Oct. 1 will be a busy day for thousands of “stick-and-string” hunters in Oklahoma. That Saturday is when several archery hunting seasons will open across the state. Those seasons are:
Deer archery, running through Jan. 15, 2023.
Elk archery, on private lands through Jan. 15, 2023 (or until zone quotas are met).
Black bear archery, running through Oct. 16.
Fall turkey archery, running through Jan. 15, 2023.
Pronghorn antelope archery, running through Oct. 14.
The popularity of archery hunting continues to grow in Oklahoma. For the third year in a row, archery deer hunters set a record with 36,522 deer taken, which accounted for 31 percent of all deer harvested in the state last year.
The annual Game Harvest Survey (GHS), a scientific survey conducted by the Wildlife Department, has been tracking hunter metrics for decades. The GHS estimated that 117,216 archers took to the field this past season with a deer license in hand.
“Another off season has come and gone. Big game hunters will be heading back to the woods come October 1st and have a lot to look forward to,” said Dallas Barber, Big Game Biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
“Populations are in good shape even amid the drought conditions that plagued much of the state during the summer. These first few weeks can be tough due to warm conditions, so archery hunters might place more effort in that first and last hour of legal shooting light.”
Barber said the early season is an ideal time to capitalize on antlerless deer opportunities. “Why not fill the freezer before focusing on bagging that big buck?
According to the 2021-22 Big Game Harvest Report published in the September/October issue of Outdoor Oklahoma magazine, archery hunters took 16,097 antlerless deer compared to 20,425 antlered deer.
“Doe harvest is critical to keeping a herd healthy,” he said. “It’s again time for hunters to meet the challenge to let young bucks grow and take a doe.”
In southeastern Oklahoma, archery hunters took 66 black bears last year. Senior Wildlife Biologist Jeff Ford said the summer’s hot and dry conditions could make this year’s bear hunting more challenging.
“These conditions may affect the fall mast crop, making it harder to find some good bear sign in the woods. So concentrate on water resources to find sign. Bears will frequent watering holes when the weather is hot.
“I would say the most important thing … is to find an area with fresh bear sign and then just stay with it. Most successful bear hunters start early in the season, and you may have to sit all day.”
Ford suggests public land hunters should scout as early as possible for areas with acorns (preferably white oak), which are most preferred by bears. “The acorns will start falling around the first of October, and bears are going to be searching them out.”
Bear hunters (including lifetime license holders) must buy a bear license before the season opens, as those licenses will not be sold after Sept. 30.
For complete regulations — including required licenses, open areas, harvest quotas, and reporting requirements — consult the 2022-23 Oklahoma Fishing and Hunting Regulations online at www.wildlifedepartment.com, on the Go Outdoors Oklahoma mobile app or Apple or Android, or in print free at license dealers statewide.