History of White-tailed Deer in Oklahoma
1900 – Market/subsistence hunting and unregulated harvest eliminate nearly all deer from the state.
1917 –Total statewide deer population estimated at 500 animals. Legislature bans deer harvest.
1917 to 1922 – From western Oklahoma moving east, counties previously open to deer hunting are systematically closed to deer hunting.
1922 – All deer hunting in Oklahoma is prohibited.
1933 – First regulated deer season (five days) is held. Hunt is restricted to six southeast counties and Major County in western Oklahoma, resulting in the harvest of 235 bucks. Also, this year marks the beginning of safety regulations for wearing a red upper outer garment (later to become “hunter” orange).
1934 – No deer season authorized.
1935 – 37 Area is expanded to seven southeast counties only. Harvest total is 331 in 1935; 375 in 1936; and 347 in 1937.
1938 – No deer season authorized.
1939-40 – Harvest totals: 384 in 1939 and 318 in 1940.
1941-43 – All deer hunting is closed. Many OGF personnel are called to active military service.
1943 – Deer restoration program started with the trap and transplant of 22 deer.
1944 – 379 deer harvested.
1945 – A total of 469 deer are harvested. Restoration efforts continue, with most deer trapped from either the Wichita Mountains NWR or Ft. Sill, but includes 50 captured from Aransas Pass NWR on the Texas Gulf Coast.
1946 – Participation in the deer gun season jumps to more than 7,000 (certainly due to returning World War II Vets looking for recreation). The first archery season (one day) is held. No deer harvested. A total of 35 deer are transplanted from the Wichita Mountains NWR to the U.S. Naval Ammunition Depot near McAlester (in less than a decade the military installation, now known as the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, would serve as a source herd for trapping activities).
1946 – Oklahoma had its first archery season (1 day) on November 11, 1946, in seven southeast counties. No deer were harvested.
1949 – Special Archery season (five days) is designated only at Camp Gruber, resulting in the first buck taken by bow and arrow during a regulated season. The deer, taken by Roland Barber, is the state’s first archery buck and was a fallow deer. It was part of Camp Gruber’s small herd that had been established in the area during the late 1930s.
Photo (left): Roland Barber harvests the first deer taken with a bow and arrow in Oklahoma. The 120-pound fallow buck was harvested November 2, 1949, at Camp Gruber.
1951 – First whitetail deer taken by bow and arrow during a regulated season since the days that Native Americans hunted deer for subsistence is harvested by Larry Embry, Jr.,13. The deer was harvested at Camp Gruber.
Photo: Larry Embry Jr harvested the first whitetail at Camp Gruber on November 11, 1951, with a bow.
1954 – First statewide gun deer season (5 days) results in a harvest of 1,487 bucks.
1969 – First primitive firearms season (three days) is held, resulting in two deer harvested. Hunt is restricted to part of LeFlore County.
1970 – Statewide 16-day deer gun season. The total harvest of 6,882 bucks.
1972 –Nine-day deer gun season with all open counties and special two-day antlerless season. Total harvest 7,670 deer.
1975 – Cy Curtis Awards Program initiated by the Department to recognize trophy deer (harvested during the 1972 season and thereafter). For eligibility, whitetail deer must have a minimum typical score of 135 or a non-typical minimum of 150 using the Boone & Crockett scoring system. In the first year, only seven deer are entered. The program is named in honor of the man most responsible for the restoration of whitetail deer in Oklahoma.
1976 – Department begins broadscale antlerless harvest in 19 counties by issuing antlerless permits by special drawing. Total harvest 11,548 – 26 percent does.
1982 – Antlerless permit system deemed unpopular due to perceived inequities, and replaced by antlerless days available to all hunters. Total harvest 19, 255 – 23 percent does.
1986 –The Department ceases any further trap and transplant efforts with sufficient populations of deer available to repopulate all suitable habitats statewide.
1990 – Statewide deer population estimated at 250,000 deer. Total harvest 44,070 deer – 24 percent does.
1992 – Total harvest tops 50,000. Much to the surprise of many, a new state record buck is taken by an archer in Oklahoma County (Chris Foutz took the buck, which measured 179 6/8 typical score), proving that quality deer can come from just about anywhere in Oklahoma; even the state’s most urbanized county.
Photo (left): Chris Foutz with 179 6/8 scored deer harvested with a bow in Oklahoma County on December 23, 1992.
1999 – Statewide deer population estimated at 425,000 deer. Total harvest yields 82,500 deer – 36 percent does.
2000 – Deer population levels spawn a multitude of stakeholder desires and management possibilities. For the first time, deer harvest numbers top 100,000.
2001 - First Special Antlerless season is held in December and expanded deer archery season in January.
2003 - First statewide youth antlerless deer gun season is held in October and yields 2,285 deer.
2004 - Statewide deer population estimated at 475,000 deer. Bowhunters set a new harvest record with 14,639 deer taken. Statewide harvest is 94,689 - 40% does.
2005 - Statewide harvest is 101,111 including 40% does. The number of counties that recorded more than 1,000 deer harvested increased to 43.
2006- Hunting regulations remain unchanged from 2005.
2007 – Not one, but two tremendous whitetail bucks are harvested from Pushmataha County during the deer gun season; one by John Ehmer that scored an impressive 194 typical, and one by Jason Boyett that scored 192 5/8 typical. Boyett takes his buck on Nov. 18, surpassing the previous state record that had held the top spot for an entire decade (see Larry Luman photo below). Then just 10 days later, on Nov. 28, Ehmer takes his outstanding buck from the same county. By now, a total of 4,500 deer (including 19 mule deer entries) have been entered into the Cy Curtis Program.
2013- Physical deer check stations are replaced with an electronic check-in system, called E-Check. The Wildlife Department initiates the "Hunters in the Know Let Young Bucks Grow" campaign.
2014- Hunters are able to submit photos of their deer jaws, and have their deer aged by Wildlife Department biologists.
2015- marked the participation record for archery hunters for the third year in a row.
2019- Many trophy class bucks were featured in North American Whitetail magazine, including a 188 5/8 inch typical harvested with a bow by Guner Womack.
2020- In addition to the Department reviving the, "Hunters in the Know, Take a Doe" campaign, a new harvest record of 126,290 deer was set, along with meeting the antlerless harvest goal of 40-45% of the total for the first time since 2010