Deer hunters on pace for another record

Although the gun deer harvest for opening weekend was slightly lower than in 1998, Oklahoma’s deer hunters are positioned to break last year’s record.

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 5,150 deer at those stations, including 3,293 bucks and 1,947 does. That’s almost an 11-percent decrease from opening weekend of the 1998 deer gun season. The sample is usually a reliable indicator of statewide harvest success, but when you add the harvests from muzzleloader season and the first half of archery season, hunters are actually on track to break last year’s record of 80,008 deer.

"When we combine the total deer harvest since the opening of archery season, there is actually an increase of more than seven percent over the 1998 harvest at this time," Shaw said. "The tremendous increase of harvest during the early archery and primitive firearms season overshadows the relatively low decrease during gun season. We definitely have a chance for another record harvest."

Despite the large number of deer taken this year, Shaw said he is concerned about the low number of antlerless deer in the tally. That is a continuing trend that could have significant long-term implications for the state’s deer herd, he added, but hunters could improve the situation simply by taking advantage of their many opportunities to harvest antlerless deer.

"We continue to set overall harvest records, but the proportion of doe harvest is not keeping pace with the buck harvest despite the Department’s efforts to encourage hunters to take antlerless deer," Shaw said. "If this trend continues, we could be in a desperate situation in a few years. My best advice for Oklahoma deer hunters concerned with the future is to pass up young bucks and instead choose to harvest a doe," said Shaw.

In certain parts of the state, hunters will have as many as three days to harvest antlerless deer at the close of the deer gun season. In northwest Oklahoma and Beaver County east of US-83, hunters will be able to take antlerless deer Nov. 26-28.

In central and northeast Oklahoma, hunters are allowed to take antlerless deer Nov. 27-28.

South of I-40, hunters will be allowed to take antlerless deer on Nov. 28.

In Texas and Cimarron counties, hunters were able to take antlerless deer only on Nov. 20.

During opening weekend, high temperatures limited deer movement during the middle part of the day. Hunters reported high levels of deer activity in the mornings and late evenings.

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

Department announces auction hunts for 2000

In the year 2000, Oklahoma sportsmen will have equal opportunities to bid on four high-quality hunts across the state. These hunts will include an elk hunt, a rifle deer hunt at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, a spring turkey hunt and a two-man quail hunt.

In 1998, the Oklahoma Legislature authorized the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to auction as many as five permits a year for special hunts outside regular hunting seasons. Money raised through the special auction hunts will be used for wildlife conservation projects and habitat enhancement in Oklahoma.

In January 2000, bids will be taken for one elk hunt at Cookson Hills Wildlife Management Area, a modern firearms deer hunt at McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, a spring turkey hunt at the Osage-Western Wall Wildlife Management Area and a quail hunt for two people at Packsaddle Wildlife Management Area.

“These auction hunts provide a unique opportunity to participate in a very special hunting experience that wouldn’t otherwise be available,” said Alan Peoples, chief of the Department’s Wildlife Division. “The revenues generated through these hunts are used to enhance wildlife habitat throughout the state to improve public hunting opportunities for all Oklahomans.”

The four auction hunts were created in addition to more than 4,000 hunting permits available annually to all Oklahomans through the free Controlled Hunts drawing, Peoples said. They are not subtracted from the number of opportunities offered through the Controlled Hunts, and any legal hunter may bid on the hunts. Like any other hunting situation, participants are not guaranteed success.

In 1999, the Department offered two hunts; an elk hunt at Cookson Hills WMA and a spring turkey hunt on the McCurtain County Wilderness Area.

Sealed bids must be submitted by mail to the Department no later than Jan. 31, 2000. For more information, call the Department’s Wildlife Division at 405/521-2730 or visit the Department’s website at

Watch eagles in northeast Oklahoma

On December 4, Elephant Rock Nature Park near Tahlequah will provide one of this winter’s first opportunities to catch a close-up glimpse of the bald eagle.

The park will be open from 7 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and offers eagle viewing from nature trails overlooking the Illinois River. A biologist from the state Wildlife Diversity Program will be on hand to assist newcomers to eagle viewing and give informative presentations at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Elephant Rock Nature Park is located three miles east of Tahlequah on Highway 62 and two miles north on Highway 10, opposite the Scenic Rivers Commission Building. For more information, call Rod Foster toll-free at 877/462-9878.

