Deer Harvest on record pace

Deer hunters are on track to rack up an all-time record harvest for the 2022-23 seasons, based on raw numbers submitted to the online E-check system as reported during the regular January meeting Monday of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Chief of Wildlife Bill Dinkines of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation said preliminary numbers show 128,786 harvested deer had been reported by hunters as of Monday. The previous record high for Oklahoma’s deer harvest was set in 2020-21, when 126,290 animals were taken.

Dinkines also said antlerless deer accounted for 45 percent of total harvest to date, which pleases Wildlife Department biologists who manage the state’s deer herd. Biologists have appealed to hunters the past several years to take more antlerless deer, which offers many benefits for overall herd health.

Wildlife Department Director J.D. Strong said these early raw numbers  show how the Department’s “Hunters in the Know … Take a Doe!” public awareness campaign, along with increased opportunities for taking antlerless deer, are paying off. Addressing wildlife management goals through education and voluntary efforts is always better than having to impose new regulations, Strong said.

In other business:  

•   Commission Chairman Leigh Gaddis presented a commendation from Gov. Kevin Stitt recognizing the service of the late Bill Brewster, who served on the Commission from 2016-22. In accepting the honor, Brewster’s widow, Suzie, said of all the positions he served, whether elected or appointed, her late husband said the one thing he wanted to do was to serve on the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission. 

•   Commissioners approved a donation of $3,750 from the Central Oklahoma 89er Chapter of Quail Forever for habitat work on northwestern Oklahoma wildlife management areas. Pairing the donation  with federal Pittman-Robertson wildlife restoration matching funds (3:1) will provide a total of $15,000 for conservation work. 

•   Commissioners approved naming the building at Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area after William H. “Bill” Crawford. Crawford served on the Commission from 1991 to 2001 and was instrumental in the Hackberry Flat wetland restoration project. 

•   In his regular Director’s Report, Strong provided updates from ODWC’s various divisions since the previous meeting. He said planning is underway for this year’s Rack Madness public antler-scoring event, set for Feb. 24 at ODWC headquarters. 

The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The Commission establishes state hunting and fishing regulations, sets policy for the Wildlife Department and indirectly oversees all state fish and wildlife conservation activities. Commission members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Oklahoma Senate.

The next scheduled Commission meeting is set for Feb. 6, 2023, at the John D. Groendyke Wildlife Conservation Building, 1801 N. Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City.

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