Oklahoma Deer Population:  About 650,000 deer in 2019, 640,000 in 2018, 635,000 in 2017, 630,000 in 2016, and 625,000 deer in 2015, up from 575,000 in 2014 which was the lowest population in 10 years.  Good weather in the summers of 2015 - 2020 allowed the population to rebound from a drought.  About 650,000 before the drought in 2010.  Herd analysis at right.  Historical Oklahoma deer hunting data and news archive.

Oklahoma Deer News

... the sale of resident archery deer licenses saw a 15% increase, and non-resident archery deer licenses had a rise of 28% percent.  Resident deer gun licenses were up 16% and licenses sold for the holiday antlerless deer gun season increased by 34%..,

CWD, Bluetongue disease outbreak killing deer July 2, 2021 Oklahoma, Muskogee Daily Phoenix
... In 1998, CWD was confirmed in a captive elk herd in Oklahoma County which had originally been imported from Montana... Oklahoma’s wildlife department has conducted CWD monitoring on hunter-harvested deer and road-killed deer and elk since 1999. CWD was not detected in laboratory testing of tissue samples from more than 10,000 wild deer and elk from throughout our state..,

... One clue to watch for are curled ears... “If the ears are curling like a flower that’s about to wilt, that means it’s dehydrated, and something possibly happened to the mother,” ... Another sign of danger are clusters of ticks around the eyes. That could mean blindness...

Oklahoma Wildlife Dept. hopes to bring elk back to Carter County May 28, 2021 KXII-TV
... Elk herds used to roam every county in Oklahoma, but along with bears, deer, and turkey, they began disappearing in the late 1800s and early 1900s as settlers moved westward..,

... Eighty-seven percent of the landowners surveyed supported the Arbuckle project, with 70 percent indicating strong support, Holmes said. Only 5 percent of landowners in the Arbuckle area were opposed to it ..,

New wildlife laws proposed February 7, 2021 Oklahoma, The Lawton Constitution
...  COVID-19, it gave people more opportunities to hit the deer woods.  Hunters flocked to the woods so much that they broke the all-time deer harvest record, eclipsing the 120,000 mark for only the second time in Oklahoma deer season history... when everything is verified, hunters will have taken nearly 126,000 deer this year..,

Man allegedly and illegally hauls deer between states January 15, 2021 Oklahoma, Texarkana Gazette
... transported an eight-point white-tailed deer across state lines ...  violations of federal law and in violation of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Code ...

Explaining the mystery about mountain lions in Oklahoma January 17, 2021 The Oklahoman
... Seven sightings in Oklahoma last year of mountain lions ... were determined to be true... more sightings of mountain lions in Oklahoma in 2020 than any other year since the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation started keeping such data in 2002..,

... This year, the department confirmed seven sightings, which is the most in a single year...  an uptick in sightings in the Panhandle, but there is a heavily established population there ... the increase in sightings in North-Central Oklahoma is different..,

Firearm season descends on hunters November 21, 2020 Oklahoma, Muskogee Daily Phoenix
... Oklahoma’s deer population is estimated at between 600,000 and 700,000.  Last year, firearms season saw 75,961 deer harvested... in 1964 the firearms season saw a harvest of only 3,368 deer..,

Oklahoma Deer season to begin Saturday November 15, 2020 Lawton Constitution
... A buck-to-doe ratio that is weighted heavily towards does also leads to females that remain unbred during the primary rut. As a result, a second, third, or even fourth breeding cycle can occur ...When this happens, bucks exert a tremendous amount of energy traveling great distances to rut for 2 to 3 months instead of 2 to 3 weeks...

... In some deer hunting zones in the state, the antlerless bag limit for deer gun season was increased from two to four and in other zones from one to two. In the Panhandle (deer hunting zone one) and southeast Oklahoma (deer hunting zone 10),.,

...  had velvet along its antlers, despite deer typically shedding their velvet in late August or early September ... is usually caused by a birth defect known as cryptorchidism. In extreme cases both testicles remain in the abdominal cavity and never descend into the scrotum...

