Oklahoma deer hunting has come a long ways since I grew up there. When I was a boy, there were only a few counties in the state that were designated as "Shotgun Only" and I lived in one of them (in fact, it may have been the ONLY county designated as Shotgun Only). I never did hear a good reason why that was.
As a boy, I lived the good life. We lived on 45 rural acres with access to literally thousands more acres and many of those bordered a river. I could travel just about anywhere I wanted as long as my legs held out. And during the fall, I traveled! I trapped, hunted squirrels, rabbits, ducks, quail and dove plus I fished every chance I got.
It was a rare event to see a deer when I was growing up. Even seeing a fresh deer track was something to talk about at school.
Oklahoma Deer Hunting Today
Over the years, the Whitetail Deer herd has grown tremendously in Oklahoma. I'm fortunate enough today to hunt the same areas I wandered as a boy and Deer numbers are plentiful in all those same areas where they were scarce only 20 years ago. In fact, I've taken 2 of my best Whitetail bucks in that area. Talk about turnaround!
Today, I don't know of a County that doesn't hold a good deer population in Oklahoma. From the Panhandle to the Southeastern tip of the state, Oklahoma has deer in both numbers and size.
Sadly, as in many other parts of the country, private land is being leased up by corporations and commercial hunting interests at an alarming rate. Oklahoma deer leases fetch a pretty penny these days and it's hard for a Landowner to turn the extra money down. The days of you stopping by and asking a Landowner for permission to hunt are going away.
Thankfully, the Oklahoma Dept. of Wildlife has always had a far seeing vision for the state's game and fish. They have ongoing programs to purchase private land and turn it into managed public land. Many other states could take a lesson from the ODWC (ahemmm...Texas...are you listening?)
Public Lands to Find the Numbers of Deer
If bagging a deer is your goal, Oklahoma has many good Wildlife Management Areas for you to go. Click here for a map showing the locations and descriptions of Wildlife Management Areas in Oklahoma.
Some of the most popular places to tag a deer on public lands are: Three Rivers WMA, Quachita, Cherokee, Okmulgee, Canton, Cooper, Spavinaw, Eufaula.
Some of these Public WMA's have flooded timber so you might want to think about hunting flooded timber during the regular gun season if the regulations for that WMA allow it.
Some of these areas have special regulations concerning deer hunting so be sure to check the regulations before heading out.
Where to Find Oklahoma Public Land Trophy Bucks
Hunters looking to bag a trophy Whitetail Buck in Oklahoma have a good selection of places. However, as with all good things, there's a catch. Many of the best public land hunting for trophy bucks are on lands that are have controlled hunting. (that's why there are trophy bucks there.. )
The ODWC has what they call "Controlled Hunts" each year on a select number of tightly managed areas. Most are public land such as WMA's or NWR's. However, some are private lands such as the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant.
Here's a run down of some of the top Trophy spots in Oklahoma.
McAlester AAP is probably the best place for a public land hunter to see trophy bucks in Oklahoma. It's a controlled hunt but there is also another catch...the controlled hunt is traditional archery only. No compounds allowed. No releases allowed! No sights allowed!
I've been fortunate to be drawn into "Big Mac" 5 times over the years. 3 times back when you could actually use a compound bow. Every time I seen at least 3 P&Y bucks. Unfortunately the last hunt I had one hang up at 50 yards but just wouldn't come any closer. It's tough hunt, there's only 1 afternoon of pre-scouting. But for those that do their research and sharpen their Traditional Archery skills, it can pay off with a nice P&Y buck.
I'm amazed at how far people have traveled to hunt here. Each time I was drawn, I camped onsite and have met people as far away as New York.
IMHO, the best time to be drawn into a hunt at McAlester is the first two weekend of November, with the weekend around Nov. 12th being the best.
Click hereto see some of the bucks of McAlester AAP.
Salt Plains NWR
Salt Plains NWRis in Northwestern part of the state. The Salt Plains offers Archer, Muzzleloading and Gun hunts under controlled access and dates. Every year, there are some huge monsters taken in the Refuge.
The land around the NWR is agriculture and offers deer in the area plenty of grub to grow big. There are also food plots inside the NWR should a big buck want to avoid the hunting pressure around the Refuge boundaries.
Being a NWR, many areas can be pre-scouted before the Controlled Hunts.
Cookson WMAis in the Northeastern part of the State. I consider Cookson a sleeper for big bucks. Cookson WMA has a Muzzleloading and Gun Controlled hunt. The WMA is open in the late season to Archery hunters.
Cookson WMA is a tough hunt. There are steep brushy hills. In fact, Cookson WMA has it's own resident Elk herd and the steep hills in Cookson WMA suit them just fine.
As with any public land controlled hunt, your best bet is the first few weeks of November.
One of the widest bucks I've even seen I saw while leaving Cookson WMA on a Controlled Hunt. I had just pulled out on the highway from checking my own buck in and saw a hunter parked at a access road and turned to see him just walking in. I looked back down the road as I went by and a huge 8 point walked out. It looked like his antlers grew straight out to the sides of his heads. Funny thing was that buck was only about 75 yards from the Hunter I saw walking in, albeit on the opposite side of the road.
McGee Creekis located in the in the South-Southcentral part of the state.
Like Cookson, McGee Creek is a tough hunt. The terrain is steep so be prepared for some leg work. This hunt is not for the overweight, out of shape hunters!
McGee Creek has both Muzzleloading and Gun controlled hunts.
Pre-hunt scouting is essential due in part to the rough terrain. Hunter success is rather high and many good bucks come off the WMA each year.
There are plenty of food plots planted on McGee Creek, however as with any Public hunting area, many hunters will be parked on these. For success, get back off the beaten path and find your own secluded spot.
McGee creek consist of Oak-Pine forest that is typical for the Southeastern part of Oklahoma.
Wichita Mountains NWR
While many Oklahoma deer hunters think of the Wichita Mountains NWR as a Elk hunt, it's a little secret among some of us that the WMWR offers some good hunting for big bucks.
The Controlled Hunt for the Wichita Mountains NWR is Gun only.
This too is a tough hunt. There is a resident Elk herd living in the Mountains, so don't panic when you come up on a rub as big as your arm and 4 feet up the tree!
Scouting is the name of the Game here. You'll also do good with contacting the Biologist and others who are on the Refuge day after day. Pick their brains for the areas where they're seeing some good deer and then do your foot work.
Need More Choices for Hunting Deer in Oklahoma?
There are many more WMA's in Oklahoma to choose from. Truth be know, each year everyone one of them produces a good buck I'm betting. Of course, your chance of tagging one increases with less pressure.
Before heading out, read the Oklahoma deer huntingregulations to see what the bag limits are and if there are any restrictions to the piece of Public land you'll be choosing. Also, the ODWC has a digital map on their site where you can view aerial photo's and topo gradient for many of your favorite WMA's. It's a great research tool.
You can find the regulations and more informatio about deer hunting in Oklahoma by clicking here.