The number of black bears taken by bow hunters in Oklahoma’s first black bear hunting season remains at a dozen as of late Wednesday, but the 12th bear checked in was the biggest to date.
Matt Stewart of Prague killed a male bear in Le Flore County that biologists think weighed as much as 400 pounds before it was quartered.
Stewart shot the bear Saturday about 5 p.m., but didn’t find it until Sunday morning. The bear was located about a quarter-mile from where it was arrowed.
“It was down a super steep mountain and into a creek,” Stewart said. “There was no way to get a four-wheeler in there.”
So Stewart quartered the bear and carried it out with the help of his father and brother-in-law. The bear weighed 345 pounds quartered and it took six hours to pack it out.
Stewart, who works at Surgeon Rifles between Prague and Shawnee, was hunting on land that he owns.
He was baiting with corn and grease. Like many hunters in southeastern Oklahoma, Stewart had been seeing several bears on his trail camera before the season opened Oct. 1.
But they quit coming to bait when the acorns started falling and the wild berries began to ripen. Stewart said one of the bears on the trail camera even appeared to be much bigger than the one that he killed.
Stewart hunted Thursday and Friday from a tree stand without seeing a bear. Finally, a bear showed up at about 5 p.m. Saturday, he said.
“He came into the bait and smelled me and turned around to leave,” Stewart said. “He walked out where he could smell me, stopped and turned back around, then came straight into the bait head on.”
Stewart didn’t have a good shot so he watched the bear for 10 minutes. Then the bear located Stewart.
“He looked up right at me and turned to run,” he said. “I had about four seconds to take the shot.”
Of the 12 bears killed by Oklahoma hunters, five have been in Le Flore County, three each in Pushmataha and McCurtain counties and one in Latimer County.
Those four counties are the only counties where black bear season is open. State wildlife officials are only allowing a total of 20 bears to be taken by hunters.
The season closes once that limit has been reached. If 20 bears haven’t been killed by bow hunters by Oct. 24, then a bear muzzleloader season will open.
The muzzleloader season will remain open until Nov. 1, or until the combined total of 20 bears have been killed.
For the first time, Oklahoma deer hunters can check in their deer online without having to take the animal to a hunter check station.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation debuted its online check station at the beginning of deer archery season, which opened Oct. 1.
Now, hunters can go to www.wildlifedepartment.com and click on the link at the top of the home page. Hunters must provide their last name, driver’s license or social security number, birth date and region where the animal was killed.
The hunter is then given a confirmation number. Hunters must attach that number to the animal which serves as the carcass tag.
Then the hunter can take the deer straight to a processing center without going to a hunter check station.
Deer, turkey and elk are the only animals that can be checked online.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation didn’t widely publicize the online check station before the archery season opened, wanting to first make sure that it was working properly.
But so far 150 deer have already been checked in online, said Micah Holmes of the state Wildlife Department.
Larry Manering, head of law enforcement for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, admits the online check station might make it more difficult for game wardens to catch offenders. But the convenience for honest hunters far outweighs the rare instances where a hunter check station has helped in identifying a wildlife violation, he said.
A meat processor is actually more likely to find wrongdoing than a hunter check station, Manering said.
“A good processor is more likely to do it than a check station,” Manering said. “He will be skinning a deer during archery season and a bullet fragement might fall out. That has happened before.”
Having an online check station also makes it easier for the agency’s deer biologists to collect and access information, Manering said.
“Other states are doing it (going online),” Manering said.
Biologists still check for chronic wasting disease from deer at hunter check stations, but even with the online option, Manering thinks most Oklahoma deer hunters will still use hunter check stations.
Preston Mullings finally got his white whale. Or in this case, his whitetail.
For four years, the 24-year-old bow hunter from Madill has been chasing his Moby Dick, or as he liked to call the elusive Marshall County buck, “the one-eyed big boy.’’
The buck with the deformed or damaged eye had teased Mullings for the past four years, always staying just out of shooting range of of the hunter’s bow.
Finally, on late Saturday afternoon, just before dark, Mullings was able to arrow the 14-point buck.
“It’s the biggest deer I’ve ever killed,” Mullings said. “It was the best shot I ever made on a deer. He didn’t run 70 yards. I finally got in the right place at the right time.”
Mullings was in his stand in Marshall County when the buck appeared 15 minutes behind two smaller bucks who had come out of the woods to graze.
““He came in there like he owned the place. I had never had him in the open before. He always would be in an oak thicket or at the edge of briar thicket,” Mullings said.
The buck green scored 176 and 4/8 non-typical.
“He shrunk a little bit this year,” Mullings said.
The buck’s antlers were wider (22 5/8) but shorter than past years, he said.
In fact, Mullings would not have been able to tell that it’s the same buck he’s been seeing for four years on his hunting lease if not for the deformed eye.
Mullings, who has been admiring photos of the one-eyed deer all summer, said while he is ecstatic about finally harvesting the trophy buck, he also is somewhat saddened that the chase is finally over.
“I’ve been hunting him four years…I am actually kind of sad to get him this early (in bow season).”
Now, Mullings will spend most of the remaining bow season shooting with a camera and trying to get a buck for his fiancee.
Oklahoma’s deer archery season opened Oct. 1. It remains open statewide through Jan. 15.