Controlled elk hunt starts at wildlife refuge

COMANCHE CO., OK (KSWO) - The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge bi-annual Elk hunt is underway until Thursday. Many people call this controlled hunt a once in a lifetime opportunity because anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 hunters enter the drawing and only 100 are chosen.

There is also a rule that only lets a hunter participate once. That rule has been around for approximately 15 years. Mike Luttrell has participated once before in a controlled hunt.  He was was lucky to be grandfathered in when he entered his second time because it happened to be before the new rule went into effect.  The second time his name was drawn was nearly 30 years after his first controlled hunt. Luttrell found out he was picked for this hunt back in May and even though this isn't his first controlled hunt, the excitement hasn't worn off.

"I was so excited that at 2 o'clock this morning I got up and started looking at my map," Luttrell said.

His planning paid off.  He harvested an elk, but said it didn't come easy. Luttrell said his first choice was spooked and he watched his hunting partner shoot one before he spotted his.

"By the time I got to the elk, it was easily a mile, mile and a half and a mile and a half out here isn't like your normal mile and a half run. It's tough," Luttrell said.

He said it was all worth it. Wildlife Biologist, like Dan McDonald, at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge said there are between 1,200 and 1,400 elk on the refuge, but they'd rather be at around 1,000. The hunt helps them manage the population.

"We have a population of elk here on the refuge that continues to grow, reproduce so it's a way to control the population so it doesn't get overpopulated which would then lead to habitat destruction," McDonald said.

Luttrell was one of at least 25 hunters to harvest an elk on the first day, and his dad was lucky enough to have his name drawn too after years of waiting.

"After 40 years of putting in, it was awesome. My mother had died of cancer, and so it was a special time for both of us."

And while they're not in the same hunting group, they are staying in the same cabin. Luttrell said so far, the whole trip has been amazing.

"This by far is the most well run, the most organized and it is just phenomenal, the animals that are here, and it's just a great experience," Luttrell said.

As of Tuesday evening, Luttrell's dad didn't harvest an elk, but the hunt lasts until Thursday at noon.

Two-thirds of the public use area at the refuge is closed because of the hunt, but people can still go to the eastern side of the refuge like Mount Scott, Rush Lake, and Lake Jed Johnson.

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