Dog care improves November quail success

For quail hunters, a bird dog is a valuable partner. Therefore, it’s important to take proper care of your dogs to ensure hunting success during early quail season.

Steve DeMaso, upland bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, said one of the biggest mistakes hunters make in early November is hunting hard from sunup to sundown. Such hard-driving activity during warm weather takes a heavy toll on both dogs and hunters, especially during the middle part of the day when hunting conditions are less than ideal.

To get the best performance from your dogs, DeMaso recommends hunting during the first two to three hours after sunrise and the last two or three hours before sunset. That allows dogs to take advantage of the day’s best scenting conditions when temperatures are cool and comfortable.

“When the sun gets up and it starts getting warm, that’s a good time to head into town for a bite to eat and a take a long rest,” DeMaso said. “That also gives your dogs a much-needed break. If you leave your dogs in a box, make sure you park in a shady place so they don’t get too hot.”

While hunting, DeMaso added, it’s very important to give dogs plenty of water. This helps keep their mouths and noses moist, allowing them to scent birds better throughout the day.

“Give dogs a little water about every 45 minutes,” he explained. “That’s the equivalent of three times during a morning hunt or three times in an evening hunt. I try to start at a pond or windmill so they can get a long drink when I start hunting, and then make sure they get a long drink when I stop hunting.”

It’s also important to give your dogs the proper amount of food during the hunt, as well as the proper type of food. Proper feeding will help keep their energy levels up and help prevent fatigue.

“When you get up in the morning, give your dogs about 1/2-cup of food per dog,” DeMaso advised. “Grass burrs are worse than ever this year, so you’ll also want to boot your dogs. Around noon, you may want to give each dog a can of moist dog food. That’s got a lot of protein, and it also has a lot of water.”

Above all, hunt at a pace that's comfortable to both you and your dogs, and avoid wasting their energy hunting during unproductive times.

"The key is to use your dogs smart," DeMaso said. "If you hunt in early November the way you hunt in December or January, it probably isn’t going to work. Avoid wearing dogs out by running them in the middle of the day. Instead, hunt at times when you have the best probability of finding birds."

“As far as tactics go, quail hunters are more bound by tradition than any other group of hunters, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t adapt to the prevailing conditions,” he added. “Hunt smart. Don’t just do something because that’s the way your father did it, and the way your grandfather did it before him.”

Student wins award for wildlife conservation

With assistance from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Justin Steckman of Carnegie recently placed second in the National Future Farmers of America Proficiency Awards competition at Louisville, Ky.

A graduate of Carnegie High School, Steckman is a freshman at St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee.

The FFA competition focused on wildlife conservation. Steckman made it to the national competition after succeeding at the state and regional levels. After winning the state contest, he competed among finalists from the FFA’s Western region in August. His project was selected from among those submitted from 13 states to represent the Western region to advance to the national FFA competition. A panel of eight judges reviewed the project.

Steckman’s ambitious project developed a wildlife management and placement program by establishing a game preserve on 200 acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program. The preserve was designed to attract and increase populations of white-tailed deer, turkey and bobwhite quail.

Using scientific survey techniques, Steckman determined that the overall health of the deer population increased 25 percent . The number of deer on the property increased from 50 to 75, with as many as 200 deer visiting the property during the survey period.

The turkey population increased from 10 birds to about 40 over three years, and the quail covey increased from 20 to 35 birds.

In high school, Steckman was active in the Carnegie FFA under the guidance of adviser Danny Wedel. With the assistance of Wedel, Caddo County Game Warden Paul Cornett and Gary Purdy of the National Wild Turkey Foundation, Steckman provided feeding areas for the wildlife and transplanted 10 turkey onto the land. The NWTF also sponsored Steckman’s trip to the national finals.

“I am very grateful to everyone who helped with this project,” said

Steckman, who hopes to establish a career at a large wildlife foundation.

“I especially would like to thank Paul Cornett. Without his help, I never would have made it anywhere.”

Special Youth Deer Hunt in Alfalfa County

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Oklahoma Station of Safari Club International are hosting a special deer hunt for youth early next month.

