By Jon Kocan
Stillwater News Press
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Oklahoma hunters can now add elk to the list of species that have a statewide hunting season.
On Monday the Oklahoma the Wildlife Conservation Commission voted to approve a statewide elk season. The season dates will be concurrent with deer season dates, and the limit will be one elk combined.
As with the recent addition of a bear season, the elk season will have a quota. Hunters will be able to harvest 60 elk, and will also be required to check before hunting to make sure the quota for the area they intend to hunt is not full.
This move suggests that elk have established themselves and are causing damage to private lands they inhabit.
With this addition begs a valid question. What does Oklahoma lack as far as being one of the best states for big game hunting? In the past an argument could be made for the lack of predator hunting in the state. But we do have a bear season that has been successful.
We have a tremendous deer herd that is very accessible. We are centered in the heart of the central flyway and get large migration of ducks and geese. But we do not have the dispersal of other game animals that would be required to put our state near the top.
The promise of an elk season is exciting, but something that will most likely have no impact on people in this part of the state. The same has been true for bear hunting. Good for the state but really only for hunters in the southeast portion.
Most people that want to hunt elk will travel to New Mexico or Colorado. Tags are available over the counter, public land is plentiful and the experience of hunting in a mountain setting makes it worth the trip.
The introduction of a statewide elk season should be celebrated. Pennsylvania and Kentucky have both successfully reintroduced elk. Both states have established huntable populations, and Michigan and West Virginia look to be next in line.
Even Arkansas has a strong herd of elk that live along the Buffalo River. But like Oklahoma, those elk will remain an isolated herd that does not bloom into a resource that will overflow with hunting opportunity.
Not all antlers have dropped just yet
I’m still waiting to start my search for shed antlers.
I spotted another buck with antlers still attached Thursday night. He wasn’t very old, maybe a large two-year old. General thought would say this deer should have lost the high levels of testosterone a month ago that caused his antlers to harden.
I saw another buck in the same age range last week while driving home with antlers proudly displayed. The fields I drive by that frequently have deer contain more large, dark bodied deer that don’t have antlers. Judging from the numbers I think more than half the bucks have shed their antlers, but some bucks are still holding on.
Deer have been concentrating in areas with good forage and if you can find them, antlers should be concentrated as well. One a winter wheat field, and keep an eye on one that has had a steady increase in deer numbers over the last month. Within the last week those numbers have jumped from six to eight in on evening, to nearly twenty deer each night.
Jon Kocan is an outdoor columnist for the Stillwater News Press. Kocan is a long-time local hunter.