Oklahoma Deer Population:  An estimate of 750,000 whitetail deer or more in 2021 with about 2,000 mule deer.  An upward population trend in 2022 and 2023.  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.  2023 Rut Report

Oklahoma Deer News

Oklahoma Game Wardens seek public aid in unusual deer dumping case in Osage County February 17, 2024 KTUL

... The deer appeared to be 'unlawfully raised as a fawn and had to red ear tags ... it was 'simply killed, and maliciously dumped/abandoned to the driveway.' ...

Improve deer herd during antlerless season December 23, 2023 Oklahoma, Yahoo Sports

... According to the book, Quality Deer Management: The Basics and Beyond by Charles J. Alsheimer, many unpleasant things happen when the doe population is out of control.  He explains that in recent years the whitetail population has exploded across North America because of improper deer management ...

Mountain Lion Sighted On Trail Camera In Osage County December 5, 2023 Oklahoma, News on 6

... Furgerson has a trail camera set up on his property to keep an eye on his deer feeder ..,

Oklahoma 2023 Rut Report November 16, 2023 ODNR News

... This year’s Rut Report indicates plenty of hunter success is likely, as plenty of deer movement is being reported in all regions of the state ... 

Fall increases chances for roadway October 13, 2023 Oklahoma, Journal Record

...  deer-mating season is in the fall, so animals are much more likely to be on the prowl and crossing roadways. Accidents also may rise after people reset their clocks in the fall and are more likely to be driving around dawn or dusk...

Oklahoma's big-game hunting forecast positive despite challenges October 5, 2023 Yahoo News

... Hunting effort appears sharply reduced in the report, but it’s a forced inaccuracy... The annual Game Harvest Survey, a scientific survey used by the Wildlife Department to track hunter participation for decades, was thrown askew when Gov. Kevin Stitt refused to renew hunting and fishing compacts with the Cherokee and Choctaw nations in late December 2021..,

Oklahoma deer hunting season opens, as wildlife agency sees less funding due to lack of tribal compacts October 4, 2023 KOSU

... . “We’ve been in an upward trend, and habitat, on a statewide basis, looks good. We had rain where we needed it, and there is a lot of good habitat ...  a record-smashing total white-tailed deer harvest of 134,158, which firmly eclipsed the previous record of 126,290 in 2020, presumed at the time to be a result of more hunters afield due to COVID pandemic shutdowns that season...

Five Oklahoma Counties Affected by CWD Special Surveillance Areas: Important Transport Rules Apply September 23, 2023 Oklahoma, ODWC News

...When a wild deer or elk tests positive for CWD [chronic wasting disease], ODWC activates its CWD Response Strategy. This includes designation of Selected Surveillance Areas (SSA) in Cimarron, Texas, and Woodward counties, and parts of Major and Woods counties.  Hunters who harvest deer or elk within the boundaries of an SSA must process those animals before leaving the SSA.

Second chronic wasting disease-positive deer confirmed in Oklahoma July 3, 2023 The Norman Transcript

... The deer was located about 15 miles east of Woodward in Woodward County after a landowner reported the deer behaving abnormally.  Oklahoma's first case of a wild deer infected with CWD was confirmed the first week of June in Texas County ..,

ODWC approves antlerless deer, other seasons June 27, 2023 Oklahoma, 

Tahlequah Daily Press

... Preliminary numbers show (2022) harvest over 131,000 deer, a new record harvest with 45 percent being antlerless. Commissioners approved proposed dates, zones and bag limits for antlerless deer, which are nearly identical to last year’s seasons...

Wildlife Commission Approves Migratory Birds, Antlerless Deer Season Dates June 8, 2023 Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

... Big Game Biologist Dallas Barber said last year’s increased opportunities for antlerless deer harvest produced good results and bolstered the Department’s deer management goals. Preliminary numbers show harvest over 131,000 deer, a new record harvest with 45 percent being antlerless ...

ODWC Activates CWD Response Strategy After Diseased Wild Deer Found in Panhandle June 6, 2023 Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation News

...This marks the first case of CWD in a wild deer in Oklahoma... the third instance of CWD documented in the state, but the previous two involved captive, farm-raised elk. The first was in Oklahoma County in 1998, and the next was in Lincoln County in 2019. Agriculture Dept. officials euthanized all the elk in those facilities, and they were no longer allowed to raise cervid species...

