Oklahoma hunters already have checked in more than 30,500 deer this season, but that pace is slightly behind last year.
As a general rule, deer weren’t moving much during most of muzzleloader season, but that will soon change with the beginning of the rut, the time of year when whitetails throw caution into the wind.
Deer are starting to move more during the day, and some bucks already have been seen trailing does, said Erik Bartholomew, big game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
Thicker vegetation this season, because of this year's record rainfall, has made deer more difficult to see.
And, more available food sources — also due to the wetter-than-usual weather — have whitetails spreading out more. At least that's the most prevalent theories for fewer deer being killed thus far.
Still, hunters are taking some trophy bucks, like the unique 8-pointer with the dark or chocolate rack that Jared Harrison of Davenport shot in Dewey County during muzzleloader season.
“One of the prettiest bucks I've taken,” Harrison said in an email. “He came in with two other bucks, and I shot him at 25 yards.
“Deer herd is in great shape out west this year. Lot of big acorns out there this year due to the rain. Looking forward to the rut.”
Dark or chocolate racks on bucks are caused by “what they are rubbing on,” Bartholomew said.
If bucks are rubbing their antlers on trees with a lot of sap, then the sap sticks to the antlers and they get darker, he said.
Bucks on the prairie, which spend more time in the sun, tend to have whiter antlers because their antlers get bleached out by the sun, Bartholomew said.
Bucks rub their antlers on trees primarily to mark their territory, he said. They start making rubs or scrapes once the velvet has shed from the antlers, he said.
Oklahoma's 16-day deer gun season, the biggest hunting season of the year, opens the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
Almost 200,000 hunters in Oklahoma participate in the deer gun season. Archery deer season remains open through Jan. 15.