TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation Wildlife Conservation Program hosted its first controlled deer hunts beginning in October on the tribe’s preserve land in Sequoyah County. The inaugural hunts were designed for a limited number of Cherokee Nation elders, veterans, youth, and at-large Cherokee citizens who reside outside the state of Oklahoma.

Participants were selected by a draw of qualifying citizens who applied earlier this year, and the hunts have seen a 74 percent success rate so far.

“When Deputy Chief Warner and I established the Cherokee Nation Park and Wildlands, Fishing, and Hunting Reserve Act earlier this year, we did so because we know how crucial hunting and fishing is for Cherokee families,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “That’s why we’re so pleased the Council of the Cherokee Nation supported the act. For many Cherokee families, food security remains a hardship, and for some that has only worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is one way we can help address food security for Cherokees and I’m proud of the work that’s been done by our conservation program.”

The Cherokee Nation Wildlife Conservation Program determined the total number of citizens to be selected for the hunts by using herd population data and conservation best practices for the preserve land.

“I can’t say how proud I am to see these controlled hunts have the success they’ve had already, and we have more planned in November and December,” said Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. “They’re reinforcing Cherokee traditional values, providing the youth with lessons they can’t receive anywhere else, and providing food to families who need it. Those are only a few of the reasons I believe these hunts are so important and I look forward to the growth of this program in the future.”

Vietnam veteran Richard Fabian, of Yukon, participated in the first controlled hunt for Cherokee veterans recently.

“I’m just impressed with how exceptionally well put together it all was,” Fabian said. “They took us where we needed to go. I shot an eight-point that weighed about 132 pounds. It took half an hour to track it down, but the guys from Cherokee Nation helped us do that. This is definitely something that I am interested in doing again.”

Cherokee Nation elder Debra Harl, of Marble City, was also chosen for this year’s hunting opportunity.

“I feel very fortunate to have been chosen for the controlled hunt in the elder category at the Cherokee Nation property. I was apprehensive about the hunt not knowing what to expect but my apprehension was soon released as the Cherokee Nation Wildlife Conservation program took great care of us,” Harl said. “I did not have any action the first day, but the second day a lot of others had been successful in their hunts, and I was given the opportunity to change locations and enjoyed success at that site. The Cherokee Nation Wildlife Conservation team was very quick to assist.”

Deer harvested during the Cherokee Nation controlled hunt count toward Oklahoma’s statewide season bag limit.

“I really had a great time harvesting a deer in the first Cherokee controlled hunts. I am proud to be a Cherokee citizen and being able to hunt with our tribe,” said Noah Rainwater, 9, of Sand Springs, who participated in a recent youth hunt. “Thank you for the opportunity. I can't wait to be able to hunt next year.”