Ten permits will be drawn for applicants between 12 and 14 years old for a fully guided antlerless deer hunt on private land near Amorita, in northcentral Oklahoma.

The hunt will be conducted Dec. 11-12, in an area defined to have a high abundance of antlerless deer, said Wade Free, wildlife division northwest regional supervisor. Hunting is the most effective management strategy used to control whitetail deer populations, and this hunt offers additional opportunities for Oklahoma’s youth to enjoy a high-quality hunting experience.

“This hunt is considered a population management tool that will help manage a rapidly expanding deer herd in Alfalfa County,” Free said.

Safari Club International is a highly respected organization of dedicated hunters concerned with conservation. The successful Sportsmen Against Hunger program, which used donated venison to provide more than 250,000 meals for Oklahoma’s hungry last year is organized annually by the Oklahoma Station of SCI and the Wildlife Department, said Steve Scott, club president.

“SCI is proud to play a part in the shaping of attitudes toward hunting of such an impressionable age of today’s youth. We are even hand-picking a club member to guide each of the 10 successful applicants,” said Scott.

Lodging arrangements will be up to the individual participant, but SCI will provide lunch for all the participants each day.

For the controlled youth deer gun hunt, the Department will issue a total of 10 antlerless deer permits through a special drawing that will be held Dec. 3 at the Department’s headquarters in Oklahoma City. Permit applications must be received at Department headquarters no later than 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 2.

Any youth between ages 12-14 on the date of the hunt can apply for the Controlled Youth Hunt. To participate, however, youths that draw a permit must have successfully completed a hunter education course before the hunt date. Participants will have the choice of using either primitive firearms, shotguns with slugs or modern rifles. A non-hunting adult may accompany each participant. The companion will not be required to possess an Oklahoma hunting license.

Deer taken during these hunts will be considered a bonus deer and will not count against the youth’s aggregate limit.

To apply for this hunt, applicants must send an index card titled, “Safari Club International Youth Hunt.” The application must contain the hunter’s name, mailing address, telephone number, birthdate and hunter safety card number. Also, include the name of the non-hunting partner. Applications must be received at Department headquarters no later than 4:30 p.m., Dec. 2. The drawing will be held Dec. 3 at 8 a.m. Successful applicants will be notified by phone on Dec. 3.

Applications must be sent to Safari Club International Youth Hunt, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, 1801 N. Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City, OK 73105 City. For more information concerning drawing details, contact the Wildlife Division at 405/521-2739.

Committee approves conservation bill

America’s wildlife resources moved closer to securing funding for the next century last week as the U.S. House Resources Committee approved the Conservation and Reinvestment Act.

Disdaining partisan politics, Democrats and Republicans banded together on November 10 to pass the landmark Conservation and Reinvestment Act (H.R. 701) by a 37-12 majority. CARA, as it is known among the public, would reinvest $3 billion annually from federal offshore oil and gas lease revenues back into the environment through various federal, state and local conservation programs. These programs include wildlife conservation, endangered species recovery, coastal and marine conservation and restoration, land conservation, outdoor recreation, and historic preservation. Oklahoma could expect to receive up to $17.7 million if the bill passes.

“This new federal funding would help keep songbirds singing in Oklahoma backyards, keep game plentiful on rural ranches, and help recover endangered species and prevent more species from becoming rare,” said Greg Duffy, executive director for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “It also would preserve Oklahoma history and provide more state and local parks.”

The CARA bill passing out of committee implemented a compromise between H.R. 701 and another bill called Resources 2000 (H.R. 798). Oklahoma Representatives Wes Watkins and Frank Lucas were original co-sponsors of H.R. 701.

For Oklahoma, the stakes are huge. While the state can boast some of the nation’s finest state parks and most abundant and diverse wildlife, there are serious challenges that threaten this rich heritage. First among these is the historic loss, alteration or fragmentation of wildlife habitat. Of more than 900 vertebrate wildlife species in Oklahoma, at least 15 percent are at risk of becoming threatened or endangered in the near future, including species such as the Texas horned lizard and lesser prairie chicken.

A key factor in Oklahoma is that 97 percent of the landscape is privately owned. That makes it a priority to offer incentives and programs to assist landowners since they manage the habitat that sustains all wildlife species. CARA contains new provisions to protect private property rights and increased congressional and local oversight.

