October 1 is opening day for several major archery hunting seasons in Oklahoma. And prospects are looking good for most of those seasons, experts with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation said.
“Archery hunters in Oklahoma really do have ample opportunities to enjoy their sport,” said Erik Bartholomew, big-game biologist with the Wildlife Department. “Several archery seasons will be opening on Oct. 1, and each of them gives the hunters a chance to get out into the field and have an enjoyable time in the outdoors.”
Seasons on public lands may vary from statewide season dates. Complete details and regulations for each season — including hunter education and apprentice-designated license requirements — can be found in the “Oklahoma Hunting” regulations guide, available free online at wildlifedepartment.
com or in print anywhere hunting licenses are sold.
Deer Archery — Oct. 1, 2015, to Jan. 15, 2016, statewide.
The most popular of the archery hunting seasons is for deer. A record 96,901 archery hunters went afield last year, bagging a record 25,741 deer.
“The ample spring and early summer rainfall helped boost habitat and resources for the state’s deer population,” Bartholomew said. “We are hearing reports of quite a few does with twins and triplets. And if a doe has triplets, that means the habitat is in good shape.”
Persimmons and other soft mast have been in good supply in most of the state this year. And the acorn crop is looking good, as well. “Find a tree that is dropping acorns and set up your stand,” Bartholomew said.
Scouting ahead of your hunt can help pattern deer movement. And since food resources are plentiful this year, the deer might have changed their routines from years past.
Thick habitat conditions can hamper visibility for hunters. Most forested areas have thick undergrowth, and many prairies are covered in native grasses reaching 5 feet tall. Bartholomew said it is more important than ever for hunters to positively identify their target before deciding to take a shot.
And another indicator of a good deer season ahead: Summer spotlight surveys have shown that deer numbers have increased from last year.
Again this year, the Wildlife Department is reminding hunters that when they take a whitetail, they are making a deer herd management decision. This educational effort uses the slogan “Hunters in the Know … Let Young Bucks Grow!” The focus of the campaign is to encourage hunters to consider harvesting an older buck as a way to positively influence the age structure of the state’s deer herd.
The bag limit is six deer, which may include no more than two antlered deer. For license requirements and information on field tagging and checking, consult the “Oklahoma Hunting” regulations guide or go online to wildlifedepartment.com.
Elk Archery — Oct. 1, 2015, to Jan. 15, 2016, statewide on private lands only (except in Special Southwest Zone).
This year brings Oklahoma’s second elk archery season on private lands statewide.
“Many parts of the state have seen an increase in elk numbers, and hunters now have the opportunity to pursue them through all seasons until the zone quota is met,” Bartholomew said.
The beginning of the elk archery season coincides with the end of the elk rut, he said.
For the statewide elk season, Oklahoma is divided into seven zones. Each zone has its own bag limit (one or two elk) and harvest quota. A Special Southwest Zone will be open for archery hunting on private lands on Oct. 3-7 and Dec. 12-16 only.
Bartholomew said some areas of the state are known to have good elk populations. In the Northeast Zone, he advises hunters to target Mayes, Delaware, Cherokee, Adair and Sequoyah counties. In the Southeast Zone, pockets of elk can be found in Pushmataha, Coal, Johnston and Pontotoc counties. And hunters in the western Panhandle should find some success.
By far, the largest concentrations of elk occur in the Special Southwest Zone, he said. And while the season dates are more restrictive in this zone, there is no zone harvest quota.
Hunters may harvest two elk combined for all elk seasons. All hunters must check online at wildlifedepartment.com
before their hunt to find out if the season is closed for the zone they intend to hunt. Once the quota is met in each zone, the elk season will close in that zone.
To find out about license requirements, field tagging and checking, landowner permission, zone bag limits and zone harvest quotas for private land elk hunts, consult the “Oklahoma Hunting” regulations guide or go online to wildlifedepartment.com.
Bear Archery — Oct. 1-18 in Latimer, Le Flore, McCurtain and Pushmataha counties only.
In 2014, hunters harvested 52 black bears in Oklahoma. Of those, 45 were taken by archery hunters. Hunters in Le Flore County bagged 32 bears, making that county the most productive of the four open to bear hunting.
Jeff Ford, southeast region wildlife biologist for the Wildlife Department, said he’s expecting bear hunters will find similar success this year as they did last year. “The bear population is doing really good, and the bears are in great health,” Ford said.
Mast production has been good this year after heavy spring rains. “Hunters should target the hardwood ridges again, and look for areas with lots of acorns,” he said.
For archery bear hunters, there is no season harvest quota. So, these hunters can be more selective in making a harvest decision since they may hunt the entire 18 days. Hunters may take only one bear for all seasons combined.
All hunters are required to have a hunting license or proof of exemption, and a bear license (no exemptions). Bear archery hunting licenses must be purchased by Sept. 30, before the season opens. No bear archery licenses will be sold after that date.
Ford urged successful bear hunters to call the phone numbers provided in the “Oklahoma Hunting” regulations guide to be directed to the nearest location where they can check in their bear. For more information about prohibited activities, field tagging and checking, consult the “Oklahoma Hunting” regulations guide or go online to wildlifedepartment.com.
Pronghorn Antelope Archery — Oct 1-14 in Cimarron County and Texas County west of State Highway 136.
Pronghorn hunters have reason to be optimistic, based on habitat conditions and survey results this year in the Oklahoma Panhandle. Steve Conrady, Northwest Region wildlife supervisor for the Wildlife Department, said pronghorn populations have rebounded some in 2015 after several years of drought.
“The drought effects have decreased, and pronghorn numbers are starting to rebound,” he said. “We’ve also been seeing a fair number of fawns,” he said, which points to better herd and habitat conditions.
Archery hunters should find more concealment cover this year compared to the past several years, thanks to ample rainfall in the region. “Compared to the last few years, I think the hunters will see a fairly good season.”
Most pronghorns harvested in Oklahoma are taken through the Wildlife Department’s Controlled Hunts and through landowner permits. Of the 71 antelope harvested in 2014, only 19 were taken by over-the-counter license buyers.
To find out about license requirements, season limit, field tagging and checking, and landowner permission, consult the “Oklahoma Hunting” regulations guide or go online to wildlifedepartment.com.
Turkey Archery — Oct. 1, 2015, to Jan. 15, 2016, statewide.
All counties are open for the fall turkey archery season. Hunters may harvest one turkey of either sex during all fall seasons combined. Any turkey harvested statewide must be checked in using the E-Check system at wildlifedepartment.com.
It’s common for deer hunters to head to the field along with the proper fall turkey license in case they get an opportunity to harvest a turkey while deer hunting.