Economic returns and the perceived obstacles to adopting active management in the forest-grassland transition ecoregion in south-central USA 2023 Oklahoma, Environmental Management

... We estimated the economic returns from managing forest and rangeland in southeastern Oklahoma, USA to produce different combinations of timber, cattle forage, and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus Zimmermann) browse for a 40-year period... The highest net return was obtained from the treatment with harvested timber that was burned every four years (uneven-aged woodland/forest) because it had the greatest gross return from a combination of timber (46%), cattle forage (42%), and deer browse (11%). The return from this treatment was greater than that for managed for timber only (closed-canopy forest) or prioritizing cattle and deer (savanna)...

Commission Issues Statement on Arrow Rifles in Archery Season April 6, 2023 Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

... the Wildlife Commission doesn’t support allowing the use of arrow rifles during archery deer season, and recommends to the Legislature and Governor that SB 352 and HB 2355 be stricken or vetoed if necessary. Air-powered arrow rifles are currently legal for hunting during any season that allows the use of rifles...

Bill To Open 'Velvet Buck' Season In Oklahoma Passes Through The State Senate March 10, 2023 Oklahoma, News on 6

... Senate Bill 910 aims to create a nine-day archery season for bucks in velvet that would start the Saturday morning prior to the last weekend of August ...  to give hunters another nine days of deer season, to add more opportunity for hunters and to create another revenue stream...

'Oh Deer': Neighbors Rescue Young Deer Caught in Barbed Wire Fence March 3, 2023 Oklahoma, YAHOO!News

... A young deer was saved by a couple who noticed it caught, hanging by a foot, on their neighbor’s fence, whilst driving in Kiowa, Oklahoma.  Footage shared to TikTok ...

Oklahomans set to crush deer hunting record during 2022-2023 season January 3, 2023 Yahoo! Sports

... "Hunting conditions have been really good," department biologist Dallas Barber said.  Oklahoma's statewide drought this year likely contributed to the record harvest ... drought also forced animals into a wider range as they searched for food, water and cover..,

Oklahoma Rut Report November 18, 2022 ODOW News

... “A lot of people have been kind of concerned with all the drought that’s been going on,” said Big Game Biologist Dallas Barber with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “But what we see with drought a lot of the time is that we have a higher harvest. … Deer are having to move a lot farther to meet those needs that they have.” ...

Video Below:  Each year the week before Oklahoma's deer rifle hunting season starts, we bring you our deer season special. We sit down with the ODWC's big game biologist as we discuss hot topics and current projections for the season. - November 13, 2022 Oklahoma

Officials warn of peak season for Oklahomans hitting deer November 12, 2022 Oklahoma, KOKH

... The Oklahoma Highway Safety Office says 836 cars struck deer in 2021, but most deer impacts aren’t reported, so the true number is much higher ...

New Oklahoma hunting, fishing licenses will be good for one year from purchase October 24, 2022 The Oklahoman

... Oklahoma's severe drought actually can be beneficial to deer hunters in the short term, but it's not good for the future of deer hunting, said Dallas Barber, big game biologist for the Wildlife Department...,

These folks are on track October 14, 2022 Oklahoma, Muskogee Phoenix

.... Oklahoma is in its seventh year allowing the use of canines to find downed animals.  “We’ve received over 112 calls so far this season and recovered 55 deer during the first 10 days of the Oklahoma archery season,” ...

Man selling deer skull art says it was confiscated by Oklahoma game wardens October 7, 2022 KOKH

... He says he gets the skulls off the road or in the woods in different parts of the country ... Oklahoma wildlife officials say you can't sell an animal skull with antlers in Oklahoma if it isn't documented...

Officials: Chronic wasting disease found in deer near Oklahoma border September 9, 2022


... The deer was found about 2.5 miles south of the Oklahoma border in the western Panhandle ... the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has activated the next stage of the CWD Response Plan ..,

'Something that can't be replaced': What a turnpike project could mean for Oklahoma wildlife August 18, 2022 NPR

... residents who regularly see deer grazing in their yards and eagles soaring overhead are also wondering, what’s going to happen to all the wildlife and the facility that takes care of them? And how far does the law go to protect them? ...

