NORMAN — Cleveland County deer hunters hit the field Saturday, muzzleloaders in tow, as Oklahoma’s muzzleloader season kicked off, running through Sunday.
By now, numerous bowhunters already have taken large, mature bucks across our state, with many now turning their interest to harvesting a few does for the freezer.
Deer hunting and management is the most popular form of hunting and wildlife management in Oklahoma and, according to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, deer hunting has an economic impact of more than $6 million.
According to the ODWC website, their statewide deer management goals continue to place emphasis on reducing harvest pressure on young bucks and increasing the harvest of does. With the continued fine tuning of hunting regulations and increasing public awareness of proper deer management, the Oklahoma deer herd will continue to flourish on both private and public lands.
In recent years, the ODWC, along with many other natural resource agencies and professionals, have encouraged hunters to harvest more antler-less deer and pass young bucks. Harvesting an adequate number of does decreases high-deer densities to healthier levels, balances buck-to-doe sex ratios and improves whole-herd health by improving the nutrition of remaining deer.
Most hunters today are passing young bucks to improve buck age structure in their areas. This practice provides huge benefits to the deer hunter/manager across our county and state. Allowing young bucks to reach mature age classes improves herd dynamics, social structure, rutting behavior, whole herd health and fawn recruitment and has tremendous hunter benefits.
For decades, some states managed deer herds in a manner that the majority of bucks harvested were one-and-a-half years old. White-tailed bucks don’t reach skeletal maturity until around four-and-a-half and grow their largest antlers from five-and-a-half to seven-and-a-half in most areas.