This weekend marks the start of Oklahoma’s biggest outdoors tradition, the state’s two-week long gun deer season.
According to Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation officials, some 150,000-plus members of Oklahoma’s orange army will head into the woods this Saturday morning for the start of the Nov. 23-Dec. 8 campaign.
As they do, expectations are high for another outstanding season to unfold thanks to recent big buck trends, a high statewide deer population estimated at some 750,000 whitetails, and good habitat conditions across most of the Sooner State.
“We’ve been blessed with timely rains this year, as we have the past several years,” said ODWC big game biologist Dallas Barber in a news release. “And as habitat continues to improve, deer populations also continue to grow.”
Such population growth helped the state’s firearms hunters take 66,068 deer (22,739 does and 43,329 bucks) during the 2018 gun deer season. Not only is that the highest total for an Oklahoma gun deer harvest since 2011, it also represents a full 60.5-percent of the state’s total deer harvest last year (109,260 deer in all seasons combined).
With a near state record typical buck taken in Pawnee County last month, hunters on the north side of the Red River have a good chance at not only a supply of fresh venison for the freezer, but also a big set of trophy antlers for the wall during the upcoming two-week period .
Incidentally, that recent near state record whitetail was a massive bow buck taken back in October by 18-year old Oklahoma State student Gunner Womack. With a green gross score of 209 4/8-inches and a green net score of 192 6/8-inches, look for more on the Womack deer at NorthAmericanWhitetail.com.
New Antlerless Deer Regs Down South: If your deer hunting activity happens to take you to one of 21 counties in south-central Texas over the next few weeks, take note that there are both new antlerless deer hunting opportunities along with some new antlerless deer harvest regulations.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department says those 21 counties start with Austin, Bastrop, Caldwell, Colorado, Dewitt, Fayette, Gonzales, Guadalupe, Karnes, Lavaca, Lee, Waller, Washington and Wilson. Also included in the change are Goliad, Jackson, Victoria and Wharton counties north of U.S. Highway 59 and Comal, Hays and Travis counties east of Interstate 35. In those counties, TPWD says that hunters can partake for the first time in a four-day antlerless season that runs from Nov. 28- Dec. 1.
But with that expansion of doe harvest opportunity also comes a new mandatory reporting mandate for any antlerless deer harvested during the new 4-day doe season. TPWD notes that is along with new reporting requirements for any antlerless deer harvested in those counties during the archery, youth only and muzzleloader seasons too.
In the seasons mentioned above, hunters taking a doe in those 21 counties must report that antlerless deer to TPWD within 24 hours of harvest. Such mandatory doe harvest reports can be made to the agency using either the “My Texas Hunt Harvest” mobile app (for iOS and Android devices) or on TPWD’s “My Texas Hunt Harvest” web page (go to www.tpwd.texas.gov).
New Mule Deer Buck Regs Out West: This Saturday marks the start of mule deer season in some parts of Texas. As the season begins for muleys out west, TPWD is reminding hunters about experimental antler restriction regulations now in place in seven Texas Panhandle counties.
Those regulations, which actually started last year in six of the seven counties according to TPWD, prohibit the harvest of any mule deer buck with a main beam outside spread of less than 20 inches in Briscoe, Childress, Cottle, Floyd, Hall, Lynn, and Motley counties.
According to a TPWD news release, mule deer season in Lynn County runs Nov. 23 – Dec. 1. In the other six counties participating in the experimental antler restriction, the mule deer season will run Nov. 23- Dec. 8.
Similar in nature to more restrictive whitetail buck regulations in parts of Texas, TPWD notes that the goal of the new regulations out in the Panhandle is to improve mule deer buck age structure in the herd along with buck-to-doe sex ratios in the counties mentioned above. That will hopefully be accomplished by these new regs aimed at reducing excessive hunting pressure on younger muley bucks.
As many hunters already know, the antler restrictions for white-tailed deer mentioned above have been in place for a number of years in other parts of the Lone Star State. According to many hunters going afield in those counties along with TPWD officials in Austin, such measures have successfully shifted the whitetail age class structure towards older bucks.
New Bass Kayak Trail Coming to Texas: With kayak fishing growing quickly and already immensely popular across Texas and the rest of the nation, officials with B.A.S.S. have announced a new tournament trail aimed at bass fishermen who use the small plastic vessels.
The new trail - officially dubbed the Huk Bassmaster B.A.S.S. Nation Kayak Series - will feature five regular season events in 2020 on well known bass fisheries across the nation. That inaugural season next year will culminate with a championship kayak bass fishing event to be held in conjunction with the 2021 Academy Outdoors + Sports Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk.
“You don’t have to look very hard these days to find a kayak in the bed of a truck or strapped to the roof of a SUV,” said Bruce Akin, CEO of B.A.S.S., in a news release. “People are bass fishing from kayaks all over the world — and they’re doing it everywhere from big lakes and rivers to small creeks and ponds.
“With this new trail, we wanted to give those anglers an opportunity to show what they can do from a small craft.”
B.A.S.S. says in its news release that the inaugural 2020 tournament will be held on March 5 on Logan Martin Lake in Pell City, Ala. Incidentally, that first kayak event will be in conjunction with the 50th edition of the Bassmaster Classic
That first kayak tour stop will then be followed by a visit to the East Texas lunker factory Lake Fork (out of Lake Fork Marina on March 14) as well as stops at Tennessee’s Chickamauga Lake (May 23), the Mississippi River in La Crosse, Wis. (Aug. 15) and at California’s Clear Lake (Aug. 29).
Entry fees for all of the events will be $250, and each will pay 30 places according to B.A.S.S. Based on a full field of 150 kayaks, the total purse for each event will be $30,000.
According to B.A.S.S., registration for the kayak bass fishing tournament trail is now open online at https://ssl.palmcoastd.com/app/bass/registration/kayak/2020. Do note that anglers must be a B.A.S.S. member (www.bassmaster.com ) to sign up.