Air powered arrow rifles legalized for hunting in Oklahoma August 7, 2022 Yahoo

... on Monday approved emergency rules for use of air powered arrow rifles during big game rifle seasons.  The air guns are also commonly called air bows, but they will be illegal to use in Oklahoma during archery and muzzleloader seasons...

How will weather affect Oklahoma's deer population? Bucks could have smaller antlers this fall July 30, 2022 Yahoo! Sports

... Most fawns are dropped in late May and Oklahoma was still green and flush in the first few critical weeks of their lives this spring, Barber said. However, fawns born late or that become ill will have a harder time surviving the summer's heat and drought ..,

OKC Fire uses jaws of life to rescue fawn with head trapped in fence July 13, 2022 Oklahoma's News

... The fawn was weak and had some abrasions on its neck but mom was just inside the treeline waiting ...

'It takes so much effort to get a law changed': Why the Wildlife Department wants authority over licenses, fees January 30, 2022 Oklahoma, Yahoo

... the only way to change licensing and fees is through the legislative process... Senate Bill 1709 ... and House Bill 4086 ... are essentially identical bills requested by the Wildlife Department that would give the agency the authority to establish licenses and set prices...

'A great year regardless:' Oklahoma deer hunters fall short of last season's record January 21, 2022 Yahoo! Sports

... Oklahoma hunters killed 117,638 deer this past season, short of last season's record total of 126,290... The total population of deer in Oklahoma is estimated to be 750,000 or more ... Dallas Barber, big game biologist ..,

Friends of deer named Christmas mourn after white doe turns up at processor December 30, 2021 Oklahoma, Tulsa World

...  someone has killed Christmas — and on Christmas Day, no less.  Christmas, a pure-white white-tailed deer popular with residents of the Cleora area near Grand Lake for many years, apparently was killed ... she adopted a herd of cattle as a fawn ...

Gov. Kevin Stitt won't renew hunting, fishing compacts with OK tribes December 13, 2021 Oklahoma, The Oklahoman

... Leaders of Oklahoma’s two largest tribes said Monday that they would issue their own hunting licenses to citizens...

Northwestern Oklahoma's mule deer are prone to stotting ... Huh? November 29, 2021 The Oklahoman

... Stotting is that peculiar thing in which a mule deer jumps into the air with all four feet off of the ground. It's as if the mule deer is locomoting along with the aid of a pogo stick...

Trap and transplant: How work in the 1940s led to Oklahoma's huge deer population today   November 17, 2021 The Oklahoman

...When Oklahoma became a state in 1907, the total deer population was estimated at 500. Today, the state has an estimated deer population of 750,000..,

Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Deer Season Update November 10, 2021 

... For the entire state deer harvest last year, 43 percent were antlerless deer, the greatest percentage since 2010. And it was the first time since 2015 that Oklahoma’s antlerless harvest met the goal of 40 to 45 percent set by biologists... Again this year, the bag limit for deer gun season is four, with only one of those being antlered. Additional antlerless harvest is encouraged by increased antlerless harvest opportunities within some Antlerless Deer Zones. “Doe harvest is critical to keeping a herd healthy,” ..,

Oklahoma Department of Wildlife: Some whitetail deer test positive for COVID-19  November 10, 2021 Oklahoma's News

... Every year, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife conducts a health study on a sample population of deer. Recently, some of those deer have come back as having COVID-19...

Tracking dogs recover deer October 7, 2021 Oklahoma, Sequoyah County Times

... if you have hunted long enough, you or someone you know has failed to recover a deer.  Oklahoma Blood Trackers can aid your efforts to find the animal.   ...“I have been on 38 tracks and fortunate to have found 12 so far this season with about a month and a half left to go, so my recovery rate is right at 31 percent,” ... 

Oklahoma archery seasons open Friday for deer, bear, elk and antelope September 27, 2021 The Oklahoman

... an increased participation in deer hunting, largely attributed to COVID-19 as the outdoors became one of the few safe places to be. A record 218,548 hunters participated in the deer gun season last year..,

Safeguard wildlife from aflatoxins in grain September 24, 2021 Oklahoma, Muskogee Phoenix

... Avoid grains with visible signs of mold growth, which might be an indicator that aflatoxins are present.  Do not buy grains that are clumped together ... Always purchase grain from reputable dealers ...Only purchase grain planned for use in the immediate future...

