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Record muzzleloader deer harvest expected


Despite less than optimum weather conditions during the nine-day primitive firearms season, officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation report state deer hunters are on pace to set another record harvest. Upon contacting a sample group of 30 hunter check stations, Department officials were surprised to learn that this fall's harvest totals were significantly higher than the harvest results at the same point in last year's deer season. For the past 13 years Department biologists have conducted a telephone survey of the same 30 hunter check stations following the primitive firearms season. The survey, conducted on November 6, showed that this year's primitive firearms deer hunters experienced a remarkable increase of 31 percent over the 1999 primitive season total. Additionally, archery deer hunters have, so far, harvested 43 percent more deer than this time last year in the archery season.

"In light of the warm weather, and especially the rainy weather during the nine-day primitive season, we were pretty surprised at the amount of increase, " said Mike Shaw, Wildlife Division research supervisor for the Department. "The archery season opened October 1 and was followed by several weeks of balmy weather which normally equates to poor deer movement and decreased hunter success. By the time primitive season began on October 28, it was not only still very warm, but many parts of the state experienced rainy weather on both the opening and closing weekends. Normally, this kind of weather means decreased hunter activity and decreased harvest, but not this year."

At the 30 check stations surveyed by the Department, primitive firearms hunters checked in 4,531 deer. That represents a 31 percent increase over the 1999 total of 3,464, and is 15 percent higher than the previous record of 1997. Another very surprising and significant aspect of the 2000 primitive season was the increase in antlerless deer harvest.

"What is really incredible about this year's primitive season is the increase in antlerless harvest. In 1999 our sample check stations reported 561 does harvested. This year the number jumped to 1,586. That represents a 182 percent increase in the antlerless harvest, " said Shaw.

"Obviously, our primitive firearms hunters took great advantage of the antlerless days that were added in most areas of the state. As more and more deer hunters are learning, we have to bring the state's exploding deer herd under control, and the best way to accomplish that is by increasing antlerless harvest. Obviously, many hunters took that to heart during this year's primitive season and we are pleased that so many are adopting the idea of harvesting more does." From a regional perspective, the southeast part of the state experienced the greatest jump in primitive firearms antlerless harvest with a 276 percent increase over 1999. The number of antlerless primitive firearms days in the southeast were increased from two in 1999 to six this year. Despite increasing antlerless hunting days from two in 1999 to all nine days in the northwest, this part of the state had the lowest increase over 1999, but did log a 131 percent increase in does checked in.

In contrast to the dramatic increase in the antlerless harvest, the number of bucks taken in the primitive season was virtually unchanged from 1999 with only a slight 1-percent increase.

Although this year's primitive and first half of archery seasons'

harvest was significantly higher than last year, there are still lots of deer available for the upcoming gun season scheduled for November 18 through 26. In addition, the rut will reach its peak over the next few weeks, which results in more deer movement during daylight hours. All things considered, hunters should have excellent opportunities during the nine-day gun season.

Despite the late summer drought which stressed many native plants, some oaks produced acorns, and will provide prime deer feeding areas, Shaw explained. Other likely areas gun hunters should scout are any areas with green browse, including greenbriar or sumac thickets and also winter season cropfields such as wheat or ryegrass. To participate in the gun deer season, Oklahoma residents must possess an annual hunting license and appropriate deer gun permit or a lifetime hunting or combination license. Non-residents must possess the appropriate non resident gun permit. For more information consult the 2000-2001 Oklahoma Hunting Guide & Regulations.

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