Deer hunting: Wildlife Department tries to appease both trophy hunters and meat hunters

For years, the Wildlife Department has said the majority of hunters in Oklahoma are more interested in maximum hunting opportunities. Quantity over quality. That is still the prevailing sentiment today, but not by much.
by Ed Godfrey Published: February 15, 2014
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These are the heydays of deer hunting in Oklahoma.

There was a time in Oklahoma when it was rare for someone to kill a buck, and the greatest sin a deer hunter could commit was to shoot a doe.

Hunters of my generation still pause before pulling the trigger on a doe because it just feels wrong. That was ingrained in our DNA long ago.

Now, as a general rule, hunters can't shoot enough does and we are debating issues such as buck limits and antler restrictions. That's a good thing. Just ask the quail hunters.

“We are so fortunate to be at a place in deer management where this debate is possible,” said Jerry Shaw, programs supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and formerly the agency's big game biologist.

“Thirty or 40 years ago, this debate wouldn't have happened because we were still trying to build a deer herd.”

It's the evolution of deer hunting in Oklahoma. As hunters have experienced greater and greater success, their goals have changed. No longer is it acceptable to shoot just any buck. They want a wall-hanger.

For years, the Wildlife Department has said the majority of hunters in Oklahoma are more interested in maximum hunting opportunities. Quantity over quality. That is still the prevailing sentiment today, but not by much.

“That margin has narrowed greatly,” Shaw said.

More people are involved in deer management in Oklahoma than ever before. Last year, the Quality Deer Management Association helped establish two wildlife cooperatives called the Washita River Deer Management Association and the Deep Fork River Deer Management Association.

In those associations, neighboring landowners work together to manage deer and other wildlife on their properties with a common goal, such as protecting young bucks and increasing the buck age structure.

A bill introduced in the state House of Representatives proposes a 6-point antler restriction on bucks for hunters ages 17 or older in an attempt to protect young bucks. They can't grow into trophy bucks if they keep getting killed as yearlings.

Other states have antler restrictions, but Shaw doesn't think it would work in Oklahoma.

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by Ed Godfrey
Reporter Sr.
Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more...
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