State wildlife officials are hoping to legalize elk hunting statewide in 2014.
Hunters would be able to kill a total of one elk, a bull or a cow, under the proposal. The elk season dates for archery, muzzleloader and gun would be the same as the current deer seasons for those methods of harvest.
Those are the same dates for the current elk hunting season on private land in northeast Oklahoma.
Lifetime hunting license holders would not need to buy a separate elk license, but annual license holders would.
The proposal, which must be approved by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission, would not change the current elk hunting regulations or season dates on private land in the counties surrounding the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.
Alan Peoples, chief of the wildlife division for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, said the agency's surveys show that 33 counties in Oklahoma each have six or more free-ranging elk.
“And almost everywhere they are, they are causing issues, primarily agricultural depredation issues,” Peoples said.
In Oklahoma, the largest free-ranging elk herds can be found in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, which allows limited elk hunting through the Wildlife Department's controlled hunts programs. Hunters must pay for a chance to win a hunt on the refuge.
There are also elk herds on the Pushmataha, Cookson Hills, Spavinaw and Cherokee Wildlife Management Areas. Small herds inhabit private land in Caddo, Kiowa and Comanche counties from elk that have fled the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.
The majority of free-ranging elk in the rest of the state either have been released or escaped from commercial hunting operations or private elk farms, Peoples said.
“In Cimarron and Texas counties, those elk could have come from bordering states, but the rest of them (across Oklahoma) are either escapees or (offspring) of escapees,” Peoples said.