Ask most people what they think of when someone mentions Oklahoma, and the answer is likely to include college football or Broadway musicals. But that’s only because most people aren’t serious whitetail bowhunters. Although somewhat off the radar for hunters outside the region, the Sooner State really is one of the best places for chasing big deer. In short, it’s still a bit of a “sleeper,” and those are becoming harder to find all the time.
Naturally, as is the case anywhere else, not all parts of the state offer equal odds. As the accompanying map shows, the better counties tend to be a bit scattered. But that’s not a bad thing. What it means is that big deer can be shot anywhere. If you’re on the right piece of land, you could encounter a Pope & Young-class buck in any county in Oklahoma.
With large tracts of public land scattered all over the state, the decision on where to bowhunt depends largely on the type of habitat you prefer. As you move east to west across Oklahoma, there’s dramatic change in the landscape. The landscape opens up, with rolling hardwood-pine forests giving way to gentler pastureland and finally wide-open plains and prairies. By the time you reach the Panhandle, you’re in classic “high plains” habitat. Here, whitetails share the land with scattered pockets of mule deer and pronghorn antelope. The whitetails of course are largely confined to the sparse cover in river and creek drainages.
Yes, as you get into this largely treeless part of the state the wind typically starts to blow. In fact, it’s perhaps the biggest constant of all. Not that it’s necessarily a negative — swaying vegetation and wind noise can help hide an archer who’s making his move on a buck — but it’s something to be aware of. If you’re heading here, be sure to practice shooting your bow a lot in windy conditions.
Oklahomans have rifle season during much of the second half of November, plus an early muzzleloader season in late October. In between is when some of the best bowhunting occurs, as the state has a classic November rut.
Although big deer can be found anywhere, one of the better P&Y buck areas is along the Kansas border. Osage County has the most all-time P&Y entries for the state, with Rogers and Creek counties not far behind. Hughes and Pittsburg counties to the south of that cluster also are among the state’s best. And several of these counties, along with Ottawa in the far-northeast corner, have continued to crank out trophies since 2010.
For a state of only 70,000 square miles, Oklahoma has a tremendous amount and variety of public hunting land. Scores of wildlife management areas are scattered over the landscape. And some are big — in fact, Three Rivers WMA, near Broken Bow, is itself over a quarter-million acres of bowhunting potential. That should be enough to suit anyone.