Thousands of Oklahoma sportsmen are breathing a sigh of relief as recent rains will allow Oklahoma's muzzleloader deer season to run as scheduled, Oct. 28, through Nov. 5. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation was concerned that muzzleloader season might need to be postponed due to the state's extreme wildfire danger. Rainfall across the state significantly reduced the risk of wildfires, and the Department has announced that muzzleloader season will run as previously scheduled.
One of the fastest growing sports in the country, muzzleloader season offers sportsmen the chance to participate in nine days of traditional-style hunting. The season also allows hunters to enjoy Oklahoma's autumn weather while hunting deer that have not been heavily pressured.
"The primitive firearms season is one of the most widely-anticipated events among Oklahoma deer hunters," said Alan Peoples, chief of wildlife for the Department. "It's a really nice time to be in the woods, and many hunters consider it the best time to harvest a quality deer. We are very glad that it rained, and that the season will be held as planned.
"We still urge sportsmen to be extra cautious," Peoples added. "The fire danger has been reduced, but it has not been eliminated. Those staying in deer camps can now have campfires since the burn ban has been lifted, however we're encouraging hunters to watch for updated fire alert information from the Department of Agriculture. Sportsmen spend a great deal of time in rural areas and can be the first to report problems such as wildfires, and I would ask that they continue their vigilance as they enjoy what looks to be a great season."
Last year, muzzleloader hunters harvested 17,165 deer, accounting for more than 20 percent of the overall statewide harvest of 82,724 deer. Of those, 13,660 were bucks and 3,505 were does.
"The weather was warm last year, but it was dry which allowed muzzleloader hunters a lot of opportunity to get out," said Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor for ODWC. "I'm happy that many hunters were successful, but I'm disappointed that we didn't kill more does. We need to balance the buck-to-doe ratios in many parts of the state, and I hope that muzzleloader hunters will take advantage of the extra anterless days offered this year to harvest more does."
The Department has added additional anterless days during muzzleloader season in nearly every region of the state, including the opportunity to hunt antlerless deer all nine days in the northwest region.
Hunters possessing appropriate permits may take one antlered deer and during designated days, one anterless deer, during the nine day season, except in Texas and Cimarron counties which are closed to antlerless hunting.
To hunt deer with a muzzleloader in Oklahoma, resident hunters must possess an annual hunting or combination license, a lifetime hunting or combination license, a senior citizen hunting or senior citizen combination license or proof of exemption. Hunters must also have a deer primitive (antlered or antleress) permit for each deer harvested or proof of exemptions.
Non-residents must possess a non-resident primitive (antlered or antlerless) permit. An annual non-resident hunting license is not required to purchase the permits.
Muzzleloader hunters are also required to wear a blaze orange head covering and upper-body garment. For specific information regarding licenses, bag limits, clothing requirements or legal firearms, consult the 2000-2001 Oklahoma Hunting Guide and Regulations, then get out and enjoy one of Oklahoma's finest hunting opportunities - muzzleloader season.
Additional tips for muzzleloader deer hunters: * Carry a cellular phone for reporting any problems you encounter.
* Avoid driving through or parking in tall grass. Consider carrying a fire extinguisher in your vehicle.
* In areas where camp fires are allowed, take extra safety precautions, and do not leave fires unattended.
* Consider pre-cooked meals if you will be camping.
* Be extra careful in properly dispersing of cigarettes and cigars.