Hunting Opportunities Continue With Pheasant, Holiday Antlerless Deer Seasons
Several fall and winter hunting seasons are either open now or will open soon. Here’s are some details about Oklahoma’s annual ring-necked pheasant season and holiday deer antlerless gun season, two more great examples how the Outdoors Are Always Open!
RING-NECKED PHEASANT SEASON
Oklahoma’s 2020-21 ring-necked pheasant hunting season is underway, and hunters planning to pursue this exotic species will likely have more luck traveling farther into the northern reaches of Oklahoma this year.
Tell Judkins, Upland Game Biologist with Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, said that even though brood survey results were down from last year, the state’s wildlife management areas and Oklahoma Land Access Program areas should hold a decent number of birds.
“Much like quail, pheasant populations are down this season, but they can still be found in moderate to fair numbers.” Properties where habitat is good for pheasants, insects were plentiful, forbs are abundant, and drought has not made a severe impact should still hold a fair number of birds, he said.
The Wildlife Department conducts two pheasant surveys annually: a count of the number of crowing male birds heard per mile along 20-mile routes during April and May, and a count of the number of broods seen per mile along 20-mile routes during late August. This year, the crowing survey numbers were higher than last year, but the brood survey declined sharply. To read this year’s Pheasant Season Outlook report, go to www.wildlifedepartment.com/hunting/species/pheasant.
Pheasant hunting season runs through Jan. 31, 2021, and the daily bag limit is two cock pheasants only. Residents and nonresidents are required to have an appropriate hunting license, and hunters must wear daylight fluorescent orange clothing when required. Open areas include Alfalfa, Beaver, Cimarron, Garfield, Grant, Harper, Kay, Major, Noble, Osage, Texas, Woods and Woodward counties; and the portions of Blaine, Dewey, Ellis, Kingfisher and Logan counties north of State Highway 51.
HOLIDAY ANTLERLESS DEER GUN SEASON
The 2020 holiday antlerless deer gun season will open in specific zones on Dec. 18 and run through Dec. 31. This year, new rules are in place to increase hunting opportunity and bag limits for antlerless white-tailed deer. The new bag limit allows a hunter to harvest two bonus antlerless deer during the holiday season, even if the hunter has already harvested the maximum aggregate limit of six deer for all other current deer seasons.
Also, the holiday season length was expanded to 14 days in all open zones. As in the past, Zones 1 and 10 are closed to the holiday deer gun season.
Dallas Barber, Big Game Biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, said downward-trending antlerless deer harvest numbers in recent years prompted the more liberal rules that he hopes will result in a more balanced buck-to-doe ratio in the state’s deer population. It’s again time for “Hunters in the Know … Take a Doe!”
Antlerless harvest as a percentage of total deer harvest declined from 42 percent in 2014 to 36 percent in 2018. For last year’s deer seasons, does made up 37 percent of the total harvest, according to the 2019-20 Big Game Report. Biologists’ goal for antlerless harvest is between 40 percent and 45 percent.
A greater antlerless deer harvest yields several benefits, most notably a more even buck-to-doe ratio. Healthier deer, better hunting, and better antler development all begin with a more even buck-to-doe ratio.
Last year, around 20 percent — about 39,385 — of all deer hunters in Oklahoma participated in the holiday season, and they reported 3,758 harvested deer to the Wildlife Department’s online E-Check system.
Unless exempt, hunters must possess a hunting license. Additionally, to participate in the holiday season hunters must possess one of the following:
- Resident Youth Holiday Antlerless Deer Gun
- Resident Lifetime License
- Resident Holiday Antlerless Deer Gun
- Unfilled Resident Youth Deer Gun (antlerless)
- Unfilled Nonresident Youth Deer Gun (either sex)
- Unfilled Nonresident Youth Deer Gun (antlerless)
- Nonresident Deer Gun
Licenses that are not good for the holiday hunts:
- Resident Youth Deer Gun (antlered)
- Resident Deer Gun (antlered or antlerless)
- Any licenses for archery or muzzleloader (residents and nonresidents)
All hunters are required to wear hunter orange, both a head covering and an outer garment above the waistline, both totaling at least 400 square inches of hunter orange — even in a blind — during the holiday antlerless deer gun season in all open zones.
Those and all other regulations such as license requirements, hunting hours, bag limits, field tagging and online E-Check rules are detailed in the Oklahoma Hunting and Fishing Regulations Guide found online at www.wildlifedepartment.com, in the free Go Outdoors Oklahoma mobile app for Apple and Android, or in print at license dealers statewide.
TWO WAYS TO HELP THE HUNGRY
The holiday antlerless deer gun season is a perfect way to give back to the community by helping those who are less fortunate. Two programs — Hunters Against Hunger and Oklahoma Deer Share — are seeking donations of harvested deer and venison for local people who are facing food challenges and for local food pantries.
Hunters can donate to either program without any fee, however a $10 donation is asked to help cover meat processing costs in the Hunters Against Hunger Program.
Deer Share is new this year, and gives venison donors a place to connect with people who would like to take donated venison.