Just as the peak of the whitetail rut hits Oklahoma, so does the peak of the hunting season. Deer hunters have 14 days left in gun season and duck hunters have 14 days before the season takes a 13-day break.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, this year’s deer harvest is on a record pace. Prior to the start of gun season, Oklahoma hunters harvested 40,055 deer, which is a 26-percent increase over the same time last year.

Bowhunter harvest is nearly 10,000 and muzzleloader hunters harvested 27,280, including more than 17,000 bucks. If hunters continue on this pace, the 2006 deer harvest should exceed 105,000. The record is 102,100 set six years ago. Last years total harvest was 101,111 deer.

Quail season has been open since Nov. 11 and pheasant season will begin Dec. 1. For those of you who get lucky and tag out during deer season, head north for what could be the best waterfowl hunting for miles.

The Nov. 15 waterfowl report lists both Sooner Lake and Kaw Lake as having good numbers of waterfowl and good hunting success. Sooner is only a half foot below normal lake level and the habitat is reported to be fair with some submerged vegetation.

The winter wheat in the area is reported to be poor to fair and good duck numbers and a good variety of both puddle ducks and divers are present. Goose numbers are reported to be low and hunting success is fair for ducks and low for geese.

Kaw Lake, on the other hand, could currently be one of the best lakes in the state to duck hunt. The reason being is that Kaw is actually a quarter foot above normal lake level. That means the millet that is planted in the lake every year is submerged and the lakes habitat condition is good.

Nearly all the lakes in the area are reporting low water conditions and poor habitat, but Kaw Lake continues to hold ducks and a few geese. The early bird gets the pick of blind sites at Sooner and the Kaw WMA is a prime place to find good duck hunting.

The 2006-07 waterfowl season brought with it a boundary line change for duck zones in Oklahoma. A portion of duck zone 1 extends through southern Payne County, east to State Highway 18, between State Highways 51 and 33.

If you haven’t already done so, pick up a copy of the 2006-07 waterfowl guide and familiarize yourself with the specific zones and their regulations.

If you didn’t get a deer during opening weekend of gun seasons, don’t be concerned. The rut is in full swing and many hunters harvest trophy deer throughout the entire season. There is plenty of time left and you never know what will happen during the rut.

Again, I encourage those hunting for meat to take a doe and not a small buck. Hunters north of State Highway 33 can harvest a doe at any time during gun season and hunters south of 33 are restricted to five doe days; Nov. 18, 19, 25, 26 and Dec. 3.

Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor for the ODWC, said in the weekly wildlife report that taking does is not only good for the deer herd but could also provide hunters with the opportunity to share their harvest through the Hunters Against Hunger program.

Last year, hunters donated more than 34,000 pounds of venison to needy families around the state. All that has to be done to donate is to take your legally harvested deer to the nearest participating meat processor after it has been checked in. Each donator is requested to contribute a tax-deductible $10 donation to help with processing fees.

A list of participating meat processors is on page 26 of the 2006-07 Hunting Guide. For more information, you can also contact the wildlife department at (405) 522-6279.

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