MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

April 11, 2014

Elk season now part of state hunting menu

By John Kilgore
Phoenix Outdoors Columnist

— “Go west, young man” was a phrase coined by author Horace Greeley in the mid-1800s but I don’t think he was talking about elk hunting in the plains of northwest Oklahoma.

If most sportsmen are like me, big game hunting’s on the back burner until fall, but new opportunities abound. The Oklahoma Department Of Wildlife has approved a statewide elk hunting season on private lands.

The quotas of elk that can be harvested are divided up by geographical region.

As in bear season, hunters will be required to check before hunting to make sure the quota for the area they intend to hunt is not full.

To my surprise, the Panhandle region of our state (Beaver, Cimmaron and Texas counties) has the largest quota of elk (60) and has a bag limit of two elk, of which one must be antlerless.

 Our area, the Northeast zone, includes all private land north of Interstate 40 and east of Interstate 35. Our harvest quota is 20 elk. Bag limit is one elk, regardless of sex.

Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation say a statewide elk season addresses agricultural depredation problems for some landowners by allowing for a controlled thinning of elk herds while creating new opportunities for hunters.

Elk can be found in at least 30 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties, some of which have been open to controlled and private lands hunting for many years.Most are found in the southwest region in and around the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, where a highly sought after limited elk hunt is offered almost every year through the Wildlife Department’s Controlled Hunts program.

Elk hunting in the area outside the refuge also has been available for many years through a private lands season in Caddo, Comanche and Kiowa counties.

Elk are found in Oklahoma outside those areas, though, including in the Panhandle, where elk migrate through the state from Colorado and New Mexico.

Additionally, controlled hunts have been available on Pushmataha and Cookson Hills wildlife management areas and through a private lands season in six northeast Oklahoma counties.

I spoke with Brent Morgan, big game biologist over Cherokee and Camp Gruber Wildlife Management Areas.

Morgan indicated it was difficult to get an accurate count because they are so spread out. His estimate was between 40-50 head on Camp Gruber . Some of these may wander off onto private land.

Resident elk licenses cost $51, from which resident lifetime hunting license holders are exempt.Non-resident elk licenses cost $306. Full season dates and regulations will be printed in the next Oklahoma Hunting Guide.

One late afternoon, my wife was driving toward Muskogee and saw what she first thought was a moose moseying along Highway 10 on the outskirts ofBraggs.She said it looked just like that moose walking down the street in the former television series, Northern Exposure. What she saw was actually a cow elk out for a little stroll off Camp Gruber property.

Some hunters will hope the elk wander their way this fall.

John Kilgore’s outdoor column runs Fridays in the Phoenix. To reach him with news or comments, call (918) 348-9431 or email him at jkilgoreoutdoors@yahoo.com.