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Deer season is huge in Oklahoma, and not just for hunters

Oklahoma's most popular hunting season, the deer gun season, opens Saturday statewide. [ODWC PHOTO]
Oklahoma's most popular hunting season, the deer gun season, opens Saturday statewide. [ODWC PHOTO]

In explaining the importance of the deer gun season in Oklahoma, the Wildlife Department often likes to cite the following statistic: There will be more people in the woods on the opening day of deer gun season in Oklahoma than what would fill Gaylord Family-Memorial Stadium in Norman and Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater combined.

It's true, but the football stadiums only hold so many people and if you count the fans who watch and listen to the Sooners and Cowboys on TV and radio, then college football is the big winner by comparison. But there is no question deer hunting, particularly the deer gun season, is huge in Oklahoma.

When you count the number of deer hunters and the amount of money they spend, the popularity of deer hunting can’t be overstated. For years, many schools across Oklahoma — particularly in southeast Oklahoma — have closed the entire week of Thanksgiving, not because of the holiday, but because of the deer gun season. The schools discovered long ago that there were so many students skipping school to go deer hunting it would be best to just close the entire week.

“The schools just kind of gave up on keeping kids in class during that time,” said Dallas Barber, big game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “Opening day (of deer gun season) is a bigger holiday than the first football game. It’s a tradition that has deep roots in the state. It is something that a lot of people will take their time off (from work) and vacation to be in the woods instead of propping their feet up at the beach.”

The economic impact of deer hunting to sporting goods retailers, meat processors, diners, motels and gas stations across the state is enormous.

“The ripple effect is just immense in a lot of these small communities,” Barber said.

The Wildlife Department reports — based on the 50-State Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Related Recreation conducted by the Rockville Institute — that almost $295 million was spent in Oklahoma in 2016 by big game hunters, which includes not only deer hunting but bear, antelope, turkey and elk hunting, as well. Deer hunting, however, is by far the biggest slice of that monetary pie.

Fifty-one percent of Oklahomans who own a hunting license go deer hunting. Turkey, the next most popular game species in the state, only has 15.8 percent of licensed hunters pursuing them.

Oklahoma’s deer gun season opens Nov. 23 and runs through Dec. 8. Here is a look at deer hunting in Oklahoma by the numbers:

184,032: The number of deer hunters in Oklahoma for all seasons combined: Archery, muzzleloader and gun.

159,056: The number of people who hunt during Oklahoma’s 16-day deer gun season.

5.8: The average number of days each person hunts during the 16-day deer gun season.

294,761,000: The amount of dollars spent related to big game hunting in 2016 in Oklahoma.

750,000: The estimated deer population in Oklahoma.

109,620: The number of deer checked in last year by hunters for all hunting seasons.

6,689: The number of deer checked in from Wildlife Management Area public lands in Oklahoma last season.

7,670: The total number of deer checked in by Oklahoma deer hunters in 1972.

235: The total number of deer checked in during Oklahoma’s first regulated deer hunting season in 1933.

0: The number of deer checked in during Oklahoma’s first archery season in 1946. It was not until 1951 that a deer was taken during the archery season.

28,886: The number of deer checked in during the 2018-19 archery season in Oklahoma.

222: The number of mule deer checked in by Oklahoma hunters last season.

77: The number of counties in Oklahoma where a hunter checked in a deer last season.

5,208: The number of deer checked in last season from Osage County, the most from any county.

159: The number of deer checked in last season from Cimarron County, the least from any county.

248 6/8: Antler inches of the state record non-typical whitetail deer.

194 0/8: Antler inches of the state record typical whitetail deer.

107: The number of hunting days in Oklahoma's archery season.

Woodward, Timberlake capture FFA sporting clays crown

The FFA Sporting Clays State Championship was held Wednesday at the Oklahoma City Gun Club.

The top team in the senior division (squad members are high school juniors and seniors) was Woodward. Luther finished second, and Westville was third.

Clay Laughlin of Durant was the top individual shooter, while Drake Parker of Woodward was second and Alex Griffith of Prague was third.

In the junior division (eighth grade and above), Timberlake was the winning team with Lone Grove finishing second and Woodward placing third.

Jacob Diller of Timberlake was the top shooter in the junior division, and teammate Colten Lormand was second. Tetonn Dixon of Woodward placed third.

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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