From the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation
-- Wildlife professionals from the southeastern United States recently convened in Oklahoma City for the 34th annual meeting of the Southeast Deer Study Group.
The study group has good news.
As the most popular big-game animal in North America, deer-and specifically whitetail deer-are thriving in Oklahoma and across the country as wildlife managers and sportsmen work together to conserve wildlife and habitat as well as preserve the deer hunting heritage.
The study group, consisting of whitetail deer managers, researchers and trade professionals, met to review cutting edge research projects, management efforts, successes, upcoming projects, current and future concerns and more.
By studying and sharing information on everything from the science of deer mortality, fawn survival, deer disease, deer food, habitat issues, weather and other natural and manmade influences to the cultural aspects of hunting regulations, hunter education, and everything in between, managers are able to establish goals, identify challenges, and prepare for a future of wildlife conservation and hunting success.
"The whitetail deer is a true Oklahoma conservation success story, and participating in the Southeast Deer Study Group is just one way the Wildlife Department continues to work to understand the scientific and cultural aspects of deer and deer hunting and the issues that surround the future of wildlife and the sport that so many enjoy," said Jerry Shaw, big game biologist for the Wildlife Department.
Deer hunters are credited in large part for the success of the whitetail deer across the country through their funding of wildlife agencies and conservation organizations.
In Oklahoma, for example the Department of Wildlife Conservation receives no general state tax appropriations and is funded primarily by sportsmen through their purchase of hunting and fishing licenses and federal excise taxes on certain sporting goods.
In the early 1900s, subsistence hunting and unregulated harvest eliminated nearly all of the deer in Oklahoma, so much that by 1917, the total statewide deer population is estimated to have been around 500 animals. The state Legislature banned deer hunting at that time, but through conservation efforts on the part of wildlife managers in partnership with sportsmen, the state's deer populations experienced massive comebacks.
Today, it is normal for sportsmen to harvest at or over 100,000 deer annually.
Host for the meeting was the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the state agency charged with conserving Oklahoma's wildlife.