In addition to deer and turkey archery seasons, Oct. 1 also marks the opening for both bear archery season in southeast Oklahoma and antelope archery season in the northwest portion of the state.
“Black bear season regulations will be considerably different this year than in the first three seasons,” said Joe Hemphill, southeast region wildlife supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “The black bear population is growing in southeast Oklahoma, and we thought it was time to give hunters more time to hunt and better opportunities to be more selective about what bears they harvest.”
Bear archery season will run Oct. 1-21 in Latimer, Le Flore, McCurtain and Pushmataha counties and will not have a quota. Bear muzzleloader season will run from Oct. 27 – Nov. 4 in the same counties and will have a quota of 20 bears. Muzzleloader bear hunters must check by phone or online before hunting each day to see if the quota has been reached. Seasons on public lands may vary from statewide seasons, so hunters who plan to hunt on public land should consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” online at wildlifedepartment.com.
Two out of the first three black bear archery seasons ended within 48 hours of opening because the quotas were met, good weather and diligent hunters who made sure to be in the woods early in the season. But hunters who purchased black bear licenses in hopes of hunting later in the season never got an opportunity before the quota was met. By lifting the archery quota this year, biologists are confident that hunters will get more time in the woods and, since there is no rush to harvest a bear, hunters can be more selective about the bears they choose to take.
“This allows someone to archery hunt for a bigger bear than they otherwise would have attempted to harvest, because there is not the same urgency to be one of the first 20,” Hemphill said. “There’s a guaranteed number of days to archery hunt, plus a guaranteed muzzleloader season until the 20-bear quota is met.”
The combined season limit for black bear season is one bear, regardless of whether harvested in archery or muzzleloader season. No baiting is allowed on wildlife management areas, and shooting of cubs or females with cubs is prohibited. Additionally, den shooting and pursuing bears with dogs is prohibited.
To hunt black bears in Oklahoma, resident hunters must possess a hunting license or proof of exemption. Additionally, resident bear hunters must possess a bear license. Nonresident bear hunters are exempt from a hunting license while hunting bear but must possess a nonresident bear license. Lifetime license holders are not exempt from the purchase of a bear license. Requiring all hunters, including lifetime license holders, to purchase the bear license is an important aspect of the management of the black bear species in Oklahoma that helps track hunter numbers and harvest while ensuring that overharvest does not occur.
Bear licenses for the archery season must be purchased prior to Oct. 1, and unfilled bear licenses from the archery season are valid for muzzleloader season. Bear licenses for the muzzleloader season must be purchased prior to Oct. 27.
Upon harvesting a bear, all hunters must immediately attach their name and license number securely to the carcass and complete the “Record of Game” section on the license form. Also, upon harvesting a bear, all hunters must call Joe Hemphill at (580) 421-7226, or Jeff Ford, southeast region wildlife biologist, at (918) 527-9918. The carcass will be checked and a carcass tag issued, which must remain with the carcass to its final destination or through processing and/or storage. The head must remain attached to the carcass until the bear is checked. Bear carcasses may be checked in quartered, but sex organs must remain naturally attached until checked by a Department employee.
“Wildlife Department personnel will be available in the four-county hunt area during bear season to help check in bear harvests, visit with sportsmen, and to help ensure compliance of bear hunting regulations,” Hemphill said. “We will collect biological data from each bear harvested, including a tooth for age determination and specific size measurements. Additionally, bears harvested may be subject to forensic analysis to ensure legal means of harvest were observed. The Wildlife Department also will work in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service to establish several hunter check points throughout the hunt area for checking bear hunters.”
Over the years, biologists have collected data on Oklahoma bears from research projects and surveys, nuisance bear reports and now three years of successful legal hunting.
The first season in 2009 resulted in 19 harvested bears; 32 bears in a single day in 2010; and 31 bears last year in less than 48 hours. Hunters are expecting another successful season in the mountains of southeast Oklahoma.