Deer hunters have another opportunity to tote a firearm to the woods during the 10-day holiday antlerless deer gun season Dec. 20-29.

The holiday hunt will be open across most of the state, excluding the western reaches of the Panhandle and in far southeast Oklahoma. Additionally, deer taken by a hunter during the holiday antlerless deer gun season are not included in the hunter’s combined season limit.

Last year about 35,000 hunters participated in the holiday deer season, taking 4,385 deer.

“It’s the last opportunity to use a firearm to fill your freezer with tasty venison,”said Erik Bartholomew, big game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “School’s out, so it’s a great chance to get your kids out in the woods again.”

Bartholomew said the approach to hunting during the holiday season should simply  be hunting near large food sources or travel corridors between bedding and feeding areas.

High doe harvests help accomplish several important management benefits such as reducing localized overpopulations, improving buck:doe ratios for a more healthy  herd, reducing competition for forage to promote greater antler growth in bucks, reducing the potential for deer/vehicle collisions, and lessening the extent of potential crop depredation.

According to Bartholomew, overall deer harvest is down somewhat this year. He and fellow biologists had predicted as much, pointing to the wide availability of natural food sources that became available with the return of rainfall to much of the state.

Those rejuvenated food sources would keep deer from having to travel as far to meet their daily food requirements, reducing their visibility to hunters. Coupled with the increased food availability, the rains promoted dense vegetation regrowth that would make deer more difficult for hunters to see.

Additionally, inclement winter weather and icy road conditions throughout the deer gun season – including blizzard-like conditions and ice during the first weekend, heavy fog during the second weekend and bitter cold and poor road conditions during the last weekend – likely discouraged some hunters from traveling and limited some hunters’ success.

Bartholomew encourages hunters to help make up for the lower harvest by taking advantage of the holiday antlerless deer gun season. Archery hunters also can hunt through  Jan. 15, but will need to renew annual hunting and deer licenses if they plan to hunt Jan. 1-15.

Hunters participating in the holiday antlerless deer season must comply with the  hunter orange requirements for the regular deer gun season. Archery hunters and  those hunting most other species in open holiday antlerless zones must wear either a hunter orange hat or upper garment while hunting. Seasons on public lands may vary from statewide season dates. For a map of Oklahoma’s antlerless deer hunt zones and to see which counties will be open for the holiday antlerless deer gun season, consult page 20 of the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide,” as well as the “Public Hunting Lands” section starting on page 39 of the guide for seasons on specific public areas.

To learn more about this year’s holiday antlerless deer season, consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

Logo courtesy Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

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