In addition, the legislation would greatly benefit local, state and federal parks and preserves in Oklahoma. CARA could also support landowner incentive programs, habitat demonstration projects and sites on private lands. Other benefits could be improving statewide monitoring of non-game species and aquatic systems, researching ecosystems and non-game species, and expanding urban wildlife and law enforcement.

Also, CARA could produce more nature trail and wildlife viewing opportunities on public land, as well as watchable-wildlife projects and nature tourism training with landowners and communities. It also could mean expanding current wildlife education programs such as Project WILD, hunter education clinics, fishing clinics and cost-share grants to schools.

Below are highlights of projected funding estimates for each title or section of CARA (H.R. 701). These are estimates only. The grand total for Oklahoma from all titles is about $17.7 million.

TITLE I: Impact Assistance and Coastal Conservation: This creates a revenue sharing and coastal conservation fund for 27 coastal states and eligible local governments to mitigate the various impacts of offshore activities and provide funds for the conservation of coastal ecosystems.

TITLE II: Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Revitalization: This fund would provide $6.7 million for Oklahoma. It guarantees stable and annual funding for LWCF at its authorized $900 million level. This dedicated funding would provide for both the state and federal programs included in the LWCF, while protecting the rights of private property owners.

TITLE III: Wildlife Conservation and Restoration Fund: This fund would provide $5.5 million for Oklahoma. It would enhance the successful Pittman-Robertson program, reinvesting the development of nonrenewable resources into a renewable resource of wildlife conservation and education. CARA nearly doubles federal funding for wildlife conservation.

TITLE IV: Urban Park and Recreation Recovery (UPARR): This fund would provide $1.5 million for Oklahoma. It provides matching grants to local governments to rehabilitate recreation areas and facilities. It also provides for the development of improved recreation programs, sites and facilities.

TITLE V: Historic Preservation Fund: This fund would provide $2 million for Oklahoma. It provides funding for the programs of the Historic Preservation Act, including grants to states, maintaining the National Register of Historic Places, and administering numerous historic preservation programs.

TITLE VI: Federal and Indian Lands Restoration: This provides $1 million for Oklahoma. It would provide funding for a coordinated program on Federal and Indian lands to restore degraded lands, protect resources that are threatened with degradation, and protect public health and safety.

TITLE VII: Conservation Easements & Species Recovery: This would provide $1 million for Oklahoma. It provides annual and dedicated funding for conservation easements and funding for landowner incentives to aid in the recovery of endangered and threatened species.

For more information about the new CARA legislation, call the Wildlife Department at 405/521-4616 or visit the website:

Deer gun season looks promising

With deer populations near record levels, Oklahoma deer hunters can expect excellent prospects during the upcoming deer gun season.

Running Nov. 20-28, deer gun season is undoubtedly Oklahoma’s most popular hunting event in terms of overall participation. Modern firearms hunters also enjoy the greatest success in terms of harvest. In 1998, for example, more than 185,000 gun hunters checked in more than 54,000 deer, nearly 68 percent of last year’s all-time record harvest. With good weather, hunters may approach that mark this year, said Mike Shaw, research supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

“With favorable weather throughout the nine-day gun season, we certainly have the potential to harvest a sizeable number of deer,” Shaw said. “I’m counting on a heavy gun harvest because we rely on gun hunters to achieve the greatest measure of herd control. With burgeoning numbers of deer statewide, we need a good harvest to stabilize herd growth. It will be especially important to harvest a good proportion of does.

“Whether we can set another all-time record remains to be seen,” he added, “but the prospects for the gun season look really, really good.”

Although this year’s primitive firearms harvest was up from last year, there are still lots of deer available for deer gun season. In addition, the rut will reach its peak over the next few weeks, which means deer will be more active during daylight hours. All things considered, hunters should have excellent opportunities for success throughout the nine-day gun season.

“Opening weekend is so important because 50 percent of the gun buck harvest occurs that first weekend,” Shaw said. “With more deer in the woods than usual, hunters should have plenty of chances for success with a little effort.”

