Another record and an even more revealing trend


OklahomaGiantCourtesy photo
Travis Ocker with his new Oklahoma state record archery non-typical whitetail.

Another state, another trophy.

A hunter in Oklahoma – a U.S. Army sergeant stationed at Fort Sill named Travis Ocker – arrowed a giant buck last November. It was just recently recognized as the largest non-typical ever killed in that state, and the second-biggest non-typical ever taken by a bowhunter there.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Conservation, the buck scored 245 2/8.

The state record archery non-typical scored 248 6/8.

Ocker’s buck might have beaten that in another season. It reportedly had two broken tines; had those been whole, its score would have been greater.

Most every hunter hopes to come across a deer like that sometime. Few will.

But hunters are taking more large older deer – nationally speaking – than before.

According to the Quality Deer management Association, hunters across the United States took more mature bucks – those 2.5 years old or older – in 2015-16 than they did yearlings, or bucks 1.5 years old or younger.

That’s only happened one other time in history, that being in 2014-15.

Thirty-five percent of those 2015-16 deer were at least 3.5 years old. That’s the highest rate in modern history, the Association said.

Bucks 2.5 years old accounted for 31 percent of the harvest, yearlings 34 percent.

Ocker buck 2

“No state wildlife agency employs regulations or encourages hunters to pass anything more than yearling bucks, yet the percentage of bucks 3½ years and older now surpasses 1½- and 2½-year-olds,” said Kip Adams, the Association’s Pennsylvania-based director of education and outreach.

“That means many hunters are willingly passing 2½-year-old bucks that are legal to harvest, which shows a desire by many hunters to hunt bucks that are at least 3½ years old.”

Among individual states, Mississippi led the nation in terms of old bucks. Seventy-seven percent of those killed in that state were 3½ years old or older.

Rounding out the top five were Texas at 75 percent, Arkansas at 74 percent, Louisiana at 67 percent and Oklahoma at 60 percent.

Arkansas hunters took the fewest yearling bucks. Those deer accounted for 7 percent of the harvest.

Complete state-by-state estimates of total buck harvest, buck age structure and other harvest parameters are available in the Association’s annual “Whitetail Report.” Paper copies are available for $10; a PDF version can be downloaded here.