Oklahoma’s black bear archery season was twice as long this year. It lasted two days.
The state’s third bear season in the southeastern Oklahoma counties of Pushmataha, Latimer, Le Flore and McCurtain opened Saturday and ended Sunday.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation set of a limit of 20 total bears that can be killed during the season. Only 16 bears were checked in to state wildlife officials on Saturday, meaning hunters also was allowed on Sunday.
Last year 32 were checked on opening day, making the bear season just a one-day season. Only 19 bears were killed during the state’s inaugural season two years ago.
Joe Hemphill, southeast wildlife supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, said 31 bears were killed by hunters this year. Most were taken by hunters using crossbows.
The biggest bear field dressed at 460 pounds, which would make it a 500-plus pound bear before being field dressed, Hemphill said.
It was harvested in Pushmataha County with a crossbow by 16-year-old Kaylin Russell of Eagletown, whose father, Joe, killed the first bear in the state’s first black bear hunting season in 2009.
Hemphill said three other teenage girls also checked in bears, including Kelsey Weaver of Poteau, who last year at age 17 became the first female hunter in Oklahoma to kill a black bear.
Of the 31 bears checked in, 18 were males. Fifteen were taken by hunters in Le Flore County, 11 in Pushmataha County, four from McCurtain County and one from Latimer County.
Two of the bears killed by hunters had been previously been tagged as nuisance bears. State wildlife officials trap, tag and relocate bears that come up to trailers, cabins and homes in search of food.
State wildlife officials are contemplating making some changes in the bear hunting regulations for next year. Hemphill said increasing the total number of bears that can be killed and expanding the counties where hunting is allowed is being considered.
Most hunters are shooting the first bear they see knowing the black bear season might be over in just one day, he said.
Increasing the season bag limit or establishing a minimum number of hunting days might make hunters more selective, Hemphill said.
State wildlife officials also are discussing the possibility of allowing bear hunting in eastern Pittsburg and eastern Atoka counties next year, Hemphill said.