White-tailed buck found headless in Wagoner County October 23, 2020 Oklahoma, KOKH – Oklahoma City
... The Oklahoma Game Wardens are asking for the public's assistance ... the deer had gunshot wounds and was believed to be killed between Wednesday night and Thursday morning...

Focus is on does as bowhunting season nears September 22, 2020 Oklahoma, Tulsa World
... Another mild and damp winter means deer had favorable breeding conditions ... The doe harvest failed again to reach that 40%-of-harvest goal.”  The doe report put the harvest at 37% ...

Deer season right around corner September 20, 2020 Oklahoma, The Lawton Constitution
... “Deer will be going into the winter in good shape this year,” ... With plenty of food and vegetation, deer stand a better chance of eating well and preparing for colder months ahead than they do when food is limited..,

Thinning forest canopy can pay off for landowners August 23, 2020 Oklahoma, Enid News & Eagle
... white-tailed deer can be found almost everywhere in North America, but they prefer to bed in areas with thick cover that provides protection from predators and the elements. Oklahoma deer prefer flowering plants but also forage on other types, including shoots, leaves and native grasses. They also eat acorns and fruit such as blackberries. Turning a forest into such a woodland is like opening a buffet line...

Deadly diseases around the country can impact deer population July 25, 202 Oklahoma, Muskogee Daily Phoenix
... No case of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has ever been confirmed in a free-ranging wild deer or elk in Oklahoma. In 1998, CWD was confirmed in a captive elk herd in Oklahoma County which had originally been imported from Montana.   In 2019, CWD was confirmed in one farmed Oklahoma elk in Lincoln County. ODWC announced it would step-up surveillance in areas ..,

... Starting at birth, a fawn is left alone throughout most of the day while its mother is off feeding. The mother deer does this to reduce the chance of attracting a predator to the fawn... “Don’t be a fawn kidnapper,” ...

... Chief of Wildlife Bill Dinkines told Commissioners antlerless harvest as a percentage of total deer harvest has decreased from 42 percent in 2014 to 36 percent in 2018... To promote antlerless deer harvest, a public information campaign will begin...

... State wildlife officials want to increase the antlerless harvest for better deer herd management. Does or antlerless deer represent only 36% of the total deer harvest during hunting seasons, down 5 to 6% from 2014...

... Some deer hunters expressed concern about added pressure on bucks and increased kills. Bird hunters and others complained about an added week of potential conflict afield. Landowners and others generally were opposed to “another week of putting up with the headache,” ...

... no long considering adding a week to the 16-day gun season as previously proposed. Instead, the agency is hoping hunters in the future will take more does through increased bag limits ...

...  A dead elk found outside the old Sears store ... Elk are not known to roam near Tulsa, so the poachers likely killed the cow elk, estimated to weigh about 200 pounds, many miles from where it ended up ...

Oklahoma data
:    A rough estimate of 600,000 to 700,000 in 2019, or about about 650,000.  Another estimate of 600,000 to 700,000 in 2020, but reports indicate some increase for the year.   More hunters were in the woods in 2020 because of COVID, increasing the deer kill.
     About 640,000 deer in 2018, 635,000 in 2017, and  630,000 in 2016 based on harvest data and comments from the state.  Good rainfall allowed deer populations to grow into 2019 and 2020.  Changes in hunting rules proposed in 2019 are focused on increasing the doe harvest to at least 40% in order to better balance the sex ratio of the herd.   A 2019 study puts the mule deer population density in the state at less than one per square kilometer.  A 2018 report puts the population at anywhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000.  The wildlife department estimated in 2019 that  deer hunting generates $600 million each year in the state.
     The mule deer population was estimated at 1,500 to 2,000 for 2015 through 2018. In 2016 and 2017 the deer population was rebounding from a five year drought. 

