This figure shows last year's Oklahoma archery harvest by week. The 2012-13 deer archery season starts Oct. 1.
Archery hunters are looking to Oct. 1 as the opener to what will hopefully be another memorable deer hunting season. Last year, archery hunters made history when they harvested a season record of 24,908 of the 112,863 deer checked by hunters - about 22 percent higher than the previous record set in 2010.
The state has been in a drought, and while biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation agree that it would have been better to have more rain spread throughout the summer, the rainfall that the state did receive was well timed for deer.
"A lot of the rainfall we received arrived during the spring when young fawns could benefit from the nutritious, lush browse that resulted," said Erik Bartholomew, big game biologist for the Wildlife Department. "And does got a good start on regaining their weight after carrying fawns and giving birth."
According to Bartholomew, archery hunters this season should focus on patterning deer and scouting out areas that have been productive in the past. Recent rains will likely "kick start" cool season plants and provide additional food for deer, giving early season hunters places to focus their efforts.
To hunt deer during archery season, resident hunters must have an appropriate hunting license and a deer archery license for each deer hunted or proof of exemption. Resident youth hunters 16 or 17 years old must purchase a hunting license, and all youth hunters under 18 years of age may purchase a youth deer archery license. Nonresident deer hunters are exempt from a hunting license while hunting deer, but they must possess a nonresident deer archery license. Holders of nonresident lifetime hunting and lifetime combination licenses are not exempt from purchasing deer licenses.
Deer archery season runs Oct. 1 through Jan. 15, and archers who hunt from Jan. 1-15 must possess a deer archery license for the current calendar year and either a fiscal-year license or current annual license.
The archery season harvest limit is six deer, which may include no more than two antlered deer. Deer taken by hunters participating in archery season are included in the hunter's combined season limit of six deer. Deer taken from Jan. 1-15, 2012, count toward the 2011 season limit.
All hunters who harvest a deer must immediately attach their name, license number and date and time of harvest securely to the carcass. Annual license holders who harvest deer must also complete the "Record of Game" section on the license form.
Hunters must check their harvested deer within 24 hours of leaving the hunt area either online at wildlifedepartment.com, at the nearest open hunter check station or with an authorized Wildlife Department employee. Once checked, the animal will be issued a carcass tag or an online confirmation number that must remain with the carcass to its final destination or through processing and/or storage at commercial facilities.
Archery hunters can also hunt turkeys during the turkey fall archery season, which runs concurrent with deer archery season. Hunters must possess an appropriate resident or nonresident hunting license and a turkey license for each bird hunted, unless exempt. Nonresident lifetime license holders are required to purchase a nonresident annual hunting license and turkey license. The nonresident five-day hunting license is not valid for hunting turkey.
The turkey fall archery season limit is one turkey of either sex, statewide, and all hunters who harvest a turkey must immediately attach their name and license number securely to the carcass. Annual license holders must also include the date and time of harvest with their field tag and complete the "Record of Game" section on the license form. Additionally, turkeys harvested east of I-35 must be checked within 24 hours of leaving the hunt area. Turkeys harvested west of I-35 will not be checked.
Seasons on public lands for both deer and turkey may vary from statewide season dates. For full details and regulations, consult the current "Oklahoma Hunting Guide," available free online at wildlifedepartment.com or anywhere hunting licenses area sold.
To learn more about deer hunting in Oklahoma or to purchase a hunting license, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
Online hunter education and apprentice-designated licenses both options for new hunters
According to Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, getting set up to go hunting is easier than ever.
"We've really been able to expand the options available to new hunters so that it is easier and quicker to get them in the woods, and we've been able to do that without compromising safety," Meek said.
Meek is referring to the Wildlife Department's apprentice designated hunting license option and its newest option for hunters - a completely online hunter education course for resident hunters 10 years of age or older to become certified through wildlifedepartment.com.
Hunter education certification is required of hunters in order to buy most hunting licenses, unless exempt. Certified hunters can hunt small game alone, and certified hunters 10 years of age and older can hunt big game alone, except on public lands where additional regulations may apply or during youth seasons that require adult supervision.
"Now there are three options for hunter education certification," Meek said. "You can take the course online if you are 10 years old or older, you can take an eight-hour classroom course or the home study that requires a four-hour class."
Log on to http://www.wildlifedepartment.com/education/huntered.htm
to take the online hunter education course or to see a listing of in-class and home study hunter education courses available statewide.
Exemptions from hunter education certification requirements in Oklahoma include anyone 31 years of age or older, those honorably discharged or currently on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces, and members of the National Guard. If an Oklahoma resident is exempt from taking hunter education in Oklahoma but needs a hunter education certification card to hunt in a different state, they can also complete the new course online for certification.
Hunters age eight to 30 years of age who have not completed the Wildlife Department's hunter education course can still purchase a hunting license and go hunting, but the license will have an apprentice designation and the hunter must be accompanied by an individual 18 years of age or older who is licensed and hunter education certified or exempt from license or hunter education requirements. The accompanying hunter must remain within arm's reach of the apprentice hunter or close enough to take immediate control of the firearm or archery equipment while hunting big game. While hunting small game, the accompanying hunter must remain in sight of and be able to communicate with the apprentice hunter in a normal voice without the aid of any communication device. A hunting license is not required for resident youth under the age of 16 (under 14 for non-residents) to hunt small game, but they still must be accompanied.
Hunters seven years of age or younger must be hunter education certified to hunt big game but may hunt small game, including turkeys, with a legal accompanying hunter. All hunters under 10 years of age - whether hunter education certified or not - must be accompanied by an adult to hunt big game.