Oklahoma's deer gun season opens Saturday, and the rut will be going strong across the state in the coming days, with bucks chasing does.
State wildlife biologists in Oklahoma expect the peak of the rut in most areas of the state to occur sometime before Saturday's opener.
“Chasing is going on right now,” Erik Bartholomew, big game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, said Thursday. “It's not real hot and heavy yet, but just any time now things ought to be ramping up.”
Barring a major weather event that keeps hunters at home, Saturday will be the biggest deer hunting day of the year. More deer are taken on the opening day of gun season than on any other.
History also shows that the most successful week of archery season in Oklahoma is opening week, the first week in October.
But the number of bucks that are killed always is the highest in the sixth and seventh weeks of archery season.
Because Thanksgiving falls later this year, bow hunters are getting even more days to hunt the rut before the gun hunters get in the woods. Last year's deer gun season opened on Nov. 17.
Bartholomew said the nearly 200,000 hunters who will participate in the deer gun season this year will find different conditions than in recent drought-stricken years because of the increased rainfall.
“Hunters are not going to find deer in their normal places,” he said. “They (deer) have got more food and water than they have seen in a couple of years. You might have to go out there and look a little harder than in years past.”
The rut, the mating season of deer, is triggered primarily by moon phases, but “the rutting activity that hunters see has more to do with the weather,” Bartholomew said. “Hopefully, we will get some cool weather during deer gun season and get some deer moving and hunters will have success.”
The first time Oklahoma hunters checked in 100,000 deer for all seasons combined was 13 years ago. Since then, there have been only three years that Oklahoma's deer harvest has not exceeded 100,000.
Wildlife biologists estimate deer hunters take about 10 percent of the population during hunting seasons, giving Oklahoma an estimated deer population of around 1 million.
Deer Gun Season
When: Nov. 23-Dec. 8
Top 10 Deer Hunting Counties
(Based on 2012-13 Deer Seasons)
1, Osage (4,947 deer)
2, Cherokee (3,499)
3, Pittsburg (3,148)
4, Creek (3,039)
5, Atoka (2,696)
6, Pushmataha (2,639)
7, Delaware (2,574)
8, Sequoyah (2,491)
9, Craig (2,427)
10, McCurtain (2,408).
Hunters Against Hunger
Deer hunters can donate meat to the Hunters Against Hunger program, which feeds needy families in Oklahoma.
A list of Oklahoma deer processors that participate in the program can be found in the Oklahoma Hunting Guide or at www.wildlifedepartment.com.
To help with processing charges, each hunter is asked to make a tax-deductible $10 donation. Financial donations from Natureworks and the Oklahoma Station of