The 2015-16 deer seasons are in the books, and many Oklahoma hunters are already directing their thoughts toward the upcoming seasons. While harvest was more than 8,000 fewer deer than the previous year, the good news is that Oklahoma’s deer herd is in great shape. Many portions of the state have received much-needed rainfall and are on the way to a full recovery from the drought. Hopefully the rains will continue, your treestands are hung, and you are ready for opening day!
Oklahoma hunters took home 88,467 deer (includes white-tailed deer and mule deer) in the 2015-16 deer seasons. This was 8,798 fewer deer than were taken in the 2014-15 seasons. In Figure 1, you can graphically see Oklahoma’s total deer harvest since 1972. Figure 2 shows how many bucks (including button bucks) were killed — 53,327 — which made up 60 percent of the harvest. Doe harvest was 35,140, making up 40 percent of the total harvest.
Deer hunting with a gun continued to be the favorite method of harvest for hunters in Oklahoma as 58 percent of the deer were taken with a modern firearm. When all gun seasons were combined (16-day gun, youth and holiday antlerless), hunters killed 51,119 deer in 2015. Muzzleloader deer hunters contributed 13,998 deer to the total. Again, archery hunters killed more deer than muzzleloader hunters and added 23,350 deer to the overall total harvest in 2015- 16. To see the individual seasons and their respective harvest, look at Figure 3.
Table 1 shows a list of deer harvest by county. Harvest is not equal across counties. This is influenced by the size of the county, the amount of suitable deer habitat, hunter access and many other factors. Some counties have a Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and some do not. To help even the playing field, Table 1 reflects deer harvest totals with the WMAs removed. As always, big counties top the list. Osage County, among the state’s largest, tops the list again in 2015-16, with 4,317 deer harvested. McCurtain County came in second with 2,650. In third was Pushmataha County with 2,465.
With little of Oklahoma in prime mule deer country, harvest is much lower than our neighboring states to the west. However, hunters still get a chance at a mixed bag if they hunt in Oklahoma’s western prairie counties. One county leads the list annually: Cimarron County. It is no surprise that county tops the list for mule deer harvest with 75 in 2015. In second place was Beaver County, with 33; third was Texas County, with 31; fourth was Harper County, with 17; and rounding out the Top 5 is Woodward County, with six. Seventeen of the 77 counties in Oklahoma recorded “mulies” in their harvest total this past year. The remaining 12 counties are Beckham and Ellis (five each), Roger Mills (four), two each in Dewey and Harmon, and one each for Canadian, Custer, Greer, Tillman and Woods counties. All told, 185 of these western deer were harvested in Oklahoma in 2015.