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

Controversial chronic wasting disease bill awaits Governor Stitt's signature May 2, 2024 Oklahoma, KOKH

... If Governor Stitt signs House Bill 3462 into law, the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (ODAFF) would have to create a pilot program to enhance the genetic durability of deer in Oklahoma against Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)...

Gov. Stitt signs bill simplifying, increasing Oklahoma hunting, fishing license fees March 28, 2024 Oklahoma, The Oklahoman

...  consolidating more than 50 license categories into 15 ...  Non-resident archers now buy a $300 deer hunting license. Next season, they will be required to purchase a $500 deer license plus a non-resident hunting license, increasing from $175 to $208...

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...

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