Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, is a date circled in red on the calendars of thousands of Oklahoma hunters. That’s the day deer gun hunting season opens statewide.
By far, Oklahoma’s most popular hunting season is deer gun season. Last year, more than 218,000 hunters ventured into the state’s fields and forests for gun, youth gun and holiday antlerless gun seasons, and those hunters reported a total of 73,542 deer harvested, according to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s annual Big Game Harvest Report published in the September/October 2021 issue of Outdoor Oklahoma magazine. Both of those numbers are all-time records.
Last year, the Wildlife Department asked hunters to help manage the well-being of the state’s white-tailed deer populations by increasing their harvest of antlerless deer. “The ball was placed in the hunters’ court, and they answered the rally call of ‘Hunters in the Know … Take a Doe!’," said Dallas Barber, Big Game Biologist for ODWC.
For the entire state deer harvest last year, 43 percent were antlerless deer, the greatest percentage since 2010. And it was the first time since 2015 that Oklahoma’s antlerless harvest met the goal of 40 to 45 percent set by biologists.
“Using science-based regulations and enlisting hunters as boots-on-the-ground deer managers, ODWC continues to strive toward the goal of a balanced deer herd based on available habitat and healthy age structures.”
Again this year, the bag limit for deer gun season is four, with only one of those being antlered. Additional antlerless harvest is encouraged by increased antlerless harvest opportunities within some Antlerless Deer Zones.
“Doe harvest is critical to keeping a herd healthy,” Barber said. He is hopeful that deer gun hunters will continue to harvest more does this season. It helps keep populations in balance with available habitat, helps maintain healthy buck-to-doe ratios, and helps synchronize fawning when conditions are most favorable for fawn growth.
“It’s important to remind hunters not only to be deer managers, but to share their heritage with others as well, so that this tradition of success is passed down and continued.”
The rut, or deer breeding season, normally peaks around the second week of November. While some gun hunters will see some rutting activity, the peak of the rut will have passed by opening day.
During the week before opening day, the Department will issue its annual Deer Rut Report, which will offer hunters valuable insights on deer movement and hunting prospects using the most recent information available from the field in all regions of the state.
Deer gun season runs 16 days, through Dec. 5. The holiday antlerless deer gun season is set for Dec. 18-31, offering every hunter the chance to harvest two bonus antlerless white-tailed deer in open zones.
For complete information on deer hunting regulations, required licenses, special area regulations and Oklahoma Land Access Program opportunities, consult the Oklahoma Fishing and Hunting Regulations available at www.wildlifedepartment.com, in the Go Outdoors Oklahoma mobile app for Apple and Android, or in print free from license dealers statewide.