By Lynn Burkhead

By Lynn Burkhead

Herald Democrat

If you see smoke in the woods of Oklahoma this weekend, don’t panic.

Because it is probably nothing more than the precursor to a Sooner State deer hunter being all smiles.

After, of course, the hunter’s muzzleloader rifle — or smokepole, if you will — has belched a load of powder and a lead ball down range at a mature whitetail.

That prognostication for this weekend comes thanks to the start of the Oct. 26 through Nov. 3 muzzleloader season in the state of Oklahoma.

While the muzzleloader season attracts fewer hunters than the regular deer gun season does in late November, there will still be plenty of primitive firearms enthusiasts afield in Oklahoma this weekend looking for antlers and venison.

How big is the annual smokepole deer hunting celebration in the Sooner State?

Well, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation in Oklahoma City says that during the 2012 muzzleloader season, a total of 21,605 deer were harvested by hunters.

Those numbers are not shabby at all.

What’s more, based on the number of deer already being tagged this fall in Oklahoma during the state’s archery season and youth deer season, Erik Bartholomew, big game biologist for the ODWC, is expecting very good smokepole hunting results.

"So far hunters have checked in over 12,000 deer using the Department’s e-check system on," said Bartholomew.

To help a muzzleloader hunter fill his or her tag, the ODWC’s head deer man offers hunters some tips for smokepole success.

The first involves spending enough time on stand.

"With the recent onset of cooler weather, deer will be moving longer in the mornings and earlier in the evenings," said Bartholomew.

The second tip centers around finding a deer’s preferred chow hall.

"Hunters need to find natural food sources like oak trees that are dropping acorns or persimmon trees," said Bartholomew.

And finally, Bartholomew reminds hunters that there are plenty more rewards for Sooner State deer hunters who venture afield than just filling a tag.

"(Most) importantly, (hunters) just need to get out there and not miss any time in woods."

Amen to that.

Especially between Oct. 26 and Nov. 3, the 2013 smokepole season north of the Red River.