Monday, October 1, 2012
Two Corners of Oklahoma Offer Unique Hunting Opportunities
In addition to deer and turkey archery seasons, October 1 also marks the opening for both bear archery season in southeast Oklahoma and antelope archery season in the northwest portion of the state.
"Black bear season regulations will be considerably different this year than in the first three seasons," said Joe Hemphill, southeast region wildlife supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "The black bear population is growing in southeast Oklahoma, and we thought it was time to give hunters more time to hunt and better opportunities to be more selective about what bears they harvest."
Bear archery season will run Oct. 1-21 in Latimer, Le Flore, McCurtain and Pushmataha counties and will not have a quota. Bear muzzleloader season will run from Oct. 27 - Nov. 4 in the same counties and will have a quota of 20 bears. Muzzleloader bear hunters must check by phone or online before hunting each day to see if the quota has been reached. Seasons on public lands may vary from statewide seasons, so hunters who plan to hunt on public land should consult the current "Oklahoma Hunting Guide" online at wildlifedepartment.com.
Two out of the first three black bear archery seasons ended within 48 hours of opening because the quotas were met, good weather and diligent hunters who made sure to be in the woods early in the season. But hunters who purchased black bear licenses in hopes of hunting later in the season never got an opportunity before the quota was met. By lifting the archery quota this year, biologists are confident that hunters will get more time in the woods and, since there is no rush to harvest a bear, hunters can be more selective about the bears they choose to take.
"This allows someone to archery hunt for a bigger bear than they otherwise would have attempted to harvest, because there is not the same urgency to be one of the first 20," Hemphill said. "There's a guaranteed number of days to archery hunt, plus a guaranteed muzzleloader season until the 20-bear quota is met."
The combined season limit for black bear season is one bear, regardless of whether harvested in archery or muzzleloader season. No baiting is allowed on wildlife management areas, and shooting of cubs or females with cubs is prohibited. Additionally, den shooting and pursuing bears with dogs is prohibited.
To hunt black bears in Oklahoma, resident hunters must possess a hunting license or proof of exemption. Additionally, resident bear hunters must possess a bear license. Nonresident bear hunters are exempt from a hunting license while hunting bear but must possess a nonresident bear license. Lifetime license holders are not exempt from the purchase of a bear license. Requiring all hunters, including lifetime license holders, to purchase the bear license is an important aspect of the management of the black bear species in Oklahoma that helps track hunter numbers and harvest while ensuring that overharvest does not occur.
Bear licenses for the archery season must be purchased prior to Oct. 1, and unfilled bear licenses from the archery season are valid for muzzleloader season. Bear licenses for the muzzleloader season must be purchased prior to Oct. 27.
Upon harvesting a bear, all hunters must immediately attach their name and license number securely to the carcass and complete the "Record of Game" section on the license form. Also, upon harvesting a bear, all hunters must call Joe Hemphill at (580) 421-7226, or Jeff Ford, southeast region wildlife biologist, at (918) 527-9918. The carcass will be checked and a carcass tag issued, which must remain with the carcass to its final destination or through processing and/or storage. The head must remain attached to the carcass until the bear is checked. Bear carcasses may be checked in quartered, but sex organs must remain naturally attached until checked by a Department employee.
"Wildlife Department personnel will be available in the four-county hunt area during bear season to help check in bear harvests, visit with sportsmen, and to help ensure compliance of bear hunting regulations," Hemphill said. "We will collect biological data from each bear harvested, including a tooth for age determination and specific size measurements. Additionally, bears harvested may be subject to forensic analysis to ensure legal means of harvest were observed. The Wildlife Department also will work in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service to establish several hunter check points throughout the hunt area for checking bear hunters."
Over the years, biologists have collected data on Oklahoma bears from research projects and surveys, nuisance bear reports and now three years of successful legal hunting.
The first season in 2009 resulted in 19 harvested bears; 32 bears in a single day in 2010; and 31 bears last year in less than 48 hours. Hunters are expecting another successful season in the mountains of southeast Oklahoma.
In the complete opposite corner of the state, Oct. 1 will mark the opening day of antelope archery season in the Panhandle in Cimarron Co. and that portion of Texas County west of Hwy. 136. The season closes Oct. 14. This marks the fourth year that "over-the-counter" antelope archery licenses have been sold. Last year hunters harvested 30 bucks and 3 does during the archery season.
The archery bag limit is two antelope, with no more than one buck allowed. For legal purposes, a buck antelope shall be defined as any antelope, regardless of sex, with a black cheek patch. Antelope harvested during the archery antelope season count against a hunter's statewide combined season bag limit of two antelope, of which no more than one may be a buck. All other antelope hunting in Oklahoma is limited to hunts offered through the Wildlife Department's controlled hunts program, in which hunters must be drawn for an antelope hunt, or through a limited number of landowner permits. In total 254 pronghorn were checked in 2011.
Hunters must obtain written landowner permission before hunting on private land, and written permission must be carried by the hunter while hunting. To hunt antelope during antelope archery season, resident hunters must have an appropriate hunting license or proof of exemption. Additionally, all antelope hunters must have an antelope license for each antelope hunted, or proof of exemption. Nonresident antelope hunters are exempt from a hunting license while hunting antelope, but they must possess a nonresident antelope license for each antelope hunted. Nonresident lifetime license holders are not exempt from purchasing antelope licenses. For full season details, consult the "2012-13 Oklahoma Hunting Guide" or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
All hunters who harvest an antelope (including lifetime license holders) must immediately attach their name and hunting license number securely to the carcass. Annual license holders must also complete the "Record of Game" section on the license form. All antelope must be checked within 24 hours of leaving the hunt area at an open check station in Cimarron or Texas counties or with an authorized Department employee assigned to one of the counties where antelope are hunted. Once checked, the antelope will be issued a carcass tag that must remain with the carcass to its final destination or through processing/storage. The head must remain attached to the carcass until the antelope is checked.
Pronghorn antelope are true American natives. Found nowhere else in the world, the pronghorn is the only member of its family, Antilocapra. Its latin name Antilocapra americana, literally means the "American goat-antelope." The pronghorn is at home in the wide-open spaces of the American West where other animals may find food and cover in short supply. They can sprint up to 70 miles per hour, making them the fastest animal in North America. Besides their legs, pronghorns rely on their keen eyesight and sensitive noses to avoid danger on the prairie. Both pronghorn bucks and does have horns, although the female's horns are much smaller than the male's, which are 10 to 16 inches long.
Judging distance can become difficult in a landscape without trees, landmarks and other indicators of distance, so binoculars and range finders can be very useful. Additionally, decoys may help attract curious antelope and distract them from seeing the subtle movements of hunters adjusting for a shot.
In addition to the opening bear and antelope archery seasons, Oct. 1 also marks the opening of deer archery, turkey fall archery and rabbit seasons. For more information, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.