Despite a dry fall, deer have access to a variety of food items throughout the state, Shaw explained. Acorns are abundant in some areas and scarce in others, so hunters should take special note of deer feeding patterns as the season opener approaches. Keying on the right food source could make a big difference for hunters who spend some time doing a little legwork.

“We have a fairly decent acorn crop in some areas, but some areas have hardly any,” Shaw said. “The availability of acorns, along with the presence of green browse, could affect deer movements and locations, so it’s important for hunters to know what type of food items are available for deer in the areas where they plan to hunt.”

As always, pre-season scouting gives hunters a big advantage because it allows them to pattern deer movements and pinpoint areas of high activity. By spending a little extra time afield before the season starts, hunters can position themselves for an outstanding deer season.

To participate in the deer gun 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 deer gun permit. For more information, consult the 1999-2000 Oklahoma Hunting Regulations.

Lake Texoma yields record blue catfish

When you go trick-or-treating at Lake Texoma, you never know what sort of surprises will end up in your goodie bag.

For Darrell Long of Oklahoma City, a Halloween visit to Texoma produced the treat of a lifetime, for that was the night he caught Oklahoma’s new state-record blue catfish.

Fishing off the dock at Buncombe Creek Marina, Long caught the fish Oct. 31 at 3 a.m. He was using shad entrails for bait along with an Ambassadeur 6500 C3 reel and a Bass Pro Tourney Special rod and 17-pound test line. The fish weighed 85 pounds. It measured 54 1/4 inches long and 34 1/2 inches in girth.

Already known as one of America’s finest lakes for trophy blue catfish, Lake Texoma currently holds four line-class world records for blue catfish, and Long’s fish certainly enhances the lake’s stellar reputation.

“Lake Texoma is everything you look for when you talk about world-class catfishing,” said Paul Mauck, south central region fisheries supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “It takes a long time for a catfish to get that big, but Texoma has been producing them for years, and it also produces large numbers of catfish. We’re proud to have such a high-quality fishery in our state.”

For Long, the adventure occurred at a time when one might expect some sort of Halloween surprise, but it took awhile before he knew he might have hooked something special.

“When it first bit, I didn’t think it was very large,” Long said. “The security guard at the marina was there with me, and he asked if I needed a net. As it got a little closer, it started fighting harder, and that’s when I thought it might be a little bigger than I originally believed.”

After about five minutes, Long maneuvered the fish close to the dock, but it made a run for cover. Long battled to keep the fish away from the dock pilings, where it would have surely snapped the line. The fish surfaced for an instant, at which point Long estimated it to be about 50 pounds.

“I told the security guard that we might need the net after all,” Long said. “He made a big run and stripped off about 75 yards of line. I got him back to where we could net him, but when he felt that net, he made another run of about 50 yards.”

When the security guard finally eased the net over the fish’s head, he couldn’t lift it onto the dock. The net frame started to bend and the rings began to straighten, so they summoned another man to help them.

“I said at the time he was as heavy as a sack of concrete, and that’s 80 pounds,” Long said.

It was even bigger than that. At about 5 a.m., the fish reportedly weighed 90 pounds on the scales at a local business. Randel Currie, a Department fisheries technician, certified its final weight of 85 pounds.

Although Long specializes in catching trophy catfish, his record fish was more than twice as large as any he had ever caught previously, and he said the experience taught him a few lessons.

“I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about catching big catfish,” Long said, “but to catch a fish of this size, I can tell you there’s also a lot of luck involved. Everything went right that night. I was lucky.”

Change tactics for November quail

One of the hottest early Novembers in Oklahoma history has resulted in poor conditions for the opening part of this year's quail season. In some areas, nighttime low temperatures have been higher than the day's normal lows.

Even in normal years, hunting conditions in November are different from those of December or January. Therefore, hunters shouldn’t use the same tactics to hunt quail in early November as they do later in the season, said Steve DeMaso, upland bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. During the early part of the season, hunters often hunt in the wrong places at the wrong times, he added, and when they are unsuccessful, they conclude that there aren’t any birds in those areas.

Truth is, however, that those areas often do have birds, but many hunters don’t find them because they are unwilling to adapt their tactics to the conditions. Those who make the necessary adjustments can enjoy successful hunts throughout the season.

