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Thread: Wichita Mountains NWR

  1. #1

    Cool Wichita Mountains NWR

    Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge is an area of approximately 60,000 acres located in southwest Oklahoma near the city of Lawton and is home to a healthy herd of Rocky Mountain elk, whitetail deer, American bison, and Texas longhorn cattle. The Refuge is operated by the US Fish & Wildlife Service where biologists manage the animal populations by rounding up and auctioning excess numbers of bison and longhorns and by removing excess elk and deer through 2-1/2 day hunts awarded via public drawing. (The hunt coordinator told me they try and maintain a population of 600 elk and 450 deer.) My dad and I have hunted the Refuge three times previously; together in 1995 for an antlered deer, together in 2005 for an antlerless deer (deer hunt drawings can be applied for as a group), and once each for elk (he was drawn for a cow elk in 2007 and I was drawn for a cow elk in 2009). Each of the previous hunts involved a total number of about 150 hunters and resulted in quick success within about 30 minutes of sunrise. There were only 50 hunters drawn for this year's hunt (November 2013) -- which should've been a sign for us.

    At any rate, we were both drawn for an antlered deer this year and we live about 90 miles northeast of the Refuge. Based on our previous experiences, we decided to simply drive back and forth for our check-in and hunt instead of staying in a motel. (USFWS hunts require a check-in and briefing 24 hours prior to the start of the hunt.) The Refuge staff decides what areas of the Refuge are to be hunted and divide the hunters into groups of ten. We were assigned Area "I" in the northwest part of the Refuge and we toured this as a group where we decided where we each wanted to be dropped off when the hunt began. (The USFWS drives you in and out, you can't take your own vehicle beyond their designated parking area.)



    One of the other hunters in our group was a cop for the Refuge. (I was mildly acquainted with him from my elk hunt in 2009 -- he was our group leader on that trip.) He was part of a group of four who had antlerless tags and had done a good deal of scouting even before this hunt and was telling the buck tag holders where and when he had been seeing buck activity. We had all selected our "spots" based on his recommendations and one of the spots was this area around Medicine Tank pond where he'd been seeing bucks coming in during the evening. (Incidentally, 5 out of the six who had buck tags were successful.)

    We had to be at the Refuge's corral area ready to go by 5:30 A.M. on the day of the hunt, which meant leaving home about 3:15. We didn't see squat for deer -- no sign, no tracks, no animals -- until about 1:00 in the afternoon when we saw three does. (We saw elk -- and bison -- by the gross all day. Here's a poor quality cell phone photograph of one of the innumerable 6x6 bull elk we saw.)



    We had just about packed it in at 5:30 that evening when we started walking down the road to meet our ride out of there when my dad saw a deer. (The light was very dim at this point.) We both stopped and looked through our binoculars and could see it was a buck -- a big buck on the west side of the road.

    My dad wondered if it was still legal shooting light. I looked at my watch and saw that it was 5:50 -- we had ten minutes left. He suggested I try and slip in a little closer for a shot. The area was mostly open with a few blackjack oaks on the west side of the road and the buck was to our southwest. The wind was howling like hell out of the southwest (it had been gusting to over 30 MPH throughout the day), so I decided to try and put some blackjacks between him and me and move within 100 yards or so. I moved closer to where I was confident I could shoot and looked over to the west and saw a big buck silhouetted about 300 yards off on the horizon. I started to cuss my luck and then looked back to where we had first seen the deer and saw him standing in the same spot facing me. There were TWO big bucks!!! I dropped to one knee and squeezed off a shot. The wind caught me as I fired and the shot caught him a little far back and he ran about 50 yards and stopped. I chambered a second round and ran in closer and finished him with a broadside shot behind his left shoulder. (The first bullet struck him behind the right shoulder, demolished his right lung, missed his entrails, and ended up in the hide near his testicles where I found it while I was dressing him.)



    Our ride picked us up about 6:15 and after checking the animal, we made it out of the Refuge about 7:20 which put us back home a little after 9:00. (You'll recall the day started about 3:00 that morning and we'd been on our feet most of the day.) My dad had this idea that we'd split the driving: he'd drive to our briefing/check-in on Monday, I'd drive the first day of the hunt, and he'd drive the second day -- if there was one. He also planned that if one of us killed a deer, but the other hadn't, then the other guy would be on his own. He's 72 and I knew if I was beat, he was REALLY BEAT, so I told him that since I already had a vacation day scheduled, I would plan on coming back. I had him leave his rifle and other gear in my pickup and parked it in my garage for the night so that he could just jump in and go in the morning.