Oklahoma 2020-21 Big Game Harvest Report September 22, 2021  Outdoor Oklahoma Journal

... Deer season resulted in record-shattering numbers for hunter participation and harvest. Elk hunt­ing saw a substantial increase in har­vest... A total of 126,290 deer were har­vested during the 2020-21 seasons, the most ever. More importantly, antlerless harvest made up 43 per­cent of the total harvest, the highest since 2010 and a 5 percent increase from the 2019-20 season...

Heads up for hunters as deer wasting disease cases rise September 18, 2021 Oklahoma, Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise

.. "With CWD prevalence in surrounding states, it is likely that at some point we will detect it in wild deer [in Oklahoma]," said Dwight Elmore, an Oklahoma State University wildlife biologist ... it has only been detected in captive elk in Oklahoma ...

What is the future of hunting in Oklahoma? COVID-19 increased participation, but will it last? July 26, 2021 The Oklahoman

... 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..,

Orphaned fawns overwhelm Green Country animal rescue: 'Leave fawns alone' June 11, 2021 Oklahoma, KJRH

... 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..,

Elk in the Arbuckles? Wildlife Department may relocate elk to the mountain range May 16, 2021 Oklahoma, The Oklahoman 

... 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..,

2020 was an active year for spotting mountain lions in Oklahoma January 8, 2020, KOCO Oklahoma City

... 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...

Oklahoma's most popular hunting season set to open November 15, 2020 The Oklahoman

... 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),.,

Velvet found on antlers of whitetail buck, Oklahoma officials say. What causes it? November 3, 2020 Oklahoma, Kansas City Star

...  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 ..,

State game wardens advise Oklahomans to not pick up young deer May 23, 2020 Oklahoma, Oklahoma's News

... 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,” ...

Wildlife commission approves changes for antlerless deer, waterfowl hunting May 9, 2020 Oklahoma, Tulsa World

... 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...

Wildlife Commission makes changes to deer, duck hunting seasons May 5, 2020 Oklahoma,  The Oklahoman

... 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...

'Many, many' public comments sink proposal to expand deer hunting season February 12, 2020 Oklahoma, Tulsa World

... 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,” ...

Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation scraps proposal to lengthen deer gun season February 9, 2020 The Oklahoman

... 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 ...

Poachers killed an elk and dumped it in Tulsa; wardens are asking for help with clues January 4, 2020 Oklahoma, Tulsa World

...  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 Deer News and Information Archive by Topic: Population and Management, Deer in the News, Disease, Suburban, Transportation

Oklahoma Data: Rain and good habitat conditions in 2023 should allow some increase in the deer population.  2023 Rut Report.  Drought in 2022 limited food for deer, but increased hunter success as deer search for food.  The 2022 deer kill from the hunt of 131,781 was a record high, 12 percent above 2021 and 29 percent above the year 2000 hunt, although hunter participation was underestimated in the 2022 report.  A deer population estimated at 750,000 in 2021 although another estimate puts the number at 600,000 to 700,000.  There is a small population of mule deer in the western part of the state, estimated at about 2,375 (1,750 – 3,000) in 2023 and flucuating around 2,000 since 2013 with a slighty upward trend since 2019.

An estimate of 600,000 to 700,000 deer, or about 650,000 deer, in 2020, but reports indicate some increase for the year suggesting the population was close to the top end of that range at 700,000.   More hunters were in the woods in 2020 because of COVID, increasing the deer kill  In 2019, another estimate of 600,000 to 700,000.  

About 640,000 deer in 2018, 635,000 in 2017, and  630,000 in 2016 based on huntig 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.

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.   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.

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., but one population estimate of 750,000 deer.  Drought reduced populations in 2011 and 2012, a population of about 650,000 before the drought in 2010.  A population estimate of 480,000 in 2009, 475,000 in 2004, 425,000 in 1999, and 250,000 in 1990Estimated 1989 population:  250,000

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 1907 to 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.  

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., 1972 to 2016.

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.   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  The state announced the first and second case in a wild deer in June, 2023, in the panhandle area.  Previously, 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.   A positive wild deer found 2.5 miles south of the panhandle border in 2022.


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 and 2023.

Report Poaching:   Operation Game Thief hotline at 1 (800) 522-8039. Rewards are available

Video Below:  The History of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.  September 13, 2012