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FILLING THE FREEZERS: Oklahoma deer hunters seem to be having more success than last season

Ronny Lambeth of Edmond took this nice buck with a bow in northern Oklahoma County during the deer gun season. Sunday is the last day of the gun season, but archery deer season remains open through Jan. 15. [Photo by George Moore]

Ronny Lambeth of Edmond took this nice buck with a bow in northern Oklahoma County during the deer gun season. Sunday is the last day of the gun season, but archery deer season remains open through Jan. 15. [Photo by George Moore]

Judging from the flurry of activity at Terry's Taxidermy and Game in Oklahoma City, it's been a good deer season for hunters.

“We are just getting slammed,” said owner Terry Mayberry. “I haven't even had time to hear anybody's stories, just write up tickets and get them out of here.”

The 16-day deer gun season is the busiest time of the year at the wild game processing center. Like the mall at Christmas, Mayberry hires extra workers to help handle the rush.

”We've been up here until after 2:30 in the morning,” Mayberry said. “We've got a lot of head mounts in. We've gotten several big deer.”

Last year, a combination of drought and a major ice storm during the deer gun season produced one of the lowest harvests in recent years as Oklahoma hunters checked in only 88,467 deer.

Of course, that's an indication of how good the deer hunting is in Oklahoma when 88,000 is considered low. Sportsmen and women in Oklahoma are blessed to have deer hunting opportunities in all 77 counties of the state.

This year, Oklahoma's deer harvest was lagging 5 percent behind last year's total entering the gun season after a terrible youth season that was hot and windy. It really picked up during the rifle season, said Erik Bartholomew, a big game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

“This is the first gun season in several years where we haven't had a major winter weather event in the midst of it,” Bartholomew said. “Weather conditions have been great for deer hunting this time around. It's looking like gun season will be a pretty good harvest this year. There has been some good deer shot this year for sure.”

As of Thursday, the running deer tally from electronic checking on the Wildlife Department's website had exceeded 80,000.

With a big final weekend in the gun season plus more archery and gun hunting opportunities for does still ahead, Bartholomew expects the deer harvest will eclipse last year's total.

Sunday is the final day of gun season. Archery season continues through Jan. 15, and the holiday antlerless season opens Dec. 16 and runs through Dec. 25 in most regions of the state.

Oklahoma's deer population is still depressed from the drought, especially in western Oklahoma, and Bartholomew encourages hunters to participate in the antlerless season and harvest a doe.

"A balanced deer herd is a healthy deer herd,” Bartholomew said. “It's important for hunters to do their part and get out there during the holiday antlerless season where it's open and harvest an extra doe. That will certainly help get that buck-to-doe ratio back to more of a normal ratio.

“It sounds weird, but the more does you shoot, the more balanced your deer herd is and the healthier your deer herd is.”

The number of antlerless deer taken during Oklahoma's hunting seasons combined is normally 40 percent of the harvest. Oklahoma's deer biologists would like to see that number closer to 50 percent.

While shooting a doe doesn't generate any buck fever with hunters, it is more meat for the freezer. Each year, Terry's Taxidermy and Game produces between 6,000 and 7,000 pounds of deer sausage for hunters.

Mayberry has been processing wild game for almost 30 years, and his cheese and jalapeño deer sausage is what is requested most by customers.

“I had a call from a guy today, he was getting all of his (venison) made into summer sausage and he just gives it away from Christmas,” Mayberry said.

Sounds like a good guy to know.

Ed Godfrey

Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more... Read more ›

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