Deer harvest down, few does bagged

Tuesday, December 18th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Unseasonably mild weather has resulted in fewer deer bagged by hunters this season and also fewer doe than officials wanted taken in order to thin an overpopulation of female deer.

Deer hunters harvested 85,675 deer, down 8.9 percent, through all of gun and muzzleloader season in the fall and half of archery season, which extends through Jan. 15.

Last year, Oklahoma hunters killed 93,327 deer over the period.

Warmer weather has added to available vegetation for foraging deer. Fewer are then forced to graze over wider areas and wander into the sights of rifles, said Mike Shaw, research director for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

The unseasonably mild weather has also slowed mating activity. The Oklahoma deer population is usually about 475,000 before the season opens.

``In general deer movements are much lower than we've seen in the previous year and that contributed to the lower harvest,'' Shaw said.

So far, does account for only 38 percent of the deer kill, compared with about 40 percent for the period last year.

Wildlife officials hoped for a doe kill of about 45 percent in order to thin the number of does in the herd.

Hunters' preferences for bucks has resulted in too many does for each male, which contributes to a lower quality herd.

Does usually go into heat in November, but a buck with a large herd will be unable to breed them all that early. The unbred does will go into heat several more times.

If bred later than usual, their fawn are born in the heat of late summer after a 200-day gestation period instead of in May or June.

Does have to struggle in the heat to nurse fawn. By the time the fawn is weaned, the quality of the forage is generally lower, Shaw said.

The state has introduced several three-day special doe seasons to reduce their numbers.

Hunters in north-central and northwestern Oklahoma can bag an extra doe Friday through Sunday.

Much of the rest of the state _ excluding the far southwest, southeast and the Panhandle _ will have a special season Dec. 28-30.

The one-doe limit in the special season will not count against the annual combined statewide bag limit of six deer for the various types of hunting.

Other deer hunting checking and tagging regulations and requirements for hunting dress apply.

Osage County again topped the state in the number of deer bagged with hunters bringing in 5,055. Others in the top five include Cherokee County with 3,574, Pittsburg with 2,629, Creek with 2,385 and Delaware with 2,295.

While the gun and archery season harvests were down, hunters using muzzleloaders bagged 4 percent more deer over last year.