Oklahomans embrace the opening of the fall deer season

STILLWATER – It is deer season in Oklahoma, which is the equivalent to Christmas for many state residents.

The primary means of managing game species has long been through sport hunting.  Deer hunting provides most of the revenue for all wildlife management in Oklahoma, through license sales and federal excise taxes on manufacturers of sporting arms and ammunition.

“Deer hunting also helps to control the size of the deer population,” said Sue Fairbanks, assistant professor of natural resource ecology and management with Oklahoma State University’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. “Overabundant deer populations can cause damage to the habitat that other wild species depend on and can result in damage to agricultural crops and ornamental landscapes.

“In addition, deer populations result in increased deer-vehicle collisions and may support larger populations of disease-carrying ticks.”

Archery season began Oct. 1 and runs through Jan. 15, while muzzleloader season has come and gone. The majority of the harvested deer will come through the gun season, which lasts just two weeks beginning Nov. 21.

According to figures compiled by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, there were nearly 108,000 deer harvested in 2012, with 88,009 and 97,265 harvested in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

Variation in total harvest between years is largely a result of weather. The best deer hunting is in cold, dry and windless weather.

There is a long history of deer hunting in the state, with records going back to 1900, when harvest numbers were unregulated, which nearly eliminated all deer from the state. In 1917, legislation banned deer harvesting with an estimated population of 500 in the entire state.

Through successful management practices the deer population has been restored.

“Now wildlife managers find themselves in an entirely new situation,” Fairbanks said. “Instead of bringing deer back from the brink of extinction, we now have to learn to manage overabundant deer populations in many areas. And deer harvest is still our primary tool.”