    By the time I cut the head off and dropped the carcass off at a processor 15 miles north of my house, took a shower, and had everything ready to go for in the morning, it was after midnight. My 2:45 alarm came early. I had breakfast ready for us (I had my wife scramble some eggs and cook some bacon the evening before so that I could reheat it in the microwave) and hot coffee. (I've found if you eat a high protein breakfast, you can really go like hell, even if you're tired or miss lunch.) I picked up my dad and he was BEAT, but after he had his breakfast, he was ready to go. I dropped him off at the corral area where he headed out with the other remaining hunters. I headed in to Lawton a little after 7:00 A.M. and picked up a sandwich so that we'd have something to eat if the day was as long as the previous day when I got a call from my mother -- my dad had killed a deer and was having trouble dialing out. (Cell service is spotty, at best, within a lot of the Refuge.) I made my way back to the Refuge and rode out with our group leader to pick up my dad. He had returned to the same place where I'd shot my deer and managed to kill the other big buck. (The red star on the map.) My dad's buck was aged by the hunt coordinator via dental a examination at 9-1/2 years old and mine was aged at 8-1/2 years. His was the oldest buck taken this year. (There was a doe that was aged to 10-1/2 years, believe it or not.) It was a great hunt, but it took us about a week to recover and rest. We're staying in a motel next time.



    Here's one of the other hunters out our area with his "little" 8-point:


  2. #2
    Great write-up man, thanks!

  3. #3
    Totally enjoyed that thanks for taking the time to post it
    regards
    Jimmy

  4. #4
    very nice read feller you are a very lucky chap

  5. #5
    Great read and so nice to get away for one moment from the oft’ oppressive world of UK “Best Practice” driven deerstalking.

    As further acknowledgement of how appealing it all looks; I could handle wearing hi-viz if that’s the price to roam 60,000 acres, I’m tempted to say we should have fought far, far harder between 1775-1783 but then was it not our desire to introduce an authoritarian style of administration that sealed our fate??

    Thank god then we were battling such a recalcitrant population!


    Cheers

    K

  6. #6
    That was good reading , thanks , its nice to hear from other parts how your hunting trips pan out ! Ps what is your Avatar , looks like a dead person !

  7. #7
    What a great read, thanks.
    Those hours are brutal (i can relate to that!)
    What was the designated area size in acres?
    Do you hunt other area's?
    I am going back to Montana this year.
    Cheers
    Richard

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Klenchblaize View Post
    Great read and so nice to get away for one moment from the oft’ oppressive world of UK “Best Practice” driven deerstalking.

    As further acknowledgement of how appealing it all looks; I could handle wearing hi-viz if that’s the price to roam 60,000 acres, I’m tempted to say we should have fought far, far harder between 1775-1783 but then was it not our desire to introduce an authoritarian style of administration that sealed our fate??

    Thank god then we were battling such a recalcitrant population!


    Cheers

    K
    Blaze orange is required for firearms deer seasons in all US states, though some offer exemptions for private property. (Oklahoma doesn't offer any such exemption, but my dad and I don't wear any when we're hunting our own place in southeast Oklahoma since we're the only hunters and it's difficult to enforce.) The federally-sponsored hunts have rules -- LOTS of rules -- that they aggressively enforce. The blaze orange requirement (a minimum of 400 square inches), hunters can only carry 5 rounds of ammunition per day -- period -- you cannot drive your personal vehicle into the hunt area, you must adhere to their shooting hours, you cannot take anyone with you -- though you can have a "helper" wait in the designated parking area should you need assistance getting your animal out, you cannot remove any antler sheds, bones or skulls, you cannot keep any fossils or arrowheads you may find, etc. It sounds like a minor hassle, but when you stop to consider how easy it is to obtain a permit to hunt there (you only need to be 18, a US resident, and capable of buying an annual Oklahoma hunting license, and participate in their drawing) and you hear about the ding-dongs who've done some really STUPID stuff in previous years (people who shoot more than one animal, people who shoot the wrong sex of animal, people who shoot the wrong species of animal, etc.), you're kind of glad the Refuge staff lays down the law. You have no control over who is assigned to your overall group, though we were all very fortunate that the other hunters in our group were very serious, conscientious ADULTS and that alone made for a very enjoyable hunt. With all that said, it's a great opportunity to get a truly trophy-sized animal and see some fascinating scenery and wildlife.

    And if it's any consolation, this part of the US was Spanish territory during the American Revolution.
    Last edited by Jackie Treehorn; 17-01-2014 at 14:33.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by arron View Post
    Ps what is your Avatar , looks like a dead person !
    Looks good, huh?

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by devon deer stalker View Post
    What a great read, thanks.
    Those hours are brutal (i can relate to that!)
    What was the designated area size in acres?
    Do you hunt other area's?
    I am going back to Montana this year.
    Cheers
    Richard
    As near as I can tell, Area "I" is roughly 1000 acres. Map scaling shows it to be somewhere between 1.5 to 1.75 miles north-to-south and about one mile east-to-west.

    By other areas, do you mean within the Refuge or just elsewhere? The Refuge staff studies where they need animals removed and assign hunters based on that. You cannot change your initial assignment, but they may be able to move you to another hunt area after the first day is completed.

    As for elsewhere, my family still owns the place where my dad grew up in southeast Oklahoma and we do the vast majority of our hunting there. It's about 175 miles away, has a house with electricity, rural water, septic system, five ponds, a reasonable amount of deer and small game, and too many feral hogs. I try to go there every few weeks to harass the hogs and coyotes, make repairs, and keep things clean.

    Looking forward to hearing about your Montana trip.

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