Total Deer Harvest Up 9% for 2017-18
Hunters Set New Archery Season Record With Harvest of 29,094
With the 2017-18 deer season in the books, Oklahoma again proved why it is a great destination for deer hunters from across the country. The total harvest of 107,914 deer is up from last year’s harvest total of 99,023. Figure 1 shows overall deer harvest numbers since 2004. Not only was overall harvest up, but many trophy animals were harvested as well. Antlerless harvest totaled 40 percent, which is on the low side of the Wildlife Department’s management goal of 40 percent to 45 percent. And in western Oklahoma, 196 mule deer were harvested from 13 counties.
Harvest numbers in all deer hunting seasons increased from last year, making 2017-18 a great time to be an Oklahoma deer hunter. Hunters were successful in bagging some really impressive trophies, which can be credited in part to a few different things. First, hunters across the state are really adopting the Wildlife Department’s slogan of “Hunters in the Know … Let Young Bucks Grow!” This mind-set over the past several years has allowed more bucks to reach a mature age class. The combination of abundant fall forage after the rut, along with a mild and wet spring, allowed for abundant food sources to be available during crucial times for antler development. Also, game cameras are becoming more affordable and more reliable, allowing hunters to better document the trophy bucks where they hunt. Hunters are much more willing to wait on a mature buck if they have photographic proof to boost their patience and motivation. All of these factors helped hunters who wanted to harvest a trophy.
Gun hunters continued to show not only the highest participation of all season types with 187,657 hunters, but also the highest portion of total harvest with 57 percent. After all results from youth, regular and holiday antlerless gun seasons were tallied up, 62,257 deer were reported via the E-Check system for all of the gun seasons combined.
For the first time since 2014, participation in the deer muzzleloader season increased from the previous year. The Department’s annual game harvest survey estimated 79,248 hunters took to the woods with this underused method, up 3,482 hunters from last season. Harvest was also up to 16,563 deer, an increase of 4,597 over last year.
Archery season continued to grow in popularity and harvest numbers in 2017-18. An estimated 97,837 hunters managed to take 29,094 deer during the 16-week season, again setting a new archery harvest record for the state.
Figure 2 depicts each individual season and its harvest total.
As usual, more deer were harvested in the larger counties. Hunters harvested 5,141 deer in Osage County, while Pittsburg County yielded 3,391, and Creek County gave up 2,83 deer. Table 1 (see below) shows harvest by county, season and sex on the state’s private lands. Harvest data from Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) and other public hunting areas is not included in order to level the playing field when looking at county-by-county harvest. This is because some counties in the southeast have hundreds of thousands of acres available for public hunting, while other counties do not offer similar opportunities
Even with roughly 95 percent of Oklahoma land being privately owned, hunters have a great opportunity to use public hunting areas such as Department-managed WMAs, national wildlife refuges, and some state parks and recreation areas. Table 2 (see below) details deer harvest by WMA, season and sex.
Some Oklahomans do not realize that mule deer inhabit some of the state’s westernmost counties and can be harvested using the deer hunting license. Hunters reported taking 196 mule deer from 13 counties during the 2017-18 deer season. With regulations in place to prevent taking antlerless mule deer during gun seasons, only two antlerless mule deer were harvested. A breakdown of mule deer harvest is shown in Table 3 (see below).
Every year, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation contacts hunters to participate in the Game Harvest Survey. This long-running, scientific survey allows the Department to better understand hunter participation and success rates, as well as shape future regulations regarding game species big and small. Success rates from each season are shown in Figure 3.