Last year’s deer hunting season in Oklahoma was the worst this century.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation released the deer harvest numbers for the 2013-14 hunting season, and fewer deer were killed by hunters in Oklahoma last season since the 1990s.
A total of 88,009 deer were killed by Oklahoma hunters last season, almost 20,000 fewer than the previous hunting seasonnd almost 25,000 fewer than two years ago.
In the last 15 years, Oklahoma’s deer harvest normally has exceeded 100,000, only falling under that total five times. Only one other time in the past 15 years has the total been less than 90,000. That happened in 2004 when the state’s deer harvest was 89,030.
Several factors contributed to fewer deer being killed by hunters last season, said Jerry Shaw, programs supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
“We have had a drought for quite some time which has impacted reproduction,” he said.
In addition to the drought, the weather during Oklahoma’s busiest deer hunting season — the 16-day rifle season — was miserable and likely kept more hunters at home, Shaw said.
The opening weekend of the rifle season was bitter cold with ice in parts of the state, Shaw said. The final weekend of the hunting season also was extremely cold and in between those weekends it was very foggy, he said.
‘I think a lot of our hunters, they have had success in seasons past, they were not wanting to get out and fight the weather,” Shaw said.
Shaw said the state’s big game biologists are not alarmed by a significant dropoff in just one year.
“In deer management, we don’t look at one data point and put too much into it. We try not to look at the highs and the lows but the average,” Shaw said.
“Now, if we continue to see a reduced harvest, then that is the time we need to get down and figure out what we need to do to change that trend.”
Shaw said weather models show the state may be in for a long dry cycle. If the drought continues and deer reproduction continues to suffer, then the Wildlife Department might need re-examine the bag limits and season lengths for deer hunting seasons in the future, he said.