“A man told me the other day that there weren’t any birds on Black Kettle WMA this year,” DeMaso said, “yet others were out there the same time he was, and they moved six or seven coveys a day. If you try to hunt now the way you hunt in mid-December or January, then you’re probably not going to find many birds, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there. They’re just in different places than you’re accustomed to seeing them.”

In November, humidity is higher early in the morning and late in the evening, creating better scenting conditions early and late. Low humidity and wind during the middle part of the day deteriorates scenting conditions, making it tougher for dogs to find birds. Warm temperatures sap the energy of both dogs and hunters, diminishing the performance of both later in the hunt.

“You’ll do best hunting for the first two to three hours after sunrise, and the last two to three hours before sunset,” DeMaso said. “Once it starts getting hot, the dogs start getting tired and lose interest in hunting. That’s when you know it’s time to give it up. Go and get yourself something to eat and maybe take a long nap before going back afield later in the afternoon.”

Equally important is choosing the best areas to hunt. Quail feed early and late, but they spend most of the day loafing in brushy cover. Hunters should also pay particular attention to the availability of quail forage. For example, ragweed is a favorite quail food, but ragweed doesn’t drop its seeds until after a hard freeze. If you hunt over green ragweed in early November, you’re probably not going to find any quail there. However, you can count on finding them there later in the season.

Of course, the main ingredient for success is to get out and hunt. Nobody has ever enjoyed a successful quail season sitting at home watching TV.

Commission increases antlerless opportunities

In its regular November meeting, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission voted to increase the number of days available for antlerless deer hunting across the state for the 2000 season.

The most noticeable changes will occur in the 2000 primitive firearms season. In most parts of the state, hunters will be able to harvest antlerless deer for six days during blackpowder season, and as many as nine days in the northwest. Also, hunters in the northwest zone will be able to harvest antlerless deer for all nine days during the 2000 modern firearms season.

“We’ve come a long way to the point where we’re getting more and more requests to harvest does,” said Richard Hatcher, assistant director and former chief of wildlife for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “With these requests and the increasing success and popularity of our Deer Management Assistance Program, we know there’s a lot of support for this proposal, and we feel it would be of great benefit not only to our state’s sportsmen and landowners, but to our deer resources in general.”

The Commission, which tabled the issue in October for further study, passed the measure unanimously.

In a fisheries-related item, the Commission accepted a donation of $60,000 from Jack Barrett, Mayor of the City of Holdenville, to help share costs in the construction of a water recirculation system at Holdenville State Fish Hatchery. When the project is completed, it will allow the hatchery to recycle most of the water it uses in its operations, reducing the demand on Holdenville City Lake by as much as 90 percent.

In his monthly financial statement, Robert Taylor, the Department’s fiscal services coordinator, reported that license sales are up nearly 8 percent from this time last year, while total revenue is up nearly 17 percent. Sales of Senior Citizen Licenses are up nearly 10 percent.

Taylor also updated the Commission on the status of the Department’s Y2K conversion.

“The new applications and systems are ready to go,” Taylor said. “All license systems should be integrated into one system by the time we begin selling Year 2000 licenses."

In other business, the Commission listened to a proposal by the City of Jenks to offer office space to the Department at the Oklahoma Aquarium, which is scheduled to be built on the banks of the Arkansas River at Jenks. The Commission voted to approve a potential partnership with the City of Jenks based on the proposal. The office would eventually replace the Department’s offices at the Tulsa Fairgrounds.

As an informational item, the Commission listened to a presentation on license sale trends from Greg Summers, the Department’s fisheries research supervisor. During the ensuing discussion, the Commission exchanged ideas on how to encourage more people to participate in hunting and fishing activities.

In personnel-related business, the Commission honored Paul Mauck, south-central fisheries supervisor, and John Streich, chief of the Department’s Law Enforcement Division, each for 30 years of continuous service. Also, Director Greg Duffy announced the promotions of several employees. Richard Hatcher was promoted from chief of wildlife to assistant director. Melinda Sturgess was promoted from human resources coordinator to chief of administration. Alan Peoples was promoted from assistant chief of wildlife to chief of wildlife. Sherrie Schluchter was promoted to administrative assistant to the director and Rhonda Hurst was also promoted to administrative assistant to the assistant director and chief of administration.

