SOUND CHOICES BY HUNTERS IN THE FIELD CAN IMPROVE HEALTH OF STATE’S DEER HERD
Statistics from the past few years indicate that Oklahoma’s deer hunters are doing a much better job in their selection of the animals they harvest. The figures indicate that Oklahomans are bagging fewer yearling bucks and taking advantage of more frequent opportunities to harvest antlerless deer.
“Hunters are better educated, and they are being more selective about what they are harvesting,” said Erik Bartholomew, big game biologist for the Wildlife Department. “This shows that more of the state’s 250,000 deer hunters are recognizing that they are deer managers when they are out hunting,” he said.
In the late 1980s, yearling bucks accounted for nearly 70 percent of the state’s total buck harvest. But over the past two decades, the percentage of yearling bucks in the total buck harvest has shrunk to 25 percent in the state.
This is a trend drawing great support from experts such as wildlife biologist Kip Adams, director of education and outreach with the Quality Deer Management Association. “I think that Oklahoma has done a tremendous job protecting yearling bucks and improving the age structure of the deer herd,” Adams said.
The QDMA recently released a report detailing the 2011 deer harvest across the United States. It showed that Oklahoma was among the top five states where hunters harvest more older bucks, those at least 3.5 years old. In Oklahoma, 51 percent of the bucks taken in 2011 were at least 3.5 years old, compared with a national average of 33 percent.
What this means is that the state’s deer hunters are letting more and more young bucks walk away in favor of waiting for a more mature, perhaps trophy, deer. “This is very positive for the deer population, and especially for Oklahoma hunters,” Adams said.
Bartholomew added that the state’s deer hunters can continue to improve the health and age structure of the deer herd by working together.
“Hunters should continue to take advantage of antlerless deer hunting opportunities, and they should strive to keep up the good work of introducing youth to deer hunting.
“Also, we encourage hunters to continue thinking about the bucks they are harvesting each year. Ask yourself each time you see a buck, ‘Is he the one I want?’ And look for opportunities to pass on younger bucks in order to wait for an older one.”
Regulations in red are new this year.
Purple text indicates an important note.