Oklahoma is blessed with a tremendous diversity of landscapes and wildlife and at no time is that more evident for hunters than Oct. 1. That dates marks the opening for both bear archery and antelope archery seasons, two of the most unique outdoor opportunities in the state.

The black bear population is growing in southeast Oklahoma and is an important part of the state’s wildlife diversity. Biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation have collected biological data for years mainly from bear surveys and research projects. Wildlife Department biologists also worked with researchers with the Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit with Oklahoma State University and the findings showed the bear population in Oklahoma can sustain a limited hunting season. Over the years, biologists have collected data on Oklahoma bears from these research projects, nuisance bear reports and now two years of successful legal hunting.

The first season in 2009 resulted in 19 harvested bears and last season a total of 32 bears were harvested in a single day. Hunters are expecting another successful season in the mountains of southeast Oklahoma.

The bear archery season will run from Oct. 1 through Oct. 21 or until the season quota of 20 bears has been met. If the season quota is not met during bear archery season, black bear muzzleloader season will open Oct. 22 and run through Oct. 30 or until the season quota is met. Hunters must check by phone or online at wildlifedepartment.com before hunting each day to see if the quota has been reached. Once the quota of 20 bears is reached, the season will close. The use of dogs is prohibited, and baiting is prohibited on wildlife management areas.

To hunt black bears in Oklahoma, resident hunters must possess a hunting license. Additionally, resident bear hunters must possess a bear license. Nonresident bear hunters are exempt from a hunting license while hunting bear but must possess a nonresident bear license. Lifetime license holders are not exempt from the purchase of a bear license. Bear licenses for the archery season must be purchased prior to Oct. 1.

“Wildlife Department personnel will be available in the four-county hunt area during early bear season to help check in bear harvests, visit with sportsmen, and to help ensure compliance of bear hunting regulations,” said Joe Hemphill, southeast region wildlife supervisor for the Wildlife Department. “We will collect biological data from each bear harvested, including a tooth for age determination and specific size measurements. Additionally, bears harvested may be subject to forensic analysis to ensure legal means of harvest were observed. The Wildlife Department also will work in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service to establish several hunter check points throughout the hunt area for checking bear hunters.”

In the complete opposite corner of the state, Oct. 1 also marks the opening day of antelope archery season in the Panhandle in Cimarron Co. and parts of Texas County. The season closes Oct. 14. This marks the third year that “over-the-counter” antelope archery licenses have been sold. Last year hunters enjoyed a very successful season harvesting 49 bucks and 12 does.

The archery bag limit is two antelope, with no more than one buck allowed. Antelope harvested during the archery antelope season count against a hunter’s statewide combined season bag limit of two antelope, of which no more than one may be a buck. All other antelope hunting in Oklahoma is limited to hunts offered through the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s controlled hunts program, in which hunters must be drawn for an antelope hunt, or through a limited number of landowner permits. In total 253 pronghorn were checked in 2010.

Pronghorn antelope are true American natives. Found nowhere else in the world, pronghorns are unique in every sense of the word. In fact the pronghorn is so unique, it is the only member of its family, Antilocapra. Its latin name Antilocapra americana, literally means the “American goat-antelope.” But the pronghorn is directly related to neither New World goats nor Old World antelopes.

Pronghorns are the quintessential prairie animal. It is at home in the wide-open spaces of the American West where other animals may find food and cover in short supply. In Oklahoma, these striking creatures can be spotted in the short and mixed grass prairie of Cimarron and Texas counties.

If pronghorns are known for one thing it is speed – dazzling speed. They can sprint up to 70 miles per hour, making them the fastest animal in North America. They sometimes seem to fly across the prairie, covering up to 20 feet in a single stride. Besides their legs, pronghorns rely on their keen eyesight and sensitive noses to avoid danger on the prairie. Both pronghorn bucks and does have horns, although the female’s horns are much smaller than the male’s, which are 10 to 16 inches long.

Mature pronghorn bucks stake out their territories and assemble groups of up to 10 females each fall. Although brief fights may break out between rival males, confrontations are usually decided with a few head butts and a lot of posturing.

The wide open terrain of Texas and Cimarron counties provides added challenge in getting close to antelope, as judging distance can become difficult without landmarks, trees, and other indicators of distance. Binoculars and range finders can be very useful. Additionally, decoys may help attract curious antelope and distract them from seeing the subtle movements of hunters adjusting for a shot.

Hunters must obtain written landowner permission before hunting on private land. To hunt antelope during antelope archery season, resident hunters must have an appropriate hunting license or proof of exemption. Additionally, all antelope hunters must have an antelope license for each antelope hunted, or proof of exemption. All antelope hunters must carry written permission from the landowner while hunting antelope, unless exempt. For full season details, consult the “2011 Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

In addition to the opening bear and antelope archery seasons, Oct. 1 also marks the opening of deer archery, turkey fall archery and rabbit seasons. For more information, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

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