The Commission will hold its next meeting Dec. 6 at 9 a.m. at the Department’s headquarters in Oklahoma City.

Extra doe days will benefit deer

When dawn breaks over deer season in the year 2000, hunters will have a lot more opportunities to harvest antlerless deer across the state.

Last week, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission approved increasing the number of days available for antlerless deer hunting. Next fall, hunters will be able to harvest antlerless deer for six days across most of the state during the primitive firearms season. The northwest zone will offer nine days of antlerless hunting opportunities. Also, hunters in the northwest zone will be able to harvest antlerless deer for all nine days during the 2000 modern firearms season.

“Across Oklahoma, deer herds have grown to the point where there is now an intense need to increase the harvest of antlerless deer,” said Richard Hatcher, assistant director for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “In many parts of the state, buck-to-doe ratios are way out of balance - as many as 20 does per buck in some places - and that’s just not a healthy situation for the herd. The obvious solution is to harvest more antlerless deer, and we hope to achieve that goal by expanding the number of doe days.”

Because antlerless deer are more numerous in many parts of the state than antlered bucks, the changes could enhance deer hunting opportunities for most hunters. The additional doe days could also be helpful in introducing youngsters to the sport of deer hunting, which in the long run would be beneficial to Oklahoma’s wildlife resources in general.

“There are a lot of side benefits that come from increasing antlerless deer hunting opportunities,” Hatcher said. “Oklahoma’s deer herd has made tremendous progress over a short time in terms of both quality and quantity, and it’s important to remember that the changes we’ve made were made for the benefit of the state’s deer herd. If the public takes advantage of their expanded opportunities, it won’t take long for everyone to notice some very positive results.”

Muzzleloaders top 1998 blackpowder tally

Taking full advantage of favorable hunting conditions, Oklahoma's blackpowder enthusiasts were considerably more successful during the 1999 primitive firearms deer season than they were in 1998.

At 30 check stations surveyed each year by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Wildlife Division, hunters checked in 3,464 deer during the primitive firearms season. That represents a 38-percent increase from the 2,507 taken during the 1998 blackpowder season. This year’s muzzleloader harvest includes 2,903 bucks and 561 does.

During the first seven days of the primitive firearms season, which ran Oct. 22-31, hunters experienced warm, sunny temperatures that made for generally pleasant hunting conditions. Deer were fairly active throughout the day during that period, and some hunters reported seeing advanced rutting activity. Rain and wind greeted hunters during the final weekend throughout most of the state, resulting in fewer antlerless deer being taken.

“The muzzleloader harvest was significantly higher than it was last year, but it was still slightly lower than it was in 1997,” said Mike Shaw, the Department’s wildlife research supervisor. “Part of that success is attributable to good weather throughout most of the season, but the fact is, there are more deer in Oklahoma than ever before, which translates to larger numbers of successful hunters.”

One thing that caught Shaw’s attention was a 54-percent increase in the number of bucks taken during the 1999 blackpowder season over the 1998 season, compared to a 10-percent decrease in the number of does harvested from 1998. Compared to 1997 harvest, the 1999 doe harvest dropped 38-percent, while the buck harvest fell just four percent.

“It’s very important for hunters to increase the harvest of antlerless deer, and muzzleloader season offers ample opportunities to do that,” Shaw said.

Unfortunately, rain limited those opportunities, but opportunities will increase considerably next year when muzzleloader hunters will be allowed to harvest antlerless deer for six days during the 2000 primitive firearms season. The northwest zone will offer nine days of antlerless deer hunting opportunities.

Harvest Through Muzzleloader Season

So far hunters checked in 4,663 deer at the 30 sampled check stations through the muzzleloader season. The harvest includes 1,199 deer checked during the first half of the archery season, a slight decrease from the 1,215 deer checked during the first half of archery season one year ago. The combined archery and muzzleloader harvest is comprised of 3,544 bucks and 1,119 does and represents a 25 percent increase over the combined harvest of 3,722 deer at this time last year.

As the modern gun deer season opener approaches on Nov. 20, deer activity will continue to increase, and favorable weather should contribute to an excellent harvest. The second split of archery season runs Nov. 29 - Dec. 31, offering additional opportunities to end the year with some memorable hunting experiences.