to not only maintain sex ratios, but to curb population growth in areas with too many deer.

"For several years now, we've told hunters that if they were concerned with the future of deer hunting in Oklahoma to pass up young bucks and instead choose to harvest a doe," said Shaw. "And as a result of more liberal doe harvest regulations, we think the message is beginning to sink in."

In the northwest part of the state, hunters have the entire nine day gun season to harvest antlerless deer this year.

In central and northeast Oklahoma, hunters are encouraged to take advantage of antlerless deer hunting Nov. 25-26.

South of I-40, hunters are encouraged to take advantage of antlerless deer hunting the last day of the season, Nov. 26.

In Texas and Cimarron counties in the panhandle, hunters were able to take antlerless deer on opening day, Nov. 18.

Deer gun season ends Nov. 28. The rut appears to be in full swing. With continued forecasts for good weather, hunters should expect to enjoy excellent hunting for the remainder of the season. Check out the Oklahoma Hunting Guide and Regulations for information regarding hunting in specific parts of the state.



Record muzzleloader deer harvest expected (11/06/00)

Despite less than optimum weather conditions during the nine-day primitive firearms season, officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation report state deer hunters are on pace to set another record harvest. Upon contacting a sample group of 30 hunter check stations, Department officials were surprised to learn that this fall's harvest totals were significantly higher than the harvest results at the same point in last year's deer season.

For the past 13 years Department biologists have conducted a telephone survey of the same 30 hunter check stations following the primitive firearms season. The survey, conducted on November 6, showed that this year's primitive firearms deer hunters experienced a remarkable increase of 31 percent over the 1999 primitive season total. Additionally, archery deer hunters have, so far, harvested 43 percent more deer than this time last year in the archery season.

"In light of the warm weather, and especially the rainy weather during the nine-day primitive season, we were pretty surprised at the amount of increase, " said Mike Shaw, Wildlife Division research supervisor for the Department. "The archery season opened October 1 and was followed by several weeks of balmy weather which normally equates to poor deer movement and decreased hunter success. By the time primitive season began on October 28, it was not only still very warm, but many parts of the state experienced rainy weather on both the opening and closing weekends. Normally, this kind of weather means decreased hunter activity and decreased harvest, but not this year."

At the 30 check stations surveyed by the Department, primitive firearms hunters checked in 4,531 deer. That represents a 31 percent increase over the 1999 total of 3,464, and is 15 percent higher than the previous record of 1997. Another very surprising and significant aspect of the 2000 primitive season was the increase in antlerless deer harvest.

"What is really incredible about this year's primitive season is the increase in antlerless harvest. In 1999 our sample check stations reported 561 does harvested. This year the number jumped to 1,586. That represents a 182 percent increase in the antlerless harvest, " said Shaw.

"Obviously, our primitive firearms hunters took great advantage of the antlerless days that were added in most areas of the state. As more and more deer hunters are learning, we have to bring the state's exploding deer herd under control, and the best way to accomplish that is by increasing antlerless harvest. Obviously, many hunters took that to heart during this year's primitive season and we are pleased that so many are adopting the idea of harvesting more does."

From a regional perspective, the southeast part of the state experienced the greatest jump in primitive firearms antlerless harvest with a 276 percent increase over 1999. The number of antlerless primitive firearms days in the southeast were increased from two in 1999 to six this year. Despite increasing antlerless hunting days from two in 1999 to all nine days in the northwest, this part of the state had the lowest increase over 1999, but did log a 131 percent increase in does checked in.

In contrast to the dramatic increase in the antlerless harvest, the number of bucks taken in the primitive season was virtually unchanged from 1999 with only a slight 1-percent increase.

Although this year's primitive and first half of archery seasons' harvest was significantly higher than last year, there are still lots of deer available for the upcoming gun season scheduled for November 18 through 26. In addition, the rut will reach its peak over the next few weeks, which results in more deer movement during daylight hours. All things considered, hunters should have excellent opportunities during the nine-day gun season.

Despite the late summer drought which stressed many native plants, some oaks produced acorns, and will provide prime deer feeding areas, Shaw explained.

Other likely areas gun hunters should scout are any areas with green browse, including greenbriar or sumac thickets and also winter season cropfields such as wheat or ryegrass.

To participate in the gun deer season, Oklahoma residents must possess an annual hunting license and appropriate deer gun permit or a lifetime hunting or combination license. Non-residents must possess the appropriate non resident gun permit. For more information consult the 2000-2001 Oklahoma Hunting Guide & Regulations.

Public to hear proposed wildlife rule changes (12/18/00)

In addition to several January meetings scheduled to discuss specific proposals that address deer management, officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) will discuss a broad range of other wildlife proposals January 16. Most of the measures deal with rule changes governing Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs).

A new public hearing process aimed at improving communication between the Wildlife Department and hunters regarding proposed rule changes will be used at the meeting. Under the new process, the meeting will begin with wildlife biologists explaining each of the proposed rule changes, along with reasons for the proposals.

Applicable biological and social survey data relating to the proposed changes also will be explained at this time. As each proposal is being discussed, those attending the meeting will have the opportunity to ask Department personnel questions about the changes or the reasoning behind the proposals.

Once the discussion has concluded, the public meeting will be adjourned and a formal "hearing" will be called to order. At this point, anyone wanting to make formal comments - either for or against - on any of the proposed changes may do so. Comments made at the meeting will be presented to the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission when Department personnel ask the Commission to adopt the rule changes.

According to Bill Dinkines, assistant wildlife division chief for the Department, most of the rules are "house-cleaning" type measures or rules that will increase hunting opportunities.

"Within the Title 800 Wildlife Code, we occasionally have language that is redundant and needs clarification, or, we have rules that are no longer warranted. In order to change those rules, however we are first required to hold public meetings to get input from constituents," Dinkines said. "Within the upcoming public meeting, we have several of these proposals such as one that would clarify how Wetland Development Units are defined on some WMAs."

Among other proposals for the upcoming hearing is one measure to establish a waterfowl refuge portion on the Hackberry Flat WMA, and another to allow hunting within an area of Ft. Cobb WMA that had previously been closed. Once home to enormous flocks of crows, the Crow Roost portion of Ft. Cobb WMA was closed to hunting. However since the 1980s, the crows have dispersed and no longer roost in that specific area.

The meeting will also include various rule changes on 16 different WMAs as well as proposals dealing with elk, antelope, and the Department's controlled hunts program. The public hearing begins at 7:00 p.m. at the ODWC Auditorium 1801 N. Lincoln in Oklahoma City.