Mule Deer Population

Year  Mule Deer
Link to SourceEstimate
     Good weather in the summers of  2015 - 
2017  allowed the population to expand into 2017 and 2018 with another mild summer that provided good habitat.  A fair amount of precipitation in 2018, but drought in the southwest.  
In 2017 the percent of 1.5 year old bucks killed in the hunting season was 49 percent, down from 65 percent in 1985.  Good weather and rain increased the deer population in the central and eastern part of the state in 2015 and conditions continued to improve in 2016.  The drought in other areas, particularly the west, and an ice storm during the deer gun season resulted in a low deer harvest of 88,467 in 2015. Over the five years of drought, the population fell by 10 to 15 percent into 2015.    
     An estimated 625,000 deer in 2015, about 200,000 deer hunters.   The 2014 deer population was the lowest in 10 years, estimated at 575,000.  Spring rains in 2014 improved fawn survival.  Rain in the central region in the fall of 2013 and good acorn production in the northeast improved herd health.   Drought in the four years prior to 2013 devastated populations in the northwest and reduced populations statewide.   
     A widespread outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) also reduced populations in 2012.  Fawn survival was very low in the southwestern portion of the state in 2011.  Drought reduced populations in 2011 and 2012, a population of about 650,000 before the drought in 2010.  About 200,000 deer hunters in 2015.  Deer densities are higher in the east.  Deer in the southeast mountains have more limited forage that prairie deer supplemented by agriculture.
     History:  Deer were abundant in Oklahoma through the 1870's, but after the territory was opened in 1889 unregulated hunting and land use changes quickly reduced the population so that by 1916 there were only about 500 deer left.  Hunting was prohibited in 1922, reopened in six counties in 1933 with 235 bucks taken.  Hunting was closed for most of the next decade and in 1943 deer were transplanted into the state for several years until the state opened a state-wide gun season in 1954.  A relocation project within the state from 1947 to 1972 redistributed about 9,000 deer from population centers such as the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Source.  Estimated 1989 population:  250,000.  Hunters took more than 40,000 deer in 1990, 25 percent does.  In 2000 the harvest exceeded 100,000
     Deer density is highest in the southeast where there is rugged forest with steep hills.  Total historic deer harvest below from Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

More than half the bucks harvested in the state recently have been 3.5 years old or older, compared to about 33 percent on average - better demographics for the herd.  Hunting Statistics  The 2013 hunt took 59.3 percent bucks. In 2013 the state started the s “Hunters In The Know Let Bucks Grow,” program, which encourages hunters to pass up shots on younger bucks in favor of taking only mature bucks.  Hunting generates an estimated $600 million annually in the state.  About 200,000 hunters.  Legal to feed deer.
    Chronic Wasting Disease  No cases confirmed in a free-ranging wild deer or elk but in 1998, CWD was confirmed in a captive elk herd in Oklahoma County and in 2019, CWD was confirmed in one farmed Oklahoma elk in Lincoln County. 
    Elk   A rough estimate of 5,000 elk in 2019, up from 3,200 in 2012 based on a helicopter survey.  .. a helicopter survey in 2012 and estimated 3,200 free-ranging elk statewide. Elk that were found in the Wichita Mountains prior to settlement were hunted to extinction by 1875.  In 1901 a refuge was created.  In 1908, one bull elk of unknown origin was donated from Wichita, Kansas. In 1911, five Rocky Mountain elk, one bull and four cows, were transplanted from the National Elk Refuge herd in Jackson, Wyoming.   About 300 elk in the panhandle when first hunting season opened in 2014.  The 2015-16 report.  2016-17 report.  In 2021 a project to investigate relocating elk to the Arbuckle mountain range.
    At least 1500 bears, based on a previous estimate, but a growing population in the southeast.
    Mountain Lion:  An established population in the panhandle, more sightings in the northeast in 2020.
Report Poaching:   Operation Game Thief hotline at 1 (800) 522-8039. Rewards are available

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